Monday, January 30, 2023

Thank You For The Gifts

The Apostle Paul tells us, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) 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— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:7-16) 

Honestly, volumes have been written on this passage of scripture so I am not going to attempt to discuss the entirety of this passage, only that which will challenge what we believe and why we believe it. The first thing Paul tells us is that upon Christ's ascension He "gave gifts to men." There is no record in the Epistles that tells us that once the Lord gives something to His church that He takes it away for any reason. In fact, Paul is quoting Psalm 68:18 concerning these gifts, but let's look at the next verse in Psalm 68. "Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!" Selah (Psalm 68:19) No doubt, David knew the Lord as one "Who daily loads us with benefits." 

The gifts of "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers" are benefits to and for the church. So why would the Lord remove gifts from the church that are for its benefit? Actually, He wouldn't! So what are the benefits of these five wonderful gifts? "...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— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."

Understand, it takes all five of these gifts to accomplish these things. However, many sectors of the church have rejected the gifts of the apostle and prophet. There are many reasons for this but we will only look at what seems to be the main three reasons...

Reason one; The gospels reveal that Jesus personally chose the twelve apostles, one of which was chosen for perdition and that the position of the apostles became a permanently fixed number after the resurrection meaning the number twelve then became an eternally established number. Let's think about this. Although the Apostle Judas Iscariot killed himself, the remaining eleven apostles chose Matthias to replace him. Well, maybe the other eleven were acting outside of the Lords will, but if they were, how then did these uneducated and untrained men (Acts 4:13) know Psalm 109:8 "Let another take his office." (Acts 1:20) Also, if twelve apostles was a fixed number after the resurrection and Matthias was not appointed by the Lord through the remaining eleven apostles, but Paul was, (which puts the number back to twelve) then why is Barnabas called an apostle? "But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this..." (Acts 14:14) This would make the number of apostles after the resurrection fourteen with Matthias or at least thirteen with Barnabas if we eliminate Matthias. Of course we see that the Lord appointed more than Twelve apostles after His resurrection. In fact. if we look at Ephesians 4 again, it was after the resurrection that the Lord gave some to be "apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers", all plural and without a specific number or an expiration date.

Reason two: Today there are certain denominations that believe that the phrase “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Corinthians 13:10) is referring to the canonized scripture. As a result of this interpretation many believers have also been taught that not only ministries of the apostle and prophet but also the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12, 14) have been done away with by Christ and are no longer necessary for the Church. Is this true? Well, if it were, then we need to ask ourselves why there is so much division, lack of love and lack of spiritual maturity in the church. The Apostle Paul dealt with this very issue with the church at Corinth and says, "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

Again, looking back to Ephesians 4 we see the purpose of these five gifts working together is for the benefit of the church (see above). So, we must conclude, that 1 Corinthians 13:10 does not mean the elimination of the apostle and prophet or spiritual gifts due to the canonization of the scripture, but that it refers to when Christ comes again. It should be obvious that when Christ returns there will be no need for these gifts to function, the gift giver Himself will be on the earth again. To eliminate the gifts of apostle and prophet from the church would be like having an automobile with two cylinders not functioning. No matter if you have a four, six or eight cylinder automobile with two cylinders not functioning the auto will not run properly, if it runs at all, and you will damage the engine.

Reason three: Another reason for the elimination of the gifts of apostle and prophet from many sectors of the church is, Christ only used apostles and prophets in the first century to lay the foundation of the Church, therefore, these two ministries are no longer needed today. Is this true? According to the Apostle Paul,  "having been built (the church) on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20) Paul does not specify only certain apostles and prophets or only for a certain dispensation of time, but simply the church is built "on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." In fact, even today the foundation of the church continues to be strong because true apostles and prophets are building on Christ the Chief Cornerstone.

