Tuesday, August 18, 2020

IS REAPING BAD?

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

Galatians 6:7


Normally, reaping what we sow has negative connotations.


You treat others badly, it will come back to you. You steal and you will suffer consequences. You live by the sword, you will die by the sword etc.


But reaping what you sow is actually a neutral principle. It can be used for good or bad. A farmer sows corn and reaps a corn crop. We treat people fairly and it will come back to us.


We usually understand that sin can be a product of what we sow. But from a Christian perspective, sin is often a product of what we DON’T SOW!


A Christian knows, or at least should know, that our spiritual life is a result of the spiritual seeds that we sow. Reading our Bibles results is spiritual growth. Praying, fasting, church relationships also produce spiritual strength and growth!


LACK OF SEEDS SOWN!

We often think of sin as a failure within ourselves to live up to God’s standards. But that is only part of the equation. We forget that the power to resist sin comes from God! We see our failures and “try harder” to do right. But too often we do not connect our sins to a lack of seeds sown!


If we turn it around, we can easily see that, “If I don’t read, study and meditate on God’s Word, I will not find the strength to resist sin.” “If I don’t develop a strong pray life, I will not have a close walk with God.” “If I don’t go to church…” you get the idea. 


Often it is not our failure to “try harder” that produces failure in our walk with God. Rather it is due to the fact that we have not sown the seeds which produce God’s supernatural life and power within us. We fight and claw but wind up failing again and again.


STRENGTH FOR “THE GAME!”

Imagine if a professional football player was 6’5, 90 pounds and could only bench press 50 pounds. Then he goes into a game to try and block a 300-pound muscular defensive lineman. The play starts and he is flattened like a pancake. He is determined not to fail so he encourages himself to “try harder” this time. Again he fails.


What causes him to fail? We can see that it is not his lack of determination or willingness to “try harder.” It is his lack of strength!


What is the solution? He has to hit the weight room. (Hopefully long before this point!) 


THE SPIRITUAL "WEIGHT ROOM!"

As Christians, we often want to succeed without hitting the spiritual weight room! We have a will to succeed but don’t spend the time with God to gather strength for big game of life!


But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that HE IS A REWARDER OF THOSE WHO DILIGENTLY SEEK HIM.

Hebrews 11:6


BE DILIGENT to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15


We can see that our diligence in seeking him is rewarded by God. Diligently planting spiritual seeds will be rewarded with spiritual fruit!


If we do not plant spiritual seeds, we can only hope for achieving something that looks right but has no real spiritual substance!


AND LET US NOT GROW WEARY WHILE DOING GOOD, FOR IN DUE SEASON WE SHALL REAP IF WE DO NOT LOSE HEART.

Galatians 6:9


Saturday, June 27, 2020

TWO BIBLICAL WORDS!

Two of the greatest words in the Bible...

No, not "Jesus wept," though those words are full of meaning for us.

Not even "Jesus died," probably the greatest two words in the Bible!
  
But not far behind are two words that I have grown to love and cherish...

They are "BUT GOD!"

So often in God's Word, these two words signify God's intervention in the affairs of man. They represent times when someone, some group, or even a nation, is in a desperate state. When the words are not used directly, they are implied.

God intervened miraculously in the affairs of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He intervened when the Children of Israel were slaves for 400 years and set them free. God spoke to and through His prophets.

Let's jump to the book of Ephesians where our state apart from God is clearly laid out:

1 And YOU WERE dead in the trespasses and sins,
2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—
3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

Apart from Jesus Christ, every person born into this world exists in this fallen condition. We were DEAD, following the rest of the world, flowing the ways of Satan, the prince of the power of the air. We followed our ungodly passions and were fully worthy of God's wrath.

What a hopeless condition!

BUT GOD!!!

4 BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-6 (ESV)

Those of us who are "IN CHRIST" have been rescued BY GOD! Not by our own good works - but only by the hand of God - through the blood of Jesus Christ, when we were in hopelessly impossible conditions!

Only in eternity will we realize the full import of what it means to be redeemed and how great God's power is working toward us!

But even in this life, the words, "BUT GOD" applies to us!

Whatever condition we are in, whatever state we find our nation is in. However hopeless our lives seem to be or how bleak our future appears...

"BUT GOD!!!"

God can intervene and change everything! But we just turn to Him in our own lives and as a nation to be saved!

In fact, God's specialty is intervening when the situation is the most hopeless! 

Call upon God today in Jesus' name to deliver you from the hopelessness of eternity apart from Him and from each an every situation you are in. Nothing is too small or too big for Him!

The world and the devil may pronounce us dead and hopeless - BUT GOD can and will step in to save us if we humbly turn to Him - and away from our sins!

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:13 (ESV)


Monday, June 22, 2020

THE TWO RACES!

In a very real sense, there is only one race - the human race.

The world says that we must earn respect. But I believe the Bible teaches us that we should take the first step to treat people with respect from the start. Trust is another level and must be earned. Yet Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us the a neighbor is anyone who has a need and being a neighbor is meeting a need!

