Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Conquer Evil by Doing Good!

Rom. 12:17-21NLT
17  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
     “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. 

20  Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
     In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

We've been reviewing together in Paul's letter to the body of Christ-followers at Rome in 57 AD, and to us in 2010. The message is as true today as it was over two thousand years back. The characteristics of a Holy Life are clear, specific, and precise. Chapter 12 is discussing for us how we live as members of Christ's body. We learned about responding to all that comes our way with the love of Jesus Christ. Beginning in Verse 17 Paul hits us where we live. "Never. . ." you know you are in trouble when the message starts with that word, or with 'always.!' We are not ever to respond in an evil way, even when we have been treated with evil. Everyone is to see us as 'honorable' by the virtue of our 'good' response. You and I both know that we struggle with our hostile nature. We want to give 'payback' when we are mistreated. Jesus encouraged us to get well beyond even the desire for 'payback' when he told us to love our enemies. Paul repeats the Lord's commands in this message too. Paul is not speaking on his own authority but only that which Christ had taught him and the Holy Spirit was inspiring him to dictate at this time. And now, the same Holy Spirit has, once again, inspired you and me to be reading this words right now! There are no accidents in God's plan!

After telling us in another way-- live at peace with everyone-- Paul uses the "never" word again in regard to taking of revenge. I remember preaching a message to a room filled with homeless people, many of them under the influence of drugs, alcohol and the meanness of living on the streets in a large inner city. At the end of the message several responded wanting to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. One young man, call him Ken, took me aside for several minutes of discipleship training before he had to go outside again. As we chatted, another person from the group waked by and called out my name, in greeting. Ken grimaced and said "I hate him."  We were talking about forgiveness-- God of us and us of others-- at that particular moment. "I hate him, I hate him, I'm going to shiv him one of these days."  I took the moment to suggest that God had forgiven Ken unconditionally and asked if he understood what that meant. Did he appreciate it?  Then I mentioned the other person and said that God had forgiven him as well in just the same way. Then I shared with Ken from the scripture in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus directs us to forgive others "for as you forgive others, so you will be forgiven."  I pointed out that our non-forgiveness of others could have a negative impact on God's forgiveness reaching us.

Ken exploded in anger, shouting that he could never be a believer if it required that he forgive that person. We talked some more and then he went off to have his meal. I was saddened for this new believer, and prayed more that Ken would learn from the Lord how to walk with Him and in Him and through Him, and with God equipping him to forgive others.  It is a hard thing to forgive those who have harmed us. Can you imagine you on the cross of Crucifixion saying 'father forgive them' instead of something like "father wipe the ground with them. . ." or some such thing?

How do we treat an enemy?  Food, clothing, drink, meeting needs, kindness, and whatever the Spirit of God moves us to do for him or her.

Are there some around you who have treated you badly in the past? As you see them, can you pray for them now? Can you ask God to show you how He wants you to show him or her a special kindness?

Your servant
Daniel C. Elliott

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Does Holy Living Look Like, in Christ?

Rom. 12:9-16 NLT    
   9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.  11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.  13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 
  14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.  15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.  16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Paul writes to believers at Rom about the life of a local congregation in The Body of Christ. He writes about it to us as well, because of God's holy inspiration and preserving of the Written Word of God we call The Bible. Scan this brief passage and take not of all the character traits that God wants to build up in you and me. True love-- the word means unconditional regard for another more than for self. Fidelity to recognized good (as recognized in the written Word of course). Love that exhibits affection-- true affection without pretense. Relating to one another in such as way that we actually show 'delight' at the joys of others and honor them at all times. We are called to shun laziness and enthusiastically embrace industrious commitments to whatever tasks God permit to be placed within our hands. Confidence in our Hope through faith in Christ should exude from within us before others. In hard times, patience and persistent confident prayer will characterize our conduct and attitudes. God's Spirit will help us to be generous with others who are in need regardless of our own scarcities. In fact we will be eager to share with others, to invite them over, to listen to them, to pray with them. We will look forward to serving them and it will bring us joy to do so.

