Monday, July 2, 2012

Born Of The Spirit

“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”  ~John 3:7-9

They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! ~2 Peter 2:14
Have you ever just sat down and watched the wind blowing through the trees? I did the other day and it really was quite amazing. I knew, from a long ago science class in high school, the wind was air rushing to fill some low pressure area, but as I watched I realized I couldn't see or hear the wind blowing through the trees. What I could see and hear was the effects of the wind blowing through the trees. Jesus pointed out to Nicodemus, no one knows where the wind comes from or where it is going; it does as it pleases. So does the Spirit of God.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  ~Ezekiel 36:26,27

We cannot hear or see the Spirit of God; we cannot see His coming, or His going. What we do see is the influence He has on the believer. The child of God radiates the effects of God's Spirit in his or her life and those effects are evident to those around them. The Holy Spirit produces effects that are easily recognizable...

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  ~Galatians 5:22,23

We cannot control the wind. Some like to think they can, but I assure you they cannot. Neither can we control God's Spirit and once again there are those who try. I have seen them on TV, false prophets and lying teachers, going around putting on as if they are dispensing the Holy Spirit of God at the wave of their hand, or the blowing of their breath. God's Spirit cannot be controlled! The people attending these services clamor after the so-called preacher for some experience rather than going to God in repentance and faith. The source and the end of the Spirit's journey is God's business not ours.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  ~Romans 8:16

Has the Spirit of God regenerated your heart and given witness to your new birth? The knowledge that we are born again comes from no one else but the Father. No one can give us this revelation and no one can take it away. The work of God's Spirit is to seal and secure the saving work of God and keep us till that day.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  ~Ephesians 1:13,14

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Word Of Hope

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.  ~Psalm 119:49,50

My hope is in the empty tomb!
In the Holy Bible one can find many promises that God has made, and it would seem as if the psalm writer has found one which brings him great comfort. He has asked God to specifically mark His Word so it will be recognized or remembered later on, because it has brought him hope. When the psalmist is afflicted and his life is in turmoil, he thinks on what God has said and it brings him great comfort. The very Word of God revives him and ultimately brings him life! I too find comfort in what God has said...

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”  ~Isaiah 44:6

When it seems the entire world is on a runaway train and things have spiraled out of my control, I find great comfort in the sovereignty of God. Even though Satan rules and manipulates events here on earth, he can only operate within the bounds God has set for him, and ultimately, all he does and attempts, works to the glory of our Heavenly Father! When you consider the evil that we as humanity are responsible for, all the pain and suffering that we impose on one another, you risk falling into despair, for the darkness is very great. Dear Christian friend take heart, for the light of God shines bright and whom shall we fear?

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  ~Psalm 27:1

There is great comfort in knowing God as the psalmist does, as long as you are in a "right" relationship with Him. To know that you are a child of God and your heavenly Father watches over you should bring peace and joy, even in troublesome times, but for those who have not received forgiveness of their sin, knowing God should produce a fear that goes to the center of their soul! If, after hearing the truth of God's Word, one chooses sin over salvation there is no hope of eternal life. To know God without trusting in the shed blood of Christ will not bring comfort, it brings fear...

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  ~Hebrews 10:26,27

All who have trusted in the finished work of Jesus Christ and received Him as Savior, have that promise of eternal life! There is no power on this earth or anywhere else that can separate us from Him. The deceiver of this world himself cannot even remove us from the hand of God and he hates us for it. Though Satan comes against us with all the powers and evil he can muster, God Himself is our light and our salvation, He is our shield and strength, and He is our hope! The psalmist is right; there is comfort in God's Word in which He has caused us to hope...

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  ~John 10:27-29

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Staying In God's Will

Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.  ~Psalm 119:38

Sometimes God's will for our lives is not exactly what we would have chosen on our own.
When we look to God for guidance and direction in our lives, we should not be surprised when He provides it. Sometimes, however, we are confused or unsure what God's will is for our lives and often times the confusion is not in the knowing of His will, but in the accepting. The psalm writer has asked that God would confirm and accomplish that which is promised in His Word, in the life of His servant. God already has revealed to us what His will is for our lives, it is in His Holy Word and it has already been accomplished in Heaven. Our constant prayer ought to be "let Thy will be done..."

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  ~Matthew 6:9,10

The perfect prayer is not one which is long and goes on and on for hours, or one that is eloquent and well spoken, and the perfect prayer is not one which even comes word for word out of the Bible. The perfect prayer is one uttered in the will of God. Yes, God has a plan for our lives. He has direction and purpose for our very being established long before we were even born. Time spent in prayer isn't for us to have a way to plead with God and possibly change His mind, but to align our will with His perfect plan. There is no confusion when, in faith, we submit to God's Word. Instantly we will know whether the thing is of God or not, Jesus said so.

“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  ~John 7:17

If we would only trust God's Word and submit our lives to it, all doubt would flee as to whether it is the truth or not. Jesus tried to explain to the people as He taught them in the temple if someone were to do the will of God, which has already been revealed in the Scriptures, then they would know it was of God. It is when we choose a path for ourselves other than that which God has ordained when trouble and uncertainty creeps in. Doing God's will does not prevent trouble from coming, but doing God's will puts us in a place where we are equipped to handle the trouble. It is like following someone in a rainstorm who is carrying an umbrella. If we walk where they are going we remain dry, but if we step out in our own direction...

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.  ~Proverbs 3:11,12

Yes, sometimes we come under the disciplinary hand of God. When He chastens us we must remember He has our eternal state in mind and will go to extreme lengths to return us to the path He wants us on. Some say God is mean and cruel for the discipline He may use. But which is the most cruel, to chasten one's children for playing in the street or to let them play there until a car hits them? He loves us so much He will cause Himself pain by chastening us. You don't think God feels pain? I invite your attention to the eleventh chapter of John...