In another sense, there are actually TWO RACES!

At the end of time, God will judge the world and divide us onto two groups. This is a sobering reality but one that will come to pass, cannot be changed and will have eternal consequences.

Erwin Lutzer quotes Jay Adams, Christian counselor and author:

From the Garden of Eden with its two trees (one allowed, one forbidden) to the eternal destiny of the human being in heaven or in hell, the Bible sets forth two, and only two, ways: God’s way, and all others.

...People are said to be saved or lost. They belong to God’s people or the world. ...There is the narrow way and the wide way, leading either to eternal life or to destruction. There are those who are against and those who are with us, those within and those without. There is ...the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, love and hatred.

...Christ is said to be the way, the truth, and the life, and no one may come to the Father but by Him. His is the only name under the sky by which we may be saved.

Lutzer, Erwin W.. Who Are You to Judge? (p. 63). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition. (condensed for the sake of brevity)

The Bible makes it clear that ALL NATIONALITIES will be represented in heaven and therefore the human concept of race is man-made and inspired by Satan!

And HE HAS MADE FROM ONE BLOOD EVERY NATION OF MEN  o dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.
Acts 17:26

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals; For You were slain,
And have REDEEMED US TO GOD BY YOUR BLOOD.
OUT OF EVERY TRIBE AND TONGUE AND PEOPLE AND NATION,
Revelation 5:9-10

The key word is redeemed! Only the redeemed will be allowed into the Presence of the Living God in that Day when God reveals His glory! Only those who have trusted in the blood of Christ will be saved and accepted. 

It will not be based on our "good" or "bad" works. Our accomplishments, wealth, position or power will not follow us to the next life! Instead, we will be "scanned" to see if our sins are washed in Jesus' blood! If they are, the doors will open for us. If not...

These are sobering realities that must faced! What we call "race," the color of our skin or where we were born will not be even considered in that Day and the human concept of race will be destroyed for all eternity! 

Our relationship to Christ alone will determine our eternal destiny!

We must also preach that truth in its fullness. Jesus is not merely an "option" to make our lives better. A genuine relationship with Him and  salvation through His blood are essential and mandatory for our journey into eternity!



Monday, June 15, 2020

TRANFORMATION VS. REFORMATION

Right now there is great cry for reformation - particularly in the light of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.

Reforms are needed. Thank God slavery has been abolished and the Jim Crow laws have been done away with. Yet most of us will agree that there is much more reform needed in our fallen world.

Yet there is something much greater and more powerful than reformation - it is TRANSFORMATION!

THE MASTER OF TRANSFORMATION!

Jesus was not a reformer. He was a transformer! He changed people from the inside out. He did not work in the political system as many had hoped. Yet no one has transformed the world for good as Jesus has! Transformation brings the most reform. Jesus even brought Jews and Gentiles together!

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Unless a heart is changed, all the laws in the world will not fundamentally change the world.

In 2013, there were an estimated 15,000 to 50,000 federal laws. Get it. We don't even know how many there are. There are hate crime laws, equality laws, fairness laws, etc.

Yet we find ourselves in great conflict in the US.

Why? Because WE NEED JESUS!

If our hope is that electing the right person will fix things, we are sadly mistaken. We have turned away from the one person who we should make King. It's not Donald Trump or Joe Biden. IT IS JESUS! The corruption and sins of many (or most?) of our leaders in both parties and that is the weakness of trusting in man. There is only One who never sinned and He alone is worthy to rule!

Our country has not sought God as a nation. Instead we have embraced and glorified sin and rejected God's infinitely wise counsel.

It is not wrong to proceed with seeking to change our country by voting or through political means. But our only real hope is to once again turn to God.

There is no institution which exercises and demonstrates racial equality then the true church of Jesus Christ.

I do not refer to every organization that calls itself a church. Many evils have been wrought by Satan to discredit the name of Christ. I refer to that universal hidden church in which its members have been genuinely born again.

Why? Not because its members have not been indoctrinated or reformed - but because they have been transformed by the blood of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God.

How desperately our nation needs such a transformation. We know that not all will come to Christ. But the more who do, the more momentum we will build for a genuine transformation rather than mere reforms.

Laws are like a child who is told by his teacher to stop standing and go sit in a corner. He is forced to comply but he says in his heart, "I'm still standing in my heart." The force of laws may cause some of us to comply but sin will continue to seethe in our hearts until it bursts forth in some form of manifestation unless we are transformed!

14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
James 1:14-15

"...Sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
Genesis 4:7b

We can and should work toward reform but our nation needs the true transformation that comes from God alone! Let us crown Jesus anew in our hearts and seek Him as the real answer!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

WHERE TO LOOK IN A STORM!

Many of us know the story of how Jesus walked on the water. The disciples were sent by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The winds were strong on the sea that night.

But Jesus came to them in an unusual way...

