Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's in a Name?

Exodus 20:1 & 7 And God spoke all these words: " Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” KJV. I really didn’t understand that word “vain”. Growing up, I heard and thought that this commandment meant that we weren’t supposed to use God’s or Jesus’ name as an expletive swear word. But later in life, I had it explained in context, that the word ”vain” actually means “to take the name of God or Christ lightly". Webster’s confirms this with the definition of vain as: Without value, without force, fruitless, empty. Act 4:10-12 explains: “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

Think about this: Our Father in Heaven, Creator of everything and all that has breath, who loves us, sent "God the Son" as His Plan of Salvation, that we who accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, may be forgiven of our sins against God, be adopted into the Kingdom of God as Children, and receive eternal life in Heaven forever, instead of spending eternity in Hell. Do we take this redemption and the Redeemer lightly? We’re not just talking about those who say “G.D. this or J.C. that”. Jesus did not die on the Cross for anything that He did, because He was innocent, sinless & blameless. Out of love, mercy and grace, Christ died on that cross for my sins, and your sins, and the sins of anyone who accepts the free gift and believes. Knowing what we are saved from hell, how can we take our salvation and our God, who saved us, in an unholy and casual manner? 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 explains to us further: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. We pray to God, through Christ, in the Spirit."

Galatians 6:7-9a “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Justice comes (Rom. 2:16), when we all appear in front of the Judgment seat of Christ Rom (14:10), where every knee shall bow Rom 14:11). Romans 2:6-8 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Where you & I spend eternity is serious, and the name of God or Christ should never be taken lightly; not out of fear, but out of gratitude for their love, mercy & grace towards us. Hebrews12:2 teaches us:” Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” How can a true Child of God, and a Brother or Sister in Christ take such a Salvation so lightly? How can we take the name of God (our Creator) and the name of Jesus Christ (our Lord & Savior) in vain? We are in a world that is literally falling apart around us, because they do not take the God of Heaven & Earth seriously. Believe it or not, He is real and in control. We need to put our total trust in Christ and follow Him. As Pilgrims (resident foreigners as Ambassadors for Christ), walk with the Lord confidently on this journey, come what may because those who do not honor and respect the name and authority of Almighty God will surely be telling you to “lighten up”.

God has given us his Holy Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit in our heart to guide our lives on “paths of righteousness, for His purposes. John 20:31 tells us that “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Next to “knowing”, is knowing where to find out. Godly knowledge through the Holy Scriptures only comes through spending time reading the Word of God and in prayer and meditation over them. Philosophy & Psychology without Spirituality is just enticing words, vain intellectual accent, without fulfillment. Through the Bible, God speaks to us and imparts spiritual wisdom for living a life that walks in Christ, serving the Lord’s purposes in our life built up in Him, and having true life in His name. Don’t take it lightly.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Joy to the World

A colleague (a former Pastor) stopped by this morning to discuss with me the Christian view on a specific issue and topic in his Bible Study, and asked about the river rocks on my desk with the word "JOY" cut into them. I gave him a copy of my message on "JOY" that I wrote a couple years ago, and decided that I'd post that message on the Blog site also, since I've been so occupied with the Little League obligations lately. Some have read it but many have not, so I pray that this message either is fresh or refreshes you today.
Have you ever seen those polished rocks that they sell now-a-days that have words carved into them? Patty and I both love them because of both their beauty and the meaning of the word or words engraved on them. My favorite has always been the word "JOY". I remember hearing that the acrostic from Joy is Jesus, Others, You, but that is not the reason that it is my favorite. Christian Joy has always been a spiritual experience for me. There is joy that we can receive from people, places and things of this world or when life is going well, but how do we have joy when things in life are not going so well? This goes much deeper. It does not involve focusing on "good" thoughts and things" or pretending that nothing is wrong. That is not reality and the Lord doesn't want me to live in Fantasyland, but He does want Joy and Happiness in your & my life despite the darkness in the world. I think of the scripture of Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Living "In Christ" by the power of the Holy Spirit produces the "Fruit of the Spirit" (which includes joy - Galatians 5:22) in us spiritually - the joy of Christ, which transcends all understanding. John 15:7-11 connects it together for me – “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” Last Sunday, the Pastor of my dad's church preached a message on Nehemiah Chapter 8 that gave me a clearer vision of the Christian prospective of experiencing joy in spite of this sinful or destitute world that can bring our spirits down. Nehemiah 8:8-10 – “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."
But the key component of spiritual joy is based upon our redemptive salvation by the mercy and grace of almighty God through His Son (our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ) that provides our "eternal prospective" and "blessed assurance". Psalm 51:1-13 says it well: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee. How could this not produce joy?!
Joy is not based upon the people, places, things and circumstances but in our intimate relationship our Lord & God. 1John 2;15-17 guides us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
Matthew 22:36-40 gets to the bottom line: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Back to that acrostic: First, "J" is for "Jesus" = Love our Lord & Savior; our King & our God. Second, "O" is for Others = Love your neighbor (minister & witness the love of the Gospel). Thirdly, "Y" is for "You" = Child of God take care of yourself and grow in grace. Joy is Jesus, Others, then You, with this formula, we will have true Joy.
My favorite rocks have "Joy" on them. God is Love & Jesus is Joy! Praise and honor and glory to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Joyful means "full of joy" and I pray that your life is joyful always.
May God bless you richly!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Who's on the Throne? - March 21, 2009