Jesus wept.  ~John 11:35

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Word Of God

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  ~Psalm 119:105

Remember there are still unsaved people stumbling in the darkness... and how great the darkness!
I have heard it said God's Word is confusing, hard to understand, contradictory, unfair, and even incomplete. To question God's Word is to question the very sovereignty of God Himself. The psalm writer clearly understood the purpose of the Holy Scriptures; they were provided as a light to shine forth as the only truth available to humanity. God's Word illuminates our way because there is no darkness in Him at all. It is our own inherent darkness which prevents us from fully understanding what God says. Remember the words of the disciple John about the Living Word...

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,£ and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  ~John 1:1-5

One result of God's Word is that it will divide humanity. It will forever separate the believer from the non-believer and it separates those who are wise in their own eyes from those who humbly seek God. The Holy Bible divides and separates family and friends. God's Word separates those who love and trust Him from those who love and trust someone or something else. The Living Word of God says so.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  ~Matthew 10:34-37

God knows and understands the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts, after all He created us. He knows all of us are corrupt and we will lie to Him, to each other, and even to ourselves. So then, where can we find truth? Our Father in heaven has provided a way for us to know the truth through His written Word. His Word provides for us a standard by which we can judge all things. The Scriptures provide the only light whereby we can find our way through this life to fellowship with God in the next. If we begin to question the validity, or fairness of God's Word, we are at once on dangerous ground. We find ourselves contemplating the very thing Satan used on Eve when he convinced her to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The serpent planted the seed that maybe, just maybe, what God said isn't so.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  ~Genesis 3:1

It is our pride which causes us to question God. When we begin to think that maybe God was unable to give us something completely trustworthy by which we could govern our lives and learn of His great salvation, we are reducing Him down to our level, or exalting ourselves to His. These words may sound harsh, but we must remember our place in our relationship to God. It is not a relationship of equals, but a relationship between the Creator and His creation. Our salvation comes by God's grace through faith, and faith is casting all doubt aside and completely trusting and relying on God alone. If you truly want to know the truth then cast aside all preconceived notions or things taught by the world and seek God, trust Him for He promises to teach, guide, and save to the uttermost.

But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.  ~Deuteronomy 4:29

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dust To Dust

 My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!  ~Psalm 119:25

The grave is the ultimate test of one's theology.
You and I are mortal beings, and there are a number of things that can go wrong with these bodies which God formed from the dust of the earth. The psalmist here has come to grips with his own mortality and realizing, although his soul clings to a body of clay, God can revive him. Someday each of us must go the way of all the earth. Because of sin, these bodies are afflicted with pain, sickness, suffering, and then ultimately death. As God has ordained, each of us are destined to return to the dust from which He formed us...

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  ~Genesis 3:17-19

There are some people who never come to grips with the fact they are on a journey which eventually leads to the grave. Every step of the way they struggle and fight against the effects of growing old. Plastic surgery, skin treatments, vitamins, excessive physical exercise, all designed to somehow retain or revive the life that is clinging to dust. This is an attitude of rebellion, and one which refuses to take God at His Word. The life we now experience was given to us by God and it is His to take away. The psalmist understood that and he also understood if there was to be any quickening, or any rejuvenation, then it would come from God; after all He did promise it...

Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death?  ~Hosea 13:14a

God has a plan for His people and it includes life! The lives we now live are not as they were intended to be. Our lives were never meant to be a day to day struggle filled with pain and sorrow. It is our sin that has a death grip on our bodies, constantly afflicting us with sickness and disease. However, the promise from the Almighty is He would ransom our lives from the grave. He, one day, would redeem us from the power of death and bestow upon us eternal life! The Creator would become the Savior...

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to£ a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  ~2 Timothy 1:8-10

Praise God for our deliverer, Jesus Christ! Although the grave awaits us, there is now hope for what lies beyond it. Life and immortality await those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ! In one beautiful redemptive act, Jesus offered His life for ours. Let us rejoice today regardless of whatever affliction troubles us, because someday the eternal life Jesus purchased with His own sinless blood will be ours. It will be without pain and sickness, it will be without crying or trouble, and it will no longer be affected by the ravages of time or destined to the grave. Oh yes, earlier I mentioned we are all destined to the grave. The truth is some will not see the grave; their change will not come after they die, but in the twinkling of an eye...

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  ~1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Voice Of Christ

And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.  ~Luke 21:38

The validity of your claim to be a disciple of Christ, is bound up in your desire to hear and obey what He says.
There is an eager anticipation in the heart of a disciple of Christ. We long to hear His voice, something to comfort our anxious hearts and to calm our fear. We rise up early and pour ourselves out in prayer; we read and study His Word, our souls laid bare before Him. We long to hear His voice as the people did so long ago. Should we be surprised then when He speaks to us through his Word?

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  ~John 14:15

Our Savior has spoken with clarity and with simplicity. He has spoken in a manner which even a small child may understand. There can be no excuses, no misunderstanding; He has said our love for Him is evident in how we obey Him. What happens when we finally hear His Word? What is our reaction if one of His commandments strikes a nerve and finds an area of disobedience? Do we turn away from Him, covering our sin with lies and excuses? God forbid, not if we are a true disciple!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  ~1 John 1:9,10

To hide our sin is a temptation, but there is nothing hidden from our Lord. We confess it, trusting in Him to cleanse us and to strengthen us against it. We must never turn away from His voice, even when He rebukes us, because with the rebuke there is healing and strength. He watches over our souls, after all, we are His sheep...

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  ~John 10:27

Yes, we hear Him. His voice speaks to us from the Word of God and we know Him. Jesus said not only do His sheep hear His voice, but they follow Him as well. There are two things the voice of Jesus reveals in the lives of His sheep; obedience and disobedience. Are we obedient to His Word? Do we love Him enough to follow? Listen to His voice now and ask yourself one last question. Have I abandoned my own will, picked up the cross, and followed where He has led?

