Ray’s Ramblings

 JULY 11TH – SIN DOES NOT PAY

“Crime does not pay” we were told when we were young and being groomed to be men and women in this great nation.  However, this election year it seems that crime does pay as the world seems to descend into chaos and tempers flare with each and every encounter.

While crime might be overlooked or downplayed in the world of men it does not escape the notice of God.  Man’s crime against God is called sin.  It is a three letter word with eternal significance.

It began millennia ago when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by adding to what He told them and listening to a created being and not the Creator.  Since then it has only been exacerbated by further turning our back on God.

And when we have a mass shooting in our nation we are appalled and attempt to blame the tragedy on anyone and anything except the true cause of the crime.  The bottom line is that sin caused the mass shooting or the bombing or the stabbing in any place in the world.

The lightning quick proliferation of transgender bathrooms and that twisted and sinful lifestyle is what the culture here in the west is saying in the new normal.  Now there are articles telling about how men are entering Target dressing rooms and bathrooms to take photos and videos of females changing.  What did they expect would happen?  Why should this surprise us?

What we are seeing and experiencing today is the same as in the day of Paul the apostle when we he quoted the Old Testament at the end of Acts: “Go to this people, and say, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never see but never perceive.’  For this people’s heart has drown dull and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Acts 20:26-27; Isaiah 9:9-10).

Do these words not speak to us as a nation, as a people, as a church as to what is going on in this nation?  What has happened this past month in Orlando, Turkey, Baghdad and other areas of the world is truly gruesome and evil and yet not to be unexpected.  Why should this surprise us when we have taken God out of our public life and replaced Him with our own “superior” ideals?

Isaiah 5:18-23 clearly tells us this about what happens when we think that going against God, sin, will pay off.  “Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, who say: ‘Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!’  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!  Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!”

In this passage you ought to see the United States in this day and age.  When people say that the Bible is out of date have never read it or they are not Christians.  Because the Bible is beyond our day and we have not caught up to it even though it was written long before any of us were born.

Sin, at its root is devastating in its consequences and God will judge it, no matter how we define it.  Those in the church must face sin head on and call it what it is and yet give the hope in the person of Jesus Christ to who they come in contact.

Is God judging the U. S. with all that is going on?  Is God judging the world?  Romans chapter eight addresses this as the earth groaning for the return of its Maker.  Just as 9/11 was a shot across the bow of the great ship called the U. S. so these latest incidences are more shots meant to wake us up from a great slumber.

As the United States was awakened after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 the Church of God in Christ Jesus must be awakened by all that has happened over recent events.  We cannot remain silent on issues that confront us nor ignore that it is happening.  Ignorance is no excuse.

What we see going on around us all over the world is not a result of lax gun control or mental issues or misguided and unemployed men going on a last resort rampage; but we never call it what it is – sin!

What we are seeing is the true heart of man, not only in Islam but in man without God.  What should we expect when we expel God from our public lives from politics to schools?  We should expect exactly what we are getting right now.  Why should all of this evil surprise us?

This really gets back to Romans chapter one and what happens when man insists on going his own sway even though he know what god expects and requires.  Men, in their unrighteousness have suppressed the truth of God; they have held it back, they have ignored everything that God has made plain to them in nature and in their conscience.  Men like Richard Dawkins who denies the very existence of God and Stephen Hawking, in all his God-given gift of intelligence denies the very One that gave him that gift.

And far too many Christians yawn at this type of tragedy or think to themselves, “that’s what they deserve” or run right alongside the sin and confirm by their association with it that the sin of killing others from an ideology is okay and so is homosexuality.  Neither one of them are okay and this is the type of sin that Jesus came to die for.

What will it take for the sleeping giant, called the western church, to awaked and come against this type of sin?  We have a great responsibility from the Great Commission and may other commands of Christ that we have not taken near seriously enough.

Islam is not okay.  Homosexuality is not okay.  Gossip is not okay.  Adultery is not okay.  Stealing is not okay.  Lying is not okay.  Worry is not okay.  Bitterness is not okay.  The anger of man is not okay.  Pornography is not okay.  Changing God’s laws for the sake of your whims and sinful pleasures is not okay.

What we are seeing today in our day and age are shots across the bow of our ship called the U. S. that was founded on Scriptural principles and if we do not repent as a church and as a nation it will not long exist.  As a wise man told me once; “We need revival in the church and an awakening in our society.”

It ought to be clear to Christians that sin does not pay.  We must as Christ followers to repent of our sin and ignorance of what is going around us.  Get informed about what the Bible says and what is going on and then begin to pray a lot and see how the Lord could use you in this great day and age.

Sin does not pay, but following and obeying Jesus there is great reward.


JUNE 29th – THE TRUE ELITE

Brexit took place this past week as the eyes of the world looked on in somewhat shock and pleasure.  Now those who were on the losing side, the elite, or those disconnected from the overall population want to override the will of the people in Great Britain and return to the EU.

There is no difference here in the United States as tremors of Texit and other states discussing at some stage leaving the Union.  In our nation’s capital it seems like our employees have failed to recognize the will of those whom they work for.

However, the True Elite, was not an elite as He walked upon the earth but a Servant.  Matthew 20:28 clearly tells us; “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (ESV).  God who came in the form of Jesus, a man, did not come to be served as a Master, but to serve those He came to save.

This is directly opposed to those who supposedly represent us in the State and National Government.  Even the founding fathers of our nation saw themselves as servants of the people.

Jesus told His followers in Matthew 23:11; “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (ESV).  Thus the so-called elite are not to serve themselves nor special interests, but the people who put them into their position.  They are the employees and the voters are the employers.

Our great nation was founded on these principles that the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments.  Noah Webster said; “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles…This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government” (Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339, “Advice to the Young,” ¶ 53).

And in the same breath he added; “The moral principles and precepts found in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws” (Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1832), p. 339, “Advice to the Young,” ¶ 53).

This religion that the founding fathers referenced was the Christian religion.  The Holy Bible was their guidebook and as they wrote out the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution.

The men who were appointed by God to form and forge this great nation were servants to one another because their guiding forces, the Bible and their Christian faiths, taught them to be subservient to their Creator and Redeemer – and they then took that teaching and incorporated it into their standards for relations with fellow men.

