Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today’s Hope Becomes Tomorrow’s Reality

Genesis 21:1-5 And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Pastor Kyle, continuing in his Sunday sermon series through the book of Genesis, quoted his former boss Dr. Robert H. Schuller, stating: “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” The reason being is that we serve the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, who specializes in making the impossible possible and fulfilling His promises. Our infinite God can do more with almost nothing than we could ever wrap our finite minds around or ever comprehend.

Joshua 23:14 “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.’

Kyle gave us three things to keep in mind about fulfilled promises. (1) They often take a lot longer than we would prefer. God is faithful to do exactly what He says that He will do. Sometimes, we feel like giving up when our dreams and hopes take so long to come to fruition, but are beyond what we could ever imagine when they do. (2) They are testimonies that we tell our whole lives. When God comes through, we have memories that we came tell of how God makes miracles out of nothing. But, we tend to allow those memories be shortened by life and time, and we forget God’s goodness towards us, if we get distracted and take our heart’s eye off our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (3) They have a sneaky way of reopening old wounds. Pains from past hurts can move from past tense to the present, when feeling of bitterness are buried, but not gone. When we deal with less pain, instead of no pain, then the stage is set for a tragic debacle and catastrophic calamity to erupt, if not dealt with in a godly manner.

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future. - Robert H. Schuller

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Kyle gave us three prayers for when our emotions want to overpower God’s work in our life. (1) Lord, help me celebrate your fulfilled promises to me. Everybody gets distracted by life. God meets needs and forgive our “foot-in-mouth” incidents and insults. Reconciliation means to restore that which has fallen back to an upright position. (2) Lord, help me celebrate your fulfilled promises in others. Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second  is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Bless and love others with forgiveness. Hurts and hang ups are a part of life on this side of heaven. Pray for others and celebrate their answered prayers. (3) Lord, increase my compassion. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own emotions, saying: “Whose fault was it!” reality is that there is enough blame to go around for everyone. The blame game is a lame game. Look through the lens of compassion to meet the needs of others. That is why Jesus left us here. Compassion is a matter of faith. Pour it out constantly and you’ll never run dry.

God meets our needs, when we meet the needs of others, as Jesus met ours
In Christ, Brian

Friday, January 20, 2017

Times and Seasons

Acts 1:7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

We tend to think that we are the big and know so much, when reality is that we only scratch the surface when it comes in comparison with our all-knowing Creator God. This short devotion that I came about help us realize how big our Heavenly Father really is and how we can trust and depend upon Him daily. 

 Just before Christ ascended into heaven, His disciples asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Christ refrained from answering their question as they had hoped, but in His wisdom He used the occasion to teach them that some information is for God alone, including the “times and the seasons.” In our finiteness, we are unable to handle too much information, and should we know even a small part of the “knowledge which is too wonderful for me” -Psalm 139:6, we would use it improperly.

The prophet taught the same lesson many years before: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” - Isaiah 55:8-9. God has graciously revealed enough that we know He has a wonderful plan, but the details are known by Him alone. They are under His own power, and authority. Certainly He knows the future, but more than that, He controls it.

And why not? He created time; surely He can exercise authority over it. Surely the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” - Revelation 22:13 can control the destinies of individuals and nations. Power to work out His good pleasure rests solely with “the only wise God our Savior … now and ever” - Jude 25.

Even though this power is His alone, His promise to the disciples that “you shall receive power, (here meaning strength)” has been fulfilled in the person of the Holy Spirit. We have what we need to be “witnesses” of that which we know of Him, to the uttermost part of the earth. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Journeys – Part 2 – To Become Like Jesus

Michael continues: Staying secure in the fellowship with the Lord is to live free without a guilty conscience; to live with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory God to change from the image of the flesh to the image of the spirit of God in Christ in us. The image of the Lord is the glory of the Lord reflected in us as we are transformed by God's Spirit according to our “new nature”. When we set our affection on things above instead of the things of this world, we become transformed. Our challenge is to turn our eyes upon Jesus and to reflect His nature in our relationships with others. We progressively become more like the man or woman that He designed us to be. Sanctification is to be “set apart”, separated for the purpose intended by the Designer. We are progressively sanctified as we grow up into the purpose, the calling for which He designed us. For we are his workmanship, His masterpiece created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he has foreordained that we should walk in it.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

The key to turning from sin is to turn to Him. Repentance starts with a broken and a contrite heart. The devil will tempt us to look at the things of the flesh instead of the things of the Spirit. He is the “deceiver” and the “accuser”. His ploy is to distract our attention away from the things of the Spirit of God in Christ in us. When we fall, God by His grace allows us to repent and return to fellowship with Him. For if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God expects us to be "fully lit" for Him ... Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.

