Monday, May 31, 2010

Growing in Every Way, Becoming Increasingly Like Christ

Eph. 4:14-16    
     14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.  15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Paul was telling the church members at Ephesus, and us as well, about the gifts (vv 11-13) that Christ has given the church. These gifts consist of roles that He equips various of us to fulfill and serve our local body of believers-- where He has planted us, that is. When we do this, we, and our fellow Christ followers can mature in our faith. Our maturity protects us from deception. Our maturity in Christ is lead by and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God who co-exists within our new nature. We can discern truth from lie. We exercise truth in the way God created us to do-- with unconditional love. The more we yield ourselves to doing so, the more we grow into the very nature that is Christ's nature. The more we exercise His nature the more He will fit us together perfectly. The more we fit together, the more effectively we each do our assigned work in the body. The more effectively we do our body-work then the more the Body of Christ grows because others will be attracted to Him.

What are you doing today? Is it exemplifying the new nature that Christ places within all who trust in Him? Is it exercising mutual unity with other believers where God has planted you? Is it filling you with complete peace and Confidence in the Lord, regardless of what challenges may be approaching you? If you will permit it to, it will cause you to grow increasingly to be like Christ.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Friday, May 28, 2010

One in us All and We All in The One

Eph. 4:1-5  
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.  2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.  5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

This passage is so rich with meaning. It is quite worthy you spending some time reading it repeatedly. Paul assures his readers about unity-- the unity of God, the unity of Christ-followers together in God, and the unity of the Christian faith. The Church-- the collected believers in Christ across the nations and the organizations should be united in the Lord. Our faith should be the unifying factor-- one faith, one baptism. . . In our local groups we must be bound together. But not just within our group but also among those groups. The Nazarenes, and the Frees, and the Wesleyans, and the Southern Baptists, and the north, east, and western baptists as well (if there are such groups), along with the Presbyterians, and the Brethren groups and the . . . and the. . .-- all who claim Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and Savior of all-- must be willing to cease distinguishing themselves and start unifying together in our One Faith!

Our unity will require some effort on our part-- make every effort. The one and only thing that prevents believers from being unified through their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, is a sense that says something like 'it ought to be my way or the highway.'  Instead of clarifying our brothers' and sisters' faults we need to be overlooking them with the Grace that unconditional love can give. If we would "always be humble and gentle" then we would not find ourselves running down our fellow believers in conversations where they are not present.

Paul-- identifying himself as a prisoner --wrote from incarceration because of his persistent obedience to his call to teach Christ everywhere. He invites us to identify our own call-- that we are called by God to faith in Christ. Upon that step of faith, Paul reminds us all to lead a quality of life that is worthy of your calling. How is today going? Are you living in that way of worthiness? Would you like to be? Have you prayed and asked Him for it to become so in your life?

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Be Deeply Rooted in God's Love

Ephesians 3:16-19
16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Paul, having reflected for the Ephesians-- and for us-- upon the great gift of God to us all, comes to these expressions of prayer and praise. He specifies one of the ways he prayed for the Christians at Ephesus, and for us as well, was that we all become empowered with inner strength. This inner strength comes through God's Holy Spirit after HE takes up residence within our restored new nature. Paul encourages us to allow our roots to grow deep into the unconditional love of God. This deep-rooted source will nourish our strength. He clarifies that Christ's love in God is far beyond anyone's capacity to measure but he nevertheless urges us to understand how long, high, deep this love goes. He reminds us to go beyond Christian rhetoric and to really experience Christ's love in our practical daily living.

When we apply Christ's love-- unconditional love-- on a daily basis then something wonderful happens within us and through us that blesses others. The Lord's love is massively and immeasurably larger than you or I have the capacity to contain, for sure. However because of that truth, we can be certain that His love can fill us so completely that there will be no room left for evil or self. This would be an awesome experience for you this day if you have not yet enjoyed this new nature. It would be another awesome experience for you to see this unconditional love nature take root in a new life who does not now know it.  Whom should you tell today?

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Peace for those Far and those Near, Peace for All

Eph. 2:14-18 NLT    
   14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.  15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.  
   17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.  18 Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.

The promises that Paul was outlining to the Christians at Ephesus are for us as well today. There is the promise of peace. There is the promise of unity together with others who believe and with God Himself. All this is promised to all who believe by the Holy Spirit-- because Christ obeyed. In the Lord's obedience we have been redeemed. In His resurrection, we have been cleansed, purified, and made new.

