Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Shovel – Part 1

Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” 

This week, our Wednesday evening Bible Study group continues our examination of Christian relationships with a new six session series by Pastor Louie Giglio, titled “Relat(able)”. Pastor Giglio states that from the time that we are born, relationships shape who we are and how we engage with the world around us. We develop a view of God and others that impacts how we relate to our family and friends. All of us desire more meaningful relationships. But, are we able to relate? Are we the kind of person that is going to move through life which is able to have relationships that are meaningful, fulfilling and significant?

God has put us (7 billion people) on planet Earth for relationships and that fact is not going to go away. The degree to which we receive what God has given us, and is going to give us, determines the degree to which we are going to have meaningful and fulfilling relationships with yourself and other people. The term “given to us” means “to everyone, while the term “Going to give to us” means “the unfolding of everything”.

God desires to bring amazing things into our lives right now, but there are two reasons why we don’t take what God is wanting to give us. (1) We don’t think we are worthy of God giving us amazing things on our life. (2) We’ve been deceived into thinking that what we have now (here on earth) is better than want God wants us to give and receive. We have to let go of what we have in order to receive what God has to give us. We have stuff in our lives that are keeping us from receiving the best of God for our lives.

The love of God trumps whatever else we have experienced in life. Apart from God, your relationship with “you” is the most important relationship you have. To love your neighbor as yourself, you first have to love yourself. The number one flaw that we experience in interpersonal relationships is that we expect more of other people than they can realistically provide and give us (aka unrealistic expectations). Other people are not to solve and resolve everything that you and I long for in our life.

We have an amazing way to always “flip” criticism around to the other person, because we have one standard for others and another standard for ourselves. They cannot meet our needs because nobody is perfect, except Jesus and He is available for us now. Also, we want God to give us much more “slack” than we are willing to give others. The way that we resolve and balance all this relationship issue out is by placing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the middle. 

Let's continue this great message on the love and mercy of God in our relationships in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1-6 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

This week, Michael writes: Christianity is reality because God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost exist. The words in the Word of God (the Holy Scriptures of the Holy Bible) are reality. Jesus Christ himself is the way, the truth and the life because no one comes to the Father except through Him. I read that though we know the final destination, the Christian journey is filled with uncertainty and we Christians are helplessly in need of a Good Shepherd. However, in Christ, our helplessness in the iniquity of sin is our best prayer. He hears our heart's desire as soon as we pray with humility with a heart of helplessness and surrender. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Our human pride got us into our sorrowful state and has no place in redemption or salvation. David cried out for his shepherd's help in Psalm 23 and the Lord heard him and delivered him.

The best way to experience the life of faith is to, "Let go and let God."  As Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles at the end of his long prayer, "We have no battle plan and we don't know what to do, but Lord we're in your hands."  The prophet answered Jehoshaphat’s prayer and said, "Put the choir on the front lines when you go into the battle. The songs of praise and worship will go before you and the Lord will fight the battle for you."

Psalm 131:1-3 “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”

Our strength is only in you, Lord.  We don't concern our hearts with matters too great, too difficult, and too overwhelming for us to handle. Remind us, "don't look unto what you've lost."  Instead Lord, calm and quiet our heart. Jesus said to his disciples in the midst of the storm, "peace, be still." Like a weaned child who no longer cries for her mother's milk, the Lord weans us away from relying on others whom we love.  At that point, we find our way to the place where we lean only on Him.

Alfa img - Showing > The Lord Is My Shepherd

The problem with most of us is that we have no clear picture of the God whom we long to worship. Our heart's desire is that we may come to know Him. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice and they know me and they follow me and I give unto them eternal life.  Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." David paints a picture in Psalm 23 of his longing to know the Lord. As a shepherd himself, David penned these words that we can all relate to: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." The shepherd led his sheep. He did not drive them. When we wonder away, the shepherd will brake our legs and then carry us as a little lamb around his shoulders until we heal. When God uses pain to break our hearts, when he heals our broken heart, we as sheep will not leave our shepherd's side.  The ultimate lesson in this life is "all I need is thee." We can be thankful and praise Him as He leads us from the turbulence of this life to the quiet waters and into the path of righteousness for His name's sake.

