Sunday, December 31, 2017

God With Us

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Last Sunday, our church joined every Christian church in the world with the celebration of Christmas Eve. With the Christmas stories from the Gospels in the Bible, and the Nativity scenes decorating the front lawns and home interiors, one might think that the focus of Christmas is primarily on the Christ child’s birth.

Luke 2:10-12 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

They tend to focus on verse 12, when the real focus is on verses 10 and 11. Almighty God (who is Spirit) sent God incarnate (God with skin on) to redeem that which was lost to sin and death. Romans 8:31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?” God in the flesh was among His people. Pastor Kyle explains that confidence grows naturally when we see and know who is with us in life, when we know that someone is willing to help us and be with us (behind us, beside us or out in front of us). The main message of Christmas is that God is with us. How different would you think and live if you truly knew that? 

Colossians 1:13-15 “For he (Jesus)  has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “incarnation” as: The act of assuming flesh, or of taking a human body and the nature of man. Jesus is the incarnation of God for us. Jesus experienced, felt and knows us, because He was one of us. That is tangible to us because the invisible God became a touchable God and was with us. Jesus had to come in the flesh as God’s plan of Salvation for all sinners had to be paid. Only a sinless “lamb without blemish” (Jesus) could pay the price and defeat death because death cannot hold the sinless. Christ came that Christmas to be born, later die for our sins, then rise again that Believer might be raised with Him and spend eternity not in Hell, but in the kingdom of Heaven with the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

People do not worship a baby; they worship God incarnate and praise the name of the Lord. Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth and good will towards man. Christmas is powerful because Jesus’ church gathers for the glory of God in “God with us: through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. This is Christmas. The incarnation happens in the most unlikely places, through unlikely people. The promise of Christmas is that “Jesus is with us” and is in our born again heart. When you feel out-of-place, know that God is your home. The reality is that God came for us and is with you and I always. Rejoice!

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, December 30, 2017


Psalm 1:1-3 “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. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” 

I started a new Bible Study on the “Be Attitudes” lately and have been blessed by the teachings from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about this subject of the Christian life. Early on in my Christian walk, I discovered these attitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, of the Believer’s new nature, manner and outlook on life. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “attitude” as: a disposition of the parts as serves to express the action and sentiments of the person represented. Basically, attitude is who we are at the heart, that leads to what we think, say and do.  

Deuteronomy 33:29 “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph!”

Professor Brandon Crowe points out that we can throw around and use lightly the words bless, blessed and blessing in everyday conversation. So, when we read about the “blessed” ones in the Lord’s Beatitudes, the impact of the concept of blessing may get lost in translations. The entire Sermon on the Mount presents an ethical blueprint for disciples (Followers of Jesus Christ) who make up the Judeo/Christian community, providing great principles that are to guide Believers to righteousness in practice. But, we must always remember that we are foundationally not received by Jesus into a school of ethics but into a kingdom of redemption. A kingdom has a King and the subjects meditate on the importance of the law of God for life. To know and to do God’s law is to be blessed to the redeemed citizen of Heaven.

Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “blessed” as: Happy; prosperous in worldly affairs; enjoying spiritual happiness and the favor of God; enjoying heavenly felicity. God’s saving work provides the proper context for understanding what it means to be covenantally blessed and shows that being blessed with salvation also entails the responsibility to live according to God’s law. Happiness is rooted in godly holiness. Redemption precedes living according to Ephesians 2:1-10 and the Beatitudes. You have to have life” before you can “live”. It is thus in light of the gift of redemption that we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness, be pure in heart or any of the other Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are at once the blessings of the redeemed and the call for what the lives of the redeemed should look like and ways that the blessings of the redeemed reflect the character of their Savior. They speak of those spiritual characteristics into which we ought to strive, by God’s grace, to grow and mature in our Christian walk. The inductive – what we are – grounds the imperative – what God calls us  to be.

Romans 6:10-12 “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Have Eternal Life

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In my final study of the amazing Bible verse John 3:16, Professor William Barcley points out that “life” is a prominent theme in John’s gospel. The Greek words translated by the English terms “life” and “live” occur more than sixty times in the book of John. The most prominent of these are in reference to the life that God gives through Jesus Christ ... eternal life.

John 3:36a “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life.”