The peace God brings to us is perfect peace, there can be none more perfect. It will sustain you regardless of what turmoil you might ever face. It will comfort you when you face loss. It will lift you if you feel knocked down. It will heal you when you feel wounded. It will protect you when you feel threatened. It will guide you when you feel lost. It will embolden you when you are intimidated. This peace is all you ever need and it is yours for the asking. Receive PERFECT PEACE today through faith and trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Next, share this with someone who also needs such peace.
Your Servant in Christ's Love

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

We were lost in our sin . . . but God. . .gave us life!

Eph. 2:1-6 NLT    
1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.  2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.  3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. 
4  But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,  5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)  6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

Paul continues teaching the Ephesian church, and us as well, about understanding the incredible greatness of God's power.  He reminds us all that before we came to faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, we were lost in our sin. We were so lost that it was as though we were dead. In fact, our life then compared to the eternal life in Christ we now share is just like death compared over against life.  He reminds us that we used to 'live in sin like the rest of the world.'  The world lives in sin-- self will. The world understands only self will. The people in control in this world have moved to the peak of self-will and sin-- as evidenced by their inablity to be truthful even when faced with evidence. We can't condemn those people, however because we used to be just like them. It is only by God's grace that we are at all different today-- if we actually are different and not just masquerading. We used to follow the 'passionate desires in inclinations of our sinful nature too.

Bless the dear apostle for his precious words in the beginning of verse 4, "But God. . . "  We would be lost in our sin still but for God's grace. We would still be dead because of our sins but for the fact that through His grace He has given us life, cleansed us from sin, and has determined to set us among the righteous ones in heaven-- when we arrive there. Why fuss over the way of the world? Why not rejoice in your newness of life and work to share that with others who are now lost in their sin? You can't fix the world, but you can share the message that can fix a life for eternity.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Understand. . .Christ. . fills all things everywhere with himself"

Eph. 1:18-23 NLT
     18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
     19    I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.  21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.  22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.  23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

In previous passages we have studied this same theme-- that Christ is the all powerful of the universe-- very God, as well as Perfect Man. We have seen, before, what Paul tells the Ephesians here, that those who choose to believe by faith can have 'confident hope.' You in whom the faith of Christ lives, do, indeed, have confident hope as it says in verse 18. The faith that God causes to grow within us causes us to become Christ's inheritance. We-- the accumulated believers in Christ in all our formal and informal groups, form Christs Body And that body is destined to be made 'full and complete by the Lord. Because he 'fills all things everywhere'  (vs 23) then he will make the church powerful. It seems to many of us in these days that the church is week but that is because we look only at our local organization or congregation.

The body of Christ is not my congregation or yours. It is the collective of all who have laid down self preference and taken up God's will and preferences. Members of congregations may not be members in the body unless they have said an obedient and submissive "Yes" to Christ's lordship over all things. This is more than words, and is seen in actions. Those actions are in the very image of Christ himself-- done with unconditional love and service to others. Such service is not the fruit of our own effort but the result of "the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him" (vs 19). Therefore, nothing should disturb you this day because you are submitted to Him and His will for all that you should do or say. Rejoice in His greatness within you and allow it to impact others with His love.


Friday, May 21, 2010

God's Mysterious Plan Revealed!

Eph. 1:9    God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.  10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.  11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

I am a person who plans. The other day I even planned how I was NOT going to plan anything! I can't help myself, I am just a planner. It is how God wired me, others tell me.  I really appreciate a great plan. So, when I read this passage, my heart skips a beat. God-- the one who created everything, the one who planned everything to the most minute detail, the one who set the plan into motion, the one who sustains and maintains the plan to its fulfilment--God's plan was mysterious. However, Paul tells the Ephesians and us that God has revealed His mysterious plan to us. His plan was that Christ would come to be the sacrifice for humankind's sin and thereby atone for it all, for those who accept it. Paul told them, and us that there is a time coming that will be "the right time." It will be the time when God brings it all together. It will be the time when the Risen Christ returns to be revealed as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, over all creation. It will be the time when the inheritance you and I have been granted-- to reign with Christ-- will be dispersed.