Yes, they may have been elite in their intellect, vision and spiritual maturity, but they were humble servants to God and saw themselves that way to their fledgling nation.  It is reported that many did not seek too many terms of service but allowed for others to represent their constituents so they could attend to their own business and not become elitists.

Leaders of the churches of this land ought also to view themselves in this way and attempt in every way to serve their churches and not to be served.  When this happens it is a good possibility that the church will be revived and the nation awakened so that those elected to represent us may once again serve instead of serve.

We must get back to the First and Only Elite One and His name is Jesus.  This is the only way to hold back the rush of self-appointed elitists that are in office and have forgotten Who put them there.

As they come to know the One who truly founded our country and learn of the framers of the U. S. Constitution then we will see a resurgence of what made the land great in the first place. To be truly elite one must become truly a servant.


JUNE 22ND – Our Only  Hope

On one side are Hillary Clinton supporters; on the other, those for Donald Trump. But our only hope in this nation, in fact for the world at large, is Jesus Christ.

Here in the United States as a Constitutional Republic we are to have three branches of government who hold each other accountable for the upholding of our freedoms.  And we elect those people who we deem most qualified to represent the will of the constituents of their particular district.  These are to ensure that we, as a people, are not ruled by an absolute monarch or the whims of government overreach.

What has transpired in the past two or three decades since the 1980’s is that people are seeing and voting for that which contradicts the directives of the U. S. Constitution and the original vision of the founding fathers.

There seems to be two sides to the same coin and one side desires that government do more for the general public.  While on the other side of the coin people desire the government just stay out of their way; even though they may enjoy the federal government may afford to them.

So as we approach a contentious debate and election season culminating in November elections we might hope that the answer lies in the outcome of electorate.  If we have a change at the top, so to speak, then we can change the direction we are heading as a nation.  But our hope, as a nation, does not lie with the government.

Our hope rests in something higher.  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of which I am foremost, and all other sinners if they would respond to His call.  Here is the call from the Scriptures: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).

The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 33:12; “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage” (ESV).  Though this is referring to Israel it can apply to how and when the United States became a sovereign nation.  All the men who founded our nation were marred by sin, yet they attempted to the best of their ability to found a nation that reflected Biblical principles to guide it in continuous prosperity.  It began what we know as the U. S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

As a people who were once predominately Christian and fairly prosperous in many areas of life we now have quickly abandoned our roots and have begun to pay a heavy toll.  When we began to expel God out of our schools and government it seems as if the moral foundation of our great nation has greatly eroded.

And it seems as if no one can figure out as to why we have seeming chaos that we now face here in our land.  When we capitulate to the whims of the culture in opposition to Biblical truths then we run headlong into the issue of continual evil, which brought on the great flood during Noah’s day.  When everyone does what is right in their own eyes then Biblical truths will be seen as optional and without consequences; yet there are always consequences to our choices.  Also when we walk away from the Constitution that was drawn up over 200 years ago and fundamentally change those grandiose words then we have begun to sign our own death warrant as a nation.

It is time to have true hope and that is not in the upcoming November elections for President or Senator or U. S. Representative because we have witnessed over the past two decades that they cannot agree on anything or get anything done.

Our only hope is the God-man Christ Jesus who is the exact imprint of the Father and who came to earth to save sinners.  Jesus Himself told us that He is the light of the world and when we come to Him we no longer have any darkness in our lives and we also will know the way to live in this day and age.

The Scripture is clear – Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  John 3:16 as quoted earlier is a gateway to true life and if you miss it you will perish.  Why perish when our only hope is waiting for your response to His call?

When we have a revival in the church and an awakening in our nation because the followers of Jesus really believe and obey the Scriptures we will see our nation begin to turn around from chaos to true peace.  It begins with the church following our Only Hope and then the world will begin to see that He can be their hope too.


APRIL 11TH – THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT

In this tumultuous age, with our rough and tumble political climate, some are thinking this election cycle may herald the end of the United States, even the end of the world, as we know it.  Others think that stand on the precipice of further greatness, and that our nation will improve if only we had more government regulations.  However, regulation is designed to prohibit, not empower.

If the world does end (and it does) when may we expect it?  Will we have nuclear war to end it all?  How soon will it be and what event or personality marks the beginning of the end?  Perhaps we are already well underway on that doomed journey?  Regardless of whether you have pondered these questions, they are indeed questions with which we are obligated to wrestle.

For the follower of Christ, this is an ever present truth that is covered in Scripture, from which we can surmise that the end does come, enabling us to watch for the signs that the day is coming.  Albert Benjamin Simpson, the founder of the awkwardly named Christian denomination known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance; who is also a professor at Nyack College and Missionary Training School, was asked by a reporter about the end of the world:

The reporter asked, “Dr. Simpson, Do you know when the Lord is coming?’”

“Yes,” he replied, “and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all.”

The reporter’s poised notebook gave the ready promise.

“Then put this down: ‘And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.’  Matthew 24:14. Have you written the reference?”

“Yes, what more?”

“Nothing more.”

The reporter lowered his pencil and said, “Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached to all the nations Jesus will return?”

“Just that.”

http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/s/i/m/simpson_ab.htm

It is said that the paper came out the next day with the exchange between Simpson and the reporter written word for word.

What was believed by A. B. Simpson was that as soon as the gospel was presented in every people group/nation then Jesus would return and the present world would come to an end.  This implies that there is much work yet to be done in the task of world evangelization.  This awkwardly named denomination is intent on spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world as quickly as possible, so that the King can come back.

Paul the apostle touches on part of the reason that the end of the world has not yet come.  In Romans 11:25 he writes: “I want you to understand this mystery, brother: that a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

So since the world has not ended, and Jesus has not returned, apparently the full number of non-Jewish people have not yet claimed Christ as Savior.  When will that number be fulfilled and what is the number?  Only God knows.

What should be happening in the interim?  “Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”(Matthew 9:37-38).  Our first priority as followers of Jesus is to plead with God to send out more missionaries into the world to share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Jesus also told His followers in John 4:35 that “the fields (world) are white (ripe) for harvest.”  In other words, now is the time to get out and work the fields and bring in the harvest of souls.

