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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Book Review: Another Bible. Good Enough?

CSB Worldview Study Bible

 

I love books and especially Bibles. But when I received a free copy for review of the CSB Worldview Study Bible, I wondered if this was just another attempt at selling Bibles. I was skeptical.

Before I reveal my opinion, allow me to list the unique features found in the CSB Worldview Study Bible.

  1. Worldview study notes, Christian Worldview Elements, Timeline for each book.
  2. Over 130 articles by notable Christian authors
  3. Center Column references
  4. Presentation pages

I was very impressed by the Navy, leather-like covering and supple feel. Even more impressive is this Bible has not sacrificed reference material for the articles, which is what I thought might happen. I use references all the time as I read any Bible and these are good. Additionally, there are ample study notes at the bottom of each page, with a timeline at the beginning of each book. And– the font is very readable and I wear glasses!

From appearances, this Bible stands out among most in its category. From a reading/study perspective, the CSB Worldview Study Bible is not lacking in any way.

In case you are curious, they made room for an ample concordance too.

I found this excellent Bible a surprise. A wonderful surprise that has kept my attention since the day I opened the box.

I received a free copy of this CSB Worldview Study Bible from Holman Bible Publishers.

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.”  

Temporary Reward

Scans-January 31-2018

 

“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

 

As a reporter, Phil had an opportunity to interview many people. On this day it was an athlete returned home from competition in the Olympics. During their talk the athlete described his basic training schedule: “I train at least four hours a day, six days a week, taking one day off for complete rest. And there are times when I increase my regimen to doubles. And that is three hours training, two hours of rest, followed by another three hours training. I’ve been doing that for the past four years.

But I’ve got to tell you that as difficult as that sounds, and it is, it was all worth it to stand on that podium, wearing the gold medal!”

Later, while transcribing his notes, Phil was suddenly struck with how unlike the athlete his Christian life was. Actually, it was nearly the exact opposite. Phil focused his Christian energy on Sunday, attending church, Bible class and various potlucks, leaders meetings and counseling. He usually welcomed Sunday evening so he could rest.

Without realizing it, his life had fallen into a very worldly rut, randomly giving time to God a few minutes here, a sporadic prayer there, and a few “help me God” prayers scattered throughout most days. Jesus had become his long distance love; one he considered with passion on rare occasion. Bowing his head, Phil called out to God in earnest prayer, “Oh dear Lord, restore a clean heart and passionate desire for you in me. You are truly the Lamb that was slain for me.”

1 Cor. 9:24-25  Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade. (J. B. Phillips)

Recalling this verse clarified Phil’s position. He had indeed been training for a perishable crown, a temporary reward, worldly recognition. It was time to reverse the order and his priorities.

Heb. 12:1-2   As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

And then, two nights later, Phil was awakened with something like a revelation—God deserves our praise and adoration. He is the Lamb of God. He is God. He is our Lord and Savior. His heart beat faster as the realization came over him—our eternal destination is certain and promised. Rejoice in the Lord always rang in his mind. How could he not rejoice in the Lord?

Rev. 5:11-14  “Then in my vision I heard the voices of many angels encircling the throne, the living creatures and the elders. There were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, crying in a great voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” 13 Then I heard the voice of everything created in Heaven, upon earth, under the earth and upon the sea, and all that are in them saying, “Blessing and honour and glory and power be to him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever!”14 The four living creatures said, “Amen”, while the elders fell down and worshipped.

Rev. 1:4-7  John, to the seven Churches in Asia: Grace and peace be to you from him who is and who was and who is coming, from the seven Spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, first-born of the dead, and ruler of kings upon earth. To him who loves us and has set us free from our sins through his own blood, who has made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and power for timeless ages, amen.See, he is coming in the clouds and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him, and his coming will mean bitter sorrow to every tribe upon the earth. So let it be!

What Phil discovered is, if any Christian focuses on the majesty and glory of the Lord, their life will change. Listening to some of the old hymns that glorify God, reading the Bible and praying will bring more and more change. If we are as determined to strengthen our relationship with Jesus as the athlete was to win a gold medal, our rewards will be life-changing and eternal!

 

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!

Stumbling Block

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1 Corinthians 1:23

We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.


I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of diversity. My folks did not discriminate, so neither did my sister and I. People were people. Some were nice and some not-so-nice. One of the most interesting was Mr. Johnson. He was blind and he was older—like a Grandpa.

One of my friends…actually not a friend as I was to learn…who lived nearby, was a prankster. He never tired of pulling pranks on everyone and we were getting frustrated with him. Finally, he did something to Mr. Johnson that excluded him from my circle of friends.

Mr. Johnson lived alone with his dog, Pete. He used a cane to get around his yard and all over town. He had a garden out back and tended it often. He raised lots of vegetables that he shared with everyone. If you wanted to pick some veggies on your own, you just rang a bell Mr. Johnson had attached to his gate. That way he knew someone was in the yard and he would come out to visit and chat.

As you may imagine, Mr. Johnson had established walking paths around his yard to get around to everything. Often he would putter around without using his cane to detect any stumbling blocks. This is where Freddy the prankster came in.  

Freddy decided it would be funny to ring the bell after he had set up a few obstacles in Mr. Johnson’s pathway. So he did. After he placed a few blocks in the paths, he rang the bell and hid off to the side. Mr. Johnson came out smiling, bidding a welcome to whoever may need some vegetables. He hadn’t gone very far before his foot hit a wooden block in the middle of the path. Down he went, cracking his wrist bone and bumping his head on a border stone.

Fortunately, Mr. Johnson’s next-door-neighbor came to get some cucumbers right after this happened. She was a nurse and was able to tend to his bruises and swollen forehead. It turned out that his cracked wrist just needed a tight wrap for a week, along with some pain medicine. This prank did not change Mr. Johnson’s attitude or generosity. Friends removed Freddy’s obstacles and everything went back to normal in Mr. Johnson’s backyard.

Freddy was never seen in the neighborhood again. By the fall, he and his family had moved to another school district.

I wonder if I am ever a stumbling block to others by my actions, attitudes or conversation? Do I, without considering the impact of what I am doing or saying, throw up obstacles in the path of others? Do I possibly cause someone to stumble spiritually? What about those times when I just have to have my way? Who stumbled on my selfishness? Someone surely. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness.

1 Corinthians 8:9  But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.

2 Corinthians 6.3 We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us.

Romans 14:13  Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.