Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

I remember a Seeker asking me about six words taken out of context of the beloved bible verse in order to make God "all inclusive", instead of exclusive. This great promise has been an immeasurable source of strength and comfort to Christians, especially during times of trial. It is specifically directed, however, only to those who are “the called.” Recognition of those who are “the called” is best achieved through their synonymous description as “them that love God.” Studies on this Bible passive of Holy Scripture explain that there are also numerous other Scriptures that further describe them. There are two Greek words (each occurring 11 times) which specifically refer to those who are members of this select group: One of these words is kletos(“called”); the other is klesis (“calling”). Another very important term isekklesia, meaning “called out,” which occurs 115 times and is almost always translated “church.” That is, a true church is composed of people who have been specially called by God out of the world system, then joined together in a local church to fulfill the purposes of their divine calling.

1 Corinthians 1:26 “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” No I.Q. test, or physical exam, or social standing is used as a criterion; neither are any human achievements. 2 Timothy 1:9-10 “Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

God’s call was strictly by grace, according to His own eternal purpose! The means by which God calls is the gospel: 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No wonder, then, that we can know that all things work together for good on behalf of those whom God has called, and who therefore love God!


Monday, January 30, 2017

We were saved; we are being saved; and we will be saved

Romans 13:11 “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”

i just love a good Bible lesson. I was just talking to another Elder of our church about how much we learn about eternal truths from the godly greats of the past, who wrote down their insights into the Holy Scriptures and their application for all ages. Today was not exception as i came across a little study on the Romans verse above. It explained, per Romans 13:8-10, we fulfill the law of God through our love of Him and our neighbor, but Paul is clear that our own fulfillment of the law is not what grants us salvation. Our fulfillment of the law remains imperfect in this life, for we continue to struggle in the flesh against sin. The only reason why we can even begin to fulfill the law lies in the fact that Christ was born under the law and fulfilled it for us, succeeding where both Adam and Israel failed. Through faith alone, this obedience is imputed to us and we are justified, or declared righteous in the sight of God. Paul speaks elsewhere of salvation as a past event, using the word salvation as a synonym for justification.

However, the Apostle does not use the term salvation only for the past event of our
"once-for-all" justification. The lesson as us to just consider the passage above. Paul says our “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”. Clearly, then, he views salvation as a future event in at least some sense. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “salvation” as: The act of saving; preservation from destruction, danger or great calamity. Appropriately in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness. This is the great salvation. Paul’s varied usage of the term salvation reflects the Bible’s insistence that redemption is a past, present, and future reality. We were saved; we are being saved; and we will be saved. If we look at salvation as an overarching concept that encompasses past, present, and future, it becomes clear that Scripture views salvation as a work that begins with regeneration and justification, continues on in sanctification, and then is finally brought to completion in our glorification, or the point at which all remnants of sin are purged from us. In the ultimate sense, we do not experience salvation the moment we are born again; that is just one aspect of salvation. The fullness of our salvation will not take place until our glorification when we enter into heaven.

Certainly, the Lord guarantees the present and future aspects of salvation by what He has done in the past. If we have been justified, we will certainly be glorified, and if someone falls away, it is because he never had saving faith. In any case, the future aspect of our salvation that we will enjoy in our glorification is nearer now than when we first believed. Every day, we get closer to the appointed time at which our Savior will return, remove all sin from creation, and bring us into glory. That salvation draws near has ramifications for our lives in the present. God always finishes the work that He starts, and if we are in Christ now, our future glorification is assured. This helps us put our confidence in the right place. Because the Lord has us in His hand, we can trust that He will work out all His purposes for us. When we grow discouraged with the lack of holiness in our lives, we must remember that God is working in us, that He will finish what He started, and that if we seek His face, we will enjoy all the benefits of His redemption.

What a great blessing this lesson is as we live it out in our lives!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Obedience Doesn’t Make Sense - Part 2

James 1:2-17 “ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith,  with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

Continuing from yesterday’s post, Pastor Kyle reminds us that hardships build us up and strengthen our faith, while giving an honest look at the current condition of our faith in those trying times. We may ask; What is this all about? or Why would God ask for that? He’s testing, who is your God? When obedience doesn’t make sense to us, we are still called to do it. We do not have all the facts, knowledge, or significant pieces of information, but we can trust that God does. The “Good Book” says: Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.We must realize that we do not have all the answers, but we know the sovereign Creator of heaven and earth, who does.