Even in the face of evil or persecution, we will not reply in kind but with prayer for our persecutors that God will teach them truth and save them from the coming judgment. We will rejoice that their persecution gives us opportunity to demonstrate Christ's grace, truth, peace and unconditional love. By God's great grace we can live harmoniously with others. Harmony is not sameness. Harmony is different tones that blend together in such a way that make a more beautiful sound than the original melody. Our differences bring harmony and enhance beauty into the life of the body of believers. When we humble ourselves before the Lord then we realize that we can serve anyone without regard to their status in contrast with ours. Because the God who loved us in our sins, changes us to love them regardless of theirs. This is that Holy Living Looks Like. Do you suppose someone who needs to is seeing this in you today?
Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, June 28, 2010

Diversity and Uniqueness in God's Plan

Romans 12: 3-8 NLT
  3  Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.  4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,  5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
   6  In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.  7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well.  8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

We hear the word 'diversity' pushed into our faces these days, and usually advocating for a certain category of society to be given some sort of preferential treatment by those whom the promoter seems to think is dominant. But God has his own plan for diversity and it has nothing to do with nationality, skin color, language, physical stature or any of the other flawed diversity perspectives politicked about today. God's plan for diversity is simple!  All are ONE in Him. All are the same quality in Him. All who are IN Christ, are united by the power of God's Holy Spirit and should not seek to be over OR under anyone else. We simply all serve. God addresses diversity through the way in which HE gifts each one of us. We have been granted diverse talents, diverse gifts, diverse calls for responsibility in the body-life of believers. Each of us has been granted a unique set of such gifts and talents. Each of us has been given a call from God that is unique from everyone elses' call.

The most effective body-life among believers in Christ happens when each one of the body members willingly and obediently exercises his and her unique gifts, talents and skills, while addressing the unique call to responsibility each one has received. The diversity of gifts comes from God "in His Grace."  Paul advises the believers in Rome, and us as well, to exercise our gift with careful and deliberate attention.  Whatever your gift-- do it well, he says. How can I do my gift well? By devoting it in purpose and intent to whatever will most glorify God and has least to do with glorifying myself. Most of the time, when we think someone is going to observe us in some sort of a performance, we are careful to rehearse, practice, prepare, and make sure we give our best to the task. This should be true for what God calls us to do as well. We should be as prepared as possible, all the also relying upon  God alone for the success that HE ordains for the task at hand. Whatever it is that God calls us to do He also equips us for doing. We want  others to see God at work, not to see us.

How about you and I asking the Lord, today, right now, if possibly, to make whatever we do to represent our very best,  and to attract someone else to God's kingdom because of it.

Your Servant in Christ's love
Dan Elliott

Friday, June 25, 2010

Is Your Body a Living Sacrifice?

Rom. 12:1-2 NLT    
   1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

In chapters nine through 11 Paul reviews the history of God with the Hebrew people and then with the Gentiles. He carefully explains How God arranged to bring the hope of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, not only to the people of his heritage but also to all human kind, regardless of nationality. God's true people are not of a particular nation, language or heritage. God's true people are people who are willing to exhibit the responsive faith of Abraham, trusting in God for all things regardless of how circumstances appear. They do not 'earn' God's love, they receive it by faith and then reflect it out toward others. Paul urges the Lord's people to be distinct apart from those of "the world" by NOT copying the world's self-centered, self-serving ways. When we ask God to change the way we think, so that we will think His thoughts then the promise Paul makes here is fulfilled. We will, indeed, learn to recognize and understand God's will in such a way that we see it to be good-- we see it to be pleasing to God, we allow Him to make it perfect in us.

Can you give yourself sacrificially to God today?  I saw a sad movie recently depicting the enslavement of children around the world-- including in the US-- into sex trade. Politicians, officials, gangsters, all together enslaving bodies of children. You never hear the liberal politicians speaking out for these trafficked children. In fact, many of their agencies, funded with tax-payer monies have recently been revealed as being a part of such evil traffic. Still they are silent.

The church of Jesus Christ should not be silent on this evil. We should pray for these children and seek God's will for ways to help them, in some way. It may be a call for ministry, it may be a call for service, it may be a call for generosity, but it definitely is a call to prayer. Our God does not enslave us. He waits for us to grant Him access to our bodies. Then His Holy Spirit enters and sanctifies it, setting it apart for His will and purpose. What might the Lord be calling you to do, this day, to oppose evil?

