Saturday, November 5, 2011

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart!

Give Thanks With a Grateful Heart!

Eph. 5:15  ¶ 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.

Thanksgiving day is soon approaching here in the USA. Like most in my nation, my thoughts are turning to seasonal images of family gatherings, great feasts, and an expression of gratitude for all we have.  Yet there are many-- so very many across the world-- who have so much less.  But more and less are relative concepts. The passage of God's Word in my mind just now, however redirects me from thoughts of quantity or quality of my life style to the quality of God's life being lived out in mine. I see that my expressions of thanks are to be given TO God.

Next, I see that these expressions are to be given THROUGH or IN THE NAME OF our Savior, Jesus Christ. These statements of gratitude are to be expressed recognizing that the greatest of all we have received was given because of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on our behalf.  Our gratitude is to be expressed in Christ's name, not in our own.

Lastly, I see that these expressions are to be given FOR EVERYTHING.  Are we to thank God for everything-- even the challenges and difficulties of life?  Yes, everything!  Because through the challenges and difficulties we face, we learn to expand our trust in God. We learn to stop trusting in our own abilities and resources and discover how much deeper and wider are the matchless resources of God-- far bigger than we previously imagined! So as you may be lead to express gratitude, whether or not you are in a national holiday time, I encourage you to focus year-around on giving thanks to God, through Jesus Christ for everything in your life today and for all that God has in store for you!
Your servant,
Rev. Daniel C. Elliott, Ed.D.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Faithful Ones, Whose Souls will be Saved

Heb. 10:31-39 NLT  
   31 It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 
   32 Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. 33 Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. 34 You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. 
   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.

A powerful passage like this should be read prayerfully and repeatedly to seek God's insights. With those insights we can life the Life of Christ more effectively. The writer had earlier outlined how God's chosen Hebrew people, even after repeated miracles, yet rejected His supremacy in their daily decisions. And they paid a terrible price for their self-will. Their impatience came at great cost.

What God has done for the rest of humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ makes the old testament miracles pale by comparison. It is a terrible risk to turn one's back to the God of creation when He has reached out to you in unconditional love. For, in the end, the price you pay will be unbearable for eternity. Yet people resist. Even Christians who claim to be Christ-followers neglect to make God's call, God's purposes, and God's plan for living their priority. They resist by holding tightly to their own will and preferences. They fool themselves only for they cannot fool God.

If you are one of "the faithful ones' rejoice. If you know in your heart that you are not faithful, please don't stay in that condition but ask God to change you. He is ready to do it now. Do not be like those who turn away from God. Do not go back to the life you had before you met Christ, it will never do, and you know it. Trust in the Lord.

Your servant in Chirst's love

Friendship With God Restored

Rom. 5:8-11  
 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

How exciting it is to read in scripture that our faith in Christ has restored our 'friendship with God.' You are a friend of God.  You have a friend who is the Creator of everything, everywhere, for all time, and the creator of time itself. The most amazing discoveries of nature, and of science are only sneak peaks into the mind of our Supreme Friend. With God as our Friend we need not worry about other friends. We need only to be the Friend to others that God is to us. Even while you and I were wrapped up in sin and self-- as enemies toward God, He befriended us. He sacrificed on our behalf.  How then should we be toward others, even others who, at the moment, might be acting like an enemy toward us?  Are you ready to rejoice in this "wonderful new relationship with God?" You can, if you wish to.

Your friend in Christ the Lord

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You are controlled by the Spirit if . . .

Rom. 8:1-9 NLT  
   1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 3 The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. 4 He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 
   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. 
   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.)

We've been talking about our new life in Christ. The Apostles, including Paul, had much to say to the early church and to us too about this wondrous new life-- this new creation. In the previous chapter (you can read it again for context) Paul lamented the fact that, left to our own devices we can never do 'good' we can never do what is totally right and righteous. We want to but are incapable of doing so. It requires a supernatural change of our nature. And that supernatural change comes when we, by faith alone, trust in Christ as our Savior. He already did the work but it is up to us to reach out and receive his gracious gift.

In the Old Testament, it was all about trying harder, waiting until the righteous one would come and abolish sin. He came. He abolished the consequence for sin to those who would be willing to receive Him. When we decline his offer we tie ourselves back into verse 6 of this passage and we let our old nature control our minds. That only leads to eternal death. When we trust in Christ then we are letting the Spirit of God control our minds and that leads us to eternal life, and eternal peace as well. Unless we trust in God's Spirit to control our minds we are choosing to remain under the old nature with the old evil and the old ways.

Verse 9 tells us that for us it can be, it should be, it will be different. Is the Spirit of God living within you? He wants to be. He's willing. Are you willing? If He is not there then you do not belong to God at all, even though you wish you did. It is all a matter of your surrender of the will to His will.  And with that surrender comes limitless joy.
Your servant in Christ's Joy

Monday, May 9, 2011

Your New Life Will Last Forever

1Pet. 1:21-23 NLT 
   21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. 
   22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. 
   23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

There is so much to draw joy from in these three short verses. They attest to several important truths. The first on is that you and I have arrived at a place where we do, in fact, 'trust in God.' Second, it attests to the truth that having trust in God would not have been possible except for Christ's redeeming work on our behalf and how that has made it possible for us to have trust in God. Third, we see that in our personal lives a heart cleansing has taken place-- cleansing from the guilt of past sins, and cleansing from the bondage to that process of continuing sin. Fourth, we are told that we are able to display the truth of our inner cleansing by allowing ourselves to love other believers as brothers and sisters, with our whole heart, rather than in limited ways. And finally, we learn that all this is possible because of our new birth. This new life we now live is very different from the old one. This new life is eternal. This new life is capable of unconditional lover for others. This new life is capable of enduring sacrifice and persecution even while loving our persecutors. This new life has been given to us by none other than God's Living Word." Focus on your new life in Christ and reflect what He could do through you today as you obey His call.