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”  ~Mark 16:15

Sunday, May 6, 2012

God Is In Control

Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?  ~Job 38:25-27

If there are no storms in your life... wait.
As I was writing these words, a thunderstorm was raging all around. The rain was pouring down torrentially, the wind was blowing with great force, and lightning was flashing with thunder crashing all around. This spectacle of God's creation seemed to be a display of unbridled and uncontrollable power. It would seem from our perspective there is little anyone could do against its raw power and overwhelming ferocity. Sometimes our lives, with their turbulent twists and turns, also seem out of control. In our Word for today, God asks Job a question which leads us to the eventual conclusion that God is the One in control.

Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?  ~Job 38:35

Later, God asks Job another question. Whereas, the first question pointed out God even controls the very path of lightning; this question accentuates our own inability to control forces or events. Any thought or perception of control in any situation on our part is only an illusion. It is by the will of God alone we are able to even draw our very next breath... or not. It is by His hand we are guided day by day, like small children being guided across the street. Seeing then, God is in control of everything, doesn't it seem logical to trust His judgment concerning every aspect of our lives?

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  ~Isaiah 41:10

Our problem is we worry and fret too much. Perhaps the reason we worry so, is because we either do not know what God has to say concerning a matter or we have forgotten. Perhaps God's overall point to Job is that even though his life seems out of control and it seems like he is being unjustly punished or abused, God has ordained it to happen for a reason. God promises us that even in troublesome times He is with us, He will sustain us, and He strengthens us. But what does He mean about upholding us with His right hand of righteousness? Perhaps He was speaking of Jesus, the Messiah.

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.  ~Isaiah 59:16

Sunday, April 29, 2012

God Is Holy

When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  ~Exodus 3:4,5
How do you approach this God Who is Holy?
There is a great deal written in the Scriptures about the holiness of God. Simply put, holiness is a term used to indicate sanctity, or separation from all that is sinful, impure, or morally imperfect. God is entirely free from moral evil, and all moral law resides in Him. God's holiness should produce in us reverence, adoration, awe, and fear. At Mount Horeb God appeared to Moses as the Angel of the Lord and called to him from the midst of a bush, burning with fire without being consumed by it. At the presence of the All Mighty, the very ground became holy.

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”   ~1 Peter 1:15,16

The Apostle Peter quotes this command given to the Israelites when God spoke with Moses and Aaron and it can be found in eleventh chapter of Leviticus. However, it is equally important for the Christian today; as the professed people of God, we should be like Him. The framework, with which we should build our lives in, should be the very character of God. He has called us into His kingdom and He has called us to be transformed into the image of His Son...

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  ~Romans 8:29

God's intent is to mold us and shape us so that our lives resemble the life of Jesus. As a potter molds and shapes clay, so God changes who and what we are. Those who are unholy and rebellious are conformed to the likeness of the One Who is holy and submissive to God. One of the ways by which God changes us is by knowing Him. This is not just an intellectual and general knowledge of God, but relational and experiential. The Apostle Paul understood this and prayed often for it to be realized in the lives of other believers...

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,   ~Ephesians 1:16,17

To know God in this relational way and to be conformed to the image of His Son is the evidence that we are the subjects of His grace and mercy. Separation from the world and personal holiness indicate we are recipients of His salvation. And one day, when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returns, we shall be like Him...

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  ~1 John 3:2

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Responsibility of Truth

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,”   ~1 Timothy 6:20
What are you doing with this today?

In the closing verses of Paul's first letter to Timothy, he exhorts the young pastor to guard what God had entrusted to him. What is that thing which Paul is concerned about? What is it that God had placed into the care of Timothy which might be corrupted or tainted by those who engage in foolish and godless discussions? When we are born again, we deposit into God's care our lives; it is then He deposits with us His truth.

For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.  ~1 Thessalonians 2:3,4

As faithful stewards we have been entrusted with the truth and it is our responsibility to share and publish it among the lost. That responsibility extends beyond just sharing it, for we are to proclaim it without changing it in any way. There should be no flattery, no watering down, and certainly no deceit. It should not be our goal to find favor and approval among men, but to speak the truth in such a way that it will please our Father in heaven. Remember, God searches our hearts and knows our motives. May it be He finds our words motivated by love...

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.  ~Ephesians 4:15,16

There are many ways to speak the truth. It can be spoken in a harsh, mean spirited, and arrogant manner which will disgust and repel the hearer, or it can be delivered in a loving manner with a true concern for the lost soul. Proclaiming the Gospel should be approached as if we are throwing a lifeline to the lost not passing final judgment on the guilty. God indeed has given us something that is very precious. Truth is in short supply on the world market and it should not be treated lightly when found...

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.  ~Proverbs 23:23

A sad and troubling trend has been sweeping across churches today; swapping the plain truth of God’s Word for entertainment, or man centered messages of wealth and self-fulfillment. Scripture must be treated with respect and care, and the church should be the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Too often the main concern is putting together a "rockin band" that will draw large crowds rather than how the Word of God is being handled in the pulpit. The most severe crime any church can be accused of is mishandling the Truth in such a way as to portray a false image of God. How do you handle the truth?

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.  ~1 Timothy 3:14,15

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Understanding Forgiveness

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  ~Psalm 32:1
Do you know with whom forgiveness can be found?
What is your understanding of God’s forgiveness? For the most part, people today treat God’s forgiveness of sin as an option to be exercised or an escape clause in a contract which can be forcibly invoked at the recital of some prayer. What is implied here in this verse (and clearly taught in the New Testament), is forgiveness of sin is a blessing, because we cannot obtain it for ourselves—forgiveness of sin is a gift.