Paul tells us that God chose us. I just can never get enough of that passage. It is so mind-boggling to me that the Creator, the all-perfect, all powerful, all-knowing, one and only God chose me. I don't often get chosen for honor or recognition. I'd like to-- as we all would I suppose, but I don't. I have come to accept it in my latter years that I'm not going to be highly recognized and little chosen by others. But that no longer matters to me because I realize now that GOD chose me! We can't be better honored than for God to have chosen us. And God's immutable, inspired Holy written Word says that He chose me, and you, to be a party to His great plan. It further tells me that we are united with Christ-- we are in a bond, a common Holy nature with the Lord. We have his heart. We have his mind. We have his will-- and all because God chose us.

If there is anything that upsets you today, compare it with this truth-- God chose YOU to be with Him for eternity.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

Eph. 1:3    All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

We have concluded our months-long walk through the Book of Hebrews. Let's now turn to Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. This rich little New Testament book is just crammed full of inspiring guides for the 21st century Christ-follower. It echos many of the teachings that we have already discussed in the previous two months but from yet a different perspective. Right off the bat, Paul lays out richness. God grants us peace (vs 2). He enriched us with 'every spiritual blessing. . . ' (v 3).  He CHOSE you and me-- prior to the creation of the World. This reveals the detail to which God foreknew us and the depth of His love that he created us anyway (vs 4-5).

Paul makes it clear that there has been an outpouring of God's 'glorious grace' upon us. He also makes it clear that this outpouring came only to those who 'belong to his dear Son.' Paul used the metaphor of a shower-- remember your morning shower. Hot water sprayed down upon your body bringing it alive and responsive, and driving away uncleanliness. God's shower has drenched us in His love, in His grace, in His forgiveness, in His nature itself! Get ready to be blessed repeatedly across the coming weeks as we crawl through this wonderful book of inspiration. But for today, remember that through Christ God has given YOU peace. You can feel at peace today because of all that we have pointed out above. Are you willing?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Offer a Continual Sacrifice of Praise!

Heb. 13:8--15
8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  9 So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.
. . .
15  Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.  16 And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

The Man, Jesus Christ, was the incarnate Christ-- God's only begotten Son. He was one with The Father, by his own testimony and by God's as well. He came to be a propitiation-- a sacrifice-- for our sins. He established the opportunity for believers to re-link to God the Creator. He came to proclaim peace over the war with sin and to give victory. He came to offer the opportunity for humankind to be re-made, over again, into the image of Christ who was in God. He was the creator at the beginning. At his death and resurrection He created again-- new life in all who would believe in Hm. He proclaimed the original gospel of God offered at creation to our first parents and there rejected. He succeeded where Adam failed. His news is Good News but is not new news. It was from the beginning, God's plan to create, even knowing His creatures would reject Him. He created a plan for our redemption as well, knowing the great sacrifice it would require. To us who are mortal, the sacrifice is unimaginable and can merely be represented by the religious imitations of animal sacrifice as recorded in the Old Testament with the Hebrews.

Jesus, who was God at the beginning, and who was God the Son at the crucifixion, and resurrection, and who is yet God today has never changed. He has never wavered from His plan and intent-- to produce a 'holy people' who would respond at all times in God's Holy Spirit power. We can draw strength-- more than we imagine-- from God because of His grace. Our religious rituals are meaningless but our redemption is true because our Redeemer is true. The only sacrifice that God wants from us is the sacrifice of obedience, the sacrifice of submission, the sacrifice of praising Him by electing His will in place of our own.

This day can be a great day for you because you embrace all to which the Lord, your God, is calling you. Today can be amazing because you embrace peace in His name and approach each task that comes before you in His unconditional love. I have prayed you find it in your heart to have a great day today in this way.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So, How Ought We all to Be Living?

Heb. 13:1-6 NLT
     1 Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.  2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!  3 Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
    4 Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.
     5  Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.”
     6 So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

The Writer to Hebrews has painstakingly laid out the Hebrew history and the role of Redeemer Christ-- God's ultimate grace for humanity. He made it clear, using Jewish tradition and religious law that humanity cannot possibly please God, cannot possibly attain righteousness through self-determination and control. He has brought us to the point in the narrative where every good writer causes readers to ask-- "ok so what now?"

Chapter 13 begins to wrap this all up for us. Because of Christ's great sacrifice, because of God's great love and grace, because of God's unconditional love and forgiveness of sin, we are positioned for something truly new! We are made ready to receive anew nature that can live sinlessly. Yes, that's right, I said we can become able to live without sinning. When you are in Christ, by faith, there begins to be a new nature in you that, should you live according to it, will help you live for God's purposes instead of your own.

