Sunday, September 24, 2017

Accountability


Galatians 6:1-5 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.”

This last Sunday, Pastor Kyle continued in his “Three Questions to Improve”. He stated that Coaches do not feel restraints, but develop personal accountability in individuals, where there are reward incentives and penalty incentives are tools because rewarded behavior gets repeated and penalized behavior is detoured. We must remember that in our lives, more than the right action, God wants the right attitude and heart. My old pastor Dave Rader described this as the progression from parent/coach-led, to self-led, to God-led in our accountability

Proverbs 27:17As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

Kyle gave us some thoughts about accountability partners and groups in our lives. First, they only work if we are honest. . In our dealings with others, are we honest with them? Do we have any hidden things due to fear? It is natural to hide issue that can hurt us if revealed. If you know that you are going to be punished by revealing something about you, we tend to keep that quiet. But, communities are designed to build up; not penalize. To obtain community unity we need to bring our problems into the light. Second, they work best when they’re as much about relationships as they are rules. There is a natural safety net of love, called relationship, which God has set up for society, when rules are broken. Know that God cannot love you any less. People are going to fall short in their Christian walk and godly expectations due to the sin nature in their lives. The church family and body of believers has that safety net in Christ. Show compassion and listen.  

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Third, they work best when they are across the same gender. Men and women are wired different and relate better is accountability man to man and woman to woman. Fourth, they work best when we share first. When openly sharing, somebody has to “break the ice” and start. We all need to embrace the offering of silence, so we do not need to fill every gap with words. Sometimes, silence is golden … let’s all get rich. Put nobody “on the spot” ... no fear and no rejection. When conversation happens organically, it works best. The important things is spend time together.

Psalm 2:11 “Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.”

The second question that we need to ask ourselves in order to improve is: “Would my next decision fly with the boss … aka God? What would God say? Our Almighty Creator is the best and scariest boss that we shall ever have. Our honest relationship with our Maker is freeing to the heart and brings peace to the soul. Most things that we do and the associated issues are between you and God. The infinite all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth cannot be compared to anything that we know or can possibly comprehend with our finite minds. But, our answers are in the Bible, the living Word of God. In His holiness, perfection and sovereignty, He is Lord and helps keep us personally accountable.   

Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

A holy reverential fear is a good thing in our Christian walk with the Lord. Always remember that Jesus Christ is our safety net. Nobody can snatch us out of His hand.


In Christ, Brian

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stand Fast


Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”

Several adjectives precede the command contained in this text. Not only does Paul twice use “beloved” to describe his relationship with the Philippians, but he also insists that he longs for them and anticipates joy at the recognition of the “crown” he will receive in heaven. One commentary emphasizes how these are intense words.  “Agapetos” is the descriptive Greek term translated “dearly beloved.” The Heavenly Father uses “agapetos” to express His love for His “beloved Son” in Matthew 3:17. Most of the New Testament letters freely use “agapetos” to describe various personal relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ. That unique and deeply spiritual love is what demonstrates our difference to the unsaved.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 Thessalonians 2:19 “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”

 Philippians 1:27bStand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.’

1 Corinthians 16:13 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.”

Galatians 5:1Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”


1 Thessalonians 3:8 “For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.”

Friday, September 22, 2017

Creek Beds for Living Water


1 Kings 17:2-7 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

I read a interesting metaphor by Dr. McGee concerning this passage in 1 Kings today that I’d like to share with you today. Elijah is in the wilderness, and he goes to the brook every morning for water and notices that it is going down a little bit more each day. By that, he could figure out how many days it would be before it dried up completely.

When Elijah looked at that little brook, which was getting smaller and smaller, he learned a spiritual lesson. He saw that his life was a dried up brook. He was nothing … he was just a empty creek bed, a channel through which “living water” could flow.