It does not matter who we are.  It does not matter where we are.  It does not matter our education.  We are to share what Christ has done with those that God has placed inb our path; through work, school, activities and even shopping.  Get to know that cashier you see when you are grocery shopping, and begin sharing Jesus with them.  If you don’t know how, ask God to show you.  Caring is a good place to start.

Praying and sharing are the places to begin.  You don’t have to pray to begin, just start where you are.  It’s not rocket surgery!  May God give you and I and all those who call themselves followers of Jesus the heart and passion to share His good news.

The end of the world is coming, yet we do not know when or what time.  Followers of Jesus know that for Him to return we must be about the work of sharing Jesus without fear and failure.

The end of the world: looking forward to it!

 APRIL 6TH – REFORMATION

This is a word that came into great prominence in 16th century Germany.  The man Martin Luther, nailed 95 statements on a church door in Wittenburg, Germany calling for changes in the church’s stance on Indulgences.  An Indulgence was money paid to the church to help any member of your family get out of purgatory faster.

This Reformation went farther than Luther ever expected and continues to the present day.  We could cover the history of the reformation but there are already countless articles and books on this subject.  Our particular interest in this article, is what does reformation mean and do for a subject or institution.

According to the American College Dictionary of 1968 through Random House Publishers “Reformation” in the third definition: “the great religious movement in the 16th century which had for its object the reform of the Western Catholic Church, and which led to the establishment of the Protestant churches” (p. 1018).

The root word “reform” has multiple definitions, but the two that seem to suit our topic are the following: “to restore to a former and better state; improve by alteration, substitution, abolition, etc…to put an end to (abuses, disorders, etc.)” (p. 1018).  There is a second definition of “reform” that applies here as well, “to form again” (p. 1019).

What Luther and the reformers that followed him was to return to the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments as the final rule for faith and practice.  The church of the 16th century had fallen into fear mongering, frightening the people into subservience to the church and, by extension, the head of the church.

Luther argued with great vigor (and knowledge of the Bible) that the Pope and the church are to subject themselves to that which had been written and approved in the Holy Writ.  Sola Scriptura was the cry of his day or Scripture alone is the final rule of faith and practice.  The Bible is not subject to us but we are subject to the Bible.

The five pillars of the Reformation, if you will, are sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, sola Scriptura, soli Deo Gloria.  The translation is the following: People are saved through “grace alone” by “faith alone” in “Christ alone” according to “Scripture alone” for “God’s glory alone.”

The five “solas” brought many back to what the Bible originally taught.  They did not add anything to or take anything away from the Bible teachings.  To “reform” something, you do not completely change it but you bring it back to its original intention.  For Christians this means that Jesus is put in first place and we recognize that to follow the Bible we become like Jesus, the perfect man.

There is a contemporary movement to reform another religion, and that is Islam.  This is predominantly a western movement, far away from the seed bed of Islam, the Middle East.

One of the leading proponents of this honorable, yet short-sighted movement is Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a brilliant man.  He is a former Naval Officer in the U. S. Navy and is currently an American medical doctor here in the U. S.

Please understand dear reader that he deserves the greatest respect in desiring the best for his religion.  However, if his reforms were to9 come to pass, then Islam becomes something totally different than it was, and is.

What he describes as a vision for Islam, cannot in any way, shape or form resemble the original Islam and the founder Muhammad.  His heart’s desire seems to be peace with God; which we know can only come by receiving Christ as his Savior.

To reform something you bring it back to its original state; you do not and cannot entirely change it because then you have something new, not reformed.  Luther brought the church back to its Biblical roots and foundation.

We love Muslims here at GFI and our hearts cry out to them and our passion is that they would see the Christ of the Bible, not the Jesus of the Koran.  Jesus is the perfect man and He did what the Scripture records of Him and more.  History also provides what is needed to show forth proof that Jesus was a real, historical figure and He did die in our place so that we might experience salvation from the wrath of God and salvation from death and hell.

Christian come back to the Bible for all your instructions on how to live in the here and now in the power of God.  When we do this we reflect the perfect man to an imperfect world and then and only then do people have an opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved.


 

MARCH 30TH – THE GOOD SHEPHERD

If you know anything about herding sheep, you’ll know it isn’t as easy as it looks!  The shepherd must work hard at keeping the sheep together and when it is time to lie down they must make sure that the conditions are just right regarding proper food and water.  Apparently sheep also have a tendency to wander away and get lost, leading to a vulnerability for predator’s such as coyotes or wolves.

Now this author is not a sheepherder but he knows the Shepherd.  After watching a lesson from a sheepherder via “youtube” an experienced herder simply leads the sheep and beckons them gently to follow him.  They follow him because they know his voice and if anyone else would call out to them they would not follow.

In first century Israel, there were shallow caves called sheepfolds where the shepherds would house the sheep at night.  The sheep were protected on all sides except for the entrance.  Most entrances did not actually have doors or gates but the sheepherder would lie down at the gate and sleep.

Within that sheepfold, the sheep feel the safety and security of having the shepherd at the door.

In the gospel of John, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd in 10:14. The first 21 verses are comforting music to one’s ears and soul.  Jesus begins the story about Himself by saying if anyone comes into the holding area of sheep other than the door, they are thieves and robbers.  The one who enters by the gate or door is the shepherd.

The entire chapter 10 of the gospel of John is deep and meaningful but in the first 21 verses we see two major points.  The first is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He knows whose are His and the sheep know who He is.

Jesus says something in verse 16 that has been misunderstood for years but needn’t be.  He said; “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (ESV).

Jesus is simply saying that not only will Jews believe in Him for salvation and be welcomed into eternal life but so will Gentiles.  He is not referring to Mormons or saying there is more than one way to heaven but that the Old Testament would be fulfilled hearing about Jesus and believing in Him for eternal salvation.

Jesus did not come only for the Jewish nation but the whole of creation.  Isaiah the prophet mentions that the Savior of the Jews would be a “light to the nations.”  This goes beyond the idea that Jesus is only a Jewish Savior, but actually the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in the book of Genesis.  The idea of the Gentiles being included along with Israel, came long before Israel was settled.

