Sunday, July 31, 2016

Death Swallowed Up

1 Corinthians 15:55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

I’ve often heard that the best time to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ is at a funeral because it’s not hard for people to examine and take an account of their life when death is lying right in front of them. Any other time, it’s socially uncomfortable to talk about death in a world that focus’ on life and living. But, “Where will I go when I die?” and “How do I get to God’s heaven?” are natural questions that come to mind, when there is a loss of a loved one. Pastor Kennedy explains that as Christians need to know that the great specter of death, which has always clouded the horizon, has vanquished. Strange how our culture is obsessed with gruesome “Slasher” and horrifically violent movies, not to mention real terrorist,  bringing death to our world community almost weekly, yet our personal end is not to cross our mind. All of our might and wisdom, all of our cunningness and power have been to no avail before the invincible might of death. Adam and Eve brought this dark fiend of mankind into the world, but it was against this heartless monster that God commissioned His Son.

John 3:16 16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” (GNT)

Jesus Christ gave Himself up into mortal combat with death and tasted death for every man, woman and child on earth. The Word of God tells us that He laid down His life for us. Due to our Sin, Jesus paid a price that He did not owe, because we owed a price that we could not pay. What was that price? Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ allowed Himself to be bound in the grave in order that He might “break the bands of death.”

Psalm 107:14 “He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces.”

By His substitutionary death, He undermined the power and foundation of the grave. From Him was lit an everlasting light in the tomb. The king of terrors, Death, had his crown snatched away, and Christ arose triumphant over the grave. We read in Revelation 20:10, 13-14 “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” As Christians, we should rejoice. We know the end.

John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

The whole world over, people lack hope when it comes to death. But that is not true when it comes to Christians … when we go “down”, we go “up”, (meaning that when our life on earth ends, we go to heaven to spend eternity with the Lord)! We who trust in the great Prince of Life need no longer to fear death. In light of Christ’s resurrection, death has been swallowed up in victory.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Knowledge of the Truth

1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 

Continuing in the exciting study of biblical words and phrases, we come to the term: “The Truth”. The phrase “the truth,” referring to a certain vital body of doctrine, is found often in the New Testament, and the passage quoted above is one of the most important, indicating as it does that fully understanding “the truth” is equivalent to being saved. 

1 Timothy 2:5-7 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul explains: I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Did you catch that? The church body of Believers is called “the pillar and ground of the truth”.

1 Timothy 4:1-3 says: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” So, an attitude of thanksgiving is proper for those who “believe and know the truth”. On the other hand, in 1 Timothy 6:3-5 Paul teaches that “some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” So, those false teachers who teach with selfish motives are “destitute of the truth”.

2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

In the second epistle, Paul urges believers to be diligent in studying the Scriptures, because they constitute “the word of truth” -2 Timothy 2:15. I sure agree with that! Then he warns of teachers “who concerning the truth have erred,” teaching false doctrine and destroying the faith of some). Those who are faithful teachers, however, are exhorted to help the unsaved come to “repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (v. 25). Then, in his prophetic description of the humanist teachers of the last days, Paul says they will be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”. This is because they “resist the truth” and “turn away their ears from the truth”. Thus, “the truth” always emphasizes its vital importance in salvation and the Christian life. Most of all, the Lord Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the true knowledge of "the truth".

John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

In Christ, Brian

Friday, July 29, 2016

Love One Another

1 Thessalonians 4:9 “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.”

One thing I love in reading and studying the Bible is a good “word study” of Scripture for the full meaning of the original text by the inspired writer. That’s what we find in the Bible passage above. The Christian life involves both individual accountability and interpersonal involvement. Each of us is individually responsible for maintaining the right sort of relationship to others, especially others in our Christian fellowship.

A word study that I read on this text speaks of the beautiful Greek word is “allelon”, often translated “one another.” For example, we are commanded: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” - Ephesians 4:32.  Furthermore, we are to “be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility” - (1Peter 5:5), be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” – (Romans 12:10).

