Monday, August 31, 2015

God is Amazing

John 9:25-33 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

Revelation 15:3-4 “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways. O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts  have been revealed." 

God is amazing! Glorify God!
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, August 30, 2015

God’s Word Validates our Experiences

2 Peter 1:19 “We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

There are a lot of people out there today with all sorts of opinions and interpretations for us on how to live. How many self-help books have been written to better our lives? But, you have to admire the old Bereans of Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of Greek Macedonia. They didn’t believe anything they heard or read and only half of what they saw, until they checked everything against “The Book”; the Word of God. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” - Acts 17:11. They had their source of authority straight.

One devotional that I read points out that in this important opening passage, Peter explains the ultimate source of his writings. He did not merely repeat cunningly devised fables when he taught majestic things about the Lord Jesus Christ, but was himself an “eyewitness” of His glory and personally heard the very voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1: 16-18). The three chosen disciples witnessed His prophesied glory and heard God speak of Christ’s pleasing Sonship. There could be no doubt of God’s special plan of salvation through His Son. As eyewitnesses, they bore the responsibility of bearing witness to the facts for us and glory of God.

John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This egotistic world preaches a “Me first”, “Look at me”, and “What’s in it for me” sermon, but Peter downplayed the importance of his own personal testimony, even though it was a firsthand account and quite important, and he knew it was absolutely correct. The “more sure word of prophecy” he recommended, however, which outshines any human testimony, was the Holy Spirit inspired written Word of God, for the Transfiguration confirmed numerous Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ. Prophecies already fulfilled multiply our confidence in the rest of Scripture.

Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

The article I read brings light to our oftentimes backwards vision and understanding as oral or written testimony of human observers, no matter how trustworthy they may be, is still subject to human error and not “inerrant” in the same way as Scripture. Christians must always remember that the written Word of God is more certain than personal memories or impressions. The experiences we have must never be viewed as validating God’s Word. Rather, God’s Word validates our experiences. The early church only had a few portions of the New Testament in those days of beginning, but thankfully, we have it all and have ready access to it. Peter recognized it as superior to any personal testimony. How much more should we deem it trustworthy and authoritative? Totally, my brothers and sisters of Father God. Blessed be the Word of God.

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Repentance: Part 3 - The Victory

Michael begins the final portion of his message pointing out that as Lot, nephew of Abraham, was fleeing Sodom and his wife turned around and "beheld" or cherished and considered fondly the city of Sodom, she turned into a pillar of salt.  "Beheld" is the same word used in Numbers about the children of Israel who "looked cherishingly" upon the bronze serpent. We must "gaze lovingly and cherishingly" at the cross of Christ for the supreme sacrifice for redemptive salvation that was paid there.  Sin was made a public spectacle upon the altar of the cross. Without the cross of Christ there is no victory over sin. Repentance is to turn from sin and toward the grace of God through the supreme sacrifice of the innocent blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ. Judgment always starts with the prophets warning the people. Then it spreads to the priests who speak to God on behalf of the people. If the people do not listen to the voices of the prophets and the priests and do not repent, then God's righteous judgment will follow.

Judgment is the spirit of wisdom and prudence, enabling a person to discern right and wrong, good and evil based upon the righteous statutes and commandments of God in justice and equity founded upon the doctrines of the gospel and/or the kingdom of grace in the God's word. Judgment Day is the final trial of the human race, when God will decide the fate of every individual, and award sentence according to justice.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Repentance according to the Word is to turn away from sin and toward God, followed by penitence, restitution and obedience. Part of repentance is to make restitution which means to "come clean”. Cleanse my heart O Lord, create in me a new heart. God will redeem us as we follow His heart through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Repentance becomes real when we seek to do His will from a cleansed and a pure heart of His righteousness. Restitution is to make it right with the two parties you have wronged, both man and God.

