Thursday, April 27, 2017

All Things

Colossians 1:16-18 “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Glory to God - Part 4 - Resurrection Glory

Michael continues that God has a different standard than we do. The good is the enemy of the best. The best is that we turn to God for deliverance. The best thing is that His people have such a longing for heaven that whether they live or die doesn't matter, but rather that the Glory of God be done. This is the prayer of the Apostle Paul who said that whether by death or by life, that God may be glorified.  “For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's." Nothing in this life can be compared with the glory that shall follow with the Lord. When that which is perfect is come, then we shall know even as also as we are knownFor we know that when He shall appear we shall be like him for we shall see him as he is.

Each year around Easter, the culture presents stories about the "passion of the Christ"; about the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some people are moved to tears but others are not. His death and resurrection was not about our glory, but rather about the glory of God our Father. The significance of the suffering and death of our Lord is not the glory of God. Many unbelievers have suffered and died for their convictions. Even the terrorists who crashed the planes into the Twin Towers in New York City on 9/11 died deliberately for their convictions. Jesus was not your ordinary "martyr." What's the difference about Jesus' death upon the cross? The "cup" that Jesus asked God to take from Him in the Garden of Gethsemane was not the cup of pain and suffering and death. The "cup" rather, was the weight of the sin of the world that we inherited from Adam and every sin committed after. The significance of His death was separation from His Heavenly Father. Surely He hath borne our griefs, upon him was laid upon him the iniquity of us all.  He who was without sin became the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. The significance of Jesus' death is that He shed "innocent" blood.  Jesus is the only One who lived a sinless life. The wages of sin is deathAll we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way ... but upon him He hath laid the iniquity of us all.

They did not and could not kill Jesus Christ. He willingly laid down His life for the joy that was set before Him. The strength of the gospel is that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. The death of Jesus Christ was the propitiation, the full and acceptable payment, and the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  When God raised Him from the dead, the resurrection was to the glory of God the father.

Paul said, "I bear on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ." He also said, "thy strength is made perfect in my weakness....thy grace is sufficient for me." The Apostle Peter said, "I count it joy that I can suffer for my Lord." In our lives filled with pain, pressure, and tribulation, our prayer should not be "Lord deliver me from the storm."  Rather, our prayer should be, "Lord deliver me through the storm." 

We cannot do anything to give God more glory. All we can do is reflect the glory of God.  He is the source of all glory. For we all with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are changed from the glory of the flesh to the glory of God even by the spirit of the Lord.

Philippians 2:14-16 “ Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

Our goal is not to be "culturally relevant" but rather to be "heavenly relevant." It's not about the glory of deliverance.  Instead it's about His glory. It's not about who we are, rather, It's about Whose we are.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Glory to God - Part 3 - Humanism

Last week Michael examined the glory of God. This week he'll look at why we should pray for God's glory. Why are your sins forgiven? The reason is for His namesake ... for His glory. If our Christianity rests on anything else, then it's Humanism, not Christianity.  The problems are not in the Church, the body and bride of Christ, which God called to be spotless because of the perfect payment of Jesus Christ's innocent blood. The problem is in the perception of the so-called “church”. Christianity cannot be understood in light of Humanism because they are diametrically to each other. The philosophy of Humanism is "the glory of Man." The root of Humanism is the devil's original lie that he told Eve in the Garden of Eden, "You shall be as God knowing good from evil." The truth of the “Word of God” focuses on the glory of God rather than the glory of man. The glory of God must be understood in light of "substance" or weight according to the Word of God. The adversary Satan's job is to deceive “the elect of God”. If we see according to the eyes of the flesh instead of the eyes of the spirit of Christ in us, we will be deceived. Because we pray doesn't mean we're doing the “right” thing in the eyes of the Lord. Prayer is aligning our heart with God's heart, not vice versa. If we pray like the prideful Pharisee, "I'm glad I'm not like those sinners over there," our prayer is not a righteous prayer. Prayer must be according to the glory of God in order to be effective.  The promises of God are an offer to accept the terms and conditions of His promise.  “Believing action” according to the Word of God is the only way to accept the promise of God. Our righteousness is in the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ ... His strength is made perfect in our weakness. 