I say true apostles and prophets because there are those who say they are apostles and or prophets who do not fulfill the biblical function of the office but only use the title. I am not trying to be critical toward those in the Body of Christ who believe that apostles and prophets are no longer needed in the church today, but only that we need to question ourselves to see if our doctrine is in line with the entirety of God's Word. We need to be cautious of creating doctrine by picking and choosing scripture that "aligns with my thinking" while looking away from scriptures that contradict "my way of thinking." We also cannot read into God's Word things that are not mentioned verbatim with intellectual assumptions. We need to let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit have the final say in all matters of the church. So, with this said, LORD thank you for the gifts...

Monday, January 23, 2023

Let's Not Be Denied

Ice hockey is a fast paced contact sport that was developed in Canada in the 19th century. In short, ice hockey has two teams of six skaters, who attempt to drive a small solid rubber disk (the puck) into the opposing goal with a stick that has a hooked or angled end used to move the puck along the ice and for making goals. The sport has not changed much except today it is played in an ice rink. One of the things that I remember when at a ice hockey rink watching a game, was when the goalie, (a player who guards his teams net to prevent the opposing team from scoring a goal) would block a shot from an opposing team player from entering the goal net. When this happened, the screen on the score board which hung from the ceiling of the rink above the players in the center of the rink would have big flashing letters that said, "DENIED."

In my travels in ministry, as well as reading various media by Christian authors and viewing online videos of various ministries concerning the church today, has cause me to grieve at what is going on in the church, what the church has accepted as truth (which isn't), the twisting of God's Word with liberal New Age influence interpretations of scripture and what it refuses to do concerning building the church up spiritually. I not only believe, but I also see the very thing that General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said over 100 years in full swing today in the church. I quote, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century (meaning the 20th century, we are now in the 21st century) will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” Let's not be naive. This statement is true in most sectors of the church whether Catholic or Protestant. This should grieve every believer and should move us to change.  

The fact is, we are being "denied" or actually denying ourselves of the wonderful blessings, gifts and callings that the Lord has given to the church. Let us not be deceived with large numbers in congregation thinking that God is somehow blessing us when the spiritual maturity of the church is that of carnal Christianity. (1 Corinthians 3:1-4) Let us not be taken by our large congregations when we are not building according to God's Word and being led by the Holy Spirit. There are numerous organizations with large numbers of people who are anti-Christ and anti-church.

One of the things that should grieve us most is our lack of love for one another especially when Jesus, our LORD, commanded us to "love one another." In reality, the early church also had its share of problems, but it had leaders that were willing to confront the issues with God's Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit, not the opinions, thoughts and intellect of man. For instance, Acts 15 reveals a situation between the Jew and Gentile believers that arose and could have split the church completely apart. The issue was over the necessity of the Gentile believers as to whether they should be circumcised or not. However, the outcome came down to who had the preeminence in the church, the apostles and elders or the Holy Spirit? In making this crucial decision we need to notice the order of things, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us..." (Acts 15:28) It seemed good to the Holy Spirit above the opinions, thoughts and intellect of these mighty men of God. They submitted to the Apostle James' answer because they recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through him. If it was only James' word, they would not have been in agreement. But they submitted to the Holy Spirit speaking through James and submitted to one another.

Let's be honest, if church leaders are truly being led by the Word of God and what the Holy Spirit is speaking, there will be no division in the church, only submission to one another in the Lord, as it should be. However, this will not be accomplished without "...Faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) which begs another question. Are church leaders truly letting faith work through love? Without faith working through love the church will be denying itself of all the blessings that are for her through Jesus Christ.  

I believe one of the reasons why the church has lost much of its glory, power and influence which we have not experienced as a whole for nearly 1700 years is due to its lack of dependency on God's Word and the Holy Spirit. This has led the church into the "Dark Ages" for 1000 years which brought on what is called the "Protestant Reformation." Though the protestant reformation which started in 1571 by Martin Luther with his work entitled, "The Ninety-Five Theses" was meant to bring reformation and restoration to the church, it also caused division and disunity from those who refused to return to the Word of God and the voice of the Holy Spirit. But even now, especially among the Protestant churches the division and disunity continues to spread. I am not trying to paint an ugly picture of the Body of Christ, but to bring us to the reality of where we are. Until we are able to admit our faults to one another and turn away from them, have a true love for Christ, His church (all believers), God's Word and to be led by the Holy Spirit, we limit ourselves in bringing hope to a lost world. 

