Rejoice

Romans 8:31-39, “What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect God is the One who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the One who died, but even more, has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”

The Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Rome are only part of what Christ Jesus gave us in His Word, but they are some of the most important and valuable words in the entire Bible.

And every time I mess up, every time I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, think the wrong thing, every time the devil whispers in my ear with the taunting idea that I have slipped out of the grip of Christ, I come back to Romans 8, and I read what Jesus is saying to me through His Word as recorded by His faithful and true servant Paul.

And I rejoice!

And then I read Ephesians 2:4-9 to put a lock on it!                                                        “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.”

My Lord Jesus, You overwhelm me with Your love and grace. I fall, You pick me up, I sin and You forgive me. And no matter how many times I do, You are always there to raise me back up. And when the devil comes with his whispers of doubt and fear, You stand up for me and I can hear Your Word of faith and I know that You are my God.  With all of the praise that I can speak through my lips and all of the glory and honor that my heart and mind can lay at Your feet, I worship You.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Life or Death

Matthew 16:20-22, And He gave the disciples orders to tell no one that He was the Messiah. From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!”

Acts 4:1-2, “Now as they (Peter & John) were speaking to the people, the priests, the commander of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were provoked that they were teaching the people and proclaiming the resurrection from the dead, using Jesus as the example.”

As Christians we know that Jesus died for our sin, was crucified on a cross, buried in a tomb, and on the third day He arose from the dead, leaving behind an empty tomb.

This is the message of the gospel. And just like in the time of Peter and John, there are still Sadducees who are infuriated by the preaching of this message.

At one point during the ministry of Christ, He told some of these religious but faithless men that they were mistaken in their understanding of the resurrection, He said that they didn’t know the Scriptures nor did they know and understand the power of God.

The resurrection is a heavenly matter. It is not one that can be understood or explained in earthly terms.

As we approach the calendar celebration of this blessed event, let us seek to live as though we not only believe in the resurrection of our Savior but walk in it as well.

There will always be Sadducees, there will always be those who do not believe, there will always be those who are willing to compromise their conviction.

Dear Father in heaven,                                                                                                        We know that it is with an inadequate understanding of our carnal minds that we profess to understand the reality of Your resurrection. So open our hearts by Your Spirit to receive a far greater vision of the truth so that we can walk in faith in that reality. Show us by Your Word how to do that, even now as the doubters and the Sadducees increase their attack of our faith in You. In Jesus Name, Amen

 

KNOWING THE “REAL GOD” HAS COME AT A PRICE

His heart pounds as he presses his two young daughters tightly to his chest and
darts into the freezing rain. His wife follows close behind, quietly making her
way through the darkness to the taxi idling outside the family’s home. Faruq and
Jamilah* aren’t safe here anymore; police have finally tracked them down. Faruq
knows they will soon come to arrest him.

The girls are in tears, frightened and shivering after being startled from a deep,
warm sleep. Why are they leaving in the middle of the night, and in this weather,
the driver asks, explaining that the taxi’s heater is broken. Faruq offers a flimsy
excuse and tells him to drive, warming the girls’ tiny feet with his hands as the
taxi speeds away.

This isn’t the first time Faruq has been forced to disappear, but it is for the
same reason — his decision to follow Christ.

At 18, he abandoned the Muslim tradition of his parents in search of what he calls
the “real God.” But for many Christians in Central Asia whose belief in Jesus is
born out of the ashes of a past Islamic faith, Christ’s “free gift” of salvation
comes at a high price.

Faruq’s own nightmare began not long ago. As he prayed alone late one night while
his wife and daughters slept, more than a dozen policemen slipped silently over
the walls surrounding the family’s compound. Within  moments they were inside the
house. Faruq and Jamilah watched in horror as police ransacked their living room,
confiscating Bibles, Christian  books, literature and videos as well as other Gospel
materials. But they didn’t stop there.

The raid was part of a coordinated sting on several suspected Christians; Faruq
knew immediately who sold him out. Earlier that evening, he had discipled a small
group of believers at his home. One brought a new friend who turned out to be a
police informant.