You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.  ~Psalm 85:2,3

The psalmist has a clear understanding of God’s forgiveness of sin. As he contemplates what forgiveness is, he notes God is the One who has taken the active role, God is the One who forgives iniquity, covers sin, takes away His wrath, and turns from His anger. There is no active role we play in the course of this transaction. Forgiveness of sin is a gift; some call it grace.

 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  ~Ephesians 2:8,9

A solid understanding of our sin being forgiven begins with grace. God does not owe us an opportunity for eternal life; in fact the only thing we have earned on our own is judgment and condemnation. People would do well to understand the facts before they begin demanding or expecting God to “make good” on what they think He owes them. If God were to do that, forgiveness of sin would not be a part of it.

For the wages of sin is death,  ~Romans 6:23a

The idea of God extending forgiveness of sin, as a gift, is an amazing thing indeed, and it is best appreciated against the backdrop of realizing we do not deserve it. When we can clearly see our inability to earn salvation, the word “grace” becomes a most precious thing. So many today have made such a light thing of God’s forgiveness; take some time today and think about it. I believe a good question to consider is, “what is my understanding of forgiveness?”

but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~Romans 6:23b

Friday, March 30, 2012


For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation  ~Psalm 62:1
There are many things in this world to wait for... make it God.
During my devotions this morning I just couldn't make it past this first verse in Psalm 62. Sometimes there is just so much in a verse it is impossible to get past in one morning. Here are a few thoughts and questions as I meditated on what the psalmist said...

For God alone...  ~Psalm 62:1

There are many things in this world for someone to desire... for the psalmist it is God.
Is God the greatest desire of my heart?
If God is my greatest desire, is it visible in my life?
Is my desire for God manifested in any other way than just waiting?
Do my family and friends see my desire for God without me pointing it out? soul...  ~Psalm 62:1

For this soul God is the greatest desire.
My innermost being and thoughts... that which is eternal... who I am.
I can only speak for myself... can I recognize it in others?
My soul... where does that come from? God made me... I am His already

...waits in silence;  ~Psalm 62:1

Waiting for something ascribes it value and worth... a desirability.
Waiting for something speaks of a subjection to it... should be willingly.
Waiting in silence for a soul predisposed to anything else is impressive.
My soul does not have the ability to wait in silence... I want to worry and fret.
If my soul is waiting in silence then it is an act of God... seriously.
Waiting in silence inidicates a respect and reverence for what one waits for.
Waiting in silence for God indicates His ability to satisfy beyond the actual act of satisfying.

...from Him...  ~Psalm 62:1

That is God... there is no other way.
God is giving and gracious... He is so merciful to those who do not deserve it.
God has something for me... for you... from Him.

...comes...  ~Psalm 62:1

Everything does not have to be right now.
There should be an element of anticipation in my relationship with God.
This is why my soul can wait in silence... I know God comes. salvation.  ~Psalm 62:1

God brings salvation with Him.
I need to be saved... do I know what from?
I have been saved from the punishment of sin... but not its power or presence... it comes.
There is a resolved and quiet calm because I am not trying to save myself.
My salvation comes from God... He is not merely contributing to what I am doing.
This salvation is personal... it is mine.
I desire God... salvation is the benefit of that desire.
Why doesn't the thing I need saved from disquiet my soul? Oh... right... God comes.
I and all creation are moving towards a day from which we need saved.
How did I come to know this God?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Law and Our Hearts

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!  ~Psalm 119:32
If you think you can keep this on your own... go ahead and try.
It has already been proven man cannot keep God's Law. His Word was not obeyed in the Garden of Eden, nor was it obeyed after Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Today we have the Holy Bible printed in nearly every language known. It is the most purchased book in the world and in almost every home, yet we do not obey it. One simply cannot obey God's Word just because one chooses to do so. Sin will always corrupt the best intentions every time. It has been said that obeying God is a matter of the heart.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  ~Jeremiah 17:9

God, speaking by the prophet Jeremiah, made it quite clear that man's heart is desperately sick. It is in fact, incurable. When we try to clean up our act and make our outward behavior conform to the laws of society and the tenets of Christianity, we still remain the same on the inside. No amount of cleaning up, self help or behavior modification will work. The hopelessness of trying to obey God is enough to cause one to despair of ever seeing Heaven. Despair and failure is what awaits the one who tries to obey God on their own willpower and exactly what Satan wants. Remember the Word of God! The psalmist said something very important.

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!  ~Psalm 119:32

The psalm writer said he would be able to obey God's Word because God would enlarge his heart! The man or woman in a right relationship with the Creator does not obey the Laws of God that were written in tablets of stone, or even those laws written in your Bible. The true Christian obeys because there has been a change of heart, a new birth, the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit! There is a desire to obey God now out of love for Him... His Law is written in our hearts. We are not saved because we obey God's Word; we obey God's Word because we are saved.

I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  ~Jeremiah 31:33b

Without God's Law in our hearts we will only be trying to follow someone else's rules. His Word must become a part of us, it must be written in our hearts. Have you ever been around a campfire at night? To receive its warmth, you must draw closer. If you spend all of your time hanging around in the dark, outside the influence of the flames, then you will never get warmer and you will never receive the benefits of its light. Are you tired of trying to be a “good Christian?” Has it become too much to keep pretending to love those whom you really despise? God has promised to enable us to do those very things, but as with the case of the campfire we must draw closer. By repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ alone, we are saved! Read God's Word and believe His promises; trusting Him as you seek to obey out of love. Then and only then  do we become more like His Son, we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  ~Romans 8:28,29

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Call To Worship

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!  ~Psalm 107:15
We have a responsibility to worship with others as one body!
For my family, Sunday is a day of worship. I look forward to it each week as a source of strength and revitalization. I gain a great deal from hearing the preached Word of God and taking part in the fellowship of like-minded believers. Yes, I gain a great deal from worshipping on Sunday, but what I get out of worship is not what's important or the reason why I worship. It is solely because of God's goodness and grace and mercy; it is because Jesus made it possible for me to go before God myself and worship the only One worthy to receive it.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble  ~Psalm 107:1, 2

Those who know of God's infinite mercy and of the perfect sacrifice offered by Jesus on the cross of Calvary, have plenty of reasons to worship on Sunday. Those of us, who can see a reason for worshipping God, have tasted of His kindness, and seen the miracle that only He can work in our lives. It is the rest of the world who ignores Him and refuses to give Him the praise and the glory only He is due. I understand the feelings of the psalm writer when he exclaimed "Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness"! They may not worship Him now, but there is coming a day...

