Faith Is…

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Faith Is

…Abel’s offering

…confident assurance

…Abraham’s journey

…bloody door posts

…giant walls of water

…falling walls of Jericho

…Rahab’s scarlet cord

…believing in the unseen

…Gideon’s fleece

…David’s sling & stone

…Elijah’s great bonfire

…Queen Esther in the inner court

…three men in a blazing furnace

…a tiny mustard seed

…a woman’s touch on His hem

…Stephen’s last prayer

…believing you’ve received

…rising to walk

…washing mud from your eyes

…loving your enemies

…the gift of the Holy Spirit

…praying for those who hate you

…forgiveness of sins

…incomprehensible peace

David Nelson

Weakness Brings Strength

 

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May 20, 2015

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

Charles became a Christian several years before his 30th birthday and was satisfied it was a good decision. However, since then, he has struggled with bad choices and a mediocre employment record and spiritual stagnation. He needed help.

Attendance at church had fallen for him as he seemed to wander like the Israelites in the desert. Then a friend he saw at a coffee shop invited Charles to a small Bible study for men. “I love our church,” he said, “but I discovered that a men’s Bible study group gives me an opportunity to identify with other men as we share openly and pray for each other. Give it a try,” he said, “we are free to share whatever is on our minds and God seems to speak to all of us. I’ve discovered that I’m not the only guy with problems.”

His first Bible study covered how men attempt to solve all problems themselves, looking for satisfaction in their perceived strength. It pierced Charles’ heart. It described his struggles perfectly. He’d forgotten, or never learned, that God desires men to be vulnerable and weak according to the World’s standards, to allow their real strength, which comes from God, to be our guide.

Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary.
      No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
      They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. NLT

Jeremiah 9:23-24 This is what the Lord says “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth  and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! NLT

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” NLT

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 So tremendous, however, were the revelations that God gave me that, in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a physical handicap—one of Satan’s angels—to harass me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him. J.B. Phillips

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. NLT

After a few studies, Charles realized that most of what he’d learned about how to be a man was incorrect. He had focused on the heroic, self-made man image which always gave him feelings of failure and inadequacy. Focusing on the Lord gave him the assurance of God’s peace that passes all understanding. Now he was truly strong!

No Separation or Condemnation

 

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“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”  Rom 8:1

The pastor was challenging his study group with one of his favorite quotes, “Either you believe the Bible or you don’t!” When asked what he meant, his answer was short and to the point, “The Bible is our life guide and in order for us to fully benefit from this guide we must believe it and believe all of it. In spite of our feelings or occasional doubts.”

From the back of the group, an older man with a well-worn Bible said, “Many years ago my father told me that we can’t read the Bible buffet style, pick and choose. And I’ve always remembered his advice.”

After the study, a middle-aged woman with tears in her eyes came up to the pastor, telling him she just couldn’t get over some of her past sins. She said they haunted her frequently, usually when she decided to give them to the Lord.

“Alice, Romans 8:1 says, ‘There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death!’ You will notice,” he continued, “it does not say most of the time or some of the time or, when you get your act together. The only condition is that you accept Jesus as your Savior. And I know you have done that.”

The Holy Spirit is mentioned just four times in the first seven chapters of Romans. In chapter eight alone, He is mentioned 19 times! Our perfect relationship with the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to walk along with our Savior, forging through all the obstacles and trials of life, depending on Him not only for guidance but as an intercessor for our prayers.

Romans 8:26-27 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Have you ever been told something like this, “If you do your work, you can go with your friends;” “If you are serious, I will marry you.” These are conditional statements, based on following through…if you do this, I will do that. God gives us such conditions in Romans Eight.

Romans 8:8-13 Those who obey their human nature cannot please God. But you do not live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to if, in fact, God’s Spirit lives in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin. If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you. So then, my friends, we have an obligation, but it is not to live as our human nature wants us to. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Romans 8:23-25 But it is not just creation alone which groans; we who have the Spirit as the first of God’s gifts also groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set our whole being free. For it was by hope that we were saved; but if we see what we hope for, then it is not really hope. For who of us hopes for something we see? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Romans 8:31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

Our assignment, should we choose to accept it, is clearly laid out in this chapter; that is to walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. This concept is so serious, God emphasizes it to us in verse six: “For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace.”

And if you experience those times when life seems too difficult or challenging remember verse 18 which says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”

Another life-saving, powerful verse is Romans 28: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” Tape this one above the bathroom mirror, kitchen sink, and front door. Notice it says, ALL THINGS. You may have been tempted to disbelieve this verse when life seemed to fall in on itself—but do not quit. God is telling us that all things work together for good. Our job is to believe it, to hope for what we do not see!

If you find yourself feeling alone and forgotten, wondering how you might escape your heavy burdens, remember verse 34 which says: “Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.” Jesus is the original 24/7 experience. He never sleeps. He always intercedes for you and me.

Finally, Romans 8:36-39 closes with a tremendous series of verses that assure us of an eternal attachment to our Lord: “Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?

No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.”

