Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pay It Forward

I lost my precious cousin Laura to cancer on December 14, 2008, but in the little time that I got to know her, she touched my life with godly wisdom for life as a Child of God. Today, I am posting her words that they may touch your life also. I pray that they bless you as much as they blessed me.

Laura wrote:
All my life, I had wondered. I felt there was a void in my life, something was missing. I think I always knew it was Jesus, and when I went to church, I never felt better. But, I had felt like an maybe He was someone else’s Jesus...not mine, because I didn’t grow up in a church. I still felt that way when I started going to church, but God held me and pushed me through the fear so I could make HIM my own! I feel fortunate that that experience happened. I know God would have pursued me in other ways, but I really desired him...wanted that void filled. What a loving God, I realized that I was made to worship HIM and that is why the void was filled. The Bible started making sense, had new meaning. And, my desires to be the good girl were backed with a biblical perspective. My own philosophies and mind-set began to make sense to me. It was like I was waiting for HIM all along, but never knew how to ask...was afraid God wouldn’t want me. I was wrong, though. He has always been waiting, patiently! So cool!

I just feel fortunate to be alive and be a child of God! We are blessed to be loved so much! I appreciate genuine honestly and is something I strive for always. I feel like people sometimes confuse that...may think I have ulterior motives. But God commissions us to love everyone! I think God calls all of us to be speculative individuals....meaning, he made all of us differently and he calls each of us to discern what type of study will work for our own mind. I am extremely analytical and philosophical. I love studying the process of discipleship. I have found much freedom in knowing that being a Christian means I don’t have to be perfect....that my willing heart is what God wants. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be perfect....I still want that, but am trying to let God replace that desire for perfection with a desire to bear fruit from my relationship with God. I work on putting HIM first, want that...I know I am better at it because of the nature of our relationship. I know it is a process and a journey. I have learned a lot from other Christians in the past, but I must admit, it is hard for me to find people who want to be a disciple like me... It is NOT that I think I am so great or better than other people. I, honestly, think so many people just have the “stuck-ness", when it comes to their relationship with God. They can’t move beyond...or choose not to move beyond the initial salvation point. Discipleship, true discipleship, requires work. It requires a transformation of the heart and soul. I think I knew all of this when I was young, when I was first saved. I wanted to indulge in the Bible... I would have jumped into it like a pool if I could have. :) I read it so much, memorized verses daily while also taking college courses. I am not sure how I did it, except that I was singularly focused in this regard...almost to the point where I had NO life outside of those practices. In retrospect, I think it is good to study with purity like that, but I know that God wants me to have a life. He has put such loving and wonderful kids in my life to help me focus on them. He has put such a wonderful husband in my life to do the same.

It is nice today, the peaceful rain is almost lulling me back to sleep, or at least making me comfortable and relaxed. I was just reading James 3:13-18 where it talks about peacefulness and heavenly wisdom. Just like with the fruits of the spirit, I SO desire to have the fruits of heavenly wisdom...which are pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. I do wonder, sometimes, if the world is really ready for those of us who take this job of ambassadorship seriously. Of course, the answer is NO, but I continually pray that I will be better at taking the resistance that comes my way...that I will continue to strive for heavenly wisdom and purity of soul. You are right, there is nothing more fulfilling than love, nothing. And to recognize the pure and true love of God is an amazing gift. I just want that for everyone, but God works in his own time and He is using us in many ways that we don’t even know. To be genuine and authentic; two things that I strive for all of the time! I really try to be a genuine friend to all that are around me and work to model Christ’s love to everyone. I am not overly preachy and could probably try working on sharing my faith a little better on a verbal level. However, my main goal this past year or so has been to model Christ’s genuine love to others...without any thought about them returning that love to me. It has been a very interesting process because I wanted to give back the love that so many people gave to me when diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment. However, I realized that I could not pay everyone back, but I might be able to pay that love forward to others that cross my path. My family gives me SO much love and because of that, I really feel like I should be prepared to give that strength to others with Christ’s genuine love. My cancer experiences have given legs to my faith and helped me fully articulate God’s messages to others. .I am alive only through the grace of God. He has purpose for me. He loves me.

