Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Persecuted Church lesson: Part 2 - My Utmost for His Highest

Continuing Michael's message from yesterday, Michael asks, What do the 80% of Christians in the persecuted church need from us? They need our presence and our prayer. Intercessory prayer is God's force-multiplier. We can pray for them in the name of Jesus and that He will open the doors for salvation through Jesus Christ. How do you win Muslims? You win them by praying for them, by being a friend to them, and by valuing them. The goodness and love of God calls people to repentance.  We don't need to go to the Middle East to witness to Muslims. Muslims within our midst are coming to Christ. We ourselves can choose to engage Muslims in our own neighborhoods. This may not be "politically correct." However, we need to remember that we are citizens of heaven first and America second. Loving our enemies is politically correct in the Kingdom of heaven.

When we keep our witness to ourselves, the Christian church in the West will continue to decline. However, the persecuted church, 80% of the world's Christians, is growing exponentially because they know what it means to stand in the front lines of the spiritual battle. They are proving the truth that Christ's strength is made manifest in their own weakness. We may lament that in the United States, we are losing our freedoms.  However, in the Middle East, the persecuted Christians would gladly give up their physical freedom to serve their Lord and Savior. They understand what it means to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and to be not entangled with the yoke of spiritual bondage.

Steve Ridgeway recounts the testimony of one Christ-follower he met in an underground small Christian fellowship in the Middle East. This dear brother dropped his pants to show Steve where Islamic terrorists had mutilated his body by castrating him. He testified that his captors ordered him to renounce the name of Jesus. When he refused they brutally castrated him while his wife watched. Then while he was writhing in pain they forced him to watch as they put a bullet through her head at point blank range, murdering her. What has your faith cost you?  This man knew first-hand the meaning of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore brethren, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy (and wholly) acceptable unto God which is your reasonable act of worship.” Because of testimonies like this, the church is exploding in the Muslim world.

The persecuted church knows by experience the meaning of Paul's words in Philippians 1:20:  “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”  The question is not whether we will live or die. According to the Word, "it is appointed for all men once to die." The question is whether or not I will glorify Christ in both life and death. Regarding this verse Oswald Chambers said in his devotional: My Utmost for His Highest, "My eager desire is that I will continue to do honor to Christ by fearless courage whether I live or die.”  We will all be ashamed if we do not yield to Him in all areas of our lives where He has asked us to yield to Him. It's as if Paul were saying that my determined purpose is my utmost for his highest ... My best for his glory. To reach that level of devotion is a matter of the will, not of debate or reasoning.  It is absolute and irrevocable surrender of the will at that point. An undue and insidious thought for ourselves is what keeps us from making that decision. Therefore shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in one thing only, my utmost for his highest ... to live for Him and Him alone."

This is our lesson from the persecuted church:  pray for them that revile you, and persecute you, and despitefully use you.  Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Persecuted Church lesson: Part 1 - Christianity on the Rise

Michael writes this week that Steve Ridgeway was the Chief Executive Officer of Open Doors Ministries and traveled extensively, especially in the Middle East. As a result of experiencing many different cultures, Steve observes from the heart of a missionary that life is not to be lived having evil thoughts and being easily offended by others. Our exhortation is to walk in love as Jesus Christ himself is love. Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another."  The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of deliverance from the bondage of hatred and sin. Jesus' mission was to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