However, there is good news. No matter where we find ourselves, the LORD is always at work in His church, even if it is a remnant that is willing to be a new wine skin to receive the new wine, the continuous working of the Holy Spirit. I also believe that the Body of Christ in many sectors will begin experience the supernatural things of the LORD that have not been seen since the inception of the church. PTL          

Monday, January 16, 2023

Let Love Loose

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul reveals to us a very important foundational truth concerning Christianity, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) The Apostle John tells us, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18) Let us never forget the wonderful yet challenging words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) 

Without faith, we will not be able to love as God loves, yet, without love we will not operate in the kind of faith that pleases God. This is why faith working through love is the quintessential of Christianity. I believe that faith without love or love without faith on the part of believers has been so lacking in the church, that it is the main cause of all the division. The love that was in Jesus revealed throughout the four gospels, is the love that is to rule the church, every believer. When believers are ruled by love; motivated by love; owned by love; they become imitators of the one who is love, "...God is love" (1 John 4:8) and as Jesus said, "...all will know that you are My disciples..."   

The Apostle John has some strong language for the church concerning love that we should not only think about but take to heart and act on. "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) One of the things that John addresses is coming to grips with our love for the world and the things of world. This is not just toward material things, but the ungodly attitudes and actions of the the world. Let's be honest, most people who consider themselves to be Christian, would not admit just how much they are rooted in the world; How the cares of the world have become more important to them than the things of God. John tells us that one of the ways we can know how much the world has captured believers is revealed in the fact that they do not love as God loves, because God's love is not in them.

Next, John says,"...Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother...he who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:10, 14-15) Unfortunately, there is extremely to much unforgiveness in the church. Let's face it, if you cannot forgive another believer, you have hatred in your heart. John says, hating another believer is spiritual death. In other words, the person who hates a brother or sister of Christ, proves by their hatred that they are not truly saved. 

Unfortunately, many people in the church will say, "But I confessed with my mouth that Jesus is my Lord and Savior so how can you say that I am not saved?" I did not say that you are not saved, the Holy Spirit said it through John, plus we must also remember that though one confesses with their mouth, they must also believe in their heart. (Romans 10:9-10) John continues to reveal to us another problem that causes people to hate a brother or sister rather than love them. "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8) Simply put, if a person hates, they do not know God.

So, how can we let go of any ill feelings that we may have toward a brother or sister. It is by simply remembering and acting on the following, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) Remember, no matter how good you may think you were before making a confession of faith, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Jesus died for all even when we were antagonistic toward Him. "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:9-11) Put these scriptures together, we have, "faith working through love." The way we love as God loves, is applying faith and live through Christ, love personified. 

Finally, take at least two times every day for forty days without missing one day, and slowly read aloud to yourself the following, "Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 AMP)  Let the God kind of love dominate your life, "By this all will know that you are My (Jesus') disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Amen....

Monday, January 9, 2023

It's Supernatural

The Bible records mans three fold being, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Thessalonians 5:23) To fully develop man would be to educate him in all three of these realms. To train only the physical is to make him an athlete. To train only the intellectual would make him an anarchist. To train only the spiritual would make him a fanatic. Adam was created complete in all three of these areas. Though the fall of man came, it did not change God's design for man. Through Christ, God has restored man and once again man is complete (John 1:16; Colossians 1:9, 2:10). So, Gods plan for man through Christ, is that he be developed in all three areas; yet, the area that man is least developed is the very area in which he was created in the image and likeness of God, his spirit.

Man's spirit is the only part of him that is capable of knowing and communing intelligently with God. It was God's plan that man should be His companion (Psalm 8:3-8), so his spiritual faculties were originally attuned to interact with God. (Genesis 1:26-27, 3:8) Through the Fall, man was alienated from God and his spiritual faculties were impaired; yet, through Christ, this lost fellowship is restored and once again mans spirit is capable of functioning in both the natural and supernatural realm.

