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.


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.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Sunday

One of the things I love about this time of year is how various colors emerge as nature resurrects from its winter death sentence. This is also the time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. With remarkable accuracy, Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testaments prophecies concerning his life, death, burial and resurrection.

Here's the account from the Gospel of John...

Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and that He had said these things to her. So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. John 20 11-20

Not only did Jesus appear to his immediate disciples after His resurrection but He also appeared to over 500 of his followers at once! At the time the apostle Paul wrote about this fact many of the witnesses were still alive who would corroborate his story. Paul himself persecuted Christians until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, years after His ascension to heaven. Here is how Paul describes the good news about Jesus death, burial and resurrection...

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

I believe these things by faith, but still there are many skeptics today. However many agnostics and atheists like Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) and Josh McDowell (Evidence Demands a Verdict) took the initiative to actually study the claims of Christ. The overwhelming evidence lead them to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Even Josephus, the secular 1st century historian attests to evidence of Jesus' resurrection...

" ... About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats and as a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared." Josephus' Testimonium Flavianum, from Antiquities of the Jews 18:63-64

The Gospel of John closes with the reason for his writing. His purpose in writing his gospel is that you will be presented with the factual truth about Jesus and hopefully come to believe his claims. We who believe in Him have hope beyond the grave... because He rose from the dead, so shall we!

Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31

Friday, April 14, 2017

What's Good about Good Friday?

God loves us because we are His creation. I am amazed at the lengths that He went through to provide salvation. You might ask, "Why do I need to be saved? What am I being saved from?"

It all goes back to the Garden of Eden. The story is found in the Book of Genesis. God created Adam and Eve and gave them simple instructions which ultimately they disobeyed. God had warned them that their disobedience would result in death. They chose to listen to the temptation of Satan rather than the clear, single command of God. The result was their banishment from the Garden, eventual physical death and separation from God. However, God promised that he would provide a way of reconciliation for them. Since all of us descend from Adam and Eve, the same curse is upon us. We're born, we live for a certain number of years, and then we die. And without God's intervention we would be eternally separated from him in a place of torment, outer darkness, fire and brimstone.

Only God is perfectly good. We are all born as sinners. Some people will readily admit to being sinners but others believe we are basically good. The problem is that we have the wrong standard. We think we're good because we're not as bad as others who may be drunks, murderers, rapists or thieves. But God is the one who sets the standard and His standard is nothing short of perfect righteousness. 

"...For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood." Romans 3:23-25

I don't understand why God loves us so much, but I'm just glad that He does. Because of His great love for us, He provided a way to be reconciled to Him and escape eternal punishment. If you will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of your life, you will become righteous in the eyes of God and receive His free gift of eternal life. No strings attached.

"...When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." Romans 5:6-8

I'm currently reading through the Gospels as we approach Resurrection Day. It's good to be reminded of the price that Jesus paid to redeem us from the penalty of our sin. Today the cross is glamorized as jewelry or clothing adornments but crucifixion was the most brutal form of execution ever devised by man. But God decided that this would be the method by which Jesus would willingly give up His life.
"... Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face." "...So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull. There they nailed him to the cross." John 19:1-3, 17

That's what is "good" about Good Friday. Jesus was beaten, bruised and bloodied beyond recognition and He suffered the ignominious death on the cross, but it was "good" for us because He became the sinless substitute on our behalf. God poured out His just and holy wrath on His own Son, whom He had made to become the very embodiment of sin. All you need to do is believe it and receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior. Good Friday can be "good" for you too when you choose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.  

"For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ." 2 Corinthians 5:21