God bless you!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

, But God

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to (Satan) the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

These verses are some of my favorite lines of Holy Scripture, which first opened my eyes to the “full context” of the Word of God concerning my life, my faith and my salvation. My ministry motto is “you have to know that you are lost before you can be found”. My great mentor said that you have to know what you are saved “from” to understand what you are saved “to”. This wonderful passage of the Bible explains the reality behind that Christian philosophy. Not only are we spiritually “lost”, but spiritually “dead” in our trespasses (a violation of God’s moral law) and sins (missing God’s mark)! I discovered that personal conviction of sin in one's life, against a just and holy God, is the beginning of a life transforming change. Not just the things that I do that are transgressions of God’s laws, commandments, statues and teachings (which are sins of commission), but include all the things that I should do and haven’t, that are His will for me (which are sins of omission). For so many years, I fulfilled the lusts & desires of my flesh and mind; not knowing God or the truth, but doing what was right in my eyes and what this lawless society promoted and encouraged. Deep down, I believed that He was there, but I didn’t know God - His Word or His Will. The focus was on this life now and I had no fear of the Lord. We can have a sort of “everyone goes to Heaven” attitude, but in reality by our sin nature, willful or playing ignorant – not desiring to learn the truth of His will and way, nor seeking to know and live in a “right” relationship with God. We are "children of wrath" because God wouldn’t be “JUST”, if the Creator of Heaven & earth didn’t judge & punish sin. We wouldn’t want our courthouse judges to let the guilty go unpunished. Justice is by definition “getting what is deserved”. Most people do not know this! Check out Exodus 34:7, Ezekiel 18:4, Habakkuk 1:13 & Romans 6:23 - they make it very clear about the consequences of rebellious sin and what we truly deserve; spiritual death, separation from God and Hell is “bad news”, any way you cut it!

But God is full of mercy & love, that those who by “saving” faith (knowledge, assent, & trust in Jesus Christ) repent (regretting our transgressions & turning from sin to godliness) and receive the “grace” of God, though spiritually dead, are made alive together with Christ. We have a "consequence of sin" problem that we can not fix by ourselves, but God made a way by sending and sacrificing His sinless son (Jesus Christ) to pay the penalty in our place, thus being a “just” God. Think of it this way: Justice is getting what we deserve and the wages of sin is spiritual death, so we deserve death. Mercy is not getting what we deserve, so by truly repenting, believing & accepting Christ’s offer to die for our sins, then trusting & following him as Lord, God puts our sins upon His innocent son and does not send us to hell. Grace is getting what we do not deserve, so instead of hell (which we deserve), God looks at us cleansed by the blood of Jesus, forgives our sins, grants us salvation, gives us eternal life in Heaven, adopts us as His children and restores a “right” relationship with us daily. We are changed from “children of wrath” to “children of God”. As the song "Amazing Grace" states: I once was lost but now am found; was blind but now I see. Know what we have been saved from, while knowing what we are saved to! Rejoice in your salvation. It is neither earned nor deserved. It is a “free” gift from God. 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. They call this “good news”, but it is truly “great news”! Tell someone.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. Glory be to God, and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.
Your brother, in Christ, Brian

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

One Way Ticket

Isaiah 12:2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."

What is salvation? “Yasha”, the word salvation in Hebrew means deliverance / rescue. Webster’s dictionary defines salvation as “the act of saving; state of being saved; deliverance of the soul from sin and death. But how do we receive salvation – deliverance of our soul from sin & death? I heard it explained this way:

It’s not a creed. You say, “Well, I believe the plan of salvation.” You can believe the plan of salvation and go straight to hell. You’re not saved by the plan of salvation; you’re saved by the Man of salvation. Salvation is not a creed. It’s not a code, magic words or secret passwords. You say, “Well, I believe if you live right, you’ll go to heaven.” If you could be saved by living right, then Calvary was a blunder and Christ died for nothing. It’s not a cause. You say, “I’m a member of a good fundamental, Bible-believing church.” It’s not any of these things. It’s Christ. Salvation is not believing something; it is receiving Someone. The true gospel is one that centers in Jesus Christ; our Lord and Savior.

Acts 4:12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." We receive the gift of salvation by faith and is the right key to eternal life and heaven. When I took a course in Evangelism years ago, they explained that many misunderstand and believe in Jesus Christ the same way they believe in Napoleon or George Washington. They believe He actually lived. He was a real person in history, but they are not trusting Him to do anything for them now. It is not an intellectual assent or head knowledge that the Bible means by saving faith.