Your servant in Christ's love

Daniel C. Elliott

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Inseperablly linked with Christ Forever

Rom. 8:35-39 NLT
  35  Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  3637 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”)  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 
  38  And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The promise of God in this passage reminds us who trust in Christ by faith alone, that none of the so-called calamities of life are powerful enough to break God's promise of eternal life. Even death, itself, cannot separate us from God's love. In fact, death will bring us more into God's love and light than we ever before imagined. Many people fret about demons and possession but even those entities are not able to break God's word of faith. You who walk in faith have power over them as well, because of Christ who lives within you. You are bonded with God when you step into faith and are willing to daily trust-- blindly trust-- in Christ. Faith does not need evidence, it IS the evidence.  Any force, person, or idea that tries to dissuade you from complete trust in God through Jesus Christ is one of those that this passage cites as impotent against the strength of faith God will grow within you. No magic potion, no spell, no secret formulas, no hidden super powers are going to harm or deliver you. Just faith in Christ alone, and that is more powerful than all the powers of all the world of all centuries combined. Rejoice that today you remain joined through faith in the Lord and will remain so for eternity in  your obedience to God.

Your Servant in the Lord
Daniel C. Elliott

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Since God is For you-- Who can be Against you?

Rom. 8:31-34    
  31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?  33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself.  34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

We've been reveling and praising God because He has chosen us. Here is more to celebrate. Since the Lord has chosen us there are wondrous things for you and I to expect from our relationship with Him. We no longer need worry about enemies or opponents? What would it matter if this person or that person was 'out to get us' when we knew that the ONE who created everything was backing us? What harm could ever come to me, or to you when we live obediently to Him? Nothing will befall us except that which will glorify God and minister to others in His name. And the worst that could come-- death-- no longer is 'the worst.'  It is a door into God's eternal presence, beauty, joy, and brilliance.

When we will be there, there, we will look upon the best we recall of this life as life in a deep dark damp cave, by comparison. Because, as it says, "God has given us right standing with Himself" then nothing anyone else can say can possibly be a problem. So why do we even listen to them when they accuse or criticise us? We can respond like Jesus did, saying "Father forgiven them for they do not know what they are doing." The Lord, Jesus, now risen and at God's constant right hand-- is continuously advocating on our behalf, so not only do we have God's forgiveness, we have our heavenly lawyer, and cheer leader-- Jesus Christ-- promoting our welfare, even as we live out the days here that God has planned for us.

Is this not something to rejoice about today!? Wouldn't it be merciful of you to share this good news with someone who really needs to know it right now? Pray for the Lord to bring someone to mind.

Your Servant in Christ's love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Longer Condemned but Chosen by God!

Rom. 8:26-30 NLT    
  26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Ever feel unsure of how to pray? I do as well. This passage encourages me at those times. It tells us that even when we are stumbling around in our prayers, God prays on our behalf. Now, I admit I don't quite understand this Trinity issue with God the Spirit praying for me to God the Father and God the Son-- Jesus Christ-- saying Amen in agreement with that prayer. However, I don't have to fully understand it in order to benefit from it. I merely have to accept it and trust God-- taking Him at His word.

This passage includes my favorite verse in scripture. Starting in verse 28 we are told that all the old 'condemnation' that used to plague us, is gone. I am no longer condemned. I should stop condemning myself because God has wiped away all of that and now leaves me purified by His grace. I don't need to give in to the feelings of guilt that used to smother me. I am forgiven by the one who created everything. I am now beyond condemnation by others because God has forgiven me. You too, if you are in Christ.

Then I am reminded that God chose me. He chose you too. I was one who didn't get chosen by others often in certain childhood events. I understand rejection because of how much I experienced it. But God did not reject me. He elected me. He selected me. He chose me to be His. He chose you too! We are chosen together by our Lord! He saw us back those eons ago and looked past the sin and the faults and the failures and said "I choose that one to be mine!." Because God chose us, has placed us in 'right standing' with him we have God's glory waiting for us.

Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ

Dan Elliott

Monday, June 21, 2010

Live by the Spirit of Christ and Live!

Rom. 8:12    Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.  13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live.  14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

The old ways lead us into death-- eternal separation from our Creator and our created eternal purpose. When you receive the victory over that old nature through your faith in Christ, then you are freed from it. You are 'released' from bondage to it. You are lifted above it and placed into a new plane of existence. The old-- self-centred-- nature wants to pull you toward the enemy-- the Father of lies. The new nature wants to lift you into the very presence of the one who created everything. He is not that science-babble speak you hear on the discovery or science TV channels these days-- the 'god particle' or the 'god equation' etc. He is GOD!  He is the ONE AND ONLY God. Everything else is not only not God but is an 'anti-God', seeking to pull you into a dark eternity apart from the One True God. You have the option of putting that sinful nature to death. With Christ's death on the cross your old nature can also die. With Christ's resurrection from the grave your new Spiritual nature can arise now and later your body. The one who promised it to you is true and you can trust Him.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Daniel C. Elliott, Ed.D.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Controlled by the Spirit of God Living In You

Rom. 8:9-11    
   9 But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)  10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God.  11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

As we permit it, Jesus re-works our nature, making us over again into His image. We are no longer controlled by evil and self. When we yield control of self over to God, then we belong to God and His nature now directs our paths and our decisions. God looks at you and sees you wearing Christ's nature. You have been justified-- made right in God's eyes. With the Holy Spirit of God (and Christ) living within you, are you surprised that you now have abilities you did not formerly possess? You can say no to lust. You can say no to greed. You can say no to mean-spiritedness. You can say no to avarice. You can say no to all the sins that used to separate you from the Holy Creator. Just think about it for a minute-- reflect deeply.  "The Spirit of Christ living within YOU!!!   That is awesome to think about but there is more-- and this is the exciting part. Your mortal body will receive new life-- eternal life! it is guaranteed.

Do you know someone who needs to hear this great news? Why not tell them today?
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cry out to our Papa

Rom. 8:15-17 NLT    
   15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”  16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.  17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

"Daddy! Daddy! help me Daddy!" How much I miss those words now that my children are grown and grand kids mostly too. A 'daddy' relationship is so special both for the child and the father. The child calls out to the dad without much planning, just to express joy, love, need, or even frustration (as in " sighhhhh Dad!!!! sigh again). You and I get that privilege the one who created everything. We get to call him 'Abba.' That was the Jewish equivalent of 'daddy' or papa. We are invited by the One True Creator of the Universe to call out to him "daddy!" and jump into his arms with glee or sorrow. And more, He has arranged that our two spirits become one. He is in you and me and we are in Him. More, we inherit as members of His family-- co-inheritors together with Christ Jesus the Lord of all. If that means a little but of challenge or persecution for the name sake of Jesus Christ, then why worry. After the first moment in Eternity none of that pain from those hardships will be remembered. What is a few days, even a few years of challenge compared with thousands and unending thousands of centuries of Joy?

Your servant in His love

Which dominates your mind--Sin or God's Spirit

Rom. 8:5-8 NLT
   5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.  6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.  7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.  8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

How did you think today? Was your mind filled with the joy of the Lord or was it filled with other stuff? Were you dominated by that other stuff? The Lord's inspired word here quotes Paul telling the church at Rome and us too, about how the old vs new natures work. The first several chapters of Romans lays out sin quite clearly. It points out how there is no one who is safe from the impact of sin's downward spiral until they surrender by faith to Jesus Christ. In Chapter eight, Paul began to make clear how God's Spirit in us changes our fallen nature and also how God's forgiveness totally and completely frees us from all condemnation. My favorite verse in the Bible is Romans 8:1-- "there is now NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." I love it-- NO condemnation. That means I must stop condemning myself as well. God has forgiven me, why shouldn't you? And, why shouldn't I forgive myself too?

