Monday, August 29, 2016

Harvest Time


Matthew 9:37-38 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Last night was the final evening of the Southern California Harvest with Pastor Greg Laurie at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. One of the greatest elements of the Lord’s purposes in building His church is not the hearer of the gospel message of forgiveness and salvation, but the message not being presented in a world ripe and ready to hear it. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t ask sometime in their life: I was put on this earth for a reason. But for what reason? What is the meaning of life? What happens when you die? Or maybe, why am I so empty inside? We all have questions. In our own thinking, we tend to equate our meaning and purpose to such things as our career, our family, our position and our possessions in a material world and link our happiness to these things, so we seek them. And where does God come into all of this? Have they heard of the Savior and the gospel of peace? Does Jesus cross our minds?

Romans 10:13-15 “For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

That is what the Harvest Crusades are here for. We know that we have done wrong in our life; how can we get right with God? How many could say that if they were to die today, while reading this blog post, would have the assurance of going to God’s heaven? Four things each of us must do to have this assurance are: (1) Realize you are a sinner. The Bible says, “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” – Romans 3:23, (2) recognize Jesus died on the Cross for you. The Bible tells us that “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” - Romans 5:8, (3) Repent and turn away from sin. The Bible tells us to “repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” – Acts 3:19, (4) Receive Jesus Christ into your life. The Bible tells us in Romans 10:13 that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.


Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If you have not submitted your life to Jesus Christ yet, why not take a moment right now and make that commitment? For “As many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” - John 1:12-13.


In Christ, Brian

Sunday, August 28, 2016

In A Pickle


James 1:2-4 “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

This last Sunday, our church had the privilege of having the CEO of our denomination Willie Nolte preach the Sunday Sermon. It helps that he happens to be one of the Elders at our church. Pastor Willie reminded us that we are a part of a bigger mission within a larger Kingdom mandate of the Christian church in the world, to seek and reach the lost sinners, to lead them to the foot of the Cross for forgiveness, salvation and life eternal in Christ. This does not mean that we will have a trouble-free live along the bumpy, hilly and curvy road to heaven. Trials and trouble are inevitable, but has always been a part of God’s redemptive story-line being played out in history.

In John 16:33, Jesus tells us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Ever find yourself in a pickle? Ever find yourself up a tree? Ever find yourself in a fix? Ever find yourself up a creek without a paddle? Ever find yourself in a jam? How about ever finding yourself between a rock and a hard place? Yeah, ever find yourself in a tight spot? Well, God delivering His people throughout history is the Bible narrative and Theological example of God’s mercy and grace by the figurative and literal blood of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ. This is the lesson of the “older” Testament, which contains the common thread of the “Gospel” throughout. For example: The Exodus from Egypt and the journey to the Promised land is God’s Redemption story. God allows or guides us into predicaments in order to accomplish His purposes in our life, in the lives of others, or in the world. This is the theme. Make no mistake; God was leading and protecting them and God is leading and protecting us today.
Did the Israelites see or know God’s plans, understand what was going on or what God was doing? No and neither do we know what coming down the turnpike next, but we have the promises of God today and the Promised Land of Heaven on the horizon. Though unseen, God reveals that He is Lord of all with power and clarity. Sometimes, we are not ready yet to handle the alternatives of know the plan, but God want His people to know and trust Him; to believe in God and have a great reverence for Him. Redemptive history changes our “was” to an “is” in what the Christian church is doing today, and yes, God is still leading and protecting His people. This side of glory, God is never done working with us, through us and for us.   

God doesn’t lead His people to destruction. When you find yourself in a pickle, the best response is (1) Don’t fear, (2) Stand firm, (3) Watch, (4) Let God act. Know that God will work things out. He will never leave us or forsake us. God’s Holy Word is consistent throughout. Predicaments and hardships are His way to change things or make them come to pass. It takes Remember who is the higher power. It takes a dilemma to break us free from habits and destructive patterns of life. We have a tendency to look back and go back to where we came from or look around to put the blame on others. When hemmed in on all sides, the best place to look is up. The Lord is fighting for us. If God is going to get the glory, He must do the fighting. Figuratively, “Red Seas” open and close at God’s command and in His timing. God is sovereign over everything and never wavers. Know that God has our “best’ interest in mind as He accomplishes His purposes in our life. But, there is an essential element in order to receive: a personal relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ.


Have a blessed Sunday, Brian

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Given to Us Eternal Life


1 John 5:11-13 “And this is the record: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

The bible passage contains truths which provide great power and comfort for Christians.  Continuing in a “word” study within the text gives us a better knowledge and understanding for application in our daily lives. 

