Thursday, February 23, 2017

Take up Thy Cross – Part 2

Michael continues by explaining that in Luke 9, Jesus needed to separate the sheep from the goats. A true “Follower” is not one who is looking for self-aggrandizement or self-actualization. The true Followers are those who take up their cross daily and follow Jesus Christ. One man approached Jesus and said, "Lord, I'll follow you where ever you go." Jesus responded, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head." Jesus said to another man, "Follow me." The man replied, "First I have to go bury my father." In Luke 14, Jesus said, "If you do not hate your father and your mother, your wife and children, your sister and brother, and even your own life, you cannot be my disciple."  Jesus said that compared to loving me and putting me first in your life, whatever competes with your devotion to me, then you need to "hate" that thing in comparison to your love for me. You can't look back while plowing or you cannot plow a straight furrow. If you look back, you may fall into the ditch. As we carry out our “great commission”, as salt of the earth and as the children of light, our Lord's command is "focus steadfastly upon me." Our faith will be tested to discover what's really important. What is it that you put above your love for the Lord? God will put His hand on our family for a reason. God teaches us that He is merciful even when He doesn't give us what we think we want. 

When the doctors told one Pastor in the father's waiting room, "We're losing the baby's heartbeat," He went to God in prayer.  God said to Him, "How much control do you have over this situation?  "No matter the outcome of this trial, will you still dedicate your life to love and serve me?"  God was teaching Him that the one true thing is to dedicate your life to your Lord. The first and great commandment is "thou shalt have no other gods between your face and my face."  Not my will, but thine be done. When this same Pastor preached the first sermon to the Church on the day of Pentecost, the crowd noticed that He was not an educated man, but that he had been with Jesus. The power we have is in proximity with Lord God. In this world, all relationships end in pain and disappointment. However, with Jesus Christ, all relationships end in the hope of eternal life with our Lord. Whatever happens in this life, despite the pathologist's reports, God is merciful for all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose

In Luke chapter 9, Jesus prepared His true disciples how to be more than conquerors.  We need to kill the “casual Christian” inside of us. For I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live I life by the faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Take up Thy Cross – Part 1

This week, Michael writes that in Luke Chapter 9, Jesus continued his training of the twelve disciples. He reminded them twice in this passage that He would go to Jerusalem to be beaten and tortured and then He would have to die. Jesus was dedicated to His mission to draw men and women unto Him, to have fellowship with Him. Ever since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, fellowship was broken between God and Man. Christ’s mission was to redeem mankind by paying the price for sins and the sin nature that we inherited from Adam and Eve. We've been redeemed by Jesus' payment for our debt of sin through the sacrifice of His innocent blood. We have been bought with a price. Because of our righteousness in Him, those “born again” of the Spirit have been reconciled to God in fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

After Adam's fall, God asked Adam, "Why were you hiding from me?" Adam said, "Because I was naked and ashamed." God said to Adam, "Who told you that you were naked?" The devil has been reminding us of our shame and our shortcomings ever since. However, the “wisdom from above” is learning to see life from God's point of view, not Satan's. Jesus came to reconcile men and women back to God ...  to restore the broken fellowship between God and mankind. In a “fallen” world, if we look around us, if we look at others, or at the person in the mirror, we'll be depressed. However, when we look to the Lord, we'll be blessed. The devil will try to get you to "eat your words."  He'll accuse us of being hypocrites when we speak the Word, because the Word is perfect, but in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. When the crisis comes, God expects his people to be the reliable ones ... ones in whom His testimony is true and faithful. When you become a Christian, the call to worship is "the Lord, your God, is one God." We shall worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We shall worship him with our very essence. Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Our strength and our perfection is not in our flesh, but only in His gift of Holy Spirit; the Spirit of Christ in us.  In verse 23 of Luke 9 Jesus said, "If any man desires to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me." The five thousand men in the crowd had just been fed. They were in awe of Jesus because He had performed a miracle by feeding the multitude with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus told His twelve disciples, if you want to be my disciplined followers, you need to forsake yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me. Jesus said two things are required to follow Him.  The first is to give up the rights to yourself ... to deny yourself. The second is to take up your cross daily. The cross is the symbol of death, shame, ridicule, and mocking ... for cursed is anyone who hangs on a cross. The people understood that the cross was a symbol of a shameful death for sin, guilt and iniquity. Before we can follow Him, we must crucify our flesh. Jesus said, “For whosoever shall save his life shall loose it.  But whosoever shall loose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”

In Chronicles, the there are four prerequisites to hear from heaven: to humble yourself, to forsake your wicked ways, to pray, and to seek His face. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, they taunted Him saying, “if you're the son of God, walk off of the cross and save yourself.” He could have called 72,000 angels from heaven, but He didn't. It wasn't the nails that kept Him hanging on the cross. Rather, it was the love that He had for us ... for He who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Let's continue Michael's message on "taking up your Cross" on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Do to Others

Matthew 7:12 “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Monday, February 20, 2017

For the Glory of God

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rightly Handling the Word of God

2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

I read that during the medieval times, when some church leadership did not believe that individual Christian did not have a right to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, Reformers of the time believed in the doctrine of justification by faith alone and that a closed book available only to scholarly elite and the clergy violated that right because the Word of God as the possession of all Christians. The doctrine of “sola Scriptura does not mean that Christians are to pay attention only to personal understanding of the Bible or that we can make the Scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean; the Word of God must be rightly handled. The meaning of Scripture is not so uncertain that we can all come up with our own views and never know the truth. That would be a skeptical view of divine truth that says it is wholly subjective and objectively unknowable. The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.

Ecclesiastes 8:1b “Who knows the interpretation of a thing?”

