Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Letting Go and Letting God

This week, Michael writes: There's a story about a young amateur photographer who wanted to make a name for himself by photographing the Grand Canyon. He got up early and set up his tripod, his camera and equipment. As he walked around looking for the best lighting and perspective for his landscape shot, he backed up and tumbled over the edge of the cliff. On his way down, he was grasping for shrubbery, bushes or any outcropping he could grab and luckily caught on to one. As he was hanging on for dear life he yelled, "Can anyone hear me?" He heard an answer, "I'm here to help you."  "Who are you," he replied.  "I'm God" came the answer. "What do you want me to do?"  God said, "Just let go!"  The man replied, "Is any one else up there?"

The question is, "Are we willing to let go and let God?" According to Romans 8:28, in the Amplified Bible, "We are assured and know that God (being a partner in our labor) will cause all things to work together (fitting into his plan) for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (and his design.)”  The order of priority should be God, His glory, and then me. This priority is reversed for most people. In the midst of trials and tribulations, men and women often ask themselves, "What was God thinking?" In Old Testament times, philosophers know as the Stoics (Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy that flourished throughout the Roman and Greek world until the 3rd century AD.) thought that people should restrain themselves from feeling, emotion, and passion. This was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. However, the Stoics got some things right.  They believed in the mind of God, His reason and His all-inspired Word. They believed that God was Sovereign and in control of everything. The sovereign is the one who exercises supreme authority. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Sovereign” as: Supreme in power; possessing supreme dominion; as a sovereign ruler of the universe. Supreme; superior to all others; chief. God is the sovereign good of all who love and obey him.

The son of an evangelist wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.  But when he saw the suffering of the people around him, he didn't understand the motives of a holy God. He denounced his faith and became an atheist. Each man must decide, "What is truth?" To what and to whom are we willing to commit?  Jesus said, "He who shall lose his life for my sake shall save it. For what shall it profit a man to save his life but lose his soul." Life is full of traumatic experiences. As the late Christian minister and teacher Oswald Chambers said, "God requires extreme service from you with no explaining on his part and no complaining on yours."  We must settle in our minds whether God is Sovereign or not.  Am I answerable to God or is he answerable to me?

There's a parable in Luke 17 about a servant who after working all day in the field, came into his master's house. His master said, "First prepare my meal and then after I have finished you can sit down and eat." The humble servant served as his master commanded. He did not expect to receive praise for performing his duties in service to his master. The stoics believed that the duty of every man was acceptance: to endure without questioning; to defer, acquiesce and to resign oneself to the inevitable. Jesus reminded us that we all live in a sin-sick fallen world. He said, "In this world ye shall have tribulation. However, be of good cheer, because I have overcome the world." Natural disasters are inevitable. According to Romans 8:22, "The whole world groans and travails like birth pains until now." How close together are the birth pains? As the time between contractions decreases, "the redemption of our bodies" when Christ returns draws nearer. Nothing happens in this world without God allowing it to happen. The scripture says, "Happy is the man who condemns not himself in that thing which He alloweth."  

In Romans 8:28, what is it that we know with great confidence? We know that to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose, all things work together for good. Jesus said, If you love me, you'll let go.  This is the only way we'll see everything working together for good. Ephesians 4 says, "Walk worthy of the calling wherewith you are called." In loving the Lord by obedience to His holy Word, we will learn God's purpose for our journey in this life. When we give God permission to help himself with our lives, we can continue in his blessed Word as Christ's disciplined followers. And then we shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free. The irony is that to be set free means to surrender to His will. "Hands up, I surrender," is not a confession that comes naturally for most men and women.  However, surrender to our Lord Jesus Christ is the requirement for a life lived more abundantly. He does all things well. For all things work together for good to those who love God ... to those who are called according to his purpose. It just takes letting go and letting God.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Show Me Jesus - Part 3

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Kyle suggested three things to anyone whose private live is not lining up with their faith. (1) Remember, you can be “saved” and still act “stupid”. The devil paints a pretty picture of the “pleasures of sin for a season”, but intentionally leaves out the “fine print” of the consequences for those sinful practices and lifestyle … there’s hell to pay. (2) Renounce and repent of it. There is accountability to God for our sin and a judgment to come. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Admit your sin and call it “wrong”. Make a u-turn, out of darkness and into the light, repenting to freedom and a “right” relationship with the Lord and a clear conscience, for in John 8:31-32, Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Ephesians 2:1-5 “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. 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.”

