Saturday, June 29, 2013

Power From On High

Luke 24:49  Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

I’m always reading and listening to Christian messages with a thirst for learning more about the Lord and the Word of God. Sure, Bloggers are looking for subjects and material to post about, but seriously, the topics and issues are endless because of the infinite depth of omniscient Almighty God and the non-ceasing confusion of finite human understand. It is easy to believe that the physics of this tangible world (that which is perceivably evident to the senses) acts upon naturalism of our flesh to focus on the “here and now”, to the illusion that this life, this moment, is the purpose. The “Original Sin” (which was “not believing, not trusting and not obeying God) led to the “fall of mankind” (which was the death of the “spirit” of mankind – the relationship separation with Father God and spiritual discernment lost – Habakkuk 1:13, John 3:3, 1 Corinthians 2:24). Blinded from the spiritual presence of the Creator by sin, natural mankind lives daily by nature’s power which can be physically sensed and human logic based upon incomplete knowledge, because it is void of nature’s Creator God, and trusting in our perceived power rather than the “power from on high” – the power of God – the true power. This absence of truth leads to the question and endless pursuit of “purpose”. But there are bigger and eternal consequences to sin that need to be addressed.

Luke 12:4-5 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

Not only is there the question of how to have the virtuous and “fruitful”’ life today of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, but the question of where will we go when this life is over? Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts”. Nobody can hide from the questions, because the kingdom of God and His power, His providential love and care for His creation and children, is the only answer; the light in the darkness that will restore the “spirit”, that we can see and know truth and really live.  How do we get there from here is the next question.
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

God, Himself, provided the way by His power from on high; a power beyond our limited comprehension, but is obvious in nature. This word “power” is the Greek word “δύναμις”, pronounced “dynamis”, which we get our English word “dynamite” from. By God’s almighty power, the power from above, Jesus Christ is that Way, that Truth, and the Life (eternal life that begins the moment we believe and accept Him as Savior and Lord) that we seek. Jesus is the rescuer with the remedy to our blind pursuit for “the “real” life, sent by our loving Creator God, by His power, out of His mercy and grace, received by our repentance of sin and accepting the free gift. Let’s quit looking, by our own power, in all the “wrong” places.

I opened with the Bible verse Luke 24:49 and close with the verses that precede it. Luke 24:45-48 Then He (Jesus) opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,  and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed  in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are  witnesses of these things.”

Be a light and witness to the world of “the Truth”. Life is in Christ, so live there. That’s why I always end these posts with the words:                          In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Christ's Worth-Ship

Revelation 5:6-14 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which ate the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And when He had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which ate the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song , saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying; “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them saying: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!” The four living creatures said, Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Taking a long weekend to fly back to Iowa this week to visit my mother-in-law, we joined the family for their Sunday Worship service @ Faith Lutheran church in Spencer, where Pastor Lee Laaveg Is currently preaching through a series titled: “Marks of Discipleship”, with the sub-title; “Following Jesus as Servants of the Kingdom”. This week’s “mark of discipleship” was “Worship”. What does it mean to worship? Have you ever been seared in your spirit to the sense of “awe of God”? Have you ever seen one of those spectacular sunsets where the colors reflect in an indescribably brilliant display of colors reflecting off the bottom of the clouds, which stop you in your tracks. This happened to my dad and I as we were driving through western Arizona one peaceful afternoon, where us and everyone else on the road had to just pull the car over and stop to enjoy a scene that Scientist can explain the “how and why?”, but not the wonder of Creator God’s beauty that fills our soul experiencing it. The words of Romans 1:19-20: "what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse", became real, as we offered praise-filled worship, centered in the presence of God at what was before our eyes. It may have been natural, but Nature’s Creator God made it and it was truly awesome!

