Month: December 2019

Jesus Cares About Our Faith

man praying

As I was reading my Bible this morning, I was reminded, again, of the importance Jesus placed on faith. Our personal salvation begins with the grace given to us through the faith given to us (Romans 12:3). And without faith, it is impossible to please God. Through faith, we gain access to God (Hebrews 11:6).

“When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.” – A.C. Dixon

Jesus Cares About Our Faith

Through faith our prayers do the impossible because God comes into the need through faith (Mark 6:5), and nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). To understand just how much importance Jesus places on faith, He said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)” Only God can move mountains, but the prayer of faith moves God (Matthew 21:21). This doesn’t mean faith changes God’s will, but it does mean that faith gives us the ear of God (Matthew 7:7).

So important is faith that Jesus said to Peter, “but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail…(Luke 22:32At a time that would test the Apostle Peter perhaps more than any other time, the concern of Jesus for Peter was that Peter’s “faith may not fail.” It was Peter’s faith that needed guarding.

When Jesus spoke of His return to Earth after His ascension, Christ’s first concern was, “I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)”

Through faith the Spirit of Truth leads us into the unknown. We enter in the name of the Man we’ve not seen, for Him who’s greatness is unsearchable, to do a work that is not ours, by abilities we don’t possess, so that our heavenly Father may glorify Christ Jesus, His One and Only Son. That is the purpose of our faith in God.

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Vocational Training

craftsman

In my past, I was a full-time, vocational instructor for Advanced Industrial Electronics. I received students that had completed their foundational courses in Electronics.

I’ll never forget the first class I taught. I drew a simple electronic schematic on the blackboard. I walked the class through the operation of the circuit. Then I “disconnect” one component and asked my students to tell me what would happen. None of them had a clue. They had learned, but they had not “done.”

The purpose of teaching is to enable people to know, to learn, a particular subject. To train people is to enable people to do, to act upon what they have learned. Jesus told his Apostles, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17) Jesus provided academic teaching and vocational training.

It’s not enough for us to study God’s Word, to attend Sunday school and church, even men’s prayer breakfasts or women’s retreats. Learning is essential, but without vocational training, there is limited value. This is not a case for either/or. Rather, the need is for both.

God’s heart is for His children to “do,” according to His will. Rejoice with those who teach God’s Word and rejoice with those that are vocational instructors who train God’s people to know how to do what He has said.

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Pride Veiled in Politeness

A few nights ago, as I was dreaming, God showed me a fault in my character, one which I’ve repeated many times. It’s more than a little unsettling when God does this. Very few times in my life has God confronted me with a personal defect that He required me to fix.

First, I’ll give you an example and then confess this sin. I include it here with the hope that you will not fall into the same lie.

An Example

Several years ago, we arrived a bit early before our Sunday Morning church service. The widow of our church’s founding pastor made her way over to chat with my wife and me. Being quite elderly, it took her some time and effort to make her way to us, but she did.

We mutually shared a friendship with another Christian couple that lived out-of-state. She asked about them and then continued our conversation. About that same time, the musicians began to play, signaling that the service was going to start. Still, this stalwart of the Lord continued talking with us.

Next, our pastor, this widow’s son, began the service. Still, this Godly woman continued to talk with us. At this point, we’re the only ones standing, and indeed, the only ones still chatting.

I felt the strongest urge to sit down; to stop the conversation. But God was teaching me something, something I didn’t learn at that time. Oh, I continued to stand and chat but I was disengaged because the service was starting. God was using this founding pastor’s wife. God was saying, “Which is more important? To fix the food or to be in communion with our Lord?” (Luke 10:41-42)

Pride Veiled in Politeness

This choice of whether to be in God’s presence or to follow social etiquette has dogged me my whole life. The fact is that sometimes God overrules politeness. 

While I was dreaming, God showed me several other specific instances in my life where I chose pride, veiled in politeness, in place of being emotionally uncomfortable but being where Jesus asked of me, talking with whom Jesus wanted me to converse.

