Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Declaration of Dependence – Part 1 - God's Righteous Standard

Learning Everyday Dependency With Jesus - Tiny Mathew

This week Michael writes: The distinctive about Christianity is that there is no discrimination according to God's righteous standard. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. For the Will of God is that all would be saved and come unto the knowledge of the Truth. Although there is discrimination and exclusion in the world, God is no respecter of persons. He is, however, a respecter of His holy Word. The condition is that we approach the throne of grace on His terms, not ours. His terms are according to His righteous Word. We are Christ-centered, faith-based and grace-driven. The sacred Word of God is our sole source of truth and practice, for Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the father but by me.”

History provides evidence that America was founded as a Christian nation. Our nation is unique in that it was formed, not by a specific ethnic heritage or geographic territory, but upon an ideal enshrined in our nation's founding documents; The Declaration of Independence. That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.  That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, resulting from virtue. These are ideals based upon the Word of God.  Freedom to worship God according to the dictates of the heart (of Christ in us) is the foundation of our great nation. The Declaration of Independence was actually our nation's "Declaration of Dependence" on Almighty God. As the Founding Fathers signed with unwavering hand: "unto these ends, in firm reliance upon divine Providence, we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." The Founders understood the "Puritan" doctrine of divine Providence. It means that our Lord God Jehovah will provide. That all I have needed thy hand hath provided. They understood that "blessed is the nation whose strength the Lord is."

Nations rise and fall. The vicious cycle of the rise and fall of worldly empires continues according to the Word. When the spirit of unbelief pervades a nation and the nation rebels against God's righteous standard, the fall is inevitable. When a nation turns its heart against God's prophets that speak on behalf of God, He will respect the standards of his Word, for God is no respecter of persons. Today we are engaged in a cultural war that has caused great division in our nation. America has been decoupled from her Christian heritage. The root cause is “spiritual warfare”, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the powers of spiritual darkness, against spiritual wickedness from on high.  Our prayer is not that God is on our side, but rather that we are on God's side.  The prayer of a righteous man is not God, take sides, but rather, God take over. 

As Christians, our times are in His Almighty hands.  We may be citizens of the United States, however, as sons and daughters of God, we hold dual citizenship. According to Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ:” As citizens of heaven, Peter said, “We are an holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people for his own possession.”  As American citizens, we lament not because of the results of man's election, rather we rejoice because we are the results of God's election.

Let's continue Michael's message on "Dependence on God" on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Know God – the Fulfillment of Your Heart’s Desire

John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

Do you yearn to know God? Do you long for special relationship with the Father, the ultimate knowing that comes from interacting with Him as His child? I read lately that the new Testament says that we should “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. But how do we get to know God better? First, we spend time with Him. In Psalm 46 we read, “Be still and know that I am God.” Yet achieving this stillness is difficult. Noise and diversion constantly bombard us. But if we want to know Him better, we have to discipline ourselves to carve out quiet time and space to be with God. And as we fall silent, we can hear God speak to us about His nature.

Jeremiah 29:13 ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Second, we also grow closer to God by obeying His commands. We can’t grow closer to Christ while knowingly living in disobedience. If you and I want to know Him, obey Him in everything. Third, we also learn more about God by loving Him. The Bible says, “Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God … for God is love” – 1 John 4:7-8. Christ laid down His life on the cross for us, and in return we need to love Him sacrificially, laying down our lives for God, submitting our will for His glory. As we do this, we discover more about God’s sovereignty and love.  

Does you soul pant for a more intimate relationship with God? Then spend time with Him this very moment, in His holy Word or in a quiet place. Choose to live obediently, and focus your love on Him. Do so, and you’ll come to know Him who loves you with a love far beyond anything humans can offer. You’ll find the fulfillment of your heart’s desire.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sitting at the Right Hand of God

Psalm 110:1 The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

Over the weekend, I read a great little study that linked an old testament passage to the new testament gospel. It taught that the 110th Psalm is one of the most significant of the so-called Messianic Psalms, prophesying of Christ a thousand years before He came. Its very first verse should completely settle the question as to whether or not the Old Testament teaches that there is only one person in the Godhead since it recounts an actual conversation between at least two Persons of the Godhead. This first verse is quoted, in whole or in part, at least five times in the New Testament and was even used by Christ Himself (in Matthew 22:41-46) to prove His own deity.