When that becomes true for you, then the verses of this passage can well describe how you naturally live. You will continuously love other believers. You will always show hospitality to strangthers. You will care about and for those who are oppressed and abused. You will have the inner wherewithall to honor and unconditionally love your spouse, regardless of how you may be treated by him orher. You will no longer feel the pull of money and materialism. We might actually learn to be satisfied with what God's will grants us. You will live in the knowledge that God, in fact, "will never fail you" or "abandon you." Whatever it is that you face, no matter how troubling or dangerous, you will have the inner nature necessary to respond with peace that the Lord is my helper.' Others, no matter what they threaten are 'mere people,' and have nowhere near the power or resource to affect your eternal life. You are a new creature in the image of Christ Himself. And, THAT is precisely how you can now live, if you are willing.

Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unshakable in Christ's Love

Heb. 12:25-29 NLT
     25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!  26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.”  27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.
     28  Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.  29 For our God is a devouring fire.

The Writer to the Hebrews has carefully laid out the invitation to these ancient people of God to open their eyes and see the salvation that God has opened up through Judaism to the entire world for reunification with God. He has explained what was obvious from their history but what their eyes were missing. This passage points out a time when these 'people of God,' having experienced his protection and accepted the relationship with Him, later turned rebellious because God's call was inconvenient.  Today, people of God-- called 'Christians' or 'Christ-followers' also struggle to resist such rebellious tendencies. We have a nature that wants to be at the center of things in our lives and others' lives as well. We find God's call to action inconvenient often. But a lesson must be learned from the ancient Hebrews who turned from God at a crisis point. "They refused to listen to the One who is speaking."  That one still speaks today and speaks faith and grace into the lives of His obedient servants. But we must work to listen because of the tempestous din of tempting noises cast abroad the face of our lives.

The time is coming upon the earth when God will wrap it all up and move on into His eternal plan for a sinless creation. You and I have heard His call and have stepped by faith in Christ into that eternity. We must be careful to continue to Listen to God's call upon our lives so that we do not step where we should not go and so that we do, indeed, walk where He leads us. When God shakes up creation, it is only faith in Christ that will remain unshaken. That faith is like a devouring fire in that it burns up all that can be burned, convert it into pure energy. We can remain unshaken, unburned, cleansed of all impurities as God's time line proceeds. The good news is that you can take someone with you. Who will you share your ticket with?

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, May 14, 2010

To Where Have We Now Come?

Heb. 12:22-24 NLT
22 ". . .you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.  23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect.  24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance . . . "

We have learned about Christ, the great sacrifice; Christ the High Priest; Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Christ the restoration home; Christ, the Redeemer of humankind lost to sin. We are, by faith, God's children, being daily restored into His image-- new creations, born of The Spirit. The Writer to Hebrews describes us as having arrived but where is it we have come to?  He calls it the 'Mount Zion.' To Hebrews this meant God's home or God's Holy Place. He called it 'the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.  He describes what we could see if we could see with our spiritual eyes. There are 'countless thousands of angels' joyfully gathered to welcome us home.

We have arrived where the 'spirits of the righteous ones' have awaited us since they were taken to heaven in their own times, as martyrs or simply as passing at the end of their faithful lives. They, too, will be celebrating our arrival. They have been made 'perfect' as we will be upon our passing into that place. Whether we are alive when Christ returns to earth, and then transformed, or we pass into that heavenly perfection as a part of God's plan for the end of our earthly existence, either way our perfecting will be made complete. We have already come to Jesus, that means we already are there in Heaven. Our tasks now in this existence involve submission and obedience as the Lord uses us for His purposes to bless others. We aren't living this life to experience personal comfort, accomplishment, fame, fortune or recognition. We live it solely to fulfill the Lord's will in ways that draws others to Himself.

Jesus is the 'one who mediates the new covenant between God and people.' Jesus shed His blood as ultimate sacrifice so that we all could be forgiven and changed. Since we have come to this glorious place ought we not to be rejoicing today? In spite of what experiences you might be facing, you could also be rejoicing in your Lord and your newness of life today. Moreover, you could be inviting another to experience what you are now able to experience.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Living in Peace With Everyone

Heb. 12:14-17 NLT    
14 "Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.  15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.  16 Make sure that no one is immoral or godless  , , ."