Upon the journey of life, walking and stumbling are part of the trip. God understands that we are weak in the flesh, so that our strength can be in His power alone. When troubles come our way, consider it an opportunity of great joy, for when trials arise, we can face those tests in the Spirit of Christ ... the spirit of faith and boldness in His strength as men and women of God. Adversity proves the power of God, who infuses His strength into us so that we can overcome. For it is God who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.  The victory is not in our power but in His ... we must decrease so that he may increase.

The adversary (the devil) will attempt to divide the body of Christ. He does this with a critical spirit of judgment, criticism, and condemnation. For where there is strife and contention there is confusion and every evil work – James 3:16. The devil rejoices when brothers and sisters in Christ criticize and condemn each other. However, Jesus Christ came to reconcile us back to fellowship with Him. We must meet each other at the foot of the cross. Then we can respond to His calling to "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers." This is the way to defeat the critical spirit of judgment and condemnation. God has called us to be “salt and light” in a world of darkness. Therefore, do all things without murmurings and disputing so that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons and daughters of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom you shine as lights in a world of darkness; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain – Philippians 2:14-16

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Two Journeys – Part 1 - To Know Jesus

This week, Michael writes: We often have a problem living what we say we believe. That's the problem about living the Christian life. However, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death – Romans 8:1-2. Our challenge is to live according to the Spirit of Christ in us instead according to the law of the flesh. There are two separate journeys in a Christian's life. The Christian's first journey is “to know Christ”. To know Christ is to realize the love that He had for us: for He who knew no sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. Love begets love. Do you love Christ? To know Him is to love Him. We love Him because He first loved us. Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commandments." If our identity is in Christ our foundation is built upon the Rock: the foundation is Jesus Christ himself, the chief cornerstone.   

A Christian's second journey is “to become like Jesus”. A disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ. In this context, 2 Corinthians Chapter 3 talks about the hope we have in Christ. God did not call us to merely deliver the message. Rather, he called us to “be the message”: 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

We can speak with boldness because we know Him. We're not like Moses who had to put a veil over his face when he came down from Mount Sinai after receiving the law of the Ten Commandments. Israel didn't know Christ because the veil still covered their hearts so they could not perceive God. However, we who have been “born again” of the Spirit of the living God have the veil lifted. Those born again Christians can see clearly from the spiritual perspective of the Holy Spirit. The old man has passed away and the new man is renewed in the spirit of Christ in us. We need to fellowship with others within the body of Christ. They will show us where we need to grow to become just like Jesus.  If we live in denial and say "I've arrived and achieved perfection in the flesh," the Holy Spirit will convict and convince us to become more like Christ. A loving brother or sister in Christ will show us where we fall short of the glory of God. The Word of God is profitable for reproof and correction. God gave us His Holy Word so that we can walk in fellowship with Him ... so that we can turn from darkness and toward the light of the truth of the Word. When we, by the freedom of our will, turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. In my flesh dwells no good thing ... however in the Spirit of life in Christ, He has made me a new creation. 

Now the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty ... there is true freedom. The freedom is that we are no longer bound by the chains of sin and death. We have changed lords ... I'm no longer lord of my selfish self. To be a man or woman of God is to be God's man or God’s woman. Freedom is to be His possession, bound by His boundless love. Every moment is a moment of decision ... to walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.  The challenge is to surrender my will to His will ... to make His will my will.  

Let continue Michael’s messages on “the “Two Journeys” on the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Two Ways

Psalm 1:6 “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The one thing that was obvious to me growing up was that there were two ways that I could go … “right” or “the “wrong” way. One little devotional points out that this Psalm 1:6 verse outlines the inescapable truth that there are only two roads and two destinations to which they lead in eternity. The word “way” (Hebrew, “derek”) means “road.” The bible is clear that there is only one way leading to heaven—the way of the righteous; and one way leading to hell—the way of the ungodly, though it is politically incorrect to mention it. This term “the way” is a very common word in Scripture, but it is significant that its first occurrence is in Genesis 3:25, referring to “the way of the tree of life.” Once expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their rebellion, Adam and Eve no longer could travel that “way” of life and began to die.