Remember: In Christ there is No Condemnation. No Separation. God’s love endures forever.

Death & Resurrection

 

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Death and Resurrection

April 5, 2015

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” He said this and died. Luke 23:46

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?

Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). Not my will however, but your will be done.” (And then, in a remarkable example of God’s mercy) An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  (Luke 22:41-44) parentheses added

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet, abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, beyond human understanding…forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body. 

Suddenly God blackened the unrelenting brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two! Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died. (Luke 22:44-46)

A man named Joseph from Arimathea, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, arranged to have the body of Jesus removed from the cross, wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock and never been used. It was Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin.

Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”

Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. (Luke 24:1-9)

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life, forgiveness of sins to all who believe. 

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven. (Romans 8:34-35)

James, Chapter Five

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The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything. Psalm 103:19 (NET)

Cassandra was finally in the position she always fought for. She was president of an enormous and very successful company. She was one of three people allowed to fly off anywhere in the world in the corporate jet. This week she would be closing escrow on her second palatial home in Vail, Colorado. She loved to ski.

There was one slightly frustrating problem in her life and that was family. Her mother, although a nice woman, was constantly nagging Cassandra to visit and help out some of their less fortunate relatives.

“Mom, if they are in need, counsel them to get a better job, for crying out loud. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I’ve worked very hard with no hand-outs. I send money to cancer research and the local Better Education fund.”

“Honey, you’ve always been a self-starter and tremendously motivated but I think you are forgetting about your Uncle Frank’s gift of a free college education. I never knew the actual amount but I think paying for your full tuition, books and living expenses while attending Yale must have been many thousands of dollars!”

Her mother could be so frustrating. “Ok, Uncle Frank did help but I worked very hard in college and graduated at the top of my class. So, in a sense, he got his money’s worth. And he told me to never mention it to him. It was a gift.”

“My dear girl. You are so talented, driven, conscientious, and the pinnacle of dependability but you have a very hard heart. You really don’t seem to care for people less fortunate at all. Instead of sharing your increasing wealth with widows and orphans, as the Bible commands, you simply buy another huge home in Colorado. Honey, you could give away a million dollars a year and still have more than most people will ever have. I am concerned for you. God does not look kindly on such selfishness. I suggest you take time out to refresh yourself with chapter five of the Book of James.”

Warning to Rich 1-6

Selfish rich people should weep and groan with anguish because of terrible troubles ahead. Accumulated treasures will be evidence against you on the Day of Judgment.

Patience in Suffering 7-12

Just as a farmer waits patiently for the rewards of his crop, so we must be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return. Don’t grumble about each other. Be patient, using God’s prophets as examples. Think of Job, a man of great endurance.

Faithful Prayer 13-18

Suffering hardships? Pray. Happy? Rejoice in praises to God. Sick? Call elders who will anoint with oil in the name of the Lord. The Lord will heal the sick and forgive the sinner. Confess sins to each other. Earnest prayer has great power. Elijah was such a man of prayer. He was a prophet who prayed for no rain and then for rain to resume. God answered both prayers. His name means: YAWEH is my God 1 Kings 17

Restore Wandering Believers 19-20

If a fellow believer wanders from the truth and is brought back…they are saved from death and have many sins forgiven.

The Book of James hits the reader forcefully, cutting through all our facades, laying bare our excuses and half-hearted Christianity. James forces the reader to take a closer look in the mirror of his soul. Do we have faith? Can others see it lived out in our lives? Am I still clinging to the world and whatever pleasure or comfort I derive? Jesus said He loved us so much that he took a beating and climbed upon a wooden cross to die. He literally did this. Considering that example of love, how should we live?

God’s Antidote

 

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Weekly Bible Study

God’s Antidote

September 10, 2014

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” Ps 119:50

When life brings circumstances beyond our control (and most actually are) we don’t always react in a Godly way. Sometimes fear and uncertainty take over, leading us away from God’s promises. Those feelings, although quite strong, must be brought into submission by our faith in God, whose promises will turn us away from fear and uncertainty.

Here is a partial list of feelings we all have that seem bigger than life. The antidote to these feelings is a strong dose of reading the promises of God daily!

Anxiety Phil 4:19 And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 5:6-7 So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.

Prov 12:25 An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up

Weakness 2 Cor 12:9 He said to me, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Comfort Ps 91:2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I trust Him.

Death Ps 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Blessings John 10:10 I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Fear 2 Tim 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and a sound mind.

His Love For You Rom 8:38-39 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Worries Phil 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Matt 6:34 Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

1 Pet 5:6-7 If you will humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, in his good time he will lift you up. Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.

Hope Romans 5:3-5 We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Anger Prov 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Peace John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Tired Isa 40:30-31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Trials James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Job 2:10 “When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Even in all this suffering Job said nothing against God.

Weariness Matt 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.

Just as we learn math or English by studying textbooks, we also learn of our God and His promises that never fail by studying His book. More powerful than any textbook, the Bible is bathed in life-changing words of hope, infused with the Holy Spirit.

As life brings challenges and disappointments, His word will always give us guidance and comfort.