 (3) Get more serious help than a prayer. God made people and families in community for interpersonal relationships, so the healing process takes loving others involved. The church is just such a place, where the requirement to join is that you must be a sinner. We are all sinners saved by the grace of God. Faith is like the unworthy hand of a beggar receiving the gift of eternal life from the King of the kingdom of Heaven, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:8-9 “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Those who overcome the sin nature of the flesh, the egocentric God-rejecting world system and the devil’s temptation to take our heart’s eye off of the one true God and Lord of our life - His gospel work of salvation (His holy Word of truth and His absolute righteousness), confess, align and reflect the light of Jesus Christ in His way, His truth and His abundant and eternal life, and willfully (led by the indwelling Holy Spirit) take up their cross daily and follow Him, will inherit a crown of life in the kingdom of Heaven. For a life and purpose purposes that lines up with the Lord’s is one that centers on “Show Me Jesus”.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, November 20, 2017

Show Me Jesus - Part 2

Pastor Kyle explained two clear lessons about God from the church in Thyatira. (1) God recognizes our progress, no matter how small it may be. The Lord acknowledges when we are doing “right”; knows when we are working hard on our life, aligned with His perfect Word, Will and Way. (2) God is sickened by half-hearted Christianity. There are no half-hearted versions of Christianity. The person who tells people what they want to hear becomes popular, even if they are wrong. The fact is that it is better to be “wrong” with the people and “right” with God, than it is to be “wrong” with God and “right” with the people. But make no mistake, we all are being distracted, enticed and tempted into sinful desires of the flesh and damning behavior still today. Galatians 5:16-17 tells us, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” The light of true Christianity cannot mix with the sinful thoughts, words and deeds of darkness, yet they are taught. The sovereign Maker of heaven and earth, who has purer eyes than to see “evil” and cannot look at “wrong” shall not bless such mixing, which is spiritual adultery against Him.

Romans 1:24-32 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Many sinful practices are the false teachings of the deep things of Satan, believing that Creator Father God is holding out on and keeping “good things” from us, which was the original lie of the devil that lead to original sin (doubting God) in the Garden of Eden. The quest for hidden secrets of God or hidden knowledge that our Maker is keeping from us is a cheap trick and lies from the enemy, the father of lies, who comes to steal, kill and destroy. Don’t fall for the deceiver and accuser, who distracts and derails us with lies that create distrust and sickens our loving Father God.

Proverbs 12:15a “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”

Our sinful culture says: “I decide what is good and right for me”, putting God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in an imaginary box, places them (they do not really know) on a shelf in the closet of their mind and shuts the door ... in the attempt of silencing what they do not want to hear. God’s holiness cannot co-exist in the presence of sin. He knows the truth and the true love, joy and peace that “the lost” are missing. 

Jeremiah 4:22 says, “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.” 

Let's conclude Pastor Kyle's message from the church in Thyatira on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Show Me Jesus – Part 1

Revelation 2:18-23 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”

This last week, Pastor Kyle continued in our Sunday Sermon series on the “Seven Churches of Revelation”. He stated the obvious, that we live in a “fallen” in sin, sick, chaotic and fearful world today, which needs Jesus Christ. But, our Creator father God does not want us to live in fear. Satan wants us to live in fear. It is impossible to mingle light and darkness, likewise it is deadly to mingle Christianity with sinful pagan practices.

Isaiah 9:2, Acts 26:18 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. To open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me (Jesus).”