And with Jesus being the door or gate to the sheepfold, He is saying that He is the only way into the “green pastures.” There is no other way to the Father except through Jesus and this is clear here and later in John 14:6 where Jesus tells His listeners that He is “the Way and the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Peter tells the Jewish leaders as he stood before them: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul the apostle writes that the wall that existing between Jews and Gentiles is now broken down.  There is one way for all to be saved and that is through what Jesus accomplished upon the cross.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He beckons all to come to Him, however, only those who hear and respond to His voice will be saved.   How does one know the voice of Jesus?  If you are thinking about Jesus right now as you read this, it is a very good indication that He is calling to you.

Four major religions claim to be the one true religion: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.  And of those, only one has God coming to man and not man going or trying to get to God.  Only Christianity offers grace and simply what that means is there is a great chasm between men and God that man cannot bridge.  God bridged it Himself by sending His Only Son so that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.

If you are working your way to God, do you know how many good works you have to do to be accepted?  If you want your good deeds to exceed your bad deeds to enter heaven or paradise; how do you know if the good has exceeded the bad?  What is the scale that is used to determine the good works or deeds verses the bad?

Honesty would confess that you do not know if you have done enough to gain God’s approval.  God knows this and this is why He came to earth so that “all” men would have opportunity to enter heaven or paradise.

The Good Shepherd is calling out to you, do you hear His voice?  If you do, will you follow?  God has made it simple – he who believes in Jesus has life.  Those who come to Him will never be cast out but drawn into His everlasting arms.


 

MARCH 22ND  – RISEN

Christ the Lord has risen!  Alleluia!  This truth is known, shouted and rejoiced over, worldwide.  This momentous fact of history, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, is either celebrated or despised; few are merely ambivalent.  Those who don’t follow Jesus, but say they don’t despise Him, will ultimately come to despise Him.  You cannot serve two masters.  You will love one and hate the other; this is also truth.

Resurrection sets Christianity apart from all other religions.  The others were founded by men who desired worship, but Christianity has the God-man as its founder!

How do we prove this?  It begins at the beginning – with the Bible.  Christians must always start here.  To do otherwise risks misunderstanding Scripture, and what it teaches about Jesus and His blessed resurrection.

Paul the apostle teaches us: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Peter echoes this truth: “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

So these two giant Christians from the past ought to grab our attention and move us to celebrating the veracity of God’s word; standing firm in our confidence in the same.  Why would we ever shy away from the truth in the midst of misguided cultural antagonism?  Let us stand sure of our beliefs, and shout our convictions of the risen Christ.

Jesus Himself said: “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 17:22b-23a).  While He walked the earth, told His followers that the resurrection would take place.  Though the apostles were distressed by His words, they chose to deny and ignore until the day He was crucified.  They thought as men think, not as God does, and it led them to the wrong conclusion.  They were overcome with grief and fear until the third day, as Jesus had foretold.

Again in Matthew 20:17-19 we read these timeless and truthful words: “And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, See, we are going up to Jerusalem.  And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day”(ESV).

This truth was in the mind of God in eternity past, to send Jesus to be our substitute criminal on the cross and then show the power of God to overcome that which seems impossible to overcome.  Our sin was a curse that was impossible for humankind to overcome.  So Jesus came to earth motivated out of love for His created beings to stand in our place before the Judge and reconcile us to His Father.  Hallelujah, what a Savior!

In First Corinthians 15, Paul states the very foundation of the Christian faith is that Jesus did live, die and rise again as the Old Testament foretold through prophecy.  In the first eleven verses Paul teaches the four foundational pieces of the gospel, Christ died, was buried, raised and seen by His followers.  The rest of the chapter teaches that Jesus did rise from the dead; if He could not, then His death would have been for no reason.

But if we believe what the Scripture teaches as “evangelicals” then we must believe all of Scripture.  We cannot believe certain parts of the Bible, but all of it or none of it.  There are parts of the Bible that are hard to understand and swallow but we must come under God’s rule and not have God come under our rule.  We are made in God’s image; He is not made in our image.

Two major differences in religions and Christianity: first, God came to man, when we had strayed away from God.  Second, Jesus rose from the dead; in any other religion the founder, whoever or whatever it is, either died or never lived.  Jesus Christ came from heaven, became a man, died a cruel death and rose again for eternity.

One remaining fact; Jesus is coming again.  The question for the one reading is “What do you say about Christ?”  It is the most important question you must ask yourself because your answer determines your destiny.

Christ the Lord is risen today!  Alleluia!  Happy Resurrection Day!



 

 

MARCH 9TH – FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE

This is an age where life is cheap and marriage is disposable. Despite the landscape of shootings, bombings and beheadings, God’s view of life is much different than what the world projects.

Kind David of Israel wrote these inspired and immortal words in Psalm 139:13-16: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

God made each and every one of us; not just in our mother’s womb, but as an integral and essential part of all creation.  We are His crowning creation, for which all else was made.  Given the glory and wonder of natural beauty, how much more valuable must we be to our God, that He considers each of us to be of greater value than all the rest of creation?

This is a deeply intimate Psalm because even before your mother knew you were growing inside of her, God already had begun to form you.  In three weeks from fertilization of the human embryo the heart begins to beat and blood begins its march through our tiny veins.  In the fourth week from fertilization, the nerves, brain and spinal cord are forming.

From these two factual evidences, it is clear that what is in the mother’s womb is a child.  A being initiated through human passion, but finding its true origin in the mind of God in the far past.  God does not make mistakes even when men “go off the reservation” and think they are autonomous from God.  Even then God shows His love for us.

Paul the apostle in Romans 5:6-10 we read these eternal words: “for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled shall we be saved by his live” (ESV).

You see all life is precious because life is a gift from God and we are created in our mother’s womb to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.  Jesus showed throughout His life here on earth that He loved children, which inspired the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

But if we do not consider life precious, we are not on the same page as God.  It would not be incorrect to state that if one is bent toward ending the precious life of a child in the womb, that person is usurping a place of importance above God, stealing the decision of life and death from the One who created life itself.

God does want the very best for all of His precious creation; inside and outside the womb.  He would like it very much if none would have to experience eternity apart from Him in the very deep darkness and abyss.  God is very patient toward us, “not wishing that any should perish, but hat all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b, ESV).