John 4:13-14 “Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”

We are an empty brook and a dry creek bed, and do not have any water of life. It is only as the water of life, the holy Word of God, flows through us that we can be a channel of blessing.
 God was telling Elijah, “You are not a big, strong, rugged individual/ You are no stronger or better than that dried-up brook. You will have no strength until the water of life flows through you.” And the lesson is that you and I, today, are just dried up creek beds unless the Word of God is flowing through us. May a fountain of “living” water springing up into everlasting life to flow in, through, and from us always and forever as creek beds full to the banks.


Praise be to God.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Do the Hard Things First


Psalm 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

A couple Sunday’s ago, Pastor Kyle started a new sermon series on three ideas to grow and improve in life. He stated that milestone in life are important. We celebrate achievements and victories along our life’s journey because looking back helps us realize just how far we have come, and articulates what God has been doing in our lives. Sometimes. Its hard to picture and know where we are going, until we pause and take a good look back at where we have been. It’s a “stake in the ground” and a “point on a map” to help us clearly see where the Lord has taken us on this walk, this side of glory. The first big idea to grow and improve in life is “do the heard things first”.

Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

We cannot see or know the future, but we can take the next step in the light that we’ve been given with confidence, because we know how faithful God has always been and continues to be. In Matthew 6:32-34, Jesus said, “These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” We saw a decal in a car window that said “No Bad Days”. With hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, terrorists, radicals, drug cartels, crime and disease in the world today, that’s unrealistic dreaming. Jesus realistically told us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our life is powerful, but the Word of God is our Foundation. It's about His peace in the storms of life.

Almost all of us have or have had coaches in our life. They evaluate our personalities, our gifts and our talents, and are not afraid to tell us what we do not want to hear about ourselves. But, we know that it is their heart’s desire to propel us to the next level of knowledge, mind-set, confidence and skill in order to grow, mature and perform at our top potential. They identify, point out and correct areas of our functional operation and presentation for improvement and highest potential for prosperous achievements, because they truly believe in you and love you, so they encourage you along your path to success, which include philosophical and working principles for life and living to always do your best and nothing less. Tackle the things on your list that you wish would just go away. Do not stress out. Do not over-think and over-talk problems, or worry and fret about them; tackle them. Do not be stalled by them; do something about them. Do not put things off either, because they will still be there. Worship and work on them before they become a problem pattern in your life.

Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

God desires to be in the position of our mental, physical and spiritual authority; not over our leftovers or fitting into our busy schedule. Christianity is not a spend a little time, check off and move on situation. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” We are in covenant relationship with the Lord and there are expectations with that covenant relationship. Do what the Word of God says, living a life of worship and obedience continuously. Give God your best, service the Lord. It is not about time the that you do; its about doing your best when you do – making God the priority in your life.


In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Perfected - Part 2


God allows suffering for his purpose.  Suffering is necessary to bring us to the place that we need to be...  humbled before our Lord.  “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” - 1 Peter 5:10. Our God is a God of grace.  He is the only God that is gracious.  The gods of other religions are gods of vengeance and retribution.  Our God loves to do good to those who don't deserve it. Because of His grace He called us to His eternal glory. We who have humbled our hearts before Him are the ones who have been saved by his grace. When we humbled ourselves, He opened our ears and eyes so that we could understand ... so that we can know that we know that we are His and that He is ours. Suffering is necessary to go where he wants us to go.  He wants to strengthen, perfect, establish, and settle us. The requirement is that we "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God." To perfect means to mend, to reconcile, to make whole and to heal. Without our Lord, there is something missing in our lives. God is always a God of plan and purpose. Through the trials and perfecting, He will reveal His purpose and teach us the meaning of his character.  

Hebrews 12 is about discipline. Our father who loves us disciplines us.  Although it hurts, chastening produces within us a quiet growth in grace and character. Some of us know how to be an All-Star and to bask in the limelight of worldly accomplishments. However, we need to learn what it means to sit on the bench and pull for the other guy.  During these times, Almighty God is building his character in us. God's character is learned, not in the limelight, but by sitting on the bench and swallowing our pride. Only on the bench can we learn to cheer and prefer others ahead of ourselves. Our question is, "Lord, what are you trying to perfect in me through this trial?" Through chastening and chastisement, the character that He is building within us is humility, self control, meekness and the love of God.  

