Saturday, June 26, 2010

Imitators of God / Children of Light

1 Thessalonians 1:1b-7 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers.”
Starting a new Men’s topical Bible Study at church this last week, the question was raised: “What does it mean to be a Christian man in the church, in the home and in the community today?” The reference book that the group is reading and Pastor’s suggestion is that the definition of today’s Christian men may have been taught, packaged, and reduced to merely a dutiful nice guy that is separated from the heart and potential that God uniquely created him for. That there is so much more for the man of God in gifted abilities and opportunities that the Lord intended (Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”) and to live life, not that is robbed of balance, satisfaction & joy, but to its fullest (John 10:10 ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”). The message is to be all that you can be for Jesus and that will take some examination with the help of God, some exploration in light of the holy Scriptures of God’s Word found in the Bible, some adventures and battles along the way as the devil will attack with lies and deceptions to attempt to steal, kill & destroy God’s plan for us, but to grow and mature as godly men, we must follow the Lord; be imitators of God.

During the group discussion last study, I was especially blessed by the comments of two young men there that evening. One, dressed in gothic apparel, long hair & a pierced lip, spoke of how his age group expected all others through subtle peer pressure to do what was right in their eyes and that it was unthinkable for the individual to not agree, embrace and participate. His example was: when one turns the age of 21, they must go out with their group, hammer down alcohol and get drunk. Their will must become the will of the group, whether godlessness, lawlessness, or against the individuals conscious or desire.

John 3:19-21 "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.”

The second young man, with dread lock hair, totally agreed with the assessment that the society has captivated and control the youth to follow the depravity and immoral lifestyle that they set the standard for, not God. He gave the example of a group of friends who decided to go to a local “strip” club. When he stated the he did not want to go because he felt that it was “wrong” for him to go to such a place, they ridiculed him for his personal moral and spiritual convictions. In society’s mind, there is no God who gives moral laws or standards, so they live by what is pleasurable and right in their own eyes, and demand others to do the same - Deuteronomy 12:8 & Romans 1:32. I was impressed by the heart and courage of these young men with the hand of God touching their life, a work in progress, like me … and you, active and maturing, growing men of God, imitators of God.

Ephesians 4:17b-24 & 5:1-8 “No longer live as the 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. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Got Jesus?

John 2:21-26 “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.”

When I came across this passage in the Bible today, it brought to mind the world that chases after false gods that save nobody from their sins and eternal damnation - separated from God. I think of how God the Son, Jesus Christ., offers to take our place on that cross and pay the price of death so we may be saved and given eternal life. God sent His Son to be our Savior to all who believe in Him and accept the free gift, yet so many refuse that gift. Some love their “other gods” in this world, some are deceived by lies, some are ignorant of the truth and some are just plain too lazy to ask, seek and know about the Lord of all that is the only way to salvation and eternal life.

Acts 4:10-12 “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. 11 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.” (NKJV)

Talking with a Christian friend this week, he discussed the darkness of unbelief we’ve witnessed and the effect that living a life chasing fame, fortune, power, position, prestige, pleasure, possessions and success as our god leads to emptiness in spiritual adultery, centered in self. Seeking outside to bring happiness inside, but not finding lasting happiness, or satisfaction. It is Jesus that the world seeks, because if we abide in Christ and He abides in us, then true happiness and satisfaction is in our lives. To deny Jesus is to deny God and His plan for the salvation of our lives. To acknowledge Christ is to acknowledge God the Father also. Becoming children of God, brothers & sisters with Jesus, indwelt with and led by the Holy Spirit, walking in obedience to the holy word, will and way daily with the eternal perspective of our home in heaven to come. But no Jesus means no God. Have you noticed that everyone who makes the statement that many good people believe that Jesus is not the way to heaven, include themselves in that group? But if there is another way to heaven then Jesus died for nothing. These people are saying that the truth is a lie, but there is no lie in the truth. The true question then is: Got Jesus?

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (NKJV)

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Living Water / Dead Water

Jeremiah 2:12-13 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the LORD. "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Years ago, a great Christian couple from the church that my wife was secretary until her job-ending illness, and who are still dear faithful brother& sister in Christ today, loaned me a video series by Focus on the Family Films, titled “That the World May Know” for my Bible Study group. Host Ray Vander Laan each session would take his Christian tour group and us to a specific location in Israel or Turkey (places in the Bible), then present a Faith Lesson that connected that Biblical location or feature and the Scriptures into context with the Lord’s message for understand - then and today. All so that we may grow, mature and witness as Children of God in this lost & dying world without Christ. “The ancient land of Israel is a testimony; an evidence of the greatness of what God did in that country; a testimony of the words that we find in the pages of the Bible”. An outstanding video series that I hope that each and everyone could have a chance to watch and be blessed too.

