Thursday, December 13, 2012

No Condemnation in Christ

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... (Romans 8:1)

In Genesis it says that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Gen 15:6, Rom 4:3).” And Paul tells us in Romans 4:23-25: “Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed (accounted) to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”

By our faith in Jesus Christ, God has accounted our sin to Christ, who bore our sin on the cross, and accounted Christ’s righteousness to us, and this because of God’s amazing grace. His love for us is truly immeasurable!

In Romans 7:21-25, Paul says, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (faith). But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

That brings us to Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

The word Gospel means “Good News”, and oh what good news it is! Justified by faith in the atoning death of Christ. There is no good work that we can do to justify ourselves before God, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Even though there is a battle between “this body of death” (the sinful nature still resident in our bodies) against the Spirit of God now in us, we have forgiveness (God is not accounting our sin against us anymore) and we have eternal life, in Christ. Glory in the grace of God today, all of us who are children of God! He has freely forgiven and has given you all things in Christ. Go boldly to the throne of His grace and praise His name. Worship Him in His holiness. Do not let anything separate you from your Father’s love today. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. By faith we no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; born again, born from above, worshiping in spirit and in truth. We are a new creation in Christ, who loved us and died for us. Be filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit today.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you (Acts 1:8) and He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). Go and get this dynamic power from your Father today!

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? … just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom 6:1-4). If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is alive to God because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Rom 8:10-11).

The only way to live in victory over sin and in closeness to the Lord, and to have powerful ministries of the Lord, is through the power of the Holy Spirit living in and through us, overflowing and pouring out of us. We can be filled with the Spirit to overflowing and surrounded in Jesus’ presence by drawing near to Him daily, through prayer and through God’s Word. A life empowered by God Himself is the only way to overcome our weaknesses and have lives yielded to Him, lives that bring glory to His name! This happens, for the most part, through a daily relationship with the King Himself over many weeks and months and years. It happens in a day and it happens over a lifetime as we mature in Christ. Our life with Jesus is minute by minute, day by day.

In God’s view of things your salvation is a done deal if you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior! So, enter in today. Take hold of Him now! Walk in His glorious freedom from sin and enter into His rest.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:1-2). …put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Rom 13:14).

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified (Rom 8:29-30).

 It is done! Now we enter in by grace moment by moment and take hold of all that God has given us!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever (2 Peter 3:18).

We want to mature in Christ. We need our growth in Christ to abound. Three essentials must be present in our lives and taking priority over everything else: prayer/communion with God, the study of the Word of God and fellowship with other believers.

First of all, prayer is our time with Jesus. If we know that we can come to Him anytime and receive from Him His grace and forgiveness and lovingkindness, we will be seeking Him everyday. This time with the Lord, through His Holy Spirit in our lives, is so sweet and empowering. Lay your burdens at His feet and trust that He knows everything happening in your life. Just spend some time with Jesus, away from everything else. Don’t leave His presence until you’ve heard from Him and have His comfort and peace. Many times the Lord speaks through our worship and through His Word, so use your Bible and worship in prayer.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Secondly, reading and contemplating God’s Word is what helps us to be sure that our beliefs and views of Him and Scripture are founded on His truth. We are also able to hear from God more easily and accurately. We must be born again by faith in Jesus Christ to fully understand the Bible and to hear His voice in our hearts because “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14).” Pray that the Holy Spirit Himself will teach you His Word. The amount of growth and the rate of maturity will be directly linked to the amount of time we spend in God’s Word learning from Him.

For 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).

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

Finally, fellowship with other children of God in the Lord and in His love. Along with our time with the Lord in prayer and study of His Word, fellowship in Christ helps us to grow in grace and knowledge. We receive encouragement and strength as Christ reaches out to us through His body.

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).

Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:18-21).

But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:14-16).

By doing these three things first in your life, every day and every week, before all else, you will begin to experience new and powerful growth in your walk with the Lord like never before. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (your needs) shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Mind Set On Jesus

We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The Lord is faithful to complete the work He has begun in us. He is completing His work of daily changing us into His image. And one day, when I die or He returns, whichever comes first, I “shall see Him as He is” and “I will know, just as I also am known.” Whatever is happening around us, whatever is happening to us, we know that we are in our Father’s hands as He completes His will for our lives. Whatever afflictions come, they are light and but for a moment in the light of eternity and God’s work in us. So Paul says, “don’t focus on the things which are seen, they are only temporary. But focus on the things which are not seen, they are eternal.”

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:1-4).

…we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Now the just shall live by faith…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 10:38, 11:1).

I am saved by God’s grace alone, justified through faith in Jesus Christ. I am born again, a new creation in Christ. I am righteous in Christ alone. This is a gift from my Father, through my Lord Jesus Christ. So, I will rely on the Holy Spirit to fill me and empower me to press on in faith, no matter the outside circumstances. I know He will be with me and strengthen me in all things.

Oh, Lord, help me to stay focused on You and the work you are accomplishing in me now, and the eternal things to come. Help me to see with the eyes of faith. Help me to trust in You alone. Help me to keep my mind set on You, Jesus.

...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12)...

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).

Thank you, Father. In Jesus name, amen.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Always Victorious In Christ

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this (2 Cor 2:14-16)?"

Sometimes I am discouraged when I meet people that are opposed to Christ. Some people are so open and ready, but others are just blinded and angry. I want to just be giving out the Word of God, faithfully and accurately, and letting it do its work. These verses in 2 Corinthians are so comforting. Walking in His will in our lives, guided and filled with the Holy Spirit, God always leads us in triumph in Christ.

Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

When we speak God’s Word to others, His Word will not come back empty. It will accomplish His will in their lives, wherever they are and whatever that will is. To some, our lives and His Word has the fragrance of death, but to those being saved we are a life-giving perfume!

Follow His leading, walk in the Spirit, preach the Word (2 Tim 4:2), and His Word will accomplish what God pleases. When we do that, we triumph no matter the outside circumstances! We are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37), we are His children doing His will, already victorious in Christ.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

“Without Me, You Will Die In Your Sins” -Jesus

Jesus said, “if you’re not a Christian, then it’s really simple; you do not know God!” “Whoa, Brian,” you might say, “where’s that in the Bible?” Well, check out John 8 for one place.

In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” But, some in the crowd didn’t believe Him. They wouldn’t put their faith in Him. They chose not to follow Him.

Jesus answers them in John 8:19: “since you don't know who I am, you don't know who My Father is. If you knew Me, then you would know My Father, too.” He also said, “unless you believe that I AM (who I say I am), you will die in your sins (John 8:24).”

