Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Being Real

An antique dealer thought that the wrinkled old baseball card that she found might be worth $10.00. After posting it on eBay, she began to wonder if it might be more valuable than she had thought. She removed the posting and consulted a professional evaluator who confirmed that the photo on the 1869 card showed the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team in the United States. The card sold for more than $75,000. Even though the card was creased and discolored, the most important thing was its authenticity – it was real!

The apostle Paul and his companions suffered greatly while spreading the gospel of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6 he listed their outward trials, their inward traits, and their spiritual resources: “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Corinthians 6:4-7).

Please try to imagine the circumstances in which all these things interacted: The beatings, the patience, the prison time, the kindness, the distresses, and of course the great love. Although broken physically, depleted emotionally, and tested spiritually, the authenticity of their faith in Christ clearly showed through! He goes on to write, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

In our walk with Christ, there’s no substitute for spiritual authenticity – being real! It is not lip service that God wants, what He wants is our authentic love and devotion for Him which shows itself in our day to day living as we let others “see” Jesus in us through the lives we live — again, just being REAL Christians!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

What the Word of God Will Do

Many people don’t turn to God or rely upon God because they just don’t have an understanding of what God’s word can do and will do for them. The Hebrew writer says that “...the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). No person on earth can do what God’s word can do for us. Therefore, we must let God’s word penetrate our heart so that productive and needed change can take place within us. Here is what God’s word will do for every person if they will read it, “C” it, and meditate on it:

It will CHARGE us. When one reads the Bible they will learn why Jesus Christ came to this earth. He performed many miracles to help people believe that He truly is the Son of God. The Israelites of long ago should have believed in Jesus but many turned from Him. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost charged them with sending Jesus to the cross to die when Jesus was just trying to get them to learn the truth. Peter said, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24).

It will CONVICT us. The best thing that can happen to us is to read the Bible and allow it to convict us of unrighteousness (sin). As Peter preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts, chapter 2, the Jews who were gathered there began to understand that they were guilty of sending Jesus to the cross to die. They were convicted of their sin! Peter said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

It will CONVINCE us. After we are convicted of sin, then we can be convinced that we need to do something about it. The Jews on Pentecost knew they had sinned but did not know what to do. They asked the all important question of Peter that day: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). This is the very same question that all of us should be asking now. Knowing that we have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we must now do what God instructs us to do in order to gain true peace of mind in Christ our Lord.

It will CONVERT us. Upon understanding that we are in sin and knowing we must do something about it, then and only then, can we be led to true conversion. The Jews, after asking Peter “what shall we do?” received the best answer ever by the beloved apostle Peter. “...Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The answer they received, is the same one we receive. What God’s word instructs of us is not difficult to do. If we truly want our sins forgiven and to be able to live with true peace of mind in Christ, we must obey God’s commands. We learn from this passage of scripture that we need to repent (turn from sin), and be baptized (immersed in water), in order to receive forgiveness of our sins. When we do that, then we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which is the promise of salvation to all who are obedient to God’s commands. Another passage of scripture that mirrors Acts 2:38 is Acts 3:19 which says, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). This passage also states that we must repent, be converted (baptized), to receive forgiveness of sins, and we will be refreshed knowing that we have the promise of eternal life if we remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10).

It will CHANGE us. As the Jews experienced a changed life after they were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:41-47), we too will experience a new life in Jesus Christ! It is such a blessing to walk through life daily knowing that through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, fully and completely, that we can look forward to eternal life with Him after we pass from this life.

I encourage all of us to examine the Bible and see what the Word of God will do for us. May God richly bless us as we diligently seek Him and allow Him to change our lives in a positive way through the power of the gospel message. Paul was convinced of it, and so should we! “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Living for Christ

If we live "for Christ" as Christians are supposed to do, then we will not engage ourselves in anything that we could not picture our Lord engaging in. The apostle Paul wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). I want to encourage us to take a step back and honestly look at what this passage of scripture is telling us. That which is "true", "noble", "just", "pure", "lovely", "of good report", that is what we are to meditate on. When Christians allow themselves to be influenced with worldly things and often times being let astray by so called "friends" who do not have our soul's interest at heart, then we are not truly meditating on the things that Paul just spoke about. We cannot be the right example to others when we are practicing anything that is displeasing to God. Why is it that the Lord's church is not growing as it should be today? Perhaps you can suggest a few reasons in your comments. But I will say that one main reason we are not growing is because the Christians that make up the church are not always living their lives as God would want them to live and as a result it sends the signal that there are many hypocrites in the church. Paul did everything he possibly could to ensure that he was living "for Christ." He was so confident in his life's service to Him that he said "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). Can it truly be said of us that we are really imitating Christ? 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Resist the Devil

The Devil is crafty, subtle and slick; but sometimes he’s obvious! Peter describes him as a “roaring lion devour.” We have to be alert because just as sure as God is real, so is the devil. He is known as the prince of this world, and he will do all he can to try to get us to do evil and to turn away from our creator. What can we do to ensure that we are not “devoured” by the devil?

Submit our will to the Lord. “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). When we submit ourselves to the Lord fully and completely, then there is nothing left to give to the devil. God created us and has given us His word to live by. If we do, then we won’t allow the devil to entice us.

Surrender our worry to the Lord. “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). So many people allow themselves to become bogged down with worry. The devil loves it when people become so worried about things that God is no longer in focus. When we read God’s word and understand that He truly cares about us then it is easy to surrender our “worries” to Him. Let Him take care of those things that we have no control over. Peace of mind is to be treasured. We have it when the worries of life are given over to God and we get on with living for Him and for one another.

Strengthen our walk with the Lord. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). We are not the first ones who have faced trials and tribulation in our lives. Everyone faces them! But when we stand firm in our faith and trust in the Lord, resisting the devil, then we can have a firm confidence in our life and service for Him. 