Why do some many Christians want to be like everyone else (desiring to do what non-Christians do, even if that compromises God’s authority and will) ... to be like the WORLD that denies God and anything spiritual, living in self-centered licentiousness (disrespectful of the laws or principles of morality), lawlessness (heedless and intentionally violating the laws of God) and unholiness (not set apart from the ignorant, self-indulgent, and God rejecting World system). They may not say it, but their life says otherwise. James 4:4 says: ”You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?” Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Why? Because, to idolize and love the world more than God is “spiritual adultery”. This has been a common problem through all generations. But God wants us (His children) to be set apart from inequity, to love Him, obey Him and be like Him (imitators of God): not like this self-centered World system today.

Judges 21:25 says: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” People today claim the “Right of Moral Preference” – a Right of Choice as to what is legal or moral in their own eyes, with no perceived consequences ... to do what I want to do, when and where and how they desire – which is anarchy. What governmental rule are they overthrowing? Answer - The sovereign authority of their Creator God. They’ve taken God off the throne of their life and placed themselves on that throne to rule “that which is “right & wrong” in their own eyes. Our culture today has elevated “moral preference” as its chief ethical principle. You find people everywhere today talking much about their “Rights” and very little about their “Duties” and “Responsibilities”. Sin is redefined as only “That which is offensive to them, even if its against God’s Will”, because they are a law unto themselves only. The Battle Cry of the ungodly is: “Don’t tell me what I have to do!” What’s right for you may not be right for me”. Having no standards outside of their selves is “moral relativism”. In that case, what is evil? Without God’s commandments, laws and statutes, our society is lost with no moral compass – truly lawless, dissolute, disrespectful, dishonoring, disobedient, immoral and sinful in the eyes of the Lord. What do you see today? Where are morals, manners, ethics, character, integrity, et cetera? Who serves who? The truth is that we are all accountable to God and there is a day of Judgment to come, where we give an account for the choices that we make and our actions on this Earth (Revelation 20:11-15 + 21:7-8). Duty stems from (1) understanding that you have “Rights” given to us by God. (2) Understanding that there are responsibilities that go along with those “Rights”. And (3) Understanding that you are accountable to God for the responsibilities that accompany your rights. Duty flows from God-given “rights” and we are accountable for the choices that we make.

Jesus explains in John 3:3 to Nicodemus that the unregenerated worldly man is ‘spiritually” blind. And you are sure to hear them say: “Don’t judge me!” They’ll claim the Bible says: “Judge not” from Matthew chapter 7, but the context actually is “do not be continuously judging”. In the same chapter (verse 6) Jesus says; “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” How are you to judge those who are the dogs and the swine? Verse 5 gives the right context. In John 7:24, Jesus told the people: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." The goal of the unjust, unholy and ungodly world is to condemn God’s people, so that their choices and actions are not condemned. Despite their attempts at control, in John 3:16-21, Jesus tells it like it is: “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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