The person who chooses wisely is found in Luke 7:38 (NLT), “Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

No matter what we are doing, we are to live as servants of God. This is what the Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:16 ESV) “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

[Prayer] Dear Heavenly Father, I come before You today to confess my sin of pride veiled within politeness and to pray for anyone else that is struggling between what’s deemed right by society in place of what is best. Release us, I pray. Keep our weaknesses at the forefront of our minds so that we will choose the best decision next time. Thank you, Father God, for Your steadfast love and devotion toward us. I pray in the Name above all names, Jesus, Your only-begotten. Amen.

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Ask God for More

picture of a dove

Since God is Spirit, let us do as the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:15 (ESV): I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.

Let Us Be Bold When We Pray

Because we serve the God of all Creation, the One who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), let us be bold when we pray and ask God for things that are beyond our abilities. Be confident because, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV)

We must always remember our purpose. Our purpose is to point people to Jesus. Jesus is the hope for all who are lost (Luke 19:10 ESV) and the living hope for all who are saved (1 Peter 1:3 ESV). 

God desires to use us, to use you, in ways you may never have considered. The Holy Spirit does wonderful works through God’s servants. If you want more, if you hunger for people to see Jesus, then pray and ask our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit in you. Ask God for all that He desires for you.

Aligned With God’s Will

As the Holy Spirit of God fills you to overflowing, remember He never asks anyone to do or say anything that contradicts the Bible. And as you grow, keep yourself aligned with God’s will, as the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV):

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.

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Let Us Celebrate Christmas

Creche

The Word Christmas

The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerstmis, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceding sacred vigil.

Controversies

The celebration of the birth of Jesus has a long and messy past. The first evidence of the feast came from Egypt in 200 AD. But there has never been any agreement on the year or day of the birth of Jesus. 

Christmas has also long been a controversial celebration. In England, Christmas was banned by an Act of Parliament in 1644. People were forced to fast, and shops were ordered to be open. [1]

Let us Celebrate Christmas

Nevertheless, Christians, sans edicts, and theological proclamations, have felt in the souls that we should join together, independent of denominational differences. We, all of us, should thank God for begetting His One and Only Son; Jesus, having been prophesied since the fall of man and prepared since the Creation of the heavens and the earth qualifies as someone for which we should celebrate their birth.

So, let us do so. Let us set aside all malice or contempt, and corporately humble ourselves, worshiping God and celebrating Jesus for being the pilgrim that made the only way of salvation; sinners saved by grace.

Today is the day we jointly celebrate the birth of God’s Child born in a manger. Let us rejoice in God’s prophecy of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 (ESV): “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Merry Christmas!

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[1] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm

Dad's Fish

a picture of a salt water fish

Growth seems to be a natural progression of all God creates. Whether we look at kittens, calves, kids, or children, they all start small, but with the right care, feeding, and environment, they grow to become healthy and fulfill God’s purpose for them. 

Growth is a Lesson That God Teaches

All of God’s creation testifies of His existence, and growth is a lesson that teaches us about God’s intended process and purpose for His children. I am reminded of a problem my dad had when I was a teenager.

We lived on a small farm that had either a tiny lake or a huge pond that was stocked with fish. About two years after we moved there, the fish I caught looked like aliens from outer space. Every fish had a full-size head, but its body was small and underdeveloped. The fish seemed very strange.

Dad contacted our county’s Conservation agent. We learned that the fish were starving for oxygen and nutrients. Fertilizers were running off of our fields and into our lake, messing up the lake’s whole ecosystem.

Baby Christians

As Christians, we can experience a similar problem. When we are first saved, we’re babies who require extra attention and feeding. We also need exercise to grow up strong and healthy. If we lack any of those three, then we will not grow up as God intended. Instead, we will be stunted, just as my dad’s fish were.

We can read an account of this in 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 (ESV), I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

When we meet a new convert to Jesus, let’s do as Paul did, making sure God’s new baby receives careful instruction, gentle guidance, opportunities to find and use their gifting and stretch experiences, so they live by faith. By doing so, our new addition to God’s kingdom will be less likely to be like my dad’s fish but, instead, will be a mighty tool in God’s hand.

