Monday, July 31, 2017

The Providence of God

Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

I came across this devotional that uses the Sunday Sermon series that we just finished, so i though that I'd share it with you today. It says, Divine providence, though it was once spoken of reverently by people throughout Western culture, is today but an afterthought for the vast majority of people both inside and outside the church. Our society is dominated by naturalistic materialism; we are conditioned to think that we can explain everything by reference to fixed causes within a closed universe that is not subject to divine intervention. Though believers confess faith in a Creator who continues to work in His creation, we often end up living as practical atheists, failing to recognize the Lord’s continual guidance and control of everything that happens.

Scripture, however, cautions us never to ignore God’s providential ordering of His creation. Biblically speaking, providence refers to several different activities of our Creator in this world. First, there is the sustaining providence of the Lord. God did not just create the universe and then walk away, leaving it to depend on itself for its own existence. Instead, the Lord continues to sustain all of creation. If our Creator were not actively sustaining that which He has created, it would simply cease to exist. God, through His Son and by His Spirit, upholds the world by “the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). That is the only reason why everything continues to exist.

Providence also refers to divine concurrence, which is the Lord’s working in and through His creation and His creatures to bring about what He has planned. Concurrence affirms that in all of our activities, God is working at the same time we are working. We may not have the same intent, but the Lord is acting through our actions and intentions to fulfill His plan for creation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the story of Joseph, at the end of which we read that what Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). Joseph’s brothers did not sell Joseph into slavery apart from the decree of the Lord. In fact, God’s decree established that they would sell him into slavery and that the Lord would work through this decision to save many people. God’s working in the situation was pure, for although the selling of Joseph into slavery was an evil, our Creator had a righteous intent in permitting it. Joseph’s brothers truly intended to do him harm, and God let them do that so that He could put Joseph in a place to save the world from a horrible famine. Thus, we derive great comfort from God’s providence. Because the Lord ordains whatsoever comes to pass, we can be sure that He is always working—even in the midst of evil—to bring about a marvelous good (Romans 8:28).

Only if God ordains all things can we be confident that He is working all things together for our good. Because even evil is a part of the Lord’s plan, we know that there is a reason for every bad thing that happens to us, even if we do not learn the reason on this side of heaven. God is not the author of sin; that is, He is not morally responsible for it. But He uses sin and all other things to bring about our good and His ultimate glory.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Road to Redemption

Genesis 50:19-20 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Pastor Obie concluded our Sunday sermon series based upon the book of Genesis by recapping how Joseph was betrayed (sinned against) and forgotten by his brothers and was sold into slavery, was sold again in Egypt to be betrayed again by the lie of his owner’s wife and was unjustly imprisoned for years. Then, was betrayed still again by a fellow inmate he helped, who reneged on a promise and forgot him, until the Pharaoh reminded him years later, which lead to his elevation to second in command of all of Egypt. But when his brothers showed up in Egypt to buy grain from him, instead of justified wrath for the sins against him, he showed them genuine, no catch and no strings attached forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. Joseph saw the big God story of the road to redemption unfold before his life and he had repurposed evil for good. Joseph’s grace was a foreshadowing of the grace of God.

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Pastor Obie explained that God’s forgiveness is full, final and life-giving. But, God has given us “freedom of choice”, so He will not force anyone to accept His offer of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, reconciliation, restoration or regeneration to life. Nevertheless, God has loved us from the beginning and the wise would seek Him and His Plan of Salvation via the road to Redemption through Jesus Christ. What Joseph told his brothers, is true for all: “What man meant for evil, God makes good. Creator God is in the business of making things “good”, because it is His nature and intent.  Everything is working out toward His “good” purpose. Our job is to align our will to God’s will, our heart to God’s heart, our purpose to God’s purposes, and our way to God’s good way. We do not have the high, heavenly, big God ’s perspective of time and events on earth. History is His Story.

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.”

We have to recognize “the road to Redemption” was set in place from the very beginning in the Garden of Eden when the devil deceived Adam and Eve to bring sin and death into the world. Creator God told Satan in Genesis 3:15, saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is the “Protoevangel” (the first proclamation of the gospel that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, was coming with His gracious offer of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, reconciliation, restoration or regeneration to life; a pathway was paved were sin could be reversed and reconciliation with God available to those who chose to accept this gift of God. God cared for our redemption from the beginning by providing the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

Jesus said 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.”