With the right of private interpretation comes the obligation to interpret Scripture correctly. We must work diligently with the text in order to rightly handle “the word of truth.”  Scripture is the only infallible authority and the Bible is the best guide for interpreting the Bible, but we also have the teaching of godly councils, individual theologians, ordained clergy and teachers as lesser authorities to help us understand God’s Word and provide a measuring stick against which we can check our personal interpretations of Scripture.

1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace."

We are not to treat Scripture like a secret code book; rather, we read the Bible as we would read any other work of literature, because our goal is to read the Scriptures according to the intent of its authors and the literary conventions of the particular style that is being used, whether poetry, narrative, proverb, epistle, sermon, et cetera. In reading the Bible literally, our goal is to get at the plain sense of the text. Scripture is divinely inspired and the content we need to know for salvation. God did not use specialized or obscure forms when He revealed Himself because He wanted us to readily understand it. God accommodated Himself to the genres that we know when He gave us His Word. God is not “a God of confusion”. The purpose of literal interpretation of Scripture is simply to read the Word of God with an eye for understanding it according to its various forms and genres (for example, we should read poetry as non-literal symbolic language), thereby rightly handling the Word of God.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Training to Trust – Part 2 – The Turnaround

1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 
Michael continues his message, saying that the secret to forgiveness of sins is not to dwell on the sin, but to turn from sin to the Savior. Jesus taught His disciples that we need to walk in the world as Ambassadors of Heaven and get our feet dirty. Jesus called His disciples to the upper room before He died and washed their feet. This illustrated that He came to wash us from the contamination of this God-rejecting world system. “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”

It's easy to get caught up into the distractions of this sinful world. God has called each and every one of us to repent ... to do an about face, turning away from the world by turning to Him. God did not call us for the purpose of calling fire down from heaven or to cast out the devil spirits. Jesus said, “I have not come to destroy, but to save.” He did not come to destroy the law of sin and death, but to fulfill the law. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death. Jesus did not call us to protect His reputation. His righteous standard stands on its own. He did not call us to defend the truth. The truth is its own defense. Jesus called us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
1 Peter 3:15-16 “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

He shows us the imperfections in ourselves and others so that we can know what to pray for. Jesus said, "Bless them that persecute you, bless and curse not."  Jesus' prayer was, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Jesus has called us unto “Liberty”. Our liberty in Christ is not to be used as an excuse to sin, but rather our liberty is to serve others in love and point to the foot of the Cross, where forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation are found in Jesus Christ alone. Speaking the truth in love will turn an upside down world right-side-up. He didn't call us to condemn unbelievers to hell. The world is already condemned. Jesus came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved.

Therefore, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled with the yoke of sin’s bondage. Following in the footsteps of our Lord as His true disciple is continuing in His Word. Jesus said "if you continue in my word, you shall be my disciplined followers.  And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Training to Trust – Part 1 – Our Calling in Christ

This week, Michael writes that in Luke 9, Jesus sent out His twelve disciples to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, and to cast out Devils. Jesus was training His disciples to trust Him ... to learn to be men and women of faith instead of men and women of fear. He gave them the two things they needed to get the job done: power and authority. Power is the ability ... the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses unto Jesus Christ to serve Him and to bear fruit for Him that will last for eternity. In our own power we will not bear fruit that will last.  Likewise, Jesus has called each of us with His power to preach the gospel and minister from our spiritual gift. The authority and power Jesus gave His disciples over demons and illness was to authenticate the message of the gospel of the kingdom. The purpose of the gospel message was to prepare men's and women’s hearts for God's harvest ...  to "write their names in the Book of Life in heaven."

In the following chapter, Jesus sent out seventy on another faith trip to speak the gospel, to cast out demons and to heal people. He said to take nothing with them on the trip and to rely on the hospitality of those to whom they ministered. They reported back to Jesus with a joyous report of the great and mighty works that they had done in Jesus' name. However, Jesus admonished them, "Rejoice not because the devil fell from heaven like lightning, but because your names are written in heaven."

The stories in Luke 9 and 10 are about Jesus' training His disciples how to become men and women of faith. After the feeding of the 5000, Jesus met a man whose son was possessed with a demon. The disciples could not cast out the demon.  After Jesus had delivered the man's son from the demon, the disciples took Jesus aside and asked Him why they could not cast out the demon. Jesus had said to the crowd that had followed Him, "O faithless generation." The disciples had been corrupted by arguing about who was the greatest among them. They had reverted to the ways of the world and the thoughts of the flesh instead of the thoughts of the Spirit. Who is really Lord of your life?  In verse 18, Jesus had asked His disciples, "Who do men say that I am?"  The disciples answered, "Some say that you are John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the Old Testament Prophets returning from the dead." Then Jesus asked them, "But who say ye that I am?"  Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God."

One of life's greatest lessons is that God doesn't always need our help to accomplish His will and His work. Sometimes He calls us to rest in Him and to prepare for the spiritual battle. Men and women often want to be on the front lines. However, God's timing is not our timing. Our challenge is to make our will His will. Our exhortation is to die to ourselves in order to live for Him. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?

John said to Jesus, "There were men casting out Devils in your name.  We rebuked them for using your name."  However Jesus said, "Forbid him not, for whoever is not against us is for us."  In Mark 9:51 Jesus had set His face to go to Jerusalem through Samaria. However the Samaritans rejected Him. Jesus said to the Samaritans, "You do not know who's spirit you are following."  He came to deliver them from the spirit of the world, but they rejected His message. Is our society today not doing the same?  In our culture the "Samaritans" will not stand up and cheer when the word of the Lord is spoken.

Let's continue Micheal's message on our calling as a Christian on the next post.
In Christ, Brian