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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Basic Beliefs that All Christians hold in Common

Basic Beliefs that All Christians hold in Common
 
Last Sunday our Sunday School class had a special speaker, a respected retired Methodist minister, a kind sweet man who had taught our class in the past and had blessed us with his teaching. So we all relaxed and settled in looking forward to the lesson he had for us. 
 
Our Methodist minister first started out by mentioning that he was a changed man from when he had taught our class earlier. He told the class that he was more liberal now in his faith. And then without warning, he loudly began announcing to the class in a dramatic way while pounding on the lectern that Jesus did not die for our sins.  That He is not our Savior.  That logically such a notion didn’t make sense. That God gave Jesus to us as a great teacher, an example. That God would be a terrible father if He were to send his son to die for us.  I was shocked beyond belief.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. 
 
Before we could stop this man, he denounced the Bible as the Word of God and assured us all that we were all good enough on our own and didn’t need a Savior, insisting that God was too loving to be bothered with the sin problem.
 
 I felt like this minister’s forceful words hit me in the gut and for the rest of the day I felt physically ill. This minister did not preach the beliefs of his church.  The Methodist Church believes that Jesus died for our sins and that He is the Son of God and Savior. Methodists, as well as all other Christian churches regularly observe the Lord’s supper where we take the bread and drink the wine to remember that our Lord’s body was broken for us and His blood was shed for us.  On nearly every Christian church we see a cross, reminding us of the sacrifice our Savior has made for us. In fact, believing that Christ is our Savior and Lord is the cornerstone belief of our Christian faith.  Everything else is built on this Cornerstone. If we remove our faith in Christ as Savior, we are not Christian.       
 
We Christians may disagree on many minor issues.  Whether we have infant baptism or not.  Whether we believe in the primacy of the Pope or not?   Evolution or creation?   Should we have liturgical church services or an informal church services? Do we have a high view of Scripture or a low view? We don’t have to agree with our brothers and sisters in Christ on these or many other issues to still be One in Christ.  But there are several basic beliefs of the Faith that all Christians believe. And these issues are non-negotiable.
 
So what are the beliefs that define the Christian faith?  Down through the ages the Church has always had to contend and fight for the Faith. There have always been people like our minister on Sunday who have tried to change the Faith around to their liking. In the third century, the leaders or bishops from all the Christian churches came together and with much fasting and  prayer and God’s guidance, these bishops agreed on the basic beliefs of the Christian Faith.  Together they wrote down the basic Christian beliefs in a document which is named the Nicene Creed.  And now for nearly the last two thousand years all the Christians around the world have adhered to this Nicene Creed.
 The central belief in this creed is the belief that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that He died for our sins.  These are the churches or denominations of Christians around the world that hold to the beliefs spelled out in the Nicene Creed: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, the Pentecostal Church and the Methodist Church.  Many smaller denominations and churches also adhere to the Nicene Creed.  The Mormon Church, the Jehovah’s Witness Church and the Unity and Unitarian Churches do not believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior and they do not adhere to the Nicene Creed so they are not part of the worldwide Christian Church. 
 
Here is a copy of the Nicene Creed:  We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.  We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father, through Him all things were made.  For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and became truly human.  For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate: He suffered death and was buried.
 
On the third day, He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.  Who with the Father is worshipped and glorified, who has spoken through the Prophets.  We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.    
Scripture is full of warnings about false teachings, false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing.  (Matthew 7:15) Our minister last Sunday insisted that the belief that Jesus died for us was not logical and didn’t make sense! 
 
Scripture says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-25) 
 
We come to Jesus not through logical reasoning but through faith.  And only with faith are we able to see Him!  And when we believe that Jesus is our Savior a miracle occurs! The Holy Spirit comes into us and nothing is ever the same again!  We are born again! Jesus is ours!  What a foretaste of glory divine!   But there will always be those who come around and tell us that our Savior isn’t real.  Make sure you never listen to those folks.  
 
 
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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Protect your Soul from Forces that Could Destroy It


Protect your Soul from Forces that Could Destroy It
 
Jesus gave us this warning: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul:  But rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) and (Luke 12:4-5) What does this warning mean?   How can our souls be destroyed?  And who should we fear might try to destroy them? 
 