Your servant in Christ

Friday, May 6, 2011


  • Matt. 7:12  ¶ “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.
  • Luke 12:3 Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!
  • 1Cor. 7:17  ¶ Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.
  • Col. 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 
I've made a short study of some selected 'whatevers' from the New Testament. We use that word a lot today, sometimes an an 'expletive' when we don't like what others have told us to do, and sometimes as an expression of confusion. But God's word uses it more precisely for our understanding. In Matthew 7:12, for example, Jesus advises us that we can do 'whatever' we might wish to others. However the caveat is that it must be what we would wish others to do to us! We need to avoid doing that which we would not like done to us, that was the old Jewish saying. However Jesus went further by saying our action should be proactive. Whether they do well by us or not, we should do well by them. And 'doing well' means that we treat them according to our desired standard for treatment.

Luke recorded Jesus telling us all that there will be no secrets in the Kingdom. Therefore we need to confess and purify our hearts and minds now before our secrets become shouted from rooftops and cause us much embarrassment.

Paul reminds the Corinthians, and us as well, that we who follow Christ in all things are placed where Christ plans for us to be, in order to do what Christ desires for us to accomplish. Therefore, we should apply ourselves with eager enthusiasm, where we are planted. We should not sit around dreaming of being somewhere else, doing something else, but should engage in that which God has placed into our hands to do, with our whole heart, soul mind, and strength, just like we love God.

Similarly, Paul reminds the Colossians that everything we do, every deed, every conversation, every thought, every plan should be done as though God directed it. If we cannot do it in the name and authority of Christ then, perhaps we should reconsider doing it.

What do you think about Whatever?
Your servant in Christ

Thursday, May 5, 2011

From the Beginning to the Present

John 1:10-18 NLT  
   10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. 
   14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 
   15 John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” 
   16 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.  18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, and is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

John continued in his first chapter to unpack the very beginning of humanity and the solution for sin-- Jesus Christ, God made flesh, sacrificed, and ascended to His rightful place as eternal King. He who created everything allowed Himself to become subject to the creation and its creatures-- that were fallen into sin. He who was all powerful endured the torment of fallen evil people and loved them nevertheless. Those who believe in Him are re-born into a new life form-- one that can be in unity with the Creator. John makes clear that Jesus is God, and God was in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was empowering Jesus in all that He did.

So, for people today to suggest some other type of deity is beyond what can be tolerated. They are just wrong. Can we accept others as though they are correct when we know they are wrong.  Is it sinful to give credence to the stated false doctrine of another faith by saying or doing things that affirms them in their error? Can our government force us to say that a false deity is God and force us to deny that Jesus is the one and only God? There is tolerance of false information but is should not be accompanied with our affirmation of it for the other. To do that causes us to deliberately lead others astray and to deny the one true God. Regardless what today's anti-Christian political and cultural leaders say, we must never accede to the demands to confess a false God. We must live for God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength every moment of every day of every month of every year that God grants us to walk on this earth and breathe its air.

Your servant in Christ's authority

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking it From the Beginning

John 1:1-13 NLT
   1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created,  and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.
   6 God sent a man, John the Baptist, 7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 
   10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

Eons before the solar system flashed into being, there was a triune entity that included The Father, The Word, and The Spirit as one entity. The Word--also called The Son, The Christ, The Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for our sins-- served the will of God as did the other two entities, each in perfect loving submission to the other so that they were of one single mind. When existence came about it was The Word that spoke it into being. When matter was formed it was The Word that formed it. When light or energy was created it was The Word that instilled it and managed it into all things. The very life of The Word became the source of light to the universe. The Word was the designer and architect of the creation that was conceived in the mind of God.

Our entire Old Testament was written to testify to God as supreme and alone the source of everything else. Our New Testament was written to reveal The Word as an incarnated human person and The Spirit who would inhabit all who would trust in The Word or Christ. Life came to all living things and persons from The Word. Nothing living could exist without the authority of The Word. The Word came to a people that God had created and managed for centuries but they rejected Him as God knew they would. His death became the price for salvation for the willful sins of created humanity across time. God paid it and the sins are atoned for. But still people reject atonement in favor of self-will. Those who do believe are, in fact reborn with a birth that can only come from God. Are you enjoying this new life today?

Your servant in Christ

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Conquer Evil by Doing Good.

Luke 6:27-36 NLT  
   27 But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
   32 If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
   35  Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

Broadening our discussion of the last couple of days about doing good to enemies, let's focus in on what it means to "do good. We read in scripture about Jesus doing good.  We read about us doing as he did. We've seen that one such good we must do is to love those who we consider enemies. That good comes because if we do 'good' to them then we can no longer treat them as an enemy but as a friend. Then we make a unilateral decision to change that person's status from enemy into friend. It doesn't matter whether that person reciprocates or not, our call is yet to treat them as we would any other friend. When I was a teacher and administrator for young teen age kids, who used to fuss to me about other kids not being their friend, the Lord gave me a saying that I shared with them. It became so well known that the students would stop me before I would say it when they would complain about a non-friend. "Yeah, I know Mr. E. they would say."  "To have a friend you have to BE a friend." It worked.

So loving our enemies, and doing good to those who have done harm to us, is certainly a kind of 'good thing' that only God's Spirit can empower within us to do. Jesus had more to say about this. If we are hit, we should offer our face up to be hit again. If we are hurt, we should pray for the one hurting us. If someone demands our property we should offer it up as a gift and offer more yet. When things are taken, we should not pursue the effort to retrieve them. Let them go. Instead of lending money when we are asked, we should just give it away as we are guided by God to do so.

Jesus wrapped it all up in verse 35 by pointing out that when we engage is this style of responses to mistreatment we will be 'acting as children of The Most High.'  These are truly supernatural ways to live. If you choose to do so, you can live that way today. It starts by you asking God to empower and equip you to live this way. Ready?