“Repentance” is a turning away from sin (from life lived as you see fit instead of life lived as God would have for you) and turning to follow God.  The humbling reality, is that by confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, will save you.

God so loved you that He sent Jesus so that if you believe in Him you would have eternal life and not perish.  You who are reading this are precious to Him and you are fearfully and wonderfully made as are those in the womb.

God has only the very best for you in mind and “He doesn’t make no junk.”  All can receive Him and if you are reading this right now it is not a mistake.  God led you to read this and He is calling you to Himself.  What will your response be?


 

MARCH 1st – FUNDAMENTALS

The title of this piece is inescapable.  Whether in athletics (or writing articles!) there are fundamentals that must be followed to keep things from descending into a chaotic mess.  People inevitably try to forgo the fundamentals, and sometimes succeed, but normally these successes are short lived, requiring a return to the fundamentals to avoid turning triumph into failure.

Christianity also has fundamentals; principles to which we must adhere in order to make sense of, and stay true to, the Word of God.  It really doesn’t matter how a person “feels” about the truths of Scripture; what is important is that a person follows the fundamentals contained therein.

There are four such fundamental truths found in 1 Corinthians 15.  Truths that cannot be changed or ignored if one is to remain true to one’s self and to God.

Read the following inspired words of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:1-6.  “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (ESV).

The four fundamental truths are “Christ died for our sins…, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…, and that he appeared…”  These are what followers of Jesus must believe to be given the name or title of Christian.  If one of these four fundamentals are compromised, then the doubter’s claim to be Christian comes into serious question.

Let’s begin with the first of these fundamentals.  “Christ died for our sins.”  According to Paul, Jesus dying on the cross was based on the Old Testament teaching.  The most prominent passage he is referring to is Isaiah 53.  This chapter pinpoints a person who would die for the sins of the Jewish nation and for the entire population if they would believe the truth.

Isaiah 53:4-6 illuminates this truth clearly.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This one person, Jesus Christ, came to fulfill this age old promise, not only to Israel, but also to the Gentile.  Paul brings this to the memory of his audience when he states that Christ died for our sins.  Our sin made a separation between us and God and there was no human way for us to bridge that separation.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The second and third fundamentals go together, “he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”  Here Paul again states that these truths also were stated many years before, in the books of the prophets or Old Testament.

We could go all the way to the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis to begin to find this but these next two verses serve us very well.  Psalm 16:10; “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”  And Isaiah 53:10 when the prophet writes; “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his day.”

Throughout the history of Israel and the Scriptures, there has always been the expectation of a Savior, an Anointed One who would save His people from their enemies and their sins.  Also in the history of Israel, the animal sacrifices performed as part of the Law were a pre-figuring of this truth; the truth that Jesus ultimately fulfilled.

Jesus Resurrection - FundamentalsThe final fundamental is “that he appeared.”  This references the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being placed dead in a tomb.  This is where the faith of Christians is far different from any other religion in the world or history.  God became man, to suffer and be tempted as a man, then proved Himself God, by rising from the dead, as no mere man could.

At the end of each Gospel (and the beginning of Acts) we see a resurrected Jesus speaking to His disciples and the people.  If Jesus had only appeared to Cephas or Peter and the twelve, we would be right in being suspect if he ever did rise from the dead.  But Jesus appeared to over 500 at one time!  And in 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul humbly, yet joyfully writes: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Science will likely never prove that Jesus lived, or died, or rose again.  But our God is not science.  Science is always changing and God changes not.  History can teach us great truths such as the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  And if God is God (and He is) then why does it seem so unlikely that He could send His Son into a world that He created, to appear to His creation as a man, in order to redeem man from the mess he had made for himself?

God did all this and so much more.  He proved Himself over and over again with the next to last great thing; Jesus rising from the dead.  The last great action will be soon to come; the second coming of Jesus Christ for His church, to take His bride presenting her before His Father before entering into paradise for eternity.

This is great news and it is called the gospel.  The fundamental truths which one must believe to enter heaven are clear and simple.  Take a look at these truths again and then look closer at Jesus.  God has not lied to us, but rather came to us in the person of Jesus Christ so that we might be reconciled to Him.  Don’t put off what can be done today, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.


FEBRUARY 24TH – ONLY BROKEN PEOPLE NEED APPLY

When you think of broken people what comes to mind?  An alcoholic that dulls his or her pain by throwing back a fifth of this, or a twelve pack of that?  What about a drug addict that just cannot seem to break the need for another hit of meth or whatever drug they use to cope with life’s challenges?  Is this what brokenness looks like?  What do you do with a broken person?

Most of us would attempt to help them in one way or another.  Some of us may ignore them to their detriment and our comfort.  But what does God think of the broken?

According to David in Psalm 51:17 God accepts them.  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”  To understand this verse, we must first understand the larger context.

David, who was the greatest and most beloved king in the history of Israel, was also a great warrior and an equally great sinner.  One season of war, when he should have been out with his troops, he stayed at home and looked out over Jerusalem.  When he did, he observed a beautiful woman bathing on her roof; which was a custom of the time.  He sent for her.

Well one thing led to another and she became pregnant with the king’s child.  What makes it worse is that this young woman was also a young wife.  Her husband was a warrior in the king’s army.

To make a long story short, David set this man up to be killed in action on the battlefield.  He then made her one of his wives.  All this, to hide his sin from both God and man.  He failed on both counts.

A man named Nathan was called upon by God to present a story before the king about a man who had sinned before God.  Nathan did as he was told, and when David angrily declared that whoever had sinned so is worthy of death, the prophet Nathan pointed at him saying “you are that man.”

David was broken by the magnitude of his own evil.   He wrote the famous Psalm 51 as a result of his confrontation with the prophet of God.  David did not and could not sneak his sin past God; maybe before the people but not God.

The King of Israel could’ve reacted in various ways, but David had a heart for God.  He fell to his knees and pleaded for forgiveness, and the sweet Psalter of Israel sang the song of Psalm 51.

Only Broken People Need ApplyAs he processes his sin before God through agony of spirit, some of the most beautiful words to come as a result of sin flow out of a heart that misses God’s presence.