Worship is defined as reverence, humble exultation, and adoration of God for who He is.  Worship is a word derived from the old English word “worth-ship”, which is a verb, so if we are not moved by our worship of God due to His worth-ship, then we need to look at ourselves for the reason “why not”. What hinders you from worshiping  Worship is as aspect of following Christ, who is worthy, as a serving disciple because there is a link in believing the gospel of Jesus to then follow and offer service in worship, centered in the His presence, changed by  His power and glory. Have you felt the presence of God? Do you conclude and believe that Jesus Christ is God the Son, sent by God the Father, by His love and grace, as an atoning sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins, and follow Him with your life as a response? Have you relinquished your “downward fall” of original sin and your “upward fall” of dethroning God and putting ourselves on the throne of our heart by putting the Lord in His “right” place in our life? Why do you believe that God is worthy of your praise? Worship is like the re-orientation that God is the purpose of my life, centered in His awesome worth-ship with praise. The word “awesome” is thrown around so loosely today, for just about anything, when it is meant for the highest level of reverence, fear and wonder caused by something majestic, sublime and sacred, but witnessing God and His greatness in the world in true “awe” leads us to know that The Lord is Divine and Sovereign. The wages of Sin is death, but God’s grace is greater than our sins. What is the magnitude of your and my sins before a “just” and “holy” God? Can God forgive your and my sins? That is what the gospel is all about. We were not worthy, but God is faithful and sent His Son to die on that Cross in our place as an atoning sacrifice to pay the price of our sins, that we may have forgiveness and eternal life.

Romans 11:33-12:1 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Submit to God, who is worthy of our life, and worship is life. The sum total of our life is offered to the Lord as a “living sacrifice” in worship as a disciple of our blessed Redeemer and Savior. His “worth-ship” is worthy of our praise. Glory be to God!

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Side of Right

Romans 11:33-12:2 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?”  For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 Was listening to a preacher the other day and reading some article on the moral standards of the day and the need to align our hearts, minds, and wills with God and guard our hearts as “today’s worldly morality is yesterday’s immorality". It is epidemic in our culture today that so many, including many Christians, take their cue not from the Word of God, but from what is acceptable in the contemporary secular culture for their own behavior.

Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

This is something that we need to struggle against because we, as children of God and citizens of the kingdom of heaven, are called to live, not by the flesh, but by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16 and 24-25) and under the authority of the Word of God ... His sacred Word. When God created us in His own image, He gave us the gift of “the heart of words” to commune in prayer, fellowship with others, hear and declare the life-giving gospel, speaking the truth in love, train our children in the way they should go, and proclaim the Lord’s praises. Not abuse the gift by using His name in vain, gossiping and slander, ect., but aligning our thoughts, words, and actions with the Word, Will and Way of our Heavenly Father by His Holy Word of the Bible.

Matthew 4:4 But He (Jesus) answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Today, there are moral issues where both sides looking at them are passionately sure that they are on the side of “right”. When both sides believe that they are “right”, then one side or the other is surely “wrong”. But we must remember that what we are sure is “right” may not be “right”. What God is sure is “right”, is “right”. When asked if God was on the Confederate side or the Union side of the Civil War (because there were Christians on both sides that were passionately sure that they were on the side of “right” in the conflict), President Abraham Lincoln replied: “I do not know if God is on our side or their side, but it is my fervent prayer that we are on God’s side.” Is our position, His position? What is your view on that which the Bible (the Word of God) says is “wrong”? Why do you believe what you believe on biblical and social issues? How did you arrive at that conclusion? What are the pivotal reasons that have led you to believe as you do (one way or another)? As Lincoln brought to light, even if we are certain that something is “right”, we may be “wrong” and committing sin because our certainty of an ethical position is not the highest norm or judge of what is “right”. We need to look to the Word of God for truth and live there. Do we?

 John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

 In Christ, Brian

Friday, June 21, 2013

Stretch Out Your Hand

Mark 3:1-5 And He (Jesus) entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.” Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.