Psalm 63:1 “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 42:1-2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

One particulate session in Volume 3 titled “En Gedi – Living Water”, beside a small spring-fed waterfall & oasis that David (hiding from King Saul) drank from in the wilderness of the Judean desert, Vander Laan defines and explains the difference between God created “living water” that flows and satisfies, is new, cool & fresh, clear, pure & alive and “cistern water’” from a man-made holding tank that stagnates at room temperature, leaking, impure and dead. Living water symbolizes a heart for the Lord and a life led by & lived for God, while Cistern water symbolizes life that has turned from God towards idols and put its trust in their own strength, abilities and desires. What makes a desert is the lack of water. Sometimes, this culture can be so attractive with all its distractions, so pleasurable and so pleasant, that we fail to realize that even things that are comfortable and enjoyable can be like a desert, if we leave God, the source of life, out. I wonder if we really realize how dry and barren our culture truly is? Out in the secular world, there are people dying of thirst because God is not a part of their life, is not a part of their existence, not a part of their experience and not a part of their everyday experience.

John 4:10-14 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

God is the one who brings water. Life is possible because of water and water is life. Idols and cisterns fail always, but God never fails. Life for the child of God can sometimes be like a dry and tiresome wilderness, as we serve the Lord, give to others in need and impact our culture for Christ. We need to take time to go and refresh our soul, rest and get strength in living water, and taste God, source of life. Drink up & praise the Lord!

1Kings 8:57-61 May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day's need, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time."

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Novel Truth

Proverbs 3:11-14My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold.”

Recently, I had heard that Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was widely considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. I picked up an audio book of six or seven Mark Twain classics to listen to while designing on the computer at work. Today, I was at a chapter in the book where Huck Finn is struggling whether to send a letter home to rescue a run-away slave that has been traveling with him down Old Man River together on a raft. Huck comes to a realization about the area of actions & behavior in his life that are outside the will of God and God‘s hand in the affairs of every individual, that many of us would be blessed at reaching such understanding of this profound truth in our daily walk with the Lord, because spiritual truth transcends centuries.

Chapter 31: Huck says to himself: That's just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide it, it ain't no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this, the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's slave that hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the lookout, and ain't agoing to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself, by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was the Sunday school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you, there, that people that acts as I'd been acting about that slave goes to everlasting fire." It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that slave's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie-and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie- I found that out.

Mark 7:6He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” In our dealings before Father God, who do we think that we are fooling, except ourselves when we are not honest and with the right heart? May we never play double and always be square before the Lord. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) hid a gem for us to find in his writing, and may this truth be known by all. You can't pray a lie.

Proverbs 12:18-22Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. There is deceit in the hearts of those who plot evil, but joy for those who promote peace. No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble. The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Count Your Blessings

Deuteronomy 12:6-8 "There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the LORD your God has blessed you. “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.”

I remember an old song lyric that went: “Hey Mister, Where you going in such a hurry. Don't you think it's time you realized there's a whole lot more to life than work and worry. The sweetest things in life are free and there right before your eyes. You got to stop and smell the roses. You've got to count your many blessings everyday. You're gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road, if you don't stop and smell the roses along the way.” I’ve talked to many who blindly rush through life daily, missing the true blessings found only in the Lord. Why? We fell from communion with Creator God in original sin and have a “God-shaped hole in our heart that we long to fill. Until we accept the free gift of redemption, reconciliation and restoration of our righteousness in personal relationship with our Father in Heaven through the payment in full of our sins by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, we seek the joy of salvation without any true satisfaction for our soul. Proverbs 10:6 “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.”