Yes, David could have “done” a lot of things in an attempt to please God and get himself out of trouble, but he chose to humble himself before God and confess his sin against God to restore the fellowship he had with the living God.

His words reach their crescendo in verse 17.  But what does he mean by these words?

Three key words are “Broken”, “Contrite” and “Despise.”

David had come to realize that he did not “have it all together.”  In fact, life as he knew it became unraveled in an instant, leaving him broken.  He had grown proud and set himself up as an idol in place of God.

There was no sacrifice or good deed powerful enough to expunge David’s sin.  So the earthly king approached the King of kings, and saw clearly, maybe for the first time, that he was nothing without fellowship with God.  David now destroyed the last idol in his life (himself) that kept him from experiencing the intimate life with God that the Creator promised to those who loved Him.

David was not only “broken” but he was also “contrite” or crushed because of his sin against God.  A note here is that all sin is against God as verse four spells out.  When one is contrite, one is emotionally crushed by the weight of their sin.  They have no way out, with God being the only relief for their intense guilt.

Why only God?  Because He will not “despise” the one who comes to Him “broken” and “contrite.”  When you “despise” something it means that you accord little worth to something.  So God does not treat our brokenness lightly, but rather accepts us when we call out to Him; even after we have broken His heart and severed our fellowship with Him.

The first letter that John the apostle wrote to the churches in modern day Turkey states the same thing in different words.  John wrote: “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Maybe you feel 10,000 steps away from God as you read this and you just can’t seem to break free from the sin that has held you down.  You may have been consumed by this sin for so long that you feel God cannot possibly hear you anymore, or worse, care.  But He does hear you, and through the grace of His mercy, those 10,000 steps become merely one…a step back to God.

Come to Him now, though smashed to smithereens and crushed beyond recognition, and you will find a God who will forgive and restore.  He bids you “come as you are” and believe in what Jesus did upon the cross and you will find rest for your sinful and weary soul.  He will make you brand new.  Lay down your pride and accept the reality that God truly gave his Son to rescue the “broken.”


 

February 10th – Serious Inquiry Needed

As we roll full ahead into this election cycle, it’s good to rate these candidates not only on their stands on important issues, but also on their character, their integrity (or lack thereof!). No one is, or can be, perfect. Only One holds that position and he never ran for political office. Look at yourself honestly; are you perfect? I know I am not and that is one of my weaknesses; if we are human, then by definition, we are imperfect.

So in our selection of a political candidate we must examine many factors to make the most informed decision possible. When it comes to knowing the only perfect human and His name is Jesus Christ, we must also make a serious inquiry to who He was and is and what He said about Himself and what others wrote about Him. God is not afraid of our questions about Him, in fact He welcomes them.

Where we stumble however, is when we make inquiries about ourselves. Either we are our own worst critic or we seriously overlook our flaws.

Maybe there is a serious issue that we are facing again that we did not expect to, but the first time we prayed about it and He answered. This time we could just go on and not seek the Lord’s favor or answer, but then again we could inquire again of God and see what He would accomplish.

In his Morning and Evening devotional, Charles Spurgeon wrote this for the morning of February 9, it is somewhat lengthy but well worth the read and reflection.

“And David inquired of the LORD” – (2 Samuel 5:23).

“When David made this inquiry he had just fought the Philistines, and gained a signal victory. The Philistines came up in great hosts, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without inquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, ‘I shall be victorious again; I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Wherefore should I tarry to seek at the Lord’s hands?’ Not so, David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He inquired, ‘Shall I go up against them?’ He waited until God’s sign was given. Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if thou wouldst know the path of duty, take God for thy compass; if thou wouldst steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to His sovereign will to choose and to command. The Puritan said, ‘As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers;’ this is a great truth. Said another old divine, ‘He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand;’ and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence tarries, tarry till providence comes. He, who goes before providence, will be very glad to run back again. ‘I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go,’ is God’s express promise to His people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to Him, and say, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ Leave not they chamber this morning without inquiring of the Lord.” (Morning and Evening: A Devotional Classic for Daily Encouragement, Hendrickson Publishers, 2010, p. 80)

Spurgeon is right; before we do we anything, we ought to make an effort to inquire or ask the Lord what He would have us to do. Which candidate to vote for, what job to take, how much to give to help the widow or orphan or person in need, wisdom for the day or whatever you need to inquire of the Lord, then it is a good idea to do it.

When we come to Him in all seriousness of inquiry He will answer us. The key here: are we prepared through repenting of our sins and are we willing to wait and listen for Him? We have a knack for jumping ship prior to finding out the direction of the ship. Let us wait for the Lord for He will give renewed strength and direction for each decision and day. “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Serious inquiry is definitely needed in this world in which we live. To have the most instructive inquiry is for one to go to God and get His mind. Try it and it will be worth it.


February 2nd – Blessed Are The Poor?

How can a poor person be blessed? What does it mean to be blessed?

Believe it or not, accept or not, this is a good time to remember these seemingly incongruous words used in the same sentence. Here in the United States we are just days away from Caucus and Primary season as we begin the process of selecting candidates for President of the United States of America. In the great state of Iowa, we are being inundated ad nauseam with television, radio, and newspaper and internet advertisements on the best candidate for the job.

These ads generate many different emotions among those who see/hear them. They range from anger and frustration to excitement (not sure why) and even complacency. Those who are in the church and who are following Jesus can also get caught up in all the excitement and fervor this political season can bring.

But how can we keep our bearings or sanity at this time? By reading and heeding these powerful words of Jesus; “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, ESV).

The immediate context of this famous and unsettling verse is that Jesus had just spent 40 days in the desert not eating or drinking anything and then being tempted by the devil while at His weakest physical and emotional state. Jesus defeated Satan through quoting the Word of God from the Old Testament and sent Satan away from Himself.

Then after calling His first disciples to Himself, while traveling through the northern part of Israel called Galilee, He taught and proclaimed the gospel of God. He was also healing all who were sick and brought to Him.

And then He sat down to teach them. I really wonder what they were thinking after watching all those sick people immediately healed from all their illnesses and diseases. Possibly when the new disciples saw Jesus sit down they just knew that He was about to tell them how they too could heal all those they meet and are sick. But what came out of His mouth was probably not what they were expecting.