There are so many people in the world that say they love God, that they pray to and know the Creator, our Father. They reject Christ/Christianity as being the only way to know God and to be forgiven of sin and receive eternal life. Many of these people say Jesus was good or even a prophet. But pay attention to what Jesus Himself is saying. He isn’t leaving room for that. According to Jesus, you either put your faith in Him or you do not know God and will die in your sins (which means you will go to hell for rejecting the true and living God).

A Christian is someone that has confessed their belief that Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, that He died for their personal sin on the cross, and that He rose from the dead bodily three days later. To be a Christian, you must be born-again, indwelt by the very Spirit of God (John 3). You actually come into a personal, loving relationship with our personal and loving Creator, and only by faith in Jesus!

Some in the crowd that were rejecting Christ in John 8 said, “God Himself is our true Father!” But Jesus told them in John 8:42, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but He sent Me.”

To not believe in all that Jesus has said and done, who He is and what He has done is, according to Jesus, to reject God Himself. So, for Jesus, this issue is really cut and dry and black and white. It’s really simple and really straightforward and very easy to understand: to not put your faith in Christ and follow Him is to not know God at all. And if you die not “believing in Him” (His words), “you will die in your sins (John 8:24).”

The good news, which is what “gospel” means, is that God loves you so much that He does not want you to die in your sins. If you die in your sins you will be eternally separated from God, and that’s Hell. But God has made a way for all. God loves the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Surrender your heart to God once and for all and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life is a gift that cannot be earned, but you must turn from sin and you must believe in Jesus alone for eternal life. There is only one God, one truth and one reality. God is good, and He loves everyone, including you. But, Jesus said, “I AM The Way, The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”

Have you made that confession? Have you admitted to yourself and to God that you are a sinner and need forgiveness? Have you asked Him for forgiveness? Do you believe in God’s way, Jesus Christ? The first step can be so hard, but it is also very simple. The Apostle Paul put it this way,

“if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” May He freely give you repentance and salvation, in Jesus' name, Amen.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says you are a new creation. The old things have passed away and the new has come! You have been freed from the dominion of sin and death and given eternal life with the all loving and all powerful true and living God, the Creator of the universe and everything in it! Find a good Bible teaching church, find some Christians to share your new faith with (not people that just say they are Christians, but people that are obviously living their lives for Jesus). And ask God to teach you His word in the Bible. God is good and you are now His child through faith in Jesus. May He richly bless you with His love and presence.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him (1 John 3:1).”

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: Our Guarantee of Salvation

“...God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee (2 Cor 1:21-22).”

The strengthening of our faith is a process over time. As I've come to know the Lord and the Word more and more over the years, His assurance of my salvation has become clear and immovable in my heart. So, keep seeking Him with your whole heart and asking for that assurance. You will receive that confirmation by the Spirit Himself in your heart more and more everyday, until it is clear and sure. The Holy Spirit Himself is our guarantee of salvation.

If you have been born again by God's grace through faith in Jesus alone, then you have this promise to stand on:

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sojourners, Waiting for the City Built by God

Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15)

Joshua tells Israel to serve God in sincerity and truth. I have found that I must keep myself very close to Jesus in prayer and worship to continue serving Him faithfully and with a sincere heart of love for others. And, I must stay in His Word to know and to speak His truth. I know there are many times that I am lacking in one, if not all four of these imperatives given in Joshua. Fear the LORD, serve, serve in sincerity, serve in truth. The justice of God is severe, but the grace of God abounds more. Lord, may we walk in your love, in the sincerity of a changed heart. May we know and speak the truth in love. Jesus said to love one another and that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth, comforting and teaching us as we walk with Him. May our hearts be comforted, so that we may comfort those in need. And may we be led and taught by the Lord, so that we may teach those in darkness.

Joshua also exhorted the children of Israel to put away the gods which their fathers served on the other side of the Jordan and in Egypt. Let us not fall back to our old life before Christ, still walking in the ways of this world. Let us not slide back into the old ways, in which we lived in sin without the light of Christ. Empower me to love and serve You with all of my heart, soul and mind, Lord. Joshua said to choose this day who you will serve.

Peter says we are sojourners here on earth. Our home is with our God. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love (Colossians 1:13). Whatever country we live in is not our home. This world is not our home. God bless America and the freedom we have everyday to worship and serve Him. But America is not our home and it is not the best nation that will ever exist. Under David and Solomon, Israel was as close to a Theocracy as they would ever get. But a Theocracy is the government we are waiting for, the one that God describes through Isaiah.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Like Abraham, who waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:10)

Sojourner, do you feel at home? We are not at home here in this world. We are looking for a New City, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2), whose builder and maker is God. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Equipping of the Saints

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— (Eph. 4:11-15).

I've noticed this tendency in many churches today: an overly exhortative attempt to move Christians (or even just church attendees) into action without the balance of regular, in-depth Bible teaching. While the motive seems genuine, this strategy to bring about real and lasting change is ineffective. In fact, I would argue that pressuring people into good works that are not led of the Spirit is detrimental to a Christian's growth in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This false, fleshly exhortation amounts to nothing more than moral cheer-leading or motivational like hoopla. If solid Bible teaching and the moving of the Holy Spirit is lacking, exhortation is lowered from its Spirit led heights to the slums of personal understanding, will, strength and ability. While Christ has given some the gift of exhortation (1 Cor. 14:3), we must be careful to use it exclusively at the Holy Spirit's prompting, and only in love and to build each other up, not to tear each other down (see 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14). And how can we expect people to change if we just keep telling them to change without equipping them? Exhortation is an aspect of prophecy, which also includes encouragement and comfort. But Paul lists three other ministries within the church that need to go hand-in-hand with prophecy; apostleship, evangelism and teaching.

In Ephesians 4:11-15, Paul tells us how the saints of God (all believers) are to be equipped, and for what purpose. The Apostle Paul tells us that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers have been given to the Church by Christ Himself for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying (the building up) of the body of Christ, the Church. If missing one or more of these aspects, how well is a church going to build up the body of Christ? And how well will we do on our own, without the Holy Spirit?

To bring real change in the heart of the Church, we must teach God's word by His Spirit, consistently and with depth- verse by verse and chapter by chapter, week in and week out. We must exhort each other to spend more time with the Lord in our daily prayer and personal study of the Scripture. We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and teach us, to guide and empower us in our lives. This kind of day in and day out relationship with Jesus, in His Word, is the only way to bring about lasting and biblical change in any of us. As Peter, we exhort you to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This “growing” is a progressive process that takes place over our lifetimes if we, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1).” The decision to stay planted at Jesus’ feet, taking in His presence and Word like Mary, is one that we must make several times a day. And, as we are connected to each other in our churches, we are ministered to by Christ’s apostles, prophets and pastor/teachers. According to 1 Corinthians 14:3, “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort...” And all of God’s servants are to serve by the gifts of the Holy Spirit and “as He wills (1 Cor. 12:11).” The ministry of the church must include teaching and prophecy. And, the apostleship, prophecy, evangelism and teaching must be by the giving of Christ Himself.

