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

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Sovereignty of Suffering

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  ~Job 1:20,21

Do you see the sovereignty of God in suffering as clearly as Job?

When calamity strikes and suffering intrudes upon our lives, it seems pointless, arbitrary, or even random. We are filled with anguish and despair over thoughts of “what if...” and “I should have...” all the while forgetting about a sovereign God. Your pain and suffering, your calamity and tragedy is neither pointless nor random. When Job lost everything he had, including all ten of his children, he recognized the sovereignty of God in all of these things.

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.  ~Deuteronomy 32:39

God is in control, period. People today however, do not have that sort of appreciation for the sovereignty of God in all things. It is the modern message of “your best life now” and “God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and happy” that lead people to conclude that suffering can not be part of God’s plan for His people. Rather, Satan is often blamed as the sole source of our suffering. This is not to say Satan does not inflict us, but as we see in the case of Job, Satan can only do what God allows. I can assure you, God has absolute sovereign control over all things, including pain and suffering.

Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?  ~Exodus 4:11

Who or what is behind all disease and disability? God says it is Him. That thought can be a hard pill to swallow, but to think otherwise calls into question God’s supreme authority over the universe. When tragedy and pain strike, people who do not recognize the sovereignty of God in suffering may question God’s goodness and reliability. When one supposes that it is God’s will that we always be healthy and wealthy and suddenly disease or poverty is knocking at the door, the temptation is to put God on trial and demand He give an account of Himself. Why then does a sovereign God allow suffering?

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.  ~James 5:10,11

James, speaking about patience and perseverance, uses the suffering of Job as an illustration. He relates to us that Job’s suffering was intended by the Lord. God has a reason for our suffering. Ultimately it is all for His glory and along the way faith is strengthened, disobedience is disciplined, saints are sanctified, and sin is rebuked. God, in His sovereignty, brings suffering into the lives of people so that good may come of it. Good stewards of suffering recognize the sovereignty of God in the very midst of it. After all, if we recognize the sovereignty of God in what is pleasant should we refuse to see the sovereignty of God in the suffering?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  ~Job 2:6-10

Monday, January 23, 2012

Why I Love the Church (and you should too)

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
And this was after they put it back together!

It has been a little over a year since I crushed the end of my right thumb in a log splitter. Like most household accidents this one was precipitated by doing something I shouldn't have been doing and thinking I would only do it this once. Yeah... umm... right.

Needless to say my great idea ended up as a Saturday afternoon in the emergency room with a thumb full of pain and about 25% less muscle tissue. I can't even begin to describe the pain for you. It was intense, searing, crushing... did I say intense? But, as I look back on it all, the one thing the pain in my thumb brought to me the most was... focus.

When I removed my thumb from the logsplitter, pulled the glove off my hand, and a piece of meat that could choke a cat fell out, it was as if every part of my body came together in perfect unison. There was a clarity of thought and a sharpening of focus like none I had ever experienced before.

There was one goal and one mission; every fiber of my being was totally committed to this one purpose... to alleviate the suffering of this one tiny member... my thumb. A crushed thumb has the  ability to proclaim the body is one and when one member suffers, all suffer. It's too bad most Christians don't get that about the Church.

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

Think about it... All of us who call ourselves Christian are brought into, and made to be members of, one body. And I don't mean in a way like we all just joined the same softball team or have memberships at the local fitness center. We have been divinely and supernaturally united together by One Spirit. That truth has some implications behind it and it is worthy of some consideration and meditation.

I am going to spend some time writing about those implications and hopefully to show you why we should love the Church much more than our local sports team. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Misplaced Hope

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  ~Psalm 33:16
This fella can only do so much, but God delivers!

When I think about some of the things I have counted on, or looked to for deliverance, I remember this verse and I am ashamed. All of us are easily impressed by the power of a large army, or the strength of an Olympic weightlifter, and for Christians, it seems, the allure of a legislative majority has become a powerful influence.

The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.  ~Psalm 33:17

In the days of old, battles were fought by large armies of men out in the open. The fighting was, for the most part, close in and sword against sword, spear against spear. For those who were privileged enough to ride into battle on a horse, there was the additional benefit of being up above most of the battle. Oh yes, and if things went bad for your side, you could more easily get away.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  ~Psalm 33:18,19

The point in this psalm is there are a number of things we are easily impressed with and so readily depend on to aid us in times of trouble or conflict. But, as the psalmist points out, trusting in those things is a waste of time and their promise of deliverance is going to come up empty. Our hope would be better placed on the One who is merciful and capable of delivering even our souls.