Two of the Hebrew names for God are used: “Jehovah said unto Adonai”. The name Jehovah is used again in verses 2-4, and Adonai in verse 5. God, in the person of Adonai (God the Son), has gone to Earth on a divine mission to save His people but has been repudiated  and renounced by His enemies on Earth. Accordingly, God the Father, in the person of Jehovah, invites Him back to heaven for a time, where He will be at His right hand until it is time for Him to return to Earth to rule, striking through all opposing “kings in the day of his wrath”. Now, that aligns with the gospel story.

Psalm 110:3-4 “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

In this coming “day of thy power”, “thy people shall be willing.” The word here is actually the word for “free will offerings.” They will be as priests offering their own lives to Him as freewill offerings when they finally recognize Him as their Messiah/King and eternal High Priest.

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service.”

Now, although this prophecy applies specifically to the second coming and the future conversion of Israel, there is a beautiful secondary application used in Scripture for His people right now. “Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God” – Colossians 3:1.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Good Gone Bad

Romans 3:21-26 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Pastor Kyle continued through his Sunday sermon series on the book of Genesis, and he reminded us that one of the times which we are most vulnerable to spiritual attack is during or just after a significant ministry victory. This fact is not new, as the Bible, which shows the depth of human depravity attests. Nobody is perfect, except for the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is that? Two reasons: (1) Jesus (who is God incarnate) said in Mark 10:18: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” and (2) because man is not the hero of this story; God is. History is His story. Two things I know for sure: (1) there is a God and (2) I am not Him. Could you imagine if prideful, sinful man was in charge? In their greed and lust for power, position and prosperity, some make a bad situation worse by exposing others behavioral failures and shortcomings in order to advance their self. But, deeds done in darkness shall be revealed with consequences.

Luke 8:17 “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.”

Kyle mentions how all the Patriarchs of the Bible demonstrated their human flaws and imperfections. In Genesis 9:20-21, after the worldwide flood destroyed the world, Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine, drink until drunk while naked. Getting intoxicated is not God’s desire because substances are not to control or influence us, God is at all times. Any item outside of the Holy Spirit can lead to sin and their associated pitfalls. Even though a secular state may vote to legalize mind-altering substances for recreational use, Christians should live by a higher calling and steer clear of such vices and walk obediently in the Spirit. Everyone has sin they hope to keep hidden, but when we appear at the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), the books are opened and all are judged by Jesus according to their works on earth. Every secret will be revealed. “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.Sin must be paid for.

But, everyone is offered redemption for bad choices made on this side of Heaven in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 11:6 tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” John 3:16 tells us: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Good gone bad can go good again.

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Joy in Christ

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

I read a pastor’s comments how It grieves him that the world has believed the lie that God is mean and narrow, a killjoy who thwarts our happiness. Even many Christians have succumbed to this lie. Many walk around with sad countenances and sorrowful attitudes.

He explained how God originally planned for our lives to be full of joy and free from sorrow. In the beginning, God created a man and a woman, and placed the in the Garden of Eden. Eden” is a Hebrew word transliterated as “a garden of delight, a garden of pleasure.” I didn’t know that. At the beginning, God created a garden of delight and pleasure and put Adam & Eve there so that humankind might share His joy.

Our focus is too much on ourselves and where we believe joy comes from (people, places and things that we want), and not enough on what God has really done for us all. Though humankind disobeyed God, bringing sin and sorrow into the world, God didn’t give up on His plan of Salvation for us. Instead, He gave His Son so that we might have another chance to live joyfully again. Through His life, Jesus showed us the meaning of joy.

He stated that while the Bible never says that Jesus laughed, we can surmise that He did. Furthermore, Jesus wept in our place because He took on our sin and our guilt, and His sorrow became our joy. The joy of our forgiveness, redemption and salvation. The shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus Wept”. The second shortest is “Rejoice evermore.” Did you know that? Jesus wept on our behalf so that we might experience His joy, the joy that God bestows on us. Jesus said, “I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” – John 15:11.

Through His sacrifice, Jesus has made joy available to all the world. Can the people around you see Christ’s joy in you? If they do, they’ll want some of it and that would change the world. So allow God to instill a joyful attitude in you, whatever the challenges you face. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and something that everyone seeks. 