We are all naturally concerned about our physical safety?  We know that our world is not always a safe place.  And that there are people and situations out there that can harm our health and our bodies. Enemies, thieves, murderers, stalkers, con-men, terrorists, arsonists and more.  But Jesus is telling us not to be afraid of the folks who can harm us physically or even kill us, but instead to be afraid of those who can harm us spiritually.  Or those who can destroy our soul.  And our body too.
 
Jesus is giving us the eternal perspective.  He sees the whole picture and we don’t.  When we die and our earthly mortal body is destroyed here on earth, it will be resurrected into an immortal body in heaven. But Jesus tells us instead of being afraid of those who can kill our mortal bodies, we are to fear those who can destroy our soul and body in hell.  The temporal death of our body is a small thing compared to the eternal death of our soul. Along with the body. 
 
In this world, we are faced with two different kinds of enemies. First there are the unseen spiritual enemies that can destroy the soul.  And second, there are the obvious enemies – the people or groups who may treat us badly and reject and harass us, and even kill us.  These are the enemies Jesus is telling us not to worry about.  Jesus sees the big picture and He promises that through Him we will someday be victorious over our all of our problems and enemies in heaven.  
 
 Jesus promises: “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even your faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world.  Only he/she who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  (1 John 5:4-5)   Scripture tells us that Jesus will be victorious over everything. (John 15:33) And we will share in His victory.  So Jesus is telling us that our most painful troubles will be taken care of when we are with Him in glory.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel!    
 
But the other darker spiritual enemies, have the power to kill the soul as well.  And Jesus tells us to be afraid of this enemy. An enemy or enemies who are battling for your soul even now.  And they are using the more obvious enemies (those people who persecute you) as their cover.  There is a spiritual battle going on in this world and we are in it whether we like it or not.
 
The Baker Deep End Blog speaks about this enemy who can destroy the soul with these words: “The demonic powers that are greedy for the soul of God’s people are using their very desire for justice and vengeance as the bait on the hook.  The people of light are never more at risk than when they are lured into fighting the darkness with more darkness.”   In other words, when someone is mean to you and hurts you, you are not to pay them back with that same spirit of meanness and hurtfulness.  Jesus commands us: “Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek, also.”  (Matthew 5:39)  In other words, taking revenge against your enemy  is off the table for followers of Christ. 
 
We Christians have been given our marching orders. God has given us commandments telling us how to live our lives.  We are to march to a different drummer than the people in the secular world!  And we will always be out of step with the secular world on many issues. Jesus commands us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and forgive whatever grievances you have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  (Colossians 3:13) 
 
 And when Jesus was asked how many times we should forgive another person, He answered, “Forgive seventy times seven”.  (Matthew 18:22)  I don’t think Jesus wanted us to do the math!  I think He meant that we should always just keep on forgiving! 
 
We are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers.  (Exodus 20:12)  And not to bear false witness against one another (Exodus 20:16)  Not to commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14) And not to covet or lust after what our neighbor has.  His wife, house, car, etc. (Exodus 20: 17) We are commanded to love God first and not put anything before our love for Him. (Exodus 20:3)  To remember the Sabbath and not work on it but enjoy it and rest in the Lord. (Exodus 20:8) We are to follow Jesus and serve one another in love.  Refuse to play the world’s games of one up-man’s ship. Walk gently and humbly through our days. God promises that “The meek will inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5 and Psalm 37:11)  
 
Jesus says: “If you love Me keep My commandments!” (John 14:15) If we want to obey God’s commands in Scripture then the Holy Spirit will help us and make the way joyful. We are to be a peculiar people.  So peculiar that we don’t completely fit into our secular world. 
 
The secular world doesn’t go by our rules.  They can’t understand our spirit of humility because their spirit and values are different.  The secular world values the spirit of pride.  Power and competition.  The spirits of lust and greed.  Fame and fortune.  The freedom to do things our way, not God’s way.  We value our individuality and our money. And Scripture says that we cannot worship God and money at the same time.  (Matthew 6:24)
 
A few days ago, we watched some World War Two movies showing the Gestapo and German S.S. soldiers angrily rounding up villages of poor Jewish people at gun point. We watched in horror as the proud German soldiers strutted around screaming out orders and kicking and beating the terrified people while forcing them to dig their own graves.  The film continues rolling as these soldiers march around swearing and pulling crying children from their mother’s and then shooting all these vulnerable men, women and children.  And then they rush to bring in another group of cowering families and continue their bloody massacres. Did these soldiers sear their consciences when they bought into Hitler’s mentality?  Did they harm their souls when they committed these brutal crimes?
 