The first of the Beatitudes as they are called and the introduction to what we call the Sermon on the Mount must have stunned the disciples. An awkward yet good way to put this is from the Amplified New Testament translation: “Blessed – happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous [that is, with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions] – are the poor in spirit (the humble, rating themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!”

Wait, what?

First we should probably deal with the phrase, “poor in spirit.” These are people that realize that they are in need of help; very serious help. They are spiritually bankrupt and realize it. The poor in spirit know that they are totally reliant on another for whatever needs they have, and in this instance it is God.

This becomes a tad bit clearer when we hear these words from Jesus; “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b). A person who comes to the end of themselves, the end of their rope, is “poor in spirit.”

Coming to this realization is the beginning of salvation. Up to the point of becoming “poor,” they tried everything they could think of to fill up the voids in their life and have failed miserably. Now they turn to God for the filling or completing they need and it only comes to us in the person of Jesus.

When one turns to Jesus and is saved by grace, through faith alone in Christ Jesus, only then is one “Blessed,” for God’s glory.

In all of the chaos of the day there is a sure foundation and it is found only in Jesus Christ. It is not found in the political process nor a certain candidate, but only in God. He does all the work. All we have to do is lay down our selves before Him and He will take us up and allow us to walk with Him.

This is a daily task that we must put into our routines (without letting it become routine!) confessing that Jesus did all the work and we simply placed our trust in that finished work He accomplished upon the cross. It makes an election year livable by putting all the noise aside as we view the world through the perspective of God’s saving grace. We thrive as we place our simple trust in Him.

How about you? Have you trusted Jesus as your Savior? Turn to Him today and experience the blessing of being “poor in spirit.”


 

January 20th – Certainty In the Midst of Uncertainty

Welcome to the year of our Lord 2016. As we face another New Year it would benefit Christians not to dwell on the uncertainty that seems to plague the current cultural landscape but turn our eyes instead toward Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

When there is uncertainty, uneasiness and fear often follow. We all long for certainty, but what do we mean by that?

There must be something beyond ourselves that we can lean upon that has the certainty that we crave. All that rests upon us, all that weight that desires to crush us, is far too much for us to handle. We must look outside of ourselves and every vice that we hold onto or use to cope, and recognize that they are merely the illusion of certainty. We must look to that One who holds all things in His hand and never lets go. The One Who is the only constant in a universe marked by change.

Let us look at some uncertainties facing us today. Wall Street has been volatile with stocks rising and falling on rumors and whims; nations are going bankrupt, U. S. cities are going bankrupt. The nation is almost 19 trillion dollars in debt and some economists are saying that the real debt (including mandated obligations) is closer to 65 trillion dollars. Try to calculate that in your head!

According to varying reports approximately 94 million people have quit looking for work in the U. S. These types of numbers have never been seen in our lifetime or the history of this nation. So the unemployment rate of 5% that Washington puts out is far from reality. These things affect us all on a day-to-day basis.

And now on the world stage, the Islamic State is ascendant. Al Qaida and the Taliban are reinventing themselves and committing new atrocities.   Since 9/11 there have been over 27,500 deadly terror attacks around the world. Most of them we never heard about. All of them have been committed by those devoted to Islam.

Every five minutes a Christian is killed for their faith. In the Syrian refugee camps around the world Christians are hunted down day and night and either forcibly converted or killed, “even in their beds.”

The world’s population is in excess of 7 billion people. However, most of the world’s population are not Christians.

Over 64 percent of the world’s population are not Christians. They have not received Jesus as their Savior from God’s wrath against sin and from the confines of sin and death. Consequently, they will spend eternity away from the presence of God in hell.

As we enter the New Year of 2016, with all the volatility of the financial markets, the bad news of the world stage and the negative numbers regarding the eternal destiny of a large percentage of people in the world, these things can create very much uncertainty and deep feeling of being overwhelmed.

However, for a believer, you and I have certainty in the midst of it all.

Three major reminders as we face uncertain times. First of all: God Is Omnipotent. This is the point that gets me most pumped up as I read through the Scriptures. God is all-powerful and there is nothing that can stop His will from being carried out to the fullest. You and I can do nothing apart from Him and nothing can stop us if He is directing our lives no matter what the situation is.

I simply want to read some verses that are found throughout this great book and use it to grow our confidence in the Lord and to challenge us to know Him better and cling to Him in uncertain times. So please save these verses and then visit them later and allow God to minister to you through them.

In Job 42:2 we read; “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” In no way can God’s perfect will and plan be side-stepped, delayed or stopped by human cunning and frailties. What God has determined to do in eternity past will happen.

Genesis 18:4 a rhetorical question is asked, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Look at the spelling – all caps referring to the Uncreated Creator; the self-existent one.

The prophet Jeremiah in his warnings to Judah in Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, LORD God! It is You who have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for You.”

And again he challenges us in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?” We are asked another rhetorical question from the uncreated Creator.

The prophet Zechariah relays this question to Judah and us, in Zechariah 8:6, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in My sight, declares the LORD of hosts?” The people are just coming back into the Promised Land after being in exile for 70 years and what looks miraculous in the eyes of men is pretty standard fare for God.

In the New Testament and the first gospel, Matthew 19:26 we are encouraged, “But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” This is reference to the Rich Young Ruler and response to a question by the disciples on who is able to make it to heaven. And the only certainty of making it to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Gabriel’s message to Mary from the very mouth of God in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God!”

Secondly in the midst of uncertainty we must be reminded that God Is With Us. We know this is true from our Christmas story of Immanuel – God with us.

But it is also true in the here and now. Read again these very familiar words from Scripture to the church recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We know this is true when we are praying in groups as Matthew 18:20 reminds us. “For where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am among them.” Right here and right now Jesus is with us in our midst and hears and sees what is going on.

John 12:26 Jesus says, “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” He will be right there with us wherever we go as we represent Him.

In Jesus high priestly prayer He says: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that you have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” We may be with Him and He with us, what a great certainty in this uncertain world.

This was seen in the life of Paul as he was in prison in one of his journeys for Jesus. In Acts 18:10 we here this from our Savior to the ears of Paul: “For I am with you, and on one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are My people.”