God wants to perfect us and to "establish" us. He wants to make us as solid as granite.  Suffering will accomplish one of two things: either it will make a person collapse, or it will solidify them to stand before a loving God. Through the trial God will strengthen us as steel forged and tempered through the fiery furnace. Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. When we stop working out and preparing for the battle, we will slide into complacency.  Perseverance and persistence through trial produces character. God says, "have I not comforted you in affliction?  Have I not always brought you through the trial?  I will bring you through the fiery trial and the furnace of pain that you may be strengthened and tempered.  Therefore rest fast in my love...I have you in my own intensive care.  I want you to go through trials with a singing spirit.  Be a beacon light ... My glory will shine through you and the glory of Jesus Christ will be revealed in you."


God wants to settle us.  He will lay a foundation in our lives that cannot be shaken.  When we're shaken, He will shake out the things in this life that don't really matter. The shaking of life will make us understand our true foundation. Our true foundation is Jesus Christ himself, the cornerstone upon which our life is founded. The lessons of life will teach us to be established, strengthened, comforted and settled.  God is a God of grace who will humble us under his mighty hand so that he can lift us up...so that he can exalt us in due time to his honor and glory.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Perfected - Part 1


This week, Michael writes: An important theme of 1 Peter 5:5-11 is in verse 10: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” The context of this verse starts in verse 5: Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

God is a God of grace and wants to lift us up. The requirement is that we humble ourselves ... that we be clothed with humility. The story of Job is a story of humility. Job suffered and never knew the reason why. However, he never stopped believing God, even in the midst of tribulation, distress, pain, and suffering.  Throughout his painful ordeal, Job's confession was, "the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord." Our sinful nature has been propagated ever since Adam's original sin. Because of our sin nature, we'll be pushed to the limit of our earthly nature.  At such times, our prayer will be like Jehoshaphat’s, "We have no plan and we don't know what's going on, but Lord our eyes are upon you."  This is a foxhole prayer that God will honor when we acknowledge that we are powerless.

1 Peter 5:6-8 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour:”


Trials will show us what we're really made of. We all have adversaries. To understand our true enemy, we must first humble ourselves. Our resentment bank will keep us from humbling ourselves. Our fallen nature wants to get revenge. It thinks that justice means seeking "just retribution." However, God says that we must humble ourselves to stand in His power and not our own. The key to resisting the devil is to stand firm in the faith.  According to 1 Corinthians 13, the love of God beareth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things. Everyone needs God's help.  Tribulation in this world is designed by God so that we can understand that we can' make it on our own...that we are powerless in our own strength.

1 Peter 5:9 “Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”

Let's continue Michael's message on "Perfected" in tomorrow's post.
In Christ, Brian

Monday, September 18, 2017

Jesus Was Baptized Too – Part 2


 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Continuing Pastor Herk's message on baptism: To be baptized with us, Jesus was baptized for us. To be our Savior, Christ had to take on our sins, and by His blood, baptized "washed clean" sinners back to God. John baptized for the forgiveness of sins; Jesus Christ was the forgiveness of our sins. Being our Savior was confirmed by the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove after His baptism. The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” He also explains in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” When we pay with less than our best, then we harbor pride, arrogance, lust, greed, thievery, dishonesty and hate in thought, word and deed. Christ Jesus, God incarnate (God was skin on), born of the virgin Mary, was tempted as we all are, but rejected all sinful temptations. So, was Jesus’ baptism by John only a symbolic gesture? Is there any real power in baptism? Are sins truly forgiven? John said in Matthew 3:11 “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John the Baptist shined the light on Jesus, the true Savior of the world.

 Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

After Jesus’ death for the sins of the world and His resurrection conquering death, He sent the Holy Spirit to baptize sinners and regenerate their spirit in his holy name. Baptizing in Christ is the transforming and sealing unto eternal life work of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the Believer by “saving” faith. In baptism we die to sin and are raised unto salvation as a new creation, born again of the Spirit. It is a baptism by fire because the old sin nature is burned up unto life in and living for Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, who gathers, guides and guards His flock of Believers. We are always doing the work of our heavenly Father in pointing sinners to God at the foot of the cross in repentance for their sins unto salvation. Jesus is our substitute on that cross in Calvary to pay our sin debt and forgiveness. It was foretold by the Prophet in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus came to fulfill all righteous of this prophesy and heal our sin-sick condition unto eternal life.


 Mark 16:15-16 He (Jesus)said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The act of Baptism is an outward confirmation of our inward commitment, therefore, see Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, your Blessed Redeemer, and the loving Lord of your life. And remember, Jesus was baptized too!

Child of God, you are in Christ.

Blessings, Pastor Herk

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Jesus Was Baptized Too - Part 1


Galatians 3:26-27 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

This last Sunday, I was up at Bass Lake helping and encouraging my dad as he underwent a successful heart valve replacement procedure. My visits always afford me the honor of attending his congregations Sunday Worship service, and this time a special church outdoor service with a picnic lunch following. As always, Pastor Herk preached, and because there was a special subsequent baptism ceremony, the title of his Sermon was: “Jesus was baptized too”.
We have a tendency to say the “right’ things at the “wrong” time. The old saying goes, (wait for it) “timing is everything”. John the Baptist was the “right” prophet at the “right” time to preach the “good news” of the Savior of the world - Jesus Christ. John baptized thousands of people and the Lord Jesus came to him to be baptized too. Matthew 3:14-15 explains to us that John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Acts 19:4 tells us that, Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” But, why did sinless Jesus need to be baptized? He was baptized as a sinner in order to be our Savior. Jesus was baptized too, and this was the turning point of history. Redemption begins.

Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him (Jesus) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”


The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “baptize” as: To administer the sacrament of baptism to; to christen. By some denominations of Christians, baptism is performed by plunging, or immersing the whole body in water, and this is done to none but adults. More generally the ceremony is performed by sprinkling water on the face of a person, whether an infant or an adult, and in the case of an infant, by giving him a name, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is called Christening. This is based upon Matthew 28:18-20’s great commission, when Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” We are baptized into Jesus’ baptism. But we may wonder, if Jesus needed to be baptized, are we worth to be baptized? We ask because when we look into the mirror, we see our sinful, helpless, pitiful condition before Almighty God. 

Let's continue Pastor Herk's message on "Baptism" in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Seek First the Kingdom


Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33 “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. That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Milk or Meat?


1 Corinthians 3:1-3 “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?”

Is passage of Holy Scripture has always challenged me to put a “stake in the ground” to determine where I am in my spiritual walk with the Lord, and measure my maturing experiences, to be aware of my current position, and develop plans to correct to deficiencies in my growth, while celebrating, perfecting, improving successes along the road of life on this journey and continuing to add new ideas, skills and experiences in line with the will of God that push and expand the boundaries for the kingdom of Heaven. It is so easy to get a glass of milk (the general principles of Christianity and foundational truths of God and the Gospel) and sit back on auto-pilot or cruise-control in this life, but progress not the work of the kingdom doesn’t work that way. There is no “easy street” in the development of Christian fieldworkers or soldiers and the vocation labors of the true Child of God. The Bible passage above states that at this point in their spiritual lives, the Corinthian Christians should be consuming meat (having grown deeply in study and experience, and matured stronger and further in the faith), but instead they are only drinking milk (immature and superficial in their walk with the Lord). They were babes in Christ, So, where do I stand as far as milk or meat is the question?

