Sunday, January 16, 2022

Walk as He Walked

Rocky Shore With Mountain in Distance Under Gray Cloudy Sky

1 John 2:6 “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”


I read that the idea of walking as Christ walked can be intimidating to a Christian. After all, the sinless Son of God, Himself fully God, who gave up everything to serve and save rebellious mankind, set an exceedingly high standard. Walk the talk. Nothing short of perfection and total sacrifice will do. Nevertheless, while we recognize that we will never fully achieve Christlikeness on this side of glory, we have “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). Let us note several specific commands in the New Testament that describe such a walk.


First and foremost, we are to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25; Romans 8:1-4). The empowering of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to “walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12; Ephesians 4:1). Furthermore, our walk is a walk of faith: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).


We must “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ephesians 5:2), and since “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5 8; see also 1 John 1:7). We will make good use of our opportunities as we “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5).


We must “walk in truth” (3 John 4) and in honesty (1 Thessalonians 4:12; Romans 13:13). This walk will be evident to all by our “good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).


We must "walk in the light as He is in the light."  (1 John 1:7). Such a victorious walk might be its own reward; but there is more. Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, has said of those who overcome that “they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). This life is a divinely ordained journey with an eternal destination, so walk with the Lord accordingly.

Proverbs 4:12-15 “When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. Walk as He walked.

Have a blessed day; a day the Lord has made.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

God’s Gift of Grace

 Selective Focus Photographed of Green Leaf Plant With Snows 

Ephesians 2:4-8 “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”


The late, Pastor D. James Kennedy once wrote: The more I reflect upon it, the more convinced I am that we can encapsulate the whole essence of the Christian gospel in one single word—grace. What is this “amazing grace”? I have asked many people, and I have yet to meet an unconverted person who understands the concept. Only those who have experienced God’s grace know what it is, and yet many still don’t have words to describe it. Grace is beyond comprehension; it is, I am sure, the greatest thing in all the world. God alone by His grace alone through Christ alone justifies sinners, Sola Gratia (Grace alone) - Salvation is the free gift of God to man. It is given by God’s Grace alone and not through any merit on the part of the Christian.


So, what is grace? Grace is not justice (getting what we deserve), because it is above fair. The wages of sin is death; that’s fair. Grace is infinitely higher, more exalted, and more noble than fairness could ever be. Grace isn’t the same as love. Even though grace has love within it, not all love has grace in it. Is grace not the same as mercy? Mercy is not getting what we deserve, but grace is getting what we do not deserve. 


Now, we’re getting closer to the target. But grace still goes beyond extending love to someone who does not deserve it. Grace is the free, unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits mankind receive from Him. Grace is totally unmerited favor given to those who deserve disfavor. Grace is receiving everything good when we deserve everything bad. Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). This gift is offered to all, but not accepted and taken by all. God will save anyone, but not everyone. Without the right to choose, human beings would not bear God’s image. God’s gift of grace through Jesus Christ must be chosen to receive, accept and opened in faith.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    


Pastor Kennedy explains that we will never appreciate grace until we see our need for it. When we see ourselves as sinners/rebels against God, as willful breakers of His laws, as capable of all manner of evil in thought, word and deed … when we know that our hearts hold depravity and inequity … when we see ourselves as sinners in the deepest, darkest parts of our being. Then we will begin to appreciate the meaning of grace. GRACE = God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. 


When the God of all grace freely and willingly forgives and accepts us on the basis of what Jesus Christ has done, then we experience grace. And after experiencing it, we want to share it freely with others, because “grace saves”. If you were a beggar and found an endless supply of bread, wouldn’t you share it with your fellow beggars who is starving to death? That picture gives us just a small glimpse of what it’s like when we share God’s amazing grace with others; it’s the Gospel truth to forgiveness and salvation. Can you share God’s grace with someone today?


Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, January 14, 2022

Cheap Substitutes


Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”


To die without Jesus Christ is to bear the wrath of God for our many sins and spend eternity in Hell. But, to live without Christ is to not know true love, joy, peace and contentment in life. This statement from Paul should be engraved like an intaglio upon the heart of every Christian. However, there are many cheap substitutes (idols and other false gods) that clamor for our attention that we must eschew (steer clear of). 