Rounds of interrogation began as soon as Faruq arrived at police headquarters.
Why did he become a Christian? Was someone paying him to convert Muslims? Was
he paid to convert?

The police didn’t like his answers.

“I told them my testimony,” Faruq recounts. “I said, ‘There’s no money.’… Finally
one of these people who were investigating me got very frustrated. He was saying,
‘Why don’t you tell us [the truth]?’ I  said, ‘… the Holy Spirit is changing people,
not me.'”

(Graham, “Knowing the ‘real God’ has come at a price,” Baptist Press, March 14,
2012  http://www.thebereancall.org/).

*Names changed

His Fellowship

Every morning I reach out to my Savior to have fellowship with Him.  I want to know Him not just about Him.  I want to become so familiar with His voice that I will be able to discern it even in the midst of the clamor of this noisy world.  I want to see His presence in my heart. 

The Book of Ruth is a wonderful story of love and devotion.  Ruth, a young widow herself, chose to stay with her recently widowed mother-in-law and instead of returning to her own home in Moab, returned with Naomi to her home in Judah.  After a time, Ruth was noticed by Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s late husband.  He had heard how she had chosen to stay with Naomi instead of returning to her own homeland and her own family. 

While Ruth was working in the fields, gleaning grain that fell behind the workers,  Boaz invited Ruth to have food, and a wonderful verse in chapter 2 says, “Come over here and have some bread and dip it in the vinegar sauce.” So she sat beside the harvesters, and he offered her roasted grain. She ate and was satisfied and had some left over.”
 
Boaz was wealthy.  He was not obligated to this foreigner yet his kindness overflowed onto her.  He saw to it that she was able to gather much grain from bundles left purposely behind and not just what had fallen onto the ground as the harvesters worked.  He was protective in that he ordered all of his men to leave her alone and he made sure that she had water to drink and a place to rest.
 
Doesn’t that sound just like our Jesus, our Beautiful Savior, our Precious Lord?
 
He is wealthy.  In fact, He owns everything that we can see and even all that we can’t see.  He owns every animal in the forest and all the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50) and He had no obligation to do anything for us, the descendents of Adam & Eve, who thought we were rich and in need of nothing, yet in fact, we were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17) but He gave Himself up to the cross for us so that we would have an inheritance in all that God has. (Philippians 2), (Ephesians 1)
 
Do we not owe Him our closest fellowship? 
 
That word ‘fellowship’ means a feeling of friendship, a feeling of mutual support and devotion between those who have the same interests.
 
What are His interests in this world? 
 
Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” And He said that He had come so that we “may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10) 
And the beloved Apostle John said, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3)
 
And do we all share those interests?  Do we look for and seek out opportunities to share His gospel?  We can’t honestly say that we are in fellowship with Him, sharing His interests with sincere devotion to Him, if we don’t.
 
Ruth was given food and she ate and was “satisfied.”
 
When we dine with Him, on the bread and the water that He gives, we too will be satisfied.  And what a wonderful thing it is to share His food.
 
Twice after His resurrection, Jesus ate with some of His disciples.  In Luke it says that at first they were frightened by His appearance in their midst but He showed them His hands and feet and asked for something to eat, and they gave Him some broiled fish. 
But the sweetest meal that I can imagine having with Him was when Simon Peter and several other men, including Thomas and Nathanael had gone fishing.  And when morning came, having spent all night out in the boat but having no fish to show for their effort, though they did not recognize Him, Jesus stood on the shore and directed them to fish on the right side of the boat.  Oh boy, did they catch fish.  Peter suddenly remembers another time when Jesus had told him where to fish and he yells, “It is the LORD!!” (John 21)
 
Imagine how wonderful it was for those men to see their Savior again!  I cry every time I think about it.  And when they got to the shore, Jesus had been busy laying some fish on the coals of a hot fire, and He said, come and have breakfast.
Jesus gave them each bread and the grilled fish and they all ate. What a wonderful breakfast that must have been.. Sitting on the beach with close friends, all listening and watching the LORD Jesus, hearing His voice, seeing His beautiful face.
 