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
Matthew 14:25

So Peter decided that he should also walk on the sea!

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
Matthew 14:28-29

Notice that Peter did not want to walk on the windy sea unless he had clear command from Jesus. He was fully focused on Jesus and began to do the impossible!

LOOKING AROUND
But then he did something foolish - something we all might be tempted to do...

30 But WHEN HE SAW  hat the wind was boisterous, he was afraid;
Matthew 14:30a

Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and focused instead on the violent winds around him.

...and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
Matthew 14:30b

There is a lesson here that is clear in our troubled times. So far this year we have had a pandemic that shut down society, yet another incident of police brutality and looting, rioting and burning in our cities. And we're only half way through the year!

REFOCUSING
We now have a choice. WATCH the news for long hours to SEE what is happening next - OR - FOCUS ON JESUS!

It is very tempting to want to know every development as it happens live. We need a certain amount of information to know if it even is safe to go out. Peter was aware of the ferocious winds even as he walked on the water. But when he SAW - focused on the storm, he began to sink.

May I suggest that we turn off the flow of new information for long periods of time in a day, or perhaps for a full day or longer to refocus our minds on Jesus through God's Word and prayer. The storm will still be there but we will have a command from God Himself to do the impossible!

Jesus is in complete control. Man cannot stop the storm by his own brainstorming. But watch what Jesus does. 

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Matthew 14:31-33

Let us cry out to Jesus in the midst of the storm. Will he not stretch out His hand as He did for Peter and save us? Does He not even have the power to make the winds cease?

We may feel hopeless in these times and rightfully conclude that these problems have no easy solutions. What did Peter do? He refocused on Jesus!

If we focus on Jesus, we will realize that He is fully in control and that He alone has the power over the storms in our world and in our personal lives - worshipping Him and once again seeing that He truly is THE SON OF GOD!

Let us do just that and hold tightly to God's promises...

GREAT PEACE HAVE THOSE WHO LOVE YOUR LAW, AND NOTHING CAUSES THEM TO STUMBLE.
PSALMS 119:165

BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING, BUT IN EVERYTHING BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION, WITH THANKSGIVING, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN TO GOD;
7 AND THE PEACE OF GOD, WHICH SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, WILL GUARD YOUR HEARTS AND MINDS THROUGH CHRIST JESUS.
Philippians 4:6-7


Friday, April 3, 2020

SHELTERING IN PLACE FOR GOD!

We are living in very unusual times to say the least. The COVID-19 virus is has spread into a worldwide pandemic. Sports, entertainment, restaurants and other businesses have been shut down. Eventually, a "shelter in place," complete lockdown has been ordered, except for essential activities.

At this point, over one million people have been infected around the world and over fifty thousand have died from the virus. Masks and gloves are being worn, even in the mostly empty streets. Uncertainty and fear are gripping many. At times, it feels surrealistic, almost like science fiction!

One contemporary "prophet" said the Lord told him it would be over very quickly. Another said it will be worse than the plagues of Egypt. I must tell you frankly that I do not know! How long will it last? How many will be infected? Or die? This uncertainty can easily give rise to fear if we feed and water it.

THE TRENCHES!
In a war, soldiers may spend a lot of time in a trench WAITING for orders to attack or for reinforcements. I have discovered that WAITNG is one the most difficult things to do in the Christian life!  The soldiers had to shelter in place in a six foot wide, seven feet deep trench in the middle of all of the anxieties of war with loud noises threatening around them and WAIT!

But what can we do while we WAIT? One key is to realize that we are in a certain TIME in history. More importantly, we are in a certain TIME in God's perfect plan!

UNDERSTANDING THE TIMES!
David amassed a large army at Hebron including the sons of Issachar. the Bible records that the sons of Issachar "HAD UNDERSTANDING OF THE TIMES, to know what Israel ought to do!" (1 Chronicles 12:32)

In this current crisis, we cannot live as before. Certain times require certain actions or even inaction. I can imagine that in the times of the world wars, many spent time in the trenches reading their Bibles and praying. A soldier is trained to fight but now, there was nothing to do except PREPARE. He may have cleaned his gun or set up a mortar to prepare for the next  battle.

Likewise, a Christian must also prepare spiritually.

We must continue to prepare ourselves because one thing is certain, the times will change. Perhaps things will return to "normal" or perhaps they will grow worse. But in either case, we will not be available to be used by God unless we are prepared.

Athletes train and lift weights even in the off season. There are no games at that time. But if he does not prepare, he will not be ready when the season starts.

As Christians, we too will have another time and another season...

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven...
Ecclesiastes 3:1

We must continue to prepare ourselves for those change in the TIMES and SEASONS. It may  feel boring and difficult at times. But just as the soldier in the trenches, we are still soldiers for God and there will be a time when we will once again wield our spiritual weapons!

The good news is that God is still in control and...

He has made everything beautiful IN ITS TIME..
Ecclesiastes 3:11a