 The Apostle John writes in John 20:31 “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” Life in Christ and eternal life are essentially synonymous. Both the book of Genesis and John begin with the words “In the beginning” because God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit created all life. John 1:2-4 goes on to tell us that “He (Jesus) was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. You can only find true life in Jesus Christ, who is Himself the Creator of all life. Jesus goes on to say in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.We never truly life until we know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

John 17:1b-3 Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Dr. Barcley explains that “eternal life” in the Bible refers to more than the fact that it never ends. Human beings long for immortality. Why? Our parents, Adam and Eve, were created with immortality with unhindered fellowship with God. Death entered the world because of sin. Adam and Eve eventually died physically; however, on the day they doubted God and ate the forbidden fruit, they died spiritually and the unhindered fellowship with God was broken. We are triune beings, created with body, soul and spirit. It is “the spirit” that died and is dead in all mankind. The true “life”, the “eternal life” that Jesus gives, means the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of our spirit and being reconciled and restored to the state of knowing and communing with the only true God. Because sin has broken our fellowship with God, we must be “born again”, born from above.

John 3:3, 14-15Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

That is, the Holy Spirit must come and give us new life and make us a new creation by His regenerating power. In John 11:25-26 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” When we who trust in God, repent of our sins, and believe by faith in the finished atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our redemption, we have salvation now, a resurrected spirit and the hope of a glorified body in heaven that enables us to commune with God for all eternity. This is the abundant life and we can say, like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain”, knowing that Jesus said in John 10:10-11, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” 

Life in Christ, Brian

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Revolutionary – Part 2 - God's Economy

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

When we were born, we were subject to our original sin nature and ruled by the world's system of the natural desires of the flesh and lies of the devil. The devil will appeal to selfishness, vengeance, pride, anger, and bitterness. He will tell you "take revenge because you're morally justified to seek retribution." However, lies and deceit are the language of the devil and lies are the native language of those who follow the doctrines of the God-rejecting world.

Only Almighty God delivers us from the law of sin and death. "To those who reverently fear, love, honor, and respect Him, He will satisfy their godly heart’s hunger with good things." As Jeremiah, in chapter 15 verse 16, said, "Thy words were found and I did eat them ... and they were the joy and rejoicing of my soul." God will satisfy the appetite of those who are hungry for the Word of the Lord ... and they shall know the truth and the truth shall make them free. Jesus Christ, the "Hound of Heaven" will pursue us to desire being a "man or woman of God." Jesus' question to Peter, in John, chapter 21, was, "Do you love me?" He came not to condemn the world but that the world through him may be saved. He came so that we would "hunger and thirst after righteousness" .... to bring us to the point that our prayer is: "Lord make me the man or woman you created me to be." It all starts with a revolution in our hearts and minds and begins with the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The second revolution is “economic”. A “secular economy” is an economy of "scarceness" to get what you fleshly “need”. The “world's economy” says, "my riches at your expense" in self-centered competition. It's not really "survival of the fittest", but “survival of the survivor” in a “dog eat dog” world. However, “God's economy” is one where no one dares to have too much while our fellow brother or sister has too little. God's economy says, let him that stole steal no more but rather let him labor working with his hands the thing which is good that he may have to give to him that needeth. The need is for the power of God's Holy Spirit. The blessing is in “giving by grace”. God's economy is an economy of spiritual abundance ... of abundant blessings.  As the Holy Scripture says in Luke 12:15, “Take heed and beware of covetousness for a man's life consists not in the abundance of things that he possesses.” The irony is that we're richest when we give it away ... no one can out give God. As the Holy Scripture says in Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you pressed down, shaken together and running over. When we give, God will abundantly bless us back."

The third revolution is a “social revolution”.  Social norms will pit social factions against each other. Factions are political, economic, educational, racial, and religious. However, the ground and playing field is level at the foot of the cross. Jesus was revolutionary because he came to make peace. Peace is the result of reconciliation. Reconciliation means to "bring back together that which has been separated." We were all separate from Father God, our Almighty Creator, by our sin. We have not the peace of God, until we first make peace with God. You can't have peace until you have the “Prince of Peace”, the Blessed Redeemer and the Savior of the world, reconcile your sins by atoning for them on the cross in your place. The Lord Jesus said in John 14:27, "My peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you.  Not as the world giveth give I unto you....let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid." Christ alone saves. 