Joy, in Christ, Brian

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving by Thanks Living: Thankfulness: In everything give thanks.

We need not lament that our culture is turning to the gospel of the times rather than the gospel of eternity.  God is still in control.  Nothing happens without his permission.  There are no co-incidences, there are only God incidences.

This is the time of year when even secular men and women turn their hearts toward their fellow man ... when we take time as Americans to "be thankful unto Him," to count our material blessings and to seek to give of our material abundance to help those who are in physical need.  As the scripture says, "You refreshed your weary people and from your bounty you provided for the poor."  Jesus Christ said that "in that thou hath done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  We as Americans, have been blessed abundantly in the physical realm and we, as Christians, have been blessed in the spiritual realm.  As we seek to bless those in physical need, we allow God to honor our giving by blessing us in return.

God's heart is always inclined toward the poor:  it starts with those poor in spirit ... poverty manifests itself in physical need. Jesus came to minister to those who were poor in spirit.  They must come to him with empty hands, so that God through Jesus Christ can fill their lives with his Spirit.  God gives spiritually and empowers his people so that they can appropriate His power in their lives to will and to do of His good pleasure.

He chose us before we chose Him.  He gave us an open invitation empowering us to seek Him before we could even acknowledge his presence.  Without his mercy and grace we are nothing.  For God commended his love toward us In that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.

Proverbs 4:11-25 states that there is one who scatters but gathers all the more.  The theme is that when you sow you will reap the harvest as a result of allowing God to give the increase.  God is a God of paradoxes.  According to the secular world, getting comes before giving.  However, according to the Word of God, getting is a result of first having given. It's not about getting but rather it's about giving.  God can only bless you when you give.  By giving, you're not subtracting, you're multiplying.  As you plant the seed and water the crop, only then can God honor your act of believing by providing the increase.  In giving, we allow God prove the measure of our faith in Him.

God said to give the sacrifice of praise.  When we give sacrificially from our need, and not from our abundance, we are proving that God is the  source of our sufficiency and not our material abundance. When we hoard and give from our hoard, God cannot bless us as much as when we give from our need. When the widow in the scriptures gave from her need and dedicated all her last bit of food in service to God's prophet Elijah, her meager offering of oil and inadequate supply of meal did not fail her. God sustained her and her son with a miracle. God daily replenished her supply of oil and her daily portion of meal until the famine in the land was over.

In order to receive from God, we must forsake our pride.  Self sufficiency, with the emphasis on self, is contrary to God's will.  According to 2 Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency os of God."  Only God is our sufficiency.  Only he can supply our needs. What needeth thou?  Ultimately, all I need is thee.  He is my portion, my provision, my allotment:  physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  God is our "soul" provider and "sole" provider.

God loved us so much that he gave us a way to express our love for Him in return. The Word of God says that a "God loveth a hilarious giver."  However, God loves us whether or not we give.  God's love (charity. Greek word, agape) is unconditional.  Another, more correct translation of this verse, puts the giver in the active rather than the passive voice:  "a hilarious giver loveth God." 

As we give sacrificially, we praise God.  Wouldn't it be frustrating if we couldn't express our love for our Heavenly Father? Thanks giving by thanks living allows us to love God by giving back to God a token of the blessing with which he has blessed us. We do this by bringing to Him a sacrifice of praise! God allows us to give sacrificially and also from the abundance with which He has blessed us. The sacrifice of giving  is ultimately the sacrifice of praise.

The Word of God says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. The Word also says "be ye imitators of Him as dear children." Giving is the nature of God. As we give selflessly and sacrificially, as an act of believing that God is our sufficiency, we bless God by allowing Him to bless us in return. Nothing blesses our Father more than allowing Him to continue to bless us. 

The Greek word for thanks (eucharistia) is derived from the Greek word for gift (charismata) and is related to the word for grace (charis).  Only by God's gracious gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to thank Him for His "unspeakable gift."  By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continuously... Hebrews 13:15a.  Thanks giving by Thanks Living.

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Not just Thanksgiving; but Thanksliving (revisited)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

The origins of America’s Thanksgiving Day.