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says 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.”

When obedience doesn’t make sense, we can either look at it with a sense of dread or a sense of faith. In every trial and tribulation, know that God is going to do something in it. Faith sees the same situations as fear does, but perceives them differently. Look on your difficult steps that God is asking you to do with the attitude that “God with provide”. We often do not see God provide until after we take the first step. Jehovah Jireh literally means “God, the Provider”. Isn’t it true that we want to see God provide first? But actually, God has provided everything for us prior. God wants us to take a “step of faith” in our Christian walk. God puts all the food on the table (so-to-speak), but we need to eat. God always has something better on the backside of obedience.

1 Corinthians 5:7 “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.”

But this Genesis 22 story isn’t just about Abraham and Isaac; it’s all about the Cross, because it parallels Jesus substitutionary sacrifice and connects our salvation. A substitute offering was provided by God. There are going to be times in our life when God is going to request steps of obedience in faith that do not make sense to us, to test us. But, we can look to the Cross for strength in obedience, through faithful belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior of our life. In God we trust and obey. Lord, give us the power to live our life for you.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When Obedience Doesn't Make Sense

Genesis 22:1-3 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

Last Sunday, Pastor Kyle continuing in his Sermon series based on the book of Genesis started out by explaining that the practice of sacrificing your children is a pagan practice and not God’s practice. The point of God’s request was to test Abraham’s faith. Year’s before, God made a covenant promise with Abraham: Genesis 17:19-21 God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” God will never tempt us with a sinful, evil temptation. Plenty of historical record points to God’s testing of his people’s obedience to Him.

Deuteronomy 8:2 “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”

Abraham knew that the request came from Creator God, who has always provided for him and never let him down. Abraham believed in his heavenly Father God’s promise and trusted that God had a plan, even though he did not know or see it yet. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Know that relational strife is a constant in a fallen world. Do not make the mistake in believing that God will never put anything in front of us that we cannot handle. What we can trust in is that we will never be in a temptation or trial that God cannot or will not get us out of.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

God never tempts us, but our faith will be tested. We are not to tempt or test God. In Luke 4:12, Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” God is our Sovereign Lord. His testing reveals the true colors of our faith, which is the true condition of our heart.

Let stop here and continue Pastor Kyle’s message on the subject of ”the testing of our faith” on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Friday, January 27, 2017

Head knowledge or Heart Knowledge

Philippians 1:9-11And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” 

Did you know that knowledge and judgment that are motivated by love are directed very carefully to certain end products that will fulfill our Lord’s design and desire for His adopted sons and daughters while they are still on Earth. An article that I read lately explained that a repository of facts can be nothing more than a curiosity, and is often an arrogant distraction. The longest distance in the world is from head to the heart. Taking what we know and turning it into a demonstrable action, something that will elicit change in our lives and the lives of those around us, is true wisdom. The ability to transform knowledge into action is oftentimes quite the hurdle. A growing intellectual ability must be useful. It is no different in God’s kingdom. Our knowledge and judgment must be used to “approve things that are excellent.”

Matthew 22:36-38 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.

Paul’s challenge to the Roman church was that they use their minds to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”. To his young son in the faith, Paul insisted that Timothy study to show himself “approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. The “proving” (testing, affirming) has a twofold goal: that our life on this earth would be “sincere and without offence” and that we would be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” Purity and productivity are earthly spiritual goals that are reiterated many times in the Scriptures. They, of course, are mere reflections of the holiness that our Lord creates in us when we are born again, but they are nonetheless an often-repeated demand for those of us who claim a kinship with Christ Jesus. The Bible sums it up this way in 1 Peter 1:15-16 “ but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Blessings in Christ

Thursday, January 26, 2017

God's Work of Providence

Psalm 65:9 “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so You have prepared it.”