Matthew 5:23-24 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Repentance is the key to unlocking the healing and deliverance of God in our lives.  How do we make restitution to God for the sins we have committed against him?  The answer is in Romans 12:1, “I beseech ye therefore brethren that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto him which is your reasonable and sanctified service. To make restitution to the people you have wronged, seek them out and ask them for forgiveness ... ask them how you can make it right. Repentance is to humble our hearts before the Lord, to turn from our wicked ways, to pray, and to seek his face. Then will he cleanse our hearts from all unrighteousness and we can walk in fellowship and communion (co-union) with Him.  Repentance is to turn away from the sinful God-rejecting world and unto Him ...  Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in his wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his wonder and grace. There is victory in Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ, Michael

Friday, August 28, 2015

Repentance: Part 2 - The Deliverance

Michael continues his message by asking: Is repentance a gift or an obligation for us to act?  The answer is found in Numbers 21 which provides an extended metaphor for repentance.  After waking up and conquering the Promised Land, God commanded Israel not to allow the enemy to inhabit the land. If Israel did not drive out the Canaanites, their influence would contaminate God's chosen people. God commanded Israel to repent by obeying and turning their hearts away from the world's influences and toward God. God had led Israel out of the land of Egypt and had sustained them with manna in the wilderness. However, this generation of the children of Israel hardened their hearts against God and against Moses saying, "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?" Israel believed the devil's lies that the comforts of Egypt were better than the comfort of God's provision.  Because they confessed the unthankfulness of their hearts by grumbling and complaining, they walked outside of God's protection and allowed the venomous snakes to attack. When the children of Israel were bitten by the snakes, they cried to Moses for God to deliver them. Moses acted according to God's plan to deliver the children of Israel. He lifted up a bronze snake and set it up on a pole so they could look unto it and live. That bronze serpent on a pole, the Nehushtan (or Nohestan) is the international symbol for the medical and healthcare profession today. 

The people's unbelief brought the venomous snakes into the land. Although God had given them miraculous provisions, they were ungrateful and complained. Their unthankful hearts drove them away from God's hand of protection and many died when they were bitten. When the people acknowledged that they had sinned, this was the starting point of their repentance. They had to have the desire to turn from their sin to receive God's deliverance. Their act of repentance was to turn from looking affectionately for the things of this world and instead, looking affectionately unto God and the power of God's deliverance represented by the bronze snake. Their repentance allowed God to deliver them from the deadly serpents. The purpose of the bronze snake was to make God's deliverance a public spectacle. God does not work in darkness and obscurity. God always works openly and in the light of his manifest glory. In John 3:14, Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the unseen things hidden in darkness that affect us.  As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whosoever believeth upon him should not perish. God always provides a way of repentance for redemption of his people. 

Colossians 2:14 “By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Let’s complete Michael’s study on “repentance” tomorrow.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Repentance: Part 1 - The Starting Point

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

As Christians, the Word of God is our sole authority for faith and practice. Truth and meaning is defined by the Word of God and not by the world's self proclaimed "politically correct." The Bible is the standard for truth ...  it is a "dictionary" defining its own terms.

Luke 11:28 “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

 "Repentance" is a Biblical term and must be understood according to its biblical definition. This word is from the Greek word "metanoia" derived from "meta" meaning change and "noia" meaning mind.  Literally repentance means to "change your mind." This word implies to turn from the desires of the carnal mind that we inherited from Adam and to turn to the desires of the spiritual mind that we inherited from Christ when we were born again.  The battlefield is in the mind. The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary defines “Repentance” as real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of His holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called “evangelical repentance”, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life. Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God. I’ve heard that repentance is when we are walking away from God and His holy word, will and way, then we stop, make a u-turn and walk towards God, but it is more than that. Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.

2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

There are two types of evangelical repentance. (1) Repentance unto salvation is the first step in turning to God in order to receive the new birth.  This type of repentance happens when we are born again. (2) The second type of repentance is returning to God when we have been born again but have fallen from fellowship. This type of repentance in our daily walk allows us to turn from our sinful nature and unto fellowship and communion with God and with His son Jesus Christ. When we, who have been born again, break our fellowship with God, the verse in 1 John 1:9 applies so that we can repent, turn around, and return back to him:  “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Most people will not listen when they hear the word “repentance”. They think that "repent" means to judge another person or themselves for doing wrong. They will not mention the politically incorrect word "sin" because sin is contrary to the politically correct definition of "tolerance."  According to John 3:19-20: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

Acts 3:17-19 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”

Let's continue this great message on repentance tomorrow.
In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Sacrifice of Praise to God

John 15:13-15Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

At a previous church that my family attended, during (VBS) Vacation Bible School, one lady asked: When you think of Jesus, what comes to your mind? Someone said “Lord”, someone said Savior, she said “brother” and someone said “friend” (from the passage above). There is even an old beloved Christian hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, written by Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 based upon this same passage. Bottom line: The children of God possess a special place in God’s heart. I read lately that those who know the Savior are invited to join together in praising Him. As Christians, we not only “know” Him as Savior, He calls us His friends. He identifies His friends by their obedience to His loving commands: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.  He proves His friendship through His own sacrifice: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.How could we ever repay Him? We cannot.