So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  ~Matthew 13:49, 50

Recognizing God is the only One who deserves our worship and Jesus Christ is Lord, is something that can only be put off for awhile. The world may refuse to admit it now, but time is winding down to a close and the way of the wicked and unbelieving is drawing ever closer to the inevitable end Jesus spoke of in the book of Matthew. If only they would recognize and praise Him now! Are we to take pleasure that in the end there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth?

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?  ~Ezekiel 33:11

If we do find ourselves taking pleasure that the wicked will be spending eternity in hell, then we should reevaluate our own walk with the Lord. Do our own desires align with those of God's? Have we shared the truth, or the reason why we worship with those who don't? For me, it saddens my heart to see others spending their Sundays enjoying the day without thanking the One who makes it so. I love God and I look to Him for what the day may hold. Praise Him for the day; praise Him for what it brings! Maybe if I live my life as one who is openly thankful to God then others may ask why.

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!  ~Psalm 57:9-11

Monday, March 5, 2012

Obedience Equals Love

Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!  ~Psalm 119:2,3

Obedience?!? I don't think God said that anyway, how about you?
Keeping God's testimonies speaks of obedience. While a large segment of today's Christianity attempts to “get right” with God by sacrificing time or money, He declares here in His Word there is a blessing for those who are obedient. Obedience is not something we just talk about, it is something we do and the lack of it in our lives cannot be balanced out with a bigger offering on Sunday. God prefers the obedience of His people over silver, gold, big new churches or a dozen new ministries. Samuel the prophet hit the nail right on the head.

And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”  ~1 Samuel 15:22

Our day by day and moment by moment commitment to God's Word indicates many things. One thing it indicates is how much we love Him and the Savior who gave His life for ours. It is out of our love for God that the desire to do those things He calls us to do comes from. Obedience to His Word blesses us in many ways and by it Christians secure divine fellowship. Jesus talked to the disciples about obedience.

Jesus answered 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.”  ~John 14:23

The psalm writer also mentioned there is a blessing for those who seek God with the whole heart. How do we accomplish that? To seek God is to have a sincere desire to know His will and to do it, without hypocrisy, selfishness, or some other vain reason. God knows our hearts intimately and there is nothing hidden from Him, so it would be impossible for us to fool God by only seeking Him outwardly. The desire of our hearts must be knowing God and our Savior. If we truly want to know Him, He promised us we would find Him.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.  ~Deuteronomy 4:29

Were we obedient this past week? Did we seek God by doing those things which please Him or did we choose to go our own way? Remember the lack of obedience is where transgression begins. If you haven't been blessed lately, ask yourself if you have been obedient. Ask yourself “Have I stopped looking for God?”

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”  ~Isaiah 55:6,7

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Undefiled Way

Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!  ~Psalm 119:1

Jesus said there is only one way... and a lot of people don't like that.
There are many paths one can choose from today. We can pattern our lives after one of numerous "ways", but there is only one way  leading to truth and eternal life. The problem is many of these other ways may look good or sound good, but they will defile our very soul. I am so glad God has not left it up to us to figure out which way is the best, because we would never get it right on our own. It is plainly stated in God's Word which way we must go to remain undefiled.

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  ~John 14:5,6

Jesus declared He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the way we are to go; His way is undefiled, good, and holy. For those who are called to follow the way of Christ, many blessings can be found by remaining undefiled by the world. We must refuse to be drawn into sin at every turn and we must not allow the way of the world to creep back into our lives. Being human, we will soon find out this is an impossible task. Then how do we remain undefiled? We must allow the life of Christ to dominate our own.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.  ~Romans 7:22-25

As we draw closer to God in prayer and the reading of His Word, His Spirit works in our lives and the very life of Jesus is revealed in us. The same Life that was selfless, loving, kind, truthful, and holy is revealed in our own lives until it is Jesus Christ who others see when they look at us. We should realize it is His life in us which perfects us. Jesus is the way as we walk in the law of the Lord! And what is the law of the Lord? Jesus Himself told us when the Pharisees asked the same question...

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  ~Matthew 22:34-40

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Filled With the Knowledge of God

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.  ~Psalm 119:15

There now, nice and clean! If only it would stay that way.
Tupperware® is a marvelous invention. In our home we have Tupperware® containers which are used to store a variety of things. We have one container that holds sugar, we have another container that holds Kool-Aid, and there are also containers which hold flour, rice, beans, etc. As the contents of these various containers are used up, we refill them with the same thing. When the sugar container is empty, we don't put flour in it, we fill it with sugar. When the flour container is empty, we don't put coffee in it, we put flour. The containers are set aside for specific uses. Our lives are much like these containers.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  ~2 Corinthians 4:6,7

God has called us out of the world, washed us clean in the Blood of the Lamb, and set us aside for a specific use. He has set us aside to be filled with His Spirit and His Word. Each day there should be a time of reading and meditating on God's Word. This allows God's precepts to work in our lives, changing us, cleansing us, and setting us aside from the world for His purpose. The problem is, we contaminate ourselves after God has already begun filling us with His Word.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  ~Acts 4:31