See the work of the Lord. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10). When we realize that God is always in control we only need to just look around and see the work of the Lord in all things. Stand firmly for Him, even after enduring a trial here and there. The devil will keep on trying to get us to waiver, but in God, we have THE ONE who will perfect, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. 

One thing is clear to everyone who is striving to live a life devoted to God and that is resisting the devil and drawing near to God is a lifelong endeavor. The Bible says “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Remember, the devil does not have to work on those who live for the world because he already has them in his domain. The devil is working on those of us who have not given in to him. Don’t succumb to his temptations. Let this be a day that we become determined to live for Christ always. Our eternal resting place with Jesus depends on it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross!

In Mark 15:21-41, we can read about the crucifixion of Jesus. These verses tell us what Jesus had to go through just before and during His death on the cross. As I read these words, tears come to my eyes because an innocent man, God’s only Son, came to this earth and suffered and died so that I can have forgiveness of my sins if I am faithful and obedient to Him. It is sad that Jesus had to go through this agony, but I am glad He did so that I can look forward to being with Him in eternity. In these verses, there are several things that I see:

I SEE – the greatest act of love known to man. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It is hard for me to know and understand the great love of God, our creator, for man – that He would send to this earth His only son, to live and die for me - a sinful man. I know that I am blessed because when I make the choice to live for Him fully and completely, then at the end of my life on earth I have comfort knowing that I will continue to live with Him throughout eternity.

I SEE – the reason and importance for Christ's sacrifice. “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). If Jesus’ death on the cross means anything to me, then I will strive to purge out the old leaven (sin) and put on the new man of righteousness and service to Him. I must always remember that He was sacrificed for me. I know that I cannot take that for granted.

I SEE – the necessity of living like Christ lived. “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Peter 2:21). As I read the Bible and examine closely the life of Christ, I see God’s Son living on this earth as I do, yet without sin. Therefore, I understand that it is absolutely necessary for me to follow His example, living my life like He lived. This attitude shapes who I am, being a faithful Christian, husband, father, and servant. Because of this, I am able to make good decisions through life by simply asking myself before doing anything, “what would Jesus do?” When answered honestly, the right decision is confidently made.

I SEE – the urgency of commitment to Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It is urgent that I am committed to Christ daily because I don’t know how much longer that I will be living in the flesh on this earth. My commitment must be constant and unwavering every day. If I don’t stand for Christ, then I’ll fall for anything. Our heavenly Father is pleased with me when I am committed to serving His only Son.

I SEE – the joy of striving for Heaven. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5). It took the death and resurrection of Jesus to allow me to have the hope of heaven. When I love Him, live for Him, and am faithful and obedient to Him in all things, then I can know that Heaven will be my inheritance one day. I understand that I live in this world but I am not “of” the world. If I allow the pleasures of life to occupy my mind first and foremost, then I will not gain heaven. I am mindful of a sign I saw one time hanging above the front door in a home which read, “Heaven, don’t miss it for the world!”

In conclusion, I remember the words from an often sung gospel hymn: “I gave My life for thee, what hast thou given for Me?” My life is not all about me – it is about Jesus and serving Him diligently. What do you see when you “survey the wondrous cross?”

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Reaching Forward

Making a more courageous connection between today and tomorrow is neither impossible nor impractical. Rather than stumble aimlessly toward the future in defeat, we can concentrate our minds on what God has made possible for us in His Son. With our minds firmly fixed on God, we can reach forward with purpose and passion. Hope, courage, and self-discipline can be the qualities that define us as we live today. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

One of the first things that the apostle mentioned was “forgetting those things which are behind.” There is a sense in which we need to “forget” the past. This does not mean to erase our memories; it simply means that we let go of what has already happened and move on past them. Many good things we may remember with gladness and many bad things we may remember with wisdom. But — those memories must not confine us or keep us from our work.

We must then be of a mind set on “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” The things which are “ahead” of course are spiritual things. Things that have to do with God and with eternity. If these are to be ours, we must “reach forward.” Exerting ourselves with regard to eternity must be our decision and our commitment. We will not move forward (significantly) if we do not reach forward!

God was much more than merely one of the apostle Paul’s “interests.” He wrote: “this one thing I do .... I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  This is the single-minded determination that separates the real seeker from the casual browser. This is the hunger and thirst that is needed to find God. Since the beginning, everything that God has made known of Himself, He has made one thing perfectly clear: He IS worth reaching for! He is the very best thing about tomorrow! I encourage you to press on and live for Christ now before it is everlastingly too late.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Fit For the Kingdom

Health magazines are constantly giving advice on what it takes to become and to remain physically fit. Some of the top recommendations are setting goals, eating nourishing foods, tracking daily progress, and to seek out support that will help you achieve your goals. This is good advice for not only our physical well-being but for our spiritual fitness as well. Let’s look at what the Bible says in regard to these things to help us become and remain spiritually fit.

Realize where we are at – then set a rational goal. “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Our goal should be to obey Christ in all things and strive to remain faithful (Revelation 2:10) so that we can gain eternal life with Him.

Eat nourishing food. “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). It is important that we continue with a steady diet of nourishing spiritual food absorbed by reading God’s Holy Word daily.

Track your progress. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Make sure we keep track of progress so that we can know that we are truly progressing and growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). We don’t want to become complacent and fall back into the ways of the world.

Seek out support. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Our daily walk with God will be so much easier when we have faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to be with. They can encourage us, and we can encourage them. Let us never forget the words of Jesus as he said “...No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Let us keep our hands to the plow as we strive to be pleasing to God daily, serving Him in His kingdom, and longing to be with Him eternally in heaven!