Thursday, December 30, 2010

God With Us

John 1:9-14 “The one who is the true light (Jesus), who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” NLT

Last Sunday marked the return of your Pastor from his honeymoon and the final Sermon message on this year’s Christmas series “Advent Conspiracy” that covered the topics of Love All, Spend Less, Give More, & Worship Fully. The bulletin states: It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to God. It’s a season where love wins, Peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s a party of the year. Entering the story of the Advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest. Some 2000+ years ago, a baby who would change the world was born. Emmanuel or Imanu'el (Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל "God [is] with us" consists of two Hebrew words: אֵל (’El, meaning 'God') and עִמָּנוּ (ʻImmānū, meaning 'with us'). But have we lost His message amidst the chaos of the holiday surrounding Jesus’ birth? Where does Jesus dwell in your life?

Mark 4:19 “The cares and anxieties of the world and distractions of the age, and the pleasure and delight and false glamour and deceitfulness of riches, and the craving and passionate desire for other things creep in and choke and suffocate the Word, and it becomes fruitless.”

How many let the greatest news in world history get lost and go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of worldly desires and pursuits? John 3:16-18aFor God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” People lose Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t lost. We have the opportunity to have a relationship with the Creator of the Universe! Who can say, “Where is my motivation?” Jesus, the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God with us, has pay the price for our sins in His atoning sacrifice, offers and provides transformed hearts and lives unto life eternal in heaven. He alone is worthy of our praise and worship. May we grow spiritually in regular & faithful reading of the Word of God, a consistent prayer life, a humble and compassionate hand reflecting the loving and true light of Christ, and share our faith with others that do not know the Lord. More of the same does not bring change. Let's improve. Romans 8:31b "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Rejoice, God is with us! Now, let’s start living out our faith to the fullest in 2011.

Romans 12:10-13 “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”

Happy New Year – in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ – 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Presence

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Youth Pastor Ben gave the Sunday message, that in this time of frenzied gift buying, giving and receiving, to not miss the meaning of Christmas, God’s Gift of Emmanuel – God with us – Jesus the Christ and what that truly means to us all. God gave His unmerited grace to us. Out of unconditional love, God gave His Son, Jesus, as an undeserved atoning sacrifice in our place to pay the penalty of our sins, that we may find salvation and eternal life in Him alone.
Mark 1:14-15 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
The Lord Jesus, who we celebrate the birth of at Christmas, was ultimately saying, “I have some good news and some bad news.” Yes, there are two sets of news. There are two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan’s worldly desires. There are two trinity groups, the holy trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or the unholy trinity of the devil, the lawless world and the sinful flesh. There are two places to spend eternity, Heaven with God in endless joy or Hell, separated from God and in endless torment. God gives us the choice of which kingdom and trinity to follow in this life and our choice of our eternal dwelling place after this life. Either we choose to say, “Lord God, Thy will be done.” Or our Creator God will say to us,”Thy will be done.” Through Adam & Eve, we all inherited our sin nature, so no choice is not an option, and believing that these choices or the choice giver do not exist is as not believing in gravity. We can deny, ignore and pretend all we want, but truth prevails in the end. But the "good news" is that, through Christ, we have a choice that will transform us, our lives and our destiny.

Philippians 3:17-20 “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”

Some deceive themselves into thinking that they can go through dishonest motions in a ceremony and/or say empty words for salvation that are not from the heart, in hopes of escaping the deserved consequences of their sinful iniquities against God, while willfully continuing in them. This is, essentually, saying: I want to sin against God and not pay the penalty for my disobedience. Saying that Jesus may be my Savior, but He cannot be my Lord. Saying, God obeys me; I do not obey God. Bottomline, this would be saying that God is not God, I am! Do not fool yourself, because God looks at the heart and you can’t have it both ways, so the question is: “Where does your allegiance lie?” A Christian means to follow Jesus as a believing disciple, not out of fear, but in awe and reverence of God's mercy and grace, in the joy of your salvation, in the free gift of Jesus. This is why Jesus was born. This is what Christmas is all about and proclaims to all who do not know the Lord and the love of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