Last Sunday, Pastor JJ continued on his series preaching through the book of Mark. In the gospel of Mark, we see the light of Jesus connected to God the Father for a life defined, not by chaos, but in the stability of His almighty power, love and mercy, which is the fuel that propels our Christian life. The Sabbath was instituted by God in His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) as a day of rest, but people had flipped this day created for man’s good to be about mankind burdening themselves for the day (Mark 2:17). Jesus asks His critics: “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill? Why? The Sabbath law stated that if someone in trouble reaches out their hand and asks for help from someone, that someone must help the troubled person. Jesus, without touching the crippled man, tells him to “Stretch out your hand”, thereby invoking the Sabbath law to help and he is healed.  

Note that Christ was grieved by the hardness of their hearts. What do people put before Jesus? Why are people offended by Jesus, by His miraculous power, by His ultimate authority and his speaking the truth in love? Jesus is in pursuit of our heart (knocking at the door – Revelation 3:20), but we have the option not to open the door to our heart to Him. Pastor JJ asks: “Have you ever thought that God doesn’t hate people?” John 3:16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Creator God loves us and desires the “best” for us, as a “saved from sin/healed of sin” child of God, fully trusting under His authority. We can never earn eternal life. The Bible says that God came to earth and that on the cross, in the person of His Son, He paid an infinite price. By His graciousness, He offers it to us freely as a gift. It is received by faith. Faith is the unclean hand of a beggar reaching out their hand to receive the gift of the king. We don’t deserve it, but if we “stretch out our hand to Jesus”, by the grace of God, we have it. Feel the warmth of His embrace. In His presence, daily live. Thank you, Lord, for the gift of eternal life Christ has given believers. Praise be to God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

In Christ, Brian 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Diabolos Temptation

Matthew 4:1-4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Our weekly home Bible Study was reminded that, just as the Lord experienced temptations through deceitful lies, we should not be surprised at the great tests of our dependency of and obedience to our Heavenly Father. Led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil was the test of Jesus. If He sinned, that He could not be the Savior of the world, because He would have to pay for His own sins, and need a Savior himself. When Satan challenges saying, “if you are the Son of God”, he is not casting doubt of Jesus’ divine Sonship. The devil wouldn’t have showed up if he didn’t think that Jesus was the Son of God. The devil is tempting Christ to use His supernatural powers as the Son of God for His own needs and not trust God; to turn from the spiritual to the physical, from the heavenly to the earthly, from God’s provision to self provision. But Jesus says “live by God’s Word”. Do we live by this?

Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

As written last time, the great things that Satan aims at in tempting Jesus (and us) is to overthrow the relationship with the Him, and so cuts off their dependency upon Him, their duty to Him and their communion with Him. In Christ’s sake Satan’s ultimate goal of the temptations were to get Jesus to abandon God’s Plan of Salvation and bypass the cross. The devil quotes scripture with a twist of words out of context of, but Jesus was ready and quote scripture back, in context, saying “You don’t tempt Lord God”. Do we live by this too?

Matthew 4:8-11  Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

Matthew Henry writes: “That temptations commonly take rise from the world, and the things in it. The lust of the flesh, and of the eye, with the pride of life, are the topics from which the devil fetches most of his arguments. It is a great cheat which the devil puts upon poor souls, in his temptations. He deceives, and so destroys; he imposes upon men with shadows and fast colors; shows the world and the glory of it, and hides from men's eyes the sin and sorrow and death.” But Christ’s concluding statement in this test was, “worship Lord God and serve Him only.” Do we live by this also?

The power of God, the supernatural force of miracle power is translated from the Greek word - δύναμιςdynamis”, where we get the English word: “– dynamite”. In dealing with the devil, we must always remember the force that is standing with the child of God. Jesus used the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) and the sword of Spirit, which is the word of God in response to the temptation attacks to stand firm. We must be on alert. Our enemy, the devil, is subtle and scheming and skilled in the art of temptation.