Believing Christians are to know “right from wrong” in the eyes of the Lord, and choose to do that which is “right”. But what about those who do not know the Lord – the lost? 2Peter 3:9 tells us: “He (The Lord) is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” But you can not be “found”, until you first realize that you are lost in sin, can not save yourself, and realize the need for a Savior ... Christ, the Lord and Redeemer, who will change your heart and your life forever. The Gospel truth. Have you heard about the “Four Spiritual Laws? Just as there are physical laws that govern the physical universe, so are there spiritual laws that govern your relationship with God. The First Law is that God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. More to follow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Abide in Christ

John 8:31-32 Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 15:4-11 Jesus said: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
A couple friends of mine asked me to write something on: what it means to “abide in Christ”? To “abide” is not a word that we use very much these days, but when we look at what the Lord is teaching us by this simple word (abide), we see the enormous implications in our faith and our life as Christians … fruitful living, the love of Christ & joy to the fullest! Merriam-Webster dictionary defines abide as 1: to remain stable or fixed in a state 2: to continue in a place The American Heritage dictionary defines abide as 1. To remain in a place. 2. To continue to be sure or firm; endure. 3. To dwell 4. To conform to; comply with. To abide is not only to remain fixed & steady, but to endure the Christian race, continuing sure and firm in His word, will and way. To conform our life to align and comply to the Lord’s teachings and commands, and dwell, make our home & live with Him. For in John 14:23 Jesus says: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep(abide in) My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” Truth rests on the Word of God, the Holy scriptures, and our experiences must rest upon that truth.
Faith and true belief are not based upon imagination … to close your eyes and try to believe, because faith (to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, died for our sins, who rose from the dead that we may have eternal life) is a matter of the mind, spirit & soul; not a matter of our will. A decision can never make you affirm the truth of a proposition, if in fact you do not believe it. How to act out our faith, to abide in Christ as Lord of our life, to desire the things of God and resolve to serve Him, is a matter of our will.
In the parable of the Sower (Luke 8:14-15), the seed being sown is the Word of God and the ground is our heart. Jesus explains; “Now the seeds that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Don’t be consumed by the consumables. We can not obey two Masters, and an Apostate in the Bible is one who forgets the Word of God, but the true disciple of Christ is the one that abides in His word. Let us abide in Christ and live the “abundant life”, producing much “good fruit” that glorifies our Father in heaven!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Gift of a Goddaughter

1Corinthians 13:1-13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Ten Years ago, my wife and I stood up together with our wonderful little Goddaughter, as she committed her herself and her life to her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in her Baptism ceremony in front of the congregation of our church. Moments before the service, Tiffanie and I prayed a special covenant prayer that I wrote for her: “Jesus come into my heart and forgive my sins. Be my Lord and I will follow you all the days of my life. I accept the free gift of eternal life with you in Heaven and the Holy Spirit within me, to guide me, today. I will love you, obey you, serve you, trust you and praise you always. Amen.” I wish that I could share with you the feelings of love, joy and thanksgivings to be a part of this moment of Salvation and life commitment of this precious young lady – a Child of God. But she was not the only one making a commitment that gorgeous day. I committed myself, making a promise to God, to be the best Godfather that I could be, and a godly influence always, with His guidance and help. The relationship has been a source of spiritual joy and happiness that has touched my soul ever since, as I’ve watched this little Christian girl grow and mature into a beautiful holy young woman, who loves the Lord, her God. Her favorite verse comes from her favorite chapter of the Bible (1Corinthians 13), which I opened this message. The name Tiffanie literally means “Gift from God”, and every minute of the last ten years has truly been a Devine gift. So on this day, I take time to stop and give thanks for Tiffanie Ann in my life, and praise the Lord for the honor and privilege of being a Godparent to such an amazing girl. Glory be to God!