How can anyone come to us for God's truth if we have contaminated what He has given us with the things of this world? When we find ourselves needing to be filled, let us meditate on His Word and consider what Christ has done for us. Do you find yourself having trouble speaking to others about Jesus? It is the leading of the Holy Spirit and unbroken communion with God through His Word and prayer that we find boldness to speak the truth in love. We must not allow anything to come between us and our time alone with our Father in heaven. Everything else in our lives must revolve around our relationship with the Almighty.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  ~1 Corinthians 1:9

Friday, February 17, 2012

Seek God's Forgiveness

Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.  ~Psalm 119:39

Jesus is coming and you can't hide in here!
Today the psalmist speaks of reproach. When he says "the reproach", he is talking about his disgrace and shame. Well, we all have done some things we would rather forget. There are things we have said, done, or thought that nobody else knows about except us, and of course God. Our natural tendency is to hide or cover up those things we do wrong and you can see this tendency in everyone from a young child to presidents and kings. We all have done it, we just don't want anyone to know of our sin and we will even try to hide it from God.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  ~Genesis 3:7,8

Yes, our tendency is to hide from God, but the psalm writer has the right idea; he has gone to God and cried out for Him to turn away his reproach, to forgive his sin. We can either spend a lifetime of hiding our shame, guilt, and sin, or we can go to the only One who is capable of forgiving it. We must be honest with ourselves, either we go to God now in repentance and asking for our forgiveness, or we wait until we are standing before Him on that Day of Judgment. The psalm writer also said something about dread?

Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”  ~Revelation 6:15-17

When the day of wrath comes and God shakes this old world one last time, humanity will no longer be able to hide from Him. Those who have not repented and trusted the atoning work of Jesus upon the cross for sin, will be facing God's judgment alone. In one last desperate attempt, people will cry out for the mountains and rocks to fall on them and hide them from God. Regardless of hiding beneath mountains and rocks or behind trees and fig leaves, God sees all sin and will judge all sin.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  ~Revelation 20:12

Sadly, many will still stand before God on that day, not to receive their heavenly reward, but to receive punishment for their sin. Many will choose to hide from God or cover their sin with their own faulty righteousness instead of just repenting and confessing their sin before God. If only all would trust in Christ for their redemption, if only all would heed His voice as He calls us to Himself. Have you heard the voice of God calling? Have you felt the same conviction to repent and confess your sin as the psalm writer did? I pray that you have, but if you haven't or if you know someone who hasn't, I have some good news for you...

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  ~1 John 1:9

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Security is in His Hand

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  ~John 10:28

If your security relies on your own will, then you might as well have Barney here secure your salvation.
Jesus here is speaking to the Jews and in response to their question about whether He is the Messiah or not, He speaks to them about His sheep. Our Lord explains to them His sheep hear His voice and He knows them and He gives them eternal life! He also explains His sheep shall never perish; to perish here means to be destroyed, or to be punished in hell. The Son of God holds them so securely and so certainly, that no foe can surprise Him as a robber might, or overcome him by force. What a clear presentation of our security in Christ!

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~Romans 8:38,39

The Apostle Paul was persuaded our eternal life, the very security of it, rested in the Lord Jesus Christ! He understood perhaps better than anyone the highest honor which could be placed upon mortal man was the calling of Christ. He understood our salvation, and the very love we have for God, comes only through the power of Messiah and there is no salvation, or true love of God, outside the work of Christ. There truly is nothing which can shake our salvation loose from the hand of Jesus, the very hand of God...

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  ~John 10:29

Jesus now tells the Jews it is God who has given Him these sheep and both the Father and the Son are pledged to keep them so they shall never fall away and perish. It would be impossible for any language to teach more clearly our salvation is secure. The salvation of our souls came not by our own power and is not kept by our own power. I understand some feel it is possible to lose one's salvation, I thought that once myself, but after reading the Scriptures and looking at what God says about the matter, I could only come to one conclusion...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  ~Ephesians 2:8-10

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 2

Previous Series Links:
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Past
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 1

The Martyr Stephen

Previously in this series, we found out who Saul hated so much that he woke up every morning breathing threats and murder. Saul hated Christians. To answer why anyone could hate a Christian so much I thought we should look at the Christian who set Saul off in the first place. The threats and murderous intentions Saul was intending to unleash on the Christians of Damascus was nothing new. He had taken part in the murder of Christians before; there was of course the martyr Stephen.

This is establishing your own righteousness in action.
And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ ~Acts 22:19,20

Stephen was a faithful man of God and one of the original seven chosen to serve as a deacon to the fledgling church in Jerusalem. During the course of his ministry, there were some Jews who accused him of blaspheming God and Moses (Acts 6:11,12) as well as speaking against the temple and the Law (Acts 6:13). When given the opportunity to answer the accusation of blasphemy, Stephen gave a defense which recounted the history of the Hebrew people beginning with Abraham (Acts 7:1-8).

He spoke also of Isaac and Jacob, and of Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt which ultimately led to 430 years of slavery for the Hebrew people (Acts 7:9-16). Stephen explained how God called Moses and through him delivered the Israelites from bondage, but the people were stiff-necked and rebelled against God. Stephen would then draw a parallel between their rebellious ancestors and their own stiff necks in rejecting God’s Messiah, Jesus...