James 3:15This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.”
Earthly, sensual, and devilish, answers to the unholy trinity, the three spiritual foes of man, the world, the flesh, and the devil. The word schemes, which are used in his tactics, carries the idea of cleverness, crafty methods, cunning and deception that appeal to the lustful physical appetite, personal gain, and desire for positional power of the flesh, so we must not be caught off guard. Jesus stood the test and showed us the way. Shall we follow and stand firm? That’s our test.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Matthew 19:19a "Honor your father.”

Happy Father's Day dads!
God bless you.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Default Condition

John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In our weekly home group Bible Study, tackling the subject of “Spiritual Warfare” with the devil is not the “looking at life through rose colored glasses type lessons that we typically cover, but knowing that there is an adversary, who the enemy is and how he operates in order to stand firm, overcome and walk the Christian life victoriously is essential. It is a tactical error to under-estimate or ignore any enemy, to give them a foothold (Ephesians 4:27do not give the devil a foothold”), nor an advantage (2 Corinthians 2:11so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.). It is also a tactical mistake to over-estimate an adversary, imagining them more formidable or more capable than they truly are. The devil can only persuade; he cannot compel. Satan works his lies and temptations upon our lusts, but it is us who decide whether we let him in and sin; missing God’s mark and hitting the devil’s mark. And with Sin, the default is Hell.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Christ conquered sin and death, fulfilling the Protevangelium - “The First Gospel” of Genesis 3:15 at the Cross, but Satan isn't done deceiving, tempting and persuading the world to abandon their relationship with Creator God through Christ and in so doing cuts off their dependence on God, their duty to God and their communion with God, as “the tempter” attempts to take as many down with him to hell as he can, come Judgment Day (Revelation 20:10 and 14). The devil is not a toothless “defeated foe” for those who do not know the Lord, their Savior, and is a ruthless tempter, who attacks the children of the kingdom of Heaven with “fiery arrows” (to inflame the passions, and excite the soul to acts of transgression against God’s standards). Don’t be fooled. If the devil were no threat, then why does Ephesians 6:10-13 tell us: Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
Mike, from our small group wrote this list of God's default conditions:
Default #1 - Truth: God's truth is the default condition, inaccuracy is contrary to the truth. Default #2 - Light: darkness is the absence of light. God is light and in him is no darkness at all. (1John 1:5) Default #3 - Action: it is God that worketh in you. (Philippians 2:13) Inaction and passivity is the absence of action. Default #4 - Deliberation and intention: to will and to do of his good pleasure. Unintentional, haphazard, random and confused is the absence of God's deliberate action and control. Default #5 - Providence: God's allotment, his portion, his abundance, his appointment. Disappointment is the result of walking away from God's divine appointment and his providential allotment for our lives. Mike writes: “Our life is His life: in us, around us, over us, beneath us and through us. It is God which worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure!” I was crucified with Christ nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ liveth in me. (Galatians 2:20)
Mike concludes: “We have a glorious future when we give up (the default of hell via our sinful flesh desires, the God-rejecting world system, and belonging to Satan) and give in to make Father God’s good pleasure our good pleasure.”

Know your enemy,but most importantly, know God and walk in victory!

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Who Can Forgive Sins?

Mark 2:5-7 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Pastor JJ’s sermon series through the book of Mark comes to chapter 2. Jesus is like a diamond in that He has many facets of Himself reveled, depending on what angle He takes or that we look at Him. Many claimed authority, but Jesus proved His authority in His teachings. Matthew 5 is a prime example when Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said … but I tell to you …”. Jesus is speaking of not following the “letter” of God’s Law while ignoring the “spirit” of the Law; not Pharisaical externalism, while breaking them inwardly. His authority was not the Rabbinic tradition, but correct interpretation of God’s Word and intent of that Word. An interpretation that had compassion upon the sinner. Jesus saw their faith, not of the paralyzed man, but of those who brought the man to Him to be healed. But Jesus forgives his sins first. Why? There was something bigger going on than the physical condition of the man. But who has authority to forgive sins? Every Israelite knew that forgiveness of sin was given to Almighty God and God alone. As Creator, it was His job and God was the only one who can do it. Who knows if sins are forgiven?

