Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday Praise! - March 31, 2012

Psalm 111(New International Version)
1 Praise the LORD.[Hallelijah!]
I will extol the LORD with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

2 Great are the works of the LORD;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant forever—
holy and awesome is his name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Confident In God - March 30, 2012

Philippians 3:2-7 (New International Version)
2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

These days when you ask someone whether or not they think they will go to heaven when they die, you often get answers like,"Sure!I go to church occasionally and I'm a good person.", "I'm not that bad...I'm better than that other guy!", or "If my good outweighs my bad, I think I will!". The answer to this question are as varied as the people who are asked. The problem is that in today's world, people have too much "Self-Confidence" when it comes their salvation.

Not that confidence in many things is wrong, but in terms of whether or not we will spend eternity with God, we can't make it with our own efforts. If you take time to study the wisdom of the Bible, you will began to discover that the Old Testament God reveals His divine Law and points to a future Messiah that will rescue us from mankinds in-ability to keep the Law, while the New Testament reveals the Messiah as Jesus Christ as the one who accomplishes the Law.

The Law(The Ten Commandments or the Mosaic Law)acts as a mirror, in which we look at ourselves to see whether or not we measure up to God's standards. How many of us have looked at another with lust? Yet, Jesus in Matthew 5:28 tells us that if we do, we have committed adultrey. And how many have taken something that didn't belong to us, no matter how small and insignificant? Yet, that very act makes us guilty of stealing. Even looking at the guy across the street and being jealous of his new Porsche makes us guilty of coveting!

When we realize that as human beings we cannot get by without breaking God's Law, we should discover that we are hopelessly lost, because one single act of breaking God's Law makes us guilty of them all and condemns us to separation from God for eternity (damnation). It is not pleasant to read, and many of us just ignore it thinking that it will go away, but the truth is that someday we will stand before the judgement of God which will determine our eternal existence.

That is what Paul was pointing out in the verses in Philippians above. There were Jews that were persecuting new gentile(the common, non-Jewish person)Christians, because they were not following certain rules and regulations that had been imposed on the Jewish people. Paul was making a point that we can place no confidence in man's laws, rules and regulations for salvation.

In fact after the Law was given to the Jewish people, they went on to list 613 commandments in the Torah, and added to that additional traditions for Jewish living in the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, and the Talmud. But it is not only the Jewish religion, in fact every other religion out there require works on our own behalf to have a hope of salvation(ask any Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Muslim, etc. how they know whether or not they are saved). It is only because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, on the cross as the payment for our sins before a Holy God, that we have the assurance of being "saved".

I do not rely on my own "self", but I place my "confidence" of salvation in Jesus and Jesus Christ alone. Paul says it best, and it is easiest to understand in the New Century Version of the continuation of the text above:

8 Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ9 and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him.10 I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death.11 Then I have hope that I myself will be raised from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11 (New Century Version)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Walking On Water - March 29, 2012

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Living Translation)
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We are often faced with the trials and storms of life, and most of us try to make do things ourselves. We struggle against the "heavy waves" of life and our spirits take quite a pounding as we stubbornly go our own way. Usually the harder we try the more difficult the challenges become, until we find ourselves crying out for help.

The story of Jesus walking on water demonstrates a few things to us. First we see where Jesus sends his disciples ahead, while he stays behind to pray. I believe that Jesus sent them out by themselves to test them; He allows a storm to come up to see what they would do. Notice that in the midst of the storm, when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they were slow to recognize him. In fact they looked first for an impossible explanation rather than to think that Jesus was capable of this action.

Next we see that Jesus is quick to alleviate their fear, by telling them not to be afraid. Then in a step of faith, Peter steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. But instead of focusing on Jesus, Peter lets the storm around him get the better of him and he begins to sink. Jesus as the eternal Savior reaches out to help him, but he is disappointed that Peter's faith is not strong enough to believe that he could do the impossible.

We like Peter are often limited in how we overcome the difficulties of life, because we will not totally surrender to Jesus, and in deep faith know that He will help us do the impossible. We would rather try to do it on our own. My call to you is this, you need to grow your faith to the point that you are completely committed to the Savior. You need to be confident that in everything, Jesus will help you through. Most of all, we need to never give up our faith when the "wind and waves" beat down on us. Instead we need to strengthen our faith even more, and be assured that God will help us through to "calm waters".

Are you facing a storm in your life right now? Reach out to Jesus and ask him to save you. He will take you by the hand, help you "walk upon the water", and lift you into the place of peace and safety. Figurative as this might seem, if you truly believe you will overcome any storm life throws against you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pit Stop - March 28, 2012

Psalm 119:65-72 (New International Version)
T Teth
65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, O LORD.

66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I believe in your commands.

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.

68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.

69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.

70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.

71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.

72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

Psalm 40:2 (New International Reader's Version)
2 I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out. He brought me up out of the mud and dirt. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand on.

As I read portion of Psalm 119, written by this pious priest long ago, his humanity really shows itself as he lifts his prayer to God. He reminds me that I too was "afflicted" and "I went astray". I was on a path to destruction and death. It reminded me of my "pit stops" in life.

Those were times that I was really a long way from God, and because of it I went through a lot of trouble and turmoil in my life. These days I look upon those difficulties, those times in the "pit" as time well spent. It was in these "pit stops" in my life that I realized my condition and I looked for something better. It was in these times that I cried out to God for help, and He rescued me from my terrible situation. It was there that I discovered the amazing grace found only in Jesus.

