Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hey Jude

Jude 1:18-21 They (the Apostles of Jesus) said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

It is instinctive to “think the best” and “give the benefit of the doubt” to our fellow man. That is a natural affection of loving God and loving our neighbor, but we are not to be naive to think that we live in a “perfect” world. Friends and family have mentioned to me lately that their teenage kids are being approached and solicited to engage in sex, drugs, booze, and disregard old ideas of moral boundaries and a God that set them. They are shocked to see what tolerance of sin has produced today in our society (now targeting & touching their children) and seeing that the tolerance was only in one direction. Why can’t we all just get along? Because the Truth is: In this world there is right & wrong, there is good & bad, there is light & darkness, there is faith & unbelief; there is godly and there is ungodly. All is based on God and His sovereign reign and rule in our heart & life.

In John 3:17-20 Jesus said: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”

Our Men’s Bible study this week in the book of Jude focused on the fact that we live on a “fallen world”, in sin. That the Believer in ‘saving” faith is not only saved to something (holiness, godliness, righteousness and eternal life), but also saved from something (sin’s corruption, darkness, godlessness, condemnation and eternal punishment). Proverbs 10:16 says, The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin. & Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Creator of the universe cannot just ignore justice, accept and excuse sin, nor acquit and leave inequity, willful rebellion and ungodly lawlessness, go unpunished. What does a holy, fair, honest, righteous, truthful and just God do?

God loves all men and women because God is love; His essence and central attribute is love. Our just God of love shows mercy by giving grace. Justice - meaning to get what we deserve for our sins that miss God’s mark (standards of our Creator found in the Bible), Mercy - meaning to not get what we deserve out of His love, compassion, and kindness, and Grace – meaning to get what we do not deserve out of His benevolence. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, "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.” & Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are saved by grace; not by love. God’s free gift of salvation is offered, but we must turn from our ungodly sin in repentance and truly accept the gift He offers in Christ.

God’s mercy is to the misery of sin’s consequence and God’s grace is only in the providing of an atoning Savior in Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Jude speaks of ungodly people, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. On the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness. These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. The grace of God is not a license for shameful licentiousness, to continue to live in gross immorality and sin in the eyes of the Lord.

Jude 1:25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

Saved by grace, Brian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kept By The Shepherd

Jude 1:1b-2 “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.”

The week’s Bible Study was that single chapter book of Jude, but the message of these mere 25 verses seemed deeper in spiritual truth, and packed with life application in godly discernment. From the beginning verses, we are reassured of God’s calling, of God’s love, and God’s keeping of His children. He who holds the whole universe together will see that God’s children are kept in the faith and that they reach their eternal inheritance. It is not us, but our Lord that keeps us.

John 10:14-16 & 27-28 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

The late Pastor and teacher, Dr. J. Vernon McGee explains that, metaphorically like sheep, we cannot run to escape from or defend ourselves by our own abilities against the enemy. Like sheep, which are helpless but safe because they are kept by the good shepherd’s work, we too are helpless but safe because of the work of our good shepherd, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Not by what we do, but by what He does for us. He takes care of those who belong to Him, know His voice and follow.

Psalm 23:1-4 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The Lord Jesus is our blessed assurance in days of apostasy and godlessness. His love, mercy and grace is for your and my peace and joy. We are kept in His marvelous power and might.

Kept by the Shepherd, Brian

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lord of the Things - Part 2

Matthew 6:24 Jesus taught: “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. You cannot serve God and mammon" (the thorns of 'things').

The late Christian writer, A.W. Tozer writes that we must keep the external and temporal from making us slaves to the tyranny of things. To brake the yoke of this oppressor, and this is not accomplished by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, we yet possess all things because our real treasure is inward and eternal … the kingdom of heaven. The enemy's goal is to distract us with tempting lies from our first love (Rev.2:4) to another and lose focus on who really is the Lord of the things in and of this life; blind to the consequence (Rom. 2:6-11), but hopefully not from the remedy (Rev.2:5). Who or what do we really worship & serve? Whose and what standards do we truly follow?