Instead of beating each other up about what we think someone else should be doing, let us build each other up in God's love and in truth, in His word and by His Spirit, that we may grow up in all things into Him who is the head- Christ. Let’s allow the Spirit of God Himself, through His Word and His gifts to the Church, to teach and guide each of us personally in our unique and Spirit gifted service.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: True Hearts

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).” 

What does Jesus mean? The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was limited to an outward code of conduct, but their hearts were not sincerely devoted to God and their will was opposed to God's will. Our righteousness exceeds their righteousness when our hearts are truly yielded to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We are accounted right with God by our faith in Jesus. 

When our hearts are true to God then our righteousness exceeds that of the self-righteous, who only do works for show and not from a true heart.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: For Christians, All Things Work Together For Good

Romans 8:28 is one of the greatest verses in the Bible.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

All things work together for good! I’ve committed my life to Jesus, so I know with all assurance that everything that happens to me in this life is in His hands. He knows, He is present and He is working out His perfect plan in my life. As I have turned my will over to His, I pray that He is glorified in my life, whether in good times or bad.

In Acts 16 it is recorded that Paul and Silas get thrown into jail for preaching Jesus. Verse 25 says, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Paul and Silas weren’t complaining or despairing, they were trusting God to do something incredible through these circumstances- and He did! The Philippian jailer got saved, “he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30-34).” Amazing! As I submit to God’s plan in my life, He works all things out for His glory, and for good!

“Nothing will ever separate us from God’s everlasting and endless love and mercy in Jesus Christ (from Rom. 8:39).”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Keys to an Abundant Life in Christ

There are three things that we need to do, day in and day out as children of God, to stay close to the Lord, to hear from Him, to be empowered by Him and to know how to serve Him. The three areas we will look at are: prayer, Bible study and fellowship.

I. Prayer

First of all, we need to be in prayer daily. We spend time with our Lord, we offer worship to God (Ps. 29:2), we petition Him for our needs (Ps. 22:19) and we make intercession for others (John 17:20). Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” In our fast paced society we tend to rush around and expect everything to just fall into place quickly. We forget that we need to wait on the Lord. Find a quiet space and take some time every day to just sit with the Lord. Like Mary, who sat at His feet listening to Him speak, stop all the rushing around and wait on the Lord.

Remember, prayer doesn’t just go one way. Prayer isn’t a monologue, it is a dialogue. It is our time to be with the Lord, communing with Him. He is always present with us (John 14:23), but we need to stop sometimes and just wait on the Lord to hear from Him and receive from Him directly. Wait on Him with your heart and Bible open. Let Him speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit in you and through His Word. As you begin to confess sin and thank the Lord for who He is and all He is doing, as you worship, have your Bible there with you. Turn to a Psalm or another prayer in the Bible for guidance. The Lord will lead you and will speak to you from His word. It is His word, and He is alive, so His eternal, living word will come to life as He uses it to speak to you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

II. Bible Study

Be in the Word of God daily. The Word is alive and active, and God uses it to teach us about Himself and His ways. He speaks to us personally through His Word. If you’re pretty new to in- depth Bible study, you may want to start in Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and the Gospel of John, but definitely work your way through the whole New Testament as soon and as often as you possibly can. It is vital that you “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Col. 3:16).” You should be in the Psalms often, and as the Lord leads you, get into the Old Testament, too. Let the Lord lead you through His Word. This will be a lifelong journey.

There are many ways to approach the Bible. The most common way is to just open it up to somewhere that we feel the Lord is leading us to and to just start reading. But, always pray for the Lord to lead you into the passage He wants you to be in, and pray for the Holy Spirit (who resides in you if you have received the Lord) to teach you what it means and reveal to you His message for you through that word. This devotional type of study is an informal way to spend time with the Lord and to have Him speak right into our daily lives and situations, right where we are now. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For 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.”

Church, every Sunday or midweek studies, should be a place where you are hearing the word of God read and expounded on, also. Pastor/teachers are to give the sense of the Scripture to us as they are gifted by the Lord to teach their congregation His word (Neh. 8:8). A home fellowship is another type of Bible study. In Acts 2:42, we see the believers meeting together in homes, teaching and discussing the Apostle’s doctrine and fellow-shipping together in the breaking of bread and in prayers.

Bible study can be done in many ways and settings, but two types of study should be done on a regular basis by all Christians. As Peter exhorted us, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).”

First, chapter by chapter study, both alone and by a teacher, as you move through the whole Bible, will give you a true and deeper understanding of what the Bible actually says and teaches. As you make your way through a book of the Bible, you will begin to see passages in light of the greater context of the whole book. As you make your way through several books of the Bible like this, you will begin to see the greater context of the whole Scripture as it relates to the specific passage you are looking at that day. There are many wonderful teachers out there today, and many from the past whose teachings are available. On the radio, in print and online you will find commentaries by people like J. Vernon McGee, Warren Wiersbe, John Walvoord, F. F. Bruce, Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie and Jon Courson, just to mention a few.

And secondly, verse by verse study will allow you to dig even deeper by looking more closely at things like the context, the cultural/geographical setting and the original language. Paul told young Timothy to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).” And Peter said, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia, from which we get apologetics) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence... (1 Pet. 3:15).”

III. Fellowship

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the human body as an analogy for the group of people that have given their lives to Jesus, the church. We are all connected together as the church, and we depend on each other just like the individual body parts depend on other parts of the body and the body as a whole. As we gather, we gather as Christians, Christ in us, and us in Christ. We gather together in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God with and in us. We desire everything that we do or say to be done by the Lord working through us. We let Him guide, teach and empower us as individuals and as a church. How does this happen? How is it that we can do the work of the Lord!? We do this only through the gifts that are distributed throughout the body by the Holy Spirit. Christian fellowship is more than just Christians getting together. It is the body of Christ; united, moved and directed by Christ’s Spirit in us. There are various gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, as He wills. Every Christian has at least one gift, and most of us have several. The gifts begin to operate mostly when we are together. They are to be used in love and to help and build each other and others up in the Lord (for more on the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the Bible, see 1 Cor. 12-14, Rom. 12, Eph. 4, among others).

We should fellowship with other Christians as often as possible. Think of the time we spent in our lives doing the things that we are now ashamed of! We ought to spend even more time with the Lord, the things of the Lord and with the people of the Lord.

Jesus said to love one another, and there is nothing better than sharing in the love of Jesus with our brothers and sisters in Christ and in serving one another and others in Christ’s strength and love. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

We fellowship as we reach out to our non-Christian communities, as we serve each other and others. We fellowship together at our home fellowships and at church on Sunday. We are told to, “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Col. 3:16).” We fellowship at baptisms, while evangelizing and at outreach events, like concerts and revivals.