It is interesting to me that I now look at those terrible experiences as blessings, because they pointed me to Jesus Christ. Without him I would have never found forgiveness and restoration; I would have never discovered the life that God has made available by sending me a Savior. Without the bad things in my life, I would never have realized the good and wonderful things of life; I would never have had the blessings of a lovely wife, children, family, and a secure future knowing that God has much more in store for me.

If you are reading this and you feel like your life has left you in the "pit" of hurt and dispair; if you feel like there is no way out of your terrible situation, that you are trapped and do not know what to do; call on the name of Jesus. Ask God to forgive you and admit that you can't do it on your own. Give your hurt and pain, the "mud and dirt" that is your life, and surrender it all to Him. He will pull you out, clean you up, plant His Word in your heart, and set your feet on a "firm place to stand", the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

True Freedom - March 27, 2012

Romans 6:1-2,12-13,23 (New Living Translation)
1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
12 Do not let sin control the way you live do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

What a wonderful thing living in Jesus Christ can be. No longer do we have to dwell in our past, in our old selves. Everything we were and did in the past has been wiped clean in the eyes of God because of Jesus's work. Then why do some of us seem to do the same old habits over and over again, even though God has forgiven them? How come we don't feel free from them?

That is because in our minds, we are still a "slave" to them. Even though we understand and believe in our hearts that Jesus has died for our sins and freed us from them, it is hard for many of us to believe that the payment is truly enough. It is hard to believe that God has truly forgiven us. It is hard to understand that we can be made right with God without doing something ourselves.

The wonderful fact of the Gospel, the good news that we find in the Bible, is that Jesus was God in the flesh and he gave his life a penalty for our sins. He then stepped out of the grave and went back to his rightful place in heaven. He has given us this wonderful free gift.

To claim it and to truly be freed from the bondage of your sin, you have to truly surrender your life to Jesus. Give your entire self, mind, soul and body to his service. How do you do this? Take the time to sit down, by yourself, seek God in prayer, and just let Him lead your thoughts. Ask Him for help. He will give it to you, but it takes giving it all to Him. Do this until the Holy Spirit confirms in your heart that you are God's.

It takes time, but if you will seek Him in this way every chance you get, it will happen. When you get up, think about how God would want you to spend your day. At work, think about what Jesus would do in each and every circumstance and encounter. And, at the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit to give you His assurance and comfort that you belong to God. Give up trying to do it alone. Take the time to let God help you and you will truly be set free.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Critical People - March 26, 2012

Luke 6:41-42 (New Century Version)
41 "Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your friend, 'Friend, let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye' when you cannot see that big piece of wood in your own eye! You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend's eye.

Are you a critical person? I mean do you find fault with those around you? Do you always see a better way that someone else could be doing something? Do you tend to be a little judgemental with those closest to you? All of these questions pertain to the person that is hyper-critical; that person that is always finding fault with others.

I really believe Jesus was talking about a matter of the "heart and soul" when he made these comments about finding fault with others. In fact he pointed out that usually the person finding fault will pick at the most insignificant thing, while they have a huge problem themselves. What Jesus is pointing out is that unless we are without fault, we should not be pointing out the faults in others.

Often those that are hyper-critical are not looking at the other person in love. If you are exhibiting the true love of Christ, the kind he showed us by dying for our faults, you will see past the faults and problems of others and see the good in them. If you have the "heart and soul" of Jesus, you will build people up and overcome their fault with your overwhelming love. Jesus saw past our significant problems and faults and gave himself to us anyway. Isn't it time we did the same?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

God's Retirement Plan - March 25, 2012

Proverbs 27:23-27 (Amplified Bible)
23Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and look well to your herds;

24For riches are not forever; does a crown endure to all generations?

25When the hay is gone, the tender grass shows itself, and herbs of the mountain are gathered in,

26The lambs will be for your clothing, and the goats [will furnish you] the price of a field.

27And there will be goats' milk enough for your food, for the food of your household, and for the maintenance of your maids.

When you first read these verses in Proverbs, it may seem a bit confusing. It deals with things that involves farming and raising animals, and you may ask yourself, "what does it have to do with me?". As is with many topics in the Bible, these passages were written many centuries ago and are associated with the culture of that time, but if you examine it closely and apply the ideas to today, these truths from God begin to make a lot of sense. His wisdom is timeless, when you understand what is being said and use the principles for in your life today.

What Solomon is talking about in this wisdom given to him by God, concerns our personal or family finances. Here we are encouraged to always examine our financial state of affairs, and our position in our work for the future. It warns that just because we have been able to earn and build up wealth at one time, doesn't mean that it will last forever. We must diligently pay attention to what we have been blessed with and saved, making sure it is invested wisely. If we will do so, we will reap the rewards of our diligence by having provision in our later years.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Praise! - March 24, 2012

Psalm 95 (New International Version)

1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

3 For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the desert,

9 where your fathers tested and tried me,
though they had seen what I did.

10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways."

11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
"They shall never enter my rest."

It is good to remember our God in praise and thanksgiving, especially on a day that is set aside for worship every week. If you do take out a regular time of worship, you begin to lose intimacy that can you gain with your Heavenly Father in the company of other Christians.

I have heard many people say, " I worship God my own way. I don't need to go to church", but I have felt the Holy Spirit move more intensely when I have worshipped with others. Much is gained in the presence of other like-minded believers, sharing in a time of instruction from God's word, corporate praise, communal worship, and corporate prayer.