While we grieve at the suffering and the mortality of those we love, we grieve not as others who have no hope.  As God said to Paul, "my strength is made perfect in thy weakness, my grace is sufficient for thee."  Psalm 23 concludes, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me... Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Let’s abide there!

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Good Fight

2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

There have been many wars in our nation’s history and many who have served and many who have died. They all “have fought a good fight” and “kept the faith” of our nation’s commitment to establish “liberty and justice for all” and to maintain this ideal in every generation. They fully merit our honor and heartfelt gratitude.

This 2 Timothy verse reminds us that there is another good fight going on, of course, every day in the life of each believing Christian. One commentary points out that the apostle Paul never served as a soldier in any human army, but he was often called on to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”. As a matter of fact, each of us must remember that “unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake” – Philippians 1:29.

John 16:33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Come what may, the Lord’s plans and purposes overcome all opposition and malice against Him and His people. “Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus going on before.” In a world fallen in sin, there will always be hostile resistance by the desires of the flesh, the God-rejecting world system and the devil, but the Lord is working daily towards the goal of restoration in the mist of conflict and the children of God are to continue His good plan and purposes of redemption and reconciliation, bringing the gospel light, despite the darkness of disobedience and unbelief. Whatever comes, may God help us to be able to say in that day: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Someone will hear the truth about forgiveness and salvation, and then respond to His loving offer of grace, seeing the forest through the trees. Keep up the good fight.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Indwelling Holy Spirit

John 14:15-17 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Romans 8:8-9 “So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

These verses assure each of us that we are actually living “in the Spirit,” because He has come to “dwell in you.” One commentary states that all of this has come about “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit”. This glorious new birth, with sins forgiven and eternal life, is accomplished by the Holy Spirit in response to our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

But also note that “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” It is absolutely vital that we have the Holy Spirit, “for as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” - Romans 8:14. The question is, just how do we know that we have the Holy Spirit? The answer is, because His Word says so! “He that hears my word, and believes on Him that sent me,” said Jesus, “has everlasting life” – John 2:24. Furthermore, we have the testimony of internal peace and assurance. “The Spirit [Himself] bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” – Romans 8:16.

Finally, the indwelling Spirit will increasingly be growing His eternal fruit in our lives—the nine fold fruit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” - Galatians 5:22-23, and this will testify to others also that we do indeed have the Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Convenient Time

Acts 24:24-25 And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.”

I once heard someone say that they were going to live life as they wanted, free from the rules, regulations and restrictions of God, then run full-blast into Heaven, accepting Jesus Christ as Savior, receiving forgiveness and sliding in sideways to paradise ... like Creator God was obligated to accept such a demented scheme. His implication was that living a godly, holy and righteous life aligned with God’s sovereign Word, Will and Way (which was designed to allow us to become conscious of our sin) was keeping him from the “good life” and everyone was a fool who didn’t live his “wine, women and song” plan of self-indulgent, lawless pleasures of the flesh. These types of radicals will probably never attend a church in which the true gospel of Jesus Christ was preached. Would this type of person like to hear the Apostle Paul’s reality of Ephesians 2:1-3: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Not a chance, because it defines their life’s desire ... which excludes God … until a convenient time. When is that? It’s an amazing wonder that the grace of God gives second chances. It is by His love and mercy alone that His grace is offered. 

Romans 6:20-23 “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This is why Preachers preach, why Christians Speakers speak a conference, why Christians teachers teach, why Christian film-makers make movies, and why Christian writers write. We are in “the age of grace” and the hour for salvation is here. The door of the kingdom of Heaven was opened and God has provided our opportunity to enter, if we would accept the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:4-8 “But 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. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Why would anyone want to wait for a more convenient time? Because the “fallen”, God-rejecting world system lives by the sinful desires of the flesh and deceived by the lies of the devil, which would accept the forgiveness and redemption of the Savior, but rejects the Lord that would rule their life, even if it is right and even if it is life. Pastor J. Vernon McGee states that the sinner will never have a convenient time to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Mankind does not set the time; God does.

John 3:14-20 “ Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”

It has been proven in the history of the human family that people can keep postponing making a decision for Christ until they come to the place where they cannot make a decision for Him at all. That convenient time never comes for a great many of people. The age of grace shall not last forever; Judgment Day is coming and everyone not washed in the blood of the Lamb of God already stands condemned. Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is not something to be postponed to a more convenient time. Now is the time!

