Sunday, January 13, 2019

Now, How Shall We Live?

As the elect of Almighty God, how are we to act? How do we change our approach to life in response to the election and gift of salvation we have been given in the life and sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?

First, let's look at the groundwork that provided our opportunity to become children of God.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6

"For so the Lord has commanded us: 'I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.' Now when the Gentiles heard this they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Acts 13:47, 48,

"He was in the world, and world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." John 1:10-13

"...he prophesied that Jesus would die for the the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad." John 11:51,52

So, as God called us to be His children of through faith in Jesus Christ, the only perfect life ever and our Savior through His sacrifice on the Cross, where He took on our sins (past, present and future), it becomes obvious that our life should be lived as He lived His.

"You have heard that it was aid, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say (Jesus) to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..." Matthew 5:44,45

In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus lays out the perfect life, knowing full well we are incapable of living it as He did. Throughout the New Testament, Christ shows us and tells us how God wants us to be as His children. So, did God call us and provide us a way unto salvation just to set us up for failure?

Of course not, that is why His forgiveness is never ending in the face of our repentance. His word says He separates us from our sin as far as the East is from the West. He also knows we are a work in progress and has, upon our placing our faith in Jesus, given us His Spirit and power. This is a gift that is more than sufficient for our new life, but we must learn to use it and rely on Him and not ourselves.

"...that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:17-19

When first reading this verse, I asked myself what the "fullness of God" could be. I know that the Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us when we recognize His instruction, but then another verse came to my mind and, to me, it was at least one example of the fullness of God.

In Romans 8:26,27, Paul tells us of yet another provision God has made for our walk as children of the Most High, "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

Is that not wonderful! Jesus told us that all we have to do is ask in His name and, if it is within the will of God, it will be granted (John 14:13,14). And here we find that our human inadequacies are even covered in our prayer life by God's gift of the Holy Spirit.

"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together." Romans 8:16,17

It is our task to give up the way we used to think and the way we used to do things and submit totally to Gods direction and path for our life. I Corinthians 10:13 is a promise to live by....."No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6

So, I say, let us give up and get on with His plan!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Blessing In Trouble

"Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble."  Job 14:1

Probably not a verse chosen by most for encouragement, but in context with my life, I find it gives me hope (and by hope I mean expectation), encouragement and it works to strengthen my faith in God.

To give me all these things, I had to accept that this verse is a very concise and accurate description of the fate humanity brought upon itself  with original sin. No where in God's word are we promised happiness, peace and the good will of our fellow man. On the contrary, Job points out the "trouble" we have to look forward to in the few days we are on this earth.

When I examine my life in the light of this verse, I have to admit that I have had a good share of trouble, stress, lack of peace and joy, but I do have many patches of the opposite. This verse in Job helps me to understand that those periods of peace and harmony, of relaxation and lack or worry, they are each and every one a Blessing from God. It helps me to cherish each and every moment of God's peace and be thankful. These days without trouble bolster my expectations through Jesus Christ and they affirm for me that God is ultimately in charge!

No matter what He may allow in the spiritual realm and in our world, He has already won the battle for us and gives us these glimpses of His plans for us as we wait, sometimes not so patiently, for the fullness of time.

Thank you, God, for encouragement through the darkness!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

He Is My Refuge

My Old Testament reading on a recent morning was Psalms 73 and 74. All of it was beautiful, plaintiff and inquiring, but one verse among them all, Psalms 73:28 stood out to me. It reads "But my chief good is to be near You, God; I have chosen you, Lord God, to be my refuge, and I shall recount all your works."

As I thought about the verse, I realized, thank you God, that His greatest work in my life was to choose me to give refuge. Not only did He choose me, but He had to make a way because I am not, on my own, worthy to be in His Presence.

In John 6, verse 44, Jesus says it plainly, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day."

I may have made my decision for Christ, but it could never have happened unless God had chosen me first. Thank you, God, and I know that I have and will have many more works in my life that I can recount to others that You have chosen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"I Am He"

As Jesus knew His time on earth was coming to a close and thought of the things He was about to endure, what must have been going through His mind? The answer is the condition of His disciples and the eventuality of us.

In John 17, verse 15, it reads "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one." In other words, we have a job to do, one that was laid out for us before the foundation of the world. Some might say that He was talking about the disciples and apostles in this verse, but continuing to verse 20 we see that we were in His thoughts also...."I do not pray for these alone,  but also for those who will believe in Me through their word...."