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings. --William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye (Plymouth) Colony, November 29, 1623

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;
WHEREAS, Both the houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted' for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have show kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. --George Washington - October 3, 1789

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience. --- President Abraham Lincoln - Oct. 3, 1863

Psalm 100 – "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

I included the original three proclamations by Bradford, Washington & Lincoln to remember the original intent of this holiday that we set aside in America. We live today in a very egocentric and materialistic world, society and culture (and maybe it has always been that way in varying degrees due to human nature). Americans have freedoms and blessings in abundance that most other nations and peoples never know.

I love President Lincoln’s assessment “To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come. Do we take our lives for granted and neglect the freedoms and liberty that we enjoy, our families and loved ones, the bounties of our possessions, and the source of them all (Almighty God)? We need an “attitude of gratitude” towards God, not only for the things that happen in our lives but also for the things that did not happen by His providence. We need to give thanks in the “good” times and the “bad” times, in all places and in all things despite our current circumstances because of who He is, what He does, how He loves us, what He did for us in Jesus Christ, our adoption into the family of God and our eternal home in Heaven to come.

Do we thank God for our faith, for the gift of Heaven and eternal life? Is it not Jesus Christ who loves us, seeks us, guides us and protects us as the “good shepherd? Despite our faults and failures, God still loves us, still accepts us; we are still his child, and still His desire. We can come to Him with our dreams and our problems without fear because of our relationship, our standing and our position with God. Our decision to salvation through Jesus Christ brings hope, forgiveness, prayer, peace, blessings, holiness, and an eternal prospective of the world to come in Heaven.

Are our lives in conformity with His will? Do we desire and strive to live a life pleasing to Almighty God? Do we claim to be a “Child of God”, and give no thanks? The sin of ingratitude displeases our Holy Father in Heaven. Where our heart is at, this is where our treasure is. Where is our treasure? Where are our hearts? We need to begin each day with thankful gratitude, end each day with gratitude and fill in the middle with thanksgiving. We are not lucky, but blessed and need to thankfully rejoice as Christians! What do we have that we didn’t receive from God? May the gracious name of God have all the praise! This is Thanksgiving Day, but every day should be Thanksliving Day!

Psalm 136:1-3, 26 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever."

I wish you and your families a blessed and happy Thanksgiving Day.
In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Faith Based – Part One - Christ-Centered

This week, Michael writes: God is still on the throne. He is still sovereign and His “Sovereign Will” shall come to pass. Despite the slow erosion of the culture around us because the Word of God has been marginalized in our land, the sovereign “Will of the Lord” shall prevail. God is faithful to His word. In Nazi Germany Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the German culture was sleepwalking toward a precipice and they didn't even know it. The recent elections may have given us a brief reprieve for America to repent and to turn from her wicked ways.

What does it look like to be Christ-centered, Faith-based, and grace-driven?  Do you own these values?  Are these values proven by your attitudes and your actions?  It's one thing to salute the flag, but, it's another thing to be willing to give your life for your country.  We, as devoted men and women of God, have been called to link together as like minded Christians to give away the good news of the Gospel of Christ.

1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Either you are faith-based or you are fear-based. The default is fear based. A faith-based person is Christ-centered. Faith must have an object of faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1. Jesus said: “I am the object of your life” ...  He is the message. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Jesus said, "no man cometh to the father but by me." Faith is the experience of knowing Jesus. The knowledge is only through an intimate relationship with Him.  Faith is the assurance and the certainty of truth. We walk by faith and not by sight2 Corinthians 5:7. We often don't know the way ... but He does. He may not show us the destination, but the Lord will show us the next step. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105. Upon this long and winding life journey, all God asks is that we do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our GodMicah 6:8.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "If there be any way, let this cup of suffering and death pass from me.  Nevertheless not my will but thine be done." Prayer is not aligning God's heart with our heart; rather it is aligning our heart with God's heart. In the midst of the tribulations of life, what is the object of your faith? As the Apostle Paul said, "I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The over-riding goal is that others would come to Jesus Christ and that we may proclaim the excellency of Him who has called us from darkness into light.