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Resting Place

Titus 3:4-6 “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy, He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” 

Certainly one of the most precious doctrines of all Scripture is that our salvation depends not on our own “works of righteousness,” but upon His mercy and grace, given us freely through the atoning work of Jesus Christ our Savior. 

I read that the grand old hymn “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” reflects this theme. Let us use its four verses and chorus to focus our hearts
My faith has found a resting place, Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One, His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument, I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died, And that He died for me.

Nothing we could do or nothing we or our church could believe can provide a resting place for our faith.

Hebrews 4:3, 9-10 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest,’” There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

The only work which counts for anything is that which the ever-living One accomplished when He died on the cross.

1 Peter 2:24 “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

This article points out that it is not so much our physical health in view here, but the healing of our sin-sick souls. Since “Christ died for our sins”, there is no more penalty to be paid. Jesus paid it all for all who believe, receive and cleave. Since He rose from the dead, He conquered both sin and its power, and our faith can rest in the peace of Christ; our resting place. 


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Exceedingly Abundantly Above All

Ephesians 3:20-21 “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Part 2

Michael continues: A man and woman of God are Christ-centered. We need to understand who we are, but more importantly, whose we are. In life's decisions, the question is "what's the cost and what's the benefit." Ultimately decisions are not about the cost, but rather about the value. What is it that you value?  The Lord says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these other things will be added unto you." How do we seek the Blessor instead of the blessing? We seek the Blessor by blessing others. The love of God is made perfect when we give it away. This is the example of Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus prayed to His Father in the garden of Gethsemane, "If there be any way, let this cup of suffering, separation, and death pass from me." He was praying about the injustice of the sins of the God-rejecting world and separation from his Heavenly Father by death. God's answer is that Jesus would have to drink the cup. It's through suffering, pain and death that Jesus paid the price for sin on our behalf. Jesus Christ, for the joy (of our salvation) that was set before him, endured the cross and is set down at the right hand of God. The heart of the gospel is that He who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.  

God makes good on His promises. He will make it good on His timetable and not ours.  He will clean the slate and give us grace and mercy for our redemption according to the truth of His Word. The love of God gives unconditionally. When we pray for our enemies, we reflect the nature of God Himself. For in that while we ourselves were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.  

God has set us in the body of Christ so that we can live to be a blessing. We need to be thankful for the opportunities to give and bless others unconditionally. Our attitude of gratitude is based on His sacrifice for sin on our behalf. We love Him because he first loved us. When we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ, we can love others on His behalf. The “narrow way” is living in the land of blessing as we live to bless God by blessing those to whom He has called us to minister. We give and love unconditionally when we live to edify, comfort and encourage others according to the Word of God.

Therefore, the Lord thy God is one Lord. Thou shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength. Honoring the first commandment is "Thou shalt have no other God between your face and my face." When we walk in fellowship with Him, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the true church and the truth of the Word of God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ made this available. For I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me.  Therefore may our prayer be, "Lord come help yourself to my life ... take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee."

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Monday, July 17, 2017

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Part 1

This week, Michael writes that the call to worship for Israel in Deuteronomy says, "the Lord your God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might." As we move ahead upon our “Christian Journey”, we encourage each other to look ahead. We cannot “rest upon our laurels” (meaning to be satisfied with one's past success and to consider further effort unnecessary). When we record our failures, we need to remember that these are the stepping stones to success. When we miss the mark, we can triangulate toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Our mission is to create an environment where men and women can be encouraged in their faith, where our prayer is "Lord come help yourself to our lives." Not looking back to that which is behind, but pressing forward on the life path that God has prepared for us to walk. In this life, mortality is 100%. Between now and then we are encouraged to make our lives count for Christ. The beauty of walking with the Lord is that morning by morning new mercies I see. God's gracious goodness is new each day. Each new day is a clean slate to walk in fellowship with Him. Our sins are not held against us, for He who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Our adversary, the devil, is up to his old tricks. We are still in the midst of the spiritual battle that has raged since “the fall of man”. Secular leaders influenced by the "god of this world” – Satan, continue to lead in the wrong direction. The right direction can only be viewed through the eyes of our Lord Jesus Christ, for He said, I am the way the truth and the life. It's not what we stand against that matters, rather, it's what we stand for that matters. Therefore, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.  