Your servant in Christ

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love your enemies

Matt. 5:44-47 NLT 
   44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We have been talking about supreme love for God ahead of others and other things for committed Christ followers. We have seen how God equips us to have the renewed nature necessary to have this supreme love for God that is illustrated by our unquestioning obedient response when His calls become clear to us.  But sometimes the things Scripture teach us that God wants us to do are hard to believe.  Did Jesus really say I should love my enemies?  Yes, I have enemies, some of them I made and others are God's enemies who also hate and oppose me personally. I have people with whom I have theological disagreements and whom I tend to think are causing harm in the church. How should I treat those people? Jesus said I should love them. In fact He connected my loving my enemies with the degree to which I love God first.

Paul had a lot of experience with enemies, to be sure, and in Romans 12:14 we read Paul telling Roman Christians to "bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them." Jesus is recorded by Luke (6:27) as instructing us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We who are in the church are supposed to be like Christ. When it comes to enemies and people hating us, however, we tend more often, to act toward them like they act toward us. Instead of reflecting Christ back to them, we reflect themselves back. In doing so, we harm the new nature that God's Holy Spirit is creating within us. When we take spiteful action, railing back to enemies, showing animosity, anger, and hostility because we disagree with their ideas or because we are hurt by their actions, we are failing to look like Christ. In such moments we look like the rest of the world. Is it any wonder that people of the world question whether we are actually any different than they?

When you grasp this point, as I am beginning to now, you will probably want to spend some significant time in prayer seeking forgiveness and seeking understanding as to how to look like Christ did toward enemies (when he prayed from the cross for them to be forgiven for what they were doing to him).
Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, April 29, 2011

Love the Lord God with your Entire Being

Deut. 6:5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 

Matt. 22:37-40  NLT
   37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Mark 12:29-31 NLT  
   29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. 30 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

In the Old Testament source we read that love of God is to be through the totality of heart, soul, and strength, or rather, our emotional nature, our eternal essence, and our physical nature. When Jesus is quoted by Matthew, later in the life of the church age, we read that we are to love God with the totality of our emotional nature, our eternal nature, and our mental nature or thought life. But the first Gospel writer to pen this record of the Savior's teaching said that Jesus called us to love God with our heart, soul, mind AND strength.  The point is that our love for God is not to be limited. There can be nothing held back.  It is with our whole heart, or emotional nature, that we devote ourselves to God. It is with our whole soul and spirit-- our eternal nature that we commit for eternity to love God. It is with our entire mental essence, all of our thought life, all of our consciousness that we are to be devoted to God ahead of all else. And it is with all of our strength, our energy, our physical abilities that we are to demonstrate our love for God through doing all that He puts within our hands to do.

There just cannot be anything held back when it comes to following Christ and loving God. Right? How is that going for you today? God can make it so if you will ask Him and release yourself into His hands completely.

Your servant in Christ

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Loving Enemies and Repaying Evil with Good

Luke 6:27-28 NLT  
   27 But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
   32 If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much.  34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
   35 Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are  not unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
   37 Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

The Christian life-- when lived appropriately-- is an impossible one to humans. Our fallen, judging, condemning nature will not permit us to engage in the Christ-likeness that Jesus taught us to follow. But the good news is that we don't have to be subject to that fallen nature any longer. Through our faith in Christ's resurrection and salvation, we can be empowered to overcome our old nature and destroy it-- crucify it with Christ. We can be raised to a new kind of life, one that has power to do the impossible.

Jesus would never ask you and I to do something that was impossible for us. He would only ask us to do that which he has already authorized for us and that he has empowered us to accomplish. So, since Christ taught us to love enemies, we can do it.  Since Christ taught us to do good to those who have harm and who continue to harm us, we could do it if we choose to. Since Christ called us to lend to enemies, we can find it within us to do that too. We can even not seek restitution when other people steal from us, but can simply treat the stolen items as a gift to the thief. You see if we avoid 'judging' others who do evil or harm to us, then we will not come to a conclusion that they are bad. If we ask God to help us to see those harming people as HE sees them, HE will do that within us for HE is living within us and through us.

When we are limitless in our generosity to others then God has promised that the blessings coming to us will be likewise limitless. Jesus spoke this passage to "those who are willing to listen."  Are we willing to listen to this message? Are we willing to implement it today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe. . .

2Cor. 5:14b-21
   14b. . . Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 
   16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 
   18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

In this passage we see a bit of the Apostle Paul's superb capacity with logic. The fact-- that Christ died for all-- was well established in the church by this point, as it is today. No one of faith questions the fact of Christ's death and resurrection. Without that there is no meaning to Christianity at all-- it is at the heart of what it means to 'be Christian.' Therefore, logic dictates, that we must necessarily believe the relevant corollary-- we who are in Christ-- have also died to our old nature.

Problems arise here for us because experience among Christian groups validates that there are yet bunches of old-nature behaviors going on. It is a hard task to 'die to self.'  The old self hangs on like paint on my hands after it has dried. Thinners, water, and cleaner does not remove all of it. There remains vestiges of the old color speckles revealing what my weekend activity had been-- painting my house.  We hold back from stepping into a complete washing by Christ's Holy Spirit because we might long to hold on to some of our old self-desires, dreams, hopes, and longings. We might be unwilling to be content with that which God gives to us and seek more than we need or can use.

However, if we are truly willing to 'no longer live for ourselves' (vs 15) being, therefore willing to live for Christ, then we can also believe the subsequent corollary of Paul's first principle-- that not only have we died to old selves but we have become alive to a new self. We are, what Paul calls, 'new creatures' or 'new creations.' We are a creation never before created because now we are a being symbiotically alive together with the Spirit of Holy God (vs 17).

The Grace of God is further illustrated by reminding us (vs 18) that we don't deserve any of this honor, but it is God's gift to us. A gift is just that, not something earned but something given in love that is not earned or deserved, just freely given. And a further part of this gift is that we have been made into ambassadors for Christ called to reconcile people to Him, just like he reconciled people to God. This is true because that very nature of Christ is alive within us so because He reconciles, we also reconcile. And we are "made right" before God. We don't become right by some virtuous actions or abilities but God makes us right in the same way a potter might make a pot or a vase beautiful. We are molded, shaped, shaded, tinted, and baked to perfection through the interaction with God because of our faith in Christ.