When we leave this life and go into the next, I believe we will be joined with countless others that are joined together in praise and worship of our God. Make a decision to weekly and consistenly take a day and give your time to God. He will bless the rest of your time and the rest of your week for doing so.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible" - March 23, 2012

1 Peter 2:12 (New Century Version)
12 People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.

You never know who is watching you. You never know what you do as a witness for Jesus Christ might make the difference to whether or not someone comes to know the Lord. When we take on the mantle of "Christian", our lives no longer are our own. We need to remember that we now work for the Creator of the universe. We now are the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying world around us, and we need to be His example.

I was reading a book in my "library" today, and I came across a short little poem that really brought the point I have been trying to get across over the last couple of days:

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible"

I am my neighbor's Bible:
He reads me when we meet,
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street;
He may be a relative or a friend,
Or a slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me.
- Author Unknown

Each and everyday someone is searching for something different than the troubled world in which we are living. Someone out there wants to have something that they can believe in that will bring change to their lives. If we are Christians, we have that life changing difference. But others will never know it, unless we live like we do.

It's not easy, but we were never promised it would be. It is important that we understand this point, because it is a matter of life and death for many. It is time we stepped out of our comfort zones and made a difference in the lives of other people. Time for us to be the examples that God has called us to be.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Can You Lose Your Salvation? - March 22, 2012

Hebrews 6:4-6 (New International Version)
4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
4Some people once had God’s light. They experienced the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit. 5They experienced the goodness of God’s word and the powers of the world to come. 6Yet, they have deserted Christ. They are crucifying the Son of God again and publicly disgracing him. Therefore, they cannot be led a second time to God.

Can you lose your salvation? Once you have believed and accepted that Jesus died as a payment in full for our sins, can you fall back into a sinful life and be lost forever? This has always been a hard passage for many, and it has always been a source of anxiety for Christians.

The Bible seems to state so clearly that once we come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that God will not ever let you fall away. Read these words from Jesus:

John 6:37-40 (New Living Translation)
37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Paul also touched on this in these verses from his letter to the Romans:

Romans 8:35-39 (New International Reader's Version)

35 Who can separate us from Christ's love? Can trouble or hard times or harm or hunger? Can nakedness or danger or war? 36 It is written,
"Because of you, we face death all day long.
We are considered as sheep to be killed." —(Psalm 44:22)

37 No! In all these things we will do even more than win! We owe it all to Christ, who has loved us.

38 I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God's love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can do that. 39 Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God's love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

There has long been a dispute between those who believe in "eternal security" and those who don't. Those on the "eternal security" side state that once you have been saved, even if you backslide (fall back into a sinful lifestyle), you will always be saved from going to hell. The other side believes that if you fall back into a sinful lifestyle, you can lose your salvation and end up in hell. The verses above in Hebrews certainly seem to confirm this.

This is how I see it: First of all, if your conscience is bothering you whether or not you have passed the point stated in the verse above, then you are probably alright. Not that you should be testing God by continuing to sin, but I believe that if you truly believe with you whole being that Jesus Christ died for your sins, you have accepted His work on the cross, that God has forgiven you, and from that point on you will seek to lead a new life God's way, you are going to spend eternity with Him. The Bible is too full of promises for the repentant believer for it to be any other way.

The important word here is "repentance", turning away from your former life of sin. Once you have accepted Christ's work of salvation, a believer should always be continually working on living the right way with God's help, and working on Jesus being the Lord of their life:

Philippians 2:12-13 (New International Version)
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Second of all, it defeats God's purpose for our lives if we are constantly wondering if we are saved or not. Christ died once in for all for the sins of all the people; past, present and future. Once we have accepted this, we need to move on, working daily to know God better and seeking to please Him. Doing otherwise, puts the focus on our works, rather than on what Jesus did on our behalf.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (New International Version)
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So if you are worried whether or not you will lose your salvation, good. Stop doing the things you shouldn't, turn away from it and start leading the life that God expects you to live.

This is a reposting of a previous post. I felt this topic is one worth repeating for those who might not have seen it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Mustard Seed - March 21, 2012

Matthew 13:31-32 (New International Version)
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Jesus spoke in many parables, instructing people in terms of what they could understand. He often used familiar circumstances and objects from their daily lives, so that those who were meant to understand his teaching could do so. On the surface these parables seem to be just simple stories, but when if you meditate on them and seek God's wisdom in them, they take on a much bigger meaning.

The parable of the mustard seed is one such parable. Jesus used the tiniest of seeds in his time to illustrate many concepts in his teaching. In my opinion, Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate what was to happen to the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus brought with him. We understand that the kingdom he is talking about is the reign of Christ in the hearts of mankind, and the belief and obedience we have in faith in him.

The Kingdom of Heaven started in the smallest of towns in a remote corner of the world, as a baby in the manager. God planted his Son in the world to live among us and proclaim the message of the Kingdom of Heaven. His message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on our behalf took root, grew and spread throughout the world, and those who took hold and believed the message were able to find rest and comfort in the shelter of his love, mercy and grace.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Accurate and Infallible - March 20, 2012

Revelation 4:1-3 (New International Reader's Version) 1 After this I looked, and there in front of me was a door standing open in heaven. I heard the voice I had heard before. It sounded like a trumpet. The voice said, "Come up here. I will show you what must happen after this."

2 At once the Holy Spirit took complete control of me. There in front of me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 The One who sat there shone like jewels. Around the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.

