Thursday, August 31, 2017

That's My Boy!

This week Michael writes that we're all on an epic journey. When life throws us a curve and throws obstacles in our path, sometimes we struggle to get back to the straight and narrow way. Our challenge is to respond to the curves in life as Jesus would. This means that we must continue to walk in his presence. Grace is not giving us what we deserve, but rather giving us what we don't deserve. God's grace will cover to bless your life if you support others. 

The Word of God says, ‘delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”  We cannot trust our own desires of the flesh. To have the right desires, He will direct us in all of His ways. God gives us opportunities every day to do that which He's called us to do. Therefore, trust in the Lord and do good for goodness sake is the nature of God himself. Dwell in the land to which He's called you. Wherever God has called us, work the field. “Whatsoever thy hand finds to do, do it heartily as unto the Lord and not unto men.”  He has called us to live in the land of the dying in sin, heading for the land of the living. The hope that we all have in this life is the hope of the resurrection in Christ. Hope assured of. 

God is in control.  However, life in this secular humanistic world will be tempered with tribulation and suffering.  Life is a "hard row to hoe." All of us will die. Mortality is 100%. Given these truths, our challenge and our privilege is to trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not unto our own understanding. It's difficult to submit our hearts to His heart, because we are accustomed to the physical realm. What motivates the average person is pain. Like the Apostle Paul who prayed three times "Lord remove this thorn from my flesh," God will finally answer our prayer for deliverance when we arrive at the place of understanding the Word of God when he says, "My strength is made perfect in your weakness, my grace is sufficient for thee." Pain is gain.

Pain, suffering, and tribulation are our friends.  They force us to turn to the Lord because thy grace is sufficient for me. When the crisis comes and courage is required, we will be the faithful ones who trust in the Lord. Jesus said, "If you want to be my true disciple, you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me." Joy is not the absence of pain.  Rather, true joy is the presence of the Lord. The devil is prowling about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is the deceiver and the accuser and his job is to discourage us. “The thief cometh not but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy.” The antidote to fear is to trust in the Lord with all your heart. Jesus Christ came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Despite our weakness and failures, we can run toward Him despite our sins.  
Ephesians 4:29 "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister grace unto the hearers." 

This is the way our Heavenly Father embraces us when His (Luke 15) prodigal son comes to Him with a heart of repentance from sin. He's watching and waiting for us to return home.  When He sees us from a distance, He runs to embrace us.  He says, "That's my boy!  My son was lost and now is found.  Let's have a feast and celebrate." Spending time in the presence of our Lord will make our lives an example of His grace. According to Isaiah 61:3, the purpose that Jesus came was “unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.”
We who have been “born again” (born of the Spirit) have the hope of the resurrection.  In Psalm 1, the conclusion is that they shall be called "oaks of righteousness." 

"Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in his law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree that is planted by the rivers of waters that bringeth forth his fruit in due season.  His leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper."

Our challenge is to be an encourager. Our job is to glorify Christ by walking in fellowship and communion with Him. As the psalmist said in Psalms 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto Thee, O Lord my strength and my Redeemer."

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Child of God

John 1:12-14 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Christ’s Peace

John 14:27-28 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

Just prior to the Lord Jesus Christ telling us of the Peace of Christ, He speaks to us all of how He was going to the kingdom of Heaven to prepare a place for the Believer, His Followers, the redeemed children of God.

John 14:1-4 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Then tells us of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide our steps on the road to eternity in Heaven with Him and our Heavenly Father forever. John 14:15-18 says, “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Christ’s peace only comes from Christ. That by knowing who you are as a “saved’ sinner by the grace of God, redeemed by the atoning blood of Jesus understand by experience and know the peace that the world cannot give; only from Jesus. Know Jesus; know peace.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, August 28, 2017

Heart and Abilities – Part Two

In John 15:4-5 Jesus said: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” 

It’s easy to say: “Whatever you are doing wrong, stop it and shape up.” But, how can we start to follow our heart. (1) Open your heart to Jesus. Can you think of anything else? Without Christ, the other things cannot fall into place and not going to work. God is restoring us to our original relationship; that is what the gospel is about. (2) Let God begin to heal your heart. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” When life reeks, the Bible speaks to that without candy-coating the situation. When we are broken-hearted, that is when God (the Creator of our heart) is pursuing us wants to be close to us. (3) Listen, look and launch. Stop and listen to your heart. Look around and see what you are drawn to. Look before you leap, but (within godly standards) try stuff out. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Don’t be convinced that there is nothing here for you and don’t allow your heart to be stifled.  