Rejoice today for this great and wondrous calling we share in our Lord Jesus Christ
Your servant

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sin is No Longer Your Master

Rom. 6:5-4 NLT
   5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 
   12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

The Risen Lord, that we who believe celebrate every Easter, and all the days in between, tells us that we are new creations when we walk with Christ. The Apostle Paul reports to believers that the reality of Christ's resurrection is itself proof of ours. It is also proof that our sin nature was crucified-- killed, along with the Lord. It was buried along with the Lord. And the Resurrected Lord raises us to new life as well.

Our sin nature was put to death, therefore, it no longer has mastery over it, but we control it. We say 'NO' to sin from now on if we choose to exercise the power God has procured for us. So we have the choice to NOT permit sin to control us. We can choose NOT to give in to old sinful desires. We can choose to prevent our bodies from become embroiled in what God's Word describes as sinful behavior (vs 13). We now live our new life where sin no longer masters us. We are free from it. We live under a new freedom caused by the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Will you choose to live in this power today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, April 22, 2011

We Should Do Good to Everyone

Gal. 6:1-10 NLT 
   1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. 
   4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 
   6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. 
   7  Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

The standards are high for living the Christ-centered life, but so are the resources that enable us to live up to these standards. God does not expect us to generate our own ability to live like He calls us to live. Instead, He provides the inner force, the new nature pattered after God's own nature of unconditional love, justice, mercy, and grace. We often read in scripture about our responsibilities to correct and nurture other believers, especially those who might be caught up in error. Verse 1 clarifies our response to them. We are to "gently and humbly help." Gentleness in helping is not offensive though it may well be direct. Humbleness in helping one who is in error is a teaching response to that error. We are not condemning. We are not judging. We are teaching a wrong-doer a better way to go with authority of the Scripture and as we are lead to do so by the Holy Spirit.

Doing this is yet another way we assist each other in the carrying of burdens. No one is beneath us, and all who need help are opportunities for us to show Christ's love yet again. When we look at the jobs others do, our first focus must be on our work-- have we done it in a way that glorifies Christ? Have we exercised our options in all our tasks, responsibilities and activities in obedience to the Leadership of God's Holy Spirit within us? Are we seeking to be more of a blessing to others than expecting others to be a blessing to us?  If we live for the latter, then, according to verse 8 we will receive death and decay because that comes from a sinful nature. Death and decay are the result of the sinful nature. We need to have our nature changed into a holy nature. When we live to please God's Spirit, then we find blessing now and for eternity.

We can actually do what is good, and not just wish we could do good. We can achieve good when we ask God to achieve good through our actions and speech. If there is someone you will interact with today, doing GOOD to them is what God wants you to do. Let's be praying about how we can limit our responses toward others to doing good.

Your servant in Christ

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Follow the Spirit’s Leading in Every Part of Our Lives

Gal. 5:13-26 NLT     
   13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. 
   16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. 
   19  When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 
   22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 
   24  ¶ Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

The Apostle has wise words for the believers in first century Galatia and for the believers in 21st century Earth as well.   When we surrender self and accept relationship with the very Spirit of God, we introduce a powerful force into our lives that overcomes sin and self. We can benefit from the ability to say a resounding 'no' to sin's temptations. However, when we embrace the behaviors that characterize the old fallen human nature then we weaken that power God has placed within us. We stop drawing upon it and old sins become a trap for us again. The Apostle tells us we have a choice as to what we follow. Choosing to follow the desires of the sinful nature (vs 19) brings about predictable results. But we can choose otherwise. In Vs 16 we read ". . .let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves."  It is only the Holy Spirit of God who can overpower sin in us. But, it is only us who can release ourselves into The Spirit's hands for Him to do His powerful work in us. Check vs 22 and following to see what that can mean for you. See there the life you could live if only you permitted God to live it within you routinely.

Do you now completely belong to Christ? Does Vs 24 describe you? Have you nailed the passions and desires of the sinful nature to the Cross of Christ? You can know you are living by The Spirit when you follow His lead in every part of your life.
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No longer a Slave but God’s Own Child

Gal. 4:1-7 NLT 
   1 Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world. 
   4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. 6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

You and I understand what it was like prior to Christ calling us to Himself and our responding. We remember the struggles with self, the conflicts in the world's ways of trying to 'get ahead.'  Why are we tempted to go back into that after we have enjoyed the love and peace of Christ? Why do we listen when the enemy plants seeds of doubt before us and seeks to trip us up in our walk with Christ? We know several things-- we have already discovered them by faith-- in this new life. Paul reminds us of our enslavement to our fallen human nature prior to Christ (vv 1-3). Paul points out for us that we have been purchased and adopted from slavery into freedom by Christ's sacrifice. A terrible price was paid by God for us. Never feel you are worthless because it Cost God the life of His son Jesus Christ for you to become redeemed from sin.

You and I are now children of God-- God is our "Papa" (v 6). We can call Him that if we choose. We can cuddle up in his arms like a baby cuddles up in his father or mother's arms. We can be comforted by God in the same way a troubled child is comforted by his or her loving parent. And, there is more. We are an heir of the wealth of God. We inherit together with Jesus Christ for we are now of the same family as he.  Why would we ever consider turning our backs on all this? Oh, Lord, preserve us in our faith and the peace of Christ.

Your servant

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Talking about The Kingdom of God

Matt. 12:28 But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.
Luke 9:2 Then he sent them out to tell everyone about the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 
Mark 4:11  He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God.
Mark 9:1 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!”
John 18:36  Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
Matt. 21:43 I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit.
Mark 10:14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”

I've listed several starter scriptures for us to consider. Look up each one and read the contextual passage entirely.  What is this Kingdom of God?  We learned last time that there are some who may not enter it and some who may. Many preachers today talking about 'end-times theology' suggest the Kingdom of God is yet to come. However Jesus apparently disagrees. Jesus said his casting out demons gave evidence that it had at that point arrived among them (Mark 12:28). He sent out disciples to teach about it (Luke 9:2). He told disciples (and us) that we believers are permitted to understand its secrets ( Mark 4:11). He said that some in their presence would see the Kingdom arrive in power (Mark 9:1). The Jews were told that the Kingdom was to be taken from them and given to people who bear Spiritual fruit (Matt 21:43). John was the longest living Apostle who died in about 100 AD. But others were killed much earlier. The disciples must have been able to witness something powerful that represented the Kingdom of God. The Resurrection of Christ is just about the most powerful witness of God's Kingdom anyone could imagine, and all of them saw that plus many more believers.