Unless we have an understanding of other cultures, we will never be able to love with empathy and compassion as Christ loved. We have been called to share the gospel in "unsafe" places and to "unsafe" people. Eighty percent of the Church, the Body of Christ, lives under persecution. We Americans are part of  the twenty percent of the Body of Christ where the church is not persecuted, yet. However, the Christian church is exploding in places where persecution is the greatest. For example, sixty five percent of the population of Iran is under the age of 25. Contrary to what the liberal media reports, these young Iranians love America and the freedom our country represents. Although unreported in the news media, the underground Christian church in Iran is growing exponentially. The media paints the Muslim world with a broad brush. However, only a small minority of Iran’s influential Muslim leaders vehemently opposes Christianity and these leaders violently oppress their own people.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said in Matthew 5, "It is said ye shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but, I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute and despitefully use you." Loving your enemy can be done only through the love of Christ. Many have seen the viral video where twenty one Christians were lined up on the shores of the Mediterranean by their Muslim captors. They were asked by their captors one at a time, "Do you love Jesus ... are you Christian?" All but one answered, "Yes, I am a Christian." Each of the twenty Egyptian Christians who professed "Jesus is my Lord" was gruesomely beheaded. When the executioner returned to the twenty first man and asked him again, "Are you a Christian," he replied, "yes, the testimony and the witness of my brothers has convicted me to profess, yes, I am a Christian."  He too, was beheaded like his other faithful Christian brothers. As the scripture in Matthew 5:11 says, "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, for great is your reward in heaven."

Islamic terrorists intended to use this viral video as a recruiting tool. However, many young men in the Muslim world have said that this video has compelled them to turn away from the stark evil hatred of these Muslim terrorists and toward Christ. The word of God in Romans 12:21 says, be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.  The Apostle Paul would have been considered by the Christ followers of his day a member of a terrorist group. However, what men meant for evil, the Lord meant for GoodGenesis 50:20. Paul's radical conversion illustrates that the best way to defeat your enemy is to make him your friend and to introduce him to your friend, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Muslim world, no one has ever denied Steve Ridgeway the opportunity to pray for Jesus to heal one of their loved ones. Muslims believe according to the Qur'an that Jesus is the Healer. We must reach them. The field of the Muslim world is ripe for the harvest. The darker the night the brighter the light shines.  It's not difficult to talk to Muslims. The average Muslim is not a radical extremist. They believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He is a great healer, and that He is coming back. They do not believe however, that Jesus is the Son of God. The message is, "We have good news for you my Muslim friend ... Jesus loves you." We must win them according to God's goodness. One compelling question to ask a Muslim is, "Do you believe that God can speak to you in a vision?"  Their answer will be "Yes" because their holy book says that the Lord reveals himself through visions. Our prayer is that they will meet Jesus in a vision and that He will lead them to the Truth.

We will continue Michael's message message on the persecuted church impact on the Muslim world tomorrow.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Happy Memorial Day 2016

Wishing you and yours, a truly blessed Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Counter-Intuitive Principles of the Kingdom

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?”

In last week’s Sunday sermon by Pastor Kyle, he explained that human intuition is the use of our natural instincts and that there are many ways that our intuition can save us or lead us into deeper trouble. To be counter-intuitive, by definition, is going against our natural instincts. God sometimes has us go against our natural instincts in order to not miss what He is saying to us. How many times are we offered the “right” path, but choose not to take it? In our prideful desires, we want it our way. It is nearly impossible to see the future while hanging onto the past. We must turn to God, though we are clearly still a work in progress.

Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

New Christians intuitively already know what God expects of them. Jeremiah 31:33 tells us “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” When we feel content with what we have, God gives us more than we’ll ever need. Healing starts when we shift our focus upwards (upon God) and outward (by caring for others). Most of the time, we seemed to be focused on our needs, our needs and what is owed to us. But, God exalts the humble and righteous, not necessarily those with a spiritual pedigree. 
Have we forgotten the counter-intuitive principles of the kingdom of Heaven? Humility & honor is how it works. Go against what feels “right” and go with righteousness; denying self and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, May 27, 2016

Non-Flesh Weapons

2 Corinthians 10:3 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.”

I read an uplifting message related to Memorial Day, that this verse above introduces a famous apologetic charge to the saints (those sanctified in Jesus Christ). The key to the whole passage is the qualifier “we do not war according to the flesh.”

the article pointed out that we must conduct spiritual warfare with non-flesh weapons, since “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places- Ephesians 6:12. Fleshly wisdom often is nothing more than a “snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26) and may well deceive us if we are not very careful. The objective, of course, is to bring every intellectual argument captive to the truth of Scripture. This is done by the pulling down of strongholds and “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” - 2 Corinthians 10:5. Always stand upon and point to God’s plan of salvation. This warfare, if not done according to the flesh, is “mighty through God”.