Jesus, in his “high priestly prayer” in John 17:15, prayed to Father God: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” The reason being that the child of God shows Jesus to the society and culture in which they live  and have a sphere of influence within; picking up and carrying the torch of “the light of Christ” to a lost and dying world to point the way to the “foot of the cross” for forgiveness and salvation, shining the light and sparking a flame in their heart for the Holy Spirit, who is working and preparing. The Lord’s message starts with His authority, then encouragement, moves to admonishment, then ends by challenging us, as the method of reaching people. The Lord’s church is exactly where He wants it to be in society and the culture, like a city on a hill. Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

Revelation 2:24-29 “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Let's continue Pastor Kyle's message on our next post.
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, November 18, 2017

God’s Will Hunting

1 Thessalonians 4:3 “This is the will of God, your sanctification”

Seeking God’s holy will in our lives and the specific details daily is a priority of every child of God. How to go about it hunting for and finding it is a virtuous and rewarding pursuit. I read that though Paul was an Apostle, he did not have automatic insight into all of the plans of God and His will in each specific situation. Life presents us with many opportunities for trying to discern God’s will for us. We face many situations in which we must make a choice between two good options, and we are unsure which one is what the Lord has willed for us. This is especially difficult when neither option seems to be more advantageous than the other. At such times, we often ask God to intervene in a special way to show us the way forward. Most of us, of course, can think of times when the Lord seemed to give us special aid. One of the good opportunities might inexplicably vanish. Maybe we get an unexpected phone call from a friend and the conversation turns out to have bearing on the matter even if we never mention it. Still, even though such things may happen, they are extraordinary. The Lord does not ordinarily guide our decision-making in such ways. We need to know how to make God-pleasing decisions when no special providence is forthcoming, and we need to know how to distinguish what seems to be providential direction from our own imagination.

The first place to turn when we must make a choice is our Creator’s wisdom in Scripture. His Word says that above all, His will for us is our sanctification. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Sanctification” as: The act of making holy. In an evangelical sense, the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God. The act of consecrating or of setting apart for a sacred purpose; consecration.

Thus, anything that works against our personal holiness is to be rejected. If we are fretting about God’s will for us in a particular situation and one of the options available is ungodly, we may fret no longer. We are never allowed to disobey our Creator’s revealed standards, and if one of our options would require us to do that, we must immediately choose otherwise. The Lord’s will for us is our sanctification, so we must study Scripture diligently in order to know His will and to understand what the holiness He demands looks like.

Blessings in God’s Will

Friday, November 17, 2017

The God of Peace

Romans 15:33 “May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.”

Here is a little thought to ponder today on "Peace".

The Apostle Paul had a plan to visit Rome after his church-planting mission in the eastern part of the Roman Empire was finished. This announcement of his plan, of course, follows Paul’s exposition of the gospel and its consequences for the life of the believer. Having communicated all the doctrine and personal information he wanted to communicate to the Roman Christians, Paul writes a concluding wish for peace to finish his epistle. This concluding wish is not actually the end of his letter. He adds an entire chapter of greetings and a doxology, but this passage (above) does mark a significant break. Paul has explained all that he has needed to explain with respect to doctrine, ethics, and his plans, so it is fitting to conclude his message with a hearty “amen.”

We would miss much, however, if we were simply to move on immediately from Paul’s
statement. In light of what the Apostle has said elsewhere in Romans and what the rest of the Bible teaches us, the little phrase “God of peace” carries great significance. In context, Paul likely intends his statement to mean, primarily, “the God who gives peace.” Almost everything the Apostle says in the section of his letter leading up to Romans 15:33 involves Jew-Gentile relations, and elsewhere in his writings he speaks of Jesus—who is God Himself—as our peace, the one who unites Jew and Gentile together in harmony. He is the God of peace because He makes peace between Jews and Gentiles in the church.