The Lord is ever present. His grace is greater. His peace is purer. His devotion is dearer. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it is still a gift … and the greatest gift is Jesus Christ - John 3:36. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her king. Let every heart prepare Him room!
Merry Christmas, Brian

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Conform Me, O Lord

Ephesians 1:11-12 “In him (Jesus Christ) we were also chosen] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”

A prayer by apologist Pascal revealed a mind that recognized the sinful desires and temptations of this life that each of us deal with and Christ died for, along with a repentant and regenerated heart now bent towards God in both dependence and gratitude for the Devine hand required and given out of His pure grace, mercy and love unto forgiveness, restoration, and salvation, to live and battle for a godly and righteous life in the eyes of God, in front of his fellow man. May we be as bold for Christ and yet humble.

“O Lord, whose Spirit is so good and gracious in all things. For no change of my circumstances can ever alter your will for my life. If my heart has been in love with the world when I was in robust health, destroy my vigor to promote my salvation. Render me incapable of enjoying the worldly idols, that my delight may be only in you.

Grant , O Lord, that I may in silence adore all the order of your wonderful providence in the disposal of my life, Almighty Author and Master of nature. Grant me the grace to rectify my reason and conform my feelings to your ways. Purify my thoughts that they may no longer contradict your own. For everything that is not God is unable to fulfill my desires. It is you alone I seek, that I may have you.

O Lord, open my heart. Rather, continue to possess it, for it belongs to you. You who alone could create the soul, you alone can create it anew. You alone could create it in your image, so you alone can reproduce it, and reimpress that defaced image. Jesus Christ, my Savior, the express image and character of your essence is that image and likeness I desire.

Therefore take from me, O Lord, that self-pity which love of myself so readily produces, and from the frustration of not succeeding in the world as I would naturally desire, for these have no regard for your glory. You alone know what is expedient of me. You are the Sovereign Master. Conform my will to yours, and grant that with a humble and perfect submission, and in holy confidence, I may dispose myself utterly to you.

O Lord, I know only one thing, and that is that it is good to follow you and wicked to offend you. Grant, O Lord, that being what I am, I may conform myself to your will. Unite me with yourself, fill me with yourself, and with your Holy Spirit. Enter my heart and into my soul, so that being filled by you, it no longer be I who lives, but you, O my Savior, who lives in me. AMEN.”

Merry Christmas, Brian

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where's the Line to See Jesus?

A Christian friend of mine wrote to say “Merry Christmas" today and included a link to a song that I had not heard of before. This holiday song prompted by a 4-year-old's question, "Where's the Line to See Jesus?" and recorded by Becky Kelley has gone viral on YouTube with more than a million hits. With the politically correct's push in America to remove references of the birth of Jesus Christ by to replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”, & "Winter Break or Festival", it is refreshing to both hear this song's message, and see the growing popularity. The world needs a Savior today, as mush as ever before. It’s time that we proclaim the gospel proudly and boldly, because salvation is found nowhere else and people need to hear the truth. We all need to come to a "saving" faith in Jesus. Enjoy the video and Merry Christmas! Brian

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Rememberance

Today, I just respectfully remember my priceless cousin Laura, who went to be with the Lord two years ago today. What a blessing she was, and an inspiration for all that got a chance to know her personally. She battled bravely, but succumb to breast cancer. She knew and loved the Lord, was dearly love and is dearly missed. I shall see her again one wonderful day in Heaven. I honor you today Laura.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Voice of God

Proverbs 7:24 Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth.

The late, Pastor Adrian Rogers gave this devotional thought: The United States Government doesn’t teach Treasury agents to detect counterfeit bills by having them study fakes. They show these agents real dollars over and over and over until they have the pattern memorized. Then, when a counterfeit is put in front of them, they recognize it instantly because it doesn’t fit the pattern their eyes are looking for. Do you know the voice of the Lord? The only way you can be sure that it is His voice you are hearing is to hear it so often that a stranger’s voice is instantly recognizable. It is far wiser to spend time learning the One True Voice than it is trying to learn to detect a multitude of false voices.