1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

God gives us abilities to be used. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “ability” as: active power, or power to perform. In the plural, abilities is much used in a like sense; and also for faculties of the mind, and acquired qualifications. Moral power, depending on the will - a metaphysical and theological sense. It is your natural God-given talents. There is no such thing as a talentless person. But, we are better at talking about what we are not talented in than what we are good at. Focus on what you are talented in. Make a list of them and thank God for them.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

God gives us abilities to serve and honor Him. Colossians 3:17 adds, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.1 Corinthians 6:20 reminds us, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The Christian Doxology says, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” Also, God gives us abilities to serve others as faithful servants. This notion is counter-culture to the I/Me self-serving message of this secular world. Our abilities, by God’s intent and design, offer us ways and means to make a living. Work and responsibility that God gives each of us to give to others also. So identify your abilities and pursue them.

How do we begin? Estimate, dedicate and cultivate. God has masterfully formed us to function. Stand back and take an inventory of what you are doing in life. Then sharpen your godly skills, use them and watch them take shape.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Heart and Abilities – Part One

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

This last Sunday, Guest Pastor, Dr. Willie Nolte preached on the continuing Sermon series of “Making Your Mark for the Kingdom. Willie asked if we have ever been in a group or a meeting where everyone knows and is motivated about the subject, but you know nothing and do not know what’s going on. What if that was your life and you are living like that every day? God has a plan and purpose, how it unfolds in our life and how we are going to make a difference within our sphere of influence as we were designed and created to do. An Architectural Engineer designs uses form and the function (what is it going to be used for?). Likewise, God’s plan and purpose for each one of us has both form and function. We are God’s thoughtful and creative workmanship for a purpose. 

Psalm 139:14 “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”

God has a plan for us to make your mark in life and has given us a unique shape, form and function to fulfill that purpose. A common question of high school and college age young people is: “Why are I here?” and “What is my purpose?” Without the answer, many gravitate into the existential philosophy of “living for today”. But, knowing and getting to do what God designed and gifted us to do, allows us to use and take pleasure in what we are created for and talented at. This is how and why we are a shaped the way that we are. Creator God supernaturally gifted each of us, individual and uniquely, this side of glory for the work of the kingdom of Heaven. Yet, there is a distinct and holistic connection between all gifts used by the body of believers in the work of God. So, when we know or shape that God crafted us to be for the godly purposes of our life, we never need to be walking through life asking: “What am I doing here?”

Philippians 2:12b-13 “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Our shape includes our spiritual gifts, our heart, our abilities, our personality and our experiences. When we do what God has shaped us to do, we enjoy it and we are good at it. The heart is defined as “the seat of the affections, the will and passions” and consists of our desire and interest that we are drawn to and gives us energy and zeal. Our heart sings when we see and enjoy our heart’s desires that motivate and fire us up because God wired us that way. It’s a known fact that passionate people address issues and get things done. So, why is it that we do not follow our heart sometimes? Dr. Nolte suggests that it could be the loss of hope in our life, feelings of fear, guilt, or rejection that product bitterness. These all are heavy stone of sin that weigh us down and we drag them around with us. They are arrows aimed at our heart, when we are wounded by life. It is well known that hope deferred make our heart sick. This is not God’s plan.  