Revelation 14:6-7 “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Let us not forget that peace between Jews and Gentiles is meaningless if Jews and Gentiles are not at peace with God. When mankind fell and the relationship between Creator and creature became characterized by war, men and women were set not only against the Lord but also against each other. Thus, in early human history, Adam attempted to blame Eve for his sin and Cain murdered Abel. Relationships between people that are fully characterized by the biblical notion of peace - wholeness, harmony, and the other blessings of the world to come - are impossible until such peace is established between God and His people. Only when we are at peace with God can we truly make peace with others. In Christ, we are at peace with the Lord, and this is the peace that God Himself provided by sparing not His Son in order to save us. He is the God of peace because in Christ He makes peace between Himself and us.

Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

Many well-meaning people seek world peace, but as Christians, we know that this will not be possible until all the world is at peace with God. The only way to bring about lasting peace between people and nations is to proclaim the gospel. As this happens, the truly “born-again” and transformed Christian will repent and believe in Jesus, and once at peace with God in Christ, they will begin to seek peace where they are. Let us pray for peace and preach the gospel so as to be instruments of God’s peace.

The peace of God in Christ, Amen

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Choose Joy – Part 2

1 Peter 4:12-14 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”

Michael continues: Suffering is a gift from God for those who want to glorify their Lord Jesus Christ. The greatest witness is when we have peace despite suffering.  We have been called, not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His name.  They cause us to turn your heart to God. In times of tribulation, as the Apostle Paul said, "to you O Lord I lift up my soul.  O God I trust in you. Let me not be ashamed." We want to glorify the name of the Lord despite the pain of this world.  

It's difficult to endure crucify the “old man” of the flesh by living according to nature of the resurrected Christ in us. Our calling is to point others to Jesus by the way we respond to adversity. God warns us that we will become what we focus on. If we focus on resentment and hatred for the pain that others have inflicted, we will poison our own hearts. However, the love of God is not burdened by bitterness and resentment.  Through our suffering, then we can identify with Him.  As Paul said, "that I may know him and the fellowship of his suffering." 

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

The calling of God is to mold us and shape us after His will. Either we deliberately choose to let God help himself to our lives, or the devil will have his way with us. When we choose to walk according to the Spirit of life in Christ, the Holy Spirit will check us in our thoughts and actions. His spirit will admonish us to seek the Lord and not the comfort of our own flesh. He will call us to a more worthy endeavor ... to let go and let God. The heart of a disciple says, "Show me your ways O Lord.  Lead me to your paths.  On you I wait all the day long.  For thou art the God of my salvation.  That I may live for thy honor and glory.  O Lord, remember your tender mercy and loving kindness...Remember me for your goodness sake."

Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed for all men once to die. And then comes the judgment. Christians will be judged righteous because of the righteous payment Jesus made on the cross for sin on our behalf. By His wounds we were healed. God gives us an open invitation to surrender our lives to Him. He will teach us through trials abandon self and to turn to Him. The question is not whether we will suffer.  Suffering is inevitable. We can choose to understand suffering as a gift to prove that joy is not the absence of pain. Rather, that true joy is to walk in His presence. For thy grace is made perfect in my weakness. Thy grace is sufficient for me.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Choose Joy – Part 1

This week, Michael writes: Joy and rejoicing are a choice. Joy is not the absence of pain. Rather, it is the presence of God. The challenge is to focus on the Lord and the things of the Spirit of life in Christ. Our calling is to be a disciplined follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. God gives us trials and allows tribulation in our lives so that we can understand that our joy is not in this world, but only in Him. Happiness doesn't impress God. However, when we are joyful despite trials and tribulations, then we can rejoice because His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

Life is hard.  We live in a fallen world, but there is peace in the storms of life for the Christian.  In John 16:29-33 Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. 30 Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”  “Do you now believe?” Jesus replied. “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Job said, "Man is destined for trouble like the sparks flying upward." According to Jeremiah, The heart of man is desperately wicked. The Holy Scriptures say not to be surprised when we have to endure suffering. Christians throughout history have been the victims of persecution ever since Jesus' Ascension. Jesus said, "Blessed are they when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake for great is your reward in heaven."  