With all the rainfall in Southern California, after five years of drought, this Bible verse has a special meaning about God’s provision. The 65th Psalm speaks especially of God’s great work of “providence” as supplementing His ancient work of creation. The latter was completed in the six days of the creation week (Genesis 2:1-3). The work of providence, however, still goes on, perpetually reminding us of God’s care for His creatures. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “providence” as the care and superintendence which God exercises over His creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence, involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence, is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.

Acts 14:17 “ Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”

One article explains that God’s providential concern, however, extends not only to men and women. “He causes the grass to grow for the cattle” (Psalm 104:14). “So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts … these wait all upon you; that you may give them their meat in due season” (vv. 25, 27). “Behold the fowls of the air: . . . your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26). He feeds them! He is merely their maker and provider; yet a single sparrow “shall not fall on the ground without your Father” (Matthew 10:29).

He even provides for the inert creation, “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). The omnipotent God of creation is thus the ever-sustaining and ever-caring God of providence. Still, some choose not to believe, even though “that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen … so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). When you truly take a good, hard look around, we cannot deny God’s work of Providence. Jehovah Jireh - God, my Provider.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


This week Michael write: The journey to come to Christ starts with God disturbing and arousing us from sleep.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand ... He has awakened us by removing the blindfold from our eyes and the veil from our faces so that we can see Him clearly. Our second journey is a journey of sanctification ... to become just like Christ.

Sanctification is to live according to the purpose for which the Designer designed us, for we are His workmanship, His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he has before ordained that we should walk in them. The new person in Christ must be renewed day by day by walking in the newness of life. The journey to become like Christ is the journey to overcome the darkness of this world. Jesus said, "I am not alone because my father is with me." When the crisis comes and courage is required God expects those who are the reliable ones to be faithful according to His word.  Persistence and steadfastness is the key to becoming the Reliable Ones ... those on whom God can rely to be faithful. Jesus said, "In this world you shall have many trials and sorrows, but take heart because I have overcome the world." 

Our courage and assurance is not because of our circumstances, but because our strength is in Him.  We have been called as “overcomers” of the sin which does so easily beset us. The biggest obstacle to overcome is our selfish pride. We must get the better of ourselves. In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus what would be the signs of the end times. Jesus said that there would be division and strife. Nations and kingdoms would turn against each other and the love of God would grow cold. When we lose the love of God, we will lose the love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The light of the fire of Christ in us needs to be fanned into the flame of fellowship with others within the family of faith. The one who overcomes and endures to the end shall be saved. Endure means to continue to exist in the same situation: with the peace of God steadfastly without complaining and without giving in. Endurance is to accept unpleasant circumstances with a joyful heart. When we obey His word from a heart of joy, the Lord will rejoice with us. Jesus' example is His enduring the cross for the joy that was set before him ... His joy was your redemption and mine ... that because of His suffering and death, our names are written in the Lamb's book of life.  

Psalm 112:4-9 is the description of a Godly people ... generous, compassionate, and righteous and fair in dealings. Therefore, be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.  A godly man and woman does not let his love of the Lord run cold. A righteous and godly individual does not fear bad news. God is still on the throne. Our times are in thy hands. The shield of believing faith will quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ leads to trusting and praising the Lord with a heart of joy and will defeat the bad news of the enemy. My life is to glorify God regardless of the situations and circumstances of this life. The journey is to become like Jesus, confidently trusting in the Lord; to cast all our cares upon Him for He cares for us. The journey is to face our fears with confidence in the Lord to overcome trials and tribulations of life. The Spirit fruit of “Joy” is a deliberate attitude of the heart as we focus our attention on the presence of the Lord. We rejoice in knowing that He is the One who causes us to triumph in Christ. Generosity in faith and rejoicing brings influence and honor.

God has called us to be “Overcomers”, to have such confidence in Him that we will be the reliable ones. When we are forgotten and neglected; when our good is evil spoken of, our opinions ridiculed and we take it all in patient loving silence, that is true humility.  When we can stand face to face with folly and endure it all as Jesus endured, that's true humility. When you never refer to yourself or record your good works in conversation, nor seek after commendation and seek not to be known, then you're an “overcomer”.  As Kipling said, "If you can look disaster and triumph in the face and treat those two imposters just the same, then you shall be a man or woman, my child."