This genocide occurred because Hitler taught the German people that they were superior to all the other races.  That the Jewish people and other non- Arian races of people were inferior to them – that the world would be a better place by getting rid of the Jews and other people of so called inferior races. These soldiers chose to believe the lie that God was with them because they were superior.  And because they were superior they had the right to kill those inferior people and steal their lands and homes and riches! Millions of men, women and little children were massacred throughout Europe by Hitler’s soldiers.  And many of these soldiers who killed so many of these helpless people had these words written on their belt buckles: “Gott mit Uns” which means “God with Us”.  Was God really with them?  Not the God of the Bible.
 
I don’t know all that Jesus meant when He left us the warning that we should fear those who can destroy our souls.  But I wonder if it could possibly be that the ways of pride and brutality, unforgiveness and hard heartedness, lust and greed, - these vices may sicken our souls and ruin us and keep us from staying human?  Could these things be poison to our very soul?  Do we choose to go along with the pride and prejudice of our secular world or do we choose to follow Jesus on that joyful but narrow path of humility and love and forgiveness?  Which will it be? 
 
 
 
 
 
    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, May 5, 2017

In Jesus' Name


In Jesus’ Name

Violent storms swept through North Texas a couple of nights ago, bringing hail, heavy rains and tornados.  During the storm a car is blown off the highway landing upside down, mostly underwater and sinking deeper by the minute into a nearby lake. 

Several cars driving by stop and six or seven people jump from their cars and rush to the scene.  Someone records what happens next on their cell phone and our local news station played it back for us last night.  We watched as the would-be rescuers in the darkness of night frantically try and fail and try again to save people from drowning in the sinking car.

“Don’t help us,” we can hear a hysterical woman screaming from the front seat of the sinking car.  “My babies are in the back.  Get them!  My babies, my babies!”  “Get the babies” a man’s cries could be heard joining the woman.  Both father and mother are in a panic and insist that their babies be saved first.  Several long minutes pass as we watch nervously. The group of good Samaritans struggle feverously to smash the back window and pull the two babies out from their watery grave. They try again and again.

Finally, one lifeless baby is pulled from the submerged car and then the other baby.  Neither baby is breathing and the frantic rescuers don’t waste a second.  Two of the rescuers start CPR on the two babies while the rest of the rescuers pray around them.  The mother and father pull themselves out of the submerged car and fall on the ground gasping.  One baby starts breathing and then stops again.  “Come on little one, come on” you can hear one of the rescuers begging as he works over the baby. 

“Father, in the Name of Jesus, give life back to this baby,” another rescuer prays aloud.  “Yes Jesus,” another agrees.  We watch nervously and we can hear the volunteer rescuer praying as he gives the baby CPR.  “In Jesus’ Name let this baby breathe” a woman begs.  “Yes, in Jesus Name,” other rescuers join in.   The babies are lifeless and not breathing.  We think the babies are dead.

We watch in tears as this group of volunteer rescuers who don’t know one another are now all praying and struggling together to get these two babies to breathe again.  This motely group suddenly thrown together in the night by this terrible accident are all praying and working together as One!  Two in the group are Hispanic, one black, one Asian and three white.  Four men and three women and all One.  One in the name of Jesus. On a dark and stormy night, the mystical and international Body of Christ shows up and comes together on a lone Texas highway to become the hands and feet of Jesus.

I am crying when the first baby starts to breathe again and really crying when the second baby starts breathing on his own. The parents are crying too.  “Praise God,” and “Thank You Jesus” can be heard around the group.  Two days later in the hospital where the baby girl is recuperating and doing well, the group comes together again to meet the mother and father of the babies under better conditions.  The T.V. cameras are rolling as they all exchange love and hugs and “thank yous”   And everyone is crying again.  But this time they are all crying tears of joy.

Why were these volunteer rescuers praying “in Jesus’ Name”?  Because Scripture teaches that we come to the Father through Jesus our Savior. And because we are told in Scripture to pray “in Jesus’ Name.” Scripture records Jesus’ words; “I (Jesus) will do whatever you ask in My Name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask Me anything in My Name and I will do it.”  (John 14:13) This is just one of many Scriptures giving believers this precious promise that our prayers will be answered if they are in His Name and if they are in His will. 