However, the problem remains for persons who hold on to their old nature and old ways. They remain dominated by it and therefore they dwell upon it and all of its sins. Sin in our minds is like the water melting high in a mountain stream bed flowing to ward the sea. By the time that water reaches the ocean, it is a mighty water force filled with filth and debris. Sin grows in us that same way when we allow it to control our minds. The Bible here says it leads us "to death!"  When we yield self-will and permit God's Spirit to control our minds, the ultimate outcome is 'life and peace.' according to this passage. Where are your thoughts leading you-- toward self and death or toward life and peace?
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The So-called Wise are Foolish. Will You Help Them?

Rom. 1:21- 23 NLT
  21  Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.  22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.  23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

Paul taught believers in the Church at Rome, and us as well, about the foolishness of the supposed wise and educated people in society.  Human nature is fallen and for those in power, it is just as fallen-- perhaps more so because of the temptations to lust and greed they all face along with their power.  Fallen humanity cares about self not others and certainly not Creator God. As I mentioned yesterday, scripture teaches that humankind has a hidden code with that speaks unconsciously at our root levels about the one True God of all that is. And, when we listen to truth, when we become open to it, we learn that there is both bad news and then good news. The bad news is that we are fallen in our sin and lost from a relationship with God our creator. The good news is that God's love for us was so strong that he went to infinite measures to redeem us from our fallen ways and the consequences of our sin. This message rings true to all hearers. However, each hearer must become willing to say no to self supremacy and yes to God.  Those who are unwilling to bow in worship of God over themselves, cannot give Him thanks. They fool themselves and eve work to confuse others to believe the lies they knowingly embrace. They claim wisdom but are the truest of fools. Some of the so called smartest people in our world today, with degrees and publications, wealth, and fame, are among the most foolish because they refuse God. They worship what their own hands create instead of the hands that created them.

These are ones that the Father has called us to disciple-- for as long as we are left on the earth. Today could have been a day when you could have influenced one such person. Did he or she see Christ in you today?  Will they see Christ in you tomorrow? If you ask the Lord, He can make it so.

Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Monday, June 14, 2010

God Shows His Anger Against Wicked People

Rom. 1:18-29 NLT    
  18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them.  20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 

Often, in our inspirations I try to be upbeat, uplifting, and encouraging. However there are times when to do so would be contrary to God's Word. Not that His word is depressing-- but it must be truthfully represented. Sin has always been sin. Sin will always be sin, no matter what pundits and political leaders try to call it. Today, Christians are inundated by politics and pundits of sin. Homosexual behavior is sin. Adultery is sin, Sex outside of marriage between a man and wife is sin. Gossip is sin. Character assassination is sin. Pursuing personal pleasure at the expense of another is sin. Anything that is in opposition to what God's Word (Scripture) describes as desirable-- that is sin. No matter how much the homosexual lobby or the free love lobby, or the multicultural lobby want to pressure us we can never agree with them that their promoted desirable behavior is acceptable.

We must ALWAYS stand firmly upon what God says is good and against what God says is evil. To oppose God is, itself, evil. There is an ultimate price to pay for evil. We either are, or are not the people of God. If we routinely embrace evil then we are NOT God's people. Tough words but this scripture passage require them. God does get angry. The creator provided the ultimate sacrifice for us to be redeemed. When we get right up into God's face and oppose His standards of good, and cause others to sin, then there will be holy righteously angry God to deal with.

His word says that everyone actually "knows the truth." They know it because God made it common sense, that everyone can ultimately understand if they are willing to deny self-interests. Thus the Word of God places the key emphasis on what people should actually confess. 'They have no excuse for NOT knowing Him' You and I have a responsibility to tell them but if we don't that still does not excuse them.  We also have no excuse for failing to tell them. There is a consequence facing us when we fail to obey the Great Commission.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Friday, June 11, 2010

Are You Living in Power Today?

Rom. 1:16    For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.  17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

Paul really knew what he was talking about in this passage. For there had been a time when his academic and religious pride was very much ashamed of the news about Christ-- so much so that he was part of an international conspiracy against Christ-followers.However, though now he was, in deed, ashamed of that old life, he was not ashamed of a Christ-centered life--not now that Christ had made him into a new creation. As a new creature, made new again into the nature that God had ordained, he was discovering power that had always eluded him. This power was saving people from the consequence of their sin, and from their very sinful nature itself. This power was making Christ-followers to be seen by God as 'right' or righteous. This power comes from just faith alone, Paul reminds us-- from start to finish-- just faith. And, this faith brings righteousness. And, this righteousness brings life-- eternal life!

