Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Lake of Fire


Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books,  according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

I read an enlightening and interesting article on the places called Heaven and Hell. Some people may not believe in hell, but God makes it clear that all “the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, drug abusers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” in Revelation 21:8. Actually, Jesus Christ said more about hell than anyone else in the Bible. To the unsaved, He will say: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” in Matthew 25:41.

The lake of fire is not here on the earth. The beast and the false prophet are to be cast into the lake of fire before the binding of Satan for a thousand years; then the present earth itself is to be removed, and finally Satan will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” in Revelation 20:10. Thus the lake of fire is in existence both before and after the removal of the present earth, and will continue to exist forever.

Many argue that the lake of fire is symbolic and should not be taken literally. If so, the reality must be so indescribable that it can only be symbolized by an eternal lake of fire. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 states that those “who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” are to be “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord”. Rather than questioning the reality of hell, which is the just destiny of all who reject or ignore the free gift of salvation provided by the infinite love and sacrificial suffering of God Himself in Christ on their behalf, men and women should come to Christ in faith and “be saved from wrath through him” - Romans 5:9.

John 3:35-36 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem marked the public declaration of Christ’s status the promised Messiah, but it soon became clear that His kingdom would not come through ordinary, earthly means. His entrance into Jerusalem ultimately led to the cross, where He atoned for the sins of His people. His kingdom came through His death and resurrection. Either Jesus Christ pays for our sins or we do, and that determined our eternal destination. It’s our choice and it’s a life or death decision. Worth thinking about because it's great to know what we have been saved from, so that we can rejoice knowing what we have been saved to.




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

No Longer a Slave to Fear - Part 2


Michael continues by asking: Are our minds set on the things of the flesh and of the world or are our minds set on the things of the Spirit of God, in Christ, in us?  God works behind the scenes and we don't see or understand what He's working in us and through us. In this life we are unaware of the things that God is orchestrating behind the scenes. We are being carried along according to His grace and mercy. He carries us as we put our faith and trust in Him. He will not let us sink if He says "come walk on the water with me." He will lift us up and sustain us as long as our eyes and our focus are on Him in the midst of the storms of life. God is still faithful to His word. He said "I will never leave you nor forsake you.” These are the lessons that we learn through the storms of life.

The options are to be men and women of fear or men and women of faith. The choice is ours. The battle rages on for the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. God has given us the “spiritual armor” to protect through the “spiritual battle”. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness from on high. We are on His mission; not our own. Our challenge is to make His mission, our mission. We will fail some of the tests in this life. However, there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ JesusWho is he that condemns?  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

God allows the unsaved to rebuke us when we are not walking in fellowship with our Lord God Almighty. Through the trials of this life, God says, "I've got this." He will carry us through the storms of life and through the fiery trials and tribulations. Our purpose in this life is the true good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul said, whether I live or die, my purpose is "the furtherance of the Gospel." May our lives be a true witness and a testimony of the grace and mercy of our living Lord. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

No Longer a Slave to Fear - Part 1


This week, Michael writes that Romans 8 reminds us what's really important through the trials of life this side of heaven. Our greatest fight is to get to the point that we are convinced that "I'm no longer a slave to fear; I am a child of God." Either you're fearful or faithful. The enemy will give you innumerable reasons to be filled with fear. However, thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusts in thee. God always makes his Sovereign decisions with the best interest of His children in mind. He has prepared the way before us ... for we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he as foreordained that we should walk in it

Ministry is a choice. We get to change our attitude according to His will, not according to circumstances and situation. Our responsibility is to choose an attitude of awe of God and gratitude to God. It's not about us, it's about Him ... for His glory and not ours. God continues to bless us despite the trails and through the storms of life. When Jehoshaphat went into the battle in 1 Kings, he put the praise and worship band on the front lines. The praise of God will go before us and will surround us when the battle belongs to the Lord.  


The end of Romans 7 concludes with Paul's lament ..."What I want to do, I don't do, but what I don't want to do, I do. O wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this dead body?" How shall we respond to this question?  When the crisis comes and courage is required God expects His men and women to have such confidence in Him, that we will be the reliable ones. God shakes us to get rid of the extraneous things of life. What remains is that which is true and faithful. The decisions that we make through the crises of life build our character and our faithfulness. 

The answer to Paul's lament in Romans 7 is the theme of Romans 8:1-11. "There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus....  For the (New Testament) law of the spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the (Old Testament) law of sin and death.  For what the old law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Let's continue Michael's message on being a "Slave to Fear" on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Monday, May 22, 2017

Doctrines of Devils


1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” 

I read a thought-proving short study on the fourth chapter of 1 Timothy. It pointed out that in chapter one of his first epistle to Timothy, Paul warned about false teachers and heresies in the church of his day, evidently particularly implicating the agnostics and their false skepticism and low moral standards. Throughout chapter four, he warns of false teachers “in the latter times,” i.e., in our day and in our churches.

1 Timothy 4:2-5 “ speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”

THe study states that Paul had received an explicit and “express” teaching from the Holy Spirit. There was nothing vague about it. The false teachers would, among other things, be “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats”, with other false teachings implied throughout the chapter. These “doctrines” will cause some to “depart from the faith.” Evidently, some who consider themselves Christians and yet have incomplete discernment will fall into the trap of “seducing spirits,” espousing the “doctrines of devils.” The Greek word translated “depart” is apostesontai, which means “to fall away” from an original position, in this case, “the faith.” The teachers will typically be hypocrites, “speaking lies,” having “their conscience seared”.

Galatians 1:9 “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”


In this time of great apostasy, we desperately need to know the biblical doctrine concerning devils (or Satan and his demonic henchmen), for their influence has nearly captured American education and culture. But we must be on guard against, and teach others to be on guard against, “doctrines of devils.” 