As long as we keep Jesus the center of our prayer life, our Bible study and our fellowship, we will see tremendous growth and power in our new life with the Lord. Just like any relationship, our relationship with Jesus must be nurtured and attended to. As we grow in His grace and knowledge, may He pour out His Holy Spirit upon us, more and more, for the grace and power to be followers of Christ that please Him and glorify His name. May the love of Christ overflow from our lives to all those hurting and in need around us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: Living for the Rapture- Our Glory!

Did you know that as Christians we are to be eagerly looking to and living for the rapture (Rom. 8:23, Phil. 3:20)? We're not looking for the Antichrist, the destruction of the world or death, but the beginning of eternal life with Jesus and our glorification in Him (John 10:28). For the Christian, the rapture is not the loss of life, it is the fulfillment of it. It is the Church's glorification (1 Cor. 15:51-57). It ushers in our new, perfect, sinless, glorified, eternal bodies.

For the followers of Christ, it moves us from our temporary tents into permanent, beautiful homes made without hands, made especially for us by the Lord Himself (2 Cor. 5:1, 1 Pet. 1:3-5, John 14:1-4). That’s why Paul, in Titus 2:11-14, reminds us, among other things, that Jesus Himself taught us to be living our lives looking for His glorious appearing at the rapture, which can take place at any time.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”

Jesus said that no one can know the day or hour the rapture will occur, which means it’s imminent, it could happen at any time (and it has always been that way throughout Church history, by God’s design). It is embarrassing and shameful for those that expected the rapture to take place on May 21st, 2011, like Harold Camping who is responsible for that erroneous teaching. Their whole understanding of how the end time events and the rapture will unfold is unbiblical.

To read more about what the Bible says about the rapture, the Christian’s blessed hope, visit: for a free e-booklet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Out Of His Mouth Goes A Sharp Sword

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:


In this chapter of Revelation, we see one of many pictures of the second coming of Jesus Christ that are given to us in the Scriptures. The coming of the Lord will mean a bloody end for the leaders and armies of the world, shown here near the end of chapter nineteen as they reach the end of the great final world war in the Valley of Megiddo. This passage gives us a picture of Jesus that we do not usually think of when we think of our humble, merciful and just Messiah from Nazareth. Here we see Jesus coming to destroy those who have rejected the one, true Holy God; those that are annihilating each other and destroying the earth (Rev 11:18). Notice that Jesus’ eyes are “like a flame of fire” and His “robe is dipped in blood” and His name is “The Word of God”. “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” and “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.” This passage marks the end of human history as we know it. And, operating in the way that justice systems and police departments of this world are supposed to operate, Jesus is the protection and might for those attempting to live in peace with God. But, He is the prosecution, sentencing agent and judge of the violent and disobedient toward God; those that are literally killing each other, fighting Jesus and ruining the earth. Shockingly, this, the Bible tells us, is the future of this world that we live in now. The way things are going in the world today, the second coming of Christ is clearly approaching briskly. Jesus' second coming will usher in God’s perfect Kingdom on the earth. That is why we pray, “Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).” It is a world of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).”

Most of us wonder where the world is heading. Some imagine that mankind will work out all of its problems and evils itself. But in reality, it only keeps getting worse, not better like British 60‘s rock band The Beatles said. As opposed to The Beatles' chorus “it’s getting better all the time,” the Bible has been telling us for centuries exactly what’s going to happen, and it’s unfolding right before our eyes, in our time. It has become obvious to many throughout the world that the days we live in are the days leading up to the final one-world government, the seven year Tribulation period and the second coming of Christ. Many people are finding the truth of Jesus Christ through this amazing aspect of the Bible. The bad news is that this world is heading toward a devastating, final world war. Ultimately the armies of the world turn from fighting each other to war against God Himself at Christ’s second coming. But, He is the rightful, true and just King of kings and Lord of lords. This world system of war and destruction will one day be destroyed by the Faithful and True Judge, Jesus, who destroys it with only a word from His mouth. God has graciously given the world thousands of years to repent and turn to Him in truth and in spirit, but time is running out. The good news is that the Lord will establish a new world right here on earth that is based on His truth, justice and goodness. And He’s made a way for anybody to be a part of it that wants to be a part of it.

What kingdom are you trusting in today, this world system of materialism, self satisfaction and destruction, or God’s coming Kingdom of truth, righteousness, abundance and peace available for all? In another of the apostle John’s books he wrote,

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2:15).”

What world has captured your heart today? This crazy, violent world of pride, lust, greed and selfish ambition, or Jesus’ coming Kingdom? Through faith in Christ your sin can be forgiven and you can enter His Kingdom today by the Holy Spirit coming to dwell in you. Are you aware of His presence? 

Where the King is, there is the Kingdom. If you haven’t already, repent of your sin and invite Jesus into your heart today.

He is coming back to the earth soon to right the injustices of this evil world system that has spread like a cancer over the whole earth. But you can enter God’s Kingdom today by calling on the true King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. Make Him the King of your life today and do not waste any more of your life chasing after the things of this world, that are quickly coming to nothing
(1 Corinthians 2:6).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: How Well Do You Know God?

I have written for him 

the great things of My law, 

But they were considered 

a strange thing.

(Hosea 8:12)

Jesus answered and said unto them, 
"Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, 
nor the power of God."  
(Matthew 22:29)

Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us and to teach us. We can know what God is speaking to us and we can understand His Word. Jesus promised,

I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

How well do we know God's Word? Is His Word the standard that we live by? Do we seek God daily and do we spend time with Him in our Bibles? Do we consult His holy precepts for direction and wisdom before we make decisions? Is His Way our way? Do we live the way we do because of our culture and upbringing or because God's Word has changed us/is changing us? Do we know God? Do we know what He desires for us? Do we err, not knowing and understanding His heart, nor His power? Is His Word a strange thing to us?

The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us:

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away (Hebrews 2:1).

Our walk with the Lord and Christian life is...

'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts (Zech. 4:6).

Jesus prayed that God would cause you to grow in your walk with Him through His Word.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).

What a tragedy that we have God’s Word but it is a strange thing to many of us and we don’t know it! Spend some time with the Lord, in His Word, today. Let the Lord minister straight to your heart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Feeling Scattered?

“... he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  -Jesus, in Matthew 12:30

This is a critical warning from Jesus. Like the natural principle of gravity, this is a spiritual principle; a simple but profound statement of truth. This is a fundamental truth, always true for both non Christian and Christian alike. This is a statement that deserves contemplation by all.