Romans 6:15-16 explains: “You are slaves to whom you obey.” Whose slave are you?  As we celebrate the birth of Christ each December, may the Christmas season be a celebration of new birth within our hearts ... that we may desire to become a true "man or woman of God." His calling is to "take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee."  Fundamental change starts with a revolution. Jesus Christ living in our hearts is the revolution.

May God richly bless you,

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Revolutionary- Part 1 – Good Stewards

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

This week, Michael writes that through the journey of life, our Heavenly Father will prepare us for the path that He has foreordained that we should walk. The reason we assemble together as like-minded believers in the Christian church, at Bible study and fellowship events is to encourage and lift up one another as we journey together according to the way that the Lord, our God, has prepared for us. Life in the jungle may be “no bowl full of cherries”, but life is only difficult when we struggle to give up our cherished pride. When we give up ourselves, we allow the Lord to help Himself to our lives. Circumstances (people, places and things) do not determine our true joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength and source of our happiness.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The Virgin Mary was an example of humility. She said, "Be it unto me according to Thy word."  What was God thinking when He called this humble virgin girl? God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Therefore, humble thyself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time. Luke 1:46-50 is the account of Mary's "Magnificat" - The Song of Mary.

Luke 1:46-50 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”

This is the outpouring of her heart of joy and gratitude because of the message she heard from the Angel Gabriel. Mary's "Magnificat" was a song of joy to God for counting His humble handmaiden worthy to bear God's son. Her heart had been revolutionized.  Mary's son, Jesus Christ himself, was a revolutionary. He came to make fundamental changes and to revolutionize society, governments and world orders. A revolution is a sudden, radical and complete change. According to Corinthians, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.  Old things have passed away, all things are become new. Revolution starts with a revolution in hearts and minds. It's only by the grace of God that we're called to repentance ... to turn our hearts to the Lord. 2 Timothy 3: 1-5 is about the "perilous times" that Jesus talked about. Cultures will rise and fall.  Our own culture is disintegrating and world orders are changing.

Sometimes material abundance is a curse. Abundance in our society promotes "choices." Because of multiple choices, many in our society pursue the wrong choice.  They chose the “wisdom of this world” which is earthly, sensual, and devilish. We need the Holy Spirit's help to chose the “wisdom from above”. This true spiritual wisdom is peaceable, approachable, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Regarding material abundance, we need the Holy Spirit's help us chose to be good stewards of that which He has entrusted to us. 

Jesus came to bring about three types of revolutions. Christianity is “death to pride”.  According to Philippians 2, God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. Mary identified herself as the Lord's humble handmaiden. Jesus Christ humbled himself and made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a bond who serves others from a heart of love. His ultimate act of love is that He was obedient, even unto death. On the Cross He became God's perfect sacrifice for sin on our behalf.  

Let's continue Michael's message on revolutionary Christianity in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whoever Believes in Him Should not Perish

John 3:16a “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish.”  

Continuing in my study of the gospel message found within the truths of John 3:16, Professor Guy Richard points out how sobering are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” But, a reality that ought to give us a great appreciation for the glorious truth of the gospel, that God will be merciful to all who believe, putting their hope and trust in Jesus Christ. Believers need not fear the coming flood of God’s judgment because we know that God gave His Son for the express purpose that all who believe in him should not perish.

John 3:35-36 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Dr. Richard explains that although it is true that the word “perish” is used frequently in the Gospels to refer to physical death or destruction, it means far more than that here in John 3:16, because it is placed in antithesis to “eternal life”, being “saved” and “not condemned”. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “perish” in John 3:16 as: To be lost eternally; to be sentenced to endless misery. The destruction from which believers are spared is, therefore,  not physical death or even some kind of annihilation but the eternal destruction that results from being “condemned” because of sin and rebellion against God. All who reject Christ and persist in their unbelief will receive not eternal life but eternal destruction as the wrath of God abides on him. This understanding of the word perish is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching about hell.

