Now or Forever?

 

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“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Romans 12:24

My friend had been a Christian for 15 years, having the same combination of joys and struggles most of us have, when he began listening to a pastor who proclaimed that God wanted all believers to enjoy prosperity, better jobs, health, happiness and that elusive promotion.

“God loves you so much,” the man said, “that he wants you to enjoy your piece of heaven right now while you’re here on earth. Don’t believe the talk about a recession or bad economic times,” he continued, “it is during these times that God moves all obstacles in our way so we can prosper and be an example to the world!”

After listening for several months and sending his tithe and offerings, suggested by the pastor (as you give so shall you reap), his overall fortunes took a dive. My friend was floundering. He was discouraged and disappointed with God. Instead of realizing that the pastor was in error, he looked higher and fixed the blame on God. His heavenly dispensing machine had failed to produce according to his wishes.

My friend had been lured away by the promises of a worldly pastor using materialistic bounty to distort and confuse the truth of the Gospel.

Romans 1:25  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Fortunately, my friend began to see through the false promises of selfish gain to realize that God’s promises are ever-faithful but geared to our eternal prosperity, not temporary pleasures or materialistic gain. Instead of eagerly listening to this false shepherd who was leading his flock astray, my friend returned to the Bible, the only source of absolute truth. He found the Streams of Living Water (John 7:38) to wash his soul once again.

Hebrews 13:20-21  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

John 10:11  I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.

1 John 2:15  Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

As he took his eyes off the false promises he’d been taught and returned to his first love, Jesus Christ, my friend began to change. He began to flourish. The peace of God was once again filling his heart and showing on his countenance. He saw clearly now that he had been trading the grace of God for the hope of material wealth. A very poor trade.

Romans 5:1-5  Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness combined with our faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope.  This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:11  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 8:35-39  Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings? If we have no food or clothes, if we are in danger, or even if death comes—can any of these things separate us from Christ’s love? As it is written in the Scriptures:

“For you we are in danger of death all the time. People think we are worth no more than sheep to be killed.” Psalm 44:22

But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that nothing can separate us from the love God has for us. Not death, not life, not angels, not ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, or anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

To help each other flourish, we can pray this Scripture:

1 Thessalonians 5:23  Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming.

 

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God’s Sorrow

 

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“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin”

2 Corinthians 7:10

 

“I am a man of constant sorrow I’ve seen trouble all my day. . .For six long years I’ve been in trouble, No pleasures here on earth I found. For in this world I’m bound to ramble I have no friends to help me now.” I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow – Soggy Bottom Boys

This sad, sorrowful song paints a desperate, hopeless picture of poor decisions leading to sorrow. Usually, when we read or hear of sorrow, this is the picture we see: hopeless, sad, lamenting, regret. However, God has provided a far better definition. Godly sorrow offers repentance and renewal—forgiveness!

How typical of God, the lover of our souls, to wash away the hopelessness of sorrow as we know it, and replace it with hope-filled repentance—the forgiveness of sins. Those who willingly follow Christ understand repentance and forgiveness. Not only do we understand— we relish the thought of God’s unlimited forgiveness. Interestingly, non believers, those who reject Christ, still understand the power of forgiveness as opposite of the power of sorrowful regret or hopelessness. All humans know that forgiveness, whether given or received, brings welcome relief mixed with hope. And why not— forgiveness was invented by God and shown to the world through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

“I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”  

Psalm 51:16-17

  “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant

heart, O God.” 

Isaiah 66:1-2

“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build Me a temple as good as that? Could you build Me such a resting  place?

My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are Mine. I, the Lord, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.”

1 Peter 5:5-7  

“Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Psalm 33:16-22

16 “No king is saved by the size of his army;

   no warrior escapes by his great strength.

17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

   despite all its great strength it cannot save.

18 But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him,

   on those whose hope is in His unfailing love,

19 to deliver them from death  and keep them alive in famine.

20 We wait in hope for the LORD;

   He is our help and our shield.

21 In Him our hearts rejoice,

   for we trust in His holy name.

22 May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD,

   even as we put our hope in You.”

Hebrews 12:11

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

When confronted by punishment, a child is sorrowful (perhaps because they’ve been discovered rather than for their behavior). If they’ve learned a lesson, their life will be more peaceful afterwards. If not, the cycle will be repeated. The same is true in our relationship with God. If we learn the lesson and repent, our sorrow will be short-lived and transformed into righteousness.

Help Me Understand This!

 

 

“I have hidden your Word in my heart” ~Psalm 119:112014-02-04_142222-1_thumb.jpg

 

“According to 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right,” said Pastor Frank. Then, to everyone’s surprise, he stood without speaking, looking across the congregation for what seemed an eternity. As he remained speechless, the people began to wonder what this meant. What was he saying by not speaking. The church was silent. And uneasy.

“Right about now you are all wondering what happened. Did I forget what to say. Have a stroke. Get struck dumb like Zecharias? You may relax, I gave us a minute—

And that is what is was, sixty seconds, to consider the Scripture from 2 Timothy 3:16.

