Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It!

James 1:12-18 “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

Technology has come so far. Here I am writing from my Cruise ship stateroom at sea, with a Wi-Fi connection to a satellite Internet Connection. Truly amazing.

On Wednesday nights, our Men’s Bible Study group has been reading through a book on becoming the man that God intended us to be. Not my favorite writer, but his book has generated some great discussion in the group on God’s Word, God’s Will and God’s Way. A section on lust prompted a discussion on whether a Christian can be a lustful man (willfully sin, but not sinful). The verse above clearly states that we (men & women), by our own evil desires (our sin nature), tempted when he is dragged away and enticed. Who tempts us? Surely, not God! The enemy of the Christian is the “unholy trinity” of the flesh, the world system that is contrary to God and the Devil, and many are quick to blame their less than godly behavior on someone or something else. Claiming, "It's not my fault!" See Romans 7:14-25 says: “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature, For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” But do some use the unholy trinity as a cop-out for their sinful behavior or even permission?

Are we not responsible for their actions? Are we not accountable for our behavior? Are we not to repent of sin in our life and grow into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, who died for those sins? Comedian Flip Wilson used to say “The Devil made me do it!”, but are we the one’s saying this line today? Christ paid the penalty for our sins (past, present, and future), when we surrendered our sinful life to the Redeemer & Savior and He took our sins upon Himself, but that is not a “get out of jail free” card to continue in sin. Debts are not forgiven in order to start new debts. Paul tells us in Romans 6:1-3 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” or 1 Corinthians 6:13b-15a says:“The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?"

That which is against the Lord’s holy, just and pure Word, Will and Way is not to be the desire of our regenerated hearts in Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, which was given to indwell the Believer’s heart to guide thoughts, words and actions, the desire of our hearts are to repent of our sins and please our Lord God always and forever. How? We battle the temptations of the flesh, the world and the Devil’s realm daily. But we are not alone and have a choice to put on the full armor of God, to take up our Cross daily, walk in the Spirit, pray unceasingly, depend on the Good Shepherd and the providence of God above. Galatians 5:13-18 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Life by the Spirit So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” It's a battle that we fight.

This side of Heaven, on our Christian walk (our Pilgrimage), as a Child of the Creator towards our eternal home on the Kingdom of God, we know that the road will have hills to climb, valleys with obstacles find ways over and around, snares of temptations to avoid and trials to endure along the path. But we know that we have been put here, right now, for such a time as this for a godly purpose in God’s Devine plan. May we run the race set before us, with joy and purity, to win and receive the crown waiting from our Lord, who died that we may life the abundant life today, tomorrow and forever, and we shall give an account someday soon. May the Lord say then: “Well done good and faithful Servant”, and May we never say, “The Devil made me do it”.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, August 23, 2010

Shout For Joy

Psalm 90:1-2 “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

We just returned from a three generation camping/fishing/exploring trip to the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California with my dad and oldest son. The splendor of the eastern Sierras was awe inspiring; from the beauty of the rugged mountain slopes, the incredible forest, Falls and glacial rock formations of Yosemite, to the wonder of Mono Lake Tufa towers, to the spectacular hexagon columns of Devil’s Postpile. There were so many wonderful memories experienced and shared, as we sat back and took in God’s green Earth around us. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America declares this clearly: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” They knew! It is my prayer that everyone comes to know the Lord, their God – Creator of Heaven & Earth, and shout for joy!

Job 38:4-7 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, responsible for the formulation and acceptance of the “Scientific Model”, which stressed gathering data from experimentation and induction rather than through the practice of philosophical deduction, stated: “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of the Creatures, which express His power. There never was found , in any age of the world, either philosophy, or sect, or religion, or law, or discipline, which did so highly exalt the good of the community, and increase private and particular good as the holy Christian faith. Hence, it clearly appears that it was one and the same God that gave the Christian law to men, who gave the laws of nature to the creatures.”

Romans 1:16-20 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

May all the Earth see God’s handy work, praise the Lord, give thanks for His Creation and shout for joy.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Out of This World

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The other night, we were watching a DVD session of the “That the World May Know” series that centered in Egypt and compared the Egyptian gods and beliefs to the Israelites God of the bible. The parallel to today’s culture was amazing. The host, Ray Vanderlaan explained it in these terms …

Atheistic Naturalism is a belief based only on natural desires and instincts, denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance or origin. Those who embrace the Pantheistic belief system that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe, where God is in everything, are literally worshipping the Creation and not the Creator. Romans 1:19-20 &25Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

If people worship the Sun, the sky, the Earth, the forests and the trees, then nature is their god. And in Nature, the strong eat the weak; its survival of the fittest. So if I am weak, I am nervous. This belief system glorifies, and eventually deifies humans and morality is going to be what the human says it is. Whether it is the biggest, the majority opinion or each individual, humans will decide what is right and what is wrong. Some are going to pay a high pay for the order of this belief, because this system is not going to be kind to the weak, the old, the poor and the defenseless; for they are a burden in this progressive humanistic faith.