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.  ~Psalm 33:20

One of the distinctions that separate God’s people from the rest of the world should be our reliance upon the Lord. We ought to recognize that our deliverance, when it comes, is from God Almighty and not the might of our country, our own strength, or even some political party. Do you know why God is our deliverer and defender?

For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.  ~Psalm 33:21,22

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Saul's Past

Previous Series Links:
The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction

What was Saul like before his conversion?

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

When reading the narrative account from Acts chapter 9, we would do well to remember where Luke got this information. The Apostle Paul himself would have recounted these events for Luke to record, so in a sense Paul describes his own assessment of who and what he was before the day he met Christ. Let's begin this study by looking at the first part of verse 1:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,”

Those self righteous folk can get reeeaally angry... really.

This account begins by revealing what is in Saul's heart by describing his actions. He hates Christians. The word “still” makes an important distinction about Saul's demeanor towards believers, that is his attitude towards them on this day is just a continuing action from the past. He has been “breathing threats and murder” against them for some time now. Saul is first introduced in the seventh chapter of the book of Acts at the stoning of Stephen...

But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  ~Acts 7:57,58

The very next chapter Luke relates Saul was not only present at the murder of Stephen, but he was in agreement with it and inspired by it for more...

And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.  ~Acts 8:1-3

The very idea of “breathing threats and murder” is how Paul would describe his own attitude towards Christians before his conversion. Threats and murder are what he drew his breath from and it sustained him. Finding and putting to death Christians is what got Saul out of bed in the morning! So then let it be noted on the day Saul met Christ while traveling the Damascus Road, before he repented of his sin and trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, his heart was filled with a hateful and murderous desire for Christians. Even up to the very moment of his conversion Saul was totally depraved, totally unable to know God on his own. Again, Saul's own words...

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.  ~Galatians 1:13

Saul had the heart typical of any unbeliever. Later, many years after his conversion, he wrote a letter to Christians in Rome and in it he describes every man, woman, and child before salvation...

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.

The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. ~Romans 3:9-19

Years ago when I began studying the Doctrines of Grace and whether mankind was totally depraved, I came across this clear statement made by the Apostle Paul...

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. ~1 Corinthians 2:14

The point here is the “natural person” (unsaved) is incapable of accepting the things of God. It is not a matter of choice, but inability. In his book “What’s So Great About The Doctrines of Grace?” Richard Phillips said this...

Sin has corrupted man’s thinking in such
a way that people lack the ability to understand
the truth about themselves, God, and the world.
Saul was a typical man with an unsaved and unregenerate heart. He was ignorant of God and His Christ and in going about establishing his own fallen brand of righteousness, Saul lived for threats and murder of God’s people. What was Saul like before his conversion? He was totally depraved, totally unable to understand God and seek Him. Just like you... just like me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Adopted as Children

See what kind of love the Father has given to us,  ~1 John 3:1a

Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. ~Matthew 18:3

John, a humble disciple of Jesus Christ, would have us to take note of something about the love of God. He calls us to examine what manner of love God bestows upon those who trust in Jesus as Savior. The manner of God’s love becomes evident when you consider what God does...

that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  ~1 John 3:1b

John is not talking about some label applied to believers by the world, or something we just decided to call ourselves. No, he is talking about something God did. God is the One who calls us His children; we are literally, legally, and lovingly adopted into the family of God by the Father. And, I might add, undeservedly...

The reason why the world does not know us is...  ~1 John 3:1c

When God adopts someone into His family, there is a great and permanent divide created between the believer and the unsaved world. Have you experienced a break or a disruption in your relationship to those who remain outside the family of God? When your unsaved friends and family question and wonder about whom you have become, there is a reason they no longer seem to understand or know you...

 that it did not know him.  ~1 John 3:1d

The world does not know God, at least not in the way His children know Him. So, because the world does not know the Father, neither do they know the Son, or recognize those who have been adopted into His family. The truth is, the world knows of God even though every attempt is made to suppress that knowledge (Romans 1:18-23). What we as children of God should expect is hostility and enmity with the world because God's reality is so evident a war is waged against Him. When we find ourselves at odds with the world and even experience the hostility directed against Jesus Christ, we can rejoice because it is the world acknowledging that we are of Him. Are you a child of God? Have you been adopted into the family and can you rest in the assurance of salvation? Just remember your assurance should come from the Word of God, not from anywhere else.

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.  ~1 John 3:10

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Willful Ignorance

But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.  ~2 Chronicles 36:16

We all know where ignorance leads to...