Mark 2:8-9 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 

What’s easier, healing spiritually or healing physically? We cannot see sins forgiven and would never know if ones sins are really forgiven because that is a spiritual realm issue and God only knows. All we know is that which is physical to our senses. To say “pick up your mat and walk” is easy to see the results and see them immediately. This man had no hope and no chance to walk again naturally. But what we think is reality points to the real reality of Heaven. Jesus, the Christ, was explaining that He has total authority of the spiritual and the physical, not as a human Rabbi bound to this world, but fully God and fully man both.

Mark 2:10-12 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

There is something more to Jesus then they and we are seeing in connecting the spiritual realm to the physical. Jesus could have started the “Jesus Club”, with the focus on Himself, but directed all the attention, praise and glory up to God the Father. What He did should point us to the Kingdom of God in true faith; not just in an intellectual assent). We need to examine our lives and ask ourselves: “Is there something more going on and is there something that I should be doing because of this truth?” the spiritual us real and eternal, but the physical is temporal and passing away. Where are we investing our time, our talents and our treasures today? Focus on what God wants in our lives – past the physical and to the spiritual that is “behind the scenes” running it all. If you become too focused on the “here and now” things of this earth, know that all shall bow the knee and give account to the eternal reality of God in Heaven. Remember that our Christian lives are defined by the sinful past, but by Jesus Christ, who has authority to forgive sins. The repentant sinner is saved by the grace of God through faith in the “finished” work of atoning redemption of Jesus Christ, and this is real in every part of us because His loving arms is the source of all reality.

John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.

 In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Great is the Lord

Psalm 145I will extol You, my God, O King, and I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty and on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
 Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts, and I will tell of Your greatness. They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness and will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in loving-kindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord, and Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
And talk of Your power;
 To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion  endures throughout all generations.
 The Lord sustains all who fall and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them The Lord keeps all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord, and all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever."

Pastor led us in a "responsive reading" of this Psalm and then asked these questions to reflect upon: Do people see Jesus as Divine? What He's all about ... the hope that He offers? What Jesus did and what Jesus is doing today? Think about each line of this Psalm of David and what Christ means to you personally. Know in your heart why "Great is the Lord".

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Devil Made Me Do It

Genesis 3:4-5 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

What do we know about the devil and where did we get our information? From movie, books or video games with horns and a tail (which was actually taken from the Greek god of the wild – Pan)? Our small group home Bible study on “overcoming the enemy” learned that as a follower of Christ, it is important that we know exactly who the adversary is, because his goals involve us personally, but not because our goals involves him. Satan deceives and tempts in order to sow a seed of doubt that brings out anger, jealousy and pride to produce division between us and our heavenly Father. My study Bible says that the “great deceiver” insinuated a falsehood and portrayed rebellion as clever, but essentially innocent, self-interest. By causing the woman to doubt God’s word (by leaving a word out, adding a word and changing word), Satan brought evil into the world. As I wrote in August on “original sin” - to even begin to consider that perhaps the “Word of God” that we have been given isn't really God’s Word is just how we come to believe the satanic lie that “God lies. The “Father of Lies” offers up a different (false) truth claim in saying that God lied, which tempts the flesh and mind that leads to doubt, distrust, disobedience and death.”

James 1:14-15But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Deceived by half-truths, twisted meanings and outright lies, the devil is really saying: “Believe me and doubt God. I tell the truth, but God lies. Trust me and have suspicion of God. I watch out for you, but God is holding things back from you and doesn’t have your best interests in mind. So act upon your passions and desires apart from God because you are the lord of your Lord and make the decisions what’s right for you.” Remember that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was planted in the garden and commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from as a test. Who do we trust and obey? Sovereign Lord God, Creator of the heavens and the earth?

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains in Matthew 13:37-39 “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Do we see “wheat and tares” in our world today?