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” ~Acts 7:51-53

When Stephen unmasked their self righteousness they responded by stoning him to death (Acts 7:54-60) and Saul, after consenting to the murder, watched over the coats and robes of those who would take up the stones so they would not be bloodied. This ferocious and vicious murder is the result of self righteousness being revealed. That is why Saul and others hated Christians so. The disciples of the Lord represent the One who exposed the dark and futile hope of a form of righteousness apart from God’s own righteousness. Saul would later write a letter to the Christians in Rome explaining the plight of these Jews.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ~Romans 10:1-4

A true disciple of the Lord Jesus is one who exposes the false hope of self righteousness by correctly and lovingly using the Word of God to reveal the total inability of man to do anything to earn, or warrant salvation. Are we as faithful to the Great Commission as Stephen was? Are we willing to risk even our lives to share the Gospel? The next installment we will see how the fragile and damning facade of self righteousness must be propped up with religious legitimacy.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  ~Acts 9:1,2

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Are You a Good Person?

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,  ~Proverbs 20:6a 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, ~Ephesians 2:1,2a
If you ask any unsaved person if they think they are a good person, nine times out of ten they will say yes. At least for me, this has proven to be true during the witnessing encounters I have had. Most people like to think of themselves in a positive light; almost as if their good impression of themselves prevents any negative judgment by God, should His existence prove to be true. You can imagine the shock and anger of people when they find out God has something very different to say about their character...

They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  ~Psalm 53:3

The pride crushing truth is no one is a good person, at least not by God’s righteous standard. A person may occasionally do good things; some deeds might even be considered selfless, but deeds and works cannot change the inner nature. Out hearts are deceitful and corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9), a condition which we can do nothing to remedy...

Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?  ~Proverbs 20:9

The writer of Proverbs asks a rhetorical question and the obvious answer is “no one.” This is not to say nothing can be done about our sinful condition, rather this harsh truth is given by Scripture to bring a person to the place and condition where something can be done about it. God’s diagnosis and evaluation of mankind’s condition is meant to break hardened hearts and humble pride filled spirits...

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

We, as Christians, must still remember we are not good. Being forgiven of sin and adopted into the family of God does not remove the nature of sin in our flesh instantly. Instead God gives us a new nature, one that we are to feed and nourish on His Word and obedience to that truth. Jesus calls us to take up our own cross daily to crucify self (Luke 9:23) and Paul declares that true Christians crucify the sinful works of the flesh (Galatians 5). When we are saved we do not become good, rather we enter into a battle with that sinful nature which would lead us to hell...

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  ~Romans 8:13

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why I Love the Church (and you should too) Part 2

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. ~1 Corinthians 12:12

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.  ~John 15:13
In the first installment of this series I introduced the idea that our relationship to Christ's church goes beyond those kinds of relationships one might have with other organizations. Mostly because the church is much more than an organization. We, who are God's people, are one body...

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. ~1 Corinthians 12:27

So, we have this one body made up of many individual members, joined and united together in Christ by God's Holy Spirit. How should these members relate to one another? The Apostle Paul likens this relationship to one human body made up of individual parts like feet, hands, eyes, and ears. As you ponder that for a minute I want you to ask yourself this question:

How do I relate and interact with these other members of Christ's body to whom God has joined me to?

If you are the hand, how should you relate to the foot? If you are the foot, how should you relate to the hand? If you are a Christian, how should you relate to the church (read other Christians here)? As a member of the body of Christ you should love the rest of the body. I should love you and you should love me and the most convincing (convicting?) reason for doing this is because Jesus loves us.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.   ~Ephesians 5:25-27

In the fifth chapter, of his letter to the Ephesian church, the Apostle Paul calls on husbands to love their wives; note the example he gives them. The epitome of love and the lofty peak of selfless sacrifice is the love Christ displayed for His church. The reason I love the church, and the reason you should too, is because Jesus Christ loves the church and died for it. What more compelling reason could there be? Maybe if Jesus commanded us to... oh wait...

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~John 13:34,35

And again...

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. ~John 15:12

Our Lord and Savior loves the church, He suffered, bled, and died for it. He also calls on us to love each other (remember we are the church) as He loves us. In fact, it is the love we have for one another by which the world will recognize we are followers of Jesus! think about that one... If our love for the rest of the church is how the world might recognize we are his disciples, then there must be some visible outworking of that love to recognize... yep.

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:10

Next time we will look at how we can give some legs to our love for the church.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We Need Not fear

Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,  ~Proverbs 3:25
Not knowing God, produces all kinds of fear!
Just watching the news at night is enough to make one very afraid. Train wrecks, mass shootings, kidnappings, plane crashes, explosions, radiation leaks, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, mudslides, new wars, old wars, political upheaval, financial doom, and etc. Thousands upon thousands dying from these disasters and to top it off we have hunger, disease, and crime. The wicked one is growing stronger today and regardless of the message of good times and prosperity we hear from some, things are going to get worse. The writer of this proverb didn't say "if trouble comes" but "when trouble comes". Yes, there are plenty of things to be afraid of, but for the Christian we don't have to fear. 

for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.  ~Proverbs 3:26

When sudden terror or trouble from the wicked one comes, we as Christians have someone who will be there for us. Fear and terror come from not knowing what is going to happen, but for those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, there is no need to fear. We have the Lord as our confidence. He is always present with us, for we are indwelled by His Holy Spirit. Bad things still happen to God's people, but we have this confidence; God is in control.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  ~Romans 8:18

Should it be God's will we suffer, or that we experience trouble, it is overshadowed by the glory which He shall reveal in us. The pain of today will be washed away by the glory of eternal life in the presence of God. It is like when I was a child and I stepped on a nail which went all the way through my foot. The pain was excruciating and I was afraid of what might happen. Today the pain is not there, it is only a faded memory. Whatever suffering the Christian is called on to experience, it will not last forever.

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ~Matthew 10:22

Trouble is guaranteed for those who have identified themselves with Jesus. He tells us we will be hated just because of our relationship with Him. Over the ages many have found these words to be true. Thousands upon thousands have been martyred and suffered persecution. Again, we do not have to fear, for we are His children and if we suffer as He suffered then we will be glorified as He was glorified.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  ~Romans 8:16,17

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Prey Part 1

Previous Series Links:
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Past

Who did Saul hate?