Galatians 5:13-25 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” 

The Latin word for “flesh” is CarnĂ©, where we get our word “carnality”, meaning the (contrary to the Spirit) sinful desires of the flesh nature of humans.  I read a truth in Christian growth article explaining that it is God’s eternal intention for every one of us that we grow in the Spirit and to maturity in Jesus Christ. There is no place for fig trees or grape vines without fruit; that is not their purpose. Likewise, the whole process of “Sanctification” is a life-long growing process into the likeness of the Lord Jesus and being fruitful in life. How do we do that? Pastor Kennedy states, first of all, through the Word of God. One of the ways you can tell if you are “born anew” from above by the Holy Spirit is that as a newborn babe in Christ, you desire the sincere milk of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures of the Bible. We are not talking about a feeling. We are talking about the knowledge that we are in need of the living Word.  

John 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

Kennedy requests, may I ask you how much time did you spend in the Word of God this week? Do you study the Word of God? Do you hide, keep and treasure the Word of God in your heart? Do you meditate upon that Word of God in the slow and dark night seasons? That is absolutely essential. Without abiding in it, you cannot live. Deprive your newborn baby of milk, and that child will die. Our spiritual life desperately needs the nourishing milk of the Word of God that we may grow thereby, and as we grow stronger, we can then feed upon the meat. We should be taking deeper bites into the Holy Word to continually increase in disciple experience and biblical knowledge that leads to godly wisdom for living and witnessing for Christ.


Lord, give me the strength to desire Your Word more and more. Help me to abide in Christ to grow and mature in You. You are the One that causes growth and new leaves and fruit. We praise your holy name.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Becoming Oaks of Righteousness – Part 2


Continuing Michael’s Message: The fourth category is those of us who know that we have received salvation. We who have been "born again of the spirit of life in Christ", repented - having done a "180 degree turn" and have changed Lordships. We are no longer our own lord. Salvation is not "who we are" but rather, "whose we are." As the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (of judgment.)” For those of us who are in this category "the spirit (of God) bears witness with our spirit (of Christ in us) that we are sons of God." Those who have been saved by grace, have accepted the free gift of salvation according to Ephesians 2:8, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.  Not of works lest any man should boast."

Jesus said, "whosoever will may come." He woos everyone, but not all accept His offer to receive God's gift of salvation. Today is "the acceptable year of the Lord." Hebrews 3 says, don't harden your hearts like Israel did when they were led out of bondage in Egypt:  "harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation, as in the day of  temptation in the wilderness." All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, we who have accepted his gift of salvation have been made the righteousness of God in Christ. God sealed us by entrusting His Holy Spirit within us when we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord. This is similar to our marriage covenant with our spouses. When we take our marriage vows, one of the "covenants and conditions" is that "we'll be under constant surveillance of our spouses."  When we love our spouses, we don't want to do anything to disappoint them ... we don't want to break our fellowship with them by violating our sacred covenant of trust. Similarly when we were saved, God called us to be "holy."  Sanctification or holiness means to be "set apart for the purpose for which he designed us." 

This is not a burden. We gladly submit because we love Him. When we're walking in fellowship with our Lord, when we've lovingly surrendered our hearts to Him, doing His holy will is the joy and rejoicing of our heart. However, our Heavenly Father knows that because we're still human and carry the fallen sin nature of the flesh, we will sometimes stray from the "straight and narrow way."  Even though we're still saved, we break fellowship with our Lord by trusting our own way instead of His way. When we stray, He still loves us and gives us a way to return our hearts back to him: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).