The earlier 15 verses of Romans chapter one reveal Paul's situation as a 'slave of Jesus Christ' and as one who was 'chosen by God.' We have recently rejoiced together in our discussions about being 'chosen by God. When God chooses, then He grants power to those who are chosen. This power is more effective than anything else we might experience in life.  Paul was reminding new believers in Christ from non-Jewish groups that they were now to be considered as "God's People" -- a status that the ancient and recent Jews had considered reserved to them alone. They seemed ignorant of the ancient Hebrew prophets who told them of the Messiah's coming and sacrifice and of drawing 'all men' to God as His people.  I am not Jewish at all. Chances are, you are not either, though you might have some of that heritage in your family tree. However it no longer matters about those roots as far as becoming the 'Children of God.'  Christ broke the barriers down and opened the holy place for all people of all nations to come. And, he invites men, women, all races, all languages to come together as 'one people' regardless of their past moralities. 

Are you living in this POWER today?  You could be.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Well Armed and Standing Firm!

Eph. 6:13-18    
  13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
   18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

We have already discussed a bit about how thoroughly God can arm us-- equip us against the evil of the Enemy. It is a function that God wants to do-- equip us. All we need to do is ask for our equipping and He will empower us for all that is in His plan to do through us. Once given however, we need to remember to put it all on each day. 

When I was a soldier in a foreign war zone, several decades ago, I can remember being very casual about my armor and equipment. I had been given a helmet-- a steel pot that was designed to stop bullets and shrapnel. I had been given a flack vest that was design to block projectiles from injuring my vital organs. My boots were steel reinforced to prevent sharp objects from piercing the soles.  On my first day in a combat zone, one hot muggy afternoon during some slack time, I ventured out for a stroll wearing my short pants, my 'tennies', a t-shirt and my favorite team's ball cap. As I was walking about the compound, our artillery began to fire, as incoming rounds from hidden mortars began marching their way up to our base center, sending whistling sounds passed my ears. A very caring staff sergeant, very kindly got my attention with the words "hit the ground idiot!"  I dove down, hugging the ground trying to crawl into a little hole that I was much too big for.  After it was over, the sergeant's next words to me were also kind-- in his sergeant way. Two inches from my face and speaking so that I could have heard him hundreds of yards away, he questioned me as to where were the certain pieces of equipment that I had been given to wear that would save my life. I learned that day to put on all my armor whenever venturing outside in a war zone.

Today, the daily walk of the Christian believer is equally perilous. We must walk through mine fields of ideas and temptations. We must face people daily who would entrap us with words and try to shake us loose from our trust and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When we stand firm in the Lord the enemies will throw everything they can at us to knock us flat. But we have great armor to wear!  Absolute Truth encircles our body holding it all together on us. Our bullet-proof vest is made of God's unshakable righteousness-- nothing can penetrate that! Our feet are covered with peace that comes from carrying God's Good News everywhere they walk. Faith shields us from all the spiritual and emotional projectiles that the enemy sends whistling in our direction. Our heads are protected with the Salvation earned for us by the Lord Himself on Calvary. And God's written word, the Bible becomes our weapon-- cutting in all directions as it goes, and disabling all offenses it encounters. Prayer becomes our strategy-- praying unceasingly throughout each and every day, and listening to God's Spirit within us guiding our decisions, actions, and thoughts. How well-armed are you today?
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Be Strong in the Lord and in His Mighty Power

Eph. 6:10-12    
   10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

We hear lots in the media about power and strength these days. This candidate seems stronger than that one. This elected official has more political power than the others etc. In business we hear about executives who have more knowledge, and therefor are more influential than others. Groups of people seek to create a social influence upon the nation and it's future. All this talk of 'power' or strength, however misses the major truth in God's word. These are mere perceptions and not true power. There is but one who is truly powerful-- all powerful and it is the Lord our God. He shares his power with those who submit to His truth. He grants them protective armor. He grants them weapons for use on offense. He grants them success as they walk in His steps and pursue His goals.