To live is not pleasure. “For me to live is pleasure,” cry a whole host of voices today. Hedonism is the guiding belief that the flesh desire of pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good and goal in life. For surely the Bible says that sin has its pleasure for a season—then come the consequences. Is pleasure you love?


To live is not money. There are others who would replace Christ with money, saying “For me to live is making, taking and having lots of money.” They spend most of their waking hours, energy, and thoughts, trying to gain money. But to what ultimate end? 

Luke 16:13 explains, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Is money your love. 


To live is not fame. Others would say: “For me to live is fame.” They give their whole lives to its accomplishment; popularity man’s praise, prestige. Perhaps they rise to the top of the ladder, but where are they then? They find themselves saying, “Is this all there is?” How many realize that the ladder they have sold their soul to climb is leaning on the wrong building? Is fame your love? 


2 Timothy 2:22 “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.“ 


BUT CHRIST - To live for Him is the secret of life; life to the full. The Apostle Paul goes on to say, “...and to die is gain”, because to have Jesus is heaven. Consider the other substitutes: For me to live is pleasure / wealth / fame/etc., and to die is an unutterable tragedy; it is the loss of all I spent my whole life working for. You can’t take it with you.


1 John 2:15-16 tells us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” How sad it is that so many do not find until they are at the very brink of eternity that they have spent their lives foolishly. No substitute will do.


Think about Titus 3:3-7 “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”


Lord of wisdom and power, give me strength for today to not accept cheap substitutes. Allow me to experience the true riches found in You. Help me to be eternally grateful for Your sacrifice for me. When I come to my own death, it shall be my eternal gain and happiness. Amen

Thursday, January 13, 2022

In His Image

Blue and Green Sky and Mountain

Colossians 3:9-10 “since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.”


I love devotional readings that drive my thinking from the natural and the creation to the complexity in life and the supernatural Creator God. Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”Sure, man’s body is made of the same “earth” material as the animals and as the earth itself. However, human beings share the created “image of God” only with God Himself. In Genesis 1:26 God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”


Ever since Adam and Eve first sinned, all people have been born with a sin nature and an innate rebellion against our Maker. Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” The image of God in mankind has been grievously marred, and we are “dead in trespasses and sins”. However, as our Colossians text above reminds us, the image of God in man can be “renewed” through the great miracle of the born-again new creation. And this includes more than just our soul/spirit nature, for we have His gracious promise that our own resurrection bodies will be “fashioned like unto his glorious body” when the Lord Jesus comes again.

Evidently, God had all this in mind from the very beginning, when “in the likeness of God made He him”. That is, He foreknew that He would one day become man, in the person of Jesus Christ, and so He created man in the image and likeness of that body/soul/spirit complex that He Himself would eventually assume; God incarnate. 

Christ Himself is, in His eternal and glorified human body, the “image of the invisible God” [fully man and fully God], and God amazingly has even predestinated us “to be conformed to the image of His Son”; Sanctification is the act of God's grace by which the affections of men are purified or alienated from sin and the world, and exalted to a supreme love to God. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, and “we shall be like Him” when we finally “see Him as He is”. 


Image is everything. Blessings.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A New You in ’22 – Part 2

 Landscape Photography of Snowy Mountain

Continuing, Michael writes that in Mark 7 is the account of the woman who was known to the townspeople as a sinner. She entered the house of the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his house for dinner. She bowed down at Jesus’ feet weeping. She poured precious ointment on his feet, washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. It’s difficult to understand the significance of her actions without understanding the customs of ancient biblical culture. Psalms 56:8 says, ... put thou my tears in thy bottle, are they not in thy book? Many people saved in a bottle the tears they shed righteously in prayer and in suffering for the Lord. Though not in Holy Scripture, they were buried with their tear bottle and thought that the weight of the tears they saved would determine their rewards in heaven. This woman poured her righteous tears, her most prized possession, on Jesus’ feet along with precious ointment. Then she washed Jesus’ feet with her hair, considered her crowning glory. This is a picture of humility to serve her heavenly Lord and Master ... she considered her most precious possessions worthy to be offered as a sacrifice at Jesus’ feet.