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Ornaments Aren't Just for Trees

a Christmas ornament

I enjoy many of the things we in America associate with the Christmas season. I certainly have hung my share of lights on houses, lights on trees, and lights on stairway banisters. These Christmas traditions are fun.

We each have our traditions. So, as you do your Christmas season observance this year, keep in mind that ornaments aren’t just for trees. You are an ornament. Really! Just read Isaiah 49:18:

Isaiah 49:18
Lift up your eyes around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, declares the Lord,
you shall put them all on as an ornament;
you shall bind them on as a bride does.

As one commentary wrote, “As Zion is often compared to a bride (Is 54:5), so the accession of converts is like bridal ornaments (“jewels,” Is 62:3Mal 3:17). ” With the salvation accomplished by Jesus, His Church is the bride, and His followers are ornaments for His bride! *

If you have received Jesus as your Savior, then rejoice that you, too, are a beautiful ornament in the eyes of God.


*Christ’s bride is the children of God, and we also are seen by God as ornaments on Christ’s bride.

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Intense, Fervent, and Unwavering

fishing lure tied to a fishing line

Many years ago, God showed my wife a metaphor from Amos 3:5 (ESV) which reads, “Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it?” What God showed my wife from Amos 3:5 was that we could not expect God to answer a prayer unless we’ve prayed that prayer (i.e., set the trap).

Too often, we toss out a prayer when we have failed to connect our faith to it. That’s like throwing a fishing lure into a lake with no fishing line attached to it. Have we forgotten our Savior’s words to the woman that was continually bleeding? Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)

There are four components to a Christian’s prayer. (1) We ask of our heavenly Father only what is in His will. (2) We ask Father God in the name of Jesus. “In Jesus’ name” means that we assert that our prayer is in full agreement with Jesus. (3) We depend upon the Holy Spirit to lead us to pray what fulfills #1 and #2. (4) We pray using the faith that the Holy Spirit of God gives us, for, without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)

No evil in this world can withstand the intense, fervent, and unwavering (James 1:6) prayers of God’s righteous children. (James 5:16)

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This is the way you should go

A picture of Earth from space

As we draw closer to a new year, I hope each of us will find a time when we can be alone with the one true God. Through Jesus, our Lord and Savior, let us draw near to God and worship Him, praise Him, and, through the Holy Spirit, listen to Him.

Has the World Lost Its Mind?

We live in a time of significant changes and great challenges. Powerful countries are redrawing their borders, engulfing other sovereign states as they reposition themselves to carry out their agendas.

America is fractured; even many family members hate each other because of their political views. The UK wrestles with Brexit, its most divisive issue in decades. Countries in Central and South America struggle economically and politically. Europe, too, struggles with many of their EU countries experiencing minimal economic growth and social issues that expose old wounds and old hatred (i.e., anti-Semitism). India, Asia, and many countries in Africa are experiencing political strife and regional violence.

Peace and Good News

Nevertheless, through Jesus, we always find peace and good news. And we should remember that, in His own time, God moves rapidly. We see this in Isaiah 48:3 (ESV), “The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass…

As the prophet Isaiah spoke God’s Word, let us ask God to say this to us, also: Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. (Isaiah 30:21 NLT)

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God is Spirit

people with their hands raised

Isaiah 46:9-10
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

From Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, regarding Isaiah 46:10: Declaring the end from the beginning – Foretelling accurately the course of future events. This is an argument to which God often appeals in proof that he is the only true God (see Isaiah 41:22-23Isaiah 43:12Isaiah 44:26).

We read in 1 Corinthians 4:20 (ESV): For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. And John 4:24 states, God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

Since the kingdom of God consists of power and God is Spirit, our prayers are not limited to circumstances, time, authorities, or even the laws of physics. For we pray to God, and He is greater than everything. I pray that our understanding of God will become greater and that we will see God is greater than our understanding.

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