When the Children of Israel refused to enter into the Promised Land because they did not believe that God would deliver their enemies into their hands, who did Moses pray for?  Moses did not pray for the people; rather he prayed that God would uphold the honor of His own glory. God revealed to Moses that he did not need to pray as a priest on behalf of the people to intercede for them. Rather he needed to understand that everything is insignificant compared to the glory of God. The glory is not to judge the unrighteousness people. Rather the glory is for God to judge according to His own righteousness glory. Paul prayed that "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that ye may know the hope of your calling...and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” The understanding is to know the riches of God's glory ... His inheritance in us.

Our prayer needs to be that God sends his power at the right time and place for His honor and glory. Tribulation and trials are so that we can understand the glory of God to deliver, and that we are but dust compared to the awesome power of His own glory.  

Psalm 107:1-9 “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

Let's continue michael's Message on "Glory to God" on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Monday, April 24, 2017

For Me to Live Is Christ

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”

I came across this excellent devotional on what it means to live for Christ. It stated that there are many motivating reasons for serving the Lord. One, of course, is His many merciful blessings on our behalf. Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Then there is the incentive of rewards: Revelation 22:12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” There are also many rewards even in this present life for dedicated Christian service 

The great need of the lost is also a tremendous motivation for Christian service. This was the burden of Paul: “1 Corinthians 9:19 “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” But surely the greatest of all motives is the constraining love of Christ. Not our love for Him, which is poor and weak at best, but His love for us. This is the constraining compulsion which makes us live and love and witness for Him. Because He loved us so much, therefore we no longer live for ourselves but unto Him who died for us.

If Christ died for all, that can only mean that “all were dead,” or more literally, “all died.” Therefore, if we live, it is because we have been “bought with a price”, the terrible price of the never-equaled suffering and the uniquely cruel death of the sinless Son of man. “For to me to live is Christ”- Philippians 1:21.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Teach and Preach

Acts 5:42 “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

We have been commissioned to teach and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every one within our sphere of influence daily for the saving of lives by the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins. I read that the Great Commission was given to every Christian and implied a daily ministry of witness by life and word. The early Christians took it seriously, as our text implies. Even when they began to be persecuted for it, this merely led to a wider proclamation of the gospel. “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” - Acts 8:4

The article stated that the command of Christ was to “preach the gospel to every creature” – Mark 16:15, and this required every Christian to be involved every day. The “gospel” includes the entire scope of the person and work and teachings of Jesus Christ, so both preaching and teaching are involved. Furthermore, Christ did not say “send” but “go!” Although it is vital that missionaries be sent and supported as they go to “the regions beyond,” each believer must go to those he can reach as ability and opportunity allow. “Jerusalem . . . Judaea . . . Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” – Acts 1:8 were all to be reached not consecutively but simultaneously, and this would require both personal and financial participation by every Christian.

 The message was to “teach and preach Jesus Christ” in all His fullness. Their witnessing was to be “unto Jesus”. It was to be both in public and in private —“in the temple, and in every house.” They were to pray to “the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvestLuke 10:2 and also to train “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” – 2 Timothy 2:2.

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

 And the result of this intense first-century dedication to the Great Commission was that “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatlyActs 6:7. However, the work has never been completed and the command is still in effect. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Celebrate the Son-rise

Matthew 28:1-10 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

I know that April was going to be a busy month, but never imagined that the month activities would include a week-long trip up to Bass Lake, California, as my 89 year old father needed some help following arthroscopic surgery. Missing Easter Sunday at my home church, I was able to attend the Easter Sunrise service at my dad’s church prior to driving down to Fresno with my son to take Dad home from the hospital – so a double blessing.