They clarified that the equivalent Greek word in the New Testament is “hodos”, also meaning “road,” and it, too, occurs quite frequently. Its literal meaning—that of an actual roadway—lends itself very easily to the figure of a style of life whose practice leads inevitably to a certain destination and associated destiny. Since there are only two basic ways of looking at life—the God-centered viewpoint and the man-centered viewpoint—there are only two ways of life, the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly. The one leads to life; the other to death. There is no other way.

The Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” But what is the way of the righteous, that leads to life? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:6 

Know the truth and choose “the way” that you shall go. Follow Jesus.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Exceeding Greatness

Ephesians 1:17-19 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”

One commentary on this Bible passage states that there are a number of scriptural superlatives that convey something of the tremendous magnitude of our great salvation. These are marked by the adjective “exceeding,” which in the Greek implies essentially boundless, surpassing dimensions of the attributes it describes. First of all, as this passage of scripture implies, His power available to us is one of exceeding greatness. Its magnitude is measured by the power required to bring Christ back again from death and Hades.

Consider also the measure of His grace, “that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” – Ephesians 2:7. His grace has saved us when we were dead in sins, but this is only a small token. In the ages to come, we will experience His grace as one of exceeding riches. Then there is the wonderful peace of God. “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:7. In this verse, the word “passes” is the same word. Paul is saying that God’s peace is one exceeding understanding.

Finally, consider His glory. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – 2 Corinthians 4:17. The future eternal glory is one of exceeding weight, or abundance. Thus, the infinite blessings and resources of our salvation in Christ are described as providing the power of surpassing greatness, the grace of surpassing richness, the peace which surpasses all understanding, and the eternal glory of surpassing abundance! All of this is freely available “to us who believe.” 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

All Roads lead to Rome

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

I read this little lesson on the proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. I am always drawn to the evangelizing of the gospel because Jesus commissioned us to “go”, give out the gospel to a lost and dying world and make disciples; not “come and see”. This lesson stated that Rome was the commercial, political, and cultural center of the first-century world, so Paul’s desire to preach the gospel there makes perfect sense. All roads led to Rome, so proclaiming the good news there and building up the church would have universal ramifications. To reach the ends of the earth, making Christ known in Rome was essential.

They point our that we should not miss the connection between the Apostle’s eagerness to minister in Rome and his declaration that he is “not ashamed of the gospel”. The news of a crucified Messiah was not “seeker sensitive” in the first century. Crucifixion was the worst way to die, and the simple message “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” lacked the philosophical intricacies that occupied the most renowned secular thinkers. Many found the resurrection downright laughable, because the natural world does not comprehend the supernatural. If anything should have caused shame, it was the foolish notion that an unknown Jewish teacher in the backwater region of Palestine is the path to eternal life. But that is to look at things according to the ways of the world. Paul’s view was changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Having experienced the power of God in the crucified and risen Christ, he had no reason to be ashamed of the gospel message even in the city of Rome, where a vast number of residents would be “cultured despisers” of that message. The Apostle needed confidence to do ministry in that city, and he had this fearlessness because he was convinced of the truth of what the world deemed foolish and if he went down, he goes up.

Today, the church must be convinced afresh of the truth and power of the gospel. If we are not, we will water it down in the hopes of making God more acceptable to those who despise Him, and spiritual disaster will follow. No gospel truth is given, no disciples are made and no salvation takes place. Happy and hell bound is not the goal. This opening passage also introduces the relevance of the gospel for all of humanity generally and for the Jew particularly, two themes that will occupy Paul throughout the rest of the epistle to the Romans. God’s gospel is no respecter of persons - “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Jew and Gentile alike enter the kingdom in the same way - by faith alone (Rom. 3:21–5:21) - and they grow in faith and persevere in the same way - by the Holy Spirit according to God’s sovereign salvation.

The gospel is not a message to be ashamed of even if the world finds it foolish. It is God’s power unto salvation, and our attempts to make the gospel more palatable to fallen people prevent them from seeing it in all its power and glory. Though there might be foolish and irresponsible ways of presenting the gospel, when we measure ourselves by Scripture, the message itself is God’s wisdom and power, and we must never change it to be accepted by sinners. Do not be ashamed because the power is in the gospel, not in us. Speak the truth in love.