Jesus made this statement in the context of saying that every sin can be forgiven a person except the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the truth when the Holy Spirit of God reveals to a person two things: one, that they are a sinner separated from a Holy, Perfect God and two, that Jesus is the eternal, living God and the only way to be made right with God is through Him. The rejection of Christ is the rejection of the Holy Spirit of God, who is also called by Jesus “the Spirit of Truth.” To reject truth is to live in a lie. What is left for someone that is living a lie? Nothing but further deterioration of and separation from the truth. All sin will be forgiven a person through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross. He died for everyone's sin, and through our repentance from sin and receiving Him as Lord and Savior we are saved from the judgment of God on all of our sin. Our punishment has been laid on Jesus. Our faith in Him gathers us to Him. So, the only thing that cannot be forgiven a person, the only thing, is the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

All that do not gather to Him scatter abroad. The greek word translated “scatter abroad” means “to be scattered.” To be scattered means to be thrown in various directions. In this context it means to be thrown farther and farther from the truth of God in some other direction in life. It could be any number of directions. There are nearly as many directions to go as there are people. The person that turns their back on Christ will be scattered to somewhere other than the true and living God and His truth. But God has said that in order for a person to be made right with Him, because of our sin, all people that have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ must surrender their lives to Him. We all must believe that He is God and that He died for the sin of the world on the cross. To be scattered away from God speaks of an increasingly greater and greater distancing from Jesus, and reality. It is to deny Christ and to reject Him as Lord of all, and Lord of our own life.

Isn’t that exactly what we see in the world? Some say there are many roads to God. Indeed, there are many scatterings of religious, spiritual or non spiritual teaching that claim to be true. But there is only one true reality, only one true road. Reality cannot be several contradictory ideas at once. It is either as Jesus said or it is not. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to God except through Me.” That statement is either true or it is false. To live apart from Christ is to walk away from truth and reality. Do you really want to walk away from your loving Creator? Do you really want to live outside of His perfect will for your life?

As a Christian I have experienced this scattering in my life as well, even after coming to Christ as a child. Though I received Christ at an early age, I rejected and missed many lessons that His word teaches. In so doing, I spent much of my adult life scattered from Jesus in many different directions, though I believe I was saved by His grace. But, His grace has brought me back to Him, to Jesus, who is the express image and heart of the one and true living God. Peace is found in Jesus alone; and all wisdom, knowledge and truth itself. And God is always present in our lives, always as close to us as our own lips, which are always in desperate need of crying out to Him.

As followers of Christ, we too need to stay gathered close to our Good Shepherd. Just as the unrepentant need to gather to Him for the first time, we need to stay close to Him in prayer and in His word every day. We need to earnestly seek Him out moment by moment, day by day- every day. We need to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking until we are one with His perfect will every day. We need to keep pressing into Him until we have victory, until we are one with the Father, as Jesus prayed. Anything less than that sends us out scattered. Oh, Lord, let us be deathly afraid of being scattered away from you. It brings such unnecessary anxiety, confusion, depression, pain and trouble when we are away from you and the truth. Oh, Lord, bring us back to you when we are scattered. In Jesus name, Amen.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: I'm Saved by Grace through Faith Alone!

I’m Saved by Grace through Faith Alone!

We are either saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone, or we are saved by works. As far as salvation is concerned, the two are mutually exclusive. There can be no combination of "grace, with a little works on the side." And God’s Word makes it clear that we are saved by faith in the work of Christ on the cross alone, or we are not saved. There is no other way to be made right with God. And, there is no such thing as a 2nd class Christian. All fall short of the glory of God. All who have truly received Jesus as their Lord and Savior are saved by God's grace and mercy alone. We cannot do anything in and of ourselves to make ourselves right with God. The work of God is that you believe in His Son Jesus Christ (Jn. 6:29). What is saving faith, or what does saving faith look like? You'll see what true faith looks like when you see all the works of the Spirit that God has done in and through a person in their life and over their lifetime. Good works do not earn us salvation, but rather works done in and by the Holy Spirit are the proof of faith. The fruit of the Spirit is love; joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Let's be careful not to judge a book by its cover. We are not called to be spiritual fruit inspectors! We answer to God, and God is able to make those who trust in Him to stand. We all have a sinful nature, even the apostle Paul struggled with his (Rom. 6-8).  We are called to minister God’s love and truth, through God’s Spirit and through God’s Word, and let His Spirit do the work in people’s hearts (including our own). He is our God and He will complete the work He has begun, in each of us who have surrendered to the Lord Jesus, until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6)! Oh Holy Spirit change us, and help us to be more like you, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Where Do People Go After They Die?

My ten year old nephew, Skyler, asked one day, “where do people go after they die?” The Bible answers this question, and because the Bible has proven itself reliable under the toughest of attacks and scrutiny for thousands of years, we can trust what it has to say about salvation and life after death, too. Jesus confirms the biblical teaching on this subject and expands on it, speaking of it more than any other individual in the Bible! Do people who have rejected the True and Living God and His Son Jesus Christ really go to hell after dying? If so, do they go there immediately? Are Christians “asleep” in the grave after they die, until the coming of Christ, or do they go right to Heaven to be with the Lord after they die? These are excellent questions that he has asked, and the way to answer them is to pray for help from the Lord to find the answers, and to turn to God’s Word to find them.

There are many passages in the Bible that speak authoritatively about the afterlife. There will be a judgment day for all people, a time when we will stand before God to give account for our lives. Every deed done and every word spoken will be measured against the standard of perfection. For Christians, this will happen at the Bema seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) when we will be rewarded for what we did in and through Christ. Every other work done outside of Christ will be burned away and is useless, but we will be saved and glorified with the Lord forever. For unbelievers final judgment will be at God’s Great White Throne, described in Revelation 20. At the end of time, there will be a resurrection for the wicked. The righteous are made so by faith in Christ alone, not by deeds done in the flesh, and will shine like the stars in the heavens forever (Daniel 12:3). The wicked are judged because of their rejection of Christ Jesus, their refusal to accept God’s gracious redemption.

To put it simply, those who choose to obey and follow the Lord are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone (who He is and what He did for us on the cross). Those who choose to rebel from God and reject His offer of salvation will be judged according to their own works. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous, that everyone falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3). So, without Christ’s righteousness to cover us and remove our sins, we will die in our sins. We need God to impute Christ’s righteousness to our account so that we can be acquited and saved. And that’s just what He does when we give our life to and put our faith in Jesus! (see Romans chapters 3-5)

If a person does not receive forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ, God will not force them to join Him. Jesus has many things to say about hell and who will be going there. Here are just a few verses for reference:

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins (John 8:24).”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out (Luke 13:28).”

“But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).”

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him (Luke 12:5)!”