Jesus, himself, was "narrow minded" when He said the truth, "I am the only way." Today, Christians are attacked for being narrow minded for following the Lord and Savior of the world. They are ridiculed and ostracized by political correctness because Christians follow the truth of “the Word of God” and not “the word of man”. Holiness or sanctification means to be set apart for the purpose intended by the Creator. We are called to be discriminating and to set ourselves apart for the false word of man for God's purpose. God's still in charge whether or not the "priests of secular humanism" and the prevailing religion of our land acknowledge His sovereignty. This is no different than when the prophet Ezekiel reproved Israel in Ezekiel 25: 26, "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean..."  Sanctification starts with discrimination: understanding the difference between the righteous standard of the Word of God and the God-rejecting world's standard, where "everyone did right in his own eyes." In this world, we will be tested every day.  Life is a series of choices. As Joshua said, "Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve.  As for me and my house we will serve the Lord"  

Let’s continue Michael’s message on being a blessing to others: in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making Things Right – Part 2

1 Thessalonians 5:15 “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.”

Pastor Obie continued by explaining to us that it is best to begin with the end in mind and to apply this principle in all of our life, so that when we come to the end of the road, we hear God say: “Well done good and faithful servant.” Plan it out and lay it out (just like blueprints, time, finances, resources and material thought out in advance) with the eternal perspective of Heaven always in front of us as our overriding goal.

Obie highlighted the two main things for us to consider, that we need to make things “right” with. (1) With your relationships. We do not have to wait until our deathbed to make things right in our life. It’s available to all of us here and now. It’s not the quantity of your family, friends and acquaintances in life, but the quality in deep relationships that go beyond simple kindness and courtesies. Dive deeper than mere surface level for connection. But, do not be awkward about it, because relationships require trust and take time. Who do you need to forgive and who do you need to ask forgiveness from? Forgiveness and reconciliation are the objectives, so actively move towards them daily. Sure, we live in a “Dog eat dog”, survival of the survivor lawless culture, but the Christian is not of that God-rejecting world system. Materialistic secular humanists do not think about the reality that the people that you step on as you work your way up the ladder of life, you are going to meet again on your way back down. James 4:17 says, “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

The people of God never burn bridges and always remember that God is right there. Do not put relationship-building off. Remember that people follow the Hurst with the coffin to the cemetery; not u-Haul trucks. God places people in your life to nourish both ways. Develop godly routines to improve and grow the relationships in your life.

John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

(2) With God. Walk in obedience. Make no mistake, delayed obedience is disobedience. God desires to be the Lord of all of your life; not part of your life. This includes your finances, your time management, your entertainment choices, your work ethic, your moral decision-making, your prayer time and your relationships. Discern God’s voice. Spend time with Him in prayer. If you want to be alone with God, then you must choose to be free of internal and external distractions, learning to clothe your soul in divine quietness (even in the crowded marketplace). But, spend time in corporate prayer with your brothers and sisters in Christ regularly. Spend time in the living Word of God. The Bible is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, but it is also the Lord speaking to our hearts through the Holy Spirit to guide and mature the Child of God in knowledge and wisdom for the “right” relationships with the world that we have been blessed to make a holy impact on now. So, spend time in Bible Study also. Spend time in Christian community of your church family for the fellowship of Believers and the equipping of the saints for the work of Christ in the larger community. Walk in the Spirit, making things right.

In Christ, Brian 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Making Things Right – Part 1

Colossians 3:12-15 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” 

This last Sunday, Pastor Obie continued in our sermon series based upon the book of Genesis. He asked, ‘What would you do if you woke up one day and found that the newspapers, social media and your emails were mistakenly reporting your death? What would your obituary say and what would you see people writing about you and your life? You would surely be able to get a glimpse of the end of your life and what people who knew you thought and remembered you for. What would you learn from it and what would you change in your life for people to remember?