Over the years I have shared the Gospel with thousands of people and the vast majority of them rejected the Good News. Some of those lost souls did so acknowledging their sin, God's judgment, and the reality of hell. Although there are many different reasons given why people reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, I believe there is a common thread tying them all together. The unsaved remain unsaved because they do not know God.

In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”  ~Psalm 10:4

People who reject God and the truths found in His Word, all share that common trait; they do not know Him. In fact, knowing God or understanding His truth is nowhere on their list of things-to-do. People may know of God and even acknowledge His existence, but their actions and rejection of the Gospel betray their self willed ignorance of Who He really is.

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”  ~Psalm 10:11

The most frustrating witnessing encounters I have had are with those people who will acknowledge God and agree with everything the Scripture says, yet reject Christ. The reason they give always reveals the "god" they know is not God Almighty revealed in the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ. Even if you give them biblical proof their concept of God is in error, they stubbornly cling to their own "god". It is evident their change of mind and heart can only come from divine intervention.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  ~Matthew 11:27

Only by God's sovereign power can anyone come to know Him in a saving way. Scripture reveals that mankind rejects the knowledge of God and seeks to usurp His rule over creation. All of us have bought the lie that we can be God and we need not subject ourselves to anyone else. How merciful that Jesus Christ reveals God to even one sinner. The promise that was given to those who know God and seek Him will not be forsaken.

And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.  ~Psalm 9:10

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Stewardship of Suffering

For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. ~Acts 9:16

What sort of stewardship will you have when suffering comes?
When hear the word “stewardship”, what do you think of? Most often you would think of money, time, or resources. How often though, does the thought of pain or suffering come to mind when considering the concept of biblical stewardship? The Apostle Paul was blessed with a stewardship of pain and suffering from the Lord Jesus, Himself. Yes, I said blessed...

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.  ~Acts 5:41

Peter and some of the other Apostles were taken before the Sanhedrin Council to answer the charge of teaching and preaching Jesus at the temple. After examining the Apostles and taking council, they decided to beat them and charge them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. After departing from the council, havening been beaten and publically shamed, how did the Apostles respond? Did they weep, lament and cry out to God in bitterness? No, they rejoiced; they were good stewards of the suffering.

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.  ~1 Corinthians 4:2

There are a number of things God places into our care, all of which should be used for His purposes, His glory. There are even times God entrusts to our stewardship, pain and suffering. Regardless of the substance of our stewardship, the chief goal is to be found faithful in how that stewardship is carried out. Pain and suffering are circumstances that provide a unique opportunity to glorify God. Consider how the name of Jesus Christ is magnified when it is our faith in Him that enables us to endure disease, tragedy, or persecution.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~2 Corinthians 12:10

As with anything else placed into our care, pain and suffering can be spent foolishly or selfishly. It is all too easy to wallow in self pity or doubt when confronted with personal suffering or persecution. I know, because there have been times when I squandered opportunities to glorify my Savior during times of suffering within my own family. Beloved, let us not forsake the blessed stewardship of suffering when it is granted by our Lord, but endeavor to glorify Him and faithfully discharge that duty with rejoicing.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  ~1 Peter 4:12,13

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Divine Help

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? ~Psalm 121:1

He needs divine help!

How many times have you wondered if help would ever come? There are a number of trying circumstances which press us into a small, dark, and suffocating corner; all the while we long for relief or rescue. I would suggest, as the psalm writer does, look to heaven...

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:2

When the psalm writer declares "my help comes from the Lord", it is implied not everyone has the same rescuer. The psalm writer wants us to know there is something distinctly different about where his help comes from; his Helper spoke everything into existence!

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. ~Psalm 121:3,4

There are some who believe it is possible to lose your salvation. The good news is, God will not allow your feet to be moved. The comfort and strength I find in that is beyond description or measure. God will not sit idly by, fall asleep, or be distracted to the point your salvation is in jeopardy.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. ~Psalm 121:5,6

The security of our salvation is not dependant upon our own vigilance or strength and resolve. A saint of God stands in the shadow and protection of a mighty mountain. This Mountain is so massive as to blot out the very sun from the sky.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. ~Psalm 121:7,8

This divine overshadowing has such a preserving influence that our souls are never in danger of evil overcoming us. The child of God will never succumb to a damning unbelief. Our souls are kept in the mighty hand of God! If you believe a Christian can lose their salvation and you believe your god would allow evil to creep in and overcome your faith, I would invite you to look with me, to the hills...