The Kingdom of God is not something yet to come but is something that arrived with Jesus and has remained with us. The body of Christ, the church has survived these 2000 years in spite of our internal failures and errors, and in spite of Satan's attacks. The Kingdom of God is still preached. It is hear now and we are part of it. You and I are citizens of this Kingdom because of our faith in Christ as Redeemer, Lord, and King. The unity that we each have with the Holy Spirit, creates a unity among us. This unity is the bond of the Kingdom of God. Remember, Jesus told Pilot that His Kingdom was "not of this world (John 18:36). It is through simple faith that anyone enters the Kingdom of God, the faith of a child (Mark 10:14-15). While it is important that we try to reach children for the Kingdom, while they are still children, this does not mean that everyone over 18 who fails to believe is forever lost, of course. It just gets harder for us the older we get.

The important thing to remember today is that God's Kingdom is already here and we are part of it. Perhaps we should live in such a way that demonstrates that!

Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, April 18, 2011

To Those Who Use Well What they are Given, Even More will be Given

Luke 19:12-27 NLT 
  12 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return.13 Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’14 But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’
   15  After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. 16 The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’
   17  ‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’
   18 The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’
   19 ‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’
   20 “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. 21 I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’
   22 ‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, 23 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
   24 “Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’25 ‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’
   26  ‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 27 And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’

This message from Jesus speaks of the coming Kingdom age. Jesus is the one about to be crowned King over all the universe. There are those among God's creation who fight against God, who resist the Lordship of God over their lives and embrace self in His place. That is the essence of sin and they embrace that sin. They tell anyone who will listen that they do not want God as king in their existence. In spite of this sin, God sent Christ to redeem them and they still demean and resist Him.

Then there are those to whom God has entrusted great gifts. He expects us to use those gifts to bless others and draw them to Him. He plans for us to use these gifts-- that's why he gave them to us. God always gives us the abilities to do the things He calls us to do. Those are his gifts. Problem is we don't always step forward and begin to obey in those called activities. We hold back, sort of like the guy with the single bag of silver. We hide our talents int he ground like he did his bag of coins. We decline to invest our talents into the work of the Kingdom out of fear of failure-- just like the one bag servant. And that servant reaped what he invested-- nothing. He invested nothing so he reaped nothing.  Notice that the other two servants also reaped what they invested. You and I will reap what we invest into the Kingdom of God as well. However many talents God has given you, if you will but invest them, they will duplicate and you will receive more. You will receive infinitely more for as long as we continue to reinvest our talents into God's work.

Those who resist the Lordship of Christ, in the end will pay a price (v 27). But among us who are His children, to whom He has given gifts for service, when we fail to invest our gifts into the service He calls us toward, there will also be a price to pay. We will lose our gifts. We will loose much more (v 26b). And there is no reason for us to suffer such loss because we already know what happened to the obedient servants who invested their gifts.  How are you investing the gifts God has given you thus far in your walk with Christ?

Your servant

Friday, April 15, 2011

Then God Said Let There Be. . . . and it was so!

Gen. 1:14-23 NLT      
   14 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day. 
   20 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” 23 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day. 
   24  Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. 25 God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 
   27  So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

The power of God to create something out of nothingness is the stuff of debate across the last two millenia.  But create is exactly what Genesis explains to us that God did. God imagined and then spoke space, galaxies, solar systems, suns, planets, oceans, continents, mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and all manner of living creatures that populate those places. And we are only beginning to grasp a tiny part of the mind of God as we look at the sciences. The conclusion from scientific inquiry is not a naturalistic explanation of creation-- that would be impossible to honestly conclude. The complexity of geology and of life itself cannot be without intelligent design and initiation.

Notice that God created the places and then populated them with creatures. Notice that those creatures reproduced but only within specie. The text repeatedly used the phrase "produce offspring of the same kind." Only after this did God create humanity and the purpose was to rule over the planet and its animal life. They were made by God for humanity.

All the other forms of life God created within its kind from an original design. Humanity, however, God modeled after Himself. He imagined man with the image of Himself in mind, and then willed mankind into being in two genders. You and I have at our core, the image of God. Whether we choose to permit that core to flourish and grow through faith in Jesus Christ, is our choice. When we choose that we choose eternal life. When we resist that choice we choose death and eternal torment. I can't imagine why some people insist on choosing the latter.

Let's pray for some we know right now that have not yet chosen life and ask God to show them the way to life. Perhaps we can be a vehicle for helping them to find life.

Your servant in Christ

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Let there be. . . Forgiveness and Eternal Life

Gen. 1:1-13 NLT
    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 
   3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day. 
   6  Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the second day.  9 Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10 God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12 The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And evening passed and morning came, marking the third day.

Let's go back to the beginning. Have you ever noticed how the creation narrative is worded?  It describes how God created.  Now if you were to make a narrative of me creating a wood project in my shop (ignoring all my errors and bad results), you would describe my planning, then my assembling materials, then my measureing, then my cutting, gluing, nailing, sanding, painting. . .  etc.  But that is not how the Creation narrative goes. We are not lead through a mechanical series of steps on how God created each aspect of creation. We are shown the pure power of God at work!

 We read that "God created" heavens and earth. That would mean the entire universe.  That space that is so vast it takes light gazillions of years to penetrate across its breadth, was something God could "hover over" (v2).  The next sentence sounds like the big bang of scientific myths when it says "God said 'let there be light' and there was light. Catch the vocuablulary-- "LET" is used. To paraphrase, it was like God said 'permit light to form.' Darkness was there but there was no light other than God. So God, who IS light empowered His light to become light for all the universe and all of the mechanical processes going in in the millions of galaxies with millions of suns each. God released his light to become light for creation.