Ephesians 6:13-16 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.”

Nowhere in these verses is there permission or an implied need to learn the thoughts of the enemy before we can bring them into captivity. Biblical data insist that the flesh has “no good thing” (Romans 7:18) and cannot understand the things of God. The weapons we have are not fleshly (i.e., natural thinking, natural emotion, human reasoning, etc.). Our weapons in Ephesians 6 are the “sword of the Spirit” (offensive) and the “shield of faith” (defensive), and we’re protected by the full armor of God—praying always. It is not possible to learn all the subtle arguments of the enemy. What is possible, however, is a knowledge of the truth through our having the “mind of Christ” that will make us sufficient for “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). 

Have a blessed Memorial Day weekend. All gave some; some gave all.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Great Exchange

Luke 24:6-7He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

The gospel message is that Jesus Christ came into the world to be the death of sin, and in His death, there would be the salvation of the world. I read that when Jesus was on trial, the eternal bliss or woe for countless hundreds of millions hung delicately in the balance. But, if anyone will honestly examine Jesus’ trials (both Jewish and Roman) there can only be one conclusion, these trials were, in almost every detail, totally illegal. When Jesus stood before the bar of human justice, He received nothing but injustice. But, we must keep in mind that one day we shall all stand before the bar of divine justice.

2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The article pointed out though that in another sense, the trial of Christ was perfectly legal. Looking at Jesus’ trial from the divine perspective, we see that God convicted Him of real sin – our sin – which were imputed to Him. It was our sin that was on trial. Jesus paid the wages of sin in our place as an atoning sacrifice. In the highest sense, Jesus was legally tired and legally condemned by God for us. How can we ever thank Him enough?

1 John 2:2 “He (Jesus) Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Love Wins

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Michael writes this week that as Christians we often struggle with doing the number one duty of a Christian ... loving God above all and loving our neighbor as ourselves. There are many different types of love. However, "agape" the Greek word for the spiritual love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation, is a rare thing. Many people in our popular culture emphasize the importance of brotherly love, or "philio" in Greek, which is a natural affection for our friends and loved-ones.  Another type of love is "storge" the Greek word for "love of family." This is also a natural type of love independent of God's Holy Spirit. The highest form of love "agape" is "the spiritual divine unconditional love of God." To love with God's love, we must be born again of God's spirit, for our sinful nature of the flesh cannot love without the spirit of God, in Christ, in us.

1 Timothy 4:15 “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.”

The context of the 1 Corinthians 13 passage was Paul's teaching about the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the abuse of the manifestations of the spirit. The manifestations of the spirit are to be operated in love. The Corinthian Christian church had no problems with the "doctrines of the faith."  However, they had a problem with loving their brothers and sisters within the body of Christ, especially if they were divided regarding the proper operation of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Believing action according to the Word of God must be motivated by love. If I gave everything to the poor and even if I gave myself to be martyred, without the love of God in the renewed mind, in manifestation, it would profit me nothing. All my worldly accomplishments and praise from people are of no value if not accomplished through the love of God. Everyone’s need is to be loved.  Would you rather be right or would you rather love and be loved?  When someone forces you to go the second mile, do you think that your human rights are being violated or would you gladly serve in love? We must die to our "human rights" in order to live and love unconditionally with the love of God. The Apostle Paul encouraged the church to live and love with no regrets. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.  Love thinks no evil...it is always eager to believe the best of others.  The key to growing in Christ is to focus on “living in and within the love of God”.

When you love those who don't love you, this is a manifestation of the love of God in the renewed mind. An act of love is to forgive and to set the prisoner free ... only to find that the prisoner was me. Like the martyrs throughout the history of the Church, the Apostle Paul said, "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain." The love of God is never offended when wronged by others. The key to overcoming evil with good is to love unconditionally.  Although this type of love is rare in the world, this is normal according to the spirit of life in Christ. 

