Hope Assured

 

“As for us, our hope is that God will put us right with him” Gal. 5:5

Phil and Fred were neighbors and men who had professed Christ for many years. One day, while chatting over coffee at the local coffee shop, Fred confessed to feelings of sadness and concern over his failing health and financial insecurity.

“I never thought I’d end up like this,” said Fred. “I used to be strong and healthy with plenty of money to take care of us. And now, I have trouble getting out of my easy chair most days and the money…well we barely eek out a living.”

“I understand exactly what you are saying, Fred. We’re in pretty much the same boat. Although my aches and pains are not quite as severe, the money situation is bleak with no signs of change on the horizon. Good thing our hope is in the Lord as our provider. And beyond our life here with the daily challenges, Fred, we have the blessed hope of eternal salvation with the Lord. And guess what, my friend, life will be perfect then. No aches or pains and no money problems at all.”

“Well I sure hope so,” Fred said with little enthusiasm. “I guess I don’t think about that very much anymore. Seems like the body falling apart combined with rising costs gets me down.”

“That’s only normal but you and I have that special hope, Fred. We all feel down or hopeless from time to time but our faith in the Lord can bring us out of those feelings. When you said, ‘I sure hope so’ I thought of so many verses in the Bible that mention hope.” Taking his smart phone, Phil opened his Bible app and Fred followed suit.

Rom. 12:12 Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.

Rom. 15:13 May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gal. 5:5 As for us, our hope is that God will put us right with him; and this is what we wait for by the power of God’s Spirit working through our faith.

Now this is a wonderful hope that is based not on human arguments but on the power of God’s Spirit working through our faith!

John 10:10-11 I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

1 Peter 1:3-5   All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

“After reading these verses you can feel His Spirit wrap His arms around you and give you a great big hug, can’t you? It’s like taking a hose to a dirty car, watching that dirt flow away as the powerful surge of clear water washes it clean. God loves for us to come to Him when we feel down, Fred, so He can wash away our troubling feelings and replace them with His eternal assurances. Here, He says, give me your problems and I’ll replace them with my love, forgiveness and strong courage. I will never leave you or forsake you!”

John 10:27-30   My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. But you haven’t believed in me even though you have seen me. However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 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. 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.”

1 John 4:4  But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Romans 8:38 And 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.

2 Corinthians 5:17   This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Matthew 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.”

Our faith has established our eternal future and God has promised to keep that future secure. What we hope for will, at last, become reality with God.

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Women Keep Silent

 

“Let women be silent in church”  1 Corinthians 14:34

“Good morning everyone. Now that we’ve prayed to open our meeting, asking God for His guidance and wisdom, let’s see what He will reveal regarding this challenging section of Scripture. This will be the first time we have returned to the verses from the previous week but, judging by the inordinate number of emails, texts and calls I’ve received during the week, we have not finished our discussion. Perhaps I should say, God has not finished teaching us on the subject. Charles, please read the section from 1 Corinthians 14:34-38”

“Women should be silent during the church meetings. They are not to take part in the discussion, for they are subordinate to men as the Scriptures also declare. If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to express their opinions in church meetings.

You disagree? And do you think that the knowledge of God’s will begins and ends with you Corinthians? Well, you are mistaken!You who claim to have the gift of prophecy or any other special ability from the Holy Spirit should be the first to realize that what I am saying is a commandment from the Lord himself. But if anyone still disagrees—well, we will leave him in his ignorance.”

“To begin with my friends, we need to set aside our feelings on the issue of the equality of women and women’s rights which have, we can all see, been trampled on throughout history. We are reading the Bible. God’s Holy Word. This is not some guy’s personal peeve written to set women straight once-and-for-all. The apostle Paul wrote these words as he was guided by the Holy Spirit…God himself. That being true, we do not have the freedom to ignore these verses because we are offended in the 21st century.”

Larry closed his eyes and prayed, “Dear Lord, remove our confusion, frustration and hurt feelings as you fill us with Your peace that passes human understanding. Amen. Open your Bibles, tablets, phones or whatever you use to follow along as we read some verses to see just what God has said about this subject.”

1 Corinthians 11:3 ~There is one matter I want to remind you about: that a wife is responsible to her husband, her husband is responsible to Christ, and Christ is responsible to God.

Ephesians 5:19-24 ~Talk with each other much about the Lord, quoting psalms and hymns and singing sacred songs, making music in your hearts to the Lord. Always give thanks for everything to our God and Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Honor Christ by submitting to each other. You wives must submit to your husband’s leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.

Colossians 3:14-19 ~Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony. Let the peace of heart that comes from Christ be always present in your hearts and lives, for this is your responsibility and privilege as members of his body. And always be thankful. Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise; teach them to each other and sing them out in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing to the Lord with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, and come with him into the presence of God the Father to give him your thanks. You wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, for that is what the Lord has planned for you. And you husbands must be loving and kind to your wives and not bitter against them nor harsh.

