Friday, June 14, 2019

Give Thanks!

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 and 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. He provides salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, life, breath, health, food, clean water, clothing, shelter, transportation, jobs 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 grateful 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 (Hebrews 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 just don’t seem to 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 your tiny vision.

We all have our share of sorrow. And some people seem to receive more than their fair share of pain. We are unable 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, April 23, 2019

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 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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Message from the real Saint Patrick

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am", I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He himself testifies that this is so. I never would have wanted these harsh words to spill from my mouth; I am not in the habit of speaking so sharply. Yet now I am driven by the zeal of God, Christ's truth has aroused me. I speak out too for love of my neighbors who are my only sons; for them I gave up my home country, my parents and even pushing my own life to the brink of death. If I have any worth, it is to live my life for God so as to teach these peoples; even though some of them still look down on me. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Philippians 2:30

Could I have come to Ireland without thought of God, merely in my own interest? Who was it made me come? For here "I am a prisoner of the Spirit" so that I may not see any of my family. Can it be out of the kindness of my heart that I carry out such a labor of mercy on a people who once captured me when they wrecked my father's house and carried off his servants? For by descent I was a freeman, born of a decurion father; yet I have sold this nobility of mine. I am not ashamed, nor do I regret that it might have meant some advantage to others. In short, I am a slave in Christ to this faraway people for the indescribable glory of "everlasting life which is in Jesus Christ our Lord." Acts 20:22; Romans 6:23

Excerpt from "A Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus"

Friday, March 01, 2019

The Rebellion of Korah

I'm currently reading through the Old Testament and found an interesting story in the book of Numbers chapter 16. The Israelites were camped out in the wilderness and not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of their lack of faith in God. Obviously they were frustrated and disappointed and tempers began to flare. One man named Korah had incited a group of 250 men to rebel against Moses, God's appointed leader. They didn't like the idea that Moses was running the whole show. They complained about the fact that Moses had lead them out of Egypt and not delivered on his promise of taking them to the land of milk and honey. They failed to realize that it was their lack of faith kept them out of Canaan. When confronted with the rebellion Moses threw himself on the ground and prayed for wisdom. Here's how it played out...

Then he (Moses) addressed Korah and his gang: "In the morning God will make clear who is on his side, who is holy. God will take his stand with the one he chooses. Now, Korah, here's what I want you, you and your gang, to do: Tomorrow, take censers. In the presence of God, put fire in them and then incense. Then we'll see who is holy, see whom God chooses. Sons of Levi, you've overstepped yourselves!"

Moses said to Korah, "Bring your people before God tomorrow. Appear there with them and Aaron. Have each man bring his censer filled with incense and present it to God—all 250 censers. And you and Aaron do the same, bring your censers."

So they all did it. They brought their censers filled with fire and incense and stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron did the same. It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God. God said to Moses and Aaron, "Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them." They threw themselves on their faces and said, "O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?" God spoke to Moses: "Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of Israel followed him. He then spoke to the community: "Back off from the tents of these bad men; don't touch a thing that belongs to them lest you be carried off on the flood of their sins." So they all backed away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

... Moses continued to address the community: "This is how you'll know that it was God who sent me to do all these things and that it wasn't anything I cooked up on my own. If these men die a natural death like all the rest of us, you'll know that it wasn't God who sent me. But if God does something unprecedented—if the ground opens up and swallows the lot of them and they are pitched alive into Sheol—then you'll know that these men have been insolent with God." The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Earth split open. Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned. And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.

Things written in the Old Testament were written for our learning. Only Joshua and Caleb and those who demonstrated faith in God to subdue and deliver the Promised Land into the hands of the Israelites actually entered the land. Likewise those who demonstrate lack of faith in Jesus Christ to deliver us from destruction will never enter into the Promised Land (new heaven and new earth). We also see the danger in slandering God's appointed leader. Too many people grumble and complain about their spiritual leaders instead of submitting to his God-given leadership position.