Many turn to the Lord in prayer, in times of trouble, uncertainty, fear & pain to bring them through them safely, putting their trust in Him. Now, all of these prayers are great and we should trust in the Lord for all our worries and cares. But there is one element that all these things have in common. They are all temporal matters. They are things of this life, things of this world that shall pass away. “Saving” faith is trusting Christ alone to save you … eternally. That is salvation. Trust and believe; follow and obey the King of King & Lord of Lord’s, living in the joy of your salvation!

John 1:914 “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Psalms 18:2 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Psalms 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?”

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No Rest For The Wicked

Isaiah 57:11-13 &19b-21 "Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts? Is it not because I have long been silent that you do not fear me? I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you. When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away. But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain." Peace, peace, to those far and near," says the Lord. "And I will heal them." But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

Why do people jeopardize their eternal destiny for temporal sensuality and idol pleasures? Why is there a departure from God and the kingdom of Heaven today? Do we dread and fear the rejection of the god-rejecting world that we live in, idolize and obey today, to the point that, though we go through religious motions, we not only have turned from God’s Word, Will & Way, but don’t remember Him, think of Him or love Him in our hearts? Who do we worship? That is what the first verse above (57:11) is asking us all. Stop and take a look. Who has our heart?

There is a War on morality between biblical standards (the Spirit) and barbarian standards (the flesh). So many today do not know the difference between what is “right” and what is “wrong”, and they do not care. God is not “real” to them. Have we gotten to the point where we tolerate that which is “wrong” in the eyes of God and no longer call sin “wrong”? Tolerance is defined as endurable liberality towards the opinions of others, while holding firmly to our own beliefs – patience towards others, which is a great virtue. But the new secular definition of tolerance, that has gripped our nation today, is to embrace the moral beliefs and opinions of others, as holding the same value and truth as your own – moral relativism. Have you noticed that this definition is not practiced by the secular society towards Christian beliefs? Today there is intolerance towards biblical morality and tolerance towards immorality and atheism. Why? 1John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” This lust finds no rest or peace, only the desire to chase after the wind to have more, achieve more, and be more. It is never satisfied - like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves (churn) up mire and mud. I’ve heard it said that tolerance is the last virtue of a declining society. How do we turn that around? Balance and stability of self, family and community are found in the Word & Will of the Creator of Heaven & Earth alone, and the study, remembrance, and devoted obedience of it. Today, the ability to shock has replaced the ability to encourage. Look at our culture today; television, movies, the foul language, gossip, the disrespect. This is the God of their making, but we don’t make God; God made us. Know that God is in control. It is the world that is out of control.

The church is the Body of Christ, where those sanctified are being equipped to live holy, forgiven, joyful and abundantly fruitful lives, guided by the Spirit. Brothers and Sisters in Christ are commissioned by the Lord to share the “good news’ of Jesus Christ by lovingly seeking, admonishing, and leading this unsaved, lecherous generation to the foot of the cross for salvation. With God’s help, we affect the lost and misguided souls; not vice-versa (read Psalm 1). The church, God’s people are to have no part in sinful disobedience or get caught up in the ways of the world. Jesus asks us (In Luke 6:46): "So why do you call me 'Lord,' when you won't obey me? We are called to first change ourselves. 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.” Then, we are called to change the world. Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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." Are we true Disciples of Christ; identified and joined to Christ? Do we mirror and reflect the intrinsic and primary nature of our Lord; the source of light in life and peace? Or, do I dabble in discipleship?

Jesus Christ died for our offenses against our just & holy God and was raised for our justification and righteousness to give us assurance of our salvation and entrance into Heaven. Mankind is sinful and separated from God. But through faith in Jesus Christ we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our life. The God that saves me is also the God that faithfully keeps me. This is a living faith in a living Savior received. Our Redeemer lives! He rose from the dead, and so will all Believers to eternal life in Heaven. He gave His life as a ransom for many; to all who come and receive Him and trust Him as Lord (Hebrews 11:6). To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, whether you receive Him or not. How many, on Judgment day, will say: I wasted my opportunity, my life and my eternity”? The Lord wants our heart. A heart that is open to receive His blessings. God wants the “real’ you and me. We need to put God first in everything and reject desires outside the will of God. We are either mastered by the flesh (the sinful nature - Gal. 5:16-23) or mastered by Christ. We can find our sufficiency in God for purpose in our life; clothed in righteousness and guided by the Holy Spirit. God is faithful to call us into the fellowship with Christ; our King. Examine yourself and ask: Why am I doing what I am doing? What is the motive and motivation behind our actions? Is it Christ, our Lord?

Hebrews2:1-3 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

Peace & rest in Christ!


