Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Journey

The Journey: Life is not just about reaching the destination. There is joy in the journey....

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Chosen By God

We have been chosen by Jesus.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  John 15:16

Blessed with every spiritual blessing and chosen before the foundation of the world. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:3-4

We are predestined to be adopted as sons. This is the will of God.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:5-6

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our inheritance.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

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

God chose us to be saved to obtain the glory of the Lord.

God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

We are called with a holy calling.

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Ephesians 4:1

Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9

We are predestined to be conformed into the image of Jesus.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29

We are members of God’s kingdom, redeemed and forgiven of our trespasses. 
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

We are justified by faith through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

No one can snatch you out of God’s hands. 

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. 

I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Humility and Unity

The Philippian church was a model church but there seemed to be some division. It was a multi-cultural church and they were also being persecuted for their faith. Whatever the source of the division, the apostle Paul wrote to encourage them to conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. He exhorts them to stand together in unity, practicing and proclaiming the gospel. He reminds them not to be alarmed by the enemy who opposes them and challenges them to diligently pursue unity and harmony with their fellow believers.

Our enemy Satan still causes division today. He divides and then conquers. He prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. With thousands of years of practice, he's good at what he does. We see division today between Christians of different denominations and there’s even division within specific churches. How quickly we forget that we have an opponent, an unseen enemy. We fall into his trap when we promote our own selfish interest, escalate petty differences, gossip or slander each other because somehow we think we are better.

Unity is rooted in humility. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the model for the mindset of humility. His incarnation, life, and death provide us with the ultimate example of humility. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4

Selfishness seeks personal gain at the expense of others. Humility desires the advance of others at our expense. Pride and empty conceit are a part of our fallen human nature, it causes us to compete with others, rather than to contribute to their well-being. If we are truly humble, then we are not desperately seeking to enhance our own standing. We are to treat one another as “better than” ourselves. Their interests are to come higher on our agenda than our own selfish interests. The cure for selfishness is servanthood. Humility prompts me to serve others, assigning my interests a lower priority than their needs.

Paul reminds them of the ultimate example of humility - our Lord Jesus Christ.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Though equal with God (or equally God) our Lord did not seize this as an opportunity to further His own interests. Instead, He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant”. Jesus never ceased to be God; He divested Himself of self-interest, so that He could glorify the Father and bring about our salvation. Jesus did not reduce His deity; but He added sinless humanity and this was prompted by His humility.

The humbling process had several facets.

1) He left the splendor and glory of heaven to dwell on earth. Since the glory of heaven is beyond our human ability to comprehend it, we have difficulty grasping the sacrifice that was required for our Lord to leave heaven and to live on earth.

2) Then He humbled himself to take on the form of a man, a servant. The Creator became the creature. He came as the “Lamb of God” who would become sin for us. He came to die the most cruel and ignoble death possible—crucifixion. It is one thing to come as a servant, but Jesus' service consisted of being condemned as a common criminal and a sinner against a holy God.

3) Jesus stooped so low in His humility that He was elevated to the highest possible place of honor by the Father. As a result of His humility and obedience, God highly exalted Him, giving to Him a name above every name. Jesus dwelt among men, was rejected and crucified; and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

We don’t have to promote our own interests. God will take care of that when we humble ourselves.God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5,6

Sunday, March 27, 2016

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 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 and Josh McDowell 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 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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's Good about Good Friday?

God loves us because He created us. I stand amazed at what He has done 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 we all descended 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 and brimstone.

In the Bible, God says that He alone is good. We are all born as sinners. Some 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 of escape from eternal punishment. If we will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and allow Him to have control of our lives, we can become righteous in the eyes of God and receive His gift of eternal life.

"...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. The cross may be glamorized as jewelry or clothing adornments but it 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 and He suffered the ignominious death on the cross, but it was "good" for us because He became the 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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Born Again

I grew up in the ghettos of Philadelphia, PA. My dad was a violent abusive alcoholic. We weren't Catholic but my mom put me and my sister in Catholic school to get a good education. We also got a good dose of religion. At five years old I began to learn about God and being a good student I developed quite a knowledge of religion. I was taught many facts about God but also taught that when you die, God would weigh your good against your bad deeds and if you were good enough you would get into heaven. So I determined to be good and try to please God. I became an altar boy at eight years old, learned the mass in Latin and served in church at every opportunity. My goal was to become a priest because I thought they were holy men. By the time I was fourteen I became disillusioned with Catholicism and stopped going to church altogether when we moved to New Jersey.