Let's continue Dr. Nolte's message on our godly heart and abilities in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Friend Everyone Longs For – Part Three

Continuing from the last post, Pastor Giglio tells us that the fifth friend that we are looking for principle is: (5) we need to become friends who “float freely” and are there for others during the good times and the bad times.  In the opening Bible passage says “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. We all have that friend who always is there when the party is on, but don’t you want that kind of friend who is there when you are at the bottom? This is a friend that can float with the “up and ups” and the “down and downs”, just as happy with the “high and mighty” as with those in “low estates”. The gospel does not treat people differently based upon the part of town that they live in, by what social/economic strata that they currently find themselves in, by what their family history is, or by anything else about them. The gospel highlights and dignifies every single person on planet Earth. It lifts up every person equally into the presence of God. Therefore, we desire to be the kind of person who is “easy-moving” up and down, side to side, among all kinds of people as friends.

We don’t want to be that kind of person who says, “oh, they are doing good right now, so I’m their friend.” But, if things go wrong for them, then they won’t hear from me for a while. We need to be people able to move among people who have something to offer you and among people who the only thing that they have to offer is the friendship of their heart. We need to be people able to move among people who need us more than we need them, and among those who we need more than they need us. Like Jesus, we need to float and move freely, reflecting a sincere “one-faced” love of God to each and every person. It makes God look good and it makes the gospel look strong. When we have a God-sized view of humanity and we seek the dignity of all people, the whole community rises. It makes Jesus look good. Don’t you want a friend that you do not have to worry about? Ones that you know they are always going to be there to rejoice and weep with you and show their unconditional love, not evaporate on you.

The sixth friend that we are looking for principle is: (6) we need to become friends who, as far as it depends on us, are peacemakers.  In the opening Bible passage says “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” In conflicts, our default is “them, them, them” and, usually, the solution to conflicts rest with us. The gospel only has power for me, in me, to change me. We cannot make the gospel have power to change someone else. We can only accept the gospel’s power to change ourselves. If we do that, then we understand that our calling now is to a life of peace (as much as it is possible and as much as it depends on us) with all people.

In John 14:27, Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

There are people in conflict with us who are going to say that we are not going to have peace, maybe never, with them. It may not be possible to have peace with that person right now, but it is possible to have peace in your heart towards that person. Then, you are at true peace. You, situationally, may not be at peace, but, in your heart and mind, you are at peace. And, if you are at peace then you are reflecting the power of the gospel that has given you peace with God. You now have peace with you and have peace towards them. You are now living truly free.

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus instructs us to in this manner, therefore, pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Be the friend that everyone longs for.
In Christ, Brian

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Friend Everyone Longs For – Part Two

Continuing from the last post, Pastor Giglio asks: “So, what does that friend look like?” Being a friend that can de-escalate conflict, not the kind of friend that escalates a conflict. There are certain people in life that if something is on fire, they put it in a can, put a lid on it and say, “That fire is going out really fast.” But, there are other people that when something is on fire, they get gasoline and pour it on the flames so that the whole town burns up. Then, they say, “Oh my goodness, I don’t know what happened.” So, the question is: Are you an extinguisher or are you a fanner of the flames? All this is rooted in the reality of our being loved sons and daughters of Almighty God; that we received mercy that we did not deserve, that we received forgiveness that we did not deserve, that we received kindness from God that we did not deserve. God did not go tell all of our sin business all over town, but took our sin business to the cross and crucified it with Jesus Christ. We need to be people who de-escalate issues and assume the best of people. You want others to say the same thing about you to everybody about being a peacemaker. When there is a conflict with someone, go to them and talk directly to them, because that is what de-escalators do; they work to humbly restore. They are not interested in propagating the story; they are trying to end the story as quickly as possible and restore the relationship without any personal gain.

James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

The third friend that we are looking for principle is: (3) we need to be friends who are “open-handed” with others. In the opening Bible passage says “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality”. This is being joyfully willing to share with what we have towards those around us in legitimate need. Normally, in life it works like this: we hear about people going through a hard time or rough patch and the number one Christian response is: “oh, that is terrible! I’m going to pray for them” (which is powerful, if they really do pray for them). The reality is: if your house burns down, you don’t need people to pray for you; you need people to show up with food and shelter, funds, furnishings and clothing in order to make ends meet. We want people in our lives who move into action when tough times come. We need people who step in and share what they have with those in need, practicing hospitality. Speak the truth in love and deal with reality, being authentic.