Matthew 16:24-25 Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” We need to understand this.

When you truly think through and follow this to the logical conclusion, we take nothing with us when we leave this planet. At the end of this earthly journey that Creator God has placed each of us on here at this specific time for a purpose, we stand before Christ’s great white throne of judgment in heaven, There is only one Lord, the only true master of the universe that we give an account of our love and our life, with everything exposed. The truth will be known and there will be no U-haul behind the Hurstto bring the things, no sliding in sideways, no party in Hell, no lies and no excuses (i.e. - “I didn’t know or that the devil made me do it"). We need to keep the main thing, the main thing. Jesus Christ is the “Lord of the things”.

If we walk in the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:16), and the proper balance in life of the things that God has created for us to use and enjoy can be achieved and appreciated in a right relationship with our Heavenly Father, Lord God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, producing happiness despite outward circumstances or what the world says. There is no worry or fear of God's wrath for the Believer because we know the truth of God, worship and serve our Creator with pure and true joy, always with praise and thankgiving of our salvation and adoption into the family and kingdom of God, being made holy and blameless in His sight through the blood of Christ.

Romans 1:18-22 &25 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since 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 men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is ever praised. Amen.

Worship and serve the Lord of the things; not the things which God created, and stand firm in the freedom that our Savior has purchased of us.
In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lord of the Things - Part 1

Luke 12:15b Jesus replied: “A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses”.

On a luxury Cruise line ship gliding gracefully through flat seas along the coast of Baja California towards Mexico as the first rays of light on the horizon outline the deep blue, separating pristine evening skies from ocean peacefulness. Up early with a hot cup of coffee in a secluded lounge overlooking the panoramic display of God’s amazingly beautiful creation lying before my eyes, and taking a moment to tell the Lord how grateful I am for the natural beauty of His world (Rev.4:11), as a pod of dolphin leap across the bow and bring a warm smile and blissful feeling of tranquility. I am thankful for this family vacation, which in this fast pace world and times seems far too difficult to orchestrate with the adult boys life and schedules, but is satisfying and rewarding beyond proper explanation. The Lord has provided all, but I must always have this straight that it is the Lord that is praised, not my abilities and not the things. Someone once told me a great line that they would say to keep their priorities right that went: “Love people and use things; not use people and love things”. Since the greatest commandment is to love God and love your fellow man, I’d add: “Love your Lord God and use the things which He has created and provided in your life with thanksgiving. Things are not bad in and of themselves, but by the affections, desires and passions of our heart, we can pervert them into idols that we uncleanly love and addictively chase.

Mark 4:2-3, 7, 14 & 18-19 He (Jesus) taught them many things by parables, and in His teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. Seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear gain. The farmer sows the word (of God). The seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Back in the book of Genesis, God made everything, and when He finished said that all His creation was very good. When sin entered the world, so did the sinful desires of the flesh that lure the heart’s longing and adoration towards the creation and away for our loving Creator God. We live in a physical world, but must never lose sight of where it all came from and guard our hearts from coveting and idolatry, keeping the Lord Christ rightfully on the throne in the temple of our heart, mind and soul within us. Reformer Martin Luther wrote: “Idolatry is not only the adoration of images, but also trust in one’s own righteousness, works and merits, and putting confidence in riches and power.” Sin has produced a battle between the physical, with self-centered passions and a necessity to possess things that God never intended, and the spiritual relationship with our Creator God. Some have life’s focus completely on self, gain and profit in the things of creation and lose sight of the one who created and provided it all. But there are also the ones who craftily, but naively, fool themselves into believing that they can have it both, two masters, in God and the hedonistic materialism of things, on the throne of their heart. Who and what do we truly depend upon? From the love of God to the love of ___________________ (fill in the blank – use extra paper, if necessary). Know that they are all just temporal worldly thorns.