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The New Jerusalem

Revelation 21:15–16 “The one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal”.

We make “real progress” in holiness in this life as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us and conforms us to the image of Christ. However, we still await the Lord’s return in order for us to be fully perfected in righteousness. As we grow in holiness and the awareness of our own sin, we always see just how far short of His glory that we fall, and we are reminded that we need Him to set all things right. Let us pursue holiness, trusting that He will complete and accomplish His good work in us.

I came across a thought-provoking article on the symbolism in the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21. This article explains that Revelation 21:9–27 presents John’s account of the New Jerusalem that he saw when Jesus came to him on the isle of Patmos and told him about the consummation of God’s plan. Many in the dispensational theological tradition interpret this passage in a stiff literal fashion, reading John’s account as if he is describing a precise geographic space that will exist at the return of Jesus. John calls the New Jerusalem “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” (verse 9). Obviously, our Savior does not take a physical city for His wife; rather, as John indicates just two chapters earlier, the bride of Christ is the community of the saints, the people of God who have trusted in Jesus alone for their. If our Creator’s saints and the New Jerusalem are both referred to as the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem must be a way to symbolically represent the church triumphant.

Revelation 21:9-11 “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

Also, the vast size of the New Jerusalem demonstrates that John does not want us to read Revelation 21 as a precise description of the physical dimensions of a restored city in the Promised Land. John’s city is a perfect cube, with sides that each measure 12,000 stadia (verse16). This works out to a city that is 1,365 miles wide, 1,365 miles long, and 1,365 miles high. Such a city could not fit on Mt. Zion in Palestine, and it would reach far into the atmosphere, touching the orbits of several man-made satellites circling the earth today. Moreover, in the Jerusalem temple, only the Most Holy Place was a perfect cube, and Ezekiel looked forward to the day when this perfect cube would be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Given this background, John’s vision indicates that the Most Holy Place and the people of God will be identical in the consummation. That is, the Lord’s bride will be so pure and spotless that there will be no separation at all between Him and His people.

Ezekiel looked forward to this kind of purity. We look forward to this holiness as well, but we understand how it will come about better than Ezekiel did. At Jesus’ return, all sin will be gone and we will obey the Lord perfectly forever. The kingdom of heaven is our home. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Peace with God

Romans 5:1 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Although Romans covers in great detail the new status of righteousness that we enjoy in Christ by faith alone, he still has much to say about how this status of righteousness is constituted. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “righteousness” as Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it is chiefly used, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion. The cause of our justification.Given that the gospel message of what it means to be righteous in Christ is such good news, it is unsurprising that Paul gets caught up describing all the benefits we enjoy as a consequence of justification. Paul pauses in the midst of his teaching on justification to answer this question: what does being declared righteous in Christ mean for us now? Romans 5:1 gives us the first part of that answer. Because we have been justified, we have peace with God. I came across this exposition on peace with God that I’s like to share today.

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.”

We cannot understand the full ramifications of this peace unless we are fully convinced of what our relationship to our Creator was truly like before we knew Jesus. Scripture describes this relationship as an all-out war. I’ve have always said that you cannot be saved until you know that you are lost. My old mentor Bill Stiles had a similar says; You don’t know and understand what you are “saved to” until you know and understand what you have been “saved from”. Contrary to many popular ideas about God and humanity, the Lord’s attitude toward fallen men and women who are outside of Christ is not one of kind benevolence or even neutral toleration. To be sure, our Maker is kind to some degree even to His enemies, but His disposition toward impenitent sinners is hostility and hatred. His bow is aimed at sinners, and He will release the arrows of the full fury of His wrath against people who remain opposed to Him (Psalm 7:12–13). Because no one seeks the Lord apart from grace (Romans 3:9–18), this means that His wrath is directed at every man, woman, and child who is not in Christ.

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.”