 The fourth friend that we are looking for principle is: (4) we need to become friends who rise above the fray.  In the opening Bible passage says “do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath”. You do not need to show up to every fight that you are invited to. We can choose to politely withdraw from the conflict. We can be completely hindered, tripped up, distracted and diverted by an invitation by someone else to a battle that we do not even want to be a part of. God has given us a mission, a calling and a purpose in life, and we need to move towards that mission with all our heart, in the best way that we can; humbling ourselves to God without being conceited, trusting God and pushing ahead with what God has entrusted us to do. We cannot afford to be distracted by others. This is the way of Jesus. All the way to the cross, Jesus was cursed by people. It was “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem, but it was “who do you think you are the day before and the day after. But, Jesus kept trusting Himself to the higher governing authority of Father God.

So, there is freedom today for us to not have to feel like we have to get everybody on even terms by “sticking it to them” the same way that you feel like they are “sticking it” to you, because you have a father in Heaven and He is going to give everybody what they rightfully have coming. We cannot “right” anything in our own power … but God can. So, go after the purpose that God called you for. God can unravel and expose everything, call everything what it really is and deal with everything the way that it needs to be dealt with. We can rest assured that nobody is “getting away” with any evil (whether thought, word or deed). Nobody. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Everything is going to be set “right” by God. When we choose to “bless and not curse”, we are honoring the size of our Father God, who we believe will take care of everything in the very best way. Our mission is to hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Our mission is not to curse the people who have cursed us, but to fulfill the things that He has called us to do. 

Let's conclude this lesson on becoming the friend that we long for" tomorrow in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Friend Everyone Longs For – Part One

Romans 12:9-21 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”  says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This week, our Wednesday evening small group continued its topical study of the Louie Giglio “Relat(able)” series. Pastor Giglio  says that we all have a mental picture on our mind of the kind of friend that we want. We know what kind of people we want around us in life. But the real goal is to become that kind of friend that we want around us in life, and if we can do that, we are going to get the benefits. You may not get a friend today, but you can become one; and life always begins with “becoming”. Rather than “finding”. It’s not about finding the “right” person in life; it is about "being" the person that God wants you to be. That way, whether you find new relationships or not, you shall “win” because you are becoming the person that God wants you to become. If we focus on this truth, then God will help us along the way.

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second  is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

There are six principles that are true about the friend that we all long for. What does that look like when you break it down into the flow? The opening Bible passage says that love must be sincere. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “sincere” as: Pure; being in reality what it appears to be; not feigned; not simulated; not assumed or said for the sake of appearance; real; not hypocritical or pretended. No prayer can avail with a heart-searching God, unless it is sincere. Pastor Giglio defines “sincere” in common terms as “not phony”, not a hypocrite and no hidden agendas. The first friend that we long for principle (and our challenge) is: (1) we need to be “one-faced” friends with no hidden agendas. We are never going to be a one-faced friend of we do not get God’s approval; if we do not agree with God that we are somebody of great value and not starting to repair our core-relationships in life. The reason that we are “two-faced” friends is because we want acceptance from people. We tell one person one thing and we tell another person another thing in order to bolster our position in a situation. This is why, a lot of times, we celebrate conflict and not try to minimize conflict, because conflict gives us the ability to raise our equity with certain relationships around us. Meaning, that whenever there is a conflict, there is an opportunity to strengthen our position with certain people.

The second friend that we are looking for principle is: (2) we need to be friends who extinguishes evil and celebrates good. The opening Bible passage says “Hate what is “evil” and cling to what is “good”. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “evil” as: Corrupt; perverse; wrong. Evil is natural or moral. Natural evil is anything which produces pain, distress, loss or calamity, or which in any way disturbs the peace, impairs the happiness, or destroys the perfection of natural beings. Moral evil is any deviation of a moral agent from the rules of conduct prescribed to him by God, or by legitimate human authority; or it is any violation of the plain principles of justice and rectitude. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “good” as: Having moral qualities best adapted to its design and use, or the qualities which God's law requires; virtuous; pious; religious; applied to persons, and opposed to bad, vicious, wicked, evil. Conformable to the moral law; virtuous; applied to actions. So, out of our relationship with God, we can reflect this “goodness” in the relationships that we have with other people.

