Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Fresh Start

Everybody gets all excited about the start of a new year. There’s so much hype, fanfare and enthusiasm. For most people, it’s a time for resolutions, but unfortunately many resolutions don’t last. Statistics say 45% of Americans make resolutions but only 8% of them actually keep those resolutions.

You determine that this is the year you will lose those unwanted pounds. So, you justify the price of a membership at a fitness center and begin working out every day. But the workouts soon diminish to three times a week and then only weekly before you finally give up and wonder why you spent all that money. It has been said that 67% of those who have gym memberships never use them.

You begin the new year with a plan to read through the entire Bible. The Book of Genesis is exciting and full of familiar stories, but you begin to bog down with all of the commands and instructions in Exodus, and you finally give up before you get to Leviticus. We’ve all been there. Done that.

Honestly, there is nothing magical about a new year. What if you faced each month with the same excitement? Or each week? Or each day?  Maybe that’s what God had in mind when he said,

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

You can begin every day with a new resolve. Confess your sins and have a clean slate today.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

There is no need to wait for the new year to make changes in your life. If today didn’t turn out the way you anticipated, God’s love and mercy are available for a fresh start tomorrow.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Be grateful for all the good things in your life. Write them down somewhere so that you don’t forget. Thank God for all that you have. Be specific. We have many reasons to be thankful.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Begin each day with prayer. Let God speak from the Bible. Apply His Word to your life. Have the right attitude. Use your time wisely. Remember that you have fewer days this year than you did last year.

Make the best use of your time here on earth, recognize and take advantage of every opportunity and use it with wisdom and diligence. Ephesians 5:16

Monday, December 18, 2017

Waiting for the Promise

I have a confession to make. I don’t like to wait, but waiting is a part of life. As a child waiting for Christmas seemed like an eternity. As time progressed, I couldn’t wait to become a teen, and then an adult, but still I had to wait. Driving to visit my family on the busiest travel day of the year we found ourselves waiting in traffic. Whenever I checkout at the store, I have a tendency to pick the slowest moving line, and so I wait. When I go to Starbucks, all I want is a plain old cup of black coffee, but I have to wait for the woman who wants a Venti, sugar-free, non-fat, vanilla soy, double shot latte, no foam, extra hot, Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with light whip and extra syrup, double cupped. And so I’m learning to wait.

In the Garden of Eden, God made a promise to Adam and Eve after they sinned against Him. He promised to send a Redeemer who would crush Satan, but the world had to wait thousands of years for the promise to come to fruition.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Two thousand years later, there lived a man named Abraham. God asked him to leave his country and his kinfolk and go to a foreign land that God would show him. He obeyed and God made a promise to Abraham.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:2-3

All the people on earth would be blessed through the coming Messiah who would descend from Abraham. But it all began with one child of promise. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but they waited twenty five years for Isaac to be born. 

The nation of Israel began with Abraham and one of his best known descendants was King David. When the prophet Samuel anointed David to be the next king, David still had to wait. He waited over 15 years before he would take the throne of Judah and he waited another 7 years before he ruled over the united kingdom of Israel and Judah. And several years later God makes this promise to David.

The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:11-13

That last phrase refers to the promised Messiah but Israel waited another thousand years before He came. Three hundred years after King David, God raised up the prophet Isaiah. This promise came through the prophet.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

The virgin birth is important. We’re all born with a sin nature because we are descendants of Adam and Eve. In order for God to take on flesh and blood without the sin nature, he bypassed the earthly father. The child in Mary’s womb was miraculously conceived by Holy Spirit. Therefore, Jesus was able to live a sinless life and become the perfect sacrificial Lamb of God.

After the prophecy of Isaiah, Israel still had to wait seven hundred more years for the coming of Messiah. And many didn’t even recognize Him when He came. They didn’t realize that He would first come to suffer and die and at His second coming He would establish His earthly kingdom. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  Many failed to recognize that the promised one is Jesus.

In his gospel record, Matthew traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Abraham.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Matthew 1:1

And so after the world waited over four thousand years, the promised Messiah came to earth to save His people from their sins. That's what Christmas is all about.

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 

He lived a perfect sinless life, was crucified, died and was buried, and on the third day He rose again victorious over the grave, death and hell. Those who receive Jesus as Lord are given the right to become children of God and citizens of His kingdom. Jesus promised to return, and still we wait. For over two thousand years we’ve been waiting for His promised return.  

God’s timetable is not the same as ours. One day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day to the Lord. So from His perspective, Jesus has only been gone for a couple of days! Peter encourages our hearts and reminds us why Jesus has not returned yet.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient and merciful toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:8-9 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Give Thanks to the Lord!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks. This is a command from God. He wants His children to be grateful, to remember how much you have been given. Expressing thanks helps you remember that everything comes from the hand of God.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17 

Too many people receive God’s blessings and never give thanks or even think about where their blessings come from. God’s mercies are new every morning… salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, life, breath, health, food,  clean water, clothing, shelter, transportation, a job and money to meet your needs. You receive all that God gives, but do you take time to acknowledge the giver?

Give thanks to the Lord because He is good. His love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Be thankful for the good things as well as the bad. When you learn to thank God in every situation that comes into your life, then you won’t become bitter. You can’t be thankful and bitter at the same time. You can even thank Him for your suffering, because God uses suffering to develop your character. His goal is to make you more like Jesus, and He was perfected in His suffering (Heb 2:10).