Holiness means to separate according to the purpose for which God has designed us. 
The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “holiness” as: the state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity. Applied to the Supreme Being – Creator God, holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes. Applied to human beings, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions; sanctified affections; piety; moral goodness, but not perfect. Sacredness; the state of anything hallowed, or consecrated to God or to his worship; applied to churches or temples. We were never meant for the world's design. Our responsibility is to have an affinity, not for the things of this world, but for the things of heaven ... the things of the Spirit of God, in Christ, in us.
Let’s continue Michael‘s message on Christian joy in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Joy and Peace, Abounding in Hope

Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

What a great little article I came across the other day on “hope”. May it bless you with the joy and peace of the Lord.

Jesus brought hope to the Gentiles, taking people who had no hope of salvation because they were outside the covenants of promise with Israel and redeeming them, giving them a secure, everlasting hope of abundant life in the presence of God and eternal life in Heaven. In so doing, Christ also confirmed hope for the Jews, fulfilling the Lord’s promises to make the family of Abraham the source of blessing for the world because He, as Abraham’s seed, provides for the salvation of people from every tribe and tongue. This theme of hope is prevalent in Romans 15:8–12, as Paul establishes this teaching and then quotes extensively from the Old Testament to support his instruction. We find even more reasons to rest in the hope of salvation when we read these prophecies from Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Isaiah, and their fulfillment in Christ through His ministry to bring Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Jesus accomplished what was prophesied centuries beforehand, so we can trust the Lord who revealed to the prophets what was to come regarding the work of His Son. We can trust that He is able to save as He has promised.

This theme of hope prompts Paul to move once more into a prayer-exhortation in today’s passage. He asks “the God of hope”—the Creator who is the source and guarantor of the hope of redemption—to fill us with “joy and peace in believing.” The twin virtues of joy and peace accompany true faith in Christ. Of course, because of our remaining sin, there will be times when we do not feel joyful or peaceful. At such times, we must remember that the reality of the peace and joy that we enjoy in Christ does not depend on our subjective experience. If we are in Christ by faith alone, then we are at peace with God and not under His wrath, and the joy of salvation, even when temporarily obscured, is not destroyed. Heaven rejoices that we have come home, and the objective joy of kingdom citizenship sustains us in the night until we find joy again in the morning.

Matthew 6:19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

God’s kingdom consists in “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”, which are ultimately grounded in the hope of final redemption that Jesus purchased for us. Faith in Christ and the hope He has secured leads to the joy and peace that this hope enables, and dwelling on this hope increases the joy and peace it provides. Even though the subjective experience of peace and joy will wax and wane to some degree over the course of our walk with Christ, we should nevertheless expect our sense of peace and joy to grow stronger as we mature in the faith. As we meditate on the surety of our hope to come, we will rejoice that there is treasure laid up for us in heaven and we will find more reasons to be at peace, knowing that this fallen world can threaten our peace only in a temporary sense.

Blessings in hope through Jesus Christ, our Lord

Monday, November 13, 2017

For Ever and Ever

Exodus 15:18 “The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.”

Always desiring to know the truth about sin and salvation, heaven and hell, and what our loving Creator God plans and purposes are for us, I found a thought-provoking, yet challenging little article on “eternity” that I’d like to share today with you all. It states that the Bible is a book of “eternity”, its words “forever settled in heaven”. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “eternity” as: Duration or continuance without beginning or end. By repeating the idea of any length of duration, with the endless addition of number, we come by the idea of eternity. But truth is what really matters.

Isaiah 57:15 says, For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place.”  Webster’s dictionary goes on to say: We speak of eternal duration preceding the present time. God has existed from eternity. We also speak of endless or everlasting duration in future, and dating from present time or the present state of things. Some men doubt the eternity of future punishment, though they have less difficulty in admitting the eternity of future rewards.

Interestingly, the theme of eternity is prominent throughout the Holy Bible; in fact, the words “forever,” “everlasting,” and the like occur more than 600 times. Many occurrences (49, to be exact) seem to make the concept even more complete, being combined either as “forever and ever” or “from everlasting to everlasting.” The first of these is in our text: “The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.” He is the eternal King of all creation! How beautiful and appropriate it is, then, to find that the last of these occurrences tells us that we—His redeemed saints—also “shall reign for ever and ever”, in Revelation 22:5.