Today you can be experiencing God's armor. Because of this armor, you may be finding yourself standing firm against the attempts by the enemy to undermine and destroy your faith. You may be discovering how to win battles against unseen rulers and authorities of darkness. You may be comforted in the presence of evil spirits inhabiting the supposed leaders of our society and our social structure. Paul says that even when evil spirits gain access to heavenly places, we will over power them should they take aim at us.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Be Careful How you Live--Like those who are Wise

Eph. 5:15-20    
  15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.  16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.  17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.  18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,  19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.  20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

How did you live today? Would Paul's advise to the Ephesians, and to us, describe your actions-- 'like those who are wise?' Opportunities for sharing wisdom came by you this day-- did you take advantage of them in the power of the Lord? Thoughtfulness characterizes those who's lives are hidden in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In stead of being carried away with intoxication over pleasures and substances.

The wise are refreshed by the very presence of God's Holy Spirit who fills them to over flowing. We can walk through our days with songs of praise to God on your lips and ringing in our minds. Favorite scripture verses will come to mind from moment to moment, relating themselves to the circumstances in which we are finding ourselves and bring more enlightenment. Life becomes a song-- music for the Lord in which He provides the melody and enables you to harmonize.

Whatever it is we faced today or will face tomorrow, by the Grace of God, and through His power we are able to give God thanks for it. Why? Because we know that whatever it is, a pleasure or a challenge, it will be yet one more opportunity to demonstrate God's grace as we obey Him. We obey him in our choice of responses and our actions are not the ones of our past life-- the ones intended to lift and glorify ourselves. Our actions are intended to Glorify the Lord God alone. In this way we are wise.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Monday, June 7, 2010

God's Light Within You

Eph. 5:6-9    
   6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.  7 Don’t participate in the things these people do.  8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!  9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

Paul continues instructions to Christians at Ephesus, as well as us in  the 21st century. He tells us that persons described in the previous passage (5:3-5)-- the immoral, impure, and greedy, would seek to 'fool' us. They seek to make us think that what God defines as evil are to be desired as good. They define God's clear standards for good as evil. Look how easily today the murder of millions of unborn babies is called good while those who would try to prevent those murders are called evil and radical by news media and government leaders. These people teach that sex between same sex persons, sex between persons and animals, and sex between unmarried heterosexual persons--all of it-- fits their definition of 'good.' They claim Christians who speak out against these sexual sins are evil.

These people work hard to grant religious freedom to any and all other religious expressions except Christians-- even when these other perspectives promote violence, human slaughter, and mayhem in the names of their false gods. These persons are in our news and broadcast organizations. They are in our government organizations. They are in our business organizations. They are in our education organizations. God's enemy has seen to it that they are planted everywhere, teaching their dark lies.

Paul says we must not be fooled by such people who try to 'excuse sin.' they are destined for God's wrath. We even used to be full of the same darkness that fills them but for the grace of God. We no longer live in that same darkness. Rather, now we can live in amazing light. So, we should embrace that light of God's love and of God's standard for righteousness. When we embrace it, only then is something that is truly good, right, and true produced within us. Will you live in light today?

Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Friday, June 4, 2010

Such Sins Have NO place Among God's People

Eph. 5:3-5 NLT
   3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.  4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.  5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.

We live in an era, in western societies, when people proudly claim to have cast off the sexual prohibitions of the past. Don't get me wrong, I don't think sexual immorality is new-- in fact it was one of the earliest ways in which humanity was challenged by evil. And, there is no greater depravity  in sexual immorality over any other form of immorality. It is just the most basic in human nature. It takes natural created drives and contorts them for mere personal preferences and self appeasement. Sin is always just sin, to be sure.