Pastor Herk asked if we ever wanted to join a certain club or a specific group but was rejected because we did not meet their qualifications or we were just not what they were looking for and wanted? Isn’t it wonderful that this is not true with the Kingdom of Heaven! Almighty God, who created every molecule in the Universe and Cosmos, desires an intimate relationship with us for eternity. Hallelujah!

Jesus Christ (God the Son) came and died for us to pay the price for our sins, and rose again to defeat death, that we may have eternal life. After His crucifixion, the tomb, in which Jesus was laid for burial, had a large wheel-shaped stone rolled in front of it. In the Matthew passage above, an angel of the Lord came and rolled the stone from the door. The angel did this not to let Jesus out of the tomb, but to let us into the tomb. God allows us to enter into resurrection unto new life forever.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

Death is a mystery that we all have in common. Pastor Herk told of a passage in A. Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”: Mowgli, the man cub, asks the animals what’s
the most feared thing in the jungle. He’s told that when two animals meet on a narrow
path that one must step aside and let the other pass. The animal that steps aside for no
one would then be the most feared. Mowgli wants to know what kind of animal would that be? One tells him it’s an elephant. Another tells him it’s a lion. Finally the wise old owl exclaims, “The most feared thing in the jungle is death. It steps aside for no one

As portrayed in the new motion picture “A case For Christ”, Investigative Reporter Lee Strobel, after extensive research, proclaimed that it would take more faith to believe in “atheism” than Jesus Christ rising from the dead. Without Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our life, we are going through the motions and just getting by without true joy. Ephesians 2:1 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Only Jesus Christ can bring us back to life, regenerating the spirit and restoring real joy of life again – excited and exciting, with purpose and meaning. The resurrection of Jesus Christ changes our past, our present and our future.

The Christian church relies on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, whom without there is no hope in this life. Christianity differs from all other religions in that our Lord and Savior is alive! Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We all need to ask ourselves: “Are we experiencing the power of the risen Christ?” We have victory in the resurrection and, united as the church body, we are commissioned to go tell a lost and afraid world that the tomb is empty; that there is hope in Jesus Christ by what He did on the cross.  

A sunrise is glorious, but does not compare to the Son rise. Let us celebrate!

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, April 20, 2017

No Other Image

Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

Idolatry is one of the most misunderstood issue in religion. I read this little explanation on the reasons for "making an image" to worship is idolatry. There are several reasons why idolatry is forbidden. The most obvious it that the triune Creator is too great to attempt to visualize. There is no thing or experience in mortal human existence that can represent the immortal and invisible Creator. Thus, God sees any effort to “picture” Him (idolatry) as rebellion. It does not matter how we may attempt to “see” God. “Any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” are all totally incapable of expressing God’s person.


Romans 1:18-32 reveals the heart of an idolater. Those who hold the truth in unrighteousness will not glorify God as God, even though they know Him by the creation itself. Instead, they change God’s inestimable glory into an earthly creature and consciously change God’s truth into a lie. Thus, by open choice and willing rebellion, idolators worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator, thereby abandoning God for a despicable and unnatural lust, for an ungodliness that, in turn, causes them to despise the very thought of God in their knowledge. Ultimately, the only pleasure they can find is among other idolaters.


Paul taught the “philosophers” in Acts 17:22-29 that the heart of idolatry is rejection of God as Creator. Idolatry, in any form or practice, strikes at the heart of salvation, because “he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek himHebrews 11:6.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rooted and Built Up

Colossians 2:6-7 “ As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Glory to God – Part 2 – Good Friday

“For I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Michael continues that if we have not died to self, then we're not Christians, we're humanists. Christianity starts with "repentance" which means to turn around from worshiping self, to worshiping the true God because of Jesus' supreme sacrifice at the cross on our behalf.  On Good Friday, we must remember God's goal for eternity. On Good Friday, the greatest good was done. For he who was without sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we should be made the righteousness of God in Him. What was the purpose of Good Friday, of Jesus having died on our behalf?  Jesus came not for us, but rather because of His love for us.  When Jesus prayed, "Father, if it be thy will let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will but thy will be done," what was God's answer to Jesus' prayer?  The answer is in Hebrews: “He for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is set down at the right hand of God, for God's glory”. He died because of the joy that God revealed to him: Jesus' love for those of us who would believe on Him ... those of us who would be saved because of His perfect sacrifice for sin on our behalf, to the glory of God the Father.