Clearly the Bible teaches there is a Heaven for those who put their trust in Christ and there is a hell for those who reject God and fight against Him. To be with Jesus in His Kingdom is Heaven, where there is great joy and glory forever. And to be thrust out from His presence is hell, where there is great pain, weeping and darkness forever. In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said,

“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”

According to the Bible, when people die they go to one of two places depending on whether or not they have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ or they have rejected Him. Sheol (a Hebrew word from the OT, called Hades in the Greek NT) is where all people who die without Christ immediately go after they die. On the other hand, people that have received God’s gracious gift of salvation, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, go immediately into the presence of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. In other words, for Christians, to die is to go to be with the Lord in Heaven.

Non-Christians go to Sheol/Hades and Christians go to be with the Lord. Hell is technically a different place than Sheol/Hades and is called Gehenna, and also the Lake of Fire. It was prepared for the devil and the fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). The first ones to go there will be the anti-Christ and his false prophet. Then Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire (hell) forever at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ “and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10).” At that time, all of the “unrighteous dead” that ever lived, those that died rejecting God and who are eternally without Christ, will be resurrected for the final judgment. They are currently being kept in Sheol/Hades, the place of the dead, until the end of time comes. Sheol/Hades is essentially a holding place for those bound for hell/Gehenna at the final judgment. It is very much like the final, eternal hell.

“Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15).”

Jesus described Sheol/Hades in a true story in Luke 16:19-31. Initially, Sheol housed the righteous dead also, separated in “Paradise” from the wicked by a wide, impassable chasm until Jesus paid the price for our sin at the cross. That is when Christ led the captivity in Paradise to freedom in Heaven (Ephesians 4:8). He descended into this place before He rose again and brought Abraham and all of the Old Testament saints to Heaven. Now that Christ has died for us and risen from the dead, all Christians go right to Heaven when they die and non-Christians go to Sheol until the final “White Throne Judgment” spoken of in Revelation 20.

Other questions have arisen because some Christians in the past believed in something called “soul sleep.” But, that was an erroneous teaching based on a misunderstanding of Scripture. Sometimes in the Bible, “asleep” is used as another way of saying a person is dead. Those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ are just Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. So, it has nothing to do with a sleeping soul in the grave because all Christians go to be with the Lord immediately when they die.

Paul used these words in 1 Thessalonians when he wanted to clear up some confusion and misunderstanding about the rapture and how living and dead Christians alike are effected by this event. There were some believers that thought that their friends who were Christians and had died were going to miss out because they had died and the rapture hadn't taken place yet. To them, Paul said,

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep (your Christian brothers and sisters who have died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep (who have died) in Jesus (with faith in Jesus) (1 Thess 4:13-14).”

Paul continues in verses 15 through 18, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

He's telling them that those Christians that had died are with Jesus and He will bring them back with Him when He returns at the rapture.

A few months later these same Thessalonian believers needed some clarification on a related subject. They were confused about when the rapture takes place in relation to the seven year Tribulation period. They were rightly expecting Jesus’ imminent return for the Church at the rapture before the Tribulation, like we are today, but thought they had been mistaken and missed it somehow. We know this because in 2 Thessalonians it says that some people wrongly told them that the Day of the Lord had already begun. They had forgotten that Paul had taught them that the rapture takes place before the Day of the Lord, the final seven year Tribulation on the earth (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7). The folks that had taught them that the Tribulation had already begun were incorrect. Unfortunately, some Christians still erroneously teach that the rapture happens sometime after the Day of the Lord begins.

In teaching about the rapture, Paul is explaining that before the second coming of Christ to establish His Kingdom after the Tribulation period, He first returns for His Church to rescue her from this great time of judgment on the earth. This catching away of the Church is called the rapture. The church on earth at that time will be “caught up” (harpazo in Greek, rapturos in Latin) in the air with the Lord to meet those Christians who have already died and who are already with Jesus. Paul speaks of the rapture of the church again in 1 Cor. 15:51-53:

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep (die), but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”

At the time of the rapture, those Christians that are alive will go to meet all of the believers that have ever lived, and will be with Jesus in Heaven. At some point soon after the departure of the church from the planet, the earth is going to go through it's last seven year period before Jesus’ second coming. This period is called the Great Tribulation (aka, the Day of the Lord or the Day of Jacob's Trouble in the OT). Revelation 4 and 5 give us a picture of what the Church is doing in Heaven at that time! Then the entire Church returns with Christ at His second coming, which is immediately after the end of the Tribulation period. Christ's eternal kingdom will be established, first with the Millennial reign of Christ (the thousand year reign), and then with the New Heaven and New Earth at the end of the thousand years. All of this is described in the last three chapters of Revelation.

“Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14).” This statement by Jude is describing the second coming of Christ with His church. The rapture happens first, but no one knows the day or the hour of this event, so we are to be ready at any time (Luke 12:35-46). Are you ready? Have you asked Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord? If you have, you are filled with the joy of the Lord, and the hope of His coming and His glory. If you have not, just turn from your sin now and place your faith in Christ, receiving the free gift of eternal life that is only given through Him. Not just an everlasting life, but a life of true satisfaction and joy as we learn to walk in step with our loving and faithful Creator.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: Be Sure

Be Sure

Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:5-6).”

If we are not born again by a true faith in Jesus, than we are not “in Christ”, and will not remain in Him. We are lost, not saved. Peter, echoing Jesus’ warning said, “be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless (2 Peter 3:14).” By sincere faith in Christ our sins are removed and we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, “without spot and blameless.”

It is possible to have an intellectual belief in Jesus but not really be born again and saved, to not really have a true heart to the Lord. James says, “even the demons believe.” But they’re not saved! It is possible to falsely think we are okay because we’re generally good people or maybe even go to church or grew up in the church. That’s why Peter warns again, “beware lest you... fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.” On the contrary, we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:17-18).”

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).” “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest [to be sure we are truly His and saved through real repentance of sin and sincere faith] (Hebrews 4:11).” We must give ourselves, our whole life, heart, soul, mind and body, to Jesus as Lord and Savior “Today, while it is still called Today (Hebrews 3:13).”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bite-Sized Bible Studies: Be Ready

Be Ready

Jesus said that His followers should be ready to go at His return, watching and waiting for His return, and that we would be blessed if we do so (Luke 12:35-40). He said not to be troubled and that He would come again and receive us to Himself; that where He is there we may be also (John 14:1-3).

Because Jesus said this, we know that He can come for His church at the rapture at any time, and that nothing has to happen first or is holding that back. The church has always been taught this by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament, like Paul. Some call it the doctrine of imminency or speak of it as the imminent return of Jesus. It is true that the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will come for His church at any time and that we are to be ready! At the rapture we will be glorified, taken out of this world before the worst time of Tribulation in history, taken to be with our Lord where He is and to be like Him in eternally glorified bodies. This is just as true now as when Jesus first said it, but we are so much closer to our glory now than ever before!

"Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." -Jesus (Luke 12:40)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Under Law or Under Grace?