Matthew 7:12 “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

When a conversation arises, there is always going to be an opportunity to celebrate what is evil and race right by what is good. This is how gossip happens. This is how fights begin. This is how small things become big deals. This is how minor issues escalate into relationship breaking events. The reality for all of us is that a lot of the relationships that we are in today which are “sideways” didn’t begin as a giant issue. They began as a series of little things. In some of the relationships that are sideways today, we still, to this moment, really do not know all of the reality of what actually happen to begin the conflict. We just jump into the situation, where we did the opposite of what we want our friends to do to us. We want our friends to celebrate “good’ and detest what is “evil”. 

Let's continue this message on "being the friend that we long for" in the next post.
In Christ, Brian

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Where's Your Treasure?

This week, Michael writes that the Holy Bible says in Matthew 6, "Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven... for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." To deal with the temporary trials of this world, we must focus on our fellowship with our Lord.  When we walk with our Lord as men and women of God, we don't need to worry about the finish line. We focus our minds on the next step. Life is a journey and pilgrimage with the gates of Heaven at the of our earthly life’s trail. We are sojourners on earth; the kingdom of heaven is our home. According to the New Testament, a "Sabbath day's journey" is the distance we walk in a day. The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “journey” as: Passage from one place to another (like from earth to heaven). The journey is a moment by moment, a step by step walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 25:7-8 says that the veil that separates us from God is death. In the Garden of Eden, God said to Adam and Eve, "the day that you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt surely die." Death started the concept of time. Without death, there is eternity. Death is the result of sin. Sin and its associated death separates us from God. When Adam sinned, this sin resulted in corruption, decay and death. Jesus Christ came to redeem us from sin and restore our unity with God.

Without death, we would step into the presence of God without a veil. No one can stand before God, who is a consuming and everlasting fire. Those who step into his presence without holiness will be consumed. Combustible materials:  wood, hay, and stubble are consumed. Righteous materials:  gold, silver and precious stones are  refined and purified by the fire. To “confess” means to "agree with reality." It. means to "speak the same word." To speak the truth of the word, we must understand the truth of “The Word”. We must know and confess our Lord Jesus Christ for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The word doesn't say, "Get treasures in heaven."  Instead it says, "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." Acquire now that which God says is important. Set your affections on the Lord Jesus Christ and everything else in this life will be covered.  

In Luke 9, Jesus said that whoever puts his hand to the plow and turns back is not fit for the kingdom of God. What is your priority? Like Lot's wife who looked back longingly at Sodom and Gomorrah, we will be destroyed if we cherish the things of this world above the things of heaven.  Where is your treasure?

We mourn when we lose a dear brother or sister in Christ who has passed away. But we grieve not as others who have no hope. According to Hebrews, there is a rest for those who have finished the race. 1 Corinthians 15 says that we believe in the resurrection. In order to live in eternity, we first must die. Death is the entrance into eternity. Death is God's mechanism whereby believers enter into His presence. Death, where is thy sting, O grave, where is thy victory? At the resurrection, death will be swallowed up in victory. This is the hope of life everlasting: to leave the sin that doth so easily entangle us. Therefore, let us run with patience the race that is set before us.  Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and is set down upon the right hand of the throne of God.  

As the song says, Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.

May God richly bless you!

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Sign of the Times

Matthew 16:2-3 “He (Jesus) answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times?”

My dad, a US Navy veteran of WWII & the Korean War, used to say: “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” Obviously, mariners have know this discerning the sky fact on the oceans and seas of the world since biblical times. But, in the passage above Jesus was using this well-known observation to drive home a point and this sharp rebuke by the Lord Jesus was well deserved, for His critics were challenging Him to prove His right to be heard by performing a miracle. But they had already been confronted with a tremendous body of evidence, both in their Scriptures and in the very life and teachings of Jesus (as well as in the miracles already wrought by Him) that identified him as their Messiah. They paid great attention to weather forecasting and other mundane matters (like total eclipses), while ignoring or rejecting the evidence that God Himself, in Christ, was in their midst.