The Writer to the Hebrews, moves on in chapter 12 with this inspiring encouragement as to how Christ's follower ought to live-- "at peace with everyone." We have lots going on today that stimulates angry or frustrating responses from us.  It's going on in the politics of our nation and the decisions of leaders.  Often, I am tempted to react angrily and 'let them have it,' whatever "IT" might be that could throw at them. However, Christ has called me to behave differently. He has called me to 'love my enemy.'  He has called me to 'do good to those who persecute' me.  He has called me to live such a holy life that none can fault me because of the good they see me do.

If I throw stones-- or harsh words-- they will not be blessed.  What else can I throw? How about prayer. I can pray for all those doing evil-- even as Jesus prayed for the forgiveness of those very ones who were crucifying him. I can pray for the political leaders who lie to us every day in every way. I can pray for the news writers who lie to us promoting their favored politicians agendas. I can pray for those who seek to do harm to people of faith in Christ. I can pray for wisdom to prevail. I can pray for God's love to be seen in me toward others. I can pray that all the 'poisonous root of bitterness' does not grow up in me and in you. I can pray that we in the Church-- the body of Christ-- are not caught up in the immorality of our age.

I can nurture others and mentor them. I can go out of my way to be a blessing to others regardless of how I am treated. I can spend at least as much time blessing others as I do seeking to promote my own ease and comfort. Oh, there is so much more I can do that will truly make a difference. Cutting off my enemy's head will only make his friends madder at me. Loving my enemy will confound him or her and open the eyes of his or her friends.  With God's grace I can live at peace with everyone. Are you able to do this? Would you like to be able? You can ask Him and He will grant it right now. But, as The Writer has continued to tell us, we must receive even this BY FAITH.

Your servant in Christ's Love

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strip off The Weight that Slows Down Your Faith

Heb. 12:1-4 NLT
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

The Hebrew Writer described the "published" members of this "great cloud of witnesses" in the excerpts from Chapter 11 that we read yesterday. There are many, many more and the 'cloud' includes us. These days we hear the notion of a 'cloud' used with the weather and even with computers. It refers to an extensive interlinked association of resources that interact with each other for a common purpose. A computing cloud, for example, involves huge numbers of internet resources, sites, and even hardware that can be linked in a common task. A 'witness cloud, then, it would follow, is an interlinked relationship among innumerable saints alive and also in heaven with the Lord, interacting together for a common purpose-- the final revelation of God for creation anointing and inaugurating Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, Creator-God! Not only are you and I surrounded by them, but the great cloud includes us!

The writer, therefore urges us to "strip off every weight that slows us down. . ." What slows you down in your Christian walk? What distracts you from complete obedience and trust in the Lord for daily life? What trips you up in your walk of faith? Why not lay such things aside, asking the Lord to remove them from you and enhance your way for Him?  The Writer says that we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus. The world is a temptation to divert our eyes. If our eyes become diverted then our thoughts, then our minds, then our emotional desires (the "heart"). Why? Because Jesus is "The Champion who initiates and perfects our faith."  He starts our faith. He makes our faith perfect when we permit it. He champions us in the presence of God and the angels as our advocate. He makes us to function according to His priorities and will when we submit self to Him.
I pray this day is one in which you are running the good race with the 'great cloud of witnesses' and are reaching out to others to join  you.
Your servant in Christ's Love

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

By Faith They Found Something Better

Hebrews 11:1-40 NLT
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.  2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
3    By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen. . . .4  It was by faith that Abel. . .
Enoch. . . Noah . . .Abraham . . .13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. . . .20 It was by faith that Isaac. . .Jacob. . .. . . Joseph. . .Rahab . . .   
   It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets.  33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,  34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.  35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection.  36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons.  37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated.  38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
 39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.  40 For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.

We have seen up through chapter 10 in Hebrews that the writer was laying out the foundation for understanding life-changing faith. He ended by identifying us who follow Christ as "The faithful ones" (vs 39). Subsequently, in chapter 11, he begins to walk through Biblical history pointing out the heroes of faith. These major names in the Jewish Bible preflected the faith of Christ, who is reflected in the Christian New Testament.

