Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Doubt Delivery

Luke 24:5-6 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee.

Pastor JJ finished up his “Awake from Death to Life” Sermon series with the message that Jesus dies for our sins on Friday, but Sunday was coming, and the story of your and my life doesn't end on Friday either. We are not to be metaphorically “seeking the living among the dead.” Conquering death in this world, Christ tells us that this life is not all there is. He is with us and our story is not over. Jesus died and came out on the other side, and so shall we. Defeated Sin and death are words speaking to our hearts of comfort here and now. Knowing the “risen” Lord is to know that there is more to life and that our great hope is sure, no doubt, guaranteed, and that we can bank on it. Do we recognize this and know it in our hearts? Or do we want to see the wounds and touch the man to know it’s real?

John 20:14-16 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).

The truth takes away doubt and we gather to celebrate in worship, praise and adoration. Doubts about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit lead to disappointment and a disillusioned life. Pastor JJ told us to put your name in the place of Mary, in the bible passage above, and hear the Lord speak to us individually. Christ overcomes the world and we find faith in meeting the Lord day by day and moment by moment because Jesus is exactly who He says He is and helps us in our belief. In seeking truth, we find great purpose for a life aligned with His holy Way. Take your doubts and lay them at His feet. The child of God is never too far away for Jesus to reach. Don’t ever let failure define our lives. Move from failure to victory, from doubts to faith, and from sorrow’s mourning to joy in Christ. Commune and listen to God, not the doubts and failures of this world.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Into God’s hands, we commit our life, but also our doubts, sorrow and failures … and press on towards the goal, looking heavenward always. The Lord is in the business of rescuing the lost and resurrecting the dead. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How  blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” So taste Jesus. Oh, so sweet is His name.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, April 27, 2013

But for a Moment, then Eternity

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Joy in spite of our circumstance is a difficult concept unless we truly have a light grip on this world and a tight grip on Jesus. As our small Group Bible Study concludes this series on the Christian response to “trials and tribulation” in this life, we find the reality of “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” - Matthew 6:21. God doesn't just call us to endure suffering with faith, but equips us for the challenge. In His holy Word, we find all the wisdom we need to apply daily and walk victorious through the trials of life as they come. This secular world’s happiness is based totally on that which is earthy; not eternity, nor eternal values. I heard it said that power, position, possessions, prosperity, pomp, pleasure, pride and promiscuity occupy the thoughts of the earthly-minded, but this world  is temporary; not the end. Where will we spend eternity?

Joshua 1:7-9Be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Hebrew word for “prosperous” in the above passage is “לח”,tsalach”, which in this context means “you will accomplish what God desires.” Wouldn’t you agree that the world thinks that “prosperous” means to get what we desire? In light of “everything comes from our Creator God”, this godly prosperity makes sense. The Hebrew word for “dismayed” is “ת”, chathath”, which means “to be broken down by violence, confusion and fear; to panic or to be discouraged. There is no more security than to have our Lord God with us wherever we go (Matthew 28:20), so do not be dismayed in our walk here. The Hebrew word for “strong” is “זק”, “chazaq”, which means “to fasten, to seize, to get a grip on.” Seize, get a grip on, and fasten to your faith in Christ, our Lord. “Saving” faith is a personal trust and reliance in, and obedience to Jesus, by being alive in faithfulness. Know that the gospel truth is that our sins (not just a blemish, but the radical pollution of moral inequity and transgressions against a “just and holy” God) were transferred to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness transferred to us who believe. A this faith alone, in Christ alone as our Savior and Lord, is the instrument that links us to Jesus. The Hebrew word for “courageous” is “ץ”, “amats”, which means “to be alert physically and mentally, to not fall apart.” We are aware that the grounds of our justification and salvation are by the “perfect” works of Jesus Christ alone, who assumed the sins of the world, so we stand firm on the promises of God. We recognize and hold fast to the fact that we are “saved by grace”, in that the work that saves us is not our own.