The job of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into the "all truth"; for Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. The Holy Spirit will "check us and convict our conscience" so that we can "confess our sins" and maintain our fellowship with Him.  Our prayer is for the Lord to "blot out our transgressions." We're guilty as charged when we stray. However, our Lord doesn't beat us up when we sin. Jesus Christ didn't come to condemn the world but that the world through him might be saved. Today is the "acceptable year of the Lord."  He didn't come to "kick us when we're down." He loves us much more that we could ever love ourselves. Even though, every time we sin and repent of it, we nail Christ to the Cross again to pay for them, He came to set us free from the bondage of resentment and bitterness, to heal our broken heart and to open our blinded eyes. This is the freedom that we have in Christ: He set us captives free when we confess that we're broken by our own sins. Jesus Christ shed His innocent blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The purpose of the cross is that we may be made the righteousness of God “in Him”; not in us.  When we understand and accept His grace and forgiveness, then we can give the bondage of our sin away: "I forgave and set the prisoner free, only to find that the prisoner was me."

What's the difference between an oak and a seedling?  An oak has stood the test of time. It has persevered through the ages ... through good times and bad. When we turned to Jesus Christ for salvation, He planted us as a seedling in the holy ground of His Holy Word. When we faithfully return to the Lord for fellowship, like the oak tree that has endured over many seasons of life, He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of Joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that we may be called "oaks of righteousness" to the glory of our Lord.
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May God richly bless you!
Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Becoming Oaks of Righteousness – Part 1

This week Michael writes: Jesus read verses from Isaiah 61 at his hometown of Nazareth, when he began his ministry. Isaiah had prophesied these words about the coming of the Messiah over 600 years before and Jesus opened the scroll and read these words to fulfill this prophecy:

Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Jesus read this passage through the phrase, "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." This was the purpose of His first coming. At His second coming He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, when He proclaims "the day of vengeance of our God." Even though we are in "the acceptable year of the Lord," we can still rest assured that He binds up the broken-hearted and "comforts all that mourn." Despite the tribulation, distress, pain, and disappointments of this world, God is still on the throne.  He is sovereign over all. He never says, "I didn't see that coming." He's never caught off guard. When we run to our Lord in our pain and grief, He will give us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that we may be called "oaks of righteousness."

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.”

This week Michael writes: Three weeks ago many of us in our Men’s bible Study were blessed to attend the memorial service for our group leader’s wife. All who attended were confronted about the reality that in this life, the mortality rate is 100%. However, we mourn not as others who have no hope.  His wife's life was a witness and a living testimony of the good news of the gospel of Christ. For each person that hears the Gospel there are four possible responses. The first response is to reject it outright. For these people, their heart is not ready to turn around, repent, and surrender all. The gospel confronts them with the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, they have not reached the point of "conviction" and prefer to continue in sin.   

Most church goers are in the second and third categories. Those in the second category are the ones who go to church and are nudged in the direction of "repentance unto salvation", but the exchange never happens in their hearts. Even though they walk down the aisle and are baptized, they live in Romans 7, where the "law of sin and death" separates us from a true and living relationship with our Lord. They have not come to an understanding of Romans 8, the "law of the spirit of life in Christ."  


Those in the third category belong to a certain "denomination" and say "Jesus is Lord" but don't really mean it. These are the ones that Jesus talked about in Matthew 2:21-23 when he said:  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” These people think they are saved, but they have not "done the will of my Father."  What is the "will of the Father" concerning salvation?  According to Romans 10:9-10, they have not "confessed Jesus as Lord and believed in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead." They believe in their own righteousness instead of the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection on our behalf.

Let's continue Michael's message on responses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can You Spell "Joy"


1 John 1:4 “We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.”

I read a story about two laborers working on some street improvement in front of a church one Sunday morning. After watching the people filing in for the Worship Service, one of them said to the other, “You know, I’ve seen one or two hundred people go into that church, and I haven’t seen a single smile on any one of their faces.” That is tragic indeed.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of joy, as well as of grace, peace, and love. The Webster’s dictionary defines the word “joy” as: Gayety; mirth; festivity. Happiness; felicity. A glorious and triumphant state. To rejoice; to be glad; to exult. Habakkuk 3:18 says, “Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” At the birth of Christ, the angels said to the shepherds that they brought good tidings of great joy. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:22-25 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Pastor Kennedy asks: “Are our lives typified by joy? In looking at some people’s faces, you wouldn’t think that they had much joy. They seem often to frown and be sullen and unhappy and show little of the joy of Christ in their countenance. Some people seen like the only experience that they have had is the fleeting temporal passion or emotion excited by the acquisition or expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, instead of the transforming wondrous and lasting joy of Jesus Christ.