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Contrary to popular opinion, the abundant life is lived by washing feet. This is the example Jesus Christ himself gave to his disciples. He who approaches God's throne of grace must do so with a humble and a contrite heart. The “Abundant life” is blessing them that persecute you, despitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ's sake – Matthew 5:11. Jesus gave his disciples a new command, to love one another. He said all men shall know that you are my disciples if you love one another – John 13:35.

From a heart of love, the mouth speaks...therefore, “ Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer”- Psalm 19:14.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Believe In God

Colossians 1:19-22 “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.”

The drawing power of Christ was in the crucifixion with its agonizing slow death by suffocation while painfully impaled by his hands and feet ... for us. The crucifixion draws people from every walk of life and from every tongue and nation. It is a powerful magnet because it shows the incredible love of God. It is the love of a Father who would give His only Son to endure the penalty for the sin of the world (yours and mine). It is the incredible love of a Son who would come into this world and suffer and die for us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In Christ, Brian

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Cup of Christ

Matthew 26:39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Something as innocent and unintimidating as a cup would normally not symbolize something so great in meaning. So, what was in that mysterious cup that appeared before Christ’s face there in the darkness of Gethsemane? I read an article this last weekend that tried to explain what was in that cup that the Lord was speaking about. First, Imagine you are visiting the Center for Disease Control and you enter a large laboratory with hundreds of vials with every dangerous and foul disease known to man, which are poured into a large cup. How would you react if you were asked to drink it; what terror would fill your soul? The contents of Christ’s cup is all the sins of the world (past, present and future). A cup of every known disease in the world combined is nothing compared to the cup of sin that Jesus drank.

Matthew 26:42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.”

The second element in Jesus’ cup was God’s abandonment of Christ. By drinking that cup of sin, Christ became sin for us. Habakkuk 1:13 “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” So, God turned His back on Christ, leaving Him abandoned and alone (a state that the Lord Jesus had never experienced). A state that every unrepentant sinner who rejects God’s free plan of salvation through Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the Cross in their place. John 3:36 “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

1 Peter 2:24-25 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Third, since God must punish sin, He poured on Christ the great fury of His wrath against our wicked sin. Psalm 78:49 “He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, and trouble, by sending angels of destruction among them.” Can you imagine what Jesus went through for us?

Mark 10:38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

The most important thing about Christ’s cup that we need to realize is that it was not His cup at all – it was ours. The sin in that cup was ours. The abandonment should have been ours. But Christ drank the cup for us. Today the cup of Christ is one full of blessings – of love, forgiveness, peace and joy. From death to life … eternal life with the Lord. This is the cup that He now offers us.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Miracle of God’s Highway to Heaven - Part 2

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Continuing from last post on Pastor Kyle's Sermon: Kyle reminds us that God may occasionally ask us to work with people we don’t like, using methods we may not understand. We can pave the way for others or be a bridge over troubled waters to get them to the other side and proceed in their walk with the Lord. We are sometimes used to usher in the environment that the Lord can work in and through, coming together to do what God wants us to do in this life ... this ministry. Victory may come through a path we did not see coming. I was just talking to a wonderful matriarch of our church and we discussed how when we look back at the details of our life, we have 20-20 hind-sight to see clearly the guiding hand of the Lord throughout in the things that happened along this Highway to Heaven that did not make sense then, but make so much sense now because one thing led to another on this Spirit-led journey. We may want to help God, but later we see that God was working behind the scenes all along and the glory is His alone.