Revelation 22:1-6 (New Living Translation)
1 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

3 No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. 4 And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

6 Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

In the Book of Revelation, after the messages of Jesus to the churches, John gets very descriptive about his visions of Heaven. We are taken into the very presence of God and the throne room of Heaven, after which we read through a long narrative about what occurs to the earth and mankind. It is interesting reading the visions of future things through the eyes of someone living almost 2000 years ago.

I am very confident that what I read must be accurate, because rarely is a person as detailed about what they are seeing unless they truly witness what they describe. Yet in today's society, what is written in the Bible is rarely taken at face value. I would chose to believe that all that is in the Bible is accurate and infallible given to us by God.

The more you read and study the Bible for yourself, the more you will be able to trust in the literal meaning of what you are reading. God through the Holy Spirit has a way of opening up your mind to understanding, if you have surrendered yourself to Him. You can trust that, “Everything you have heard and seen (read and studied) is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets (and brings understanding to His people), has sent his angel (and inspired authors)to tell his servants what will happen soon.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Continuing Education - March 19, 2012

Psalm 119:33-40 (New International Version)
h He
33 Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees;
then I will keep them to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law
and obey it with all my heart.

35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
for there I find delight.

36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
and not toward selfish gain.

37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
preserve my life according to your word.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
so that you may be feared.

39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
for your laws are good.

40 How I long for your precepts!
Preserve my life in your righteousness.

Psalm 119:33-40 (The Message)

33-40 God, teach me lessons for living
so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
my whole life one long, obedient response.
Guide me down the road of your commandments;
I love traveling this freeway!
Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
and not for piling up loot.
Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
Affirm your promises to me—
promises made to all who fear you.
Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
but what you say is always so good.
See how hungry I am for your counsel;
preserve my life through your righteous ways!

If you are a licensed practioner in the State of Texas, whether it is for real estate, juris prudence, nursing or other, you have to do continuing education to be able to keep up your license to practice your vocation. It assures the public that the person that is serving them is up to date on all things new and the latest trends, technology and knowledge of their craft.

What does this have to do with the Bible passage above you may ask? The faithful priest who penned this psalm shares with us his heart for seeking more learning and guidance from God. He asks God for teaching, insight, guidance, and desire for the wisdom and counsel of God, and he asks God to keep him from focusing on the wrong things, whether it be material things or criticism. He wants to have a divine education on all things of God.

As we get older we should be getting wiser. This is true of worldly things, and it needs to true of Godly things as well. It doesn't matter if you are a new believer or have followed Jesus Christ for many many years. We need to always be passionately seeking a divine education from God. He loves us and enjoys directing us and giving us wisdom. This is easily proven. How many times have you read a Bible verse that means something to you, only to read it again much later and it has a totally new and deeper meaning?

Until our dying day, if we stay close to God and His teaching, we will constantly be learning new and different things that will prepare us for our eternal lives with Him. Belief in Jesus Christ is only the first step; our divinely inspired education is meant to complete the process of getting us ready for the afterlife. Focus on Him by meditating on the verses from this section of the psalm. Ask God to teach you, give you, direct you and turn you in the same way the priest asks for above, and He will give you the continuing education you need to properly follow Him.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Instructions While Waiting - March 18, 2012

Jude 1:17-25 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
17Dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect: 18“In the last times people who ridicule God will appear. They will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the people who cause divisions. They are concerned about physical things, not spiritual things.

20Dear friends, use your most holy faith to grow. Pray with the Holy Spirit’s help. 21Remain in God’s love as you look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life. 22Show mercy to those who have doubts. 23Save others by snatching them from the fire of hell. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

24God can guard you so that you don’t fall and so that you can be full of joy as you stand in his glorious presence without fault. 25Before time began, now, and for eternity glory, majesty, power, and authority belong to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What should we do then while we wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus for his people, the church? Are we to get what some call "bunker mentality"? Should we cloister ourselves within our own Christian community and wait?

The problems of our society and the world today are because people did not follow the directions found in the Bible. Unfortunately, most actually decided to not be concerned with the world, but to focus just on being a good little Christain. Fact is that Jesus did not say "wait for me", he said "go into all the world"(Matthew 28:19,Mark 16:15)

We need to be active in our society, focused on doing the work of God, by being the ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. We are to be the image of Jesus Christ to the dying world, building and strengthening the faith of those who have doubts, and teaching those who have not heard, the life-saving message of the Savior.

It will be a difficult assignment, and we will encounter our share of criticism and ridicule. But the promise is clear, God will help and equip us through the work of the Holy Spirit, and someday He will bring us to Himself. Our job is to accept the assigment and do our part in accomplishing His work.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Praise! - March 17, 2012

Psalm 98 (New International Version)

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

2 The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

3 He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;

5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,

6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.

8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;

9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

As you have enjoy a beautiful weekend and as you prepare for your new week, let us be mindful of God who has given us everything. Let us pause to give Him glory and praise. Have a great Sunday!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Counting the Cost - March 16, 2012

Mark 10:28-30 (New Living Translation)
28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

Luke 14:33 (The Message)

33"Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be my disciple.

What are you willing to do to be a Christian? To what lengths are you willing to go to follow Jesus? We all have read the stories of countless believers that gave up everything, even their very lives for the cause of Christ. All but 1 of the disciples were martyred, Paul was beheaded, thousands upon thousands of Christians were hunted down and killed in the first several hundred years of the church.

In the last century, the Ottoman Turks exterminated 1.5 million Armenian Christians, and countless millions of professing Christians died at the hands of the Japanese and Germans in World War II. The Communist purges in Russia, China and North Korea, crushed many Christians that stood against them. We don't need to look to far today to see the persecution of Chritians in many countries around the world, especially those dominated by Sharia law. Their have been more followers of Jesus killed in the last 100 years than have died in the last 2000 years. Would we be able to stand up to the same persecution?