And it right here, on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee), these men, learned what Christ’s interest’s were in the world.
 
“Do you love Me?. . . . feed My lambs. . . .
“Do you love Me?. . . . feed My sheep. . . .
“Do you love Me?. . . . feed My sheep. . . .
 
Spend time listening to His voice as you read and meditate in His Word.  In this way you will have wonderful fellowship with Him and you will learn how to feed His lambs.  For Him to have repeated that directive three times means to me that it was very important to Him.
 
LORD God of all, I know that You own everything and You have been so generous to me.  You have fed me when I hungered and You gave me water when I was parched and dry.  You have washed me clean with Your precious blood, setting my sins as far from You as the East is from the West.  You have clothed me in Your righteousness and given me the privilege to enter into the throne room of God to lay my prayers on Your altar.  I know I can’t repay You for all You have done.  And as Peter answered You when You asked, do you love Me?, yes LORD, I love You.  How can I not.  Help me to show it, enable me to feed Your sheep, give me grace and mercy to share with Your lambs.  Oh God, how I deserve the worst yet You have given me the best.
I bless Your Name LORD Jesus and I will sing Your praise all the days of my life.
Amen

The Good Fight

I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to say as the Apostle Paul did in 2 Timothy 4, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day.”

But times are hard and are getting harder. The enemy is a thief and he has his minions stationed at every turn of the road. Just about the time you think you will have some smooth way, he tosses some garbage into your path.

And it is in these high-tech times that there seems to be a problem with what people consider to be truth. Unless it is backed up by an extreme intellectual argument or scientific proof of some sort, it fails the test. But to a Bible believing Christian, the word truth is spelled JESUS CHRIST. So to us, truth is as simple as believing in Him. And it is the contrast between the ideas of what truth is, that cause a great chasm, so difficult to cross, for those of us who try to obey Christ’s command to take the gospel to all nations.

In my mind, I think the most diabolical tactic that the enemy has is the invasive way that he manipulates people, especially those who are spiritually inquisitive and seeking something deeper in their lives. They are the one’s in the greatest peril.

In John 14:6, Jesus Himself said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Those were His words.  And I believe Him. While there are many groups who will argue saying that there are many roads to God, Jesus said there is only One Way.

The funny thing is, there are many who will accept the first part of that verse, the part that says, I am the way, the truth, and the life, but reject the second part that says, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

That idea seems to be so exclusive that those who are resisting on other levels of faith, find that to be the clincher.

I mean, after all, God couldn’t be that offensive that He would limit access to Himself to such a narrow way.

But the truth is in His Word, Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

Father God,
It is to Your glory and honor that I live and breathe.  As the days grow darker, strengthen me by Your Spirit so that I will be ready and able to share Your gospel and Your Truth with every ear and every eye that I meet along the way.  I look to that day, that day that Your servant Paul spoke of with great joy.  Thank you LORD for Your overflowing grace and mercy.
In Jesus Name, Amen

The Trembling Jailer

The Trembling Jailer by John Newton

A Believer, free from care,
May in chains, or dungeons, sing,
If the Lord be with him there;
And he happier than a king:
Paul and Silas thus confined,
Though their backs were torn by whips,
Yet possessing peace of mind,
Sung His praise wish joyful lips.

Suddenly the prison shook,
Open flew the iron doors;
And the jailer, terror-struck,
Now his captives’ help implores:
Trembling at their feet he fell,
Tell me, Sirs, what must I do
To be saved from guilt and hell?
None can tell me this but you.

Look to Jesus, they replied,
If on Him thou canst believe;
By the death which He has died,
Thou salvation shalt receive:
While the living word he heard,
Faith sprung up within his heart;
And released from all he feared,
In their joy his soul had part.

Sinners, Christ is still the same,
O that you could likewise fear!
Then the mention of His name
Would be music to your ear:
Jesus rescues Satan’s slaves,
His dear wounds still plead, Forgive!
Jesus to the utmost saves;
Sinners, look to Him and live.