The Garden of Prayer

Certainly, an essential component in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the Christian’s time in communion with the Lord in Prayer. I find myself in prayer in any time or situation during the day or night, as talking with God is natural and unhindered when walking with God. Do I pray as much as I should? No. Do I pray every time that I need to? No, but I’m improving and the time spent in prayer is comforting and reassuring, to say the least. A scheduled time, set aside for prayer, devoted to you and God brings peace to the soul. We need to find quiet places to spend time in relationship with our Lord, to focus on how big God is; not how big our problems are; time to find contentment, to learn from Him, even to be tried and tested, and to grow, being transformed into the image of Christ.
I’ve always loved the old Christian Hymn “In The Garden” because of the visual image I experience of devotion time in Prayer with the Lord. Here is the first verse of this great beloved song of the church.
I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, And the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses.
Chorus: And He walks with me and He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own, And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known.
Jesus gave us the “model” prayer, which gives us the elements of praying, in “The Lord’s Prayer”. Matthew 6:6b-13: When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. KJV
The elements of Prayer:
Adoration – Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Praise God and adore His Holy name, with His glory foremost for His indescribable and never ending love to us!
Submission – Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Rule in our life by thy will and thy kingdom; not my will.
Supplication – Give us this day our daily bread. Meet our needs and the needs of others (intercessory petition for loved ones and fellow man).
Confession – And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Repentance that leads to forgiving and forgiveness. Pray for God to: Slay me – Mortify my flesh – Put to death my indwelling sin. Cleanse me – with the blood of Jesus – what can take away our sin? Fill me – Holy Spirit equip & enable me to serve the Lord. Lead me – Where to go & what to do to accomplish His work for me, while walking in the Spirit.
Protection – And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil – build a hedge of protection around and keep me in Your Almighty hand.
Celebration - For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Rejoice for the Heavens and the Earth are under His authority and glory!
We need to be Christ-like in our life and in our prayers. It is an essential component of the “Abundant” Life! May His Holy name ever be praised! Joy and blessings in Christ!

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Christian Walk

It's been a far from slow March, with our trip to visit relatives at Bass Lake CA and all the Little League baseball commitments, but I have also been reading and hearing many great messages on Faith and Belief. I see that the Christian walk is a never-ending journey, led by the Holy Spirit, of learning, growing and maturing in the "truth' that is constantly and continually being revealed from the sure infinite amount of godly knowledge and wisdom available to those who truly seek it with all their heart, for the understanding of their Heaven Father (the Creator of Heaven & Earth), for the improvement of their "Child of God" life and living, and the serving & pleasing of the Lord ... the glorifying of His Holy name, the advancement of the Kingdom of God on Earth, and the blessing of our fellow man ... on the road to eternity in Heaven.
It would be over-whelming, if not regulated by the Holy Spirit, the peace of Christ (our Shepherd) in our sight, and the love of Almighty God on our heart. The largest obstacle to our walk is our flawed selves. We want so much to do everything ourselves ... by our own will, knowledge and power, that many times we get in the way of what God is trying to tell us, teach us and guide us to. We need the means of grace to help keep our hearts inclined to the things of God. The John Owen's book that I'm reading puts it as: The promise of life, and the vigor in our spiritual life depends upon our mortification (putting to death) of sin (the flesh - our sin nature). To gain spiritual strength, we must weaken sin, disentangle our heart from false ambitions, and cleanse our thoughts. We must also mortify our affections so that we become more engaged in the worship of God than the worship of idols. Mortification prunes indwelling sin and allows the graces of God to grow with vigor in our life. (emphasis mine)
This is what is meant in Matthew 16:24: Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mortification robs sin of its debilitating, inharmonious, and emotionally distracting influences. Without mortification, sin darkens the mind, while lusts of the flesh grow like weeds. Mortification is the soul's vigorous opposition to fruitless self-life. This is confirmed in Galatians 5:16-17 & 24-25: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."
Not only has the Christian been rescued from the wrath of God to come against sin, through the accepting of the free gift of eternal life by the atoning death and resurrection of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, but also given an abundant and fruitful life filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, as we "crucify the flesh" daily and seek first the kingdom of God in our Christian walk in the Spirit.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Let others see the reality of what Jesus has done and continues to do in you daily.
Your brother in Christ, Brian