I'll pick this up again on the next past. Enjoying Mazatlan with the family today.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, January 15, 2011

It's "To Die For"

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

Some folks say that they hear that Jesus loves them, but wonder how much He really does. Then Jesus takes their place by being crucified on a Cross and dies to pay the penalty for their sins, so that they may live. This is the length of the atoning sacrifice that Jesus (the Christ sent by Creator God) acted to demonstrate how much He loves us. When there was no way to pay for the sins that we willfully committed, and continue to in our sin nature of the flesh, God provided a way that He could redeem the lost and repentant, while remaining a holy and preserving justice in real mercy, out of pure grace, because of the pure love that He has for us. We, His children, are to die for. 1 Peter 2:23b-25 Him (Jesus) who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is natural to desire to earn our way and earn our keep. But, we must understand that what we truly earn (the wager) from our willful disobedience, unbelief, and sin (missed God’s mark for our life) is spiritual death and separation from a just and holy God. We do not desire forgiveness, we cannot earn salvation, and we cannot purchase our redemption from hell bound to heaven bound. We are guilty and need the mercy of God – mercy being to not get what we rightfully deserve (Hell). We need the loving grace of God – grace being to get what we do not deserve (Heaven). But how can God acquit and pardon us from violations of His own commandments, statutes, standards and laws, being a just and holy God? We serve death, but He says that we are “to die for” and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us. This is “the gift of God”. Halleluiah!
Ephesians 2:1-9 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 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 (by grace you have been saved), 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.

This is the gospel (the good news) of Jesus Christ … the gift of God. This is how much god loves each and every one of us, who sees that we are lost sinners without the Lord, who truly repent for the sins and unbelief that we’ve committed against our loving Creator God, and accept God’s free gift of the atoning sacrifice of His Son in our place, being born again, born anew, born from above, though His unmerited loving mercy and grace, transforming into His adopted Child of God, Citizenship in Heaven, Brothers & Sisters in and with Christ, with a new heart gratefully praising our loving Lord & Savior. We are not only “to die for”; Jesus died for us. Shall we live for Him? Strive to live a life pleasing in the eyes God, who is worth of our love and adoration.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Spiritual Armor

Ephesians 6:10-17 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

It took two weeks for our men’s Wednesday night bible Study group to discuss our way through this critical portion of God’s Word, but this was Pastor’s design. To dig and pull out the deep meaning of this spiritual armor for application in our life walk here today. The passage starts out with positive reinforcement to be strong. Not in ourselves, but in the Lord and in his mighty power. Our human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible. We are being called to action … “be strong” in Christ and His power because, like it or not, the reality is that there is a spiritual battle going on for hearts, minds and souls in this world. We are to equip ourselves to take a stand against the devil’s battle plans and attacks. This is a spiritual battle by forces of evil in the heavenly realms, not against human opposition, and cannot be fought using human resources. I read a quote the other day that echoed this call to every Child of God: "Regardless of whether we can fathom the evil and carnage that some rabid monsters do, we must be prepared and ready to respond to evil at a moment's notice."

I think that, many times, we can read a passage like this and take it lightly because we don’t look for trouble, we really don’t want to hear about Satan, we don’t want any “day of evil” or spiritual attacks coming our way. My best friend’s daughter wrote me from college, that she would stop each morning before starting her day and put on the full armor of God, piece by piece, to be prepared and ready to respond against the powers of this dark world and the evil one. It was real and she stood firm in truth, in righteousness, in the gospel, by trust and complete faith, standing on her promised salvation and her eternal home, holding the sword of the Spirit that she read and knew and brought to mind daily. Her character, as a daughter of God was her defense, trusting Jesus and maintaining an active and “right” relationship with the Lord. I cannot read this passage again, without stopping and thinking about what she wrote me. She was protected and supported in her solid faith and at peace; not in fear, but ready for what battle came her way. She could stand firm against the flaming arrows (the deceitful lies, the sinful temptations, the luring distractions and even the outright evil and hatred) that come, because Christ had her back and the Lord has our back too.