Colossians 3:1-2If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

Instead of focusing on our circumstances, let us turn our attention to God. Every Believer is to have an eternal perspective. The kingdom of Heaven is our future address. The child of God is a citizen of His kingdom and are Ambassadors from God's kingdom to this world. We are to take every thought captive, believe in God, and obey His Word. We praise and acknowledge who God is and what He has done for us. The Word of God is the priority in our lives. We meditate on it day and night, and are obedient to it. Because of Christ, we do not have to lose heart, no matter what trials or pain we encounter. Through God’s grace, we have everything we need to be strong and courageous, so we do not need to fear. When we draw near to God, He is always ready to welcome us with open arms. He will pour out His mercy and comfort, and gives us His enabling strength and power to walk through whatever happens in our lives.  

2 Corinthians 10:5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

When pain, suffering, persecution, and trial come, will we trust in ourselves and on what we can do? Or will we trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above what we could ask or think? When we seem to have no strength of our own, that’s when we can most fully rest in the One whose strength is made perfect in our weakness. This life is but for a moment, then eternity.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Strong Tower Refuge

Psalm 37:39-40 The salvation of the righteous is from the LordHe is their strength in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him.

When our small group Bible Study decided to tackle the subject of “Living as victorious Christians during trials and tribulations in life”, it seemed that this issue was avoided like the plague, but now five sessions in we are seeing how “in the pain there is gain” and that the focus is not on the delivery of big trouble, but on our “Big Deliverer”, Lord God. Now, as a Divine coincidence, lately, we are hearing Pastors on the local Christian radio stations preach and teach on the same subject.

Proverbs 18:10The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.”

Just today, I heard one lesson on Daniel 3, where is verse 16-18 it says: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” In the modern vernacular: Nuts to your false gods and beliefs; we trust and follow the One True Living God, who really in control here, to the end. Where do we stand and why?

Psalm 20:1&5 “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;  may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests.

The word “banner” in the above verse is translated from the Hebrew word “דגל”, “dagal”. It means “to raise a flag or a standard”; God’s standard. A banner was carried at the head of a military body and served as a “rallying point” for the army. Let’s rally around the name of God and God’s Holy Word, our standard for life! I really like that. After the Israelites’ victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17, Moses built an alter, which he called “Jehovah-Nissi” or “The Lord is my Banner”. The same is true for us today: When we run to God, as “the Lord our banner”, in His strong tower will find refuge and victory in our difficulties.

2 Samuel 22:2-4 “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise.”

In Christ, Brian

Monday, April 22, 2013

In ________ We Trust

John 14:1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

Where do we turn in times of trouble? God desires for us to come to Him in our worries and pain – to know Him, to trust Him, and to know His Word – so that we can live the abundant life victoriously in the midst of even the most challenging circumstances. Our small group Bible Study has been tackling the spiritual issue of physical and psychological trials and tribulations of life to learn from the Holy Spirit and the united interaction to live fruitful godly lives with love, joy and peace despite the condition and situations surrounding us. So that in the storms of life, we don’t look at how big the storms are, but focus on how big God is, who is carrying us through the storm with love and purpose. In the verse above, spoken by the Lord Jesus, the word “troubled” is translated from the Greek word, ταράσσω “tarassō”. It means “to take away calmness of mind.” It implies an action that strikes a person’s spirit with fear and doubt. Think about all the empty distractions that people reach for when a troubled mind takes them to the “end of their rope” (i.e. drugs, alcohol, buying thing, gambling, money, entertainment, pleasure, Hindu yoga mediation, psychologist, et cetera). Distractions are only attempts to cover the pain. But Christ tells us the cure for the troubled heart, mind and soul … “believe”. Believe is translated from the Greek word, πιστεύω “pisteuō”. It means “to be persuaded of, to place confidence in, to trust, to rely upon.

1 John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Now, look at the Greek word translated into English as “faith” in the above Bible passage, πίστις “pistis”, and see the similarity of this word translated into English as “believe”. Believing according to God’s Word is the action that appropriates faith. This is what James 2:17-26 means by “faith without works is dead”. It’s not the promise to deliver our trust and obedience that God is expecting; it’s the delivery of our trust and obedience in the works in action of believing faith of the Believer. Does that make sense? Believing is for the “now”. We are not supposed to have troubled hearts, nor are we to be filled with fear and doubt. We’re instructed to keep our minds and hearts clear and calm, trusting in God and in His Son, our Lord and Savior. In God We Trust. Now the question is: Do we do it, or is it: In ________ We Trust?