All men and women have sinned and have come short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death. We all deserve the righteous judgment of a just and holy God. From a Humanistic point of view, why would a loving God send anyone to hell and eternal death? Isn't the end goal of Humanism happiness? However, from God's perspective, our happiness doesn't matter. From God's perspective, sin and iniquity must be paid for by a righteous and just payment. Our happiness is immaterial. If our goal is happiness, then we are worshiping the God of self and not the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The message of salvation is not to rescue sinners from hell. In all actuality, we are rescued from God’s wrath. Rather, we spread the message of salvation because God loved them and gave His only begotten Son on their behalf, that they might be made the righteousness of God for the glory of God. It's not about the glory of salvation and the saving of sinners, (though they are amazing natural consequences), rather it's about the glory of God through the saving power of his Son Jesus Christ. People are not judged for their sins, rather they are judged for their rejection of the Savior from sin, Jesus Christ.

Heaven is not about our happiness (though there will be indescribable happiness there). The present sufferings are not to be compared with the glory that should follow. That's why we endure, not because we're promised "happiness" in this life, but because of the Glory of God. Nothing else really matters. All is vanity except for the glory of God. Vanity is emptiness. Only a few things have substance, weight, glory, and value. Glory means weight. There is substance in the glory of God. The reason for the cross is so that God himself would be glorified. That which is seen is temporal, but that which is unseen is eternal. Only the things of the Spirit of God will be of lasting glory, worth, value and substance.

“So loved He the world that He gave us His Son . Who yielded His life an atonement for sin and opened the life-gate that all may come in. Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord. Let the earth hear His voice; Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord. Let the people rejoice. Oh come to the Father through Jesus His son, and give Him the glory, great things He hath done!” To God be the glory, great things he hath done. May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Monday, April 17, 2017

Glory to God – Part 1 - Humanistic Desire


This week Michael writes how Israel sent spies into the Promised Land to see if they would be able to enter into the land. Only two of the twelve spies, Joshua and Caleb brought back a favorable report. The other ten spies gave a bad report that Israel would not be able to conquer the land. According to Numbers 14 the Children of Israel grumbled and complained that God had "called them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness."  They wanted to appoint leaders to lead them back to Egypt. When Joshua and Caleb said that God would prevail if they went into Canaan to take the land, the people wanted to stone them.

Here is the story from Numbers 14:10-19 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” And Moses said to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying,  ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

The people were concerned with their own happiness. They were in pursuit of the blessing. Did Moses say, "your job, God, is to make the people happy?" What was Moses' plea to God on behalf of the people?  Moses didn't argue whether the people should live or die for their rebellion and grumbling and complaining against God. Rather, Moses pleaded for the glory of God. When we seek the blessing instead of God's glory, do we deserve anything less than what the children of Israel deserved?  Moses reminded God that he is slow to anger and exceeding in love.  He also reminded God that he will not let Israel's injustice go unrequited.  God is a righteous judge.  Those who rebel against God will suffer the consequences unto the fourth generation.

The children of Israel subscribed to a "Humanistic" doctrine.  They were in pursuit of the blessing instead of the Blessor.  What makes something right or wrong according to "Humanism?"  Humanists don't think that God gives the standard for right and wrong.  Rather they think about the effects of their choices on others and the "right" or kindest course of action that will "do the least harm" according to the probable consequences of their actions.  They say that "morality" is something that comes from within:  affection, cooperation, and social instincts that are a "natural" part of community.  For a "humanist" the ultimate "morality" comes from within ourselves and not from an external God. The Humanist philosophy could be embraced by most so-called Christians. What is the fallacy of this "humanistic" doctrine? Humanism is the religion of “the flesh” desires. Humanism says I must worship myself for I am the master of my own destiny, I am the captain of my soul. Humanism reiterates the devil's original lie, "I'm my own God ... I shall be as God, knowing good from evil."