But you may ask, if Jesus promises to answer our prayers, then why are so many of our prayers not answered the way we want them to be?   God sees the whole picture and we don’t. Sometimes we pray for wrong things that are not in “His Name” or in His will.  And other times we wait a long time for our prayers to finally be answered.   

Over and over in Scripture we read that we should have faith in God.  But what is faith?  Scripture gives “faith” this definition.  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:11)  Wow!  How in the world can we have evidence (or know for sure) that our prayer will be answered when we can’t see the evidence or have it yet?  In this world we have been taught to only believe in what we see and feel. Biblical faith is believing what we haven’t seen or felt yet!  The definition of “faith” in the Bible is backwards from what we do naturally in this world. 

We believers in Christ are living in this world, but we are citizens of another world – the kingdom of God.  Instead of looking at the problems and troubles in this world and becoming discouraged, we look to our God and Father to be able to take care of our problems.
 Scripture says that one day Jesus was walking on the water and He invited Peter to walk out on the water to Him. Peter started out walking on the water to Jesus and he was doing just fine.  But then Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked down at the water.  And Peter began to sink when he looked down at the waves. But then Peter looked back to Jesus and he could walk on the water again.  (Matthew 14:22-36) It’s the same with us.  When we look to Jesus and we trust in God we can walk in faith through all of our problems.   But when we look at the waves (our problems) we often start doubting and sinking!  When we pray, it is important where we keep our attention. 

Other Scriptures tell us this: “And this is the confidence we have in Him (Jesus) that if we ask anything in His will, we know we have the petitions we desire of Him.”  (1 John 5:14-15)  Did you get that?  That Scripture verse is saying that we can KNOW that we will have the answers from God if we are praying for something that is in His will. We don’t always know what His will is.  But in some cases, we do know His will.

 Scripture says that “it isn’t Gods’ will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9) If we pray for a loved one or a friend to come to repentance and have eternal life, and we believe, then we know that God will give us what we are asking because we are praying in His will.  It may take a long time for the prayer to be answered but we can rest in the fact that it will be done.  It is one of our many precious promises! 


The Bible tells us: “Ask and it shall be given to you, Seek and you shall find: Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7) And: “We have not because we ask not” (James 4:3)  Let’s start asking and seeking and knocking!  And let’s remember to ask ”In Jesus’ Name.”     

  


Friday, April 28, 2017

Why Have We Fasted and God Has Not Noticed?


Why Have We Fasted and God Has Not Noticed?
Isaiah 58
 
 
Day after day the Jewish people came to the temple asking God to bless them. And day after day they fasted and prayed and waited. And fasted again They lay on beds of sackcloth and ashes and day after day they bowed low before God begging for Him to come near – but still their prayers were not answered and God seemed very far away.
 
 
What was the matter?  Why was God not answering their prayers when they tried so hard?  God had called them to fast and they had obeyed. They asked God: “Why God have we fasted and You have not noticed?  Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not seen it?”  (Isaiah 58:3a).
 
 
God hears their grumblings and answers them: “On the day of your fasting you do as you please and exploit all of your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and fist fights.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? ……(Isaiah 58:3b,4,5)
 
 
Then God tells them the kind of fast He really wants from them.  “Is this not the kind of fast that I have chosen?  To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?  To set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry?  And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.  And when you see the naked, to clothe him, And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? “(Isaiah 58:6-7)
 
 
God had brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt!  And because God brought the Jewish people out from the bondage of slavery, He wants them never to hold others under the bondage of slavery. As God was bringing the Jewish people from their bondage in Egypt He commanded the Jewish leaders never to have permanent workers but to have each seventh year the year to set workers free.
 
 
If a poor person asked the owner of an estate for a job, and the owner agreed, then the owner would take the poor person in. In exchange for the poor persons’ work, the master would agree to protect, clothe, feed and house his new worker. The owner would be in charge or the worker and have power over him/her. The worker would not be free to leave.  But according to God’s command, the owner should allow the worker his freedom and allow her to leave after six years of work, if he/she wished.
 