It is exactly opposite of God’s system. God’s message is about bringing peace to chaos, and it is about compassion and care for the life of "the nobody"; the weak, the hurting, the spiritually lost, the homeless, the widow and the orphan, the old, the ill and the unborn. If you see a culture where life is cheap and where it is okay to sacrifice some, then you have a culture that is buying into the wrong system. If you have a culture that is obsessed with pleasure and success, position, power and having everything that your heart could possibly desire, we ought to ask the question: “Has the culture bought into to the wrong message". If you have a culture that is obsessed with violence and death, we ought to ask: “Have we bought into the wrong story?” Genesis says that nature is not God. The Bible says that the human is not deified. There is a Creator and one God, and He has the story, the message, that He brings peace to chaos and holds the whole world in His loving hands.

So when you see oppression, remember that Jesus came to restore us (separated sinners) to the Creator of the universe. When you see the hungry, feed them; the thirsty, give them a drink; the prisoner, visit them; the naked, give them some clothes; the lonely, go see them … bring them some light and peace. Join the “right” story. It’s about all of us caring about the broken and the hurting. God wants us to understand the two systems in this world, the two messages and the two stories; because we are going to discover that He isn’t looking for a "messenger” only. He is looking for someone to be the “message”, a witness by their life. You have to buy His story and reject the world’s. Hang on to the message and hold tight to the promises of God.

Leviticus 11:44a-45 ‘For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy." God did not just bring His people out from the yoke of bondage and slavery of the Egyptians, but also from the worship of the false gods of pantheistic naturalism and humanism, to the true God, Creator of Heaven & Earth. We need to make that same Exodus today, and then you will find a life that is "In this world", but truly “Out of this world”.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, August 14, 2010

From the Inside Out

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Last Sunday’s Worship Service sermon touched on a point that each of us need to think about seriously and apply in our Christian walk daily. We tend to treat the symptoms and not the illness. When dealing with the unethical, the immoral and the vices in our culture and life, we need to look beyond the outward words and actions and get to the heart of the problem. In Mark 7:20-23 And He (Jesus) said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Mankind was created to be sinless, blameless, innocent, & holy. We were never designed to experience sin and the associated sin nature. Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." It makes sense that man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. God is love. We were designed for the fruitful life of love, joy and peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control, led by and walking in step with the Holy Spirit. We were meant for the Lord. 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 "Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

Sin changed everything. But, we do not deal with the sin nature of our hearts by reading books on “should do this” or “ought to do that” or making a list of things to do and not do as a Christian. We cannot simply clean & wash up our lives and expect true and contented change. Why? I heard a pastor friend of mine once say: “if you put a suit on a pig, then you have a well-dressed pig, who still wants to jump into the pig sty mud.” The point is that the heart of the pig never changed, and therefore the desires of the heart do not change. Changing the outside does not change the inside. We are treating the symptoms and not the root problem. But if you change the heart, to a heart right with God, the actions will follow. Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

That transformation is the transforming of the heart. This never takes place from the outside in because it is of God’s mercy and grace that we receive a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” The world system that rejects and opposes God’s purpose, that which we must not conform to, includes Atheism, Pantheism & Pseudo religions. They do not possess the heart’s desire to please God, and work to do that which cannot fill the God-shaped hole in our heart. But Jesus Christ says “done” and we are changed from the inside out. 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

May we pray daily, Lord, lead me to your heart. May the knowledge of our salvation by the mercy and grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ overwhelm our regenerated hearts and renewed minds. May the desire of our hearts be to please our Maker, Father God, the source of our joy; not to die, and not to survive, but to truly live. From the inside out, live for Christ! Revelation 1:6 “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen”

Blessings, Brian

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What is Your Soul Worth?

1 Peter 2:11-12 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

I was listening to a CD today that touched home with what the lead Singer of the Christian band “Mercy Me” said this last Sunday evening at the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim. “This is not really our home”, meaning that we are Ambassadors (representing our King), Pilgrims (just passing through), & Sojourners (staying for a little while) here, from the Kingdom of God. And with that citizenship in Heaven need to abide by the standards and statutes of the Lord of our home country when this world’s ways contradict, defy, attack, redefine and twist the Word, Will or Way of God. Sproul explains that ethics has to do with the imperative. It is the science of what people ought to do. The science of ‘Morality’ is the study of what people actually do. The standard that society chooses to live by determines moral definition, but not ethics. That which may be considered moral by a culture can still be wrong behavior ethically. The question is “who is your God?” Look at the issues of today, and think about the root cause of division. Romans 12:1-2 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The behavior of the “Fallen” world should never become the Standard or the Norm that judges what is “Right”. Righteousness is defined as “a right standing before God; ruled by what is right in the eyes of God”. One of the biggest problems today are Christians that take their “marching orders” from what is acceptable and expected in this blind culture, instead of remembering that we do not belong to the culture, but holy and sanctified. We are Pilgrims, Sojourners and Children of Light here. Ephesians 5:7-10 “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.”