Jesus has called us, and he has set a very high standard for us to achieve as believers. His words above are very clear, that we need to be prepared to give up everything to follow him. At the same time he promises great reward, eternal life with God. Are we willing to stand up to this challenge from our Savior? A time may come in our future when we may be confronted with giving up everything. Will you be ready?

Photo by Khalil Hamra, AP

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Taking a Stand for Jesus - March 15, 2012

John 15:18-20 (New Living Translation)
18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.

How are we living out our faith? If we are professing ourselves as Christians, claiming that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, do the people around us know it? Does our daily behavior in our homes, at work and as we interact socially, reflect Jesus to those around us? Do our neighbors and those at school know?

Unforunately for us in the South, the Bible Belt as they call it, being a "Christian" is almost like being a member of a country club or social organization. Or many of us spend all of our time in the "Holy Huddle" and rarely step out of our comfort zone to make any significant impact on the world around us. Does the world hate you, or does it love you and call you one of their own?

Jesus was sharing the Passover celebration with his disciples, just before he would go through the agony of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. He was preparing them for the time ahead, when he would no longer be with them. In the words noted above, we see the guideline for whether or not we are truly his followers.

In contrast to the "country club Christian", across the world in almost every country, many Christians are undergoing "persecution" for their faith. May be it is just be ridiculed and ostracized for truly following their faith, or maybe it's being shunned by fellow workers or other family members. Worse yet, many around the world are actually being killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. They are truly losing everything they have, just to follow the way, the truth and the life God has given to us.

Why are true Christians hated? First, we point out that we all are sinners in need of a Savior. Next, we believe that Jesus Christ and his work on the cross on our behalf is the only way that we can truly be reconciled to God and forgiven for that sin. And last, as true Christians we try to point everyone we can to Jesus as Savior. We should see a hurting and dying world, that is doomed to eternal separation from God if they do not accept the truth of Jesus. We should be about the business of spreading the good news of the hope found only in Christianity.

So I ask again, how are we living out our faith? Do those that are in the world hate us? Are we impacting the lives of those in need of hope and salvation? Do we share Jesus every opportunity we get? I don't know if you have been paying attention to the state of world lately, but now is the time for us to truly make an impact for eternity.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Holy, Holy, Holy - March 14, 2012

Revelation 4:6b-11(New International Version)
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Acting Like the Ant - March 13, 2012

Proverbs 6:6-11;10:4;13:4 (New International Reader's Version)
6 You people who don't want to work, think about the ant! Consider its ways and be wise! 7 It has no commander. It has no leader or ruler. 8 But it stores up its food in summer. It gathers its food at harvest time.

9 You lazy people, how long will you lie there? When will you get up from your sleep? 10 You might sleep a little or take a little nap. You might even fold your hands and rest.

11 Then you would be poor, as if someone had robbed you. You would have little, as if someone had stolen from you.
Proverbs 10:4
4 Hands that don't want to work make you poor. But hands that work hard bring wealth to you.
Proverbs 13:4
4 People who refuse to work want things and get nothing. But the longings of people who work hard are completely satisfied.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 (New International Version) 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

It is clear in the passages above that God is does not like people that are lazy, although being a little lazy is probably the favorite passtime of teenagers. He has made us to work, which began with Adam in the garden. The different verses above call us to work diligently and to avoid laziness.

It is important for especially the men reading this that you work to provide for family and as the passage in 1 Thessalonians says, "to work with your hands that you will not be dependent on anybody." The pursuit of a God-given vocation in my opinion is a way that we worship the God who created us to do it. When we fully use the gifts and talents that we are blessed with for the benefit of our families and others around us, then we are truly worshiping the God who made us. I truly believe that we will spend eternity doing some kind of work for the Lord, and what we do now with all our heart, has alot to do with what we will do for eternity.


Now is where politics comes into my comments. Our forefathers came to this country and established our nation so that they could work freely for the benefit of their own families, and for the benefit of each other, and not for the state. I believe this is refelected in the Declaration Of Independence where it states that, "they(Men & Women) are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We are free in this country to choose and pursue our vocation, our work, without hinderance as long as it does not violate the law or the rights of others. Unfortunately, we are on the verge of creating a society where many will work for to support the few; where the "ants" will be required to work to support the "lazy people". How will this be done? Through the votes of those who live on the hand-outs from the government and pay no taxes, that are served by those who work hard and pay all the taxes. Now is the time to change the mis-directed course of our nation by electing only politicians that support our founding principles.

Our country does not owe someone a job or a living. It is up to the individual to utilize their God-given abilities to be responsible and provide for themselves. Our government whould be required to protect us from those outsiders who choose to harm us, and to provide order and organization for the benefit of a civil society. It is up to us, to not only follow the admonition of these verses from the Bible, but to also be sure that we pass them on as instruction for our children and those who come after us.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Reign of the Heavens- March 12, 2012

Mark 1:14-15 (New International Version)
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Matthew 4:17 (Young's Literal Translation)
17From that time began Jesus to proclaim and to say, `Reform ye, for come nigh hath the reign of the heavens.'

What people do to have heaven on earth? What amount of money would they pay? What length would they go to have a taste of heaven? Mankind has tried for ages to have utopia in this world, an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system, an attempt to create an ideal society where everyone lives in harmony.