“What are the implications of this important verse? What can we get from these words which many of us have read countless times? If you are at all like me when it comes to familiar Bible verses, we shoot them out to make a point without taking time to digest what the Holy Spirit has said. And remember, it was the Holy Spirit who gave these words to the writer, the Apostle Paul. It is also the Holy Spirit who gives life to these words as we read and recite them. “

“When we were in school, we all read thousands of words and in some cases were able to recite them from memory, hoping to get a better grade. However, even the most memorable and thought-provoking of those words pales in comparison to God’s Words given to us in His Bible. As Paul said above, ‘All Scripture is inspired by God!”

“So what am I getting at this morning and why did I give that long dramatic pause? I want to remind us how important all the verses in the Bible are. These are God’s Holy words given to us! As such they deserve our time. Memorizing verses is good for the soul and life giving as well but— if we don’t take time to allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as we read, we miss what our Heavenly Father wants to express and drive into our hearts.

Pastor Frank paused again, looking across the congregation. “Take a breath please. Relax your bodies and settle in with an open mind. Don’t think about your kids in the nursery, where you will eat lunch or how much gas  you have in the car. Give your minds to God so He can speak to you through this verse.

“First. Have you ever noticed this important verse has the same reference chapter and verse of the most quoted verse in the Bible, John 3:16? Neat huh. We know it isn’t an accident or happenstance. The Holy Spirit set it up that way which makes it easier to remember how to find both of them.

“Second. All scripture is inspired by God. Take a moment to consider the power of that statement. When people challenge us about the Bible being just a book written by some zealots from the past and has no bearing on life today, you can say, with certainty, that ALL scripture is inspired by God. And you can point them to this verse. It is up to the reader to accept or reject this truth.  

“Third. All scripture is. . .useful to teach us what is true. How reassuring to know that God Himself uses the Bible, His Word, to teach us what is true. By our faith in Christ and belief in the Bible, God will teach us what is true in our lives and His Word. Because we are frail humans who weaken and allow insecurity to slip in, God has given us the reminder here in 2 Timothy 3:16; All scripture is useful to teach us what is true. Regardless of my feelings, God’s word is always true. My feelings will vary but His Word never does!

“Fourth. All scripture is. . .useful to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. What an incredible promise. Now this is beyond human understanding Isn’t it? By reading and listening to the Bible, God will reveal what is wrong in our lives. You may be thinking you’re not sure you want to be reminded of what is wrong in your life. However, this is an example of God’s amazing love for us. He knows we need to be reminded so we can repent and go on with a clean slate. He is all about forgiveness you know. And so it is with our sins, they are covered by the blood of Christ and our willingness to repent accentuates His forgiveness.

“Fifth. All scripture corrects when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. And there it is, His Word corrects and teaches. He doesn’t correct and leave it there but guides us into correct behavior or the best answer to problem. God is not hoping we will sin so he can smash us with a big rock. Rather He is a loving Father who already gave His only Son to death so we can live forever. As we consider how God has shown his love for us then surely we must understand He is not hoping we will sin so he can teach us a lesson or two.

“We can clearly see,” said Pastor Frank, “all scripture is indeed useful for many things in our lives, established to be an extension of God’s magnificent love and concern for all believers. As a child, were you ever told to take your time eating your food and not gulp and run? Even so, God is telling us to take our time in His Word to savor the spiritual nourishment He’s planted therein.”  

Easter!

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Although pristine and shiny, this elegant cross represents the bloody, cracked and dirty cross on which Jesus Christ willingly gave up His life for all humanity.

On April 1, 2018, many Americans will be aware of Easter Sunday which, for the most part, has become a family church day followed by a wonderful meal and an Easter egg hunt. But what about the cross in this photo? Where does that come in? Simply put, the cross came first, way before any family celebrations. The cross is a symbol of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ to wash away the sins of humanity…all people, all over the world. Jesus died so we could live forever in a sinless, perfect world God has already created for us. Faith in Christ opens the door to total forgiveness and a magnificent life forever with no tears or pain. Not even any bad thoughts!

I tell you this because I want to remind Christians and to offer a life of forgiveness to unbelievers through faith in Christ. Jesus did the hard work, the impossible, painful, dreadful work for us. To reap the rewards of his amazing gesture of love, we must accept his sacrifice just like you accept any gift. Faith in Christ will change your life…forever! That is what Easter is all about…the resurrection of Jesus!

A New year. A Fresh Start.

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Hello and welcome to the next phase of your life. The Lord is directing you, as He did Abram, to pack all your belongings and head out to a new land (literally or figuratively). He will show you where to live and how to generate income if you walk in faith trusting Him to be your provider and daily guide.

The trip will be scary, but the satisfaction of walking in obedience to your Heavenly Father far outweighs any fear. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.”

None of us knows how many days we have remaining on this earthly globe, so focus on God, and listen to the Holy Spirit as He relays information to and from you via a supernatural communication system established by God. It is a foolproof system that can only be hindered by us if we refuse to listen or discard His directions out of fear or pride.