Following G. Campbell Morgan, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached from the pulpit of Westminster Chapel in the heart of London for 30 years. From 1955 to 1968, he taught weekly on the book of Romans (yeah, that’s 13 years in Romans!). His exposition was turned into a definitive set on the book of Romans. In his book Romans 6: The New Man (a book I would highly recommend for all), D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says,

"There are only two positions, we are either 'under law', or else we are 'under grace.' Being under law [that is, the principle of law, whether it be Mosaic or the conscience, etc...] means this, that you have got to attempt to justify yourself in the presence of God by your own actions, by your own works, by your own deeds. Law is always something that comes to a man and says, 'do this and thou shalt live.' It is the exact opposite to justification by faith. The Apostle [Paul] is very much concerned then to say that we are not under law. Why so? Because that is the only way whereby we can ever see or come to understand the truth which he has already stated, namely, that 'sin shall not have dominion over you (p. 182).'"

A friend of mine recently reminded me of a great passage of Scripture that I have always treasured very much. This particular passage has also been troubling and confusing for many Christians throughout the ages. In Matthew 7:15-23 (NIV), Jesus says,

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

As a young Christian, when I came across this Scripture I would always pray, "oh Lord, I hope this isn’t me, I hope I have a true faith." It wasn’t until I discovered that we are dead to the law and alive to God now through faith in Jesus that I realized this passage isn’t meant for Christians at all! When you think of it in light of the whole NT, how could it be?

Let’s take a really quick look at this passage in Matthew 7 and try to see just what the Lord was saying. I really want to focus on the "Lord, Lord" section in verses 21-23, but I quoted the previous verses to give a bit more context.

Jesus tells the crowds to watch out for false prophets and that you will know true from false "by their works." I think the first question we have to ask ourselves here is, "who is He talking to and what is the context of the discussion?" Obviously He is talking to huge crowds of Israelites, Jews, there in Israel. All the way back in chapter 5 it indicates that His disciples were there. We see throughout the gospels a mixed crowd following/listening to Jesus. Disciples, interested onlookers, law abiding Jews that doubt Christ’s claims but are open to hear Him, and those that are just dead set against Him. I think it is fair to say that there was a fairly large group of people listening to Him here, and that included the strict followers of Mosaic law who were rejecting Jesus’ claims.

False prophets then, in this context, are those that teach the law and traditions of men, requiring it of the people, and yet not keeping the law perfectly themselves. Those that do not follow God by faith, but by their own standard of works are false God followers. You’ll know them by their bad works, which are works done in their own strength and not by God, and that is why the works are worthless like a fallen tree limb, they are dead and will shortly be thrown in the fire.

So, when Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven," we have to view the statement in light of it’s context. Who is he speaking to? Jews. People that have been listening to the teachers of the law for years, many of whom have been teaching salvation by works instead of repentance and faith. So many times, Christians today make it seem like Christians could say, "Lord, Lord" but they may be rejected because they do not have enough good works to support their faith. But I reject that completely as impossible! The text rejects that, not to mention the whole of the New Testament. Those who say "Lord, Lord" in this context, are Jews! Christ rejecting, "law only" Jews! And I would say this clearly applies, not to Christians, but to religious folks (anywhere) that base their right standing with God on their own standard of good works. Jesus says only those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. What is the will of the Father? According to Jesus, the work of God is to "believe in Him whom He [the Father] sent (John 6:28-29)." Notice that the false believers in verse 22 had plenty of works to show for their good standing with God. But Jesus rejects them. Why, because of a lack of fruit or good works? No, no, no. Because of a lack of relationship. He says, "I never knew you."

Oh brothers and sisters in Christ, do not let misinformed Christians condemn you because you do not meet their particular standard of perfection of the day. We are the Lord’s by faith and not by works. Christians are not the target of this Scripture in Matthew 7. The religions of the world are the target because they are all coming to God based on their good works. But the whole of humanity is always falling short of the glorious standard of God and are made right with Him by His grace, through faith and not by works (of the law or conscience or whatever other standard, as Lloyd-Jones said above).

Christ died once and for all. When He died for our sin, He died to the realm of sin and death (He will never die again or be subject to the punishment of sin again). And Paul says in Romans 6 that when we were united to Christ by faith, we also died to sin and the power of sin and death. We are no longer under sin, but under grace. If we were under the law, sin would still have dominion over us. But it does not because Christ died to transfer us from the kingdom of sin, darkness and death, into His glorious kingdom of righteousness, light and eternal life (Romans 5). We were transferred into God’s eternal Kingdom when we were united to (made one with) Christ by faith! If you call yourself a Christian, be sure that you are in the faith that is by grace, and not the religion that is by works.

Once you were dead, doomed forever because of your many sins. ...All of us used to live that way, following the passions and desires of our evil nature. We were born with an evil nature, and we were under God's anger just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so very much, that even while we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God's special favor [grace] that you have been saved!) For He raised us from the dead along with Christ, and we are seated with Him in the heavenly realms--all because we are one with Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:1-6).

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

If you are a Christian, born again by the power of the Spirit of God, if you know Him and have His Holy Spirit in you, if you believe in Jesus and have given your life to Him, whether you are on fire or backsliding, you are not under law, but under grace. Make a billboard and hold it up high and shout it from the mountain tops, "You are saved by grace through faith and not by works!" You will not hear, "I never knew you," but rather, "welcome home my child." Not because of what you did or do, but because of what Jesus did for you. What a glorious freedom! What a wondrous truth. What a merciful Father we have! Thank you Jesus for the work you did for me. Rest in Him alone. And if you do not already know the Lord, give your heart to Him today.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4). The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:5).

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Love & Grace

Grace is simply this: what God has done for us. Grace is the undeserved, merciful kindness of God toward us. It is the work of God that flows forth from His unending love. The result of God’s grace working in us is God’s grace working through us. Grace includes the power of God working in and through us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have been saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). God’s plan of the redemption of mankind to Himself is the gift of His grace alone, and He has accomplished this through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for our sin. And we continue to walk with Jesus by His grace, the leading and empowering of His Holy Spirit.

Love is defined for us in 1st Corinthians chapter 13: Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NKJV).

John tells us that “God is love (1 John 4:16).”

God has revealed His love for us in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus set aside His own life and was obedient to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2). God did this because of His immeasurable love for us. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

I am in awe of God’s love and grace for me. What an incomprehensible but wonderful truth to contemplate and revel in! Yet, as I continue to walk with the Lord, He has revealed to me that I do not usually extend the same kind of love and grace to others in my life as He has extended to me in Christ. I love to worship God and to receive from Him. So how can I go right out of church and be rude to someone and act selfishly? How is it that I show so little grace when it comes to someone doing wrong by me? James said, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (3:10).” If I am to be a follower of Jesus, I must follow Him in His love and grace, and in His humility and sacrifice.