The question is "do we deserve the Promised Land?"  Do we deserve the promises of God?  All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way. A Humanist's decision point is "what's the level of personal benefit?"  If this is our decision criteria as Christians, then there is no difference between the actions of Christians and pagan unbelievers. In order to be resurrected, we must first die to the God of self. The heart of Christianity, as opposed to humanism, is the death of our selfish sin nature so that we can be alive unto him.

Let’s pause Michael’s message about “Glory to God” and continue on the next post. 
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christ Our Passover

Exodus 12:13 “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

Came across this interesting article on Passover and the meaning behind the event. The Jews of the world have been keeping their annual Feast of the Passover for almost 3,500 years, fulfilling the ancient prophecy: “And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons foreverExodus 12:24. This was the beginning of the nation of Israel, when they left Egyptian slavery behind and started their trek to the Promised Land. The lamb had been slain and eaten, its blood placed on the door posts, and the Lord had spared all their firstborn sons when the Destroyer passed through the land of Egypt.

The feast was intended not only to memorialize the ancient deliverance, but also to anticipate the coming day when the “Lamb of God” would take “away the sin of the worldJohn 1:29. The night before Christ was crucified, He told His disciples, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Luke 22:15-16. Thereupon, the Lord established His Supper, which Christians will continue to observe to “proclaim the Lord’s death till he come1 Corinthians 11:26. He fulfilled all that the Passover prophesied when He shed His blood on the cross, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.

Now we look forward to an even greater supper when Christ returns, for the promise is this to all who believe: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb” Revelation 19:9. We have been fed, we feed and we shall be fed in Christ,

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Happy Resurrection Day 2017

As we rejoice with all the church the glorious light if Christ’s resurrection, may God bless you for the light you bring to the lives of others through your loving ministry.

Easter Joy and Resurrection Peace Be With You.

Friday, April 14, 2017

God Gives Hope

Romans 5:1-4 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Fifth Cup - Good Friday

Mark 14:35-36 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Our Wednesday night Bible Study group finished up a video series by Ray Vander Laan titled “The Path to the Cross” this week. We learned a few great new things that we never knew in this last and final session, One being that the word Gethsemane (Hebrew: גת שמנים ‎‎, Gat Shmanim) literally means “Oil Press”. Another being that there were five cups of the Passover Seder: (Cup 1) I will bring you out, (Cup 2) I will set you free, (Cup 3) I will redeem you, (Cup 4) I will take you and (Cup 5) which modern day Cll Elijah’s Cup, but originally was called the Cup of God’s Fury or Wrath.

Jeremiah 25:15 For thus says the Lord God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.” 

As the Angel of death passed over the Israelite home marked with the blood of the lamb as the wrath of God was poured out upon Egypt, let us remember that the wages of Sin is death but Easter is not about the pouring out of this Cup of God’s wrath upon us. John 3:36 and 1 John 5:11-13 are clear that Jesus Christ saves us from God and His wrath.

Matthew 10:28 ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jesus drank that cup and it was for you and me! Jesus drank it all. Death and sin have been swallowed up. The cup is empty, the tomb is empty and the Cross is empty. Christ paid it all and it is finished because He is risen. Jesus tells us to learn to be like Him so that people will see Him in you and I. Do we take the death and resurrection of our Savior and Lord lightly on Good Friday and Easter Sunday? God doesn’t. It was for us.

In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Hide and Seek – Part 2 - Found

John 3:20-21 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Michael continues that there are many old TV shows about smart animals who were the stars of their shows.  Shows like Flipper, Lassie, and even Garfield the Cat featured animals who were smarter than their "masters." However, there were no hero stories about great sheep. Sheep are notoriously stupid animals. If their shepherd didn't move them to green pastures, the sheep would starve to death. Sheep will follow each other over a cliff to their death. However, sheep know one thing:  they know when they are lost. A "cast" sheep is a sheep who falls over on its back and cannot get up. The sheep will die in this position if it can't get off its back. This is a picture of the human condition.  We cannot save ourselves.  People often say, "If I'm good enough for me, then I'm good enough for God." However the Holy Bible makes it clear that without God we're like cast sheep: Hopeless and helpless. Unless the shepherd finds us we will die in our cast down position. However the shepherd Himself saves us. Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, for He who knew no sin was made the perfect sin sacrifice on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him.