Through the dark times of trial and tribulation, God will force us to ask ourselves, "What is the purpose of my life?"  Jesus said in John chapter 14, "I have to leave so that the Comforter of the Holy Spirit shall come.  The spirit will teach you all things pertaining to life."  He also said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I. Unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

The question is, for whom do you live?  Who takes first place in your heart?  Jesus said that unless a man "hates" his family, he cannot follow me. Anything that comes between me and making Jesus Christ Lord will take my heart away from the Prince of Peace.  Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you."  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be blessed.  However, Jesus said to seek the Blessor and not the blessings. When Jesus is Lord, all these other blessings will flow. Life becomes meaningful when Jesus Christ is the meaning of life.

The cataclysmic events of life will drive us to our knees. When we come to the point that we understand that "my life is in thy hands," He will open our eyes to what is really important. Lessons learned in the fiery crucible of life are priceless.  At these moments of desperation, "would you purpose in your heart to praise God, regardless of the outcome of this trial?" A person of faith says, "not my will but thy be done."  What is it that you value most. We must take the things we think are precious and lay them down at the foot of the cross. All my trophies at last I lay down.  I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.

O Lord, My times are in thy hands. Only you are loving, gracious, kind and forgiving. Regardless of the selfish intentions of my finite and feeble mind, Your will shall come to pass. O gracious Father, take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee; a Christ-centered life.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Perfect in His sight

Romans 4:8 “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

God has imputed His righteousness to every Believer. That means that instead of your sin being on your account, it is His righteousness instead. Not only has He forgiven us. Not only has He covered our sins. But He gives us His righteousness. 

Remember that I wrote earlier that the 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “righteousness as: Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion. Right in the eyes of the Lord.

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

I fail, but God will not impute that to me. If God were to impute sin to me, then when I fail I would be lost again. How much sin would it take to make me lost? How many sins did it take for the Fall of Mankind in the Garden of Eden? Just one sin. You see, I’m not going to heaven because I’m perfect. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. No one is perfect. But we have received Christ as our righteousness. And in His eyes, by His atoning blood, we are perfect.

         In Christ, Brian

Monday, November 21, 2016

Really Bad News / Really Good News – Part 2

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

Pastor Willie Nolte continues that God’s grace is always offered for life. We tend to filter punishment through our own values, not God’s. Our Heavenly Father is love and mercy by nature, by which He extends grace, that  “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” - Ephesians 2:4-5. We understand a parents love and bond, because we experience it. They cannot unlove or abandon their child. Nothing could ever stop God from loving and expressing the love and mercy that are His natural attributes. God is love. We feel that we should earn our way to Heaven by being righteous, but how much is enough to make it to a perfect God? Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us; “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” Nobody is perfect, so how can we be found righteous in the eyes of God? The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines “righteousness” as: Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion.  

Romans 4:4-5 “Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”

Righteousness as based upon faith; not works. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Christians do not perform “good works’ in order to get saved; they do “good works” because they are saved. James 2:18 explains, But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. Our faith in God and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, for the Lord Jesus tells us in Matthew 26:28, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Refuse to compromise your Christian faith.

Acts 2:38 tells us: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Our salvation is in Christ and obedience to God is proof of our faith. Only a Believer obeys the Lord, but only the obedient believe. Who is Savior and Lord of your life? Noah’s Ark is an example of God’s salvation, in that to be “in the Ark” (saved) is a type of being in Christ” (saved). We have to be connected to Jesus, in His redemption / salvation experience. Buried with Christ in baptism for sin’s paid, then raised with Christ in righteousness. So, Do what God says regardless what the world says because God’s plan for you and I is for our ultimate life and blessing. Would I do what God says or compromise? The really bad news is that Sin has separated us from God, but the really good news is that God, in His love, mercy and grace, offers redemption, regeneration, reconciliation, eternal life through the finished work of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Hebrews 11:7 “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”

Faith, in Christ, Brian

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Really Bad News / Really Good News

Genesis 2:17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Our denomination’s CEO Dr. Willie Nolte preached last Sunday that magnets are always a bit mysterious to us because of their crazy attributes, where one way they repel each other and the other way attract. It is quite something that we have the opposite attribute on the same magnet, where you cannot keep it together one way and cannot stop them from coming together and sticking the other way ... on the flip side.