Hebrews 13:15Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

We can, however, praise Him for all that He is to us and has done for us, all He is doing for us and all that He is going to do for us in the future. We have the privilege of declaring “proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your  wondrous deeds” - Psalm 26:7. We have the privilege of speaking of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works - Psalm 145:5.

Praise be to God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What God Requires

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 And now, what does the Lord your God require of you but reverently to fear the Lord your God, that is to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and with your entire being, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?”

I read how this sounds simple enough, revere, respect and worship Almighty God above all, study, learn, know and obey His holy will, word and way found in the Bible, love your Creator Father in heaven in humble adoration and serve the Lord your God with all your mind, heart and with your entire being, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes. Statutes are distinguished from common law. The latter owes its binding force to the principles of justice, to long use and the consent of a nation. The former owe their binding force to a positive command or declaration of the Supreme power of God. I read that the people of Israel then readily agreed, and Christians today readily agree with Moses to do these things. But the problem is this: Who dares claim to “walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord their God with all their heart?” Anyone who makes such a claim would be breaking God’s commandment against lying. Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” No matter how much we try, we, flat out (with all our effort), cannot do it on our own. But, uselessly trying to do the impossible in living perfect lives was not the purpose of God’s Law. It was to teach us to stop depending on ourselves and to depend upon the Lord. Die to sin; live for Christ. The Apostle Paul explains:

Romans 7:5-8 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead.

An article points out that Solomon reached a similar conclusion: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” - Ecclesiastes 12:13. Undeniably so, but who can keep his commandments?  James 2:10 tells us: “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” Micah 6:8 says, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Yes, but the problem is that Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” - Ecclesiastes 7:20. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” - Romans 3:23.  It clearly declares our duty to God and again teaches us to stop depending on ourselves and to depend upon the Lord. Die to sin; live for Christ. Who is without sin?

There was one such man, of course! The Lord Jesus Christ “did no sin,” yet was willing to “bare our sins in his own body on the cross, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness” - 1 Peter 2:22-24. What we could never do, He has done for us. Now, through faith in the finished work of Christ, we have been set free from the bondage of sin and can indeed “have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” - Romans 6:22.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, August 24, 2015

Enjoy Life

Ecclesiastes 3:1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”.

Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.”

Psalm 145:14-16 The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Proverbs 15:22-24 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.

Daniel 2:20-22 Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." 

Galatians 4:3-10  In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years!

Galatians 6:8-10 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Life is a blessing from God. Enjoy life.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Face the Light, Not the Shadow

Psalm 145:18 The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

Who has not gone to a funeral without hearing Psalm 23 speak of the “valley of the shadow of death?” Nothing brings us closer to the reality of our mortality on earth than the face-to-face lose of a loved one, family member or personal acquaintance. At that time, when the presiding pastor asks the funeral attendees: “If you were to die today, have you come to a place in your own personal and spiritual life where you know for certain that you have eternal life? If you were standing before God and he were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’”, What would you say?  The truth and certainty of the shadow of death is in front of us. But, God is never closer than when you are in a dark valley. That’s when He is especially near.

Psalm 23 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”

I read an encouraging message the other day that said, for every shadow, there must be light. Jesus Christ said, “I am the light of the world” - John 8:12. A shadow may frighten you, but a shadow cannot really hurt you. A shadow at one time or another has spooked many of us. But thank God, death is but a shadow if you know the Lord Jesus Christ. If you keep your face toward the light, the shadow will fall behind you. You won’t even see the shadow. God doesn’t bring us to a valley to leave us there. The Good Shepherd always brings us through. Death is the gateway of the child of God between sanctification in our earthly existence and glorification in eternity (dwelling in the house of the Lord forever). This is the “eternal perspective” facing the light and not the shadow.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Once we are saved by faith in Jesus, we can say in blessed assurance: “I will fear no evil; for You are with me … and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  Glory be to God; not man, nor the things of this secular humanist world. Eternity actually begins the day that you and I believe in God’s plan of Salvation in Jesus Christ alone. We need to live holy lives before our fellow man, and righteous lives before the eyes of our loving and merciful Creator God and Lord, facing the light, not the shadow.

Hebrews 13:5 Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions and be satisfied with your present circumstances and with what you have; for God Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!”

In Christ, Brian