Mark 11:22 And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Story of the Foolish Monkeys

2 Timothy 2:26 “And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” 

On vacation, I was reading a daily devotional written by my dad’s favorite Pastor on TV - the late Adrian Rogers, where he told how they catch monkeys in the South Sea Islands: they take a coconut, make a hole in the top, and put a hand full of rice in. A monkey will reach his paw in, take the rice; but then his fist is bigger than the hole, and he can’t withdraw it. Now, when the captor comes, that monkey will scream and plead; but he’ll never let go of the rice. You say, “Foolish monkey, just let go of the rice!” Well, it is the foolish person, who will not relinquish the sin he is clinging to, that he might have the blessings of God. The foolish person, taken captive by Satan, who will not have power with God because of some handful of some metaphoric rice — some sin, some habit, some grudge — that he holds onto. Let go of sin and grasp Christ!

Luke 4:18-19  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me
to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;  to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Do not try to fool yourself; you cannot have it both ways (keeping one foot in the world of sin and rebellion against God)… as many think and attempt to justify. You only end up being as that “foolish monkey”. You cannot be a friend of Jesus and an enemy of Jesus at the same time, continuing to willfully sin against God’s holy Word, Will and Way. Wrong is wrong, and sin is sin. Common logic tells us that, you cannot walk in enmity with God and walk with the Lord, your Creator and Master. Don’t be captive! In the parable told by Jesus, the prodigal son got into the pig pen of sin and rebellion, but didn't stay there. Who, by our thoughts, words and actions, do we prove is really Lord of our lives? Our desires of our sinful flesh? the God rejecting world system around us today, with it’s sensual allure and peer pressure? The subtle traps of damning half-truths and lies and empty promises of Satan? Or our Almighty Creator, the living God of heaven and earth, who knocks at the door of our heart? Our loving Lord, who offers us life abundant and life eternal … and that’s no monkey business.

John 8:31-32 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tribulation Perseverance

James 5:11 "We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.”

Our small group Bible Study continued to search the Scriptures and discuss the biblical issue of “suffering” in the life of the Christian. We saw that Christ’s response to suffering gave us an example to follow, entrusting ourselves to God who judges righteously. We cannot fathom the secret counsel of our heavenly Father or read the invisible hand of His providence to know the “why?” From the fall in the Garden onward, the Scriptures make it clear, the reason suffering, disease, and death exist in the world is sin. But, the examples of the man blind from birth in John 9:1-3 and of Job, makes it clear that we cannot particularize the general relationship between sin and suffering. We may suffer for God’s purposes, even for doing what is right to achieve those godly purposes. There was another reason for the man blind from birth and Job. And because there was another reason in their case, there might always be another reason for the afflictions God calls us to endure. Another logical fallacy of the false dilemma of suffer is to assume that anyone who has an affliction suffers in direct proportion to the sin that has been committed. The book of Job dashes that conclusion for the degrees of suffering. Though it may be difficult to understand, these trials are a gift from our gracious God, who uses suffering to purify us and prove us faithful. The Greek word "endurance" translated in James 5:11 (above) is “hupomone”. The same word is translated as perseverance in 2 Thessalonians 1:4. The word implies persevering in a trial, in difficult circumstances. It reflects a strength of character that does not allow a person to give in or to surrender to the trial or circumstance. God doesn’t keep us from trials; He may bring them to us, He uses them to refine us, and He definitely carries us through them.

James 1:2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be (perfect) mature and complete, not lacking anything."

The Greek word translated as perfect in this passage means “mature, fully developed.” It does not imply perfection but indicates that you have attained your intended goal. The Greek work translated as “complete” here means “whole, having all its parts.” We know by the Word of God that all have sinned and need salvation, and that salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ. I’ve read that we are united to Christ by God’s justifying grace alone, through faith alone because of the atoning suffering and death of Christ alone. The nature of this union is not only that we are in Christ, but that Christ is in us. Jesus said in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus expressed the profound union He has with believers, saying in John 17:23: “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one.” And since we are united with Christ, we are united with His suffering and in His death, and therefore, we shall also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5). Therefore, those who have been justified are declared righteous by their faith.