I read that the word “record” needs amplification. In noun form, “μαρτυρα” martyria means “the evidence given,” and in verb form it means “testify,” or “witness.” The apostle John used it nine times in verses 7 through 11. Study of our text and its context shows that the record mentioned is none other than the great truth that Christ Jesus was God’s only Son, and that He died as a perfect and fully sufficient sacrifice to provide us life eternal.

In this passage, we see that this work of bestowing eternal life is God’s work. It is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” – Titus 3:5. This eternal life is our present possession, for He has “given” it to us (past tense). This gift is to individuals—to “us”—not to a nation or even the church, but to those who have believed. Furthermore, this “eternal life” is eternal! It will last for eternity and cannot be taken away. It is inconceivable for an omnipotent God to give “eternal life” temporarily. We are alive in Him, having been “born again” into His family. This is a permanent situation.


1 John 5:20 “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

The tense shifts to the present in the above Bible verse. Our life finds its vitality in living union with the Son. His death and resurrection made salvation and eternal life possible, and now His present life is ours. His Spirit, resident within us, provides this vitality, and since the Spirit of God is eternal, our life is eternal. God has given to us eternal life. Praise be to God!


In Christ, Brian 

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Title "Christian"


Peter 4:16 “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”

I read a little history on the title “Christian”. Surprisingly, the word “Christian” occurs only three times in Scripture and seems to have changed in its meaning from first to last. In the first instance, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” in Acts 11:26. The name merely identified them as followers of Christ with no criticism intended. The second usage was some years later, by which time the term was evidently well known, even among unbelievers. After Paul had witnessed to him, King Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). A more literal translation which renders the sentence “Do you try in such a short time to make a Christian of me?” indicates an air of superiority or incredulity in Agrippa’s voice. It would take more than a short testimony to make a Christian of him. But, then again, he didn’t know what the Holy Spirit could do to the heart in an instant.

The article states that as the years went by, the church began to be plagued by persecution. Our text indicates that even the name “Christian” was by then regarded with contempt and reproach. But Peter tells us that there is no shame involved in the name “Christian” or in following Christ. Peter, no doubt, recalled the shame he felt for denying the name of Christ, but he also recalled with thankfulness how that even though the Jewish council had “beaten them and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus” in Acts 5:40-41, he and the other apostles departed “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name”.

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Furthermore, we can “glorify God on this behalf” or “in this name.” This implies more than just praising the name. We can glorify God in what we do—in how we live in that name. Do we? We can certainly also bring dishonor to the title “Christian” by our actions. A solemn responsibility is then ours to bring honor and glory to God through our lives. Christian, Are people brought closer to the Lord Jesus Christ through your and my thoughts, words and actions? Follow Jesus


In Christ, Brian

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Greatest Weapon



This week Michael writes how God doesn't expect us to just receive His truth and revelation ... He expects us to obey it. The word of God is to be lived "in shoe leather." However, God does not ask for "blind obedience."  We must examine our heart for the motive behind the action.  According to Ephesians 6, we are in the midst of a spiritual battle. What is the greatest weapon in the battle? Love. This concept is foreign to our sinful nature of the flesh and our personal sense of "justice." Often we have difficulty finding where sin ends and love begins. The enemy hides in the darkness. He camouflages himself as an "Angel of light." To target the enemy we must identify the enemy.  The adversary's goal is to turn our hearts to the "dark side." If our motivation to fight the enemy is vengeance, retaliation, and retribution, we have joined the "dark side" in the spiritual battle.  Romans 12 says, "be not overcome with evil but overcome evil with good."  These are the "rules of engagement" in the spiritual battle.

According to John 1:4-5, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." The light is come into the world but the darkness resisted it because the heart of darkness was evil. The light Jesus Christ, shined in darkness and the darkness did not understand, perceive, or recognize him. Jesus' own disciples didn't even understand him. They deserted him in his darkest hour. He said to Peter, "before the rooster crows twice you shall deny me three times."  Jesus didn't condemn Peter...He loved Peter with unconditional love, for Jesus understood Peter's fallen nature. Jesus had many harsh words for his disciples...he said that anyone who does not forsake his mother and his father and leave everything to follow me, he cannot be my true disciple. Jesus said that you should not only go one mile, but that you should go beyond the call of duty and go the second mile. 