 One commentator that I read claims that today we are more occupied with daily weather and seven day forecasts even than they were, with all sorts of forecasting devices (i.e. satellites and Doppler radar in operation. There is also a growing army of doomsday forecasters, loudly concerned about a predicted nuclear winter, overpopulation, pollution, global-warming, increase in hurricanes and tornados, plus a host of other foreboding secular “signs of the times.” Our coverage of the “great American total solar eclipse” had the total attention of the nation. What is with this fascination of distractions that people love?  I remember that our church’s youth director read a study that “end-times prophesy” (Eschatology) books of the Bible (Daniel, Ezekiel & Revelation) were College and High School age kids favorite studies. Movies about a life-ending meteor hitting the earth, a giant solar flare of radiation or a super-nova of our sun seem to produce great box office returns at the theaters.

Romans 1:17-23 “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,  because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

We focus our attention on “Cosmos Chaos”, yet they ignore the overwhelming evidences, both in science and Scripture, that our great Creator/Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is always in control and is coming again soon to fulfill His great purposes in creation and redemption. A mere listing of the many real signs of God’s times would take many pages. One such sign, of course, is this very proliferation of science and technology. At “the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” – Daniel 12:4. Studies have shown that “knowledge” is doubling every 12 months.  Another is the great following achieved by these false teachers, as multitudes “turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” - 2 Timothy 4:4. In America, Darwinian Theory of Macro-Evolution is the only allow explanation for the origin of life and the diversity therein, even though the physical evidence does not support it and the facts have always pointed to creation by intelligent design, just as the Bible states. We should be looking around at the order and beauty of creation and see the fingerprints of God everywhere.

“Hypocrites,” Jesus said, are concerned with secular trends, but spiritual discerners can recognize the true signs. They are posted everywhere, on everything: “Made in Heaven by God”. Praise be to God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth!

Blessings in Christ.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Genesis 6:14 “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.”

 I find literary devices fascinating, where one thing represents another.  A symbol is defined as something that stands for or represents another. That is why, when I read that it may be surprising to learn that God’s instructions to Noah concerning the Ark’s design contain the first reference in the Bible to the great doctrine of atonement, I immediately wanted to know more. The Hebrew word used here for pitch (kaphar) is the same word translated “atonement” in many other places in the Old Testament. But, what exactly is atonement?

The 1828 Webster’s dictionary defines the word “atonement” as: 1. Agreement; concord; reconciliation, after enmity or controversy. 2. Expiation; satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing or suffering that which is received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; with for. 3. In theology, the expiation of sin made by the obedience and personal sufferings of Christ. Jesus paid for our sins.

I read that while the New Testament word “atonement” implies reconciliation, the Old Testament “atonement” was merely a covering (with many applications). As the pitch was to make the Ark watertight, keeping the judgment waters of “the Flood” from reaching those inside, so, on the sacrificial altar, “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” – Leviticus 17:11, keeping the fires of God’s wrath away from the sinner for whom the sacrifice was substituted and slain. The pitch was a covering for the Ark, and the blood was a covering for the soul, the first assuring physical deliverance, the second spiritual salvation. However, not even the shed blood on the altar could really produce salvation. It could assure it through faith in God’s promises on the part of the sinner who offered it, but “the blood of bulls and of goats” could never “take away sinsHebrews 10:4.

The article explained that both the covering pitch and animal blood were mere symbols of the substituting death of Jesus Christ, “whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (an acceptable substitute and sacrifice) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” - Romans 3:25. Through faith in Christ, our sins are “covered” under the blood, forgiven by God, and replaced by His own perfect righteousness, by all of which we become finally and fully reconciled to God. By faith, we find salvation in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone and eternal life in His resurrection. It is finished! Atonement is the gospel truth of the cross.
Romans 5:10 “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Blessings in Christ

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Spiritual Shape

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you.”

This last Sunday, Pastor Obie continued in our church’s sermon series “Make Your Mark in the Kingdom of God”. From Conception, Creator God shaped us with intention and purpose, uniquely designed and formed for specific tasks in the kingdom ministry of the Lord for each of us to put into practice daily and accomplish for His glory. This is what is meant in Ephesians 2:10  says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” But, do we know our God-given shape?

Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

There is a common misunderstanding that “ministry” is for pastors and priests, but may the true be known that you and I were made for ministry (the ecclesiastical function through the agency or service of a minister of the gospel). The original Greek word is “diakonia”, meaning: service, ministry. The church is not the clergy or the “brick and mortar” but the body of Christ, and every member (every child of God) is in the business of serving the Lord in ministry, led by the Holy Spirit and delivering the gospel of Jesus Christ. We were all here for ministry. We are here by no cosmic accident and did not evolved from complex molecules or chemicals of some primordial soup, but were designed and formed by the Creator God of heaven and earth.  

1 Corinthians 12:11 “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.”

Pastor Obie explained that God has given us a unique S.H.A.P.E. (five things to discover that, when understood, will help us in ministry. (S) = unique Specific Spiritual Gifts to employ, (H) = a unique Heart for care and compassion, (A) = unique Abilities to excel, (P) = a unique Personality to reach others, and (E) unique Experiences to gain knowledge, to grow, and to mature for kingdom ministry work. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says: “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” The Almighty, out of His mercy and grace, gives the four gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, the indwelling Holy Spirit and Spiritual gifts for ministering to others.

Romans 12:4-5 “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”

Why is it important to know and use your spiritual gifts? (1) Because God designed us to serve and make an impact in His kingdom. Sports teams invest great amounts of time and money to gain the optimum efficiency of their athletes. Exercise your God-given gifts and talents. (2) Because it is good for our fellow man. Everyone is needed and necessary. Fulfill your calling by blessing others. (3) Because it is good for you. Using your spiritual gifts in ministry affects your whole being; creating greater self-esteem, lower depression and better heath all around. You cannot steer a parked car, so get involved with the Lord’s ministry and use them, fulfilling your role as a child of God and citizen of Heaven.

John 15:8 “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

What did God shape you to do and what shape are you in? What are you going to do with your life? Are you living the life that God intended, designed and shaped you for? Focus your life on the greater way. The gifts that God gives us are for the purpose in which they were given to us. Impact your world for Christ and make your mark in the kingdom.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wonderful and Marvelous

Psalm 139:14 “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”

Have a blessed day! Brian

Friday, August 18, 2017

Redeemed Encouragement

1 Samuel 30:4-6 “Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 

The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee has had a Christian radio outreach program that began 50 years ago, titled “Thru the Bible” and has grown worldwide. This month I received a newsletter message that resonates positively with everyone, but rarely thought about when life has it’s negative moments and seasons. McGee writes that most folks think of King David as a shepherd boy who slew Goliath. They also remember the dark side of his life, the great sin that he committed with Bathsheba. What they don’t realize is that David was very much a human being like the rest of us. He made many blunders just like we do.

In the Bible passage above, David was “between a rock and a hard place” (meaning that he was in a bad place). He lost his loved ones. His own followers, under this great emotional stress of having lost their loved ones, want to stone him. But the passage ends: “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” 

McGee explains that there are times in our lives when the circumstances will not produce any joy or happiness. These are times when we find ourselves in dark places, like David. We look about, and the situation looks hopeless. What should we do? Be discouraged? Give up? Say we are through?

Friend, if we are children of God, we will encourage ourselves in the Lord. We will turn to Him at times like this. Sometimes, the Lord puts us in such a spot so that we will turn to Him. He wants to make Himself real to us. It was during times like these that David wrote some of his most helpful psalms (a sacred song or hymn composed on a divine subject and in praise of God). When troubles come your way, you can thumb your way through the Psalms and find where David is encouraging himself in the Lord and thereby encourage yourself in the Lord.
Several times he says, “The Lord is good … let the redeemed of the Lord say so.”

Blessings in the Lord.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eternal Fire Protection – Part 2 – God’s Righteousness

Isaiah 25:7-8 “And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.”