The Old Testament prophets understood this quite well, and they saw that God was at war with even the covenant community of Israel because of its sin. We read continual warnings about the consequences of this war in Scripture, namely the destruction of the exile, which foreshadows the eternal judgment of those who reject the Lord’s rightful reign . But the prophets foresaw a great day of salvation when God would save His people and bring them shalom—peace—ruling them by His anointed king. This shalom is not the mere end of hostilities but is much more. Shalom is a holistic concept, a condition in which people enjoy complete and permanent well-being. Romans 5:1 tells us that because we are justified, we enjoy this (peace with God) shalom.

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

Perhaps the most important thing to understand about shalom is that it can never be lost. Jesus has not brokered a fragile cease-fire with God, such that a full-scale inferno can erupt at the slightest provocation. Instead, He has brought us a peace that can never be lost. If we are truly in Christ, we will never become His enemies again. Christ is our peace, so for us there is no more war with God. John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

Ephesians 2:1-5 “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).”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Teaching Oneself

Romans 2:21a “You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself?”  

A wonderful rainy day here in Southern California. A good time to read the Word of God and some associated Scripture lessons as we spend time with the Lord. Romans 2:21a asks a great question for our consideration. My commentary states that Scripture’s teaching on the depravity of mankind is clear that “there is none who does good” – (Psalms 14:1–3; 53:1–3), but in order to understand what this means, we have to consider Paul’s teaching on sin in Romans 1–3. As we carefully consider what the Apostle has to say about human beings, we must conclude that those who are outside of Christ can do things that are good in at least some sense.

Romans 2:14-16 “for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

Romans 2:14–16 makes this plain. Paul indicates that unbelievers sometimes do “by nature … what the law requires.” In fact, their conformity means that they can even excuse themselves as they consider what they have done. Does this make anyone righteous apart from Christ? No. When Paul says that Gentiles do what the law requires, he does not mean the perfect righteousness the Lord demands to be declared just in His sight. Commentators say his use of the phrase “even excusing” in verse 15 means that the accusations that condemn Gentiles for breaking the moral law far outnumber the thoughts that excuse them. Though many unbelievers love their families and treat people kindly, keeping some commandments externally, they do not obey our Creator in the fullest sense. We must do all things to God’s glory, but no one except Jesus has ever done this. No true evaluation of our deeds is wholly free of accusation. “The work of the law,” not “the law,” is written on the hearts of unbelievers. Without Christ, people know enough to render some external conformity to the law, but they lack the heart disposition that makes keeping the commandments truly pleasing to the Lord. Martin Luther comments on Romans 2:12, “The Apostle does not say that they fulfill the Law but that they are observing some certain elements taken from the Law.”

Gentiles halfheartedly keep some—not all—of the commandments. First-century Jews prided themselves on being lights to the world, instructing the foolish, guiding the blind, and teaching truth simply because they had God’s law in written form. Paul calls the Jews (and ultimately all Christians) to teach themselves (v. 21a), indicating that they do not really practice the Lord’s statutes and, therefore, have not truly learned God’s law. This Romans 2:21a passage reminds us how seriously God takes the principle that we must apply the same judgment to others that we apply to ourselves. We should never condemn others according to a standard that is higher than that to which we hold ourselves accountable, and we should especially never judge others for an action not condemned in God’s Word. Let us know His Word and take care to judge ourselves by it long before we evaluate others.

Mercy and Grace in Christ.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Today’s Hope Becomes Tomorrow’s Reality

Genesis 21:1-5 And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Pastor Kyle, continuing in his Sunday sermon series through the book of Genesis, quoted his former boss Dr. Robert H. Schuller, stating: “It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.” The reason being is that we serve the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, who specializes in making the impossible possible and fulfilling His promises. Our infinite God can do more with almost nothing than we could ever wrap our finite minds around or ever comprehend.

Joshua 23:14 “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.’

Kyle gave us three things to keep in mind about fulfilled promises. (1) They often take a lot longer than we would prefer. God is faithful to do exactly what He says that He will do. Sometimes, we feel like giving up when our dreams and hopes take so long to come to fruition, but are beyond what we could ever imagine when they do. (2) They are testimonies that we tell our whole lives. When God comes through, we have memories that we came tell of how God makes miracles out of nothing. But, we tend to allow those memories be shortened by life and time, and we forget God’s goodness towards us, if we get distracted and take our heart’s eye off our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (3) They have a sneaky way of reopening old wounds. Pains from past hurts can move from past tense to the present, when feeling of bitterness are buried, but not gone. When we deal with less pain, instead of no pain, then the stage is set for a tragic debacle and catastrophic calamity to erupt, if not dealt with in a godly manner.