1 Timothy 2:9-14 ~And the women should be the same way, quiet and sensible in manner and clothing. Christian women should be noticed for being kind and good, not for the way they fix their hair or because of their jewels or fancy clothes. Women should listen and learn quietly and humbly. I never let women teach men or lord it over them. Let them be silent in your church meetings. Why? Because God made Adam first, and afterwards he made Eve. And it was not Adam who was fooled by Satan, but Eve, and sin was the result.

1 Peter 3:1-4 ~Wives, fit in with your husband’s plans; for then, if they refuse to listen when you talk to them about the Lord, they will be won by your respectful, pure behavior. Your godly lives will speak to them better than any words. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on jewelry, or beautiful clothes, or hair arrangement. Be beautiful inside, in your hearts, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit that is so precious to God.

We must ask ourselves in regard to any issue in our lives, what is our motive? What drives us to have this opinion or take this stand? Is it our love of Christ or our demand for perceived personal rights? Another question to ask is. . .why are these verses in the Bible? Since God breathed His life into the Scriptures, why did He include these verses for all believers to wrestle with? The answer may lie in James chapter one:

James 1:5-8 ~But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. But when you pray, you must believe and not doubt at all. Whoever doubts is like a wave in the sea that is driven and blown about by the wind. If you are like that, unable to make up your mind and undecided in all you do, you must not think that you will receive anything from the Lord.

Faith in God

 

Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

I attend a weekly Bible study that has been ongoing for more than six years. The study is aimed at practical application of God’s Word. This approach can sometimes bring daily challenges but will often bring spiritual growth in each life. Recently, that is what happened.

I ride with another man and have for several years. Once in a while, his schedule comes against his attendance. When this happens, we all share our disappointment and make sure to send a copy of the study via email. But this week would prove different…bring about a different, God-shaped journey and ending.

“We have a new job and will have to miss next Wednesday,” he said. “It won’t be permanent but his schedule requires we clean their house next Wednesday morning.”

True to form, we expressed our disappointment and continued with the morning’s study. But a few days later, it seemed that God was speaking to me about my lack of faith. “We live by faith, not by sight,” says 2 Corinthians 5:7. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” says 2 Corinthians 4:18

I understood what God, through the Holy Spirit was showing me—believe that my friend, Matt, could be there—to have faith that God would answer my prayers and shift Matt’s schedule around to allow him to be there. It was suddenly very clear to me; Matt wanted to be in the Bible study, would benefit from attendance and the other men would also benefit from Matt’s presence. This is an element of spiritual warfare and the victory belongs to God. I said to myself, “We don’t have to just say, too bad you can’t come, Matt. See you next time. We can ask God to make a way for him to attend and believe He will do that.”

Two days later, Matt called and said, “Hey, our schedule has changed and I will pick you up as usual.” Joyfully I shared my revelation with Matt and we both rejoiced in the Lord! God cares. God is always victorious, and He delights in answering our prayers.

Trust God–No Matter What!

 

“We have been made right in God’s sight by faith…” Romans 5:1

Bethel Church sat on a quiet road on twelve acres of well-tended land. Across the parking lot was a very nice parsonage. There were six primary families who had the vision for Bethel and saw to it that their vision became a reality. In the process, they confused building the church with “owning” the church.

As the head elder Bud would say, “We have the responsibility to keep an eye on the pastor just to make certain sure he don’t go down any wrong trails.” They took their jobs very seriously. So far six pastors failed to make the grade. A seventh was about to find the door out.

An emergency meeting had been called to discuss the pastor. A young believer sat in the meeting, astounded by the petty, ridiculous accusations leveled at the pastor. He knew him to be a man of love; a man who guided his young life to trust in the Lord. With tear-filled eyes he stood and reminded the people of God’s desire for believers to walk in love, to practice forgiveness and pray for healing. Instead, one of the founding fathers smiled and said, “Well son, we know you mean well but you’re young yet. Some day you will understand. Now let’s have the vote so we can start looking for a new pastor.”

The next morning, the pastor called the young man over for coffee and a little help in preparing for the move.

Laying his hand on his Bible the pastor said, “Son, God’s Word will never fail or let us down. He has seen to it that the answers to all our problems can be found on these pages. Let me show you an important section in the book of Romans.”

Romans 5:1-2  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

“What a wonderful set of promises. You will notice that it does not say anything about having perfect conditions or a place of prominence. These promises are based on our decision to believe in Jesus Christ; in spite of any problems we might have. And they have nothing to do with our performance. Notice the word undeserved!

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.

Matthew 6:9-15  Pray like this:  Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

“Here is a powerful prayer given to us by Jesus Himself. Look at what he says about forgiveness, ‘forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven…’ As we pray this, we are agreeing with God to put a condition on our forgiveness. We are saying, forgive me in the same way I forgive others who have sinned against me. You see how it plays out? If we don’t forgive others He can’t forgive us. Now that is a place I do not want to be in with God.