Here's what the Apostle Paul had to say about this topic in the New Testament....

Never speak harshly to an elder, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others. I solemnly command you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus and the holy angels to obey these instructions without taking sides or showing favoritism to anyone. 1 Timothy 5:1, 17, 19 - 21

Friday, February 01, 2019

Groundhog Day

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays meteorologist Phil Connors. He travels to Punxsutawney, PA with his producer and cameraman to cover the annual festivities where Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog is the star.

A blizzard develops and forces them to stay in Punxsutawney. Connors awakens the next morning to find it is February 2 again, and his day unfolds in exactly the same way. However, he is the only one aware of the repetition. Everyone else seems to be living February 2 exactly the same way and for the first time. This pattern continues for many days, maybe even weeks.

I love the fact that many great Bible teachers seem to find analogies in every day things. Rarely does this happen to me. But this movie seems analogous to trials in the Christian life. It may not be the best analogy but it works for me.

When Phil Connors realized that the same things were happening everyday, he began to memorize events, so he could manipulate people and take advantage of his situation. Later when he begins to get tired of being stuck in Groundhog Day, he tries to fight against it but the repetition continues nonetheless. Finally when he examines his life and priorities and makes the necessary changes, Groundhog Day stops and he wakes up on February 3rd a better man. Lesson learned.

The analogy may be loose but it just reminded me of the trials we go through as Christians. Whether it’s a “blizzard” in your life or just a minor testing of your faith, trials are inevitable. God is doing a work in the life of the believer and He allows things to happen along the way to develop our character. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

God allows trials in our lives because there is obviously something He wants us to learn from that particular situation. When we don’t pass the test it seems that God continues to bring that particular trial back into our life until we do pass the test...kinda like in the Groundhog Day movie.

Like Phil Connors sometimes we try to manipulate or take advantage of the situation we’re going through, other times we try to fight against it. But when we finally stop and examine our lives and priorities, then we pass the test and move forward. We learn and grow spiritually from the situation.

Many of us complain when we are tested. We pray for patience, and God allows us to be tested so we can develop our patience, and then we complain more. Our character is both developed and revealed by the testing of our faith. “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your patience has a chance to grow.” James 1:2-3

It's not a matter of "if" the storm is going to come, it's just a question of "when". People have this idea that when you turn your life over to Jesus you won't have any more difficulties. Christians are not immune to difficulties and hardships but we are responsible for our reactions to the trials we encounter. The Apostle Paul probably suffered more hardship than any other Christian and yet he learned to welcome the trials. He said “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.” Romans 5:3-4

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Why Study the Bible?

How often do you read the Bible during a typical week, not counting the time you are at church? In a recent survey, only 13% of Christians said they read it daily. That number increased to 32% when asked if they read it three times a week, but 43% of those Christians surveyed admit that they don’t read the Bible at all outside of church. So, why should we study the Bible? We should study the Bible because we are the people of God and the Bible is the Word of God. It is beneficial for every area of our lives.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4   

If you want to live life to the fullest, study and obey God's Word.

The Bible will also help you distinguish truth from error.
King David wrote, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160 

Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17

You can learn what God is like by reading the Bible. God is Spirit. He is an eternal divine being who is unchangeable in His love, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. 

Most people want to go to heaven, but too many assume that being good is sufficient.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

So, does that mean that doing good deeds and giving money to charitable causes is not enough?

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

Well, if being good isn’t good enough, how does one become a follower of Jesus?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10

One of the things you learn by reading the Bible is that God loves you.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Studying the Bible can also be compared to searching for hidden treasure.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:1-5

As important as reading and studying the Bible is, doing what it says is life changing.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. James 1:22-24

May God bless you richly as you mine the transformative treasures found in the Scriptures!

Monday, December 10, 2018

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 it took forever to arrive. As time progressed, I couldn’t wait to become a teen, and then an adult, but still I had to wait. 

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 

And so as we celebrate His first advent this Christmas, we anxiously await His second coming. And everyone who has this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.