The adversary wants us to compromise ... to settle for second best. However, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Where's your heart? Why do you do what you do? What's the motive behind your actions? To answer these tough questions God orchestrates situations where we must forsake our shame and our comfort zone in order to follow Him. As Jesus said to Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Do you love me more than your fishing business, your fishing buddies, your money, your property, your family, and your worldly reputation? God has called us a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. He called us to reflect his mercy, grace and love. The greatest weapon in the spiritual arsenal is love.  Righteous thoughts and righteous actions motivated by a heart of love are the things that matter to our Commander in Chief. God doesn't want your stuff or your money, rather he wants your heart. You cannot win the spiritual battle apart from the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, apart from me you can do nothing. To wield the sword of the spirit and to be a prayer warrior, our hearts must be transformed by connecting our hearts with His heart. He is the vine and we are the branches.  

The sinful flesh of man cannot be "converted." Conversion starts with the best weapon that convicts men's heart. John 14-16 gave Christ's disciples a new commandment:  Love one another. Jesus' standard of love is "even as I have loved you." How did he love them? He didn't love them because they were good. He didn't love them because they deserved love. The new commandment meant that we are to love one another like he loved: unconditionally. Love others even though they are sinners like we are. Love them even though they violated my "human rights." Love them even though they were unlovable and unforgivable. Our flesh may be angered. We may be overcome with so-called righteous indignation. However, be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.

When you wrong someone, ask forgiveness and make restitution. Love one another as Christ loved us. You'll never tap into the power of God by reading and meditating. The power of God is manifest only by action according to His word.  Believing works by love. Love energizes believing that appropriates the blessings of God. Don't get discouraged when the rooster crows. Don't be surprised when you fall short of the glory of God. Discouragement is losing heart. However, from the heart of Christ in you, God will work in you and within you to will and to do of His good pleasure. When we walk in love we align our hearts with God's heart. Jesus Christ came so that we may have peace with God. According to John 14:27 Jesus said, "peace I leave with you my peace I give unto you not as the world give the give unto you, let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid."  Because we have peace with God, we can love one another as Christ has loved us.  Love is the secret weapon ...  Love wins.

My God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Peace like a River


Philippians 4:7 “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Years ago, I heard the story of this beloved hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford, “It Is Well with My Soul”, which has been a source of much comfort to many. The hymn was written in memory of the author’s four precious daughters who had just perished in a shipwreck and his wife barely rescued. This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford's life. The first was the death of his son at the age of 2 and the 1871 Great Chicago Fire, which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago that was extensively damaged by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873, at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, "Saved alone …". Through it all, the couple maintained faith in their sovereign God and could say through their tears: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

 Matthew 28:20 “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

We know from God’s Holy Word that our Lord has not promised us a life of ease, free from heartache and tragedy, but He has promised to be with us. Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” God’s promise of provision to Israel applies, in principle, to us. We stand upon the promises of God.

Isaiah 43:1-3 “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.”

The prerequisite for the “peace of God, which passes all understanding” promised in our opening verse is that we be anxious “for nothing; but in ever thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” - Philippians 4:6. We must all of our trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. Peace with God and the peace of God are blessings that never stop giving back.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Created


Isaiah 43:7 “Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” 

Our Wednesday night topical Bible Study is examining the Creation verses Evolution debate. Reading through a great Creation “Word Study” today and thoughtthat I’d share this interesting and informative learning. There are three main verbs used to describe God’s work of creation in Genesis. These are “create” (Hebrew, bara), “make” (asah), and “form” (yatsar). The three words are similar in meaning but each with a slightly different emphasis. None of them, of course, can mean anything at all like “evolve,” or “change,” on their own accord. The theory of Macro-Evolution is a godless fairy tale. All three are used in Genesis with reference to man. “And God said, Let us make man in our image . . . . So God created man in his own image . . . . And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 1:26-27; 2:7).

Genesis 1:1 “ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Although the subject of creation is commonly associated with Genesis, it is mentioned even more frequently by the great prophet Isaiah. The words bara and yatsar are used twice as often in Isaiah as in any other Old Testament book and are applied uniquely to works of God. All three verbs are used together in Isaiah 45:18 in order to describe, adequately, God’s purposeful work in preparing the earth for man: “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am 
the LORD; and there is none else.” The earth is anthropomorphic.


Genesis 1:31 “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

God created, formed, made, and established the earth, that it might be the home of men and women. But what was God’s purpose for the people who would inhabit it? Our opening text answers this most fundamental of questions, and once again, all three key verbs are used: “I have created him  . . . I have formed him,  . . . I have made him . . . for my glory.” Glory be to God!  This biblical perspective alone provides the greatest of all possible incentives to live a godly and useful life. The reason we were created is to glorify God! 


In Christ, Brian