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Personal Godliness

I’ve stumbled into a wealth of knowledge that brings to light, clarity and life, the meaning and truth of the Christian faith and walk, through the great writings of the Saints before us. Those God-gifted writers who unpacked and delivered what God revealed in the Scriptures, through the guiding of the Holy Spirit, for the understanding and growth of the Body of believing Followers of Christ unto complete faith, purpose and balanced living. I just picked up the classic book “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyan in 1678, which I plan to read next. I’m currently reading the book “Sin & Temptation – The Challenge to Personal Godliness” by John Owen (1616-1683), which refreshingly explains the trials and temptations that each of us experience in view of what Almighty God, Christ the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit – our counselor are working out in us, despite the godless world of self-fulfillment and accompanying narcissism. Consecration means total self-surrender, laying one’s all on the Alter, handing over every part of one’s life to the lordship of Jesus Christ (for Christ, by Christ, and in Christ). This is the work of faith: To trust God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit), and to live in such trust of Him.
There is so much godly wisdom and knowledge flowing from this book and I thought that I’d give you a taste of one section out of the chapters on Temptation, titled Vigilance against the dangers of temptation. When we accept the free gift from God of salvation through belief and faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are redeemed, forgiven, adopted into the family of God and given a new, regenerated (heart) nature. Born anew!
Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 26:41 Jesus said: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
The new nature is fed, strengthened, increased, and sweetened by Christ. Our desire focuses on God, yet temptation attempts to intervene and disrupt this relationship and desire. How then can we be vigilant, so that we “watch and pray”? This injunction from our Lord implies that we should maintain a clear, abiding apprehension of the great danger we face if we enter into temptation. If one is always aware of the great danger, one will always stand guard.
Always remember the great danger it is for anyone to enter into temptation. It is sad to find most people so careless about this. Most people think about how to avoid open sin, but they never think about the dynamics of temptation within their hearts. How readily young people mix with all sorts of company. Before they realize it, they enjoy evil company. Then it is too late to warn them about the dangers of wrong company. How many plead for their “freedom”, as they call it. They argue that they can do what they like and try what they want, so they run here and there to every seducer and salesman of false opinions. And what is the result? Few go unhurt, and the majority lose their faith. Let no one fear sin without also fearing temptation. They are too closely allied to be separated. Satan has put them so close together that it is very hard to separate them. He hates not the fruit, who delights in the root. We need moral sensitivity to the weakness and corruption within us. We need to guard against the reality and guile of Satan. We need to recognize the evil of sin and the power of temptation to work against us. If we remain careless and cold, we shall never escape the entanglements. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the danger of the entry of temptation.
Realize we cannot keep ourselves from falling into temptation. But for the grace of God, we fall into it. We have no power or wisdom to keep ourselves from entering into temptation, other than the power and wisdom of God. In all things we “are kept by the power of God” (1Peter 1:5). “I pray,” our Savior says to the Father, “not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). In other words, Christ prays that the Father would guard us against the temptation of the world to enter into evil and sin. Let our hearts admit, “I am poor and weak. Satan is too subtle, too cunning, and too powerful; he watches constantly for advantages over my soul. The world presses in upon me with all sorts of pressures, pleas, and pretenses. My own corruption is violent, tumultuous, enticing, and entangling. As it conceives sin, it wars within me against me. Occasions and opportunities for temptation are innumerable. No wonder I do not know how deeply involved I have been in sin. Therefore, on God alone will I rely for my keeping. I will constantly look to Him.” If we commit ourselves to God in this way, three things will follow. First, we will experience the reality of the grace and compassion of God. He calls the faithless and the helpless to rest upon Him. No soul has ever lacked God’s supply when he depended upon God’s invitation to trust Him absolutely. Second, we will be conscious of our danger, and of out need for God’s protection. Third, we will act in faith on the promises of God to keep us. To believe that He will preserve us is, indeed, a means of preservation. God will certainly preserve us, and make a way of escape for us out of the temptation, should we fall. We are to pray for what God has already promised. Our requests are to be regulated by His promises and commands. Faith embraces the promises and so finds relief. This is what James 1:5-7 teaches us. What we need, we must “ask of God.” But we must “ask in faith,” for otherwise we will not “receive and thing of the Lord.” God has promised to keep us in all our ways. We shall be guided in such a way that we “shall not err therein” (Isaiah 35:8). He will lead us, guide us, and deliver us from the evil one. Base your life upon faith in such promises and expect a good and assuring life. We cannot conceive of the blessings that will ensue from the attitude of trust in the promises of Christ.
Resist temptation by making prayer of first importance. Praying that we enter not into temptation is a means to preserve us in it. People often talk about their wonderful experiences in maintaining this attitude of prayer, yet less than half its excellence, power, and efficacy is ever known. Whoever wishes to avoid temptation must pray. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews4:16). By doing this, our souls are set against every form of temptation. After Paul instructs us to ”put on the whole armor of God” (that we may stand and resist in the time of temptation), he adds: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication” (Ephesians 6:11,18). Without this attitude, we lack any real help. Consider Paul’s exhortation. “Praying always” means at all times and seasons (compare 1Thessalonians 5:17). “with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” implies expressing desires to God that are suited to our needs according to His will, by the assistance of the Holy Spirit. “Watching thereunto” means we are never distracted from the essential stance. “With all perseverance” means this is more than a passing whim, but a permanent inclination. By doing this we will stand. If we do not abide in prayer, we will abide in temptation. Let this be one aspect of our daily intercession: “God, preserve my soul. And keep my heart and all its ways so that I will not be entangled.” When this is true in our lives, a passing temptation will not overcome us. We will remain free while others lie in bondage.Three things merit our consideration concerning the Word of God: knowing it, valuing it, and obeying it. May God richly bless you. In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beware of New Age Religion - The Old Lie