1 Chronicles 16:23-31 “Sing to the Lord, all the earth; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.  For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord  made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place. Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, give to the Lord glory and strength.  Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. The world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; And let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”

Kyle gave us three things to remember about how God fights for us along the road. (1) God often fights for us in silence. When worry is our best friend, silence is our greatest weapon. (2) While God fights, we must worship ... chiefly and eminently, the act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; or the reverence and homage paid to Him in sincere religious exercises, consisting in adoration, confession, prayer, thanksgiving and the like. (3) While God fights for us, we must stay faithful. Know that when God is paving the way for us, it’s being done through the Holy Spirit. God is bigger than our logic. Look for His miraculous supernatural guidance along His Highway to Heaven. May our prayer be: “Lord, we can wait on you.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Miracle of God’s Highway to Heaven - Part1

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, Where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Last Sunday, Pastor Kyle continued in his Sermon series: "I need a miracle” and pointed out that the "general" definition of "religion" is any system of faith and worship. In this sense, religion comprehends the belief and worship of pagans and other beliefs, as well as of Christians; any religion consisting in the belief of a superior power or powers governing the world, and in the worship of such power or powers. Thus we speak of the religion of the "world religions" as well as of the Christian religion. We speak of false religion, as well as of true religion. As defined by Webster’s dictionary, the Christian Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of His will to mankind, in man's obligation to obey His commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountability to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to His will or commands, is not religion. Therefore, Christianity is not as much a general religion, as much as it is a genuine relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Psalm 3:8 “Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people.” 

The old saying goes, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. The true Christian religion is not about following religious traditions. Walking into a church doesn't make you a Christian, just the same as walking into a garage doesn't make you a car. It’s not about not being as bad as others or being better than others; forgiveness and redemption unto salvation is available by God to all sinners through Jesus. It’s is not about godly activities and good works, with no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Living out the Christian faith is not checking off items on a "Things-to-do-today" list. It’s not trading one religion for another, while lacking loving obedience to the Lord. This is not “The God Show” and if we have a non-repentant faith, then we are not on God’s side. Make no mistake: we all need the Divine guidance of God, but being a Christian is not what we do; it is who we are. 

Joshua 24:14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!”

Only a true relationship with God, not an empty general religious system, can get us there in a real relationship with Him. We should not expect much from God when we’re not in a authentic relationship with Him. We need to remember that we live in a fallen world and the Lord works on His timing. Sometimes, it will feel like we’re not getting anywhere … going around and around. But, it’s often when you are about to breakthrough, when you feel like quitting the most. It is said that it is the darkest before the dawn, and we can get frustrated with the obstacles and fast pace in life. The ends justify the means on the Highway to Heavens for our eternal perspective, but God’s plan is much bigger than that; we are here for a good and godly reason.  

Let's continue Pastor Kyle's message on 'The Miracle of God’s Highway to Heaven" on the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, May 20, 2016

Life's Uncertainties

John 14:5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”

Many times along life’s way we face uncertainties, opposition, and even doubt. When we do, it is helpful to recognize that those who lived with Christ when He was here on Earth faced the same perplexities. How many times do we see the twelve show that they are human in either thinking, saying or doing the wrong things. I read a devotion this week that highlighted Jesus’ answers and assurances to them in John 14 which are meant for us as well. I said it before: surveys of Christians show John 14 as the favor chapter of the Bible because it is packed, head to toe, with blessing after blessing.

 To start, “Let not your heart be troubled,” in John 14:1 is an emphatic command which could be rendered: “Don’t continue to be troubled.” The solution: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” We believe God can supply all the answers to our troubles. But Christ is God! He is “the solution”. He is “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6), and is the only solution, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Jesus Christ].”

“In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you. And …  I will come again, and receive you unto myself” (14:2-3). Whatever else may befall us, our destiny is sure. He has promised a place in the Father’s house. Jesus said He is “the truth.” “The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me” (14:10). Words and thoughts not in accordance with His are not “truth,” we can be sure of that.

How can those things be? “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (14:13). In a world of life’s uncertainties, when our heart’s desires are aligned with the Lord’s heart desires, then what we as ask in his name is what he wants for us, as Father God will be glorified in it … and that’s the goal all along. We can be certain of that.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pray Anyway

1 Samuel 12:23 “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

I read this week that “intercessory prayer” is not easy, especially if our prayers are not appreciated by those we pray for. Nevertheless, it is a type of prayer ministry that especially pleases the Lord, and that is more important than human gratitude. 