Child of God, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, put on the full armor of God for the spiritual battle, and stand firm.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Noah Webster's Confession

Romans 10:8-11 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”(that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

I had heard from American Historian David Barton that Founding Father Noah Webster (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843), of Webster’s Dictionary fame, published the first American dictionary in 1828. And included in the introduction was Noah’s Christian testimony and confession of Jesus Christ as Savior. I’ve searched high & low for a copy of this first dictionary, to no avail. But lately, I found a digit copy on Compact Disk (CD) and love it. I’ve added his confession below for all of you to read, because I was surprised to read that Noah struggled with doubts and fears of mis-guided beliefs and an insincere faith, works and duty. He, like us, desired to experience the “real” thing and know Truth.

Noah wrtoe: “For a number of years just past, I have been more and more impressed with the importance of regulating my conduct by the precepts of Christianity. Of the being and attributes of God I have never entertained a doubt, and my studies as well as frequent contemplations on the works of nature have led my mind to most sublime views of His character and perfections. …

“Still I had doubts respecting some of the doctrines of the Christian faith, such as regeneration, election, salvation by free grace, the atonement, and the divinity of Christ; these doubts served as an apology for my forbearing to make a profession of religion; for though I could never read or hear that solemn declaration of our Savior, ‘Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven,’ without some compunction and alarm. That is, in plain terms, I sheltered myself as well as I could from the attacks of conscience for neglect of duty under a species of skepticism, and endeavored to satisfy my mind that a profession of religion is not absolutely necessary to salvation. In this state of mind I placed great reliance on good works or the performance of moral duties as the means of salvation, although I cannot affirm that I wholly abandoned all dependence on the merits of a Redeemer. You may easily suppose that in this state of distraction and indecision of opinions I neglected many duties of piety.”

“About a year ago an unusual revival of religion took place in New Haven, and frequent conferences of private meetings for religious purposes were held by pious and well disposed persons in the Congregational societies. I felt some opposition to these meetings, being apprehensive that they would, by affecting the passions too strongly, introduce an enthusiasm or fanaticism which might be considered as real religion. I expressed these fears to some friends and particularly to my family, inculcating on them the importance of a rational religion and the danger of being misled by the passions.”

“These impressions I attempted to remove by reasoning with myself and endeavoring to quiet my mind by a persuasion that my opposition to my family and the awakening was not a real opposition to rational religion but to enthusiasm or false religion. I continued some weeks in this situation, utterly unable to quiet my own mind and without resorting to the only source of peace and consolation. The impressions, however, grew stronger till at length I could not pursue my studies without frequent interruptions. My mind was suddenly arrested, without any previous circumstance of the time to draw it to this subject and, as it were, fastened to the awakening and upon my own conduct. I closed my books, yielded to the influence which could not be resisted or mistaken, and was led by a spontaneous impulse to repentance, prayer, and entire submission and surrender of myself to my Maker and Redeemer. My submission appeared to be cheerful, and was soon followed by that peace of mind which the world can neither give nor take away.”

Our Founding Fathers were no different than us today in our coming to the profession of “saving” faith and the Devine work necessary for our conversion by the Holy Spirit. May our transformed hearts and minds focus on the Lord and His purposes for us and our fellow man, and may this regeneration translate into action with the confidence that God is with us every step. And why is this confession not in the new Webster's dictionary today?

John 14:23-27 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Revelation 21:5a Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Christmas caps off each year in grand fashion with the annual celebration of the birth Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. To those who believe in Him, there is new birth, born anew, from above. Just one short week after Christmas, we celebrate a new year in our lives. There is just something about this calendar change that brings finality and new beginning that transforms the mind, will and emotions to a new day and hopes dawning. It reminds me so much of the regeneration of the heart that accepts Jesus and transforms their life from the crazy cycle of addiction, bondage, debt and condemnation in sin that leads to spiritual dead and separation from God, to forgiveness, healing, wholeness and restoration in Christ.

Ephesians 4:21-23 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.

It’s a new year and a new day. May we keep each day Christ centered and filled with the joy of our Salvation, with all of our might and all of His light.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the LORD has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.

In the day of our Lord, January 6, 2011 - Brian