Coming to a “saving” knowledge of Jesus Christ, we still live in a fallen world, where secular humanism, existentialism, materialism, hedonism, and false religions blindly seek to fill that same God-shaped hole in darkness; some seeking the truth and some running from the truth found only in God’s plan of salvation. The messages and godless pursuits of this lost and dying world always look for love, joy and peace in the wrong direction, when it looks away from the kingdom of God. Matthew 6:32-34 “For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” God never said that we’d not have trouble or no problems in this life. He said that we’d have Him with us to handle them, with blessings and an eternal home. The sacrifices today are the leaving of our sinful desires in the flesh (Romans 12:1) and walking obediently in the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:24-25), seeking first the kingdom of God daily, influence our culture and society through the love of God by speaking the truth of the gospel. Helping others in mind, body and soul to find the foot of the Cross where they too shall find what their heart has always been seeking in the Lord, supporting the church and the body of Christ in true ministry, fellowship and worship. We are in this unholy world, but no longer of this unholy world. There are two worlds (the unsaved and the saved), two roads that people are on, and two destinations at the end. One lined with busyness & fruitless distractions unto destruction and one, lined with spiritual roses, unto eternal life that we can stop and smell every day. The fallen world is doing what is right in their own eyes, as they proclaim “praise, honor and glory to me”, but the forgiven Child of God counts their blessings as they proclaim "praise, honor and glory to God through their Lord & Savior Jesus Christ". Psalm 95:1 “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”

Romans 5:1-4 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Count your blessings.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Perpetual Adolescence

1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

One of the things that I found most amazing, was when I was in an Evangelism course at church and asked people on the streets, in their homes or at the Malls: If you died today and appeared in from of God, what would you answer when He asked “Why should I let you into My Heaven?”, and the person would answer: I don’t want to think about that. Death and where we go after this life is a scary subject, so many just live for the here and now. Everyone knows in their heart that nobody is perfect and many do not know how to handle that problem, in terms of righteousness before their Creator. The two most important questions are: “Where are we going to spend eternity?” & “How do we get to Heaven?” Yet, how many ask themselves these questions and seek to find the answers? Somehow, believing that by not thinking about spiritual manners, such as our standing before this just & holy Lord God and our eternal home, will bring peace and happiness. When this life comes to its inevitable end at the grave, how much will the replacing our thoughts with the temporary distractions and living solely for the cares of this world gain anyone?

Hebrews 5:12-14 “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Children naturally grow into adolescence in body and mind. Then adolescence matures into adulthood in body and mind. But in many areas, both spiritually and emotionally, many stay in a state of perpetual adolescence, failing to mature as men & women of God; not serving the Lord, not reading the Bible nor learning the meaning of the holy scriptures in their lives, failing to influence others for Christ nor pointing to the kingdom of heaven, refusing to follow as disciples nor grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Our life is a witness to either true happiness and eternal peace via the foot of the cross for forgiveness, salvation or judgment and eternal punishment via distractions of temporal pleasures and the egocentic pursuit of position, power, wealth, entertainment, sports, sex, possessions, beauty, even loving the Creation to divert the mind from God. It’s time to “Man up” & “Woman up”!

Let us leave those self-centered rebellious days of adolescence behind and live for the Lord, our Savior, telling those the message that God offers real and lasting love, joy & peace in this world and the next. It was His plan all along, and it is available, free to all who sincerely ask from their heart.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Let's focus and run.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The God of the Second Chance

Jonah 2:4-3:1 Then I said, ‘I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; the deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head. I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever; Yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple. “ Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.” So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time.

Twice this week, I’ve heard on Christian radio references how life-changing Jonah 3:1 has been in so many who struggle with the reality and realization that we have sinned against our just and holy Creator of heaven, Earth and every living thing; Father God. How many go through life never thinking that they are living outside the will of God and no thought of going to heaven or hell? How many do not know that they are falling short of the loving commands, statues and laws of God, the sovereign ruler all, and have set themselves and this god-rejecting society as their standard, never giving a thought to the immediately and eternal consequences of their actions? Sin is missing the mark that God has set for us, but what we don’t realize is that when we miss the Lord’s mark, we hit a different mark. When our eyes are open to who God truly is and the reality of sin against Him in our life, then we see the truth of our standing before God, which we can not remedy or repair on our own. Like Jonah, we see our unrighteousness in our personal short-comings and offenses against our loving LORD and cry out. And he hears our cries.

Romans 3:10-12 “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:19-20 "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

God is always willing to give us a “second chance”. As the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, when we turn from our own sinful ways and, by faith in Jesus, turn their lives to God in repentance, He is faithful and just to forgive all who believe, because He loves us and wishes none to perish in hell, and because He is the God of the second chance.
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." - who paid the price to give us all a second chance. Tell everyone.

In Christ, Brian