“So, when I consider these verses, I have no choice but to believe that God was not taken by surprise when our tenure here was cut short and that he still has another place for us to go. What he considers most important is how I react to this trial. Do I allow Him to change me by this or do I stomp off mad, pouting in a corner somewhere?”

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.

Matthew 5:11-12  God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

­2 Corinthians 12:9-10 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.

“Son, I fully believe all the words that God has placed in our Bible and I have placed my life in His hands. I understand your feelings of hurt and outrage over what happened to me but you’ve got to go to His word and see what He says about life. The Bible is not buffet style, where we pick and choose which verses we consider important or relevant for today. If you want to follow the Lord, you must give it all up to Him. Believe me, you will never regret it. Never.”

Forgetting The Past

 

Weekly Bible Study
Forgetting The Past
July 29, 2015

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Philippians 3: 13

. To be successful, a runner must forget what is behind and strain toward
the finish line, using every bit of strategy and strength. Even more so in
the Christian life, we must forget the disappointments, failures, broken
relationships, trauma, deceit, false accusations, and lies of the past.
Architects, engineers, electricians, photographers, boat captains, etc
must all focus on what lies ahead, ready to deal with obstacles or
barriers that may arise. Constantly looking backward will at least delay
and possibly create disaster. Mistakes or failures are normal elements in
our lives that refine our character which can give birth to forgiveness and
reliance on God.

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and then looks
behind him is useless for the kingdom of God
.” Luke 9:62

Let us leave behind the elementary teaching about Christ and go forward
to adult understanding
. Heb. 6: 1

Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor
do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever
more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do
not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate
on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched
to whatever
lies ahead I go straight for the goal; my reward–the honor of being called
by God in Christ
. Phil. 3: 13-14

Once we decide to “forget what is behind,” we must arm ourselves with
the armor of God because the enemy of our soul will attack with
hundreds of scenarios in which we’ve been badly treated, accused of
wrongdoing, or lied about. What shall we do in these cases? Nothing!
Praise God for false accusations and character attacks. If these attacks
are false, we will be aligned with our loving Savior who when falsely
accused, did not defend Himself.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led
to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before
its shearers,
so He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:7

And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He
uttered no threats, but kept entrustinq Himself to Him who judges
righteously .
.. 1 Peter 2:23

So call out to God. Believe in His awesome power to overcome all the weapons of the enemy. Place your life in His hands and trust that He will ultimately deliver you from all sin and destruction because He said so. Remember what He told the thief on the cross, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Sinking Deep

 

June 18, 2015
I’ve been disappointed with myself lately. Keeping track, as I often do, of the failures, uncompleted tasks, unfulfilled promises, and feelings of inadequacy that build daily. Struggling to keep my head above the waters of lethargy and self-flagellation, I noticed a barely discernible voice in the background of my mind. Little by little, as I set aside the insurmountable mountain of disappointment that I saw before me the voice seemed louder and more distinct. It was a hymn we sang in the Baptist church. Focusing on the voice, the hymn’s melody grew louder and very familiar. And now the words followed. Let me see, how did it go? I hummed a few bars to myself and then they were there…

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Refrain
Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!
All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs.

Yes, of course, Love Lifted Me by Rowe and Smith. This wonderful hymn, written in 1912 was based on Matthew 14 where Jesus calls Peter to walk on water with Him. At first Peter steps out of the boat gliding on top of the waves, joyfully heading toward Jesus. But then his doubt and fear demand an explanation. Peter sinks, calling out to Jesus, “Save me, Lord!”

That’s me, I realized. At first I step out of the boat of fear, uncertainty, doubt, and failure, looking steadfastly at Jesus, walking on water. And then what happens? Do I grow weary with the effort? Believe the lies of satan? Desire to feed my flesh? Or do I become something far worse and even less palatable to God. . .lukewarm!

That’s it. I’ve become lukewarm toward my Savior, the loving God who saved me from eternal damnation and gave me the hope of a jubilant eternity with Him. I’ve treated the One who has infused me with His Holy Spirit as though He were a buddy. “Hey, thanks God for my salvation. Really great. And before this day is over, I promise to make time for you. Well, gotta go, Lord, I slept in this morning and I don’t want to be late for work.”

Considering my loathsome behavior sends me spiraling down into those negative feelings I began with here. But I needn’t stay there. God’s grace breathes fresh hope into my soul. In the words of the hymnal, But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry…Love lifted me!
It was as if He grabbed my shoulders and shook me into reality. I blinked a few times as His Word, like a Wall Street banner, scrolled past my mind’s eye.

1. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16
2. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
3. Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10, 11
4. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13, 14
5. Don’t worry about anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6, 7

And then the fog of guilt and self-pity was gone. My mind was clear. His Word had given me hope and balance. I was filled with new resolve, thankful for God’s eternal, everlasting love as one final Scripture gave me the day’s sailing orders: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

Now with a fresh cup of coffee and new resolve to acknowledge Him in all my ways, I sense His healing and refreshment already at work.