The supernatural realm is really the realm of the believer. No one knows how much the soul and spirit can be developed and even within Christendom, we have been slow to come to the realization that man is spirit and his spirit is his basic nature. We have sought to educate him along intellectual lines,
utterly ignoring the spiritual. Thus man has lost his sense of relationship and responsibility toward God and man. By ignoring the spiritual side of man, we inadvertently have magnified the intellectual and physical parts of man, which has left him craving the supernatural of God, yet, not having the ability to release it in his daily life.  Whether most want to admit it or not, man has a love for the miraculous because it is in his DNA. He was created in the image and likeness of God.

The intellect of every believer is ever conscious of the supernatural forces that operate around him, but due to the lack of spiritual development in most, he cannot understand or interpret them. This is perhaps the main reason why believers long to not only experience the supernatural, but to perform miracles. The curiosity for the miraculous is deep-seated in every believer because he has been born again by a miracle-working God. It has been a scheme of Satan that has blinded us and has kept us from finding the door that will lead us back to our lost inheritance in Christ. Although believers are to operate in the miraculous, many questions arise concerning their validity for today, such as, "Are these things for today? Did miracles end with the death of the disciples in the early church? Are the so-called miracles that men claim to perform today fraudulent, psychic or works of Satan to deceive many?

Unfortunately, there has come a falling away on the part of most sectors of the church concerning the miraculous. In one area, modernism has dominated the church bringing the denial of the supernatural element in Christianity. This in turn has made Christianity simply an ethical religion. There are also those who declare that miracles ceased with the death of the apostles; that Christianity does not need the miraculous today to convince men of the Deity of Jesus. This in turn has placed Christianity among the other powerless world religions. Then we have a third group who claim miracles are still being performed; that the sick are healed, that prayers are answered, and that God is a living reality in the daily life of the believer. This third group of people have it correct. They know that man needs a miraculous touch now more than ever.

The miraculous was the very thing that God used to bring His people Israel back to Himself; the very thing that drew heathen kings to acknowledge that the Lord is God; the very thing that drew people to Jesus the Savior through the early church as well as turning the world upside down; it is the very thing that is needed today to save our land and nation. The entire church must return to the God of Miracles and believe that He will once again reveal Himself and His Christ to all men through miracles, signs and wonders. These are the very things revealed in scripture that opened the door many times to the preaching of the Gospel and the saving of souls.

The Apostle Paul tells us, "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ." (Romans 15:18-19) Paul shows us that the preaching of the gospel is not complete without "mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God." This he tells us is the full gospel! God desires to intervene "now" in the affairs of man. So, let us stand against all doubt, fear, unbelief and intellectual reasoning that so easily ensnares and robs us of the miracles that God has for us and the lost world around us. "Let God Arise" and we will see the salvation of the Lord like never before!

Monday, January 2, 2023

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

When someone truly believes something, no matter what it is, they have no problem acting on it. Well it is the same with God's Word. If we truly believe it we will have no problem acting on it. However, when someone has only a mental or intellectual understanding of the Word, they will only admire it or admit that it is true, but they do not act on it. Acting on God's Word is letting Christ act through us and it gives God the opportunity to use us for His purposes.

Jesus said, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

Building on the rock is building on God's Word and it requires action. Therefore, the one who hears God's Word must become a doer, that is, a builder. If he is not a doer of the Word, it is like building a house on sand and when the storms of life come the entire structure (the person) falls. So, the wise man is a doer of the Word, whereas, the unwise person hears it but does not act on it. The main reason why many do not act on God's Word is due to reasoning which erodes faith and therefore their spiritual life is built on sand. If he has faith in anything, it is in man, what man has done.You can tell whether a person is building on the sand or on the rock, by noticing whether they are putting into practice, that is, acting on God's Word. The one who thinks that knowledge is all that is necessary will fail.