Galatians 5:13 “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

The study states that there are many other such instructions, all built around the beautiful phrase “one another.” We are also to “exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” - Hebrews 3:13 and to “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” – Hebrews 10:24. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” – 1 Peter 4:9. We are told: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” – Galatians 6:2.

The study goes on to tell us that in times of sorrow, Christians are directed to “comfort one another with these words” - 1 Thessalonians 4:18. Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 and “pray one for another” – James 5:16. But by far the most frequently repeated admonition is that in our text: “Love one another!” There are no less than 15 times where this command is given in the New Testament. Most significantly of all, it is Christ’s own “new commandment” … “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one another” – John 13:34-35.

Allelon”, its a beautiful Greek word. I pray that this “Word Study” was a blessing to you. 
Love one another.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Holy Door Mats

This week, Michael writes that Christians should be doormats. 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.  A door mat is a mat that people use to wipe the bottom of their shoes to clean them off.  Jesus Christ has washed us and cleansed us from all unrighteousness for He who knew no sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.  Before salvation, we were clothed in the filthy rags of our carnal nature and lived in the muck and mire of this world.  We were dead in trespasses and sin.  According to 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” We are now clothed in his righteous robes of our new spiritual nature of life in Christ.

Jesus said, don't resist the evil person...if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek. A slap on the cheek is a sign of humiliation and shame. When we walk in love our "shame is undone." To turn the other cheek is to approach God with a humble and a contrite heart. Only then can we pray as Jesus did, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." As Paul said, "for I am not ashamed of the gospel of the cross, for it is unto those who are saved the sweet fragrance of life unto life.  Therefore, love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you and despitefully use you.”  Pray that God will bless them. This is not a "sacrifice."  This is a joy and a privilege to love with the love of God with a heart of humility.

We're in a battle that we need to win.  What is winning according to God's economy?  Love Wins. Loving kindness and tender mercy is the nature of God himself. The winning is against our human nature's selfish desire to be the center of our own universe.  Winning is obedience to the first and great commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength. The battle belongs to the Lord, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness from above.

Anyone without the Holy Spirit cannot understand the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. The nature of love is the nature of the spirit of God, in Christ, in me.  Jesus posed the question to Peter, "Do you really love me?" Obedience to the Word of God is easy if done with the love of God as the motive behind the action. Those who love the Lord, "live to do the master's will." A bond slave whose motivation is love says, "thy wish is my command."  However, if we approach God with a heart of vengeance and retribution in order to exact our "just rewards" from those who have wronged us, then we're not approaching the true God, we're approaching the god of this world, who has blinded the eyes of those who have been deceived. The world teaches that winning is to "get even" with those who have treated us unjustly. However, according to Romans 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” If we seek vengeance, we are usurping God's authority for He alone is the righteous judge.

To focus on the Love of God, we must set aside our selfish focus on self. We must relinquish our attitude that says "I've been wronged." God said that "my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." In order to enter into the presence of our Lord, we must see according to His heavenly perspective. Jesus reminded us that in this world, we will be treated unfairly. The freedom is in forgiveness ... in setting the captives free, only to find that the prisoner was me. Jesus said, "bless them who persecute you and despitefully use you, for great is your reward in heaven.”

If you don't hate your selfish life, Jesus said, you can't be my disciple. The unforgiving heart does not know the heart of God, who forgave us all our iniquities. Jesus said that anyone who gave up their homes and families to serve me will receive a hundred times what they left in order to follow me. Therefore Paul said, "for me to live is Christ and to die is gain."  The reward is now and in eternity. The commitment to which Jesus has called us is to follow him ... to die unto self to find the joy in forsaking all to follow Him alone. The answer to God's call is not to say "I will," but to answer by following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, If you continue in my Word, Then shall you be my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guard Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”

I read a thought-provoking “Word Study” on Proverbs 4:23. The Hebrew word "nasar", here translated “keep,” carries the strong idea of protection or guarding. It is used 10 times in Psalm 119 to stress the necessity of “keeping” (guarding, protecting) the various kinds of instructions in God’s Word: “testimonies, statutes, laws, precepts, and commandments.” Everything written down by God is worth guarding. The importance of guarding our hearts is emphasized since it is the source for the “issues of life.” Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” - Luke 6:45. Our “heart” is indeed the key to much in our life. It is no wonder that the first commandment of all is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” - Mark 12:30.