Pastor Obie highlighted us two thoughts that come to everybody on their deathbed. (1) You will think about God. Atheists, Agnostics and people of faith will prepare to make their Maker. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts.” Remember your intimate relationship with your Creator through the spiritual markers left by God along your life-journey’s path. Recall memories of His love and care in your life and memories of God’s plans, purposes and promises for you. Psalm 77:11 says, “I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.” God wants to show you and I that He is real and for us to experience His sovereign power. Know who you are and know whose you are. Like a fish out of water, when we are living outside of what God designed for us, we delay or miss blessings.

Exodus 9:16 “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

(2) You will think about relationships. In the last moments of our life, we will not be remembering our bank accounts, our degrees and resume, or our trophies and honors. We are social and relational beings, designed by God for relationships. The human heart is like an ocean, in that there is a beautiful unseen world beneath its surface. The ongoing Harvard study on relationships has found that “good” relationships keep us healthier and happier. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We are hardwired by God to desire fruit of the Spirit in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - Galatians 5:22-23. Grow your relationships.

Let’s continue Pastor Obie’s message on making things right in our lives in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Friday, July 14, 2017

Responding to Love

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Ruth 4:13a “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.”

I was reading a commentary of Ruth by the late pastor, writer and radio teacher of Thru the Bible ministries – Dr. J. Vernon McGee yesterday and he made a thoughtful connection to the gospel story that I’d like to share. He said that as a man chooses a woman for his bride, and likewise, as Boaz claimed Ruth, so Christ came to this earth for His bride. He is the One who demonstrated His love by dying for us. He who knew no sin, died for the sins of the world in our place that we may be with Him forever. And we are the responders – we are to respond to His love. We are to receive Him, as Savior, then come to know Him. Oh, friend, that should be the ambition of every Christian – to know Him! It is said that a great many people make a trip to Bethlehem once a year and look into a manger. He is not there, friend. Although He did come as a baby, He hasn’t been a baby for a long time. Then at Easter, they go to Jerusalem and look in an empty tomb to find that He is not there either. He’s the man in the glory today, seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.

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1 John 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

The Apostle Paul wrote that his ambition was to “know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings” – Philippians 3:10. Oh, that we might know Him, our Kinsman-Redeemer, and love Him because He first loved us.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trust in the Lord

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pain & Gain

This week, michael writes that when we experience the pain of this world, we don't quite understand the plan for us that our Heavenly Father is orchestrating behind the scenes. When God called Adam and Eve after the “fall of man” in the Garden of Eden, God told them that there would be pain and suffering in the fallen world. However, there is a promise of life in the suffering. Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot rise up from the ground and bear fruit. Even in our fallen state, the hope of life after we die is that we will be raised again in genuine righteousness, authentic goodness, and true holiness. To navigate this life, we must view this life from God's eternal perspective. According to Ephesians, from God's eternal vantage point, we're already seated in heavenly places in Christ. From our finite earthly perspective we cannot know what God has in mind from His eternal perspective. 

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ stepped into history for one purpose:  your redemption and mine. There are bigger things going on in Heaven than the temporal fleeting things of this world. Although the things of this world overwhelm us, we need to be prepared for good news or bad news from the world's perspective. These unpredictable things in life knock us off balance for a season. However, with a Christ-centered eternal perspective, we will overcome the temporary setbacks of the next news of this world. We need to prepare our hearts to focus on God's eternal perspective; to spend time in His Word, to journal what God is teaching us day by day, to be instant in prayer in season and out of season, and to live/to walk in fellowship with our Heavenly Father, His Son Christ Jesus and one with another in the household of Faith.

God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” He says that everything works together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. We look forward to God's judgment of our faith, where we trust in Him to take us through the trials of this life. We can finish strong in the Lord or we can go out bitter and resentful.  Our challenge is to remain faithful and look forward to our Master's encouraging words, "Well done thou good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in the temporary things of this world, enter now into the Joy of the Lord."  