Saturday, May 16, 2009

American Idol

Luke 6:45-46Jesus said: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?”

I’ve heard it said in church that Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. What exactly does that mean? God calls us to follow Him and get involved with our society to bring “Salt & Light” to the godless darkness of our secular culture, but at the same time to be set apart from and not take part in the voluptuous hedonism of today. We get this well-known statement (in the world, but not of the world) from a paraphrase of the words of Jesus in His “High Priestly prayer” found in the gospel of John, chapter 17, (take a minute to open your Bible and read this wonderful chapter). The secular humanist thinks of everyone as being the same ... evolved over time, top of the food-chain, moral relativist that just cease to exist when life is over. Secular, meaning, "living in the world, not belonging to a religious order, "worldly”, "of an age, occurring once in an age, span of time, or generation - “of this world" (see cosmos). Secularism is "doctrine that morality should be based on the relative well-being of man in the present life, without regard to religious belief or a hereafter.

There are truly two races of Humans on this Planet Earth: Believers and Non-Believers. Self-serving, self-indulging, individualism operates in self-righteous pride and is blind to the works and ways of God. Those that make themselves the Idol that we worship, forget that to turn to any Idol is to turn away from God. Even though the world leaves God, stand firm in the faith. God is not only necessary, God is enough. We need to lose our Earth-bound mentality, turning from our idols, and begin serving and depending on God. Like a glass, our lives can only be filled from above – a higher source. Grace & mercy flow downward from “on high”. The world will tell you otherwise. Beware of covetousness because it is tempting. Don’t live a life ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Life is not about acquiring things. Read Matthew 13:7 & 22 / Matthew 6:25&31-34 / Luke 12:19-20 – I heard it said that today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday. But, yesterday is just a canceled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today has all the cash you can handle. Spend it wisely. I like this saying, that we buy things that we don’t need, with money that we don’t have, to impress people that we don’t care about. So, are we just desiring and buying what others say that we need? By definition, that which is temporal is not eternal. Don’t waste your time or your life chasing the wind. Life is not about what you have, but about who you are with what you have and what you do with what you have. Your money and possession will not be at your bedside when you take your last breathe and meet the Lord face to face. When it comes to the end, He who dies with the most toys ... is dead; but where will they spend eternity?

It is not our abilities that shows what we truly are, but our choices. The sign of spiritual maturity is not the spiritual gifts we have, but the fruit that we bear. Have you heard that Character is defined as who and what we are when we are all alone? When there is nobody to impress, nobody to judge us, nobody to influence, how do we act and think? To say that character doesn’t count means that God doesn’t count. Life is not only about the experiences of life, but about improving inwardly through spiritual growth, gaining of godly knowledge and wisdom from the love of Christ that flows in & out to glorify God and make a difference in the world. We progress from information to inspiration to transformation, and a life transformed to the abundant life in Christ is our goal (in self and society). The indwelling Holy Spirit is constantly shaping us (like a Potter shapes clay – Jeremiah 18), while removing the flaws & impurities, improving and maturing us into the likeness of Christ.

Experience living the Christian life by spending more time walking close to God and seeking His direction. A personal relationship with your Creator/Redeemer and fellowship with your Lord, who calls you “friend”, is the greatest possession we can have and hold. Do what is “right in the eyes of the Lord”, because it is the right thing to do. Then your relationships with loved ones, friends and neighbors will be balanced and fruitful, centered in unconditional love, Idol free and to the glory of God Almighty!

Ephesians 4:17-19 “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the (secular) Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more."

Praise be to God and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Amen
In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Good News

Romans 1:16-17 "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the “good news” of our Lord’s birth, life, death and resurrection. The word “Gospel”, (“euaggelizo” in Greek), literally means good news. The message about the One, whose purpose in life was to die for us, that we may have restoration of righteousness with God. 1 Corinthians 15:2-4 "By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." But there are so many that do not know this “good news” and going through life without “saving faith”. The world needs to be told the truth of God’s mercy & grace through Christ. William Wilberforce in his great book “Real Christianity” states: “I think it should be enough to point out that all of us have the obligation to do whatever we are able to do to promote the welfare of our fellowman. If you love someone who is ruining his or her life because of faulty thinking and you don’t do anything about it because you are afraid of what others might think, it would seem that rather than being loving, you are in fact being heartless.” To live and let die, spiritually, is not a viable option. As Children of God and disciples of Jesus, it is our “great commission”to make the gospel known; speaking the truth in love, for their eternal sake. But how? Here are some elements that I found.