1 Timothy 2:1-2 “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” 

Paul would even urge prayer for the emperor, Nero, who had imprisoned him and would eventually have him put to death.

Even Jesus had said that we should “pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” in Matthew 5:44. The Lord Jesus is the greatest intercessor of all. Think about that: Jesus interceded (Romans 4:25) and continues to intercede for us today (Romans 8:34). For when we sin (and all sin is sin against the Lord), He is our “advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1), and in fact, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” - Hebrews 7:25.

Therefore, should we not also be prayer intercessors? Life is tough, but pray anyway. Intercede for others in prayer.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trust God

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

The American Motto is "In God We Trust". Just the very words asks each of us: In who or what are we putting our trust?

This American Motto is inscribed on every American coin as a reminder of where our trust truly stands. The history of the American Motto being added to our coins is that in the American Civil War era of 1861, a Baptist minister, the Rev. Mark R. Watkinson of Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, had written a letter to US Secretary Chase urging that provision be made for "the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins." Said Watkinson: "This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed." Clearly, Chase had taken this appeal to heart, for he specified the inclusion of some such inscription on the two-cent piece.

John 14:1 Jesus answered, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”
The motto asks the same question today ... "Where is your trust?" Our nation's trust is in God and our coins and paper currency reminds us. Now, its up to us to live out that faith and trust daily ... and to give our two-cents worth to others that "In God We Trust".

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Our Call to Influence

This week, Michael's question is, if our church could never meet again, would it make a difference in your family, your neighborhood, your community?  If we closed our doors today, would it make a difference in your culture and your society?  If the Holy Spirit left a lot of churches, would anyone notice?  We have been called to influence others for Christ and to make a difference – Matthew 28:18-20. God has called us as His Ambassadors ... to be on duty at our post in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation until the Lord releases us from our call of duty. 

Do we go to church just to fellowship with those of like-minded faith? God has called us to be good to one another, especially those of the household of faith. However, He has also called us to shine as lights in a world of darkness – Philippians 2:15.

Our prayer is, "God give me that which is my portion." According to Proverbs 30:8-9, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:  Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.”  Influencers, who because of this Christian ministry, have allowed God to help himself to their lives. People's lives are transformed by fellowship with other Christians who have decided to live in close proximity with Jesus Christ. 
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
Those who come to Christ must come to him with total abandonment of self and absolute trust in God. Jesus Christ died in our stead even while we were yet sinners.  For he who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him2 Corinthians 5:21. Without Christ, we cannot understand why bad things happen to good people. However, in the presence of Christ, the eyes of our understanding are enlightened that we may understand that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose - Romans 8:28

There has never been a time where ministry has been more urgently needed.  Ministering to men and women is training Christian soldiers to become the tip of the sword of the spirit, the Word of truth. It is training laborers for the harvest of God's people ... for the harvest is plenteous but the laborers are few – Matthew 9:37. Oswald Chambers wrote a book about spiritual leadership, where servant leaders are called to serve the Lord Christ from a heart of meekness, humility and love.

Our mission is to create an environment where the Holy Spirit can come help Himself to our lives. We make faith-based and not fear based decisions. We exist at God's pleasure to influence people of God to become just like Jesus Christ. The devil has sold most Christians a bill of goods that our Lord is a hard task master and that His love is contingent on our performance. On the contrary, Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest" – Matthew 11:28.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.”

We can never out give God. Our prayer is that we may endeavor to give to missions to minister in various ways to God's purposes.  As we reach out to others, God says "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again"- Luke 6:38. We're here to fan one another's flame that we may set ourselves on fire that others may come from miles around to watch us burn. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven!" – Matthew 5:16.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Amen

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

I just love Bible “Word” studies; digging into the root meaning of the utterances that we use all the time in our reading of Holy Scripture. Today I read that the word “Amen” is a most remarkable word. It is transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best-known word in human speech.