Salvation has two parts. First we must repent and turn from sin to the Savior. The second part of salvation is His "imputation" of His righteousness on our behalf. This "double transaction" results in salvation. The difference between the publicans and sinners and the Pharisees is that the first group knew that they were lost. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep he doesn't say, "You stupid sheep, you got yourself lost." The shepherd simply carries the sheep on his shoulders with love and compassion back to the safety of the sheep fold. He throws a party with goodwill and laughter for having found the sheep that was lost.

Matthew 18:12-14 “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

It's easy to focus on guilt and sin-consciousness.  However, Christianity is not about sin.  Rather it's about the Savior from sin. Jesus says: I'll keep all their rules for you. I'll keep them on your behalf. He says allow me to carry you and I'll take you to glory. The only thing that God asks is that we live in amazement and gratitude for what He's done.  As long as we live a life of thankfulness, everything else will fall into place. If we're here today, it's not because we found Him. It's because I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. What amazing Grace!!!

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hide and Seek - Part 1 - Lost

Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him (Jesus Christ) the iniquity of us all."

This week, Michael writes the in Luke 15:1-7 Jesus told a story about sheep: “Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

Jesus was speaking to two groups of people. The first group is the tax collectors and the sinners. These people were despised and rejected by the "politically correct" culture. The second group is the Scribes and the Pharisees. These were the respected people of their culture. Jesus spent time and even ate with the publicans and the sinners, the outcasts of the normal mainstream of society. Zacchaeus was the chief tax gatherer with whom Jesus shared a meal. Jesus ministered to a woman caught in the act of adultery, when he said to the crowd who was about to stone her, "he who is without sin may cast the first stone." Jesus met with a Samaritan outcast woman at Solomon’s well. The Jews hated the Samaritans, whom they considered half-breeds and second class citizens.  However, Jesus said to her, "whoever drinks of the living water shall never thirst."

The Pharisees said that Jesus is "soft on sin." The sinners he associated with would never be welcomed in their proper houses of worship.  Jesus played a game of "hide and seek" with the Pharisees and the leaders of the church. The one who hides calls the shots. The seeker puts themselves in the humble position of finding the one who is trying to evade him. The one who seeks is "it." This is a position of humility and lowliness. The goal of hide and seek is to avoid being "it." At the end of the game, "it" says, "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free, if you don't come it you'll be." This means that it's safe to come home. This is a cry of grace to those who were hiding. 

The story of the lost sheep is a story of hide and seek. Jesus himself is "it" looking for those who are hiding. Some churches are "seeker sensitive." Seeker sensitive churches are focused on the human perspective. People are restless until they find their place in God. No one is satisfied without God. God created mankind to seek transcendence. When the seeker comes to the Lord, the irony is that the seeker wasn't really seeking the Lord, rather the Lord was seeking them. Who is the one who hides from God? It's the person who is running from the truth. This is the man who seeks the pleasures of the flesh or the woman who is angry because her life is closing in on her. Hiding from God looks like apathy and moral laxity.  

Let's continue Michael's message about "hide and seek" on the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Monday, April 10, 2017

Imputing Righteousness to Your Account

Romans 4:4-8 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”

I read this great little devotional on “righteousness” with God, which is defined in the 1828 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’.