Psalm 111:7-8 “The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.”

On the other hand, those who reject our heavenly Father God and His sovereign Word, Will and Way will endure forever, but will be forgotten forever. God’s Word says. In Psalm 9:5, “Thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever”. Revelation 14:10-11 tells us, “He himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Revelation 20:10-15 “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 “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, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

Psalm 103:17-18 “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on  hose who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”

Daniel 12:3 “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

1 John 5:11-13, 18-20 “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”

Dark cannot coexist with light, and willful unrepentant sinners will be in eternity for ever and ever; just not in Heaven. This life is temporal; the next is eternal. The question is: Where will you be for ever and ever, spending eternity?

Something to think about seriously.
Rejoice in Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Tide of Compromise – Part Two

Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Continuing, Pastor Obie message on “Spiritual Compromise: Three ways how to live uncompromisingly are (1) Repent by changing your thoughts, actions and attitude. Christians are repentant sinners saved by grace, so accept people but do not agree or accept any sin against God and His holy Word. Love the sinner, but hate the sin. Then, realign your life to align your thoughts, words, deeds(actions) and heart attitude towards the Lord, your God. Remember that God is in the business of making things new. Revelation 21:5 says, He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Change your “bad’ habits and ungodly practices by repenting,

(2) Keep your bearings by fixing your eyes upon Jesus. Galatians 5:16, 25 tells us, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. It is important to always have a solid point of reference as a target to keep moving towards. That way, as we start to drift either way, we can make the correction to stay on course. In our spiritual lives that leads our physical lives, the Lord Jesus is our solid point of reference. Like in Matthew 14:29-30, when Jesus said “come. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”, when we take our heart’s and mind’s eye off Jesus, we begin to sink. Do not look to the sides, but keep your eyes upon Jesus as the reference for where to go and what to do, then make corrections to stay upon the straight and narrow path as necessary.

Matthew 24:35 “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”

(2) Consistently connect to Christ by meditating on the Word of God. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go, but the Word of god never ceases or fails. The Christian religion is the only survivor of the Pergamum polytheistic culture, because what God says in His holy Word is true and truth. The Federal government is trained to spot counterfeit currency by studying the genuine authentic bills and knowing every inch, so that when a forgery appears, they can identify the phony Reserve Note from a mile away. The same is true for Holy Scripture. By reading, studying and meditating upon the Bible, we will recognize and spot spurious doctrine immediately and reject it. In this day and age, the Bible can be accessed almost anywhere and at any time, on any topic. It is literally at our fingertips now.

1 Timothy 4:4-6 “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”

(3) Praying. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.” Prayer is simply communicating in a personal conversation with God. (4) Do this spiritual journey with others by meeting together at church, small group home studies, and neutral locations in between in order to grow and mature in your spiritual walk. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Do this life together.

 Finally, stand for truth without compromise. Drop an anchor in the holy Word, Will and Way of God. No matter what new trend comes down the turnpike, no matter what is voted and passed into law, and no matter what the Supreme Court decides what is legalized, the real question is: “Who is Lord?”. Desire the blessings of God, not the temporal pleasures of sin that led ultimately to wrath and death. Remember that you are either padding forward or being pulled backwards by the tide of compromise. Get back to the truth in the Word of God and stand firm. It will revolutionize our culture.

In Christ, Brian 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Tide of Compromise – Part One

Revelation 2:12-17 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipasmy faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’

This last Sunday, Pastor Obie preached on the current sermon series: The Seven Churches of Revelation. Those who live along the coastlines of any state or country knows that there are currents  within the waters and waves of the ocean that will cause you to draft without you noticing, except when you get out of the water and find yourself a great distance from where you started out, at your beach towel and blanket. Pastor Obie, as a regular surfer, is well aware of these currents, and once was caught in a strong rip-tide that was drawing him towards dangerous rocks and breakers. Paddling fiercely, he was being pulled into, what was called by the locals as, the “Devil’s Mouth” and had to be rescued.