1. There needs to be a clear presentation of the gospel, so that there will be a clear understanding of the gospel message. We need to know God’s Plan of Salvation by the death and resurrection of our Redeemer and Lord, and (with the help of the Holy Spirit) tell others this “good news” in a way that others can understand. Know the gospel and give the gospel.
2. There must be a definite, willful, personal decision made for Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation is not based upon our conduct, but on the recompense for sin typified by the sufferings & death of Christ - atonement and resurrection – conquering sin & death that they may rise also unto eternal life. The transfer of trust - "Here is my life".
3. This is followed by “blessed assurance”. The “eternal perspective” is knowing that we are “Heaven bound” on the “finished work of Jesus Christ. If it was based upon our works to earn our way into God’s heaven, then how much work? How long do we have to work? What works shall we do? We can’t earn our way, so we need to accept the “free gift” of salvation and eternal life … and know it! God promised and we stand on those promises. A child of the Kingdom of Heaven.
4. Everyone must understand that Baptism is the death and resurrection of the old life unto new life in Christ. Romans 6:4 "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." We die to sin and live now in a "right" relationship with God. Joy & Peace.
5. Being “born again or anew” produces a “regenerate heart” in the Believer, with the desire for obedience discipleship - following, learning and serving the Lord in a personal relationship, filled with the Holy Spirit and producing abundantly fruitful living.

Life without Christ is Hell. Revelation 20:15 "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Hell was intended for the Devil and his demons, not us! We all have a choice to make concerning the question in Matthew 27:22 "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Who do you know that does not know the gospel? Who do you know that could use some “good news” today?
Mark 8:34-36 "Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Gift of God

Ephesians 2:1-8 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this (secular) world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Satan), the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Have you or I ever stolen anything? If so, then that would make us a thief and we have broken the eighth Commandment of God. Have you or I ever told a lie? If so, then that would make us a liar and we have broken the ninth of the Ten Commandments. Jesus said in Matthew 5 that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart. Have we ever broken Commandment # 7? To hate your brother is to commit murder in your heart, so have you or I broken Commandment # 6? To love anything or anyone more than God is idolatry and there goes Commandments 1-3. It’s easy to see how Romans 3:23 can rightly state “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” & Isaiah 53:6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” We are all created by God and He (not us) sets the standards and laws that govern morality and our life, whether we agree or not. Though the world system that rebels against and rejects God disagrees, the fact that the creation is subject to the Creator still exists. Proverbs 29:27An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, And he who is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked.” I may not like a law, and pretend that it doesn’t exist, but get caught breaking that law and there are real consequences. I could tell the judge that I do way more good things than bad, but am I innocent?

The Bible (The Word of God to us) tells us that sin is anything (in thought, word or deed) that doesn’t please God or is a transgression of His law. Sin literally means “to miss the mark” – God’s mark of what is “right” in His eyes, but when we are missing God’s mark, we are hitting a different mark – Sin. And there are eternal consequences that most of us haven’t thought about. Romans 6:23aFor the wages of sin is death” (Spiritual death). Sinners don’t get into Heaven. 1 John 3:4-10 tells us “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” But God didn’t create us for Hell, but Heaven! If I broke a law, was caught and found guilty in court, and the judge just let me go without any penalty or consequences prescribed by law for my “wrong”, then that judge would be considered “unjust” and not doing their job. It would be the same for God not to punish our sins. God is “just” & “holy”, so must punish sin. Justice must be preserved. But God is love. He is full or mercy & grace, and doesn’t desire to punish us. So He made a way – “The Way”.

2Corinthians 5:21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God the Father sent God the Son, becoming man, to die on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and to purchase a place in heaven for us. That’s what John3:16 means when it says: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus Christ paid a fine that He didn’t owe, because we owed a fine that we couldn’t pay. Christ bore our sin in His body on the cross. We did not earn salvation or deserve it. Romans 6:23 tell us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We receive the gift of God by faith. Saving faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ is what will open the door to heaven. Saving faith is not mere intellectual assent, because even the devil and demons believe in God and are not saved (James 2:19/Matthew 8:29). It is not mere temporal faith either. We trust God for His providence and protection in our life and it is right that we should trust the Lord for all things in our life, but all those elements of living are temporary matters. Saving faith is trusting Jesus Christ alone for our salvation – to save us eternally. To receive eternal life, we must transfer our trust from ourselves trying to earn our way to Jesus Christ alone. God is not waiting for us to perform. He’s waiting for us to respond. No longer are we trusting in what we have done; rather, we trust in what He has done for us. All other religions say “do” (earn your way by good deeds), but Christianity says “done” – your way is paid in full by Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, your Savior, and your Lord. That’s why we celebrate Christmas and Easter!