Freedom or Liberty

In 1 Corinthians 9 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people.”
 
Thankfully, the battle was fought and won generations ago for our personal freedom.  At least here in America, people are free to choose their own path. 
But as Christians is that really true? 
As I considered the words “freedom” and liberty” I realized that there is a difference between the two meanings.
 
Liberty speaks of the legal or lawfully aspect of freedom.  While the word “freedom” speaks of the lack of obligations that one may or may not have holding them to a situation.  In other words, liberty is our lawful right to choose and freedom is a state of being without obligation to anyone.  Our own Declaration of Independence speaks of the “unalienable right of liberty” that was endowed to us by God, which is just another way of saying that we are at liberty, without the burden of law, to be free to choose what we do and how we do it.

The Apostle Paul said that he was “free from all men”, in other words, he was at liberty to do and go where he pleased, free of any entanglements, yet he said that he had “made himself a servant to all” and his purpose for this self-imposed servitude was to win more, that is, to win more people to Christ.  He recognized that it was because of the liberty that he had found in Christ that he could limit his own personal freedom by placing himself into the posture of a servant.

In 1 Corinthians 10 he wrote,  “Everything is permissible, ”but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.  No one should seek his own good, but the good of the other person.”

I heard a story recently about a sports reporter who was doing a story on one particular baseball player, a Christian, who was standing strong in his faith even in the face of a lot of personal torment.  As the reporter was talking with this young man, one of the coaches happened by and when he overheard some of the conversation he spoke critically to the young player, telling him that instead of wasting time talking about church and the bible that he should be talking about the game that was just played.  As the coach walked off in a huff, the player, who happened to be an all-star pitcher said to the reporter, “I’m sorry about that.  He just doesn’t get it!”

The Apostle Paul “got it”!  He knew that by law he was at liberty do as he pleased, but he was by choice giving up his freedom in order to please God.

We all know that this world is filled with those who “don’t get it.”  Their lives are taken up with the efforts made to gain self-satisfaction, personal pleasure and the acclaim and praise that comes because of their own accomplishments.  They cannot see that Christians must do good but not for the same reasons.  Our best  efforts are made in order to please God.  Everything we do is for His glory, no matter how menial or how important in the eyes of the world.

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul had stated emphatically that he was free.  “Am I not an apostle?”  “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”  “Are you not my work in the Lord?”  He said that we have the right to eat and drink, to marry, to work, to plant and to harvest.  But he said, “I have used none of these rights and I have not written this to make it happen that way for me.”  Paul knew he was a liberty and had the right to do whatever he wanted but he still said, “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

We may not be called to be apostles, preachers or teachers but we still can choose to use our liberty in Christ, our freedom in Christ to live, move and exist (Acts 17), living in a way that is acceptable to God, a lifestyle that causes people to ask us about the hope that we have in Christ. (1 Peter 3)
Every day, those that we know and meet, walk in ways that please only themselves, thinking that the things of the world are so important.  Possessions, wealth, status, comfort and pleasure are the lures that the enemy uses to keep people from seeking God.

As Christians we know that “no soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life” , but instead “seeks to please the recruiter.” (2 Timothy 2)
We must not allow the stuff that seems to ply us with it’s beauty to slow us down or move our feet from His Way.  Our purpose is to share the good news of Christ, to serve Him with all that He has given us, our talents and abilities and bring all of the glory, honor and praise to Him.

Remember what the Apostle John said, “And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” (1 John 2)

Father in heaven, Creator of all things, we pray that you will by Your Holy Spirit, give us the ability to see the difference between the things that will please You and the things we see that will please only ourselves.  We know that You prayed that we would not be taken out of the world but that You would protect us from the enemy that is in the world.  So we ask for that protection now as the world and all of its powers presses in on us and threatens us even as we work to take Your gospel to everyone we meet.  We know that You are the Almighty and we lay our lives at Your feet.  All glory and honor and praise to You in Jesus Name, Amen