He was talking about His narrow path to Heaven. If you are on any other board way to perdition, change your road. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary define the word “perdition” as the utter loss of the soul or of final happiness in a future state; future misery or eternal death. The impenitent sinner is condemned to final perdition (eternal damnation).Sin must be paid for.   But, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. We all need to choose our road in life.We can repent of our sins and accept the offer to take God’s "road to redemption" in Christ today. 

In Christ, Brian 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Cup of Suffering

Michael writes that last week's message emphasized that as followers of Christ, God will empower us when we realize that we are helpless and in need of a Good Shepherd.  As the Apostle Paul said, "Thy strength is made perfect in my weakness; thy grace is sufficient for me."

There's a book entitled "A New Shade of Blue" about the 23rd Psalm.  The new way of looking at this psalm is that the Lord is MY shepherd.  He is personally comforting us through the trials of this life.  As a good shepherd, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth the my soul.

How do you describe the average Christian? The descriptive word that comes to mind is "casual." The very next word in the dictionary is "casualty." Casual Christians become casualties in the spiritual battle. Trials and tribulations focus our minds on what's really important. God teaches us to maintain our focus on Him through the greatest trials of life. Are you fear-based or faith-based?  Hebrews 11 is filled with the examples of Old Testament believers who were faith based. God looks past all of our failures and sins, and celebrates the grace and faith of the Believers ... ultimately our faith in what Jesus Christ did on our behalf that we may be made the righteousness of God in Him. God sees men and women not as they are but as they will be when Jesus Christ takes hold of their hearts. When our prayer becomes, Lord make me the person that you want me to be, God will answer that prayer. When it's not about us, but about Him, then God will bless our lives for His own honor and glory.  

The Helmet of Salvation is the one piece of spiritual armor that the elect of God must put on before they can equip themselves with the rest of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6. Salvation through the finished work of Jesus Christ is God's gracious gift of the Holy Spirit when we confess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. According to Psalm 1, the secret to being blessed is to abide in Him: “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  He shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of water.  His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” The mission field is not what missionaries do, but rather with whom and in whom they abide. It's not who we are but rather whose we are. 

The rock of Jesus Christ builds character to joyfully respond to the trials of this life.  Praising God and worshiping Him is a moment by moment choice. The love we have for our Lord Jesus Christ allows us to love our family and friends now, in this present moment.  You cannot prepare to love them when the doctors say, "you only have two weeks left to live." Only with the love of God can you love them as Christ loved the church and know that they are clothed in dignity and strength and His divine beauty.  

The only way that it makes sense of suffering is to know the suffering that Jesus Christ himself endured on our behalf. The cup of suffering that we must drink is to share in the fellowship of His suffering. When we walk in fellowship with Him, He will give us the love that we need so that we can love others with the love wherewith He loved us. Jesus said that to be His true disciple, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. He said that when you do this, my yoke is easy and my burden is light. In the midst of the hurricanes of life, with Him there is peace in the eye of the storm. In the midst of the storm, our deliverance is to keep our eyes upon Him. Through the storm, we're given the gift of the fellowship of His suffering.  
The Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) is built through living in proximity with our Lord and walking in the Spirit.  

According to John 15:4-5, Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” When we abide in Him, He will give us the grace, mercy, strength, compassion and faith to walk in fellowship with Him and with those we love in the body of Christ.

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Renewing Your Mind

Romans 12:1-2 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Here is a thought-provoking lesson today on the biblical phase “renewing your mind”. 
In light of the great salvation that Christ purchased for His people, believers must devote themselves to God as “living sacrifices” who give all that they are for His service out of a profound sense of gratitude for His grace. This dedication, Paul tells us, is our “spiritual worship.” The phrase “spiritual worship” represents a Greek phrase that is difficult to translate into English, and other translations such as the KJV render it as “reasonable service.” In any case, we know the concept that Paul is conveying. He is talking about worship that involves the heart and the mind, one that is not mere formalism but that gives the Lord what He wants. It is worship that is appropriate as a reflection of our being made in His image, worship that is fitting for rational creatures who live by divine revelation and have understood the person and work of Christ.