Matthew 25:31-34, 41, 46 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Those who do not receive eternal life do not simply cease to exist. They experience an eternity of destruction or punishment that manifests itself in unquenchable fire or in the “fiery furnace” in which there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is what it means to perish. It is an eternity of getting what our sins and our rejection of Jesus Christ deserve. And this is precisely why the gospel is so encouraging for the Christian. It holds out to us the promise that “whoever believes” in Jesus Christ will not perish. Although our sins and our rebellion clearly deserve an eternity of destruction, that is not what believers will receive from God. God will be merciful and spare believers from destruction. He will not give us what we deserve. Jesus has endured that.

Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Those who respond to Him in faith and obedience will not perish but will have eternal life. The good news of John 3:16 is that, though we were all at one time numbered among the perishing, now, through faith in Christ alone, that is no longer the case. We have been shown mercy and for that reason, we will not perish.

Blessings, in Christ

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas 2017

From our family to yours, Merry Christmas


Sunday, December 24, 2017

His Only Begotten Son

John 3:16a “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

Having just returned from an 18-day cruise to South America with my father to celebrate his 90th birthday and then celebrating my brother’s 68th and my son’s 38th birthdays with the family, we settle in today on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of our blessed savior and Lord Jesus Christ with the world.

I remember reciting the words “begotten, not made” in the Nicene Creed at our church to described the relationship God the Father and God the Son Jesus Christ. That word “begotten” was not really clear to me in the beginning, but learned the important distinction and details involved. Jesus is the Son of God. Those that make up the Christian church are sons and daughters of God … the children of God and brothers and sisters with Christ, in Christ. What was the difference? The clues for me and the answers were in the definition of the word “begotten” and in beginning of John’s gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s Epistles within the Holy Bible.

Apostle John writes in John 1:10-13 “He (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The word “begotten” is defined in the 1828 Webster’s dictionary as: Procreated; generated. I read that to beget is to sire, to be parent to, as by a father. 

The Apostle Paul explains further in Ephesians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

Professor Dr. Scott Swain states that the words “only begotten Son” describes Jesus’ filial relationship to the Father as the second person of the Trinity. The word “filial” is defined as: having or assuming the relation of a child or offspring. What is the nature of this relationship? The Apostle John explains in John 1:1-4 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The only begotten Son’s relationship to the Father is eternal. The only begotten Son’s relationship to the Father is a relationship of equality. The only begotten Son’s relationship of the father is unique: though God wills to draw many children into His family through adoption, the only begotten Son does not belong in a class with God’s creaturely sons and daughters. Jesus Christ dwells eternally at the Father’s side, set apart from all the rest ... God the Son.

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

Though God created the world very good, the world through sin made itself subject to God’s eternal wrath and condemnation. But, out of the astonishing nature of God’s “agape” love for unworthy sinners, Father God sends and gives “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”; not only redeeming us by bearing our condemnation but also to bestow “eternal life”. The Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1-6 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

1 John 5:11-13 “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Father God gave His beloved Son on Christmas as a sacrificial gift for sinners, displaying His loving purpose for us by uniting us to His only begotten Son, giving us “the right to become children of God”. Jesus Christ is the gift of God and the reason for the season of Christmas. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” May we remember this gift, this Savior of the world, as we rejoice and give enthusiastic praise to God today.

Merry Christmas, in Christ, Brian 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

He Gave

John 3:16a “For God so loved the world that He gave.”

During this Advent season of Christmas, I’ve been reading a study on John 3:16 in relationship to the gospel and the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Savior and blessed Redeemer of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus at Easter was a factual historical event. Yet, the cross stands at the heart of the gospel not because of what it tells of sin, but because of what it tells us about the grace of God – the unmerited favor of God that gave us the atoning redemption we did not deserve, mercy’s providing a remedy for sin, and love’s ensuring the effectiveness of the salvation. The cross at Calvary is “good news” not because of what we took away from God, but because of what God has given us. The cross was the giving of God the Son by God the Father for the salvation of the world.

Genesis 3:15 “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Dr. Ian Campbell points out that the coming of Christ was no accident and the giving of Christ was planned and introduced in the first proclamation of the gospel - the Protoevangel’s “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15. Behind history, there was a purpose of salvation already decreed in which the Son of God would be given as the Savior of sinners. The royal “Good Shepherd” would lay down His life for the sheep. The world was lost in sin, which led to eternal death, so the world needed a Savior that redeemed unto eternal life. God gave.