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future. - Robert H. Schuller

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Kyle gave us three prayers for when our emotions want to overpower God’s work in our life. (1) Lord, help me celebrate your fulfilled promises to me. Everybody gets distracted by life. God meets needs and forgive our “foot-in-mouth” incidents and insults. Reconciliation means to restore that which has fallen back to an upright position. (2) Lord, help me celebrate your fulfilled promises in others. Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second  is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Bless and love others with forgiveness. Hurts and hang ups are a part of life on this side of heaven. Pray for others and celebrate their answered prayers. (3) Lord, increase my compassion. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own emotions, saying: “Whose fault was it!” reality is that there is enough blame to go around for everyone. The blame game is a lame game. Look through the lens of compassion to meet the needs of others. That is why Jesus left us here. Compassion is a matter of faith. Pour it out constantly and you’ll never run dry.

God meets our needs, when we meet the needs of others, as Jesus met ours
In Christ, Brian

Friday, January 20, 2017

Times and Seasons

Acts 1:7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

We tend to think that we are the big and know so much, when reality is that we only scratch the surface when it comes in comparison with our all-knowing Creator God. This short devotion that I came about help us realize how big our Heavenly Father really is and how we can trust and depend upon Him daily. 

 Just before Christ ascended into heaven, His disciples asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Christ refrained from answering their question as they had hoped, but in His wisdom He used the occasion to teach them that some information is for God alone, including the “times and the seasons.” In our finiteness, we are unable to handle too much information, and should we know even a small part of the “knowledge which is too wonderful for me” -Psalm 139:6, we would use it improperly.

The prophet taught the same lesson many years before: “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” - Isaiah 55:8-9. God has graciously revealed enough that we know He has a wonderful plan, but the details are known by Him alone. They are under His own power, and authority. Certainly He knows the future, but more than that, He controls it.

And why not? He created time; surely He can exercise authority over it. Surely the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” - Revelation 22:13 can control the destinies of individuals and nations. Power to work out His good pleasure rests solely with “the only wise God our Savior … now and ever” - Jude 25.

Even though this power is His alone, His promise to the disciples that “you shall receive power, (here meaning strength)” has been fulfilled in the person of the Holy Spirit. We have what we need to be “witnesses” of that which we know of Him, to the uttermost part of the earth. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two Journeys – Part 2 – To Become Like Jesus

Michael continues: Staying secure in the fellowship with the Lord is to live free without a guilty conscience; to live with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory God to change from the image of the flesh to the image of the spirit of God in Christ in us. The image of the Lord is the glory of the Lord reflected in us as we are transformed by God's Spirit according to our “new nature”. When we set our affection on things above instead of the things of this world, we become transformed. Our challenge is to turn our eyes upon Jesus and to reflect His nature in our relationships with others. We progressively become more like the man or woman that He designed us to be. Sanctification is to be “set apart”, separated for the purpose intended by the Designer. We are progressively sanctified as we grow up into the purpose, the calling for which He designed us. For we are his workmanship, His masterpiece created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he has foreordained that we should walk in it.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

The key to turning from sin is to turn to Him. Repentance starts with a broken and a contrite heart. The devil will tempt us to look at the things of the flesh instead of the things of the Spirit. He is the “deceiver” and the “accuser”. His ploy is to distract our attention away from the things of the Spirit of God in Christ in us. When we fall, God by His grace allows us to repent and return to fellowship with Him. For if we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God expects us to be "fully lit" for Him ... Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.

Upon the journey of life, walking and stumbling are part of the trip. God understands that we are weak in the flesh, so that our strength can be in His power alone. When troubles come our way, consider it an opportunity of great joy, for when trials arise, we can face those tests in the Spirit of Christ ... the spirit of faith and boldness in His strength as men and women of God. Adversity proves the power of God, who infuses His strength into us so that we can overcome. For it is God who worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure.  The victory is not in our power but in His ... we must decrease so that he may increase.