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

God imputes righteousness to you through His Son. What does “impute” mean? The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines “impute” as: ‘Charge to the account of; attribute to or ascribe to’. So, righteousness put on your account. At the moment you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, God makes you righteous. The sins of the world (including yours and mine) were imputed to Jesus Christ on the cross and our sinless Savior’s righteousness was imputed to the Believer by faith through grace. A woman was asked one day what it felt like to be saved and she replied, “It feels as though I am standing in Jesus’ shoes and He is standing in mine.” A scholar or theologian couldn’t have said it any better. 

Romans 3:21-23 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Thank God that though you are a sinner, He doesn’t impute it to you, and though you are not righteous, He imputes—puts into your account— righteousness to you!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Strained – Part 2

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Continuing Pastor Kyle’s message, he gave us four suggestions on what to do when the moment of reconciliation arrives. (1) Lead with honor and you cannot go wrong. It is counter-intuitive but let all rank and power go. Humble yourself. Philippians 2:1-5 tells us: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” In Matthew 20:16, Jesus tells us: “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” Pastor Kyle likes to use communication skills explained in the 1995 book by Gary Chapman that outlines five ways to express and experience what Chapman calls "love languages": (a) gift giving, (b) quality time, (c) words of affirmation, (d) acts of service (devotion), and (5) physical touch in conflict reconciliation situations, while always keeping the Lord instruction from Luke 17:3 that “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.

2 Corinthians 13:11 “Brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you."

(2) Posture yourself for forgiveness and reconciliation. Your body language tells almost everything about yourself. Know that, just as you can lead a horse to water but cannot make it drink, you cannot make others take your hand of reconciliation, but you can always forgive and offer your hand. (3) Part with blessing, leaving each other with kindness and grace. Concerning known “hot buttons” of the other or recalling past offenses, don’t go there. By rule: One “bad” moment ruins the 99 “good” moments. When reconciling relationships, put aside your right to an apology and keep your negative thoughts to yourself.

Ephesians 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

(4) Praise God regardless of the outcome. Expect that we will pay a price for the mistakes that we made. Know that there will be times when things resolve beyond our wildest expectations or imagination; that there will sometimes be times when we doubt if an equitable resolution to reconciliation will take place; and there will be times when everything will turn sideways and go haywire ... even with your best efforts. Know that the Lord has everything under control. Praise God at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, and all the time in between. Do not put it off. When God asks you and I to do something hard and out of our comfort-zone in obedience to Him, will we welcome it without reservation and do it in His strength with confidence as a child of God?

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Stranded - Part 1

Genesis 32:9-11 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’:  I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.  Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.

This last Sunday, Pastor Kyle continued in his Sermon series based upon the book of genesis by stating an old axiom: “Do the hard things first”. When you get the tougher items done, then the rest is easier. If you put something off, it is still there the next day. Another thing is that after you get the large and difficult parts completed, you feel better. This maxim holds true for relationships too. There are conversations that we just need to have. The ultimate truism is that when Father God tells us what to do, we do not delay our obedience. When we wrestling with God, we with lose in the long run and will leave us with a limp. Don’t strain; welcome the Lord’s direction and guidance.

Deuteronomy 13:4 “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” 

Pastor Kyle gave us six things to do before re-entering a strained relationship. (1) Don’t avoid it. Avoiding would not allow proactive healing. It is best to change your meeting to a peaceful environment. (2) Plan as if God will prosper the encounter. Be personally prepared to handle the situation. Be on solid ground … in a “good” place emotionally. (3) Keep a Plan “B”, & Plan “C”, & Plan “D” in mind, just in case. God does not always respond in the way that we think that it should. The encounter may not unfold our way, so we need to stretch ourselves by thinking of multiple scenarios. (4) Pray. Fancy words don’t help. God knows our heart, so let’s get to business with Him. People of God pray every day in every way. Do not allow busyness and distractions hinder our prayer life ever. (5) Prayerfully consider putting a thoughtful gift together. Bless someone else from God. Heartfelt gifts tend to calm a raging disposition by setting a caring atmosphere. Softening tension goes a long way. (6) Get alone and duke it out with God, so you don’t duke it out with the other person. Proverbs 16:7 says: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Get alone, where distractions are all out of the way. Don’t get out of your struggle for God’s blessing until you receive that blessing and get all of your emotions out. When in spiritual fights with the Lord, hold on and do not “tap out”. Our willingness to “give in” leaves a mark.