However, Paul raises it for the church at Ephesus, and for us, to remind us of the private lives of thought we all struggle through regarding our sexual urges. Here, at the end of the first decade in the 21st century, we have nations setting nation-wide moral standards based on what the Bible calls perversion in God's eyes. We have the pleasure God created for man and wife being promoted openly in public schools for anybody with anybody. Pornography earns its designers untold millions of billions of dollars every year in profits. Popular television programs now promote adultery and limitless sexual expression as among the most natural and normal ways of human interactions. Research polls show children and teens are convinced, at increasing levels, that they must engage in unbridled sex in order to be considered normal, even when they do not wish to. The other evil twin of this immorality is abortion, which murders untold millions of unborn infants every year. Families continue to disintegrate and divorce to increase, with sexual immorality at the root of it all. Sexual diseases are killing enormous numbers of the world's population. And still the moral decline continues. Younger generations number less than senior generations in western societies creating a looming economic time-bomb sure to destroy civilization.

The Church speaks out on sexual immorality, only to be shunned, denigrated, castigated, and criticised by both the communication media and the academic communities of the world. Even the church has succumbed to the cancer of ingrown sexual immorality.  However, Paul reminds us all that these sexual behaviors are, in fact, immoral! They are impure! And, they are based in 'greed.'  He identifies it as greed because sexual immorality is completely selfish and insatiable. One can never get enough once one begins to pursue sexual gratification as primary ends in and of itself. Instead of imitating God in his unconditional love and care for others as we read back in 5:1, humanity is engrossed in self love and pleasing self regardless of the cost or impact to others. Think about the TV shows you watched yesterday or the movies you saw. How many of them actually honor God's standards for sexuality and how many of them violated those standards? What did you most put into your mind-- God's standards or humanity's standards? Do we wonder why we struggle with this area?  Please join me in praying for power to rebuke the demon of sexual immorality of all kinds among us who are Christ followers so that then we can move on to promoting the image of God to those in the world who need to see it.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Replace Bitterness with Servant-Hearted Love from God

   Eph. 4:31    Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
   Eph. 5:1    Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Remember that the original manuscripts did not contain chapter divisions and verse. This is part of the same narrative. God prompts Paul to continue reminding the Ephesian church and us to 'get rid' of something. The KJV says to let this all be 'put away from' us. IN the DRBY version it says to let it be removed from us. Suffice it to say that these things: bitterness, rage, anger, harshness, slander can be removed from us if we are willing.  How do we have this happen? We 'permit it by submitting to the will of God. We permit it by submitting to the love of Christ. We permit it by surrendering to the Lordship of God's Holy Spirit, ruling our decisions and actions from within the new nature He is building for us. When we do so, the wonderful alternative described in 4:32 becomes real for us. We become kind. We become tenderhearted. We become forgiving. We replicate toward others the type of forgiveness that God has shown to us

We begin to 'imitate God in the same way that children who love and respect their father imitate his behavior.  The life we then live, according to Eph. 5:2, will be 'filled with love.'  We will be 'following the example of Christ.' His example was to sacrifice self interests in favor of blessing others. That is not in our old nature but it will be in the new nature we permit God to build up within us. How is it going today?

Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Put off the Old and Put On the New-- Pure and Holy Nature

 Eph 4: 21-24
   21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,  22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Paul make an outstanding comparison of how the church members CAN be juxtaposed to how they formerly were, before coming to Christ. It is not that we don't want to bring sinners into the church. They are our mission and we must bring them in. It is that through the power of Christ, we can nurture them into newness. In vv 25-29 Paul points out exactly how we all were before faith in Christ began remaking us into His image. We threw off that old nature like we might throw off a burdensome dirty coat on a hot sultry day. That old way, he points out. was corrupted with ugly things like 'lust' or deception. It included lying to people, explosive or destructive anger at others, even, perhaps, stealing, stinginess, and abusive speech. Who wouldn't want to throw off such things as that? Who would desire to be characterized by those descriptions? None of us, for sure.

Thus, Paul explains how God's promises work to help us "put on your new nature." He clarifies that this new nature was 'created to be like God-- truly righteous and holy.' I  dismiss those critics who dare to say it is impossible for you and I to be holy. God's Word here promises it! So after we put off that old nature, let's remember to dress ourselves in this rich wondrous gift from God called our 'new nature.' How does it fell to you to be dressed in this new pure nature? Breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to Him who made it possible.
Your Servant in Christ's Love
Dan Elliott
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