COntinuing Michael's message: Two things shall be swallowed up. The first is the Vail that separates us from God. This is the shroud that covers up God's glory. “For who can endure the "everlasting glory of God's consuming fire?"  Psalm 24 says, the one that shall live and endure in the presence of God is "he that is righteous and walks in the way of the righteous."  The Vail that separates mankind is the grace and the mercy of God. Without the Vail all men would be consumed by the fire of God's glory.

Death is the second thing that will be swallowed up. Death and destruction is the result of sin. It causes "corruption" in this world. Without the covering of death, we would face the fire of God's glory without a "Vail." We can either be prepared or unprepared for the fire. We need to change our works from (figurative) combustible material: wood, hay, and stubble, to incombustible material:  gold, silver, and precious stones. Therefore, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, our robe of righteousness. Clothed in His righteousness we are protected from the consuming fire of God's glory. Death to the old nature of sin, and death gives us the opportunity to be clothed in the robes of the righteousness of Christ.  

The decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior will allow us into God's eternity. For the old nature of sin and death was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live (in the Spirit,) yet not I but Christ liveth in me and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the one who loved me and gave himself for me – Galatians 2:20The conclusion of Hebrews 12 says, “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.”

The lyric to a great hymn says, "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand ... Clothed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!" Praise the Lord!

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eternal Fire Protection – Part 1 – God’s Rest

Luke 9:59-60 says, And he said unto another, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” Jesus said unto him, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

This week, Michael writes that the question is, "What's the cost of following Jesus?"  Most have not counted the cost, therefore they either have no idea or have the wrong idea. These people are represented by the rocky soil in the Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 parable, where the seed is the word of God and the rocky soil is those who receive the word but they have no depth of fertile ground.  Because they had no depth of soil, the seed sprouted but the sprout quickly withered when the sun came up.  When the roots are heated and cannot dig deep into the soil for coolness and rest from the sun, then the plant will be scorched and die.

In Hebrews, the only way to walk and enter into God's rest is by faith, and not by sight.  If we're walking by sight, we will never rest. True rest is only in the Lord God Almighty. Therefore according to Jeremiah, judge “righteously”, not according to what our eyes see and our ears hear. For that which is seen is “temporary”, but that which is unseen is “eternal”. To rest in God sometimes means that we will not be comfortable in the things of this material-focused world. Our comfort is in “the rest of the Holy Spirit” and not in the comfort of the flesh. God warned Israel in Deuteronomy, that when you enter the “Promised Land” and gain wealth, don't think that by your own strength you've been blessed. Remember that God has given it to you. Israel was driven from the land of promise because they never allowed the land to rest according to the Sabbath rest law that God designed. When Israel was led through the desert by the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God sustained them.  God prepared the way before them. When Israel strayed from God's protection, they were outside of God's mercy, grace, and rest. This principle is true for us today. 

Jesus reminded his followers to count the cost and think of the consequences of their thoughts, words and actions before they actual happen. Look before you leap, so to speak. Following Him must be the priority in life ... live for Christ in your loving heart. Everything else we must "hate" in comparison to loving Jesus and following Him. Then our joy will be in the Lord and not on the things of this earth. No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God – Luke 9:62. Like Lot's wife who looked back longingly at Sodom and Gomorrah, those who are not committed to seek first God and his Kingdom will suffer destruction and loss.  

Let’s continue Michael’s message God’s Protection in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Higher Ways

Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

It is obvious that God’s thoughts and ways are by no means equivalent to man’s. We cannot possibly fathom all that there is to know in the physical cosmos and in Heaven beyond time and space. God is infinite, eternal and spirit. How, then, can we hope to understand those things that He has communicated to us in His Word? One theologian states, to be sure, God has not told us all He knows, but what He has provided is sufficient for our faith, and He has also revealed clues as to the nature of many things we can only fully know in eternity. We know enough now to trust Him for the things we can’t comprehend or verify.

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing.”

The writer asks, “What are some of God’s favorite object lessons?” Certainly His creation is one. Almighty God, who can speak something into existence that didn’t exist before is all-powerful. But, the final great guarantee that He will work on our behalf is the fact of the resurrection.

Ephesians 1:19-21 “What is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”

The article concludes with: Make no mistake! God is capable of solving any problem we have. And what’s more, He wants us to know it! Amen to that!