Suffering whatever comes our way and maintaining our trust in Christ as Lord and Savior is that same faith. There could come persecution against Christians in our nation as there now is in nations around the world. I recently viewed a video placed on the Internet by proud and brash Islamic terrorists. It showed ten of them beheading a Christian pastor-- one of 12 they beheaded-- because they believed in Christ and would not denounce the call to Islam. The pastor, hands tied behind him, could be seen praying quietly  as they performed their grisly act upon him. His tormentors acted in grisly violence, while He trusted Christ and exhibited Godly peace in response to their violence. He reached the better thing that God had in store for him, and for us. I've read of Christian church members in a the largest nation on earth being tortured and killed for their Christian faith. They found God's eternal joy.

You and I could also one day face persecution. Will our faith keep us peaceful and grant the ability to love our persecutors in spite of their Godlessness and their heinous evil? Are you ready to lay aside pursuit of our own ways and comfort and stand firm in your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of where that may lead? Why not stand firm in Christ and share faith with others today? There is nothing worth while to be lost and everything worth while to be gained!

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Monday, May 10, 2010

Trust and Believe and Receive All He has Promised

(Heb. 10:35-39 NLT)
    35  So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!  36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
   37    “For in just a little while,  the Coming One will come and not delay. 38  And my righteous ones will live by faith.  But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”
  39    But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.

We continue our stroll through the Book of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer has been teaching us about sacrifice-- God's great sacrifice, and that of Christ, the Son of God. Sacrifice was made to ensure relationship with God could be restored between the Lord and us, his created children. This restoration was accomplished by Christ on the cross and in His resurrection. It is done, completed, needing no further resource to be brought forth. The only thing necessary is for you and me to receive by faith the fact that this sacrifice was, indeed, necessary and was made on our behalf by God because of His gracious love.

The early Jewish Christians-- so used to trying to 'earn' their way to God, as many others today also erroneously believe, started returning to their old ways of favored traditions and practices as a means of proving themselves righteous. They forgot that it never helped them before. We often forget, as well, that we are not capable of 'earning' salvation. We forget that it is an affront to God for us to try because it ignores His great sacrifice for us. When we try to earn salvation we are, in fact, throwing away 'confident trust in the Lord.' It is by our faith that we actually receive "all He has promised."  It is by faith that the truly righteous have always lived and continue to live today.

Shall we consider this day to be righteous through persistent faith, rather than turning to works of our own hands. Turning like that earns only our own destruction. Ask the Lord to help you remain faithful this day.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Friday, May 7, 2010

Motivate Each Other to Acts of Love and Good Works

Hebrews 10: 22-25 NLT
    22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
    23  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.  24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

We have been walking threw the Epistle to the Hebrews-- ancient Christians in the first century who turned from traditional Judaism to believe in the Messiah their race had awaited for the previous four thousand years. The writer explained, step by step, how Christ fulfilled the role of ultimate Prophet, ultime King, of ultimate High Priest, and of ultimate sacrifice for sin-- not only of the Hebraic people but of all people. In chapter 10 the writer explains that because of this great sacrifice we are cleansed from all sin so that we can even enter directly into the very presence of God.  And, we can do so with full sincerity, free from any and all guilt over our past, our failures, our self-centered ways, and even our evil thoughts. All was cleansed from us through our faith in Christ the 'perfect sacrifice.'

The Writer cheers us on to fulfillment of God's promises--"hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm." He challenges us to 'think of ways' by which we can positively motivate each other. We are to encourage one another 'to do acts of love and good.'  We are now capable of good acts-- of loving acts, whereas before faith in Christ we were not. He ends this challenge by reminding us that we really do need to be in mutual fellowship with other believers for this mutual encouragement. I pray that you are able to be an encouragement to another today in his or her journey with Christ.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Christ Offered Himself for You to Be Completely Purified

Heb. 9:13-15 NLT
13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity.  14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.
The old religion of Judaism was a foreshadowing of the Coming of Christ for redeeming not only them but people of all the world. The animal sacrifices were symbolic of the coming sacrifice of God's son. Faith in them was parallel to our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ-- perfect in all his ways as a human-- 'died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed' and we ourselves as well.  Now they (and we) are to be completely purified because of Christ's sacrifice.
The writer to the Hebrews spent three chapters reminding them of the role of a high priest and then laying out Jesus as the ultimate 'high priest.' That was all in preparation for him to say this-- that Christ's sacrifice fulfilled the Old sacrificial system and there would never again be need for a sacrifice to forgive sin. The death had been accomplished and His resurrection to demonstrate His superiority over death to prove our redemption to be eternal. That is way, as we discussed last time, that Christ mediates for us continuously.
What does this all mean to you today? It can mean that you can be at rest-- at peace-- in spite of all the challenges and confusions you face today. It also means that you can be a vehicle for Christ's peace to reach out to another who needs ultimate peace. It also means that there is a very high calling upon you and I must ask you-- are you listening to it?