The Lord Jesus himself washed his disciples’ feet in the upper room after the last supper. Jesus said, I have done this as an example of serving one another with a heart of humility. Jesus had said to them before, that which you have done unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.  The poem “One Solitary Life” says, “Blessed are the poor, mournful, and meek”. When we, with a heart of humility, give up our own selfish selves and with meekness seek to bless others, then we too will be blessed. Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the Mount is upside-down from the world’s definition of success. Jesus himself was our example of humility.

The essay “One Solitary Life” by James Allen Francis is about the contrast between Jesus’ life and the things that the world holds in high esteem.
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn't go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned--put together--have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.”

One characteristic of a man and woman of God is that they want to spend the rest of their life learning to become more like their Lord Jesus Christ. For a new you in ‘22, resolve to pray Psalm 139 ... “search me O God and know my heart... Examine me and see if there is any wicked way in me... and lead me in the way everlasting.” As King David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” You’ve given me so much Lord. Please give me too, a heart that is always grateful to you, that I may live to the praise of the glory of your grace.

Your brother in Christ, Michael

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

A New You in ’22 – Part 1

 Snow Covered Tree Branch

I wasn’t able to post Michael’s New Year’s message last week, but it is a timeless message really, so let’s take a look at what he has to say to us all. This week, Michael writes that the God-rejecting secular world teaches us to “look out for number one.” Rugged individualism is a hallmark of so-called “American exceptionalism.” However, exceptionalism according to Jesus is self-less and not self-ish.” 

The humanistic world says to seek our own selfish desires when our so-called human rights are violated. However, be careful ... any fool can claim their “rights” and any demon will make sure they get them. Jesus said, don’t think little of yourselves, instead think nothing of yourselves ... Set your affections on things above, not on things of this world. For in my flesh dwelleth no good thing. The root of the problem is the insidious preoccupation with self. The “kingdom of self” is heavily defended territory. After the Lord Jesus had taught his disciples about the beatitudes, Jesus said, You have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.... However, If someone slaps you on the cheek, then turn the other cheek. The focus is not on the humanistic world’s natural reaction to recompense evil for evil, but to actively pursue the spirit of God’s love, mercy, and grace with Christ’s heart behind our heart.  

In every choice we face we consider two questions. The first is what will I get out of this decision? The second is, what will it cost me? If a person makes a decision out of selfish motives, they will soon quit. However, if it’s done for the good of those we love, then the commitment will persist. Service to others is learned in the crucible of life. 
Christian evangelist and the director of the Ashley Down orphanage in BristolEngland, George Müller said, I recall the day that I died unto myself. From that day on, I strived to hold myself accountable only to my Lord Jesus Christ. As Galatians 2:20 says, “I was crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The Lord Jesus said, blessed are the poor in spirt and those who mourn over the sins that separated our hearts from Gods hearts. Blessed are the meek ... those who are humble to receive God’s instruction in righteousness. In an upside-down world, face the problem of self by forgetting self and pressing toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

In the Roman empire times, a Roman soldier could require any person in the empire to carry his pack one mile. This was required by Roman law. However, Jesus said, if a Roman soldier compels you to carry his pack, then carry his pack a second mile also. The first mile is of obligation. The second is from a heart of love of God. Jesus said, in love serve one another. 

Let's continue Michael's message on a new you in the next post.

In Christ, Brian

Monday, January 10, 2022

Spirit and Truth - Part 2

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Isaiah 55:7-8 “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.