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

This passage was written after the great "hall of faith" chapter in Hebrews 11. The great cloud of witness was the testimony of Old Testament Believers who put their faith and trust in Him. Life is hard because of the sin nature that encumbers us that says, "I'm the center of my own life." In order to run faithfully the race that is set before us, we need to look to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  We run together with those in hot pursuit of our Lord Jesus. We live to choke on the dust of those whose heart's desire is to run focused on the prize of the upward calling; their eyes fixed upon the prize. He's the one who conquered the grave and finished the race before us. He for the joy set before him endured the cross, finished the race and is set down upon the throne in Heaven at the right hand of God. Although life is filled with disappointments and heartbreak, Jesus Christ endured for the joy of your redemption and mine. The ultimate goal is our eternal fellowship with Him. Therefore, turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

As Paul said, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. We look toward the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. We're here to fix our eyes upon Jesus so we'll get to the finish line together. We draw strength from each other and from our brother, our Lord Jesus Christ, who blazed the trail before us.

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

For the Birds

Matthew 6:26-30 “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” 

Executive Director of the Creation Studies Institute – Tom DeRosa writes that one of the most poetic sets of verses in the Bible is found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:26-30. Our Lord sets a picturesque illustration of our heavenly Father as the ultimate provider and caretaker of His creation. He points our focus to things we experience here on earth that we can’t help but admire for their own unique beauty, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Every human being can experience and admire them with an awareness that God reminds us not to worry about material things like the food we will eat or the clothes we will wear. This is because our heavenly Father has those bases covered. He has a special love for us: “Are you not of more value than they?”  Similarly, our focus should be on Him and His eternal plan for us.

Who has not seen a bird defy gravity and soar freely in the air? Their specially-designed feathers dress them in an array of fascinating colors and the most pleasing sounds can be heard out of the tiniest mouths of these fascinating creatures. They sing their own songs depending on the kind of bird, and all this is sustained by the harmonious plan of their benevolent Creator.

Our Lord tells us that they have a different plan of life than man who has to “sow and reap” for his food, but birds have their own designed biological niche. Evolutionists fail to recognize that flight requires such intricate and uniquely specialized anatomical structures that it is inexcusable to think flight is not designed. Natural Selection dramatically fails to explain the origin of flight because these creatures are distinct. The Darwinian macro-Evolution theory is “for the birds” - (an idiom meaning worthless, undesirable).

 One can easily see that birds are unique and that biologists place them in a class by themselves. They are in the taxonomical Class Aves, with this group numbering close to 10,000 different species. It is ironic that the Creator in His Sermon on the Mount would use the illustration of a bird to teach us spiritual truth. Also, because of the beauty and so many other attractive characteristics that birds exhibit, this creature has a special place in many cultures. Man can never achieve what God has accomplished in the ultimate design of the bird. All of the intricate design of all life on earth is a testament to His glory for all to behold. We can only mimic what our heavenly Father has put in motion. He has everything in His hands, and He alone is worthy to be praised! 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Created Relationships

Romans 1:18-20 “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

This last Wednesday evening, our topical small group bible study continued in the video lecture series by Focus on the Family. This week, church teacher Michael facilitated the session and associated discussion around the presentation by Dr. Del Tackett. From the opening Bible verse, it is a fact that we can appreciate the beauty, intricacy, balance and amazing order of God’s created universe.

Psalm 19:1 “ The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

God has elaborately designed and created the anatomy and the physiology of our bodies for speech and hearing, so that we can communicate with each other and so that we can experientially hear and understand His Word and His created world. Sometimes, God shows us things from nature to declare the beauty, awe and wonder of His handiwork. The whole creation is in relationship according to His design and purpose. From the ecosystems to the systems of the body, and even to the social realms, God created everything for relationships.

Job 12:7-10 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

The biblical recorded account in Genesis Chapter One of God’s creation of everything we sense, including ourselves, and even beyond our senses, was, at the end of the day, good, except for one thing. In the midst of the creation story is a divine pause. Genesis 2:18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Up until that time, aloneness had never existed. Our sovereign triune God has always existed in unity (father, Son and Holy Spirit). Only by understanding the nature of God can we understand the nature of relationships, including the marriage and family relationship. Relationships, like the physical world is created by God. A relationship, like nature itself, shows the handiwork of Creator God. In relationships, we find the nature of the social order.  

Romans 1:20-23 “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God.”