Home was very dysfunctional because of alcoholism. I never understood why my mother put up with all of the abuse. But something radical happened when I was a teenager, my parents both became Christians and got involved in a Baptist church.

At that stage of life, I wanted nothing to do with religion and began hanging out with the hippies, living an immoral lifestyle, ingesting any drugs or alcohol that I could get my hands on. At seventeen I left home to attend college in Tennessee, which was just one continual party. A year later I was back home working with my father in the construction business. For the next three years, I was in and out of college, working various jobs, partying with my friends, trying anything that would bring happiness to my troubled, wounded soul.

Every day the road to my apartment took me right past a Christian bookstore. I was 21 years old at the time, and one Friday on the way home from work I decided to stop in. The bookstore owner greeted me and let me browse through some Bibles. We shared a brief conversation and he obviously could tell that I was out of my comfort zone and not really sure of what I was looking for. Before I left he invited me to church on Sunday. I reluctantly agreed and quickly left the premises.

I really had no intention of attending church but by Sunday morning I changed my mind. The people at church greeted me and expressed their joy at seeing me there. The church was a very simple storefront building compared to the elaborate architecture of a Catholic church. That morning for the first time in my life I heard the gospel message. I already believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ but that morning I understood the significance when I heard this message, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast" Ephesians 2:8,9.

I knew that Jesus died for me, bore the penalty for my sins and I desperately wanted and needed a fresh start. I prayed and asked God to forgive me, take over my messed up life and change me from the inside out. I gave control of my life over to God because I couldn't live a good life on my own and I wanted to follow Jesus.

The changes were miraculous! Eventually I stopped taking drugs and abusing alcohol, stopped having premarital sex and had a voracious hunger for the Bible. I spent many hours in my little studio apartment reading my Bible and talking to God. I told all my friends that Jesus was now in control of my life and of course, they ridiculed me. The irony is that now some of them are now Christians as well. Since that day I have been far from perfect, but I know that the Spirit of God lives within me, my sins are forgiven and my purpose in life is to honor Him. My life belongs to Him and I am totally submitted to God and dependent on Him. I am assured of eternal life and every day my desire is to spread the good news about Jesus.       

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17.

No matter how miserable your life may be, God loves you too and wants make you a brand new person. Talk to him right now, ask Him to forgive your sins and take control of your life. Jesus will never reject anyone who comes to Him in faith.

"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 it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved" Romans 10:9-10.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Real St. 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

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Love is the Greatest Gift

A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy standing with her arms folded and a stern expression on her face. Charlie Brown pleads, “Lucy, you must be more loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make this world a better place.” Lucy angrily whirls around and knocks Charlie Brown to the ground. She screams at him, “Look, you blockhead, the world I love. It's people I can’t stand.”

I don’t know why God loves us the way He does, but I’m just glad He does. God knows us intimately and yet He loves us with an everlasting love. Before God ever created man He knew the outcome. He knew we would rebel against Him but because of His great love for us, He created man anyway because He already had a plan to redeem His creation.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. John 3:16-17

The Son of God volunteered to complete the mission. He willingly decided to leave the splendor and glory of heaven, humble Himself, become human and live a sinless life in order to fulfill the requirements of the law. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross, to satisfy the demands of a holy God, destroy the works of the devil and in the process redeem mankind. Jesus loves us enough to offer His life as a sacrifice for us. Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 And that’s exactly what He did.

The English language is so limited when it comes to the word love. We use that one word for so many things. I love my wife, spicy food, seafood, cheeseburgers, my job, my house, my truck, beaches, mountains and sunshine. The Greek language is much more specific. Storge means fondness or affection. Eros means erotic love or sexual desire. Fileo means brotherly love. God’s love is agape love. Agape is the kind of love that seeks the other’s highest good. That’s why Jesus was willing to let go of his divine privileges, be born as a human and give His sinless life in exchange for ours on that cross. He put our needs ahead of His rights.

Paul tells us of the importance of love and then defines it. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Paul wanted us to see that spiritual gifts are great but without love we’re just making a bunch of noise. He lists many good things we can do but without love they’re really not worth anything.

Love is to be the defining characteristic of every Christian.

Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35