As you struggle with temptation and doubt, allow God’s Holy Spirit to remind you of Jesus’ monumental, painful sacrifice, as He obediently gave Himself to torture and death, spikes driven through his hands and feet, slowly dying so every living soul could experience forgiveness and redemption. Christ’s death and subsequent resurrection opened a door leading to eternal life. We can taste the life-giving fruit of His sacrifice by calling upon the name of Jesus.

Sitting now at the right hand of God, Jesus awaits our faithful professions of belief that transform us into New Creations, formed in the image of Jesus Christ Himself. And when life seems too burdensome, remember that Jesus promised He would never leave us; never forsake us. So…stand firm. Believe. Walk with God. And one more thing, be sure to forgive others just like Jesus forgave us!

We Don’t Have To Be Afraid

 

“Perfect love drives out fear” ~1 John 4:18

After the waitress poured their second cup of coffee, Walt said, “OK, Roger, what’s going on? Clearly something is heavy on your mind this morning. We’ve known each other for a long time, my friend, so spill the beans. Maybe I can help like you’ve helped me so many times.”

        It was a wintry morning and Roger held his cup with both hands, concentrating on the wisps of steam arising, hoping his friend could help him overcome his strong emotions. Fear gripped him!

        “I’ve been meaning to find ways of selling stories and photos because we need more income but…I’ve opened the door to uncertainty which always brings along its friend, fear. Once fear and uncertainty settle in, I become paralyzed.”

        “You, filled with fear? That is a surprise, Roger. You are the go-to guy whenever I have spiritual battles so I would never think of you struggling with fear and doubt. I am so sorry I’ve been so casual about your possible needs and struggles.”

        “Oh, I understand the feeling, Walt. I once had a spiritual mentor who seemed to always be on his game no matter how dire the problem until one day he shared, like I am doing now, his struggles with me. It was then I realized how little I’d been praying for him. He said something I have never forgotten which I’ll share with you. As he was describing his battles with the flesh and satan, he said, ‘Roger, don’t ever stop praying for me. You must realize how important your prayers are to me and to God. He commands us to pray for each other.’”

        “Forgive me, my friend. Let me begin with praying 1 John 4:18 which says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”

        Right there, in that restaurant booth, fear was driven out as God’s love shattered its stronghold in Roger’s life. Just like athletes willingly force their bodies to come under subjection through rigorous and repetitive training routines, our lives can be free of fear, anger, lust, greed, hate through faith coupled with fervent prayer. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  ~James 5:16

Isaiah 41.13  I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalm 27.1  You, LORD, are the light that keeps me safe. I am not afraid of anyone. You protect me, and I have no fears.

Psalm 62.2  God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe and the fortress where I am secure.

Psalm 91.1-2  Live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then you will say to the LORD, “You are my fortress, my place of safety; you are my God, and I trust you.”

2 Corinthians 1.3-4  The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble.

Romans 8.38-39  I am sure that nothing can separate us from God’s love—not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future, and not the powers above or the powers below.

Isaiah 25.8-9  The LORD All-Powerful will destroy the power of death and wipe away all tears. . .At that time, people will say, “The Lord has saved us! Let’s celebrate. We waited and hoped –now our God is here.”

Psalm 145.13-14  Our LORD, you keep your word and do everything you say. When someone stumbles or falls, you give a helping hand.

Psalm 16.5-9  You, LORD, are all I want!  You are my choice, and you keep me safe. You make my life pleasant, and my future is bright. I praise you, LORD, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.

The following 1933 inaugural address by Franklin D. Roosevelt points to Biblical truth:

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

 

Who Do You Want to Please?

Most of us are brought up learning how to please certain people in our lives. First, our parents. We learn what it takes to make them happy, and if we want our lives to go smoothly, we do or don’t do certain things. The behaviors that need refining are pointed out to us quickly by instructions, cautions or punishments.

        Then we learn to apply that method of getting along to our teachers, friends, relatives, bosses, pastors, policemen, spouse, teammates, and others with whom we interact in life. As life progresses, most people become fairly expert in getting along and pleasing others, trying not to offend. We look for that middle place that allows us to forge our way through life, getting along without ruffling too many feathers. We are considered successful if people think of us as nice, as pleasing, and easy to get along with.

        But what about God? Are we trying to please God? Does he even make the list of those we wish to please every day? If a survey was taken that asked the question: “Who is the most important person in your life that you try to please” how many of us would immediately say, Jesus or God? The Lord has a special place in our lives, we say. He is our Savior, we may say. But really…is He our primary focus each day? Are we trying to please God?

        Romans 8:7-8

For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

        Romans 14:17-18

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

        Philippians 2:12-13

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

        Colossians 1:10

We have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

          1 Thessalonians 2:4

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

        1 Thessalonians 4:1

Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way that pleases God, as we have taught you. You live this way already, and we encourage you to do so even more.

        1 Timothy 2:3

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

        1 Timothy 5:3-4

Take care of a widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.

        Hebrews 11:6

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

        1 Peter 2:19, 21

For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. For God called you to do good, even it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

        Pleasing God opens the door for pleasing anyone else. It is the foundation upon which all relationships are built. How to please God is outlined for us in the Bible and made possible by God’s Holy Spirit within us (Read John, chapter 14).