There is a cultural tide also in our secular humanistic society in which we live today, which is tempting, distracting and pulling our attention and heart’s desire away from our godly walk with the Holy Spirit on this earthly journey to the gates of Heaven; calling us to take a side road of compromise. Once entertained, we discover ourselves drifting and not where we used to be or where we started out, and then find ourselves battling against the cultural tide of compromise that leads to the throne of Satan. This is a “Red Flag” warning. Like the Christian church in Pergamum, we may find ourselves, not rejecting the faith, but allowing blasphemous false teachings, idolatry in opposing religious beliefs and sinful practices of a godless society to creep in, resulting in spiritual compromise.

1 Corinthians 5:6b “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

Pastor Obie explained that this spiritual compromising begins by (1) “Going with the flow”. The ancient city of Pergamum was known as a religious “Mecca” for poly-theism and idol worship. The influence of that pagan culture was strong, with a Hollywood-type lawless lifestyle tide and current drift, with focus on money, entertainment, lusts, trends, popularity and power which distracted the attention, devotion and priorities away from the true Creator God. Is that not what we find in our society and cultural interests today? (2) By acceptance of false worldviews which lead to corruption. A “worldview’ is defined by Webster’s dictionary as a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world, especially from a specific standpoint. Pergamum, and today’s society, mixed beliefs and adopted false “truth claims” in life that contradicted the Word of God. The social objective is not to curse, but to corrupt from inside the heart by sinful enticements. Intermingling worldviews infiltrate the mind and demand acceptance. It is a battle against Christianity, where all truths are acceptable and there is no ‘right’ or “wrong”, except belief in the truth of “God alone”. Unhealthy thoughts, ideas and beliefs by the enemy that directly contradict the holy Word of God are introduced a little at a time, like turning the heat up slowly on a frog in a pot of water until it can’t get out and boils to death.

Let’s continue Pastor Obie’s message on “Spiritual Compromise” in the next post.
In CHrist, Brian

Friday, November 10, 2017

Grace Without Measure

Romans 5:15-21 “The free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's  disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I read an article by Rev. Conrad Mbewe on a way to look at and think about the above Bible passage in Romans on God’s grace, which I’d like to share with you today.

God gave us consciences to convict us when we sin against Him. Then what was the need of the law? God gave us the law in order for us to be even more convicted when we sin because now we sin against the light. Not only have we done something wrong in committing a sin, but that “wrong” in which we commit is the transgression and willful breaking of a law of God, our Maker and Heavenly father. The law increases the trespass because in the light of “You shall not´.´.´.´,” we say, “Who is the Lord that I should obey him?” Is He truly Lord of my life?

This ought to seal our doom because God is full of justice and His wrath against sin is righteous. However, where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. In other words, God’s grace is so inexhaustible that however great our sin might be, He is able to pardon it completely in Christ Jesus, who paid for that sin upon the Cross in our place. God has such a super-abounding store of grace that for all born-again Believers. When all the ransomed sinners through history have taken enough from it, there will be no noticeable change in His storehouse of grace. His giving will have only begun. A thirsty man would sooner worry that others, having gotten to Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya, Tonga meaning "The Smoke that Thunders", is the largest waterfall in southern Africa  on the Zambezi River at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe) before him and drunk their fill, may have exhausted its waters, than a sinner worry that God may run out of grace to meet his need because others got there before him or because he himself has too many sins.

No, God’s grace towards His children is as infinite as His own person. God’s own Son has paid an infinite price for our sins for our redemption. Therefore, Fanny J. Crosby was right when she wrote, “The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.” Have you been a vile offender and broken God’s law times without number? O, then, come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as you are and plunge yourself under this rich waterfall of God’s overwhelming and inexhaustible grace. God’s love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men; For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again”.