The adversary (the devil) will attempt to divide the body of Christ. He does this with a critical spirit of judgment, criticism, and condemnation. For where there is strife and contention there is confusion and every evil work – James 3:16. The devil rejoices when brothers and sisters in Christ criticize and condemn each other. However, Jesus Christ came to reconcile us back to fellowship with Him. We must meet each other at the foot of the cross. Then we can respond to His calling to "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers." This is the way to defeat the critical spirit of judgment and condemnation. God has called us to be “salt and light” in a world of darkness. Therefore, do all things without murmurings and disputing so that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons and daughters of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation among whom you shine as lights in a world of darkness; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain – Philippians 2:14-16

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Two Journeys – Part 1 - To Know Jesus

This week, Michael writes: We often have a problem living what we say we believe. That's the problem about living the Christian life. However, there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of sin and death – Romans 8:1-2. Our challenge is to live according to the Spirit of Christ in us instead according to the law of the flesh. There are two separate journeys in a Christian's life. The Christian's first journey is “to know Christ”. To know Christ is to realize the love that He had for us: for He who knew no sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. Love begets love. Do you love Christ? To know Him is to love Him. We love Him because He first loved us. Jesus said, "If you love me keep my commandments." If our identity is in Christ our foundation is built upon the Rock: the foundation is Jesus Christ himself, the chief cornerstone.   

A Christian's second journey is “to become like Jesus”. A disciple is a disciplined follower of Christ. In this context, 2 Corinthians Chapter 3 talks about the hope we have in Christ. God did not call us to merely deliver the message. Rather, he called us to “be the message”: 

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.”

We can speak with boldness because we know Him. We're not like Moses who had to put a veil over his face when he came down from Mount Sinai after receiving the law of the Ten Commandments. Israel didn't know Christ because the veil still covered their hearts so they could not perceive God. However, we who have been “born again” of the Spirit of the living God have the veil lifted. Those born again Christians can see clearly from the spiritual perspective of the Holy Spirit. The old man has passed away and the new man is renewed in the spirit of Christ in us. We need to fellowship with others within the body of Christ. They will show us where we need to grow to become just like Jesus.  If we live in denial and say "I've arrived and achieved perfection in the flesh," the Holy Spirit will convict and convince us to become more like Christ. A loving brother or sister in Christ will show us where we fall short of the glory of God. The Word of God is profitable for reproof and correction. God gave us His Holy Word so that we can walk in fellowship with Him ... so that we can turn from darkness and toward the light of the truth of the Word. When we, by the freedom of our will, turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. In my flesh dwells no good thing ... however in the Spirit of life in Christ, He has made me a new creation. 

Now the Lord is that Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty ... there is true freedom. The freedom is that we are no longer bound by the chains of sin and death. We have changed lords ... I'm no longer lord of my selfish self. To be a man or woman of God is to be God's man or God’s woman. Freedom is to be His possession, bound by His boundless love. Every moment is a moment of decision ... to walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.  The challenge is to surrender my will to His will ... to make His will my will.  

Let continue Michael’s messages on “the “Two Journeys” on the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Two Ways

Psalm 1:6 “For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

The one thing that was obvious to me growing up was that there were two ways that I could go … “right” or “the “wrong” way. One little devotional points out that this Psalm 1:6 verse outlines the inescapable truth that there are only two roads and two destinations to which they lead in eternity. The word “way” (Hebrew, “derek”) means “road.” The bible is clear that there is only one way leading to heaven—the way of the righteous; and one way leading to hell—the way of the ungodly, though it is politically incorrect to mention it. This term “the way” is a very common word in Scripture, but it is significant that its first occurrence is in Genesis 3:25, referring to “the way of the tree of life.” Once expelled from the Garden of Eden because of their rebellion, Adam and Eve no longer could travel that “way” of life and began to die.