The Jews of Jesus time felt that if the Messiah came and conquered all of their oppressors, they would have their utopian Kingdom of God. The Romans of the day felt that as long as they subjugated all of the inhabitants of the known world and created the perfect Republic, wherein the "beauties of society" reigned as Plato had written about, they would have the perfect world.

If you look at different translations, you will notice that the Kingdom of Heaven, or the Kingdom of God, can be translated as the "reign of the heavens" or "kingdom of the skies". Jesus entered the world in human form to tell the inhabitants that they could live under the authority, grace and mercy of God. He was there to point them back to God and His divine love.

He was there to show them how to be reconciled to God and to proclaim God's kingdom here on earth as well as eternally in heaven. He was there to truly establish the perfected kingdom and restore God's perfect creation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

About Jesus - March 11, 2012

Colossians 1:15-17 (New International Reader's Version)
15 Christ is the exact likeness of God, who can't be seen. He is first, and he is over all of creation. 16 All things were created by him. He created everything in heaven and on earth. He created everything that can be seen and everything that can't be seen. He created kings, powers, rulers and authorities. Everything was created by him and for him. 17 Before anything was created, he was already there. He holds everything together.

Have you ever been asked to explain why you believe in Jesus Christ? Have you been put to the test by others as to who Jesus is, and whether or not he is really God? There are many cults that exist today that call that fact into question. Some call themselves Christian, yet they deny the fundamental fact that Jesus is not just a mere human but God himself. Then there are other religions that say that Jesus is nothing more than a good moral teacher, attempting to place Christianity on the same level as any other religion. So, how can you know in whom you have placed your faith?

These questions and opinions about Jesus are not a new. In fact these same controversies have been alive and well since the beginning. One of the fiercest critics and persecutors of Christians actually persued believers in the 1st Century, imprisoning and even killing some of them. He felt that Christians were perverting the Jewish faith and following after a false Jew ish Messiah that had long since died. He was so fierce in his persecution that he had gained a reputation as a zealot for the Jewich faith, and he was so relentless that the young Christian community feared him.

Yet, this high-ranking Jewish official was confronted by the living Jesus Christ, and was so changed by his conversion that he became the author responsible for much of the writing of the New Testament of the Bible. In fact he became even more zealous for the cause of Christ than he ever was for the Jewish faith. You know this man as Saul of Tarsus, who after his conversion became Paul. How was Paul so profoundly changed? It is because through his encounter with Jesus, he realized who Jesus really was. In Paul's letter to the church in Colosse, the Book of Colossians, we catch a glimpse of who Jesus Christ really is.

If you are unsure of what you believe about Jesus, be sure that you study each and every word in the passage above. It presents a characterization of Jesus Christ that is so profound, that you either believe it or you don't. You either believe tha He is God or you don't. Just be sure you know and are able to defend what you believe.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Praise! - March 10, 2012

Psalm 100(New International Version)
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Friday, March 9, 2012

God's Free Gift - March 9, 2012

Romans 3:22-24 (New Century Version)
22 God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all people are the same: 23 Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard, 24 and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.

How much simpler can this be, but yet it is very hard for many of us to admit. Admit what? Admit that we are not perfect human beings. In fact we are far from being perfect. Minute by minute, day by day, we do things that keep us far from God. Oh, we might think that we are "good" people, but God's standard is much higher than that, and no matter how hard we may try, we really can't make it on our own.

You see, no one is really "good". We might have our moments, but we are self-centered, greedy human beings that want everything. From our earliest utterances, what came out of our mouths was the word "mine", and as we have grown up we all continue to "reach for that brass ring", stepping on whoever gets in our way to make it to the top. The world has supported our indulgences, and if we had our way, we would find ourselves knee deep in trouble. What's to be done with us?

We really can't be reminded of that enough, because each and every day, we continue to mess things up. Paul, in his letter to the Roman believers, makes it very clear, that God has freely given us the solution; He has given us a way out. A free ticket to clean ourselves up and spend eternity with Him. That ticket, that solution is trust and belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

Though many of you reading this may consider yourselves Christians, have you really surrendered yourself and claimed God's free gift of salvation through Jesus's work on the cross?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Obstacles and Distractions - March 8, 2012

Job 1:6-7 (Amplified Bible)
6Now there was a day when the sons (the angels) of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan (the adversary and accuser) also came among them.

7And the Lord said to Satan, From where did you come? Then Satan answered the Lord, From going to and fro on the earth and from walking up and down on it.

Luke 22:31-32 (New King James Version)
31 And the Lord said,“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

1 Peter 5:7-9 (New Living Translation)
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

If you ask many Christians, they would probably say that they have a pretty good handle on overcoming Satan. In fact, once they are "saved", accepting Jesus' work on the cross for salvation, many probably rarely think about the work of Satan and his fellow demons. But the fact is that Satan is alive and well, working overtime trying to defeat us. Yes, we are saved and will spend eternity with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, but it is at this time when the devil works overtime.

It really isn't important to him to focus on those who are already on his "team"; those unfortunate souls that have rejected Christ and have decided to go another way that is apart from the One true God. God loves us all intensely; we are the "jewels" of His creation, and Satan hates that. He desires for us to worship him and not God; so his entire mission is to snatch everyone away from God that he can. That is why those who are saved, true followers of Christ, are so very important to God. We become God's walking billboards, living testaments, ambassadors, witnesses to the grace and mercy only found through Jesus Christ.