Next, God said Let there be a space between the waters on the planet and the water in the atmosphere surrounding the planet, calling it Sky. In other words, the very power that IS God, impressed Sky into existence from the other elements he was creating. Still, in verse 9 we read that on the third day God said "let the waters flow. . ."  The power that IS God impressed movement upon the water on the planet so that bodies of water and land would emerge. God caused the continental plates to move across the face of the Globe-- something that scientists are only beginning to grasp. But a writer of Genesis understood it thousands of years ago.

The point is that God said "LET THERE BE. . . . . " and that became. So when we read later in God's Word about Christ coming to forgive sin, and that through trust and faith in Christ we begin to be remade by God, why do we doubt?  God said that we would be made again into new creations, freed from sin and empowered to love and serve others in His plan. Just as sure as we are of the existence of the sky and the land and the bodies of water, and the continental tectonic plates, we can be sure of God making us into a new creation released from sin and guided into eternal life.

Your servant in Christ's love


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guard what God has Entrusted to you

1Tim. 6:11-21 NLT
    11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen. 
   17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. 
   20 Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. 21 Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness. May God’s grace be with you all.

Apostle and Teacher Paul gives some wise advise to Pastor Tim-- and to us today for living life in Christ Jesus. In previous verses Paul described the problems caused by loving money. He describes the ways evil can creep in and destroy our testimony before others. So he warns Paul to run away from such evil and, instead, run after righteousness. That would include a power from God to overcome our fallen human nature so that we can exemplify a godly life that includes faith, love, and stick-to-it-iveness (perseverance).

Apparently, there is a sort of a 'fight' in which we must engage called "the good fight.'  Apparently the gift of eternal life given us through God's grace is something we need to hold tightly. We must not be carelessly tossing it about lest it slip from our grasp. Paul's command about holding tightly to our eternal life was a command given to Timothy and all believers, not merely a suggestion (v14). We are to persevere until Christ is finally revealed again to assume direct rule over earth and the rest of creation.

We have a teaching role to fulfill where wealthy persons are concerned. We should help them to realize that their wealth is meant by God for them to be a blessing to others as God would lead. This, of course, applies to wealthy believers, not unbelievers. Wealth, as we have already seen, can drag people down from their Christian faith and complete trust in God to provide. You can help a wealthy believer to pray with them about how God might want them to use those resources "to do good" (vs 18-19).

The final caution is to simply trust in God and decline any invitations to debate godless foolishness or challenges to the Christian faith. Unless the Lord leads you to do so, you are not to become God's apologist. He can take care of himself. You will know when you should speak against a railing atheist. Most of the time arguing with them only urges them on.  It will be better to pray for them and pray that you are able to live a Godly life in their eyes, in spite of their unbelief. If a church member is teaching false doctrine you must correct them immediately-- but gently in love however. We cannot tolerate false doctrine taught in our churches. We are committed to the truth and helping to prevent others from wandering away from the faith (v 21).

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

These teachings promote a godly life

1Tim. 6:3-11 NLT 
   3Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. 
   6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 
   9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. 
   11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 

Chapters 5 and 6 contain some very unusual teachings that seem culturally abrasive to our western politically correct culture traditions today. There are discussions about the church providing for widows, but only those widows who do not have believing children to care for them. There are words condemning believing children who refuse to care for their widow parents and force the burden on to the church (that was a neat trick of the Pharasees and Sadducees in Jesus' day.  There are words about Christians who are lazy and how the church should not be burdened with supporting them. But then the church should support the needy. There are words of caution about sins that we cover up and are not discovered until the end-- they lead to certain judgment and condemnation.

Then we move to chapter six and discuss proper conduct by Christians who are slaves. Slavery has, itself, become a sin in today's culture though some say we merely have a different form of it in our fiscal credit obligations. But that's another discussion.

In 6:3, Paul picks up the discussion reflecting back on the teaching themes of Chapter 5.Paul cautions Pastor Tim that there will be those who Contradict sound teaching from the Lord. He cautions that those who oppose them do so out of ignorance and even arrogance, seeking only to stir up controversies and trouble and appear to elevate themselves-- if only in their own eyes. He speaks of believers in the church. Notice he says in verse 5 that 'their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth" and now only use the faith community as access to wealth. To do this means they once embraced the truth but then turned again toward darkness.  Those clinging to a distance altar experience to save them, but who are not continuing in obedience do so at great risk according to this passage. The desirable alternative is Godliness (v 6) which is more valuable than wealth.

Paul warns us all that wealth is a dangerous element to the believer because it brings temptations and traps to stop trusting in God and trust, instead, in the wealth and its sources. Again we see the caution against turning away, in verses 9-10 where longing for money has caused people to have "wandered from the true faith. . ."

Your servant in Christ

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching

1Tim. 4:11-16 NLT  
   11Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. 12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. 13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them. 
   14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. 15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

Can a young person teach an older one? According to God's Word, if the older one is a wise person, yes because a wise person is always willing to learn from anyone. However there is responsibility in the younger person as well. Notice verse 12 follows the statement about teaching and insisting others learn. One of the things we should teach and promote mastery for is the idea that a younger person has input as to whether others they seek to teach do or do not 'think less' of them, merely because of their youth. They must make daily decisions about life that exemplify Christ and their commitment to Him. This can only come as we request and permit God to purify our hearts and change us from the self-absorbed creatures our fallen nature produced in us.