They clarified that the equivalent Greek word in the New Testament is “hodos”, also meaning “road,” and it, too, occurs quite frequently. Its literal meaning—that of an actual roadway—lends itself very easily to the figure of a style of life whose practice leads inevitably to a certain destination and associated destiny. Since there are only two basic ways of looking at life—the God-centered viewpoint and the man-centered viewpoint—there are only two ways of life, the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly. The one leads to life; the other to death. There is no other way.

The Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” But what is the way of the righteous, that leads to life? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:6 

Know the truth and choose “the way” that you shall go. Follow Jesus.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Exceeding Greatness

Ephesians 1:17-19 “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”

One commentary on this Bible passage states that there are a number of scriptural superlatives that convey something of the tremendous magnitude of our great salvation. These are marked by the adjective “exceeding,” which in the Greek implies essentially boundless, surpassing dimensions of the attributes it describes. First of all, as this passage of scripture implies, His power available to us is one of exceeding greatness. Its magnitude is measured by the power required to bring Christ back again from death and Hades.

Consider also the measure of His grace, “that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” – Ephesians 2:7. His grace has saved us when we were dead in sins, but this is only a small token. In the ages to come, we will experience His grace as one of exceeding riches. Then there is the wonderful peace of God. “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” – Philippians 4:7. In this verse, the word “passes” is the same word. Paul is saying that God’s peace is one exceeding understanding.

Finally, consider His glory. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” – 2 Corinthians 4:17. The future eternal glory is one of exceeding weight, or abundance. Thus, the infinite blessings and resources of our salvation in Christ are described as providing the power of surpassing greatness, the grace of surpassing richness, the peace which surpasses all understanding, and the eternal glory of surpassing abundance! All of this is freely available “to us who believe.” 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

All Roads lead to Rome

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

I read this little lesson on the proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. I am always drawn to the evangelizing of the gospel because Jesus commissioned us to “go”, give out the gospel to a lost and dying world and make disciples; not “come and see”. This lesson stated that Rome was the commercial, political, and cultural center of the first-century world, so Paul’s desire to preach the gospel there makes perfect sense. All roads led to Rome, so proclaiming the good news there and building up the church would have universal ramifications. To reach the ends of the earth, making Christ known in Rome was essential.

They point our that we should not miss the connection between the Apostle’s eagerness to minister in Rome and his declaration that he is “not ashamed of the gospel”. The news of a crucified Messiah was not “seeker sensitive” in the first century. Crucifixion was the worst way to die, and the simple message “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” lacked the philosophical intricacies that occupied the most renowned secular thinkers. Many found the resurrection downright laughable, because the natural world does not comprehend the supernatural. If anything should have caused shame, it was the foolish notion that an unknown Jewish teacher in the backwater region of Palestine is the path to eternal life. But that is to look at things according to the ways of the world. Paul’s view was changed when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Having experienced the power of God in the crucified and risen Christ, he had no reason to be ashamed of the gospel message even in the city of Rome, where a vast number of residents would be “cultured despisers” of that message. The Apostle needed confidence to do ministry in that city, and he had this fearlessness because he was convinced of the truth of what the world deemed foolish and if he went down, he goes up.

Today, the church must be convinced afresh of the truth and power of the gospel. If we are not, we will water it down in the hopes of making God more acceptable to those who despise Him, and spiritual disaster will follow. No gospel truth is given, no disciples are made and no salvation takes place. Happy and hell bound is not the goal. This opening passage also introduces the relevance of the gospel for all of humanity generally and for the Jew particularly, two themes that will occupy Paul throughout the rest of the epistle to the Romans. God’s gospel is no respecter of persons - “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Jew and Gentile alike enter the kingdom in the same way - by faith alone (Rom. 3:21–5:21) - and they grow in faith and persevere in the same way - by the Holy Spirit according to God’s sovereign salvation.

The gospel is not a message to be ashamed of even if the world finds it foolish. It is God’s power unto salvation, and our attempts to make the gospel more palatable to fallen people prevent them from seeing it in all its power and glory. Though there might be foolish and irresponsible ways of presenting the gospel, when we measure ourselves by Scripture, the message itself is God’s wisdom and power, and we must never change it to be accepted by sinners. Do not be ashamed because the power is in the gospel, not in us. Speak the truth in love.