Here are a few important principles that we must guard if our hearts are to produce the good “issues of life.”
·         If we seek God with all our hearts, we will find Him.
·         We must believe with our hearts if we are to be saved. 
·         If we hold on to iniquity in our hearts, God will not hear our prayers. 
·         If our hearts do not condemn us, then we will have confidence with God.

Psalm 15:2 “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart” will live forever with the Lord of heaven and earth. 

Guard your heart.
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For the Love of Money

Mark 10:20-22 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Have you heard the old saying: It’s okay to have nice things; it’s not okay for nice things to have you. But, who cannot forget Tevye from the play and movie “Fiddler on the Roof" singing, “If I were a Rich Man” or Madonna’s 1985 hit about a “Material Girl” living in a material world, who craves the finer things in life and will manipulate anybody to get them. How about Callaway’s 1989 hit: “I wanna be Rich”, the O’Jays 1974 hit: “For the Love of Money”, or Pink Floyd’s 1973 Dark Side of the Moon hit: “Money”. Pastor Jon Payne asks: What instruction, wisdom and warning does God’s Word provide concerning temporal riches? We must go to the Holy scriptures, the wellspring of truth and wisdom. Without the anchor of God’s objective truth, we will be tossed about by the winds and waves of the materialistic secular world. Contrary to popular belief, the one with the most at the end does not win.

Matthew 13:22-23 “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Christians who are seeking to cultivate godly contentment and a right perspective on earthly possessions face a real and ongoing challenge. I wrote before about my junior high school teacher who taught us about the intentional deception in advertising to create a desire and preserved need. Everywhere we turn, a barrage of ads and commercials that seek to capture our attention by communicating the alleged need for more stuff. God’s first of ten Commandments is to have no other god’s, but the One true God, and the last Commandment is to not covet - to desire inordinately. The two Commandments are bound together in idolatry – an insidious idolizing crave that willfully supplants the Lord God in the heart to the cares of this world, bows down to worship it and what it can do for us here and now. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24 that “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.

1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

To have wealth is not inherently wrong. The Bible teaches that God is the sovereign Giver and primary cause of all earthly possessions. Even our talents and skills are gifts from our Heavenly Father. Pastor Jon counsels to, first, be sure to honor the Lord with our wealth as a cheerful and generous steward of our gifts and glorify God in our use of them. Second, be sure to make God your joy and portion, and not earthly possessions. God must be the supreme treasure of our hearts and the chief object of our affection. Thomas Brooks writes; “No more will any earthly portion suit the immortal soul. All the soul needs is found in God.” Therefore, if we are to foster  a godly perspective on having and wanting, the Lord must be the joy and portion of our hearts, and not the temporal treasures of this passing age. The Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” Third, be sure to always remember the ultimate vanity of earthly riches. Earthly riches can never truly satisfy, nor do they last. Eternity counts and where you spend eternity matters.

Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.”

Hold your wealth with an open hand and have a light hand on your possessions, but cling to Jesus. Make Christ the glorious Treasure, chief Joy, and blessed Inheritance of your heart.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, July 25, 2016

God’s Amazing Trees

Job 14:7-14 “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, And its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant. But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. ‘Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me!’ If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes.”

This week, our Wednesday night Topical Bible Study is on the wonder of the tree; this mostly forgotten and taken-for-granted creation of God, that without in the world would mean the end of life as we know it. Genesis 1:31 tells us: “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” From this we understand that God cares for, rejoices over, is good to, and loves what He has created. When we enter the woods or merely rest in the shade of a majestic tree, do we sense God’s pleasure in the works of God in the creation? Do we consider the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ and His infinite joy, kindness and graciousness? Do we see His love and purity; the shadows of His beauty and loveliness, full of benevolent design? All reveal the wisdom of their Maker. Glory to the one Lord; praise to the great Designer. Many today fail to distinguish between the tree and the tree’s Creator. When we walk into a forest, we are properly awed. Wherever His work is being faithfully carried out, wherever His will is honored and respected, wherever praise is flowing forth in honor of the Creator, there indeed is a cathedral.