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity].

The Lord instructs us to listen, to pay attention, to hear and heed His voice in the reading of His word given in the Holy Scriptures of the Bible. Why? Because, there are counterfeit voices in this world marketplace of ideas and opinions which are seeking everything from love, joy and peace through distractions from God, to power, position, and prosperity apart from the Lord, in selfish ambition, self-dependence, self-sufficiency and self-centered pride that defies God’s sovereign will and way, while luring and tempting others to do the same. This is done mostly through subtle omissions, compromises and mis-interpretations of God’s word in order to take the precepts, the instructions, and the teachings of God out of context. The result weakens, and can ultimately destroy, one’s faith, in confusion and uncertainty. Instead of hearing the voice of God, we are hearing a different voice.

Romans 10:17 "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

I once heard a saying: “Sin will keep you from God’s Word (the Bible), but God’s Word (the Bible) will keep you from sin.” The Lord gives us an ethic & moral code through His holy word that are not standards based upon feelings and lusts (as the secular world does), but upon true love, and meets our true needs. Lust is just an imitation of love. Make no mistake, there is another voice out there vying for your attention, your imagination and your mind, to turn your ears away from the One True Voice of God. Just like the example of the Treasury agents, we must read and study the truth in the Bible to recognize the true voice of our Lord and identify clearly the false voices of unbelief.

John 6:67-69 - So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

When you take anything from the earthly realm and make it your God, it becomes a demon. But this is exactly what those who do not know the Lord and the true gospel of Jesus Christ are doing, preaching and teaching. God is love; not love is God. Joy ceases to when it is an end in itself, instead of a natural product of an end (such as in the “joy of our salvation”). God’s word given in Holy Scriptures of the Bible is the voice that we all need to be listening to and hearing daily for the truth on how to live in true love, joy and peace.

John 17:16-18 Jesus prayed, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

Our Creator, Father God sent his Son Jesus Christ, as a free gift, to pay the penalty for our sins and give us eternal life in heaven. What else higher could God do for those who are on the wide road to destruction in hell? May we remember from what great heights we all have fallen and the great lengths that our Maker has come, in giving us a Savior, to redeem our soul, regenerate our spirit, replace our heart, and restore our relationship with Him? Rejoice this Christmas for what God has already done for us in the encarnate visitation of God in the birth of Christ Jesus, the exemplary life of Christ, the atoning death of Christ, the conquering resurrection of Christ to the right hand of God to intercede for us. This is the message that the world needs to hear. This is the voice that the world needs to hear.

Merry Christmas, Brian

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's So Merry About Christmas?

Luke 2:8-14 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

The Sunday Sermon passage (above) drove the Congregation directly into “the meaning of the season”. The words of the angel of the Lord, with the glory of God shining the light from heaven, still brings good news of great joy to all people. The Savior of the world, the Messiah of God, the Lord Jesus the Christ was born. God incarnate (with skin on), Emmanuel, God among us. Redemption from the price of our sin and salvation from the penalty of eternal damnation had arrived from above. Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and goodwill toward every man, woman and child. This is a holy day! God the Father sent God the Son to save us. This is the celebration and something to be truly merry about. Tell everyone that you see, Merry Christmas! And tell them what you are merry about Christmas. This is the Happy Holy Day that the world needs to know.

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas, Brian

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Easy Expedience of Repentance – Part Two

Romans 2:4-5 Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”

The church elder replies: “That would be true contrition. The fathers of the Jesuit church, by their superior wisdom, teach unanimously that it is an error, close to heresy, to represent contrition as essential and to maintain that the shallow remorse of sin arising solely from the fear of hell, which keeps someone from sinning openly, is not enough without the sacrament of sacred church rites. So profitable is this doctrine that our church fathers have released us from the troublesome obligation of loving God, which is the privilege of the evangelical as distinguished from the Jewish law. One authority says, ‘It is reasonable that by the law of grace in the New Testament, God should do away with the irksome and difficult duty which was attached to the rigorous law of exercising an act of complete contrition (repentance of sin) in order to be justified, and that he should institute church sacraments and rites to make up for our defects and to facilitate obedience.