As the god of this world, that is doomed to destruction at the end of time, Satan spends his time as we read about in the passages above. He is looking for those he can "sift like wheat"; "devour". He wants to keep us distracted by occupying the time we should be working on behalf of Jesus Christ and God's kingdom. How does he do that? He uses the obstacles in our lives that will slow us down and will distract us the most. They are different for each one of us, because we have all been created, and been saved for a specific purpose in God's plan.

Think about it. When you are fearful about things are you a strong witness for Christ? When you are angry with someone at work or home are you a Christ like example to others? When you worry about personal finances and money are you totally dependent on God? When you are focused on your own difficulties, do you have time for others that need to know Jesus? We fail in our responsibility to tell a dying world about the salvation found in Jesus Christ when we are occupied with the "cares" of this world.

Does this sound like your life? The solution is found in the verses below:
James 4:7-8 (New Living Translation)
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Here Comes the Judge - March 7, 2012

Isaiah 11:1-5 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD — 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (New International Version, ©2010)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

What does it mean to be "fair"? The dictionary would define it as "free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice". Unfortunately that is impossible with man. Unless every judge subjects themselves to the exact same moral authority and law, there will never be judgements that adhere to the definition.

To complicate it even further, now we are faced with several types of law; there is "natural law" given by the God of the Bible, there is "legal positivism" that is defined by the culture, then there is "Sharia law" supposedly given by Allah through the Muslim holy books, and others. With so many different types of law justice varies from one to another, and in many cases, these laws are not "fair".

For instance, there is a Christian pastor in Iran who has been sentenced to death for supposedly having converted to the Christian faith from having been born a Muslim. In fact in most muslim nations, it is punishable by death to practice any other religion other than Islam (so much for being a religion of peace). Converts to Christianity usually practice their faith in secret, for fear of being caught and executed. Now according to Sharia, that is a "just and fair" punishment, but in any other rational society and under any other law that punishment is ridiculous and irrational.

The prophet Isaiah points us to "the coming" of the righteous judge, who will give out justice fairly and without bias. He will treat all with fairness and honesty. Only God can do that. Fallen mankind is incapable for doing so, because their hearts are corrupt and immoral. They judge based on their own needs, interests and attitudes. That is what had been so wonderful about the laws in our United States. They had been drawn together with the God of the Bible in mind, and I believe by men empowered by the Holy Spirit, to create an exceptional nation.

Someday soon, each and everyone, those before us and after us, will stand before the righteous judge. He will judge all of the nations, and give out justice that is deserved. If we are judged by what we deserve, we all would perish, but because our judge has come first as our Lord and Savior, and has offered himself as payment for our wrongdoing. Accept God's gift to you before you have to stand before Him in judgement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Bunker Mentality - March 6, 2012

2 Timothy 2:3-7;15 (New Living Translation)
3 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. 5 And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. 6 And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. 7 Think about what I am saying. The Lord will help you understand all these things.
15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

There are many that call themselves Christians that have developed an attitude that the Christian life is one that requires you to simply follow the rules and to be an upstanding member of a church. You might go to Sunday School and church on Sundays, maybe on Wednesdays too. You give your offering, as long as it is not too much. You may attend an occasional Bible Study, or picnic or other event.

Unfortunately many of us fall into what I call the "Bunker Mentatilty". We think as long as we are okay with God and are memebers in good standing, that is all that is required to be a good Christian. As long as we are safe and protected in the bunker nothing will happen to us, and those who are on the outside, well they need to fend for themselves.

Unlike in other parts of the world, we in the West are sold a false impression of what the Christain life is like, and many have the wrong expectations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. As I have said before, the life of a true Christian is hard. It takes work on our part. It is a calling that holds us accountable to obedience, rules and sacrifice that few find easy to follow. The fact of the matter is that if we are to call ourselves Christians, we are responsible to everyone that is not a follower of Jesus.

When the letter to Timothy was written, the Emperor Nero had come to power in Rome and the persecution of Christians was about to become the law of the land. Paul was being held in a cold prison dungeon and was nearing the end of his life. He wrote to Timothy to not only encourage a young leader of the church in Ephesus, but to make it clear what needed to be done to be a follower approved by God.

Don't get me wrong, if you confess your sins, ask God for His forgiveness, accept the gift of the sacrificial death of Jesus for your sins, and surrender your life to the lordship of Christ, you are saved and you have eternal life. What I am saying is that as we are told to be a good worker for the Gospel. We are to become workers for furthering the good news of what God has given us, sharing with everyone we can the life-saving message we have been blessed with.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Entangled - March 5, 2012

Romans 7:14-25 (The Message)
14-16I can anticipate the response that is coming: "I know that all God's commands are spiritual, but I'm not. Isn't this also your experience?" Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

As we try to live the Christian life, it is difficult to throw off those pesky "sins" that seem to haunt us. We find ourselves entangled, ensnared, trapped, by those things we thought we left behind when we gave up our old lives. These things differ for every believer; not everyone is "miraculously" freed from everything we used to be hindered by as a non-believer. Let's face one time we thought the things we did were okay. These things become a burden and hinder us from doing what we should for Christ.

When we become Christians we accept that Jesus has freed us by being the payment for sin that was required by God's law. Now that we have been rescued from them, it doesn't mean that it is easy to get away from the addictions to the sins we used to commit. All we know with our new life in Christ is that they are displeasing to the Father, and in gratitude to Him for what He has saved us from, we must try daily to shake off the bondage that we have become so accustomed to.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The "Good Life"? - March 4, 2012

Proverbs 14:16 (New American Standard Bible)
16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.