New Age religion is attempting to redefine God and Jesus with lies that fit the pluralistic universalism that “all religions lead to the same place – Heaven. Why? So that all religions may be equally valued and embraced as “true”? This is what is called “easy Believism”. Close examination reveals that this belief could not be possible. New Agers depend on Biblical illiteracy. God is not some “force” to tap into. Forces don’t create the Universe, set moral laws and standards or provide a plan of salvation from the penalty of sin. Christianity is the only religion where God provides someone else to pay for our sins. All other religions are “works” based and you must earn your way. Faith is taking God at His word and standing on the promises of the “finished’ work of Jesus Christ (our Redeemer and Savior) on the Cross. If there was some “other” way than Christ's dying for our Sins, then His death was a total unnecessary waste and the Bible is wrong. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Relationship with our Lord is not only knowing that He is, but also knowing who He is and what His good, pleasing and perfect will is. This is where people get it mixed up? People are trying to figure out who they are, where they came from, what they are supposed to be doing in life, and where they are going. It is said that the seeds of doubt and discouragement spout in the soil of ignorance. The answers are in the “Word of God”. We do not bend, twist or alter the Holy Scriptures in the Bible to fit what we believe, but change what we believe to fit the Bible. Colossians 3:1-4 says: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Though spiritually bankrupt, the New Age Movement’s followers study and passionately, with diligence, promote their world view of limitless self indulgence, works oriented goals, and tolerance of sin, which is really living in the darkness of godlessness, feeling threatened by the one true “living” God and the gospel of the risen Christ - the center of life. Christ is “incarnate”, meaning “God with flesh on”. To be “carnal” minded is spiritual death because it puts yourself and your own godless passions before God, which at its root is idolatry. Carne is Latin for “flesh, so carnal minded means thinking “in the flesh”, through our physical and emotional desires, without godly boundaries and statutes. A passion for God has been replaced with carnal lusts … materialism, licentiousness and hedonistic atheism. It is a disease and America is sick by this thinking. Godlessness has perverted our country to near perdition culturally, with tragic results from self-centered unrighteousness, immorality and lascivious living. Whatever is morally wrong is not politically right! Are we saying to our Lord “not thy will, but my will be done”. Christianity is a life of purposeful adventure and full of spiritual vitality in the name of Christ. Get this straight … we are the servant, behind the scenes, unseen and of no reputation because our reward is in Heaven, and He is the Lord, who sets the standards and commands to follow, in perfect love. In his holy name means we stand on His representation and apart from Christ we have no reconciliation with God … there has been no atonement of our sin and we can not come into His presence. This is what the New Age Movement can not accept. But in the true Believer, redeemed by Jesus, there is balance and focus within a “right” relationship with God. Jesus Christ is the answer that the world is looking for, so change godless thinking to godly thinking and the living (centered in Chirst) will take care of itself. Know God and make Him known. God bless America! Glory to God, peace on Earth and good will towards man! May His name ever be praised! Brian
There is no panic in Heaven, only plans – Cory Tenboom