Let’s continue Pastor Kyle’s message on “strained relationships” on the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Friday, April 7, 2017

Seek & Save

Luke 19:5-10 And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Like the World War 2 American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the battle of Okinawa, seeking and many lives, the Christian has the duty to seek and save the lost and dying in sin, who do not know the Great Physician, by speaking the truth in love for immediate treating and presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ as binding the wounds in caring and loving that provides life-support to lead them to regenerating heart surgery, healing and restoration at the foot of the Cross ... saved from certain death to new life eternal in Christ.

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always,  even to the end of the age.” Amen.

It’s a “fallen world” this side of Heaven and the Lord calls His people, not to watch their fellow man perish, but to get into the battle and save the injured and lost for Christ’s sake. The mis-directed and distracted goals based in existentialism, self-actualization, pleasure, power and position-seeking in our culture has led to the chaotic  pursuit  that has lost sight of God and the associated love, joy, happiness and peace that all need, but found only in the saving faith of Salvation by the Great Physician Jesus Christ. Lives are being lost, so get into the war that wages daily in our world today. The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost. We have been commission to do the same.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Follower

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I had an interesting conversation with an old acquaintance, who was raised as a Pastor’s kid but turned from the faith. We talked for hours on faith and he stated that even though he was not a “born again” believer in Jesus Christ being sent as an atoning sacrifice for the remission of sin unto eternal life, he considered himself a “Christian” because he was a “Follower” of the teaching of Jesus. That the moral lifestyle that Jesus preached and lived out in true love within boundaries was the compass and guide by which he said provided the pattern civil peace and community, but rejected that Jesus was the Savior of the world (died for our sins) and not God, but a good man.

John 10:30 “I and My Father are one.”

I listened to his reasoning and looked for areas of biblical agreement, asked for his thoughts and opinions on various Christian Theological issue to see where he was coming from in his views, where he got those analysis and where he was going with his conclusions.  But, at the same time, along the way I interjected missing pieces of the Bible truths that were excluded in his explanation for further examination and open discussion. I was not going to change his mind (the Holy Spirit had to do that), as He had made a determined choice, but he knew that I believed what he did not and was willing to answer my probing questions and hear my points and interpretation, so we talked. His main focus was in the here and now … the out of control, morally corrupt culture, society and world. He believed that there was a God because he experienced spirituality and could not deny it, but to what extent and Who is this God?

1 Peter 4:1-6 “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with  them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

It was obviously a scaled down version that did not include a Creator because he completely believed in the theory of Darwinian Macro-Evolution. Yet, seeing the incredible complexity of life and life-systems, did not believe in irreducible complexity (verified by ex-Evolutionist Scientist). He based his belief upon the fact that these things exist, so must have evolved over time and chance. How do you come to such an quick and easy conclusion? Because acknowledgement of such design means the existence of a Designer and would collapse of the theory, and his belief system. He stated that Christian Creationist deny Macro-Evolution "life from non-life"and "one species from another species" facts (which no Macro-Evolution has ever been observed in all of history or science), but would not acknowledge that Darwinian Evolutionists deny observable Intelligent Design in nature and the Cosmos that points to a Creator God. I pointed some out examples out. He knew the gospel message; he was a pastor’s son, but did not see or understand the original intent of many biblical teachings and rejected Jesus Christ as Savior. Neither of us were trying to win this open apologetic discussion. Hopefully seeds were planted and a spark was fanned in this Divine Appointment; that as he checked into this discussion points covered further, that may be the foot in the door for the Holy Spirit and other (not just Followers of the “good man” Jesus, but) “Born Again” Christians may lead this sinner loved by God to a “saving” knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

C.S. Lewis wrote: I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.  Either this man was, 
Trilemmaand is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. - Mere Christianity .

Speak the Truth in Love; In Christ, Brian