Hebrews 9:27-28 (New Century Version)
27 Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, 28 so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (New Century Version)
9 Our only goal is to please God whether we live here or there,10 because we must all stand before Christ to be judged. Each of us will receive what we should get—good or bad—for the things we did in the earthly body.

Are you out there trying to live for yourself and getting all you can in this world? Are you focused on just living for today, and not worrying about tomorrow? Are you just interested in grabbing that "brass ring"?

That is probably the goal of most of us at sometime in our lives, especially when we are young. Being young gives us a very narrow perspective about life, and so what, old age is a long time away. We feel invincible and that we really don't have any worries until we do get older. So for now, let's just live the "good life" and have fun while we can. Why worry? We have plenty of time to worry about God and things like that.

Then as we get older, there are many of us that feel the same way as those who are young and immature. Instead of focusing on more serious things, life continues to be all about grabbing all you can get. Accumulating wealth, partying, and having as much fun as time here will allow. Why not? We work hard to make money, why not spend it? God? Who cares, we deserve the "good life"! Live like there is no tomorrow! That's what they tell us isn't it?

Truth is, life is short, and if we waste it pursuing the "good life", we will find ourselves in serious trouble. Our focus needs to be on the "afterlife"; what legacy we set up here that will count for the future, both on earth and in heaven. Everyone has been placed here on earth by God for a purpose. No matter how many may want to deny it, what we do here is very important to how we will spend eternity.

If we waste our lives on what the Bible calls "riotous (foolish,reckless)living", we will find ourselves lacking when we are before God. Make sure you are focused on the right things before God calls you to account for the life he gave you.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Praise! - March 3, 2012

Psalm 71 (New King James Version)
God the Rock of Salvation
1 In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
3 Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
6 By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

7 I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
8 Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
11 Saying, “God has forsaken him;
Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 Let them be confounded and consumed
Who are adversaries of my life;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor
Who seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
16 I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

17 O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

19 Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
20 You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
21 You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side.

22 Also with the lute I will praise You—
And Your faithfulness, O my God!
To You I will sing with the harp,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You,
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
24 My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long;
For they are confounded,
For they are brought to shame
Who seek my hurt.

In the face of any difficulty, it is always important to give God continuous praise. No matter what, as a believer the Lord will be your deliverer. He will restore you in times of trouble. We need to always have His praise on our lips. You will be amazed how quickly you will find rest in Him.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Godly Billboards - March 2, 2012

Proverbs 10:9(New International Version)
9 The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 11:1(New International Reader's Version)
1The Lord hates it when people use scales to cheat others. But he is delighted when people use honest weights.

Proverbs 11:3(New International Version)
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Proverbs 13:6(New International Reader's Version)
6 Doing right guards those who are honest. But evil destroys those who are sinful.

Proverbs 13:11(New International Version)
11 Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

It is often been said that "character is what you are in the dark". We live in a society today where character, integrity and honesty have become a very precious commodity. It has led to a world where you had better be sure that any arrangement you have in business, or in life for that matter, had better be in writing. Even then, it is questionable whether or not you can keep someone at their word, or trust anyone.

Character, integrity and honesty matter, and God expects us to always be "upright" in all our dealings, whether it is in our relationships, finances, work, or business. The proverbs above highlight this fact. God calls everyone of us that have been radically changed by His love, through the acceptance of the work of Jesus on the cross, to live lives that are "billboards" to the world.

For many that are lost in the world, we will be the closest they come to the living breathing Jesus Christ. Our integrity and honesty in how we deal with those around us, will be our witness to the world of what God has done for us.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Godly Contentment - March 1, 2012

Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 (New International Version)
7 Again I saw something meaningless under the sun:
8 There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
"For whom am I toiling," he asked, "and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?"
This too is meaningless—a miserable business!

1 Timothy 6:6-9 (New International Version)
6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

What are we spending our lives doing? ...From our earliest days we have been focused on the pursuit of money and success in our lives. I am sure that we all can still hear the drone of teachers and counselors saying that we needed to stay in school to get a good education, without which we would not be able to get a good job and make alot of money.

Then as we got older and ventured out into the working world, we found that our very success in life was measured by the amount of money we were making. Anything good in life took money and for us to have anything, we would have to depend on ourselves and work hard for it. Every day we headed into work to provide a living for ourselves and chased that elusive dream of someday having it all.

If we got married and had a few children, the focus didn't change, only now we had multiple mouths to feed, college educations to fund, and weddings to plan for. These were just speedbumps in a life that was headed in a direction seeking ultimate contentment. Someday we were going to make it! Someday we would have it all!

For some of us, we may just be starting out our lives, wanting to break free from the restraints of home, and reaching for all that we can get out of life. Our teachers and parents may be telling us, "Stay in school and get a good education, because you want to get a good job and make alot of money!" I am not saying that this is wrong, but we may be falling into that very same trap that has burdened people for generations.

I say the world has this whole thing all wrong. I say that what we pursue in life has been corrupted by a world seeking after the wrong things. Whether it is the lament of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes or the admonitions from Paul in his letters to Timothy, God's word tries to point us in the right direction. If we will take the time to study it's advice about what is important in life, we will live much better in this life. The Bible seeks to make us aware of this fact:

We are created by God to seek His will in our lives and to express our love for Him in all we do. His desire is that we are to be content, because he promises to give us everything we really need. He wants for us to always strive to be our best. If we will just surrender our worldly will to Him, and seek after His will for our lives and how we might serve Him, He will give us the contentment we are striving for. We really can have it all!