Finally we must know that God Is For Us.

This point is based off of Romans 8:31; “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Even the OT tells us this truth, in Numbers 14:9 we read these words that sound much like the last point but is very good for us to hear. “Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Why not fear them? Because God is for us, even in these uncertain times.

During the time of the prophet Elisha the Israelites were again going astray and the situation that was before them seemed impossible. It was a time when Syria was bearing down on Israel and the enemies army surrounded the city in which the prophet Elisha was residing. Elisha’s assistant saw the enemy’s army the next morning and was terrified and a wave of doom swept over him as he presented the information to the prophet. However, the prophet told his terrified assistant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). Then God opened the eyes of the scared assistant and he was able to take in the countless horses and chariots of fire that was all around Elisha. God makes certain what seems uncertain for those who are His.

Finally 1 John 4:4 “Greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world.” The world is an uncertain place and truly a foreign land for the Christian or follower of Jesus. But God is our certainty and we long for a land that is beyond but until then we strive to become like Him and spread His word and hope in an uncertain world. He is our certainty and as we face this New Year let us go in the confidence of Jesus.


 

January  14th – What Do We Expect?

When we go to a restaurant what do we expect to be served, food right? What do we expect when we order ice cream at the Ice Cream joint, ice cream right? So if you are a Christian when you go to God in prayer what do you expect?

According to the Bible you should expect God to answer you. Read the following words from Jesus: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).

This is a promise of God to those who are His children. Oh yes you and I may pray but do we really expect, down deep in our heart of hearts for God to actually answer our prayer? My hope is that you said yes, but often times there may be a hint of doubt in our hearts and minds that God even listens to our prayers, let alone answer them.

But in the passage before us there seems to be a guarantee given by Jesus that if you go to God He will answer your prayer. But stop and look over the passage again. Jesus gives three imperatives or commands, “Ask,” “Seek,” and “Knock.”

When one asks for something what do they expect? They would expect an answer to the question they asked. When someone seeks for something what do they expect? To find what they are looking for. And when someone knocks on a door what do they expect? They expect the door to be opened by someone.

So if we expect this from everyday people, why would we not expect God to answer when we follow His commands to ask, seek and knock? Jesus is teaching on the power of perseverance in prayer and the expectation for God to answer those who by their perseverance continue in prayer.

Human fathers give “good gifts to your children;” Jesus amps up what His Father in heaven would do for those who are His children. Did you notice the specific items which the son asks for; some bread and a fish? These were staples in the diet at that time. Jesus says that if a human father will give daily sustenance to his son then God will do that and much more to those who have sought Him first (Matthew 6:33).

Paul the apostle writes to the church in Ephesus that God will do far more abundantly than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). So not only can our daily needs be met by God, but so can those things that seem far too large or overwhelming in our lives. But God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. God desires to give to His children and He does in many ways that we might not even grasp or know about until He points it out to us in His own unique way.

Since God is for us, (His children/Christians), we know that He will provide all of our needs and then some. Jesus came to give us life to the full, not only in the good times, but also the mundane times and even the bad times. Why does He allow that? So that we might be made more like Jesus.

So by these few lines of truth from the Scriptures how should you and I, as Christians or followers of Jesus respond to going to God in prayer and asking, seeking and knocking? We should expect God to answer and do it for His glory and our joy.

He’s God and He’s good, what do we expect?

 


 

January 4th – The Narrow Door

Jesus was asked this question, “Lord, will those who are saved be few? And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able’” (Luke 13:23-24, ESV).

One can enter a narrow door but it is neither convenient nor easy for many. If you would take a tour of the U.S.S. York in Charleston, SC you would find that the doors that separate compartments are both narrow and not too high. Someone over six foot tall could very well knock themselves out if they don’t duck and turn slightly to one side or another.

Two words stand out immediately and are worthy of defining; “Strive” and “seek.” One seems aggressive and the other more passive. If they are aggressive verses passive then we have something to wrestle with and decide as we consider following Jesus. Could this be another cost of discipleship passage?

The word for “Strive” in verse 24 we get our English word “agonize.” Its basic meaning is striving for a goal and the goal is for a few to be saved. Another way to possibly put this term is “forcing your way into it” (Amplified version of NT).

If you read a complimentary verse 1 Timothy 4:10 the clarity of what Jesus is speaking of begins to shape up. “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (ESV). In the context of this verse we see Paul the apostle using an athletic illustration to convey what a good servant of Jesus looks and acts like.

A few verses earlier Paul encourages Timothy to train himself for godliness or become more like Jesus in an intensely focused way. When one trains his or her self for an athletic event they must have a one-track mind and that is to be the best they can be at what they’re participating.

Paul also writes to Timothy the following words to further encourage him in his walk of faith: “Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:11-16, emphasis mine).

Paul seems to encourage young Timothy that what he knows of the Scriptures and what Paul had taught him about Christ he was to run with it with great intensity and longevity. Many people compare the Christian life to a marathon and this would be a good example but will all the obstacles that we face throughout life comparing it to a Ironman Triathlon might be a little more accurate.

An Ironman Triathlon is a 2.2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and then a marathon. And these are done back to back to back. You would swim your 2.2 miles and then immediately run and change into your biking outfit on the run and then when you are finished with the 112 mile bike ride you immediately switch to your running shoes and run the marathon. Whew! It makes you sort of tired just writing and reading about this.

The reason these extreme athletes can accomplish this is because of intense focus and much training. For the Christian life it is the same way there must intense focus and much time training in the Scriptures and how to live them out.

Another major difference in the illustration here is that most of the training for the Ironman seems rather individualistic whereas the training for the Christian life must be done en masse. We are to live life together and to see growth and maturity and the lessening the devastating effects of sin we must grow together.

This is called the church when this happens and the church (ecclesia) is called out ones, not called out “one” singular but plural. We definitely do not live on an island no matter how bad one would like to live like that at times, but the church is made up of many different individuals created by God for a specific purpose.

But what we do have in common is to “Strive to enter through the narrow door.” Let us begin living or continue living as the church and progress to greater conformity to the Author and Finisher of our faith – the Lord Jesus Christ!