Similarly the same sovereign Creator God, with the same nature judges evil unto destruction and saves unto righteousness. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Sin is anything that is not pleasing in the eyes of God or is a transgression of His perfect law. That would be anything that we do that we shouldn’t do – the sins of commission, and anything that we do not do that we should do the sins of commission.  There is not only sins of deeds but also sins in words and thoughts. Because man is a sinner by breaking God’s law, we cannot save ourselves. One of the most amazing and most difficult facts is that God loves us in spite of what we do. He loves us, not because of what we are, but because of who He is. But the same Bible tells us that God is loving and gracious also tells us that this same God, because He is just and righteous, must punish sin. No matter how much secular society tries to minimize or eliminate the fact: Sin is serious. Our good, just and holy God must judge sin. The holiness of God cannot be violated and God cannot change because He is Holy. Sin always leads to death.

Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death.”

The really bad news is that if you and I sin, we will die. In this theological sense, the 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “die” as to perish everlastingly; to suffer divine wrath and punishment in the future world. In the physical sense the word “die’ is defined as the act of dying: to die away, to decrease gradually; to cease to blow; as, the wind dies away until we cease to live; to expire; to decease; to perish; and to depart from this world. In the spiritual sense the same word “die’ means that our relationship with our Creator Father God has come to an end; to cease; to be lost; to perish or come to nothing. Sin has broken our relationship with God and that separation is death. You cannot minimize this fact. The worse thing that can happen to us is the death of relationship, and with it the love, joy and hope associated with the separation with God. Our sovereign God recognizes the damage that sin causes, including the consequences for the sinner. Justice (the virtue which consists in giving to everyone what is his due with right impartiality, equity, vindictive retribution; merited punishment) served for sin.

Isaiah 59:2 “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.”

Let’s move from the really bad news to the really, really good news in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, November 18, 2016

1 Corinthians 2:9 “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

It’s a bit quaint how we attempt to visualize the Creator of the cosmos and bring the infinite into our finite world and existence, but the reality is that no one can comprehend our Maker (who is outside of time) beyond what He has revealed to us and has no way to know the length, width and height of the future which He has in store for His children. We may be able to grasp much about our Sovereign Lord and Heavenly Father, but that which we do see, hear and know reveals the unending love, the continuous joy, the interminable peace, the incessant grace and eternal life which should produce the solid faith in what we do not know … yet.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, November 17, 2016

New Age/Old Story

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Even though I’ve heard of  the “New Age” movement and experience training at work 35-40 years ago in “New Age” thinking philosophy, I never researched the details of this belief system. I recently read that, although the New Age movement is attracting many converts again, the only thing “new” about it is its slick makeover and repackaging. It has actually existed since the Garden of Eden. It’s the old serpent in a new skin, still saying: “You can be as God”. That intrigued me to take a look at the New Age details deeper. The internet states that the New Age Movement is typically viewing human history as being divided into a series of distinct ages, a common New Age belief is that whereas once humanity lived in an age of great technological advancement and spiritual wisdom, it has entered a period of spiritual degeneracy, which will be remedied through the establishment of a coming Age of Aquarius, from which the movement gets its name. The term "new age", along with related terms like "new era" and "new world", long predate the emergence of the New Age movement, and have widely been used to assert that a better way of life for humanity is dawning. The Age of Aquarius is not viewed as eternal, but it is instead believed that it will last for around two thousand years, before being replaced by a further age. There are various beliefs within the movement as to how this new age will come about, but most emphasize the idea that it will be established through human agency; others assert that it will be established with the aid of non-human forces such as spirits. Participants in the movement typically express the view that their own spiritual actions are helping to bring about the Age of Aquarius, with a common belief also being that there are higher powers in the universe that are helping to birth the new age.

So, the term “new age” refers to an astrological belief that every two thousand years the world a new zodiac age. New Agers believe that at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we will pass out of the house of Pisces and into the age of Aquarius. And I just thought that it was an old Fifth Dimension song “Let the sunshine in”. Come to find out, the movement has many different strands, but there are three dogmas underlying it: (1) The material world is an illusion. Only things in the spiritual realm are authentic. (2) Only one infinite, eternal reality exists – the force, one life energy, one spirit – and it envelops everything, including us. Each of us is one spark from the same fire … each of us is “god”. (3) Since each of us is “god’ or a part of “god”, we don’t need the “old fashioned” Christian concepts of sin, guilt, and redemption. We only need enlightenment to recognize that we are “god’.