If anyone else is thinking it and approving it, but Jesus is not approving it, then we, the Child of God, can not approve it. We need to remember who we are. We are citizens of Heaven and our lives are supposed to demonstrate that as we take our cue and orders, not from this secular world, but from Heaven itself. In the opening verse of this blog, the Apostle Peter exhorts us to:”abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul”. Fleshly lusts meaning all desires, passions, and ambitions of our “fallen” nature, and things of this carnal world placed above obedience to the Lord. Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

How much value do we put on our soul? What is the price tag that we put on our integrity? If we lose every material thing in our life, we still have our integrity. What is it worth? That is the question that we have to deal with in the conflicts with this lost & dying world every day. Integrity is priceless, because it is the value of your soul. Brothers & sisters in Christ, it does not matter how “they” behave; it matters how we behave. Matthew 16:26 asks us, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Having your conduct honorable among the unbelievers in this world, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Glory be to God and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Do You Believe This?

John 5:2b-24 “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

Listening to the Gospel message last night at the 2010 Southern California Harvest Crusade, the truth that God loves us took center stage. In our society today, there is a great lack of understanding of the gospel “Good News” message and meaning or God’s Plan of Salvation. In the secular quest for mutual acceptance and validation of all world religions, that the central truth of Christianity is ignored. 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. To the unbelieving culture, all faiths are to be placed on the same plain and rejoiced. Not so.

Acts 4:11-12 “This is (Jesus Christ, whom God raised from the dead) 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.” Religion by definition is “a system of faith or worship”; mankind’s attempt to reach God - the finite trying to reach the infinite. But Christianity is not a religion by that definition because it is based upon God reaching down to mankind with mercy and grace, in loving relationship in His Son Jesus Christ, through His Plan, not ours. The infinite touching the finite. Pastor Laurie put it as “God became a man, in God the Son Jesus Christ, so that man could become a child of God.” Through our sins (lying, stealing, hating, greed, lust, idols, etc.), all have willfully created a gap of separation from our just & holy Creator Father God. Many are blind to this fact. We cannot bridge or close that gap by purchasing, earning or deserving it by “good” works. Despite what you may hear, God does not weight our good & sinful acts on some scale, or “grade on the curve”, because the debt is paid only by the shedding of blood (the wages of sin is death).

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Justice means “getting what we deserve”. Mercy means “not getting what we deserve”. Grace means “getting what we do not deserve.” Only in Christianity do you find our Sovereign God, totally out of His loving mercy and grace, sending His righteous Son to pay our debt by dying for our sins on a Cross in our place, so that those who believe, repent, accept and receive this free gift (by no works of their own) may be forgiven and given eternal life in Heaven. Jesus takes on our sins and we take on Christ’s righteousness in this atoning act of pure love. Jesus paid the price, so that we may live in restored relationship with the Father. It is not religion; it’s relationship! The question is: “Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Afraid of the Dark

John 11:9-10 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him the light.”

Our Pastor’s Sunday Sermon in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John, in his series on Positivity, Negativity & Jesus, focused on the fact that we “die by darkness, but live by light”. The darkness in sin and unbelief is truly bondage to the soul unto spiritual death through the glory of man, because the wages of sin is death, but Jesus Christ is in the business of raising the dead and saving souls. John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Christ runs into the darkness of trespasses, inequities, and sin bringing liberty and forgiveness through His atoning death and resurrection for the glory of God. Jesus, the Son of God, is the Savior of the world.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God does not forgive sin until the debt is paid. By His mercy & grace, God sent His Son to pay a debt that He did not owe, because we owed a debt that we could not pay for salvation when we believe and receive the free gift of eternal life. John 3:16-17 “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.”

John 1:12-13 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” By the blood of Jesus, we have been “set free”. Jesus is one with God and all that we need is found in our Savior & Lord. Those that live in darkness of unbelief are spiritually dead in their sin and shall not inherit the kingdom of God, but rejoice in the light of the salvation of your soul and walk in the light as He is in the light. But as Jesus came to seek and save the lost, as disciples and followers of our Lord we too must bring the light of the gospel into this lost and dying world. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” As our heavenly Father, Creator God does not wish even one to perish in eternal damnation in hell, we too need not be afraid of the dark, but boldly proclaim the “good news” of salvation by faith, so those in darkness may walk into the light and find the foot of the cross waiting for all who repent, receive and believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is not us, but Christ in us - God’s holy light.

Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light”. 1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

I will be working at the 2010 Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, California for the next three evenings, as an on field follow up ministry worker for those who make a commitment to Christ through a repentance of sin and profess of faith to the invitation. Please pray that the Holy Spirit work through me and that many come to a “saving” knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For it is in His holy name that we ask these things.
Grace & peace, Brian