 In ancient days when there were no banks or credit cards, different arrangements were made between worker and employer. In ancient days there were no welfare checks for people who had emergencies or fell on hard times. And no Goodwill or Salvation Army to pass out clothing and food to the needy. Naked, homeless and hungry people were left out in the cold. And God wanted His people to be merciful as He is merciful.
 
 
God was asking the Jewish people here in this Scripture passage to free their slaves and to be fair to their workers.  To “loose the chains of injustice” and “untie the cords of the yoke.”  And to “set the oppressed free.”  Several other times we read in Scripture where God commands the Jewish people to free their slaves.  (Jeremiah 34:8-21) 
 
 
It would seem that God has not accepted the fast of His people because the same ones that were fasting were also oppressing their workers!  Not feeding the hungry or even caring for their own families.  These religious Jewish people were going through all of the proper religious motions.  They were saying all of the right words.  Talking the talk but not walking the walk.  We humans see the outward appearance, but God sees the heart. And God is telling them to shape up and then He will hear them when they call.
 
 
Let’s hear what God promises these Jewish people if they will change their ways and be fair and merciful to their workers and to the poor.  “When you do these things then your light will break forth like the dawn.  And your healing will quickly appear.  Then your righteousness will go before you.  And the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer: You will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.”  (Isaiah 58:8-9) 
 
 
The Lord promises His people even more if they will be fair to their workers and help the poor.  Here is what He promises: “And if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The glory of the Lord will guide you always: He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land.  And He will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”  (Isaiah 58:10-11) 
 
 
Good people who want to do God’s will are safe on all sides.  Their defense is their righteousness (Christ is our righteousness) and the “glory of the Lord” (Christ) is our reward on whom alone we can depend for safety when our sins are overwhelming us.  While we are here in the wilderness of this world we need continual direction as to where to go.  And God constantly gives wisdom and knowledge and joy.  When we call upon our God, He answers, “Here I am”. (Isaiah 58:11) And He is near to us in all things. (Deuteronomy 4:7) 
 
 
We modern Christians are facing the same battles today that those Jewish people were facing so long ago. We beg God to answer our prayers and sing praises to Him in church but we turn our backs on desperate people because we rationalize that they brought their troubles on themselves. We pay our workers the lowest wage we can get away with, believing that that is good business.  And we say we love God, but we hate our brother. We are impressed with how much money a person has instead of how kind and generous he/she is. But God keeps calling us to leave all of that behind and follow Him To forgive and love. To be fair and merciful and generous. It looks like it will be hard to do, but there is great joy along the way.     
 
 
There are still two fasts today like there were back in those ancient days described in Isaiah 58.. We still have the man made fast of outward appearances and the fast that God desires, which is the fast of losing the chains of injustice and untying the cords of the yoke and setting the oppressed free. And the fast of feeding the hungry and being merciful to others.  Still two choices for us to make   We can choose to lose it all for Christ or we can choose to keep it all for ourselves. Which fast will you choose?        
 
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask


God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 



 
God Promises to Give You More of the Holy Spirit if You Ask



When Jesus was teaching His followers about prayer He gave this wonderful teaching: “Which of you parents, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?  Or if your daughter asks you for an egg, will you give her a scorpion?  If you, who are imperfect still know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to you if you ask Him!”  (Luke 11:11-12)   

Everywhere in Scripture we read that our Father in heaven wants to give His children more of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to be powerful in every way and to have His peace and joy and love. He promises that if we believe His Word, that we will see that “all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) And Jesus promises us that He came so that we would “have life, and that we would have it more abundantly.”  (John 10:10b) We have such a great inheritance in Christ. The spiritual gifts God has waiting for us are amazing.  These gifts are listed here below.


Scripture tells us that the many gifts God has for us all come from the one Holy Spirit that we are given when we believe in Christ.  The Bible says: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit, … Now to each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one person the gift of wisdom is given and to another the gift of knowledge by means of that same Spirit.  To another believer faith is given by that Spirit and to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.  Another believer receives the gifts of miraculous powers and to another prophecy is given.  Another believer receives the distinguishing between spirits, and to another, speaking in different tongues.  Another believer receives the gift of interpretation of tongues.  And all these are the work of the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. “(1 Corinthians 12:4a;7-11)


Jesus promised that those who believe in Him have “streams of living water flowing out of them”. Here are His words: “Whoever believes in Me (Jesus) as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within that believer.” (John 7:37b) This promised stream flowing in us is the Holy Spirit. Do you truly want a stream of living water flowing out of your life blessing others?  Are you asking our heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit each day?  