The Word of God does not give a detailed blueprint for the physical relationships in the natural realm. Holy Scripture does not give detailed instructions about form and function of biology and physics because God set up observable physical laws to govern the behavior of the physical realm. The physical realm obeys God by His natural order according to His sovereign will. It is only mankind, with free will, that disobeys God.  At the fall of man, the relationship between God and mankind was severed by sin. God created all relationships and God created His plan of salvation to reconcile and restore that severed relationship between God and man through the finish work of Jesus Christ at the foot of the Cross. When we follow God’s blueprint for relationships in unity, found in the Word of God, the blessings will follow. To live, we must die to self and live in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Bigger Plan – Part 4

Let’s continue Pastor Willie message from yesterday.

(2) Focus on the welfare of others. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It is okay to look out for yourself. Lord Jesus is our model and He said in Mark 10:42-45 “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Bottom line: Go in peace, serve the Lord and be a blessing in the lives of others.

(3) Guard and keep your godly moral integrity. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “integrity” as the entire, unimpaired state of any thing, particularly of the mind; moral soundness or purity; incorruptness; uprightness; honesty. Integrity comprehends the whole moral character. Joseph nailed it on the head in Genesis 39:9, when he said, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” We are in the world, but not of this world; our citizenship is in the kingdom of Heaven. All sin is against God. It is God’s standards that we are to make our own and guard in our heart, despite the circumstances or consequences.

(4) Look for ways to bless others. We are “Christ-Followers”, disciples of Jesus, students of the Lord. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “bless” as: to make happy; to make successful; to prosper in temporal concerns; as, we are blest with peace and plenty. To bless others is the natural outflow of God’s love towards us. Proverbs 11:25-26 says, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.”

As bad as it seems, there is no pit so deep that God’s love doesn’t go deeper. God’s love and grace is there now and He is in control; even when we do not understand it. (1) Ask God to give you sight and faith that He is at work in your life. (2) Pray for the strength and wisdom to trust God at all times and in every circumstance of life. (3) Strategize against not seeking revenge, not growing cynical, not becoming defiant, and not getting discouraged. You may be the “brothers of Joseph” types that have wronged people. Repent your sins to God and ask Him to help you find ways to reconcile. (4) Restore your relationship with God through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Redeemer. That is the bigger plan.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the Sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.”

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Bigger Plan – Part 3

Genesis 45:5, 8But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

This last Sunday, Pastor Willie Nolte concluded his message about the deeper godly meaning of the actions and inactions of the Bible patriarch Joseph and God's bigger plan in all of it. The early part of Joseph’s life was marked by being wronged and forgotten by others. We all have been wronged or betrayed and forgotten by others. What we need to do is “let go” of the “it’s not fair”, “it’s not right” and “what you deserve” part of life, and choose to trust sovereign God as the center of our core being in our heart, in a world that is increasingly losing authority, hope and security. The often unseen providence and sovereignty of God is accomplishing something far bigger than we realize.

In Matthew 5:38-39 the Lord Jesus Christ said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” The civil law (Exodus 21:24) was given, so that we would have a standard of punishing that fit the crime and didn’t allow us to go overboard, which we tend to do in revenge. Church Reformer Martin Luther said that an eye for an eye laves both people blind. Our natural response when someone hurts us is to hurt them back. On a personal level, flip your thinking, like Joseph did. Trust the sovereignty of God. Quit thinking about getting even. Don’t live your life as a hateful (full of hate) person. We were not design for that.

Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

The question is: “How do we get to the place where believe – and ultimately see what Joseph saw?” In our fallen human condition, we tend to put ourselves before others. Pastor Willie gave us four things to do to help us in our maturing and growing. (1) Learn humility. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “humility” as (a) in ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth. (b) In theology, humility consists in lowliness of mind; a deep sense of one's own unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the divine will. What if, in fact, you were not the center of the universe? Clothe yourself in humility. This comes from recalibrating our thinking. Don’t wait to be “knocked off your horse” by God. Reflect on things that happen in life and always remember that Jesus Christ left the throne in Heaven to come into this world for our salvation for sin and our restoration to God. We are just sinners saved by grace. Begin practicing not putting yourself in the middle, but look for proactive ways to do what God intends us to do. James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

Colossians 3:9-13 says, “Since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Let’s continue Pastor Willie’s message on the bigger plan of God in the next post.

In Christ, Brian