We are not sure what Timothy's Spiritual gift was but we know it came as a result of his initiation or ordination into ministry work. We know it gave Timothy internal resources to conduct the ministry God would place within his hands to accomplish across his life time.  All of us who come to Christ receive such gifts. Sometimes they are used and often they are neglected because we never venture into an arena where they can be called upon. One day sitting in an adult Bible study taught by a wonderful teacher (so I was not bored), I found myself looking into the faces of my class mates-- many of whom I had known at my church for ten or 20 years. Many I had seen grow and mature from young adults to wise middle adults. I imagined a question, what if everyone in this room who has successfully taught a Bible study or a Sunday school class, or who has mentored another into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ was doing so this same week of our meeting?  I counted 23 adults present. Allowing for couples, among those 23, I imagined that there COULD be at least 15 powerful on-going efforts to grow the Kingdom, just in this room. And there were many more rooms just like ours at our church at that moment.

Do you ever get the feeling that the church spends a large portion of its time talking to. . . well, 'the church.'  When does the world get to hear what we have been learning in 'the church?' Paul encouraged Pastor Tim to pay attention to his living and to his teaching. That would have to mean that he was doing some teaching, right? Now we all are not pastors, I know, but are we all called by Christ to go across all the world where our steps take us and to make disciples and to teach those disciples to obey all the things Christ has taught us? I think He said that to us in several places (see Mt 28:19-20)

Your servant

Friday, April 8, 2011

Our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all

1Tim. 4:1-10 NLT  
   1 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. 
   3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer. 
   6 If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Christ Jesus, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed. 7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. 8 Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. 10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.

Paul lays out for Pastor Tim some more of the principles for Christian life that he should be teaching the church at Galatia, and for us as well. Some among the Jewish Christians and the gentile members of that church were caught up in wrong doctrines. Paul reminds us that this occurs from time to time because of 'deceptive spirits,' and because of the teachings those demons deliver through foolish people whom they can dominate and influence. Paul wants us not to be dismayed about those forces nor those hypocritical people who lie about us and the truth of God. In the end God will bring justice. If they do not repent, if they do not embrace or re-embrace the Salvation that Christ suffered to grant them, there will be 'hell to pay.'

When people start listing for you bunches of prohibitions and permissions you may want to step back from them and just pray for God's wisdom. We can learn directly from God, through Scripture, the things we should do. Some are called to teach us about God's word and we should listen to them. But when their message departs from The Word, we must discount them. And the debates or arguments they might stir up are other distractions. Paul teaches us (vs 7) not to waste our time with arguments. We should be teaching others about Christ-- PERIOD!  The Good News is what we are called to share, not philosophies of life, the world, and all they contain.

To teach like that we need to live simple lives, focused on Christ -- living like the Word teaches us that He lived. That is 'godliness' and vs. 8 explains that we should seek godliness. All people are invited into Godliness.  It is 'believers' who have accepted the invitation but all are invited and could experience it upon believing in the Savior sent by God and embracing the Spirit of God who waits to enter and remake us into His image.
Your Servant in Christ's love

Thursday, April 7, 2011

He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

1Tim. 2:1-6 NLT  
   1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

How should we who are surrendered and submitted to God through faith and trust in Jesus Christ conduct ourselves daily? Prayer, that's how!  Paul tells the believers at Galatia, and us as well to be men and women of prayer. Verse 1 says we should pray for 'all people.'  All people!  That might take a while. Especially if we pray with knowledge about each person. I suppose we could pray "Dear Lord, bless all people everywhere. . ." but I don't think that was what Paul had in mind here. We certainly can't pray for all people because we don't know all people. However, what IF we DID pray for each person we know? Time to start making a list?

How do we pray for each person we know? For starters, he says, we should be asking God to help them. We don't know what they might be facing in the immediate future, nor do they. But God does. And we are authorized to loose the power of God on their future according to His will. Next we can 'intercede for them.'  That means we can pray intense focused and long-term prayers for the circumstances we do know about. A young man named Chris, who sings with me in my church choir asked the choir to pray for him today for an 'unspoken' need. I heard the Spirit whisper that I should daily pray intently for Chris's need though I don't know what it involves. I do know Chris and I do know God's will for Chris' life-- to walk in peace and strength with God through faith in Christ. So that will be my intercessory prayer until I hear from him again.

Next, Paul says I should 'give thanks for them.'  I can give thanks for the people God has brought into my life. I can give thanks for people I have been permitted to see a need in their life to pray for because it gives me a chance to minister in Christ. I can give thanks for people who cause me harm, because it gives me a chance to demonstrate Christ's unconditional love to them and also a chance to rely upon God when all other hope is gone.

Next, Paul reminds me that among those "all people" I should pray for are the political leaders of my nation and other nations. Even when I do not agree with their politics and their policies, I am still instructed to pray for them.  I can pray that God will cause them to hear from Him and repent from worldly ways. I can pray for their protection. I can pray for their peace because if they are in peace then we have a greater chance of enjoying national peace.

Paul summarizes all this by pronouncing it good and pleasing to God. In the same sentence Paul reminds us that God wants everyone to be saved. So much for the misguided teaching that some people are destined not to be saved. God has proclaimed that they can be, if they choose to. The option is theirs. If anyone doubts this truth, review verse 6 that explains the purpose of Christ's sacrifice.  It involves 'everyone.'  Those are the 'everyone' that we should be praying for as well.

Your servant in Christ's Love

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some people have deliberately violated their . . . faith

1Tim. 1:12-20 NLT 
  12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 
   15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” —and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen. 
   18 Timothy, my son, here are my instructions for you, based on the prophetic words spoken about you earlier. May they help you fight well in the Lord’s battles. 19 Cling to your faith in Christ, and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. 20 Hymenaeus and Alexander are two examples. I threw them out and handed them over to Satan so they might learn not to blaspheme God.

It is not often that we see in the Bible where an apostle "threw them out" of the church. People of the world who criticize us for having church in the first place would not hesitate to criticize us if we were to throw someone in our church out on the same basis as did Paul to Hymenaeus and Alexander. We read of Hymenaeus again in Second Timothy for continuing to cause cancerous sin inside the church community.