“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest, against the earth's sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray.” – Joyce Kilmer

Trees are the largest, tallest and oldest living things on the planet, but perhaps more impressive is the work that all trees accomplish and the benefits they provide for the remainder of the earth’s biosphere. Here is a list of some of the things that trees do for us: (1) Produce and provide oxygen, (2) Moderate global temperatures, (3) Enhance Rainfall, (4) Collect and absorb dust and other atmospheric pollutants, (5) Produce and protect healthy soil, (6) Provide food – like fruits and nuts, (7) Provide shelter for animals, birds and insects, (8) Provide medical and healing products, (9) Provide building produces, (10) Provide paper products, (11) Provide wood for furniture, bowls, toys, handles, etc.(12) Provide fuel for cooking, heat and campfires, (13) provide a living fence to break drifting sand and snow, (14) Provide sensory stimulation of beauty for sight, fragrances of smell, fruit for taste, leaves rustling in the wind for hearing, wood products and bark for touch, (15) Produces shade, (16) produces privacy, (17) Produces watershed (18) Produces a sense of rootedness in landscape and landscaping. One of the joys of examining the book of God’s Works in nature is discovering the evidence of the Creator’s unmatched intelligent grand design and incredible ingenuity in reducible complexity in the miracle of the tree and this amazing living machine’s function. The forest is a integral component of the earth’s biosphere system.

Romans 1:20-25 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

God, who made, owns, and loves what He created, has in His love permitted people to manage and us the material creation. He is the Landlord; we are the caretakers/stewards that oversee the production, distribution and consumption on the Lord’s estate. We are to “tend” (to till, work, serve) and “keep” (have charge of, guard, save life, protect, preserve and celebrate) this garden called “Earth”. We are to have a balanced and healthy attitude towards nature, arising from the truth of its creation by God. The care and love of God for Hid creation is reflected in all that He has made. And the world around us also witnesses to a God who cares not only for us but for all that He made and called “good”.

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.                                                               
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 24, 2016

I get it

Image result for Matthew 6:19 jpg

C.S. Lewis said it well: “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Ensure that you are living for eternity, not just for today. Existentialism (living the life/living for the day) offer empty promises of joy and happiness that lead directly to short-sighted affluence. Pastor Challies explains that we need to understand that we are not the owner of our wealth but only the steward of it. Do you own your possessions and life or does God? Do our possessions and lifestyle own us or does God own us and dictate our lifestyle by His holy Word? The Lord intends for us to use our affluence in all areas responsibly in the knowledge that He will call us to account for the talents that He has given; where we desire to hear the words of Matthew 25:23, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” Use the loving provisions of God with a view of eternity.

Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Jesus said in Luke 12:15, Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” We are not to build “bigger barns” – Luke 12:13-21. Whatever we acquire here will be left here. You can’t take it with you when you go. There are no U-Haul trailers hooked to the back of a Hearse going to the cemetery. But, whatever we invest in God’s cause will endure for all eternity. From an eternal perspective, we see that affluence and wealth in all areas of our lives is meaningless if it is not directed to those purposes that last forever. Any affluence and wealth of living from God that we receive is meant to be a blessing, not a curse. Our wealth of God provision is meant to be a joyful responsibility that frees us to do good to others and bring glory to God.  

Ecclesiastes 5:10 “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.”

Pastor Challies explains that there is nothing wrong with the provisional affluence that the Lord proves us, but we can turn good into bad when we shift our allegiance from the One who gives the gift to the gift itself. We can have distorted thinking that our possessions and life-style promises contentment but in reality deliver only emptiness. That our wealth of life promises joy but delivers only obsession. That our abundance promises freedom but delivers only captivity ... just a little more. It really gets down to covetousness. But when we flee that affluence-based greed, we are able to enjoy the Giver through the gifts which He provides to us. We are able to invest our provisions from God in the only cause that endures forever. That is true love, joy, peace and contentment.