Psalm 72:19 “Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

The word is directly related—in fact, almost identical—to the Hebrew word for “believe” (aman), or “faithful.” Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When one believes God, he indicates his faith by an “amen.” When God makes a promise, the believer’s response is “amen” - “so it will be!” In the New Testament it is often translated “verily” or “truly.” When we pray according to His Word and His will, we know God will answer, so we close with an “amen,” and so also do we conclude a great hymn or anthem of praise and faith.

Jeremiah 28:6 He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill.”

The teaching points out that the word is even a title of Christ Himself. The last of His letters to the seven churches begins with a remarkable salutation by the glorified Lord: Revelation 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” We can be preeminently certain that His Word is always faithful and true because He is none other than the Creator of all things, and thus He is our eternal “Amen.”

Romans 11:36 “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

As our opening verse reminds us, every promise of God in Christ is “yes and amen,” as strong an affirmation of truth as can be expressed in the Greek language. It is, therefore, profoundly meaningful that the entire Bible closes with an “Amen”: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” - Revelation 22:21, assuring everyone who reads these words that the whole Bible is absolutely true and trustworthy. Amen! 

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Snow White Prayer

Philippians 4:6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Our youngest son and his family from Denver, Colorado have been visiting us this last week. One day, he turned on the TV for our grandson to watch Disney’s 1937 beloved classic movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. In the scene where the 7 dwarfs give up their beds for the Princess Snow White to sleep, she stops to say a prayer before turning in for the night. I thought: what a wonderful message for all the generations of children and their parents that watched this epic picture of the battle between good and evil, to see and hear that the Lord God Almighty in Heaven is worshiped, petitioned and praised. What a true blessing and a godly example for us all.

James 5:16b “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Proverbs 15:8b & 29B “The prayer of the upright is His delight. He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Romans 12:10-13 “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Miracle of Following Lord God

Romans 1:28-32 “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."

Pastor Kyle continues in our church’s “I need a Miracle” sermon series. He started out by telling us the importance of witnessing without fear the gospel of Jesus Christ for the advancement of the kingdom of Heaven, but warns that there is a point where “pushing people” becomes dishonoring.

1 Corinthians 3:6-8 “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.”

Hard to believe that in the planting of the seeds of the gospel message and watering, that pulling people from the very flame of Hell has a line, but there is choice for Christ at the foot of the cross that has to be made and we have to let them go at some point to find out for themselves. On the Highway to Hell, you have to take the off ramp for Heaven – Matthew 7:13-14. Decisions to follow Lord God, or the lack there of, have serious and eternal consequences. Bad choices in life can be great learning experiences that can lead to repentance and a U-turn to the Salvation Road via the Blessed Savior Jesus Christ in our Maker Father God’s roadmap to Heaven.

Romans 14:12 “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Taking responsibility of others bad choices is not your or my godly duty. We reflect the light and love of Christ to lead others to the Savior and Lord, but we are never to be a “enabler” allowing them to stay and be comfortable in their sin. Just as Jesus meets us all of us where we are as sinners but does not keep us where we are, the Child of God must expect to see “good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-21) to be produced and visible in the rescued. We all need to own our decisions. Sometimes, Christians need to push back and make hard decisions in order to have Atheists and Agnostics own their own decisions.

Daniel 2:21 “And He (God) changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.”

Pastor Kyle warns that one thing being off can cause the rest to go bad. When we encounter old problems and disturbed waters in life, try something proactive. Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We must fall into that trap while understanding that God is truly in charge and in control of the situation. To dishonor the authority that that the Lord puts in our life is to dishonor God.

In Matthew 5:37, Jesus says: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Never say one thing and mean another. All of us inevitably have issues with authority. Nobody has to teach disobedience in children. Parent teach boundaries and obedience based upon the Word, Will and Way of God. Sin is not some pet on a leash, but a monster that wants to devour us. Know that none of us can handle sin and messing with God catches up with us all.

God is offering redemption, restoration, recovery, reconciliation and rehabilitation in obedience and honor at the foot of the cross through Jesus Christ. Follow Lord God.

In Christ, Brian