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. ~Psalm 121:1,2

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Sovereignty of God on the Damascus Road: Introduction

God is sovereign over all of His creation including all aspects of salvation. There was a time I would have argued against that statement. I would not have agreed God chooses whom He will save and chooses whom He will not save. After spending months of study in the book of Romans and particularly in chapter 9, I came to the inevitable conclusion that God saves those whom He has elected for that purpose.

Let's study to show ourselves approved, not ashamed, and rightly dividing the WORD OF TRUTH.
I want to begin a study from the ninth chapter of Acts, working verse by verse through the Apostle Paul's meeting with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road and subsequent conversion. I am drawn to this passage because there are some parallels between what happened to him on his way to Damascus and my own conversion (I am not insinuating in any way that I am like the Apostle Paul).

The argument I want to put forth is:
God is sovereign over every detail and aspect of our salvation;

and to a lesser degree attempt to answer why God saves us in the manner He chooses. In other words, why doesn't God save everybody like He did Paul on the Damascus Road? The passage I want to work through is Acts 9:1-31, and breaking it into four parts:

     I.    Saul is Converted - Acts 9:1-9
     II.   Saul is Baptized - Acts 9:10-19
     III.  Saul is Persecuted - Acts 9:20-25
     IV.  Saul is Befriended - Acts 9:26-31

If you would like to take part in this study and accompanying discussion take some time to read the passage and spend some time focusing on verses 1 and 2 as that is where the study will begin. The first two verses will lead us into a look first at who Saul was before he became known to us as the Apostle Paul. Each of the four parts of the passage will be covered by multiple posts as we work verse by verse (sometimes clause by clause) through the passage.
To get your wheels turning let me ask this question. Does God specifically choose whom He will save?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Comfort of God's Word

When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.  ~Psalm 119:52

The Bible is food for my soul... care to join me?
The psalm writer has learned an extremely valuable lesson; God does not change. It is because God’s Word is unchanging, that we can read it and find solace and comfort when trouble and confusion close in. We can read of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, or Job and see God's hand not only in their lives but in ours as well. We can gain an understanding of our situation through the dealings of God in the lives of others, and we can be sure that He will provide for us as He has for countless others. How do I know that for sure, you ask?

So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,  ~Acts 10:34

The Apostle Peter learned the promises of God came not only to the Jew, but to the Gentile as well. God does not save one based upon nationality, rank, financial status, or intelligence level. The promises of God are for those who fear and obey Him. Salvation from death and eternal life are for those who have repented and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. God is still dealing with people the same way. I think of the harlot Rahab who was saved from destruction because she feared and trusted God…

By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.  ~Hebrews 11:31

There is indeed a great deal of comfort to be found in the Holy Scriptures, but if we are to find security and understanding in the judgments of God, we must read the Bible! God calls all of us to hear what He has to say concerning this life and the next. God's Word is not for a select few individuals leaving the rest of us waiting for crumbs. We are all invited; the Word of God is food for our souls…

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.  ~Jeremiah 15:16

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Surety of Suffering

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  ~Genesis 3:7

Sir! Suffering identified! Bearing 311 degrees and moving in fast!
Suffering, for the Human Race, was assured when our first parents sinned and disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. With the entrance of sin came pain, sorrow, tragedy, and death. Pain and suffering are realties for us all and none are exempt from its heart breaking touch. You might be asking “Why, what have I done to deserve this suffering?” Well, it is because of sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned  ~Romans 5:12

Scripture makes it very clear that all of us are guilty of sin, and so death and suffering follow. It is a universal truth that where sin is, suffering is there as well. What does that mean for the Christian? How does the surety of suffering figure into the daily walk of a born again believer? Consider God’s servant Job.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;  ~Job 13:15a

Suffering is a sure thing for both the saved and unsaved alike. What should be different for the Christian is the assurance we have in knowing the God in whose sovereign hands we rest. “Though he slay me, I will hope in him;” With that assurance in God Almighty there is an element of suffering the believer does not have to experience; the futility of it all. It is the futility and senselessness that gives suffering its sting. The loss of a child, long drawn out struggles with disease ending in death, natural disasters with untold death and destruction, it is the seeming uselessness and futility of all these circumstances that adds a bitter sting to suffering.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.  ~1 Peter 4:12,13

Since suffering is certain and inevitable, we should not be surprised when it suddenly overtakes us. As for Christians, there will be the additional suffering inflicted because of our faith. While it is true some will be called by God to suffer more than others (even to death), it is also true that all Christians will suffer some persecution in one form or another, Jesus said “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). When that tribulation and suffering comes, and it will, let us endeavor to commit ourselves to a merciful Savior and give Him the glory.

Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.  ~1 Peter 4:19