Your Servant

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Jesus Guarantees Your Better Covenant with God

 (Hebrews 7:22-24 NLT)
Heb. 7:22    Because of this oath, Jesus is the one who guarantees this better covenant with God.
Heb. 7:23    There were many priests under the old system, for death prevented them from remaining in office.  24 But because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever.  25 Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.

We've looked through Hebrews to see how its writer has aimed our attention at Jesus Christ, God's Son made human to become our sacrifice for sin. He was also made to be come our advocate, our high priest who continuously implores God our Father on our behalf.  Unlike the shadow-priests of old religions who eventually died, our 'high priest' eternally presents us to the Father. According to the writer, the purpose of our Lord's ongoing eternal life is precisely to intercede with God on our behalf (see vs 25).

Sometimes we feel left alone and seek to have an advocate represent our cause to others who are in power or authority over us. But such thoughts are fleeting at best when we realize this truth. We have the best advocate one could have--The Son, who is imploring His Father, on our behalf. And it is to the eternal Father, the creator of all, that we are ever being presented in the light of the holiness of Christ Himself.

Why not rest this new day in God's hands as you begin it, knowing that your redemption is solid and plans for your blessing have been achieved by the Lord and the Father. Share joy in Christ with someone who needs to know this truth.
Your Servant in Christ's Love

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Have You Fled to God for Refuge? Today Would be Good!

Hebrews 6:17-19 NLT
17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind.  18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

Having 'fled to him for refuge. . .' Christ followers are eternally safe in the Lord. We can take this assurance on the strength of the very witness by Creation itself. God who created will also protect. That creation is so vast, so massive, so minute, and so detailed is, itself, our proof, should we need any. But it is through faith that our assurance comes. There will be arguments from those opposed to God, yet we can exercise faith and trust in God anyway.

When we look at the night sky we can trust in God. When we watch a blade of grass spring up overnight we can trust in God. When we face challenges and disasters, we can trust in God nevertheless. The Word of God-- scripture-- here echoed by The Writer to the Hebrews, assures us that there is this oath that God has 'bound himself with.' Our perfect God 'will never change his mind,' we are reminded.  Also, the writer tells us that 'it is impossible for God to lie.'

Thus, we have a never-ending hope that provides 'great confidence' to us. It is a 'strong and trustworthy anchor' for us as well. It takes us to that inner place where man and God commune intimately and personally in the Lord's unconditional love and favor.  All these metaphors from ancient Jewish religious tradition clearly spoke to the first century Hebraic Christians. And, today they speak to us just as strongly. Today, you and I can be completely assured that God will not desert us, nor will He reject us. He waits patiently for our complete submission and surrender and then He will retain us through whatever might come. If you will rest in this trust today you will find the peace you seek.

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Monday, May 3, 2010

Inheriting Gods Promises Because of Faith and Endurance

Hebrews 6: 10-12(NLT)
10 For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.  11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true.  12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

Our discussion together in the Letter to the Hebrews, has revealed many rich and deep keys to understanding our faith walk with Jesus Christ. Here is yet another-- that faith and endurance bring an inheritance.  Faith and endurance are gifts from The Father that come to the obedient submissive heart. You can't really generate them on your own, but you can desire them and God will grant them. Then, YOU can exercise them. Exercise takes deliberate action. As the writer said, God does not forget how hard we have worked for him. That said, He also will not forget how 'hard' we may NOT have worked as well. Next, the writer makes the link between 'worked for Him' and "loving others as long as life lasts."

There it is-- the work. To exercise the supernatural love that God grants us and aim it at others is 'the work.' The consequence to those failing this exercise, appears to be spiritual dullness and indifference. Have you become indifferent? Are you part of the Christian church crowd that is sleeping and not alert or the ones awakened to the will of God and His call for these days? There are those who are awake. If you would, you could follow their example until it became part of your habit patterns as well. According to the writer, those who exercise this love will inherit God's promises. Conversely, those who do not exercise this love will NOT inherit God's promises. Which category do you wish to be included in this day? Shall we pray to be able to exercise God's love? To whom? Will you permit God to show you now?

Your Servant in Christ's Love
DreamHost reviews