Given these truths, we see that Christianity is a faith of both mind and heart. God does not call us to surrender our rational faculties when we trust in His Son; rather, it is only in serving Him that we use our minds as He created them to be used. That is why Christian discipleship—the presentation of ourselves as living sacrifices—requires the renewal of our minds, as the Apostle writes. We see here the means by which we are changed and taken out of the situation in which we find ourselves as fallen sons and daughters of Adam. In Romans 1:18–3:20, Paul tells us that apart from the grace of God, human beings are given over to futility in their thinking, a condition in which we do not understand or love holy things. Our minds—as well as our hearts—must be changed if we are to see the world rightly and even begin to comprehend the things of the Lord. This occurs through the renewing of our minds, which happens decisively at conversion when the preaching of the Word of God moves us to assent to His truth, but this change also continues throughout our walk with the Lord as the Spirit continues to use His Word to grant us the mind of Christ in an ever greater measure.

Christian faith is not a mindless faith. We are called to discern “what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). We can fulfill this call only as our minds are shaped by the precepts of Scripture. Christian thinking is to be molded by the entire Bible. As evangelical Christians, we are quick to emphasize the importance of personal Bible study. But do our words match our practice? Scripture does not set out some program of reading that must be followed in order to be a good Christian, but it is clear that regular meditation on the Word of God is key to our maturity in Christ. As we are able, let us all make time for the study of God’s Word.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Protoevangel - God’s Promise

Genesis 3:15 “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

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

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

In Genesis 3:15 we find the “Protoevangel”, the “first gospel.” After our first parents doubted, ate from the forbidden tree and fell into sin, God would have been entirely just to separate Himself from them forever and subject them only to His wrath. But that is not what happened; rather, the Lord promised to solve the problem of sin, death, and Satan. He promised that a descendant of Eve would deliver a crushing blow to the Evil One. God never told Eve how long it would be before the Messiah’s birth. All she knew was that it would be in the future. Still, she was called to trust the Lord at His word. We must likewise believe God even if we never see the consummation of His promises in this life.

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


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Shovel – Part 2

Continuing from the last post, Pastor Giglio asks three questions: (1) Can Jesus relate to you? The answer is “yes”, because (a) He created and entered physical time and space. Jesus existed outside of the dimensions of time and space from eternity past to eternity future. Jesus took on the constraints of entering into time and space, so we could relate to each other. (b) Jesus (God incarnate, the God/man) took on flesh and blood. He could have come down as Almighty God, but Jesus was born of a woman and took on flesh and blood, which we can relate to. Jesus had the ability to relate to all, so what are you struggling with right now? He’s not going to say: “I don’t know.” He knows.  

Psalm 103:8-11 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him.”

(2) How does Jesus relate to you? He does not give us what we deserve. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “mercy”as: That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. In this sense, there is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders. Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being. Christ meets us more than halfway. He doesn’t say: “I’ll come halfway down from Heaven and you come halfway up.” He comes all the way to us. He is merciful when we are wrong, because mercy is an attribute of God. He is gracious when we are stubborn and He loved us before we were lovable (while we were still sinners).

1 John 4:7-11 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

(3) How does this impact how you relate to others? By the same measure that we receive, we give. The gospel of Jesus Christ comes in the middle of our relationships. It is either “Amen-worthy” or it is “groundbreaking and revolutionary”. The gospel is seismic for our relationships. The goal is “let us love one another”, for love comes from God, because God is love. If you are not loving, it is not because of someone else; it is because you do not know God. He sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:10 says: “This is real love — not that we loved God (because we were not able to love), but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” John 3:16 says, “God so loved us”. The word “so” is a qualifier that takes a casual word and puts it up on a whole new heavenly scale.

When we come to know God, He dispenses mercy and grace with a shovel on your life. His mercies are now; each and every day.  Not yesterday’s mercy; new every day.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Shovel – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ, Brian

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Lord Is My Shepherd

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

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

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

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

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

Alfa img - Showing > The Lord Is My Shepherd

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

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

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Good Fight

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Convenient Time

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:4-8 “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

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

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

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

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

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Resting Place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Exceedingly Abundantly Above All

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Part 2

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

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

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

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

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Monday, July 17, 2017

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Part 1

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

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

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

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

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Making Things Right – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Christ, Brian 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Making Things Right – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Responding to Love

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

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

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

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