Jesus said, “this is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends (John 15:12-13).”

This is a tremendous call for our lives, and impossible outside of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in us. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. Paul said, “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 (Gal. 2:20)” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13).”

The Christian life can be summed up in these two words: love & grace. The love and grace of God toward us, and the love and grace flowing forth from us to the friends and enemies around us in our lives; flowing forth like God’s grace flows forth to us from His heart of love.

Lord, help me to be loving and gracious to those that You bring across my path. Empower me to walk in Your way. Fill me with Your love and give me victory over my selfish flesh. Change me into a servant. Change my heart to give undeserved kindness to those who do me wrong. Empower me to forgive as You have forgiven me. Empower me to suffer long, to be kind, to not seek my own and to endure all things for Your glory.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139). In Jesus name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

He Comforted Me

In Ruth 2:13, Ruth says to Boaz, "Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants."

This verse is reminiscent of our own prayers. “Help me to live a life that is pleasing to you, Lord. You have comforted me and been so kind to me. Thank you for forgiving me and loving me and showing so much patience with me. You have given me such an indescribable inheritance in Christ. Lord, thank you.”

Here, in the book of Ruth, we have a beautiful love story unfolding against the dark backdrop of the time of the Judges. In a world of violence and injustice, disobedience and ignorance, true love reveals the strength of two people who are more than conquerors. Ruth has lost her husband, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law. She has only her mother-in-law, Naomi. Though she is surrounded by death, she is faithful to trust God to work out her circumstances.

Boaz was an extended relative of Ruth’s husband. Her husband had died many years previous to this reunion of Boaz with Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law. Boaz was Naomi’s (and Ruth’s) kinsmen redeemer, her close relative. As events unfold, we see Boaz fulfilling his duty under God’s law (Lev. 25:25 and Deut. 25:5-6), of redeeming the wife of a relative that died, to support her and carry on his relative’s family name. In this short story, probably told to us by the prophet Samuel around the inauguration of David as king, we see a beautiful type of Christ revealed. Boaz is a picture of Jesus, and his wife Ruth represents the bride of Christ, the church. Jesus is our Kinsmen Redeemer. The eternal God became a man, and therefore could redeem mankind from it’s death, from our separation from God; to make us right before God and to take care of us. In verse 13, after Ruth has found favor in Boaz’s eyes, she says softly, “you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not one of your maidservants. Ruth was not an Israelite, she was from Moab. As Christians, we are said to have been outsiders to the covenant and grace of the Lord, but now through faith in Jesus, we have been brought into the family of God.

In this quick paced and distracting society we live in, these words of Ruth’s soften a busy heart! To contemplate the Lord’s kindness, and to bask in His comfort is something I could do all day long! He is our comforter, and He has spoken the truth kindly to our hearts. He has redeemed us from spiritual death, and given us eternal life with Him, as Boaz, in love, redeemed Ruth to take care of her and honor his relative’s name. God has honored His promise to Abraham by blessing people of all nations through Jesus.

Now, as we get down to verse 14, Boaz instructs Ruth to come, and eat of the bread, and to dip her piece of bread in the vinegar. This verse reminds me of our communion, with our Lord. The eating of the bread, representing the body of Jesus broken for us. And the drinking of wine, His blood shed for us.

It also reminded me of the words of Jesus in John 6:51 & 55, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; this bread is my flesh, offered so the world may live.” “For my flesh is the true food, and my blood is the true drink.” He came to give us new life in abundance, as Boaz did for Ruth.

What a wonderful reminder of communion and intimacy with our Kinsmen Redeemer, tucked away nicely in this little book written about 3,000 years ago. Jesus is our sustenance and our life. Our communion with Him is a continuing romance that will carry on into the eternal glories of His Kingdom. Come quickly, Lord! Call us home to the wedding feast.

Also, in the book of Ruth, we have a necessary reminder of all that the Lord has redeemed us from: loss, pain, want, worldly desires and death; to ultimately be united with our God through His sacrifice. Though Ruth was a Moabitess, she is chosen by God to be David’s great-grandmother, and the ancestress of the Messiah, our Savior and Lord, Jesus. Oh, how God’s grace abounds eternally! Though, like Ruth we were on the outside, Jesus has redeemed us to God and we have been brought into His glorious Kingdom forever. If you have not received God’s wonderful gift of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ, why not ask Him now to forgive you of your sins and let Him into your heart. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Grace Is Sufficient For You

Paul, speaking in 2 Corinthians 12 of his “thorn in the flesh” (given to him, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, lest he be exalted above measure), said that he pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from him. In response, the Lord Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

Grace is what God does for us, and has done, despite what we’ve done. Paul said, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Paul equates the power of God with Jesus’ statement, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” Paul says, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The power of God, His grace, works through us, whether we are weak or strong. But the weaker we are, the stronger the Lord will be for us! But, we have to let Him, we have to trust Him, we have to seek Him, we have to give it all to Him.

Seek the Lord and be filled with the joy of the Lord, knowing that you have God’s grace in all that you do for Him and in Him. In our infirmities, His power is available to work in and through us, to strengthen us and to accomplish His will. We need to call on Him. When we are reproached for our faith, His grace is sufficient in our weakness, for His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We need to ask him to give us the words to speak and the power to live for Him. In needs, in persecutions and distress, these are our opportunities to see God work in miraculous ways in our lives, to draw closer to Him than ever and to be built up in our most Holy faith.

His grace is sufficient. He has done the ultimate deed for us, in sending His Son to die for our sin. He has done that for us because we were dead in sin. We are weak and unable to do it for our self. He has given us eternal life in Christ. We could not work to achieve that, He has given it freely to us.

Paul said, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh (Gal. 3)?

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col. 3:17).”

We received the Spirit of God by the hearing of faith. We can not do the work of God in the flesh. We can not make it through this life as Christians on our own, in our weakness. We need to do all things after coming to Him, then do them in His power as He leads. It is so easy to get off course and to trust in our own strength, ingenuity or ability. But I have the Spirit of God, His grace, His strength, His perfect knowledge, perfected in my weakness, “to press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Phil 3:12-13).”

We have access to the throne of the Creator of all things, our Maker and Father, through our faith in Jesus Christ. He will give us all things that we ask in His name, to accomplish His will. But we need to ask. We need to spend time in prayer, worship and study in His Word every day. We need to access His grace and allow His Spirit to work in and through us. We need to become dependent on our God! We need to be close to Him. Let us come to that throne often every day. Let us seek His will first, and His power first before we venture out in His name.

Oh merciful Father, empower us in your Spirit. May my strength come from you. May my every step be led and moved by You. May it be true of us as it was of Paul, that in our weakness, You are strong in us. May your Son be glorified in my life today. Be strong in me today Lord, in my weakness be glorified. In Jesus name, amen.