Nehemiah 8:10b “For this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I remember back when I used to teach Sunday School at our church’s elementary school age class. One young lady told me the meaning of “joy”. If you want to experience more joy, remember this simple formula: J-O-Y means Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.
Lord, give us the strength for today to put Jesus first and others second. God of joy, thank you for giving us so much joy all around us and joy within us. Let your joy overflow unto all the people around us today and thank you the joy of heaven forever.

Blessings.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Gracious


Philippians 1:27-28 “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.”

As Christians, what should our conduct with others be like? I recently read that since we know that we have a Gospel of grace and that we are living in the Age of grace, our lives should be gracious. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word ”grace” as: Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. Favorable influence of God; divine influence or the influence of the spirit, in renewing the heart and restraining from sin. The application of Christ's righteousness to the sinner. Where mercy is not getting what we deserve; grace is getting what we do not serve. God’s grace is unearned, undeserved, cannot be paid for and, therefore unmerited.

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

Pastor Kennedy writes that many live lives which are unjust and unfair; they take advantage of people in business or they act unlawfully and unjustly. But, there are others who would never think of doing a thing like that and they operate on the principle of equity; of doing the fair thing, of being correct and honest in dealing with people – a quid pro quo (this for that) kind of conduct. However, when somebody crosses then and does not deal with t hem right, then sometimes these people deal with them like a judge, and they would punish them in some way for their conduct. But, that is not the principle of grace.


Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Kennedy clarifies that we can be less than fair, but we can also be more than fair, and it is in that area that the Gospel is not merely fair, it is greater  and vastly higher than merely fair. God’s Gospel of grace is wonderfully high and that means that we need to learn to deal with people graciously, and that we are going to go the extra mile with them. We are going to treat them lovingly, even if that treat us badly, and in that way will adorn the Gospel and be consistent with the Gospel of Christ  which we live and witness to.

Ephesians 2:8 “ For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

God of grace and mercy, give me strength for today whereby I may show grace to others. I praise You for Your Mercy and Your grace in our lives. I pray that You will help us to act and be be gracious in our dealings with others. Let us give more than is expected, beyond the call, as we reflect the light of Christ in the world.

Blessings.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Future


Isaiah 50:10 “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “pilgrimage” as: a long journey, particularly a journey to some place deemed sacred and venerable, in order to pay devotion to the relics of some deceased saint. In Holy Scripture, the journey of human life. So, our life on this earth is a pilgrimage. I read an inspiring article, which explained that our life’s journey has a beginning and an end. It is going somewhere, with experiences along the way, and it is important where we end up (the kingdom of Heaven or Hell). Life is not meaningless circling about, a meandering here and there with no particular purpose except to find food, comforts and a mate (as some atheists claim). All creatures are created by a Creator for a meaningful purpose.

Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”

Creator God is sovereign. The same 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Sovereign” as: 1. Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign Ruler of the universe. 2. Superior to all others; chief. God is the sovereign good of all who love and obey Him. And God has revealed in His Word (the Bible) how we should live, so that we will not walk in darkness. Many people find live complicated because we do not know the future and we do not know where this road of life will take us.

Deuteronomy 18:10-11 “ Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”

Pastor Kennedy states that in one sense, we are forced to live eventually in the future, and yet it is unseen to us. No one knows what tomorrow brings with it. And so the heart of mankind cries out for guidance, and this is what sends so many people to psychic hotlines, fortune tellers, soothsayers, astrologers, card readers, palm readers or to do all of the various foolish things that people will do indicating their felt need for some kind of guidance. God condemns this kind of divination. The word “divination” comes from the Latin divinare, meaning “to foresee” or “to be inspired by a god.” To practice divination is to uncover hidden knowledge by supernatural means. 