We are in the family of God, if we accept the “free” gift of eternal life in Christ. We are “born again”, born anew, born of the Spirit of God, and born from above, born of God. Change you can believe in! Praise be to God!

1 John 3:5-6 & 9 “But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God."

Grace & Mercy, Brian

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is the Greatest Commandment?

Matthew 22:36-38 - "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.”

I remember a decade ago, I had a Tuesday night Bible Study group at our church and I found this statement that I was going to use for the focus of the lessons on “Loving your neighbor as yourself’ that year: “Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with other people you love and respect”, based on God’s design and creation. To my startled amazement, one young lady stated that she wanted it all! She did not have the ability to separate them into the proper and balanced priority; she did not see or know the source of “true” happiness, and that is a major problem in our society today. We worship other gods ... idols! Do we recognize them?

Exodus 20: 2a -"I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me." This self-centered hedonistic world says: “I want it all, and I want it now!” & “Go Big or Go Home”! Hedonism means the self-indulgent pursuit of pleasure as a “way of life”. I remember a young co-worker in my group, once told me that his philosophy was: “I see it, I want it, I get it”! There’s that “I” problem again! Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with ambition, possessions, position, power, beauty, money, etc., until these become the over-riding focus of one’s life; their idol and their God – where their heart is. This is the point of Matthew 6, where Jesus teaches us: "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? For those who do not know God run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What are we doing and why? Are we spending money that we don’t have, to buy things that we don’t really need, to impress people that we don’t even know or truly care about? It’s not about “Look at me!”, unless you are reflecting the image of Christ and the Kingdom of God – our purpose and goal as a Child of God. Life is not about personal gain (What’s in it for me?, as our motivation), but, in light of the mercy & grace of God towards me, “How shall I live?”, and the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven as center of attention, because God is our providence and shall provide. But will we, rather, compromise the teachings, commands and “will” of God to be viewed favorably in the eyes of the worldly that do not know Him ... to be “like” them and be “liked” by them? To care more about ourselves and what others think about us, than the Lord and what He thinks about us? Does that look like loving the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind? We need to keep “The Main Thing”, the main thing!

Daniel 5:23b – “Thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.” The biblical definition for an "idol" is more than the dictionary definition of "an image of a deity as an object of (pagan) worship". An "idol" is anything that we put an equal or higher value than God (the One whom we owe our every lives and being). The actual root definition of idolatry is “spiritual adultery” against God. People may not outright say that they have idols (aka “other gods’) and they may not even realize that they do, but our lives prove otherwise. The temptation are always out there and we have to constantly be on guard to keep our heart, mind and soul on the Lord’s purposes to guide our lives. True peace and joy reside there, when we abide in Christ.

Genesis 2:7 - The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Nothing operates independently from the power of God. By His sovereign power, God created, sustains and governs all creation … everything. In Him, we have our lives. Do we, sometimes, lose sight of this? My cousin told me lately that our life, how we live daily, is a witness of our faith to the world around us, and must accompany our profession. How true! Christians are in the world, not of the world, meaning: “to bring the light of truth; not partake in the darkness of unbelief” … to show the love, mercy and grace of God by the “good news” of the Gospel that produces “true” happiness, through the understanding of salvation (being saved from Hell to Heaven, of righteousness (having a ‘right’ and ‘personal’ relationship with God, to holiness (set apart from fruitless, sinful lawlessness to a abundantly fruitful & rewarding life of godliness).

I read that we were created to know three worlds – the spiritual, psychological, and material worlds. These can be considered the world above us, the world within us, and the world around us. These worlds are related to the three parts of our human nature – spirit, soul and body. When you are rightly related to the material world with your body, you are healthy. When you are rightly related to the psychological world with your soul, you are happy. And when you are rightly related to the spiritual world in your spirit, you are holy. God’s aim is that, ultimately, we are to experience all three realities: health, happiness and holiness. How can we love anything more than God for all He has done, for all that He is doing and all that He is going to do for us throughout our life and into eternity? He deserves all our heart, all our soul and all our mind.

Acts 17:24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' "Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.

In Christ, Brian