Hebrews 5:14-6:1 “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God."

“O Father,” Pascal bursts out, “I am horrified at these statements. You site them without and sign of disapproval. The liberty you take to corrupt the most sacred rules of Christian conduct extends even to the entire subversion of the divine laws. You violate the great commandment. You stab piety in the very heart. You take away and quench the spirit which gives life. You affirm that the love of God is not necessary to salvation. You even assert that ‘this exemption from loving God is a great benefit which Christ has brought to the world.’ All this is the very acme (culmination) and depth of impiety. What! The price of the blood of Christ obtains exemption from loving him! What strange theology we have in our days! You destroy what the apostle John says, that he that loves not abides in death! Even the declaration of Christ himself you take away: ‘He that loves me not keeps not my commandments’- (John 14:23-24). In this way you make those who never once loved God in all their lives worthy of enjoying his presence forever! Surely this is the mystery of iniquity now brought to completion.”

Acts 17:30 “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

“O, my good Father, at last open your eyes. Let these latter examples undermine your confidence by their sheer extravagance. I wish this for you with all my heart and in all brotherly love, pray God that he would condescend to show you how false and dangerous is such teaching (of “cheap grace”). Instead may he fill with his love the hearts of those who dare to dispense others from this obligation.”

Revelation 3:3 “Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.”

May we keep the message of the gospel humble, keep it simple for all to understand, and keep it about Christ, our Lord, King of the kingdom, Savior of the world. May we, the children of God, stand up and stand firm when it is not, for Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, & the Life eternal.
Blessings, Brian

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Easy Expedience of Repentance – Part One

Matthew 4:16-17The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Back from the beauty of the western Sierra Nevada mountain range in central California. Taking time out to continue in the reading of the “Provincial Letters” of Blaise Pascal, I came to an excellent writing, “Letter 10”, of an exchange in quick and easy “Believism” within the church of 1656 that can and has arisen again and again, when the focus is taken off of the Kingdom of God. An anti-kingdom system that places Jesus into the background of life and glorifies humans by permitting biblical teachings and commands which formerly forbidden, as Pascel puts it: “heretical allowances devised to please all and offend none.”

Ephesians 5:6-8 “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 become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”

An elder of the church explains to Pascal how people’s conscientious scruples and sense of guilt and shame may be remove, by showing that what was once supposed to be sinful is not really so, expiating real sins (mortal and venial) with ease. The principle removes all the embarrassment and unpalatable bitterness of confessing personal sins, preserving the esteem of the confessor. Include habitual sins when giving general confession, because, be it a Priest, a Pastor, an accountability partner or group, or trusted family member or close friend, “has no right to force the individual to confess sins to the shame of divulging his frequent relapses and falls.”

Pascal replies, “How can this be, Father? It’s like saying that a doctor has no right to ask his patient about the time when he was struck with a fever. Do not all sins differ from each other according to the circumstances? Ought not then a genuine repenting penitent disclose to his confessor the whole condition of his conscience, with the same sincerity and openness as if he were speaking to Jesus Christ? Is not that person far from having a true disposition if he conceals his frequent relapses in order to veil the seriousness of his transgressions? Do you think that a man deserves forgiveness when he objects to the least painful service (true conviction, guilt, or shame of that sin) to expiate (atone for) his offense? They truly have not repented in their heart and is not genuine. How can you imagine that a man who indulges in these occasions of sin can genuinely detest it? Is it not on the contrary too obvious that he is not aware of its enormity, as he should be, and that he is far from that true conversion of heart which would make him love God as much as he had before loved things? When you say that attrition (imperfect contrition due to defect in motive), arising solely from the fear of punishment, is sufficient with the sacrament for the justification of sinners, does it not follow that a person may expiate his own sins and be saved without ever loving God throughout his whole course of his life?

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

We'll pick up next post with the church edler's reply and Pascal's conclusion.

Blessings, in Christ, Brian