The Lord does not want us to “come short” in any gift. (1 Corinthians 1:7) We are encouraged to “stir up the gift of God which is in you.”  (2 Timothy 1:6) God’s command is for us to “be filled with the Spirit.”  (Ephesians 5:18) We should not be satisfied if we are a luke-warm Christian and only have a half- filled cup.  We need to have an overflowing cup all the time. And live in the fullness of overflowing!  Never live below that overflowing tide.


The Holy Spirit has the power to equip you for every emergency. Scripture says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:13) Stand on these promises and believe them and they will be yours. Our heavenly Father has given us so many resources to get us through this life and to make us able to do amazing things for Him. But we have an all important part to play. Our part is to believe – to have faith.  Scripture says: “the just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:17) And Scripture also says: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) This thing called faith is the key that unlocks the door and the soil that the plants and trees grow in.  You’ve got to have it.


 If you are like me you may have faith in God through Christ but sometimes we doubt. And in the measure that we doubt, we go down.  We must learn to yield to His leading and not doubt but believe.  And when we doubt we can ask God to help us.  I often pray “I believe, help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I believe our heavenly Father will answer that prayer when His children ask.


 Doubting Thomas said he would not believe in the risen Jesus unless he put his fingers in his wounds on His hands and feet and placed his hand in the wound on his side where he was stabbed.  Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to touch his wounds and place his hand in his side. And then Jesus said: these words to Thomas: “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen Me and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29) Those blessed ones who Jesus was talking about are us – you and me. We are the ones who have believed in Christ without seeing Him in the flesh. And Jesus says we are blessed because of our faith.  


If there is unbelief in our hearts we must search our hearts to see why it is there. If we don’t want to doubt and we want more faith, the Scripture says: “Faith comes by hearing, hearing the Word of God.”  (Romans 10:17) In other words, the Bible, God’s Word is spiritual food to our growing faith.  We grow in our faith when we nourish ourselves in His Word.  So, get into a good Bible study and watch your precious faith in God grow!  Never stand still..  Go from faith to a larger faith to even a larger faith. Never stay in one place but be moving each day closer to the Promised Land. 



We forget that we are a spiritual people “a royal priesthood,” a holy people (1 Peter 2:9) We are not to play the games the natural world plays – lusting after money, power and sex. We are to obey God’s laws and follow Him.  There are things we should never do and places we should never go. And good things we should be doing. Obedience to God is one of the things we must try to do if we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  (John 14:15-31)


If you do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior then Scripture says that you do not have this Holy Spirit living in your life. Scripture says: “By this you can know the Spirit of God, every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God…” (1 John 4:1-6)


 Jesus said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no person comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6) All through Scripture it is clear that there is only one Way and one Door to God the Father and that way and door is Jesus the Son and Savior. If a religion does not believe that Jesus Christ is Son of God and Savior then that religion is not worshipping the God of the Bible and it does not move in the Holy Spirit.     


As followers of Christ we have been promised so much!  Are we neglecting the gifts the Holy Spirit has come to bring us?  Are we asking the heavenly Father for more of the Holy Spirit? God desires that we be continually hungry to receive more and more of His Spirit.  He promises to give us more of the Spirit if we will ask Him. Are we asking God for more of His Spirit each day?  He promises to fill us if we ask.  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”  (Matthew 5:6)  It doesn’t get any better than that! 





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Dead


Jesus Rises from the Dead
Matthew 27:57-28:20


The moment Jesus died, a violent earthquake shook the whole area.  The sky had been dark for three hours while Jesus was on the cross and it grew even darker when He died. It seemed that even nature was mourning and reacting to His death.  The soldiers guarding Jesus’ body were terrified as rocks split in half and tumbled down around them.  “Surely, this was the Son of God,” one of the Roman soldiers cried out.  (Matthew 27:54b) The crowds who had been around taunting Jesus all day were leaving and some were running in fear of the earthquake.  Only a few women stayed near the body crying.


As the soldiers were taking Jesus’ body down from the cross a rich man named Joseph of Arimathea showed up and gave the soldiers a letter from Pilate stating that he could have Jesus’ body.  Joseph was a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to give Jesus a proper burial.  He had cut a tomb out of the rock near Golgotha and he wanted to bury Jesus in his new tomb.


Nicodemus was also a religious leader and a secret follower of Jesus and he wanted to help out too.  He came along and helped Joseph wrap Jesus’ body in clean linen cloths and carry it to the tomb.  It was common in those days to bury the dead in caves or to dig small spaces in the side of a hill or rock and use these carved out spaces as tombs.  A large stone was then rolled into the mouth of the tomb to close it up.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary walked over to the tomb and watched and cried as Joseph and Nicodemus buried Jesus. 


The next day the religious leaders met with Pilate again.  They remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise again after being in the grave for three days and this worried them.  They asked Pilate for soldiers to guard the tomb to make sure that Jesus didn’t rise!  Pilate agreed and told them to make the tomb as secure as possible.


So the priests and elders sealed the stone in front of the tomb (like locking a door) and put soldiers with spears and swords all around the tomb to guard it night and day.  They weren’t taking any chances!  (Matthew 27:62-66)


While Jesus’ enemies remembered that He said He would rise from death, His own disciples forgot.  Jesus had told his disciples several times that He would meet them in Galilee. He told them that He would rise after three days in the grave. But His disciples must not have taken Him seriously! Do we take His promises seriously?


Very early on a Sunday morning, three days later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to Jesus’ tomb. And just as they arrived there was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord appeared and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb.  Scripture describes the angel this way:  “His face was like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow.”  (Matthew 28:3) The guards around the tomb shook in fear and “became like dead men.”  (Matthew 28:4)


The angel sat on the stone and spoke to the women and said: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here: for He has risen as He said He would.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  (Matthew 28:5-6)


The women walked into the empty tomb and saw that Jesus’ grave clothes were folded there but He was gone.  Scripture does not say that Jesus left the tomb when the angel rolled the stone away from the door.  A large stone would not keep the Son of God from getting out!  It was rolled away so that Jesus’ followers might see the evidence of an empty tomb. 


The angel continued: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and that He is going before you to Galilee.  You will see Him there.  Behold, I have told you.”  (Matthew 28:7) Mary Magdalene and the other Mary ran out of the empty tomb with fear and great joy.  And as they were running to tell the disciples, Jesus met them.  The women fell down and worshipped Him and held Him by His feet and Jesus said: “Rejoice!  Do not be afraid.  Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and I will be there to meet them.”  (Matthew 28:9-10) Then the women ran on to tell the disciples.


When the guards recovered from the shock of the angel’s appearance at the tomb and of Jesus not being there, they ran to the religious leaders and told them all that had happened.  A guard could lose his life for allowing the person he was guarding to get away, so these guards were worried that they would be killed because they did not stop Jesus from rising and leaving the tomb.  They nervously told the religious leaders about the angel and how Jesus was no longer in the tomb!


Scripture says that the religious leaders paid the guards a large sum of money to keep them quiet.  They were ordered not to tell anyone that Jesus had risen but to tell people that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body even though the tomb had been heavily guarded.  The soldiers agreed to keep quiet about Jesus’ resurrection and they took the money.


When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary told the disciples that they had seen Jesus the disciples were over joyed and they traveled to Galilee to meet Jesus there.  And when they finally met up with Jesus they fell down and worshipped Him. 


Before Jesus went back to heaven forty days later, He appeared not only to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and the disciples, but He appeared to several other women.  (Matthew 28:8-10) and to his followers on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:19,20, Luke 24:13-15) And He appeared to many in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-24) He met with James and the apostles, (1 Corinthians 15:7) and to five hundred people. (1 Corinthians 16:6) And after Jesus went back to heaven He appeared to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6) He spent many days with His disciples, including Thomas. (Mark 16:14) And Jesus was with them just before He went back to heaven.  (Mark 16:19,20)  Hundreds of people saw Jesus before He went back to heaven.


Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the disciples the Great Commission.  This is what He said: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  God therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.  And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-29) After Jesus gave these marching orders to his disciples – to all of his disciples in every age – Jesus went back to heaven.


The crucified Servant is now the exalted Lord and has received all authority.  While His ministry had been to Israel during His lifetime, now His ministry has a global perspective.  He now calls his disciples (that’s us) to world evangelism – to make disciples of all nations.  We have a big job to do, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  We serve a risen Savior!  Hallelujah!