The “Evil Adversary” of God and man lies and tempts, appeals to the senses of sensual man, finds and exploits human weaknesses, and subtly turns people against God. The “Fall of Mankind” was great and still is. As the “deceiver undertakes to alienate man from God, while as the “accuser”, the devil acts to alienate God from man. The terms Stan and the devil both refer to a single entity – our enemy. Devil means “accuser, slanderer.” Satan means “adversary, the enemy. We must guard our hearts against our enemy. In Genesis 3:13, the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate”, and changed the course of human history. May we never say: “The Devil made me do it.”

To end on a good note: Revelation 12:9-11And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony.”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Know Your Enemy

Ephesians 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

We’re headed into our church’s summer sessions this month, where the different small group Bible studies take a break from the regular weekly meeting to come together as a whole church congregational fellowship and study on Wednesday nights. But our group decided that they would still get together once a month or more to continue our small group learning and discussion also. We started a new series on “Overcoming the Enemy”, a study on how Satan operates and gaining a thorough knowledge of the devil’s tactics, his probable line of attack, and his schemes against us in order to be equipped to stand firm against his assaults and live victorious daily. The first rule of battle is to “know your enemy”. So how complete is our understanding of our enemy, the devil? The Bible clearly states that every one of us lives in the midst of a spiritual battle, whether or not we realize it.

John 10:1 &10 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Yet, this study states that many make the mistake of dismissing the enemy as benign, so no armor necessary. I remember one Pastor stating that the devil was a “defeated foe”, so he would not even mention “the Evil One” - ever. Others don’t believe in Satan at all. Lucifer loves unguarded hearts and minds. Still others become preoccupied with an enemy bent on destroying our ability to effectively serve God, fearfully focusing on his malicious power rather than living in the reality of God’s strength. None of these approaches reflects the battle-ready perspective of the Christian soldier that we need to walk daily in victory. Knowing the truth will enable us to “stand firm” against our adversary when we encounter him. Know your enemy.

Ephesians 6:13-14aTherefore 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.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mark my Words

Mark 1:1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Pastor JJ is starting a new series on the gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Mark and points out that from the very first verse it is clear that in the presence of the “good news” of Jesus, we are in the presence of the Son of God. Jesus’ teachings are above all other teachings, as the rabbinic teachers quoted preceding Rabbis, but the Christ spoke directly from God the Father. Sin does not define us; Christ does. Jesus has the power and has commissioned us to a ministry of power and authority from above to spread the gospel. But instead of spread the “Good news” to the world, far too often we only go where we feel comfortable. It took persecution to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Persecution that Jesus overcame at the cross and we are raised with Him to have a relationship with the Divine Messiah of God.

Mark 1:14 Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,  and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Lord summed up calling as “don’t wait to clean yourself up first or join a church membership before, but repent now, immediately, trusting and believing in the gospel truth that we are saved by grace through faith in the saving work of Jesus on the cross for our sins. Now is the time because the kingdom f God has arrived and is within our reach for our eternal souls.

Mark 1:17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Three attributes of the “faithful fisherman for Christ”: (1) One that “trusts in Him”. Believe, confess and follow Jesus. We are “people of faith” because God is “real”. Do we have limits on God and tell Him where to go? No, He is Lord of our life. One that is teachable. Have we got it all figured out? The more I learn about God, the less I know, because as I study the Word of God and walk life’s path in relationship with the Lord, I realize just how infinite He truly is and how little, I, the finite man knows about our infinite Creator God … so be teachable. (3) One that is “task oriented”. Not one who is prone to distractions, but managed and supervised by God. “Learn, be changed, follow and spread the Word” is my motto. Don’t be deceived by the God-rejecting world system or “taken in” by worldly wisdom, but with godly wisdom have a vision and passion that is focused on Jesus’ mission and grow. (4) One that doesn't take faith lightly. For the faithful “fishers of men”, mark my words – “the fishing is always good”.

In Christ, Brian