In Christ, Brian 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I want it


Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

The second common symptom is Self-dependence. Pastor Challies asks: “Why would we pray to God for our daily bread when we have plenty of finances and resources to get all we want?” “Why pray to God to give us wisdom when we can already see the fruit of our hard work and good decisions?” Self-dependence manifests especially in prayerlessness. Proverbs 30:8-9 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
The third symptom of affluence-center greed is ingratitude. The bible makes it clear that all the good we enjoy is a gift from God. The Bible is equally clear that we are to return thanks to God, gratefully and specifically, for each one of those good gifts. Pastor Challies asks: “Why should we give thanks to God when we are the one who has worked so hard for what we have?” Do we believe James 1:17?  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” When we look around us, do we miss the amazing provision and beauty that surrounds us daily, and forget the Creator of us and it all?

Mark 10:23-27 Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Well, God is in the restoration business of his creation and the power of God to heal you and I is far greater than the power of affluence caused greed to distract and destroy us. Overcoming greed begins with our owning and identifying that sin before God. Overcoming first requires confession. Confession that we have too often have preferred the gifts to the gift-Giver. Prepare to do battle with this sin of greed because the Bible tells us that there are always two parts to overcoming it. First, we must put an end to patterns of sin. Second, we must replace those old, evil in the sight of God patterns with new holy ones. Greed is not addressed through poverty or frugality, but through generosity. Have some time to share with someone in needs.

Ephesians 5:15-17 “ See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Let's finish this great message on "contentment" tomorrow's post.
In Christ, Brian

Friday, July 22, 2016

I see it

Luke 12:27-28 “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Our pursuits of happiness this side of eternity can be easily distracted, causing out-of-balance along wrong paths, missing the contentment that our hearts desire and maybe severe derailed as we look in all the wrong places. Pastor Tim Challies writes how the lily is here today and gone tomorrow, so fleeting and commonplace that we can overlook its intricate beauty and fail to acknowledge the glory of the Creator God who made and sustains it. Is it possible that we have grown so accustomed to our affluence that we have lost the wonder of it too? Is it possible that our prosperity distracts us, blinds us with blinders, and harms us even as it blesses us?  Are we looking for contentment in all the wrong places and missing what the Lord has provided for us, all around us? We can easily take the provisions beyond their intended purpose. And it is not mere money either that we enjoy in such abundance, but wealth also includes comforts, life-style, influence and more ... what I want / when I want - greed.

1 Timothy 6:6-9,11 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

Pastor Challies states that affluence-based greed is a spiritual disease that is ravaging the modern world. It is similar to every other disease in that we can accurately diagnose it by its telltale symptoms. First, the most common symptom is discontentment. Just think about Adam and Eve. They had the whole world before them, that is, but for one little tree. And somehow they determined that they could not possibly be content unless they had the fruit from that tree. Like Adam and Eve, we can have great abundance and still feel empty because we do not have more or have it all. Multi-billionaire John D. Rockefeller was once asked: “How much money is enough?” He replies: “Just a bit more.” I had a friend that was discontented with his life, then he’d get something new and be satisfied, but shortly he’s become discontented again. A co-worker of mine was always looking for the latest thrill or trend. He told me that in his life: I see it, I want it, I get it. There will away be a bit more to get, another dollar, another gadget, another upgrade, another outing – joy is always as close as tomorrow, but that far away too. It is a life of chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 2:26 “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

Let's continue this important message on Contentment on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Overcome Evil with Good – Part 2 - Turn the Other Cheek

Romans 12:9-21 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 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. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

According to Oswald Chambers, Matthew 5:39-48 says that when you are mistreated and someone slaps you, turn the other cheek. These verses reveal the humiliation of being a Christian ... to obey Him in everything He taught. Retaliation from a heart of vengeance and retribution is the natural response of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam. However, turning the other cheek this is the response of Christ in you. When you are insulted, make it an occasion to manifest the love of God. When you've been cheated, count it all joy because this is the disposition of Christ himself. You cannot imitate the disposition of Jesus ... either you have it or you don't. 