Romans 5:1-5 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we (exult) boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering (brings about) produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

“Exult” means “to boast in regard to anything.” The preposition “in” is translated from the Greek word “en”, which means “remaining in place or resting in.” Rather than moving into or out of the situation, it indicates a total lack of motion. In other words, one is at rest, not attempting to get out of tribulation. The Greek word translated as “brings about” is “katergazomai”, which means “to carry out a task until it is finished.” In context, the phrase indicates completing a task, the result of which is to bring out something that is already present. Tribulation in the life of the believer brings out perseverance, because the grace to persevere comes from the inner strength God has given us. The Greek word for wisdom is “Sophia”, which means “divine wisdom” Wisdom refers to the ability of the believer to apply God’s perspective to issues in his or her life. Knowledge from above is found in the Word of God. Wisdom is the application of that knowledge.

James 3:13-18 "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness."

When we suffer, we must trust that God knows what He is doing, and that He works in and through the pain and afflictions of His people for His glory and for their sanctification. Testing in our lives refines our character and produces endurance. We may not always understand why we have to go through the trials and difficulties, but we can rest in the fact that God understands and promises that we will never be given more than we can bear. We can be certain that He is working out His purposes in our lives and using our experiences for the benefit of others. Our response to trials and difficulties should bring honor and glory to the Lord.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In God we trust,
In Christ, Brian

Monday, April 15, 2013

Perseverance in Persecution

John 15:18-21 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.

I read this week that according to recent statements by U.S. military officials--including an Army briefing on "religious extremism," the military should be just as concerned with Evangelical Christians and Catholics as threats to America as Al Qaeda and Hamas. Why? Isn't it ironic that this nation, founded by godly men on Christian principles and biblical values (Liberty, Justice, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, etc.), would label the original morals and ethics of God’s ideology a threat to the Country? Of course, in the Bible verse above, Jesus explains the problem. It’s a “hate crime” against God. I guess that it is not mere coincidence that our small group Bible study is examining the Holy Scriptures on the topic of persecution and perseverance.

1 Peter 4:12-14 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Our lesson explained that the word "fiery" is translated from the Greek word πύρωσιςpyrōsis”. In this passage it refers to the process used for refining or purifying metals, as well as trials and calamities that test or purify the character of a person. The word "testing" is translated from the Greek word πειρασμόςpeirasmos”. In this context, the testing is sent by God or allowed by God and indicates trying one’s character to prove him or her faithful. The ultimate Assayer is testing us to determine what we are made of. So when atheistic secular humanists attack the Word of God and Believers, who shall endure the trial by fire of affliction for the name of Christ and persevere? God controls the intensity of the refiner’s fire, knowing just how much heat is needed to bring our impurities to the surface to be skimmed off. The Lord never leaves us nor forsakes us - Deuteronomy 31:8. He stays with us throughout the refining process. His ultimate purpose is to refine and purify us so that we will reflect His image. Stand firm and reflect the Lord.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

God bless America and America bless God.
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Recognizing our Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He (God) has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Our Friday evening small group Bible Study continues looking at the area of difficulties in the world for the Christian walk that is sometimes passed over, but brings understand and balance in the life that trusts in God Almighty. The word grace is the Greek word χάρις “charis”, means unearned merit or favor. We are saved by grace, but we also live by grace. God divinely enables us with a strength that is continually sufficient to overcome our weaknesses. All are weak in contrast to the greatness and power found in God. In His grace we receive the power to do what we cannot do ourselves. It is a gift of God, but first we must recognize our weakness, submit ourselves to God, and put our trust in Him. Difficulties come to everyone sometime, but we don’t merely survive our sufferings. We can live victoriously in the midst of trials and difficult circumstances. We persevere in Christ.

Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;  we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We do not trust in ourself; we trust in God, our Providence. We may be afflicted with outward conflicts and inward fears, yet are comforted by God and by the people of God. We recognize that we are humble weak vessels (everyone is), whose power is from God and not from within ourself. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and the key to victory is that we overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus Christ. Have you and I ever been overwhelmed by the challenges and difficulties of life or have to deal with conflicts and fears? When conflicts arise and life’s pressures crop up, do we run the other way? Do we take matters into our own hands and try to solve them on our own, with our power and intellect? Or will we take it before the Lord, steadfast in faith, and trust God to be our strength?  In God We Trust.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Affliction in Christ

2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Christian discipleship is to learn and know reality and truth, then apply that truth into our daily walk with the Lord. Part of that reality and truth is that in this “fallen in sin” world, life in the jungle is no bowl full of cherries. There is darkness and wickedness, who call evil good and good evil, which hates the light and goodness of God and His children. Granted that it is far from the most pleasant biblical issue, yet we must not be ignorant of affliction of any issue, so that we can live victorious in Christ, even in difficult times. As our Friday evening small group Bible study group learns, God Almighty is in control always. We discussed how we really did not feel that we understood true affliction and persecution for our faith today in America, like we see in other countries that are hostile to Christianity, because of our freedoms and liberty under the Constitutional Rights. The occasional insults of being called: “holier than thou”, “Bible thumper” or “Jesus freak” or the mockery of God himself and His holy Bible by unbelieving secular humanist is next to nothing compared to the persecution we see today in other nations, but increasing here now. But so are conversions to Christ – praise God. We shouldn't be surprised. Look how much Jesus suffered for us.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.

The word “affliction” is the Greek word “θλψις thlipsis, which not just trouble, but “to crush or to squeeze”, usually suffering from outward circumstances, but afflictions can be anything that burdens the spirit.
Wikipedia states that “Prosperity theology” (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a belief that views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. But Jesus said in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We’re not in heaven yet, far from it, and need to learn and understand that we cannot and must not trust in and depend upon ourselves, but in God.
2 Corinthians 4:7-10  We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

In this physical world around us, we tend to think more highly of ourselves than we should. How many times do we think that we need to do things on our own and believe that we can do them by our own power? In Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul tells us this: Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. We are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure (the power of God). Whatever affliction God brings us to; God brings us though it, by our faith and by His grace, and in His strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

In God We Trust, in Christ, Brian

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rejoice in Christ

Mark 2:18-20 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 
And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

Yesterday, Pastor JJ reminded us of the sacrifice that God made on our behalf by Jesus on the cross on “Good Friday”. How Christ died for our sins, as a substitution for us, so that we may live. But also, that God the Father, sent God the Son from heaven to earth to take on humanness, that we might learn as disciples to change and live more Christ-like. Routines are comfortable for us. Schedules give the sense of control and security. Change is not easy because our mindset is earthbound. Jesus calls us to transform our minds, along with our hearts; not allowing our routine to become our relationship with Him. After all, there is nothing routine about God. There was Friday (on the Cross), there was Saturday (in the Grave), and then there was Sunday (Resurrection). Each day had its proper response. The Lord never intended for us to act the “same way” in every time and circumstance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1&4 To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance.

This last Saturday, our oldest son married his fiancée. The wedding party entered the family and guest-filled church sanctuary. The groom and best-man waited as the bride was escorted by her father down the aisle in grandeur. Candles were lighted, a sand ceremony symbolized the blending of two lives into one, prayers were made and vows were exchanged, as the witnessing family and friends watched in silence. But when Pastor JJ pronounced them “man and wife”, told him to kiss the bride and introduced them as “Mister and Misses Todd”, the crowd erupted with shouts of joy and excitement. “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?” No, it was no longer a time to be quite; it now was a time to celebrate! It is the appropriate time to rejoice and have a party; not a time for quite fasting and prayer. Likewise, “Good Friday” brought sorrow, that Saturday was silent, but “Sunday was a-coming” and its a time to rejoice! Sin and death were conquered! The acceptable sin debt was paid by Jesus. Redemption and Salvation was here. It is a time to celebrate, rejoicing and giving praise to the Lord. The bridegroom is with us and we are His Bride!
 Romans 4:23-5:2  When God counted him as righteous, it wasn't just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in Him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Christianity is not about “self-denial” all the time. To everything, there is a season and a time, meaning that there is a full gamut of emotions that the Christian experiences in a relationship with the “living” God and Lord Jesus Christ. Praise and rejoicing in joyful adoration and worship of the Lord is a victory celebration. The Bridegroom (Christ) is here! It’s time to rejoice! Amen? Amen!

Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
In Christ, Brian