It has be identified that New Age religion takes bits from Eastern mystical religions: Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism plus Western neo-pagan occultism, ancient philosophy and modern psychology. When mixed together the result is the original lie that Satan gave to mankind in the Garden of Eden: The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” - Genesis 3:4-5.

New Age thinking weasels its way into many places, even into so-called Christian organizations. We need to teat the philosophies we hear and if anything sounds suspect, seek the truth in God’s Word and by His Holy Spirit. God will never lead you into anything contrary to His being or His will. Know the truth and bring to light the lies.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day of Destiny; Day of Deliverance.

This week Michael writes: Cataclysmic events mark our destiny as nations and as individuals. D-Day was such a day in the history of the world.  Were it not for the soldiers who stood in the gap at the beaches of Omaha and Normandy, the whole world would have been under the oppressive boot of tyranny of Germany and the Axis powers. A plan must be laid, a commitment must be made, a price must be paid. More men died in World War II between D-Day and VE Day than died in the years prior to that short ten month period. Did we in our own strength confide, our battle would be losing.  If God had not intervened, the history of the world would have been different. D-Day is the day of deliverance. 

The death of Jesus was the most cataclysmic day in the history of the world.  Psalm 22 is a Psalm of David and a prophecy of God's mission, his battle plan for the deliverance of the world through his only begotten son. Jesus Christ was God's plan for redemption.  A price must be paid.  Jesus was the priceless Lamb of God who redeemed us with his precious priceless blood. A commitment must be made. Jesus said that we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him. He leads by example and never asked his followers to do what He himself had not done. He said to follow in his footsteps. The definition of a leader is one who gives his life for his troops. The leader has a clear vision of the mission and the purpose for which he has been called to serve.

God called his men and women to be warriors on the front lines of the spiritual battle. Our peace in the midst of the battle is Jesus Christ.  Our power is in His strength alone. The challenge is to subjugate our will to His will. Not my will but thy be done. Meekness and humility are the requirements for becoming a disciple, a disciplined follower. Jesus said to count the cost to build the tower. Is the cost of forsaking our will in service to him, worth the value of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?

On the cross, Jesus quoted Psalm 22, My God, "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Jesus knew that He was God's fulfillment of this prophecy. The context of this verse concludes with "our fathers trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them." The theme of this quote is not God's "forsaking" but rather the destiny of God's delivering through the redeeming sacrifice of his son. There can be no victory without a battle. The greater the conflict of the battle, the greater the victory. There can be no resurrection without a crucifixion. 

The Jews expected the Messiah to come as King of kings and Lord of lords. They did not expect a suffering servant. They had read in the scriptures about the glory of the Lord. However the Jews forgot that this verse is also about the sufferings of Christ that precede the glory that should follow. The justice of this world has been perverted where political correctness calls evil good and good evil. The Founders intended that those accused of a crime were innocent until proven guilty. However in our times, the mere accusation of wrongdoing is often all it takes to ruin a good man's reputation and to smear his good name. The justice of God is greater than the injustice of man. We cannot seek to cleanse our carnal nature. God has created within us a new spiritual nature.  We have been washed by the precious blood of the lamb. Even though we receive the scorn of the world, we can rejoice not in our flesh, but in the righteousness of the spirit of God in Christ in us.

Jesus said, "In this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Therefore, be not weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. On the day of the crucifixion, they did not kill my Lord. No man could have killed the son of God. He laid down His own life willingly  in our stead and endured the suffering of the cross for the joy that was set before Him ... His joy was in those whom he would redeem by the shedding of his precious innocent blood. The fulcrum of history was marked by the cataclysmic event of His Story ... “He who knew no sin became the sin offering for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

For Jesus Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us. This was the day of destiny and the day of deliverance. Jesus' cry of triumph was "My God, my God, for this purpose I was spared."

My God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The joy of His Rest

Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

The whole Christian life begins with trusting God for something. It begins with trusting God for our salvation, just as the Israelites had to trust God for their deliverance from Egypt. When we believe and trust Christ, He applies His blood to our hearts, and we are redeemed.