Turn The Other Cheek Picture by Phenenas - Inspiring Photo

To commit yourself to be God's ambassador, put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ ... clothed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. Therefore, bless them that persecute you and despitefully use you, bless and curse not, for great is your reward in heaven – Luke 6:28. Others are not your enemy. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness from above. Humiliation is an opportunity and an occasion to show the love of God in manifestation. To insist on my "human rights" is to insult the Son of God. However, turning the other cheek proves that humility is the response of Christ in me. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ...for it is the power of God unto salvation – Romans 1:16. To those who are “born again”, it is the sweet spelling savor of life unto life. Fighting the fire of evil with evil fire in return is not the solution.  Recompense to no man evil for evil – Romans 12:17

Fight evil hatred with the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation. Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good – Romans 12:21.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Overcome Evil with Good – Part 1 – The Devil’s Duty

2 Corinthians 2:14 “ Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

The week Michael writes that spiritual warfare is raging around us like never before.  Although there have always been wars, rumors of wars and cultures that rise and fall, we're living unprecedented times. The events unfolding in the world today have never happened before. The Culture and the world that we've known is disintegrating before our eyes. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and dominion, against spiritual wickedness from on high Ephesians 6:12.  When a nation turns its back on God and His Word, the Evil One will have his way. Like Israel who said, “We don't want God as our sovereign Lord, we want an earthly King”, the United States has been deceived by the devil, the "god of this world." According to 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” The Devil is the Evil One, the "prince of the power of the air, the power that is now at work in the children of disobedience” – Ephesians 2:2.  However, blessed is the nation whose God the Lord is. 

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

The devil has no new strategy. He is the deceiver, a liar and the father of lies. His purpose is to steal, to kill and to destroy – John 10:10.There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes 1:9. There are many manifestations of “the evil one” in the spiritual warfare in this world. When the culture of "moral relativism" calls evil good and good evil, the culture will crumble before our eyes. However, what men meant for evil God meant for goodGenesis 50:20. God uses the brokenness of individuals and of nations in order to bring the nation to its knees. We must be broken before we can repent and turn from our evil ways unto the Lord. The devil's duty is to tear down.  However, God's purpose is to build up. God's purpose is to "pick up the threads of broken hearts and weave them together again." He is a God of reconciliation ... to build up, to edify and to comfort those in need of renovation and reconstruction.

You're most like those with whom you spend most of your time. With whom do you associate at work, in church, in your community? Who are your three and who are your twelve?  We need to surround ourselves with people of God who make faith-based and not fear-based decisions. Our pursuit is to "choke in the dust" of those who are chasing after our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let's continue Michael's message on Overcoming evil with good on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Truly & Perfectly Human – Part 2 - Paid in Full

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Pastor Sproul continues that Christ’s sinlessness is vindicated most powerfully in His resurrection. The penalty of sin, biblically speaking, is death. But, it was impossible for death to hold Him. Acts 2:24 “Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Why? Since Jesus was guilty of no personal sin, death had no rightful claim over Him. He bore our sin and guilt, and that is why He died; but once our debt of sin was cancelled, there was nothing left to keep Him buried. In John 19:30 from the Cross Jesus said, “tetelestai”, when is a accounting term which means that a debt has been paid in full - It is finished! And Jesus gave up His spirit, laying down His life to pay for ours. When we confess the sinlessness of Jesus Christ, we are not confessing merely that Jesus is a good man, nor a very good man, nor the best man who has ever lived. We are confessing  that Jesus is the perfect man; the only man able to be the (propitiation) sacrifice that satisfied the requirements of the law and acceptable to God.

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book titled “Mere Christianity”: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 Only a bad man would claim to be perfect if he was not perfect. To be equal with the Creator Father, to be sent from God, to be the Savior of the world. He is either the perfect man or He’s not a good man. Christ, who is God incarnate, is full God and Fully man. Jesus Christ is not only truly human, He is perfectly human.