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4

You can be sick and still be thankful. You can grieve and still be thankful. Sometimes things happen to us that don’t make sense. Only God sees the big picture. You may not understand why God allows certain things in your life but God paints on a canvas much larger than our tiny vision. 

We all have our share of sorrow. And some seem to receive more than their fair share of pain. We are not able to give thanks in every situation without the help of the Holy Spirit. Left to your own devices, the pain of life can drive you to bitterness and despair. But when you factor God into the equation, and you believe that your life and times are in His hands, then you can say “Thank you, Lord,” no matter what happens in life. If you belong to Jesus, this is how God wants you to live.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Recognizing Jesus

Many people don't understand that the Bible is more than a book of ancient history. The Bible does contain history, but it is also His-Story. It is the story of Jesus from cover to cover, and that also includes the Old Testament. When Jesus talked with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, he rebuked them for not recognizing that the Old Testament predicted His death, burial and resurrection.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

Later that day, those two disciples ran back to tell the other disciples that they had seen the risen Lord Jesus. As they were talking Jesus appeared in their midst. Once again, he told them that everything from the Old Testament books of Moses, Psalms and the Prophets were all about Him.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:44-48

Don't neglect reading the Old Testament... it is indeed His-Story!

In Genesis, He is the Creator, Giver and Sustainer of life
In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb
In Leviticus, He is Our Great High Priest
In Numbers, He is the cloud and the fire
In Deuteronomy, He is the prophet like Moses
In Joshua, He is Captain of our salvation
In Judges, He’s the Judge and the law giver
In Ruth, He is Our Kinsmen-Redeemer
In 1 and 2 Samuel, He is The Prophet of the Lord
In Kings and Chronicles, He is Our Sovereign King

In Ezra, He’s the True and Faithful scribe
In Nehemiah, He is the Rebuilder of broken walls and lives
In Esther, He is the Courage of Mordecai
In Job, He is the Dayspring from on high
In Psalms, He is The Lord our Shepherd

In Proverbs & Ecclesiastes, He is Wisdom personified
In Song of Solomon, He is the Lover of my soul

In Isaiah, He is the Suffering Servant
In Jeremiah & Lamentations, He is the weeping prophet
In Ezekiel, He is the Son of Man
In Daniel, He is the Son of God in the fiery furnace

In Hosea, He is The Bridegroom
In Joel, He is the Power of the Spirit
In Amos, He is our Burden Bearer
In Obadiah, He is the Mighty Savior
In Jonah, He is the Forgiving God

In Micah, He is the Everlasting Messiah
In Nahum, He is Our Strength and Shield
In Habakkuk, He is the Great Evangelist

In Zephaniah, He is the Restorer of the Remnant
In Haggai, He is the Cleansing Fountain
In Zechariah, He is the Pierced Son of God

In Malachi, He is the Son of righteousness, risen with healing in His wings
  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Three Gifts



We went to Cape Cod for vacation this year. While we were there my wife bought me a gift. It was a nice souvenir coffee mug. She knows I like coffee mugs. I have quite a collection of them and most of them have a story behind them. When she gave me the mug, I didn’t try to pay her for it. I didn’t ask her what I had to do to earn it or what I did to deserve it. I simply thanked her for it and the next day I made coffee and used it. She got me a gift just because she loves me and was thinking about me.

Everybody loves to get gifts at Christmas or on your birthday or anniversary. The thing about gifts is that you don’t earn them. They are freely given. You say thanks and use it.

I was a very religious person until I was 14 years old. I knew many facts about God, but I had no personal relationship with Him. God seemed distant and far off. The church taught me that I needed to be good in order to get to heaven. I was 21 years old before I learned that salvation is a gift. There are three important gifts that the Bible mentions.

Salvation

God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. The most important decision you can make is to surrender your life to Jesus. When you do that you receive the free gift of salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

It is the gift of God. It’s not something that you can work for. It is not something that can be earned. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. Just like being in a coop doesn’t make you a chicken. I went to church for years but I wasn’t a Christian until the day I repented and received God’s unspeakable gift.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

The Holy Spirit

You also receive another gift when Jesus saves you, Peter called it the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts 2:38

When Jesus walked on the earth He could only be in one physical place at a time. But when He ascended to heaven He sent the Holy Spirit to live within every believer. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you are never alone because God’s Holy Spirit resides within you.

Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:9

This is how you have assurance of salvation and know you belong to the family of God.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17

Spiritual Gifts

When the Holy Spirit of Christ lives within you, He also gives you a gift. We all have natural talents, gifts and abilities. But when you become a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives you a spiritual gift.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7

Preaching, teaching, leadership, serving, compassion, giving, faith, encouragement, mercy, helps. These spiritual gifts are given by God to build up the body of Christ, to reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to become spiritually mature, and able to discern truth from error. Since the gifts of God are irrevocable, that means you never use them up, no matter your age.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10

So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. Romans 12:5-6

Suppose you bought a gift for a friend, simply because you love them and want to bless them. You wrapped it up and gave it to them and they thanked you and put it on the shelf. Every time you went to your friend’s house you noticed that the gift you gave them is still sitting there on the shelf, looking pretty but still unopened. How would you feel?

Most likely you would be disappointed and feel your gift was unappreciated. You want them to experience the excitement of receiving it and enjoy the pleasure of using it.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you gave been gifted. You have been given the free gift of God, eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. You have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that you are never alone. He assures you that you are a child of God. He convicts you when you sin. He empowers you, enlightens you and encourages you. And the Holy Spirit has given you at least one spiritual gift. God wants you to use it throughout your lifetime as long as you are physically able.