Sometimes, we need to make changes in our lives, when they do not accurately reflect what true worship should be. We need to continually develop a more biblical understanding of worship of God and a greater conviction of our dedication, devotion and desire that results in life-change. What we need to be or what we need to do to be in continual awe of God; the Creator of time, space, matter, the Cosmos and everything within us. The greatest commandment is to love God with everything that we have and our neighbor as ourselves. No Creed but Christ, No book but the Bible, and No name but Christian insists that we keep the truth of the Bible ahead of what we consider as flawed humans to be the truth. Mistakes in the past encourage us to change and live wisely from that point forward, Non-essentials in worship come from our thoughts and preferences. God created us with different gifts and personalities to complement one another. Our opinions need to be with an attitude of love and unity. Divisions are non-essentials. God is concerned about essentials, like saving people from spending eternity in Hell for their sins.    


If we are going to argue and put a lot of emotion into something, then let’s make sure that it is over something that really matters; like the authority of the Bible or the deity of Jesu Christ, the fact of the resurrection, or God’s plan of Salvation. What is your frame of mind? We cannot let Satan direct our concerns to non-essential issues about us or our opinion on non-essentials; emotional distractions by things that don’t really matter. We need to be serious about the reason are assemble as a church body of Believers to worship; and that is God. The business at hand is worship of God. We can add essential or subtract non-essential things in order to make our worship better. The point is to refocus us onto the things that really do matter. When we sing Hymns and spiritual songs at worship services are we really singing praises to God in true worshipping, like a prayer to music, or we just singing words up on the screen to a catchy tune? Is attending church just an item on your check-off list of “things to do today” because you are supposed to? It’s not just important to have the proper focus on God during Worship services, but during the rest of the week also. He is our Gods and we are his people every minute of every day on this side of eternity. We should be holding our almighty heavenly Father in awe 24hrs., seven days a week and 365 days a year. So, what is essential to worship? 


John 4:23-24 “But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”


Commentator Matthew Henry states that the Apostle describes the evangelical worship which alone God would accept and be well pleased with. Having shown that the place is indifferent, he comes to show what is necessary and essential—that we worship God in spirit and in truth. The stress is not to be laid upon the place where we worship God, but upon the state of mind in which we worship him. Note, the most effectual way to take up differences in the minor matters of religion is to be more zealous in the greater. It concerns us to be right, not only in the object of our worship, but in the manner of it. Christians shall worship God in spiritual ordinances, invigorated more with divine power and energy. The way of worship which Christ has instituted is rational and intellectual, and refined from those external rites and ceremonies with which the Old-Testament worship was both clouded and clogged. This is called true worship, in opposition to that which was typical. In truth, that is, in sincerity. We must depend upon God’s Spirit for strength and assistance, laying our souls under His influences and operations; we must devote our own spirits to, and employ them in, the service of God, must worship Him with fixedness of thought and a flame of affection, with all that is within us. Worshipping the Father in spirit and truth is an essential for true worshipers.


Exodus 20:1-6  Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them nor serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, inflicting the punishment of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing favor to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.


We need to think about worship and be purposeful about it, realizing what is essential for our true worship and what is not essential. We need to get back to basics. There has to be an object for us to worship. Even pagans worship, but they worship idols. An idol is defined as: anything on which we set our affections; that to which we indulge an excessive and sinful attachment. An idol is anything which usurps the place of God in the hearts of his rational creatures. An idol is anything that comes between God’s face and yours. Whatever it is, is an object of worship. God rebukes and warns about worshipping false gods and idols. Is idol worship still going on today? Who or what is the object of your worship? For many, that object is themselves. Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ begins when we no longer make ourselves the object of our worship and being obedient to what God says. People possessed by God can never themselves be impotent, but have we not robbed the Almighty of much of His awesome glory and to that extent are we not ourselves despoiled? We’ve contemplated the beauties of the rainbow but we have overlooked the dim severities of the Throne of God. We have toyed with the light but we have forgotten the Light-giver. We have rejoiced in the Fatherhood of our God, but too frequently the fatherhood we have proclaimed has been throneless and effeminate. We have picked and chosen according to the weakness of our own tastes and not according to the fullness or the full orbed revelation of the truth. And we have selected the picturesque and rejected the appalling. 


What is the object of your worship this morning? What is driving your thoughts and attitudes? God tells us that the object of our worship is to be Him alone, in spirit and in truth. In God We Trust.


In Christ, Brian