Blessings in the grace of God and eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Freedom by Grace

This week, Michael writes: The freedom that we have in Christ is the message of the Church for the administration of the fullness of Grace. The Old Testament law prepared us so that we would be ready to be freed from the bondage of the Law. This is the message of Romans Chapter 8 for Israel and for all who would believe the truth of the gospel of grace. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own son in the likeness of sinful sin and for sin condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. Jesus came so that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.

The Law was given so that God's people could see that they were guilty in their own fallen nature. The freedom that we have is only by the grace of God through the payment for sin that Jesus made on our behalf.  Ecclesiastes 1:13, Man was given travail so that man would be humbled by it.  Man was not made to keep the sabbath, rather, Sabbath was made for man. The Sabbath was given by God so that Man could stop working, rest, and remember why we were created. Mankind was not created for work but to serve and to know the Lord God Jehovah. When we realize that we were not made for work, then we are free to work with joy as unto the Lord and not unto man. The reason for existence is not for work, but to know and love God. Our work is to keep us humble so that we can humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.

Fear is the basis for legalism. When I'm threatened, legalism is the fall-back position that tells me, "I'm doing the right thing." However, freedom is not within our own power.  freedom is dependent on the level to which we submit to Him. Galatians 5:1 says, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." The freedom that we have is to serve Christ with total abandonment from a heart of love. Jesus said, "If you continue in my Word, then you shall be my disciplined followers.  And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall. Set you free.  If the son therefor shall set you free then you shall be free indeed."  

Freedom isn't free. It was paid for by the full payment for sin on our behalf by Jesus Christ. For he who was without sin was made the perfect sacrifice for sin on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in him.  What has washed away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O blessed is the flow, that washed me white as snow; no other fount I know...Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

It wasn't the nails that kept Jesus hanging on the cross. Rather it was for the love that He had for us. He for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is seated on the right hand of God. The joy he had was your salvation and mine. Jesus' perfect sacrifice on our behalf is the payment for our freedom from the bondage of sin. We've been set free not because of how good we are, but because of how good He is. What amazing grace!

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

God Comes Through on His Promises

Genesis 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

I read a short heart-warming article on the greatest promise of God that I’d like to share with you today.

As human beings, we are accustomed to seeing other people break their promises to us. We have also broken many of our own promises to others. But as we all know, the Lord never breaks His vows. When He makes a promise, He always keeps it. The trouble is that although we know this with our minds, we find it difficult at times to believe Him with our hearts. We sometimes doubt that God will come through for us because He has often taken what seems like an extraordinarily long amount of time to bring His Word to pass. This is the true test of faith—to wait for the fulfillment of a divine promise. However, when we wonder if the Lord will ever fulfill His promises, we find strength for our faith in God’s Word and the record of how He has kept His pledge to His people throughout the ages.

The account of our Savior’s birth, in particular, is encouraging to our faith. If ever there
was a promise that our Father seemed slow to fulfill, it was the first advent of the Messiah. Sometimes we forget that the first promise of the Messiah’s coming was not given to Isaiah, David, Moses, or even Noah. Instead, the Lord gave it at the beginning of history itself, right after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin.

beautiful Autumn colors | Autumn | Pinterest

In today’s passage we find the “protoevangel”, the “first gospel.” After our first parents doubted God, ate from the forbidden tree and fell into sin, God would have been entirely justified to separate Himself from them forever and subject them only to His wrath. But that is not what happened; rather, the Lord promised to solve the problem of sin, death, and Satan. He promised that a descendant of Eve would deliver a crushing blow to the Evil One. God never told Eve how long it would be before the Messiah’s birth. All she knew was that it would be in the future. Still, she was called to trust the Lord at His word. We must likewise believe God even if we never see the consummation of His promises in this life.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

When the Lord seems slow in acting, we find it extremely difficult not to think that He has somehow forgotten us. However, God is not bound by our timing, and He always answers us when the time is right, not before or after. The Lord allowed thousands of years to pass between His word to Eve and the birth of Christ, but He still kept His promise. He will keep His promises to us as we wait patiently for Him to move in the time that He has determined is best.

Blessings in the promises of God.