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  ~Acts 9:1,2

The first installment of this series we began by looking at who the Apostle Paul was before his conversion on the Damascus road; the man Saul of Tarsus. The first verse of Acts chapter 9 begins by describing Saul’s state of mind; he is breathing threats and murder. I think it is important to note whom his hatred and murderous threats are directed against...

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,”
Is there enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

Saul hates Christians; the text here could not be more emphatic. Saul was determined to pursue and destroy the early church. He would go house by house, city by city looking for people of the Way, all for the purpose of taking them bound to Jerusalem and putting them to death.

But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.  ~Acts 8:3

Here is Paul’s own testimony before King Agrippa about his former persecution of the Church...

I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.  ~Acts 26:9-11

When Saul went from city to city searching for Christians to bind and return them to Jerusalem, what would he look for? In other words, what were the distinctions of those early Christians that enabled him to identify them as disciples of Jesus Christ? Who were these people of the Way; how would you characterize them?

The first thing to consider is Saul was looking for Jews. He was not after gentile believers as they made up only a tiny fraction of the church at this time. Saul was primarily after Jewish converts as evidenced by the fact he needed letters from the high priest to the local synagogues...

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.  ~Acts 9:1,2

So, Saul arrives into town and makes contact with the local Jewish leaders to inform them what he is doing and probably to gather information about who might be a Christian. He then begins his search and what does he look for? What sort of person catches his Christian hating eye? Jesus gives us a clue about these disciples of His...

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  ~John 8:31

The person Saul hates and wants to take bound to Jerusalem to be executed abides in the word of Jesus. The word “abide” is the Greek word μείνητε, which means “remain, continue, or stay” The point being a true disciple of Jesus Christ continues in His Word. At my house we call that “obedience”. The next installment we will review an example of a true disciple of Jesus Christ and why Saul might hate him so. Please read Acts chapter 7 and ask yourself if Saul found you during his early days, would he have taken you bound to Jerusalem?

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. ~Luke 14:33

Friday, January 27, 2012

Believing God

 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.  ~1 Peter 1:18,19

This is what I believe... my very life depends upon it.
There can be no doubt our salvation came at a great price. So great a price, that neither you nor I could afford to purchase it. We do not have what it takes to buy, trade, or barter for the redemption of humanity. Neither has there been anyone throughout history who had what it takes, with the exception of One. Since the price of redemption was the offering of sinless blood, God Himself in the person of Christ Jesus paid it all.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  ~Ephesians 1:7

It is true God's children have been redeemed and forgiven of sins by the offering of the Lord's sinless blood, but it is also true that it can be a hard message to understand and accept. Common sense tells us when someone does something wrong there are consequences to be faced. Even as children, when we were disobedient, there was within our souls a fearful looking for judgment and anticipation of punishment. How then are we redeemed from the judgment of our sin by one man's sacrifice? Exactly how does repentance and faith in the shed blood of Jesus make us children of God? How can God really declare the unrighteous... righteous? I don't know.

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.  ~2 Corinthians 4:13,14

I don't pretend to understand everything God says or does, but I do believe everything He says or does. For some people it is crucial to understand the exact mechanics of salvation, they need to know and understand how exactly the shedding of innocent blood and believing on it's redemptive ability can prevent a person from being judged for sin. For some this process seems illogical and without any reason, but believing must come first. I write these devotionals, not because I always understand what God is saying, but because I believe what God is saying. His ways are hard to understand because He is God and we are not.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  ~Isaiah 55:8,9

The Bible says, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved... I believe. The Bible says, trust in the Lord with all your heart and not your own understanding and He shall direct your path... I trust. The Bible says the end of all things is at hand so watch for Him to return... I watch. The Bible says to go into all the world and preach the Gospel... I preach. Will you believe, trust, watch, and preach with me?

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!  ~Revelation 22:20

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Desire for God's Word

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.  ~Psalm 119:48

Are you one of these... a spiritual camel?
There are times when the joy of knowing a gracious and merciful God fills one's heart to the point of overflowing and we lift up our hands towards heaven. Here in this verse, the psalm writer expresses that same kind of overflowing joy and his boundless love for the Word of God. Evidently, the Scriptures are a central part of his life and they receive more than a casual glance once or twice a week. Do we love God this much? Does His Word bring unspeakable joy to our hearts? Perhaps all we can find are burdensome commandments...

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  ~1 John 5:3

Our love for God and His place in our lives can be measured by our attitude toward His Word. If all we can get out of reading the Bible is a list of burdensome commandments, then we must question our relationship with Him. If we truly love God, then we do not see a list of do's and don'ts within the pages of the Bible, but instead we find words of life and instruction unto righteousness.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  ~2 Timothy 3:16

The entirety of Scripture is inspired by God, every page, every sentence, every word. It is perfect instruction from a Holy God to a people lost and enslaved by sin. God, in His infinite wisdom, has given us the source of truth that will never change, but one which has power to change our hearts! His Word is like fresh clear water that cleanses us and revives our soul. Can you imagine trying to cross the desert without water? Take it one step further, do you bring the water with you, but only take a sip from it once or even ignore it altogether? The Word of God is an infinite source of life giving water and that is where we should find ourselves planted...

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  ~ Psalm 1:3

The lack of, or abundance of God's Word in our lives has a direct impact on our spiritual life and well-being. When we are Born Again, there should be a desire, a thirst for all God has to say. The Bible provides that spiritual water so we might drink daily, even moment by moment. Some of us however, have become spiritual camels, and only come to the water one day a week and go thirsty the other six. I pray God plants within you a greater desire for His Word and that you would search the Scriptures diligently to see if these things that I say are so. When once you begin to take in God's Word don't forget what is supposed to happen next...

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  ~James 1:22