1 Timothy 4:6-16 “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the “good doctrine” which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This  is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

It is one thing to think about how I shall live this side of eternity in light of our Savior Jesus dying on the Cross for me to change my destiny that side of eternity - saved by grace through faith. It is another thing to think how I shall live in light of the Lord Jesus Christ and Creator Father God the Holy Word of God's teachings, statues and commandments to align my thoughts, words and actions with their sacred and righteous Word, Will and Way. In light of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, how shall we live? Which doctrine shall we follow?

Blessings

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lovers of Self


2 Timothy 3:2-4 “For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.” 

I just read how one of the dangerous teachings of the “New Age” movement which has spilled over into modern evangelicalism is the notion of “self-love.” Many psychologists - even Christian professional counselors - are attributing society’s ills, especially among young people, to the “supposed” lack of a “positive self-image” or “self-esteem” on the part of those exhibiting antisocial behavior. What they need, we are mistakenly told, is to learn to love themselves more, to appreciate their own self-worth. The problem with this idea is that it is both unscriptural and unrealistic. People do not hate themselves. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:29 that “no man ever yet hated his own flesh”.

 Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31 “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” He didn’t mention loving yourself because that was a given … everyone loves themselves. Instead of learning to esteem ourselves, the Scripture commands us each to “esteem other better than themselves” – Philippians 2:3. What do you see in society today?

The article pointed out that we are told by some Christian leaders that the measure of our great value in the sight of God is the fact that Christ paid such a high price - His own death —to redeem us. The fact is, however, that His death is not the measure of our great value, but of our terrible sinfulness. “Christ died for the ungodly” – Romans 5:6. In fact, as in our text, the rise of this self-love idea is itself a sign of the last days, when men shall be “lovers of their own selves.” The Age of Grace is winding down and there is no better to reach a lost and dying world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Being “lovers of their own selves.” is the main characteristic of “New Age” secular humanism, which is based squarely upon evolutionary pantheism.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”


 Christ died for our sins because He loved us, not because He needed us. We should live for Him in thanksgiving for the “amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me!”

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Power of Compassion


Matthew 9:36 “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

Pastor Kyle continued his sermon series based upon the book of Genesis by stating that tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone, so godly embrace today and make the most of your time in a holy manner. Deal with life in a positive manner, “play with the cards that you are dealt”, and be a person of compassion. Remember that when things are at their worst possible moment, God is still in control.  

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Pastor Kyle gave us five ways how to unlock the power of compassion in our life. (1) Start with care. In Genesis 40:6 “When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected.” Get to know people and know how they are doing. Notice when they are hurting and be able to stop whatever you are doing to meet their needs and pain. Care is never a compromise. So, have a mindset of compassion for others, because Jesus modeled and exemplified a life of compassion and care. (2) Understand it may require risk. In dealing with interpersonal relationships, compassion may not be the easy way, but is the “right” thing to do. Do not feel too busy to help others. (3) Ask questions. Ask open-ended questions and discovery questions that allow others to open up and completely explain their feelings. Listen and allow people to complete their insights of the situation at hand for them. “Active listening” allows others to verbalize the issues, to open to God, and sometimes, came up with answers themselves. (4) Tell the truth. It is not compassion to sugarcoat problem. We should never tell others things to make them feel better falsely. (5) Know that compassion has a “dark side”. Know that you might feel forgotten in the care process. Compassion is a sacrificial attribute. Remember that God orders our steps, as well as our stops. Caring may not pay off for us beyond the act of caring for others.

Psalm 103:8 “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”

Pastor Kyle left us with the four instructions of the “Compassion Challenge”. (1) Show some compassion to yourself. Have kindness towards yourself and give yourself encouragement. (2) Show some compassion to someone you are not getting along with. Put aside yourself; just be present and listen. (3) Show most compassion to someone you love. Compassion is not only about healing hurts, but also about developing and improving relationship. Be fully present. (4) Show some compassion to family. God gave us our family members and they impacted our lives. They deserve our love and care. Jesus Christ modeled how we are to live by the Spirit and the strength of God. Use the power of compassion.


In Christ, Brian

Friday, May 19, 2017

Worship


Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
I read a word study on the term “worship”. The article stated that God created us to worship Him, which is His prerogative as Creator God. Humans are at their best when they are worshipping the triune God of heaven and earth, just as they are at their worse when they are worshipping anything or anyone else (which is idolatry). I remember that fact being one of the major objections by an atheist acquaintance that I was talking to about Christianity.    

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “worship” as: Excellence of character; dignity; worth; worthiness. Chiefly and eminently, the act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; or the reverence and homage paid to Him in religious exercises, consisting in adoration, confession, prayer, thanksgiving and the like. The worship of God is an eminent part of religion. Prayer is a chief part of religious worship.

In English, “worship” derives from the old English word “weorthscipe, which means acknowledgement of worth. God has “worth ship” because God is worthy of or worship. Worship of God involves the whole person  - soul (mind, will and emotion), body (head to toe), and spirit (heart and connection to God). We apply our minds to His excellences, our thoughts to His attributes, such as His holiness, mercy and love. Our will submits to His majesty, and our hearts embrace His goodness to enter into communion with Him.

Isaiah 29:13 “Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.”

The study continued that the heart of the worshipper is an essential component of “true” worship with contrition and humility. We all have been created by Almighty God, and as His creatures, we are to worship our Creator God. But as sinful creatures, we are unable to fulfill this obligation apart from Jesus Christ. Sin has perverted our worship and caused us to pursue the created rather than the Creator. Redemption in Christ regenerates our spirit and restores our relationship with our heavenly Father God. Christ bridges the gap between God’s holiness and our sin, establishing a covenant relationship between us.

Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”


In Christ, Brian