1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

In Christ, Brian

Monday, July 18, 2016

Truly & Perfectly Human – Part 1 – Fully God / Fully man

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I read an article by Pastor Robert Charles Sproul about how much has been written about the deity of Christ, and that is both good, proper and necessary as many people deny that Jesus is the Son of God incarnate. But, this emphasis on Christ’s deity has lead to imbalance in our doctrinal teaching of His humanity. If Jesus was only God and not truly man, He could not be the Savior of the world, fulfilling all righteousness, and taking upon Himself all the obligations of God’s law that must be fulfilled for us to receive salvation and life eternal.

Hebrews 2:14 “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”

Pastor Sproul explains that Jesus Christ embodied all basic characteristics of humanity. He is born, walks, He talks, He eats, He drinks, He cries, He gets tired, and He manifests every human emotion and every dimension of the physical aspect of mankind. There’s a full identification of Jesus with humanity, except with respect to one vital distinction: the moral distinction. Jesus was without sin. Christ perfectly obeys the Father Creator God, we don’t. Christ’s sinlessness is vital to the biblical understanding of His sacrificial death and redemption. If Jesus is to be our mediator, if he is to be our blessed redeemer, it’s essential that He be sinless. The High Priest of Israel would annually go into the Holy of Holies to first make a sacrifice with the blood of a perfect and innocent lamb without blemish for his own sins, then be able to make the sacrifice for the sins of the people for that year. How could Jesus’ atoning life have any significance if He committed even one sin? He would have to pay for His own sin. He’s called the lamb without blemish because His perfection is integral to His redemptive role as the mediator who offers up a perfect sacrifice (once and for all) to our Heavenly Father to fulfill the old covenant and satisfy the wrath of God against sin.

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

Not only does Christ take what is ours, namely the punishment for sin, but through imputation He gives to Believers (those who are in Him by faith alone) the inheritance He receives for His perfect obedience and we are reconciled to Father God. If there’s anything that binds us together in common humanity and true of all people of all races, it is that we fall short of and transgress our own standards and laws, not to mention the laws of God. Nobody is perfect and there is not anything more common to humanity than sin. But Christ’s entire life was marked by sinlessness. So, how could a sinless Christ be truly human if sinlessness violates what is common to human behavior? But, is sinfulness intrinsic to true humanity. We can only answer in the negative. Everything in Scripture says about human beings and sin suggests that men and women, as originally created, were without sin but nevertheless truly human.  

Genesis 1:26-27, 31 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Sin isn’t a necessary attribute of true humanity; it is a foreign intrusion into humanity as created by God. 

Let's continue this message on the humanity of Jesus Christ tomorrow.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Let's Try God’s Plan – Part 2 – the Church

Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”

Continuing Pastor Willie Nolte's message: The Gospel, as delivered by and lived out through the church, literally changed the world! Jesus brought and dropped the church into a completely “Godless” world and the world was changed by Christianity. Time is literally measured by the Savior of the World. Our citizenship is in Heaven, but we are called to stay and be “on mission” for the lost. But, in America today, the church is in trouble. Why? Because the American church is not on God’s mission to seek and save the lost. If a church or Christian can exist without being noticed or anyone knowing, then they are not on mission. 80% of churches in America are in decline. The un-church, the de-churched and the ex-churched combined would equal the fourth largest nation in the world. But, what should a church do? Make mission-driven decisions and take off the shelf the things that keep people away from church …get back on mission. There are people who are lost and trying, but are separated by sin. In their hearts, they know that something is missing ... it’s that Christ-shaped hole in their life. God is on mission to make pathways home to find their way.

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Like in the new Disney movie “Finding Dory:, start laying out shells that lead people home. Shine light and season people with the spice of life in Christ. Light dispels darkness completely. Just go into a cavern where no light can reach to where you cannot see your hand in front of your face, but strike one match and the whole room is lite for all to see. Live, think and teach to be light in a dark world of sin and unbelief and watch what happens. Be likes stars in universe holding out the Word of Life. Practice grace and mercy. Invest and invite. Ask others to come see what it is all about for themselves. Focus not on people in church, but the church in the people. We are a part of this neighborhood and community and want to make a difference. But, be very clear about salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Pray for personal revival; that people are led to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ for sin forgiven and lives changed today, and eternity in Heaven tomorrow.

In Christ, Brian