Isaiah 9:6-7a “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God. Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

The final fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s words arrived when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, became incarnate as one of us. Christmas is about the giving of God incarnate, God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. God achieved for us what we could not do in our own strength. The birth, life, atoning death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ was the ultimate giving of the gift of God’s love, and the reason He gave was so that the world might be saved through receiving His inexpressible gift.

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


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

We are the Plan – Part 2

Continuing from Michael’s last post: There's a book called "Voices from the Edge of Eternity." This book contains death bed confessions from many famous people. One of the stories is entitled, "It's too late." This person was prosperous and well regarded. However, he was an infidel who rejected the gospel of Christ. On his death bed, his uncle prayed for him, but the man finally cried before he died, "It's too late." Many on their death bed say “it's too late to turn to Christ”. This man had a lifetime of opportunities to be saved. Actually, many who attend church have never really accepted Christ either. Jesus said, "There is a narrow gate and a narrow way and few there are who find it."

When hearing the gospel of salvation, there are four categories of people who react to the message. The first are those who reject the gospel message outright.  The second category are those who attend church regularly.  They walk down the aisle at the altar call but have never completed the transaction for salvation.  The third category are those who think they're saved but they are really not.  They're on a works-based false understanding of Salvation.  These are those to whom Jesus said, "I never knew you."  They have never really come before the Lord to forsake their own lives and turn to him as Lord and Master.  The forth category are those who know that they know that they have been saved.  As the Apostle Paul said, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which he's committed unto me against that day of righteous judgment."

To turn to Him we must forsake our wicked ways and approach His throne of grace with a broken and contrite heart of meekness and humility.  God is waiting with grace, mercy and love to abundantly pardon.  If we knew what were at stake, we would run to return our hearts to him.  

God's ways are not our ways.  His thoughts and ways are much higher than ours.  What is God's plan?  The irony is that WE are God's plan.  We who have been saved are God's plan for redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ.  According to 2 Corinthians 5, we are His Ambassadors. We represent a foreign land...the kingdom of heaven.  An ambassador is the highest ranking official sent from his Sovereign Lord as a representative of his homeland.  God has given us a mission...the ministry of reconciliation... He has committed unto us his word.  Therefore we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

We are God's plan and there is no plan “B”.  We are God's message.  We're His living love letters, His living epistles known and read of all men and women.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We are the Plan – Part 1

This week, Michael writes: The late Christian author Oswald Chambers said that if you look to Jesus, regardless of the age in which you live, the world will call you an impractical dreamer. If we did according to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, we would be radically different from the World. Jesus said, "When someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek with a good attitude." Sometimes when we're slapped across the cheek, the Holy Spirit will convict us. When we're wrong, God will allow the world to reprove us.

Isaiah 55: 6-9 “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We're in trouble when we try to protect our "Rights." Any fool can claim his Rights and any demon will make sure he gets them. Human "rights" are often godly "wrongs" according to the standard of the Word of God. Rights are what God says is right and align with His perfect Word, Will and Way. The priority when we're wrong is to allow the Lord to reprove and correct us, in order to restore us to an upright position.

God and his Holy Spirit will mess with us and persuade us to return our hearts back to him. To come to Him, we must forsake our ways and repent ... do an about-face and  change direction. With fallen humanity, it's rare when a sinner repents from the heart. We seem to be sorrier for getting caught than performing the offense or transgression. Thank God when he gets our attention with a Word of reproof. He always has our best interest in mind. Creator God has supernatural authority over our lives. “Supernatural” means that which is above usual and normal ... that which transcends the laws of nature. God is Sovereign and reigns over all. The natural realm is subject to his Word. Nothing is too difficult for God.  

God always allows our “freedom of will”.  He will not force us to turn to Him with a heart of meekness and humility. However, pain, tribulation, reproof, chastisement and corrections are our friends. They show us that we are on a path that is contrary to the path that He's foreordained for us to walk in fellowship with him.  

Let’s continue Michael message on “God’s Sovereign Authority in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Monday, December 18, 2017

God’s Love

John 3:16a “For God so loved the world.”

Pastor-teacher Dr. John MacArthur states that John 3:16 may or may not be the most familiar verse in all of Scripture, but it is surely one of the most abused  and least understood. The verse is so well known that the reference alone is thought by many to be a sufficient proclamation of the gospel, which extract the above portion of text and use it as an argument for universal atonement. More extreme Universalists claim it proves that God loves everyone exactly the same, and that all will be saved; as if the verse negated all the biblical warnings of condemnation for the wicked. The immediate context of John 3:18 gives the necessary balance: “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”. Surely, that is the truth that needs to be proclaimed to our generation with at least as much passion and urgency as the message of God’s love and mercy.