Having received that gift of salvation through grace by faith, we have entered into the life of Christ. At this point many people expect to find a bed of roses, but instead they begin to wander through a wilderness. But God doesn’t expect us to wander in an endless spiritual desert, just as He never intended to Israelites to wander in the wilderness for forty years. God had originally planned for the Israelites to go directly to Mount Sinai, receive His instructions and the Ten Commandments, proceed to Kadesh Barnea, and enter and occupy the Promised Land. When the twelve spies went ahead, they saw giants and walled cities in the land. They reported that the inhabitants were greater than they could conquer. Because of the Israelites’ unbelief, God said, “So I swore in My wrath, “they shall not enter My rest – Psalm 95:11. He condemned them to wander for forty years in the wilderness, apart from His perfect plan of immediate rest and security in the Promised Land.

Hebrews 4:10 “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”

Though you have received God’s gift of grace, you may not have yet entered into God’s rest. Your soul may be wandering in a vast wilderness, wandering because you haven’t believed that God will conquer the “giants in the land.” But only when you place your trust in Him (the only one worthy of your total trust) can you enter into the joy of His rest and the delight of a close relationship with Him.   

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Power of God

Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Have you ever looked at a challenge and thought you just didn’t have the power to overcome? Do you realize you have incredible power available to you through the Holy Spirit? When Jesus ascended to Heaven, He promised that the Holy Spirit would come upon us, giving us His power.

Power! In the Greek text it is the word “dunamis”, from which our word “dynamite comes. We have that kind of explosive power in God! Consider some of the events in the Old testament in which men and women overcame kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of fire, and turned aside the edge of the sword. By God’s grace these people grew strong in battle and put to flight their enemies.

John 19:11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” 

The apostle Paul claimed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”Philippians 4:13, and we can make that claim, too. In fact, we need to live by it, for this world desperately needs such men and women of faith to accomplish great feats for God. God calls us to make the world marvel, to melt frigid indifference and startle people, to make them wide-eyed at what faith can accomplish. When multitudes saw the boldness of Peter and John, they marveled, and many gave their lives to Christ. God wants to accomplish the same through you and me. Claim the Holy Spirit’s power in you, and watch what He does through your life!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Winning Recipe

Genesis 4:1-5 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

Last Sunday, Pastor Kyle continued his sermon series in the book of Genesis. He feels that he is a pretty good at knowing tasty things to eat. But, when the smallest thing is off in a recipe, it can ruin the whole dish or morsel. This principal runs true in life also. The culture has always esteemed “the first born”, birth right. But, it is Adam and Eve’s first born child Cain that was rejected and that reflected in his offering; not the first and not the best. Everybody knows and admits that nobody is perfect, but we always find someone in the “law chain’ that we are not as bad as. Yet, do we give our Lord God our first and our best, or our leftovers and going through the motions? In reality, we all have broken God’s law as sinners against a just and holy God. Bottom line: Sin is a capital offense and God doesn’t grade on a scale. Nothing except the “right thing” with the “right attitude” for the “right reason” is what God desires and is looking for. Never give the least possible or “less than our best”. Sacrificial giving with a willing attitude with joy is a blessing for all.  

Genesis 4:6-7 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Despite everything, God still showed Cain compassion and grace. If and when you “get it right” - living up to God’s standards, God will accept your offering. Unfortunately, Cain rejected the counsel of God and in raging anger committed murder. The point is that Christian fall, but get up; meaning repent, get “right” and get on because the Lord is the God of the second chance. The mercy and associated grace of God is not some kind of “get out of jail free” card that gets you out of Hell and leaves you as the sinner that you are; walking void of God and His holy Word. This walking void of God is a blind spot in the eyes of the unrepentant. It is wickedness to willfully disobey God and be fine with it. Get “right” with God in the heart first. It begins with repentance.    

Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word real “repentance’ as: sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life. Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God. Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God. Repentance leads to a change in life that turns towards the sovereign God of Heaven and earth, which includes an apology and obedience to Creator Father God; giving God the first and the best of our time, talents and treasures with a cheerful heart. That is the winning recipe. In the case of Sin, good does not offset bad; God offsets bad. The wages of sin is death. Jesus Christ offsets bad by His atoning sacrifice for them in our place. God gives us the chance to change our life and pass down the winning recipe ( the gospel of Jesus Christ and godly principles for living) to our children, to our family and friends, to our neighbors, acquaintances and co-workers, who desperately needs the Lord of lords and the Savior of the world. The fundamental question is: What legacy do you want to leave behind?

1 John 3:11-12 “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

In Christ, Brian