Paul was never quick to take such action for he saw himself as 'chief among sinners.' And he constantly recounted joys of being permitted to call sinners to repentance. He called these particular sinners to repentance. He calls sinners in our churches today who engage in similar activities to repentance--something we should do as well. And even this was not Paul's key message in these verses. His main point was to lift up awareness of God's grace in forgiveness of sin. He wants young Pastor Tim to 'cling to your faith in Christ. . .' He wants Pastor Tim to 'fight well' in the battle that belongs to the Lord. He wants us to do that also.

Paul uses himself as the case-in-point. Since God could deliver him from sinning and forgive his own terrible sins, then God will forgive anyone's sins. However, some just blithely turn their backs on this great grace and even enter the Church of the Lord with the intent of doing harm to weaker believers. These people are condemned by their very actions and Paul simply advises us to purge our congregations of them, until they genuinely repent.

This is a tough teaching? But we should never take action like this in haste. Only after prayer and fasting and much coaching and conversation can we do this. In all my years as a pastor there was only one that I had to take such action about and it broke my heart. But it had to be done. I still pray for that person that they will yet be redeemed.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stop Teachings that are Contrary to Truth

1Tim. 1:1-11 NLT 
   1  This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope. 
   2  I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith. May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace. 
   3  When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. 4 Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. 
   5 The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. 6 But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. 7 They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently. 
   8 We know that the law is good when used correctly. 9 For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. 10 The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching 11 that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God.

Paul gives wise instruction to his young associate pastor, Timothy, in these books we call the "Pastoral Epistles." While Paul moved on to evangelize elsewhere, God lead him to leave Timothy there as a pastor-teacher. In these passages we see instruction to a younger believer who has been called upon to be a powerful spiritual influence against the forces of evil that are attacking the new church of Jesus Christ. You and I should never hesitate to step into such roles when God opens such doors to us. God will equip us and we, too, can follow these instruction of Paul to Pastor Tim.

Stop Teaching that is Contrary to Truth (v3)
In Christ's church-- the body of all obedient believers-- among thousands of local congregations, and among denominations or non-denominational groups, we must hold all teaching up to the scrutiny of the Bible-- the inspired Word of God. When we find teachings that are misaligned we must correct them. We are obligated to do so, but always in the Spirit of Christ-- Love.

Don't Waste Time in Endless Discussion (v4)
Week after week we may just sit in our groups 'discussing' the truths of scripture. That is good, right? However,  have you often heard a topic discussed in these Bible study groups that you have heard and discussed multiple times before? How often should we listen to the same teachings about the same scriptures before we put some feet to those truths and engage the battle? If the Battle Belongs to The Lord, as the saying goes, then all we need to do is 'just show up for that battle.' But are we showing up? Or are we still back in the safe places of our discussion study groups?

Some People have Missed the Point (v6)
The Apostle teaches us to minister to others, along with what he taught Pastor Tim. He teaches us that our preparation is to become "filled with love. . ."  This infilling love, he said, comes from a "pure heart."  It comes from that heart augmented by a clear conscience. That heart and conscience come from a genuine faith" in Christ. Reversing that, we should be able to say that 'through faith in Jesus Christ, my conscience has become clear, purifying my heart, and filling my live with the same unconditional love that was exhibited by Christ.

They Don't Know What They are Talking About (v7)
There might be persons within Christian church groups and organizations who have been designated as teachers, pastors, leaders by human procedures within those organizations, but who may not have a genuine infusion of the Spirit of God. Why? Perhaps because they seek to be leaders and to control others, rather than to be servants obeying God's leadership? Perhaps their efforts are not to lead in Christ's name but to dominate in their own. Once who are changed by the pure heart, conscience, and genuine faith will never cling to personal preferences. They receive pure joy from serving in Christ, and none from serving themselves.  They rule by law rather than love. Paul said of them that they are rebellious and sinful, sexually immoral, practicing homosexuality and enslavement of others, liars, unfaithful even to their own word. They are ones who actually contradict wholesome teaching rather than extend it because what they do they do in their own names.

But the 'Good News' comes from God and frees everyone from these burdens. And those among us, in our churches and Christian organizations, who are leading in their own names, can never find the peace we teach about until they surrender themselves to God's will. Perhaps we can help show them the way back to real peace. But we must always resist false teaching wherever we find it.

Your Servant in Christ's love

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment

Jude 14-23 NLT
   14 Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones 15 to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 
   16 These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want. 
   17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said.  18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. 
 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love. 
   22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.  23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

In his quick "note' to the Church, Jude, youngest brother of Jesus, brings light to the life of living Christianly. He writes to warn of false teachers who pervert and twist the good news to their own advantage. He warns against religious leaders in the church who claim authority by virtue of visions they claim to have had. He warns of religious leaders who promote themselves over others. He reminds of the lessons from antiquity that demonstrated how Satan involves himself into the lives of God's people and the national affairs of the people of God. In those days it took strong arch angles to fight against the work of the arch enemy of God where people were concerned and even then some were turned toward evil.

Do we have such concerns in our age of the Church? Is the church being what it was birthed to be two thousand years ago? Are the members of the church reaching out to bring good news or are they just resting in their comfortable circumstances. We know of incredible church around the third world countries where salvation in Christ often comes at the risk of death by believers. There the church is growing so fast that trained pastors cannot be found to lead them. Yet in our comfortable churches, more than likely new members come from other churches rather than from the world of sin. Are you asking yourself, like I am asking myself this?  "What am I doing, Lord to obey you and extend the good news to those who need to know? Am I merely one of the grumblers and complainers who live only to satisfy my desires?"  Jude reminded us about scoffers in our midst and against our focus on creature comfort over obedience.

Instead, in these latter days, we should be guiding each other up in faith.  We read that we should be praying in the power of the Holy Spirit. We see that we must wait upon and trust in the mercy of Christ that he will bring us to eternal life by showing His very mercy to others whose faith might be wavering. We read that we should be working to snatch ' them from the flames of judgment.'  Jude warns us that we should do this with great caution. We should hate sins, but love such sinners enough to risk discomfort to help them find truth.

Read the entire Epistle of Jude this morning and ask God what you should be doing this day in His name?
Your servant in Christ
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