MacArthur points out that John 3:16 does not focus on the extent of the atonement; the verse is a statement about the magnitude of God’s love. Here is a profound wonder: God loved “the (God-rejecting) world” – this wicked realm of fallen humanity – so much that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to pay the price of redemption for all who believe in Him. John writes on this central point in 1 John 3:1 “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God.” The Apostle Paul by this same truth in Romans 5:8 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

Romans 3:22-24 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

No matter how wonderful the world may appear, it is not worthy of God’s redeeming love. Why would He choose to love finite, fallen human beings at the cost of His own Son’s life? It is not a wonder that God doesn’t save everyone; it is a wonder that He saves anyone at all. Why didn’t God just write us all off as wretched sinners, make us the object of His righteous wrath, and display His glory in just judgment against us? Rev. John Tweeddale asserts that understanding how undeserving the world (Greek – kosmos) is of God’s love is the key to John 3:16. Only then will we appreciate the unexpected gift that God gives. The term “world” in John 3:16 is not so much on the identity of God’s people but on the nature of God’s love. A solid case can be made for believing that “World” refers to the quality of God’s love. Benjamin Warfield convincingly states: “World is not here a term of extension so much as a term of intensity. Its primary connotation is ethical, and the point of its employment is not to suggest that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it all, but that the world is so bad that it takes a great kind of love to love it at all, and much more to love it as God has loved it when he gave his Son for it.”

1 John 4:8b “God is love.”

The world represents sinful humanity and is not worthy of God’s saving love. Apart from the love of God, the world stands under God’s condemnation. The reasons for His love are to be found in God alone, not in those whom He loves. This is a tremendously humbling truth: God’s love is graciously, freely bestowed, not merited by anything we can do. In Christ, believers experience God’s surprising, redeeming, and never-ending love. There is no occasion for human pride in the doctrine of God’s love – only sober-minded humility, deep gratitude, and the quiet reverence of a faithful heart. John 3:16 is about the greatness of God and God’s love.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Great Good

Have you ever asked why you want God’s forgiveness or eternal life? One article that I read lately points out that it is possible to want forgiveness and eternal life for the wrong reasons. Take forgiveness, for example. You might want God’s forgiveness because you are so miserable with guilt feelings. If you want forgiveness only because of emotional relief, you won’t have God’s forgiveness. In other words, it matters what you are hoping for through forgiveness. It matters why you want it. Why? God does not give it to those who use forgiveness only to get His gifts and not Himself. We are missing the main point of forgiveness. Where is gospel salvation in that? Sin separated us from God, where we have no relationship or fellowship with our heavenly Father. Forgiveness is not some “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Forgiveness is precious for one ultimate reason: it reconciles and enables you and I to enjoy restored fellowship with God. God will not be used as currency for the purchase of idols. 

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

The same point is true in our desire for eternal life. If I desire to receive eternal life and go to Heaven because Hell is the alternative and eternal punishment is painful, then we are missing the main point of eternal life. In all these aims, one thing is missing – God. The “saving” motive for desiring eternal life is God himself. We simply kid ourselves that we are Christians if we use the glorious gospel of Christ to get what we love more than Christ. The “good news” will not prove “good” to any for whom God is not the chief good.

The late American Theologian Jonathon Edwards preached in 1731 on the “true goodness of forgiveness and life in the Sermon “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence”: The redeemed have all their objective god in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest god, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints (meaning those who have been sanctified in Christ), he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the “rive of the water of life” that runs, and the tree of life that grows, “in the midst of the paradise of God.” The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The gospel is ultimately about God. He is who and what we lost though our sin. He alone is the author and goal of salvation. The good news of the gospel is that God is the great good and chief end of the gospel. He so loved the world not simply to give us forgiveness or eternal life, but to give us something even greater – Himself. That is the great good.


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Greeting One Another

Romans 16:16a “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.”

One commentary on the book of Romans points out that Paul shows us that expressions of friendship and affection in the church should not come only from church leaders. Instead, they should be evident among all the members of our various congregations. He shows us that this is the case by instructing the Romans to “greet one another with a holy kiss”.