Matthew 15:13-14 Jesus replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Almighty God tells us to trust Him instead. Kennedy concludes that those who know their Lord God have already experienced Him well in the past and the present. Therefore, we can trust our Maker with our future. The bible is infinitely better than tarot cards, crystals, psychics or any other false substitute to true divine wisdom of God.

John 8:12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Lord, my Shepherd and Guide, give me strength for today to follow after You and not after any false gods. Help me not to deceive myself by thinking I am following after You in utilizing avenues of guidance that You have clearly forbidden. Lead me by your powerful hand in light on this pilgrimage here on earth.


Blessings.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Cost of Freedom


I came across a real mindful article on Liberty that I’d like to share today. Pastor Kennedy states that countless millions of people who lived in totalitarian cages for human beings in countries around the world have, at great risk to life and limb, said, “Let my people go!” And many died in the attempt to gain liberty – freedom. But, it is something that is easily taken for granted. It is like the air that we breathe; it is not until it is gone that we even think about it. John Adam, our second president, made a declaration to future years and said: “Posterity; You will never know how much it has cost my generation to procure your freedom. I hope you will make go od use of it.” To remember the importance of “Liberty” is why every United States coin minted has the word “Liberty” on it.

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “liberty” as: (1) Civil liberty, is the liberty of men in a state of society, or natural liberty, so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state or nation. A restraint of natural liberty, not necessary or expedient for the public, is tyranny or oppression. Civil liberty is an exemption from the arbitrary will of others, which exemption is secured by established laws, which restrain every man from injuring or controlling another. Hence the restraints of law are essential to civil liberty. (2) Religious liberty, is the free right of adopting and enjoying opinions on religious subjects, and of worshiping the Supreme Being according to the dictates of conscience, without external control.

The First Amendment to the United States of America Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “freedom” as: A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious. 

Pastor Kennedy asks; What has happened to that burning flame of liberty that so moved the Founders of this country? Have we forgotten the cost of freedom? How is that flame burning in America today? Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, said, “Our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in … what? … in liberty!” Our declaration of Independence says that next to life itself, the most important right we have is “liberty”. And if you look at the Bible, you will find what scholars agree to be the major theme of the entire Old and New Testaments; it is “liberty / freedom”. We do not often think about that.


John 8:31-32, 34-36 “So Jesus said to the people who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus was talking about the heart and source of freedom, and also bondage, which is sin. HE said that if we commit sin, we are the bond slaves of sin. And so it is that sin inevitably enslaves people. Sin is defined as: Whatever form in thought, word or action that it takes it shape, sin is always addictive, and it brings people into slavery. And Christ came ultimately to redeem us, deliver us, and liberate us from the bondage, from the thrall of sin. Our shackles of bondage are broken at Calvary. There on the cross, taking our sin and guilt upon Himself, Christ broke the chains of sin and set the prisoners free.

Psalm 33:12-15, 18-22 “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance. The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

Are we quickly throwing our religious liberty overboard today. Liberty; Will we forget how much it has cost the Lord to procure our freedom from sin? I hope we will make good use of liberty in Christ. You should also remember that when religious liberty goes away, other liberties and freedoms loses follow. We take religious liberty so much for granted, and yet very few nations in the world really enjoy it. Until the Constitution of the United States was signed, religious liberty had never existed in any nation on earth.

Pastor Kennedy proclaims that it begins in the heart when Christ sets us free from sin. Those shackles of bondage are broken at Calvary and only there, and when that freedom comes, it will give us a great desire for the civil and political freedoms that all men and women need as well. May the flame of freedom and liberty, which burned so brightly in the hearts of our nation’s Founders, could be fanned into a flame again in America and around the world, for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.


Blessings.