James tells us, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:22-25) 

There is a grave danger of deluding our own selves in this way; we know the Word; we may be familiar with the original Greek or Hebrew; we may know the history of the Word, but that is all wasted energy if we do not live the Word, practice it, act on it. For instance, one who acts on God's Word, when they come to a hard place, and need money, without a second thought, they will turn to the Lord, to the Word, because they know that "...My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19) You have taken your place and have acted the part of a real believer, trusting on the integrity of God's Word no matter what the circumstances may dictate. Instead of turning to the world, you turn to the Father to provide.

Maybe a loved one is sick. Instead of being fearful, you remember, "Surely He has borne our griefs (sicknesses) and carried our sorrows; (pains) yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5) You remember, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

Maybe some calamity has come, some rumor, something that the devil has stirred up against you. Instead of going into a mode of panic you confidently confess,  "No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord." (Isaiah 54:17) Your trust is in God's Word, because you can bank on Him to be faithful to do what He says He will do.

Unless one is a doer of the Word, he is not a believer of the Word. He has nothing but a mental assent of God's Word, a mere empty profession of religious words. Jesus would call them a sand foundation, a house on the seashore waiting to be destroyed by the next incoming tide. What danger there is with a religion of words if there is no corresponding action. It is a doer of the Word that receives things from God. Idle words may entertain men, but they do not reach God. Please do not take these words as condemning, but encouraging, as the apostle Paul tells us, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13) and in and through Christ so can we.

Therefore, I want to encourage you in this. As we become doers of the the Word, not be a hearer only, the Lord begins to do in us and through us great and wonderful things. So, do not let reason or vain thoughts have their way but, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) PTL... 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Beginning Again

At the stroke of midnight on December 31st one year ends and then one second after midnight a new year begins. Civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for at least four millennia. In the United States, the most iconic New Year’s tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. For many, celebrating New Years is similar to one celebrating their birthday. Like a birthday, for many, New Year’s Day provides the chance to celebrate having made it through another year. However, for many, New Years day means a new beginning. We see this played out through the many resolutions that people make on New Years.

A New Year's resolution is basically a decision to do or not do something in order to accomplish a personal goal or break a habit. It comes at a time when people look back at the past year and make an effort to improve themselves as the new year begins. Unfortunately, statistics reveal that only 8% of people who make New Years resolutions succeed in keeping them. This means that 92% of all New Years resolutions fail. Why? Mostly, people make unrealistic resolutions and or they are not really prepared mentally to fight off doubt and continue with their goals. But what about believers? Should they make New Years resolutions? There is certainly nothing wrong with making New Years resolutions, but the same conditions that bring failure still exist, unless believers put their trust fully in the Lord.

The Bible tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) Even the Apostle Paul learned a lesson of trusting the Lord in a greater way while he was being buffeted by a messenger of Satan. The Lord revealed to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9) Paul's response is quite interesting, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore 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." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

All believers, like the Apostle Paul must rely upon God's grace to get them through every area of life not only New Years resolutions. Grace is defined in Philippians 2:13 (AMPC) "[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight." And in Ephesians 3:20 (AMPC) "Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]" in a condensed way, God's grace is the power, strength, ability and energy of God at work in the believer to accomplish His will.

Another area to consider is understanding who believers are in Christ. When believers come to a full knowledge of no longer being identified with who they were before they were born again and know who they are in Christ, then they will understand what Jesus meant when He said, "nothing is impossible to those who believe." (Mark 9:23) Knowing who one truly is in Christ sets believers free from shame, condemnation, guilt and inferiority. They will walk in a freedom that will cause them to not simply make a resolution(s) but find the grace and power in God's Word to overcome and live victorious. For instance, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) The old nature, the old person that you were prior to your salvation is gone. You have been made completely new in Christ and have right standing with God. (Keep in mind that it is one's spirit, not their soul, ie, mind, will and emotions, and not their body that has been recreated)    