We know that the admonition to greet other believers affectionately is for all believers because Paul tells other local churches the same thing (for example, 1 Cor. 16:20). In any case, to understand the Apostle’s meaning, we need to consider his context. People often greeted one another with a kiss when they met together in the ancient Mediterranean world of the Roman Empire. Thus, Paul adapts a prevailing cultural practice and gives it new significance, for he calls it a “holy kiss.” The most important thing here is that our affectionate greetings should be “holy” and acceptable to the Lord.

It is possible to give kisses with ulterior motives (Luke 22:47–48), and it is possible to greet other believers warmly in the Lord with a hug or a handshake. The kissing is not the important part, as appropriate greetings are expressed in different ways in different cultures. So, in cultures where greeting even members of the same gender with a kiss is appropriate, a holy kiss would be the right action. In other societies where a handshake is the customary way of greeting, the goal should be a “holy” handshake in the love of the body of Christ and the family of God. Matthew Henry comments on today’s passage, “Mutual salutations, as they express Christian love, so they increase and strengthen love, and endear Christians one to another: therefore Paul here encourages the use of them, and only directs that they may be “holy” - opposition to that which is treacherous and dissembling.”

In Romans 16:16b, the Apostle extends one final greeting to the Roman Christians from “all the churches of Christ.” The Apostle refers to the various congregations he planted and instructed, reminding the Roman believers that they were not the only community of believers. Christ’s church is bigger than any one congregation or denomination, and as residents of the most important city in the Roman Empire, the Romans needed to be reminded that Jesus’ kingdom was larger than Rome. All of us should be encouraged that the church of Jesus Christ is bigger than what we see in our local churches, cities, or countries.

The differences that separate professing Christian denominations are significant—many of them even touching the heart of the gospel—so we should never minimize them. Yet we should not so separate from others who affirm the “true gospel” that we believe Jesus cannot be at work in other churches or denominations. Christ is building His church, and He is doing it through many different ecclesiastical bodies. Brothers and sisters, greet one another in the love of each other, in the love of Christ.


Friday, December 15, 2017

Lukewarm – Part 2 - The Christian Church

The United States of America’s Southern culture is unique and has its own distinctive customs, mannerisms and norms. No matter where you go, the challenge as men and women of God is to be exclusive and supernatural in the midst of the secular spiritual battle for hearts there. It's difficult to hold on to the values of the culture of our heavenly homeland. In years gone by, culture was more aligned with the values of the Word of God and Christian churches taught and reflected those godly virtues.

The churches of Asia Minor in the book of Revelation exemplify the churches and the cultures of today. The church of Ephesus was loveless. Pergamum was compromising. Thyatira was a corrupt church. Their values and morals had been corrupted by the secular humanistic culture. Like today, many of the churches had become irrelevant being more about human relationships and existential philosophy. Sardis was a spiritually dead church. The Holy Spirit had left the church and they didn't even notice.  Unlike the other churches Philadelphia was a faithful church. The last church was the church of Laodicea. The Apostle John had nothing good to say about this church.  According to Revelation 3:14 and following: “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

The "Amen" is “the Truth”. Jesus Christ himself is the truth of the Word of God. He is the faithful and the true witness. He is the one who tells what He has seen and heard with honesty, accuracy, and integrity that impresses the hearers. Heresy in the church alienated the church from the truth of the living Word. The Lord said: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.”

The church at Laodicea was lukewarm, tepid, and indifferent. They had no passion.  They were living comfortably but had lost their zeal for the truth and their passion to serve the Lord. Apathy and indifference are difficult to deal with. The Laodiceans had anesthetized themselves to the pain and passion of the world. As “casual” Christians they had lost their motivation to serve the Lord from a heart of love. After "casual" The next word in the dictionary was "casualty."  Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. In Revelation 3:16 the message to the church of Laodicea is:  “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit thee out of my mouth.”  

The church needs to be shaken out of its indifference, comfort and complacency. God will shake that which can be shaken. Sometimes God will bring people into your life to reprove rebuke and correct ... to restore to an upright position The exhortation is to be zealous, to repent and to turn from complacency to the throne of the living and true God. 