Jesus had been talking to His disciples about what was going to happen and He knew they were frightened and really didn't understand that this had to happen and that Jesus was going to "let" it happen. God's word says that Jesus said that they did not take His life, but he "layed it down".

John 10:18 says, "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."

When the time came.....I noticed a difference in the account of the arrest in my readings in John and that difference, to me, just further indicated Jesus' concern for the mindset of His disciples who were going to build His church. I don't know why I had'nt notice this before.

In chapter 18 of John, starting in verse 4, it reads "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him went forward and said to them, 'Whom are you seeking?' They answered Him, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' Jesus said to them, 'I am He." And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground.

Jesus divinity and power could not have been more evident at the time, especially to His disciples. It seems as though Peter took it as a sign to fight and pulled his sword and attacked, but Jesus rebuked him with these words..."Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given me?"

I am confident of His divinity and comforted by His prayers for me. I am sure I am going to falter and get weary and wonder how I will survive, but I know He has a provision for me. That provision is the Holy Spirit and my prayer life.

In Luke when Jesus found His disciples asleep while He prayed, He woke them with these words, "Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into tempation." Luke 22:46

Lord, help me to remember to bathe everything in "prayer and supplication in the Spirit..." Eph. 6:18

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Take Up Your Cross

In the ninth chapter of Luke, the 23rd verse, Jesus says to those who want to follow Him, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me."

That has always been such an ominous verse to me. With visions of Christ on the cross, reinforced by scenes from 'The Passion of Christ' it has always seemed such an impossible task for a mere mortal, and imperfect mortal at that, to accomplish.

But, as I contemplated God's word and it's implication for me and prayed about what God wanted of me, I began to see a picture. The verse says to pick up my cross daily. I have come to understand that, as a believer indwelled by the Holy Spirit, God has promised to guide, convict and direct my life. His word says, "Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path."

To take up my cross daily, I am careful not to ignore or grieve the Holy Spirit, but to listen to His conviction and correction, repent, ask for forgiveness based on the work of my Saviour and nail that offense to the cross and move on in the work before me.

Does that mean it is over and done and I am good to go? No, even the offense crucified today may require it again tomorrow. That is why Jesus tells us to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. And, it is why I can continue in the knowledge that He died and was crucified for my sins...past, present and future.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Another Generation

In Judges, after Joshua's death, we find in Chapter 2, verse 10, this notation and, personally, it is one that scares me.....

"When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel."

The book goes on to tell how the new generation "did evil in the sight of the Lord" and worshiped other gods and it angered the Lord and He "delivered them into the hands of plunderers."

The Jewish people had been told to write the law on their hearts and to pass it on to their children. Obviously, this did not happen. Did they not acknowledge God as He provided for them in both war and peace after bringing them to the land promised to their forefathers? Did they forget what He had done or just take it for granted?

Do our children know the Lord? Are we careful to acknowledge God in the many blessings and mercies that we receive? I was thinking that, yes, I do, but do I share that acknowledgement. It isn't enough to say a prayer of thanks to God, my children and my friends must know that my God provides for me in so many ways, including my salvation and eternity.

In the New Testament, Jesus said the "harvest is great, but the workers are few." We must spread the Good News in both Word and deed. I want to make sure that when I am "gathered to my fathers"  the next generation within my territory knows the Lord and all that He has done for me! I don't want to be any part of the reason God might have for delivering those who come up after me to the plunderers!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Secret of Forgiveness

For years I searhed for the secret of being able to forgive those who do their best to destroy me in one fashion or another. I found, in the last chapter of Genesis a verse that should be the foundation of all your contemplation of forgiveness.

 In Genesis 50:20 Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery in Egypt, "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as IT IS THIS DAY, to save many people alive."

As I look back on the wrongs done to me in the past, instead of harboring hate and resentment in my heart against those who did them - as I used to- I try to think of them in the light of this verse. I am not saying it is an easy thing to do or that I have been able to make it happen immediately in all situations, but it is necessary if we are to be in right relationship with God. It helps me to catalogue the good that resulted, good that would not have been had the evil not been first, evil that changed the course of my life in a direction charted by God.

It is a given that this will be our lot in life here on earth thanks to Adam and Eve. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they sealed mankind's fate. We cannot have knowledge of good without first knowing evil. What God wants for us is that we choose good when we experience the other and the best way to start is with forgiveness.

Without a doubt, the greatest example of this in found in Christ upon the cross. After being nailed to the cross between two theives, the Man who had led a perfect and sinless life, is recorded in Luke 23:34 as saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

What they all meant for evil against Jesus, God meant for good in order to bring about the very day, so that many people would live in God's presence for eternity.