Finally, you must have and use your own faith. What does this mean? All believers one day must come to the place where their own faith has grown and has brought them to know without doubt, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) This is actually a realm of Christianity that few believers come to. Not because they do not desire to have this level of faith, but, it is mostly due to a lack of studying and meditating on God's Word which builds the believers faith and renews their mind. (Romans 10:17, 12:2)

When believers apply these things in their life it will change their behavior and thought patterns which in turn will cause them to accomplish their personal goals, but moreover the goals and or vision that the LORD has given. These things are not self imposed, but Holy Spirit inspired. The apostle Paul tells us to, "...Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) So, you see we do not have to make New Year resolutions to only have them fail. We can live in the power and ability of God everyday through faith in Jesus Christ to overcome every obstacle of life and do the impossible where others may fail. So this New Years, do not make a New Years resolution per se, but, "...lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of you." (Philippians 3:12) My prayer for you, as the Apostle John said, "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2) HAPPY NEW YEAR...  

Monday, December 19, 2022

Merry Christmas

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is a popular Christmas song written in 1963 by Edward Pola and George Wyle. It was recorded and released that year by singer Andy Williams on his first Christmas album, "The Andy Williams Christmas Album." The song is a celebration and description of activities associated with the Christmas season, focusing primarily on getting together with friends and families. But is the Christmas season the most wonderful time of the year? Honestly, for many, they find nothing wonderful about the Christmas season. There are many reasons for this. For some, they are all alone, some remember a loved one who has passed away, some may fall prey to stress and cannot wait for the Christmas season to end and some are of a religious persuasion that do not celebrate any of the aspects of the Christmas season. Every person will experience the many difficult situation that life brings. However, everyone of us has a choice. For all of us, we can focus on the problems, or remember the good things and good times.

For Christians, although we know that Jesus was not born on December 25th, we should never forget first and foremost, the depths of what the Christmas season really means. I remember the Charles Schulz Christmas program, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that made its television debuted in 1965 and is still being aired today. Basically, Charlie Brown wants to discover the meaning of Christmas in which Linus explains in brief the birth of Christ the Savior. When we look closely at the birth of Christ, we discover the immeasurable love of God toward humanity. The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul reveals mans condition since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, "...having no hope and without God in the world." (Ephesians 2:12) and "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Mankind could not find his way back to God on his own. He was in need of a mediator that could stand before God on behalf of man.  The only way that this could be accomplished is that God Himself would assume mans liability for all the crimes which man committed since the fall. This meant that deity and humanity must come together to meet mans greatest need, redemption.

The incarnation of Christ is certainly a remarkable event in the history of man and should certainly be celebrated. It is what Christmas is all about. However, when the difficulties of life try to rob such a wonderful event from our hearts and minds. Let's remember that there was even a greater event that took place in humanity. Jesus, the God-Man was born for one main purpose, to save humanity from Satan's power and give to all people eternal life with God to those who confess with the mouth and believe in the heart the LORD Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior. (John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10; Colossians 2:13-15) 

The Apostle Paul tells us of the commission that he received from Christ for humanity, " open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ." (Acts 26:18) and "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) The Savior would have to suffer in two realms, the natural through the horrific beating and crucifixion of His body and the spiritual realm. His spirit would become impregnated with sin (2 Corinthians 5:21) and He would be separated from the Father (Matthew 27:46) and spend three days in hell (Matthew 12:40, Acts 2:31, Ephesians 4:9) where He suffered and was tormented beyond our comprehension.

The Bible tells us that Jesus paid in full mans sin debt, by dying a death that all people should die. He then arose from the grave, ascended to heaven, offered His own blood and sat down at the right hand of the Father (Romans 5:17-21, Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:51, Hebrews 9:12, 10:12) So, during this Christmas season if you feel the weight of life trying to come upon you, let's remember what Jesus the Savior has done for each of us. In doing so, the burdens will be lifted (Matthew 11:28-30) and we can enjoy this wonderful festive Christmas season. Have a very Merry Christmas.