The Laodiceans had become rich and wealthy and they thought they knew the truth but they really had no clue. They had been deceived in their own hearts. They thought that because they were prosperous and self-sufficient, they had no need for God and the things of the Spirit.  

Revelation 3:17-19Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

They were rich and wealthy, but didn't notice that they had forsaken the truth of the living and true Word of God. There is no one in the dark so deep as he who thinks he is in the light, but he's really in the dark. Jesus Christ himself is the light of the world. He came to open the eyes of those born spiritually blind. Jesus said, behold I stand at the door and knock.  He who opens the door, I will come in and we'll dine together in fellowship and communion. Our responsibility is to open the door to our hear when the Holy Spirit convicts us. Our calling is to come before Him with a heart of humility and meekness.

We have not been called to criticize, condemn, and complain. All God asks is complete obedience with no questioning or complaining on my part and no explanation on His. The challenge is to influence our own hearts and minds according to the truth of the living and the true Word. As the apostle Paul said, Rejoice evermore.  Quench not the Spirit...set us on fire Lord.  In everything give thanks. Never be lukewarm.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lukewarm – Part One - Christian Casualties

This week Michael writes: To spend time in the South of the United States of America is an immersion in "Southern Comfort." Church is such an important part of Southern culture that in some towns, there's a church on every corner. If you're from the South, it's assumed that you're a church-going Christian. However, “Down South” the danger is that you'll become a "casual Christian." The undercurrent of southern culture will carry along casual
 and nominal Christians.  
In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, John addresses the distinct cultures of the seven churches of Asia Minor. These churches are examples of churches in every age and in every culture. The problem with the church of Ephesus is that they lacked pure love. Although they thought that they loved God, they didn't realize that they were lacking in true love. You can be in the dark, lacking and not even realizing it. When the truth of the light of the Word of God shines, it reveals the root of the problem. Their problem is that they didn't know the absolute love of God. The love of God, “agape” in the Greek, is the only type of love that doesn't require reciprocity. It requires nothing in return.  Agape love is characterized by the pure act of giving unconditionally.  

John 3:16 “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.”

The problem in Laodicea was a lukewarm and spiritually dead church. The message beginning in Revelation 3:14 says, “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodicea write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” Jesus Christ himself is “the Amen”, the last true Word of God. He is the true witness of the truth. There was an old heresy that said Jesus Christ was not the true and faithful gospel message of the truth of the Word of God. No church is in the dark so deep that they think that they're in the light, but they're really in the dark. The Laodicea church thought that they were doing fine, but they had become "casual Christians." They had become complacent and had forsaken and abandoned the true and faithful word, Jesus Christ himself.

Revelation 2:15-16 “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit thee out of my mouth.”

The Laodicea church had become "lukewarm". They fell into compromise with the doctrines, teachings and traditions of the secular world around them that they were supposed to impact of the Lord. Now, the question is, "What is the condition of your soul?" On a scale of one to ten, a one means that you don't really care. Ten means that you're on fire with the spirit of the Lord. The church at Laodicea was a one on that scale: they had lost their zeal, their passion, and their dependence on God. How did they become complacent? Laodicea was a banking center and had great natural resources. They thought that they had “need of nothing."  

Revelation 2:17-18 “Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white raiment, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”

The Laodicea church had a critical spirit. They thought that they were "self sufficient" and could make it on their own. A prideful and haughty spirit cannot approach the throne of God. The wealth and prosperity of the city dazzled and blinded its citizens.  Because they were rich in material things, they did not realize that they were poor, blind, naked and wretched in spiritual things. In contrast to the riches of this world, Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Humility is the prerequisite for turning to the Lord. Therefore humble thyself under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time.  
The church at Laodicea was lukewarm and apathetic in the things of the Spirit. They were half-hearted and without conviction. Jesus always condemns indifference. The Laodicea church had no enthusiasm or zeal for the things of the spirit. They had become "casual Christians." They were unconcerned, nonchalant and had lost feeling, conviction, and passion for the Lord. Casual Christians become casualties of the spiritual battle.

The exhortation to the church at Laodicea was "quench not the Spirit."  As David said, “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” We need to be in the Word of God like the Apostle Paul's charge to the Thessalonians. Our responsibility is to "keep the fire stoked." Quench not the spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice.  In everything give thanks.  

Part Two tomorrow.
May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael