Blessings & Trials

Blessings and Trials 

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings”  Romans 5:3 

How often have you heard it or thought it? It goes something like this, “Friends, God wants to bless you today. He wants you to have that promotion, to get that new house and car. God does not hold back on giving the ones He loves the desires of their hearts.” And then what follows are a few examples that send shivers up our spines as we begin to visualize those “blessings” pouring down from the hand of God. Sort of like a divine vending machine, just waiting for us to break the code and ask for stuff so we can be happy little Christians, surrounded by material blessings Jesus died for us to receive. 

Maybe that last part was a little harsh, eh? Kind of make you wince a little, perhaps arch an eyebrow or raise the anger level just a tad? I speak from experience, my friends. I have pleaded with God for things. I’ve lined up all my behavior, prayer time, sacrificial giving (more than ten percent) and helping at church. And yet…! 

And then it occurred to me that I was asking God to bless my desires, to bring forth the items as requested. “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25 

Confronting my sinfulness, the Holy Spirit methodically revealed Scriptures which explained just how our Heavenly Father wants us to live. He wants us to know what we should expect, as followers of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Romans 8:17-18  “And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share His glory, we must also share His suffering. Yet, what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.” 

2 Cor 4:17-18  “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 

These Scriptures, as so many others, snap us to reality. The reality of actually living the Gospel, not just talking about it. Jesus set the example by his beating, torture and death. How can we possibly skip past the shocking sacrifice He made for us so we can rationalize our materialistic desires? If you want blessings, and that’s just fine, here are examples: 

John 20:29  Jesus said to him, “(Words in Red)  Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 

1 Peter 1:8-9  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 

Acts 20:35  In everything I have shown you that, by working hard, we must help the weak. In this way we remember the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” 

James 1:12  God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 

And the most famous and least taught today is found in Matthew 5:3-9  “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. 6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. 7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. 9 God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. 

To our Lord and Savior, blessings and sufferings are intertwined as the strands of a rope. Because, unlike us, His view is eternal. He sees through this temporary life, into the everlasting one. He was able to look through the suffering of the cross to what lay beyond. 

1 Peter 4:12-14   Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you. 

If we intend on living our lives for Christ, as lights in a dark world, we must shift our focus from this materialistic, self-indulging world to the life of temporary trials and sufferings that refine and strengthen us. Trials that replace sinful appetites with Godly desires. Our aim should be to “count it all joy” when we’re beset with trials just as athletes in training are willing to undergo hours of pain and self-denial for the crown that awaits. But their crown is temporary while ours is eternal. 

Romans 8

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rom. 8:31 

The Bible is filled with life-altering instructions, stories, and the recorded words of Jesus. The Bible is matchless; God’s words, given through 40 authors over a period of 1500 years. And yet, incredible as it may seem, from beginning to end is a flawless thread of God’s perfect plan to redeem all people, to save our souls and restore us to perfection with Him in eternal glory.

How do we know this to be true? He gave us the answer in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

Reading the Bible is like listening to heavenly Books on Tape. God Himself is communicating with us as only the Creator of the universe can do. Take heart as you remember that God proved His love for us by sending His only Son Jesus to wash away our sins with His very own blood. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Romans 8:28-39 

28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. 

 31 “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? 33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. 

 35 “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 

 38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Engrave these words of God on your heart and mind. Call upon them during times of fear, depression, anxiety, frustration, doubt and failure. God’s words never fail or lose their power.  

Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.  

Psalms 12:6 And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace. . .purified seven times.  

Peace and Calm

Peace and Calm 

September 4, 2021

“With His love, He will calm all your fears”  Zephaniah 3:17 

Given a choice, most of us want a calm and peaceful life. As believers, we think that Jesus died not only to save our souls, but to grant us asylum from the world and its frantic, challenging existence. A sort of pre-heaven perfection. 

For sailors who use sails rather than engines, a calm and peaceful sea is the worst possible condition. The craft cannot navigate, cannot move, cannot be directed to their goal. A boat on a glassy sea is a boat adrift. God has no intention for us to be adrift in this world. He has placed us in the powerful seas of life and has promised to be our rudder. 

The calm and peace that God does promise is from the inside, from the Holy Spirit. His calm is the perfect calm because it exists in spite of the tumult of the world. In the midst of the “perfect storm” God promises an eternal peace. 

Philippians 4:6-7   “Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (J.B. Phillips )

1 Peter 1:2  “Dear friends, God the Father chose you long ago and knew you would become His children. And the Holy Spirit has been at work in your hearts, cleansing them with the blood of Jesus Christ and making you anxious to please Him. May God bless you richly and grant you increasing freedom from all anxiety and fear.”  (TLB )

John 14:27  “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (NLT)

God’s peace is tied to our faith, it comes from within. As we walk in faith, believing that God never leaves us alone, our sense of peace is strengthened and built up. The peace of God is a gift, just as Jesus promised. We didn’t earn it and it cannot be taken away…unless we refuse to accept it! There are times when the peace of God is stillness. 

Psalm 46:10  “Be still and know that I am God!” (NIV)

God’s peace always inhabits our praise. Praising God will generate a sense of peace and wellness as nothing else can. 

The man prayed and prayed, asking God for peace. Finally he heard the Lord say, “I’ve already given you my peace, now you must get up and do something to experience it.” 

Rom. 8:6  “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (NIV)                 

Gal. 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (NIV)

Isa. 26:3-4  “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the LORD always, for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock. “ (NLT)

Phil. 4:11-13 “For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” (NLT)

George was transferred to the job of his dreams after years of hard work and constant prayer. It seemed as though God had granted him his desire. A huge raise in pay, better benefits, pension, and a percentage of profits. He was happy and content. He beamed. Until that fateful company meeting where he was told, by the assistant vice president (the president and vice president had skipped town) the company was bankrupt! They were insolvent. Mismanagement and fraud had destroyed a great company and thrown George, along with hundreds of other employees, into the unemployment lines.  

As a believer, George has an opportunity to walk in God’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding. He can realize, as the apostle Paul did, that contentment is not based on money or position or anything in the world.  

Psalm 4:8  “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” 

New Self

“Put on the new self, created to be like God”  Ephesians 4:24 

William’s first experiment with drugs was his last year in high school. Wow, was it fun to be with so many cool “friends” expanding their minds with various pharmaceuticals. William was certain the drugs increased his creative abilities and opened his mind to greater understanding. They also sank their evil talons into his soul with a powerful death-grip, creating a tremendous addiction that sent William spiraling into an abyss of destruction. Within a few months, he was an addict. 

Eight years later, after several stints in jail, loss of friends and relationships, William discovered he qualified for a sponsored rehab out in the clean air of the desert. He had high hopes. This would change his life. And it did…temporarily. His new life lasted three short months until one of his former friends invited him to a party where drugs flowed freely. His will power was not up to this formidable test, he was back on the slippery slide to destruction.  

William’s life is not unusual. Most people cannot possibly stay clean from drugs and alcohol on their own. True change, life-change, is only possible through faith in Christ because He provides supernatural power to overcome these mind-numbing addictions. With Christ in your life, fending off the Devil’s attacks, permanent change is indeed possible. Faith in Christ brings a new life. 

Ephesians 4:22-24  “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”   

2 Peter 1:3-4  “By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know Him, the one who called us to Himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence. And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” 

Galatians 2:20  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  

Colossians 3:1-4  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”  

Colossians 3:13-16  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” 

Philippians 2:1-4   “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  

But what if I am a Christian and have given myself to sin more than once. Does that mean God’s power is not in me or strong enough to help me avoid the sin? No! God has done everything necessary to give us new life and daily renewal. His forgiveness is everlasting. If I am struggling with sin, God has provided the way to victory. He created us and understands our weaknesses.  

1 Corinthians 10:13  “Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps His promise, and He will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, He will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.” 

1 John 1:8-9  “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, He will keep his promise and do what is right: He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” 

Walking with God provides a new life, a life free of condemnation. Jesus is at the right hand of God’s throne, fending off all of Satan’s accusations and granting us forgiveness of all sin. However, once we have tasted the incredible love of Christ, it is our responsibility to want a new life, to repent of our sins, to believe in the Bible which is God’s guidebook for all Christians. Our forgiveness is absolute but we have to accept it as absolute.  

God’s Will

Bible Study 

God’s Will 

“Do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” Ephesians 5:17 

Most of us, either openly or secretly, struggle with finding God’s will for our lives. Sometimes we long for an audible voice giving us directions or telling us the answer. One problem with waiting for His voice is we do nothing, just in case we might go against His will. But what if we already know His will? What if He has clearly revealed His will for our lives?  

First, let’s strip away theological meanderings, traditional liturgy, and false expectations. Let’s prepare the soil of our hearts and minds for a new crop; plow up the crusty surface of misunderstandings and misconceptions to receive His direction; to know His will. Lo and behold, bits and pieces of this deep mystery (or so we think of it) rise from His written word, the book of absolute truth…there all the time! 

  1. Romans 12:2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 
  2. 1 Thessalonians 4:3  God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to him. This means that you stay away from sexual immorality
  3.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 
  4. Ephesians 5:15-17  Be very careful then, how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We should be encouraged and relieved to know that God has revealed His will to us through the Bible. As believers we are prepared to walk this walk and know His will for our lives. We are also instructed to pray for each other to understand God’s His will for our lives, according to the following verses: 

       5.   Colossians 1:9  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 

      6.    Ephesians 1:15-17  For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 

“Here then, are three keys for knowing God’s will. The first is a yielded body, the second a separated life, and the third a transformed mind.” William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary. 

Our Heavenly Father has done everything to prepare us to live according to His will. He has given us all we need to follow His direction. We are saved, forgiven of all sins, filled with His Holy Spirit and armed with the Word of God. As we pray, fellowship with other believers and read His word, we will understand His perfect will for our lives. 

Regarding daily decisions, sometimes God wants us to make our own decisions, trusting in Him to prepare the way. If God does not want us to go or do something, He will do everything to let us know. As followers of Christ, ours is a life of faith: “For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 

Promises

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 

God’s Biblical promises never change! In our world of confusion, deceit, fraud and disappointment, the ONLY absolute is God’s word. 

Philippians 4:19  (New American Standard Bible)  And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 

Psalm 84:11-12 (Today’s New International Version) 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;  the LORD bestows favor and honor;  no good thing does he withhold  from those whose walk is blameless. 12 LORD Almighty,  blessed are those who trust in you. 

  Take Him at His word! Believe what He has said to us. When you are discouraged, filled with doubt, cannot see how your life will ever work out–trust in His promises even though it may seem impossible; 2 Corinthians 5:7 (Christian Standard Bible) “For we walk by faith, not by sight”. 

2 Corinthians 9:8 (Christian Standard Bible)  And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.   

Psalm 23  (New Living Translation) The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. 

Ephesians 3:14-21 (New Living Translation)  14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. 

James 1:2-8  (New Living Translation) 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

It was a difficult week for me. I kept having sharp pains in my chest. Could it be heart attacks, I wondered? Even though I was familiar with the possibility, I chose to ignore the pains. After all, they only lasted a minute or so. And not painful enough to drop me to my knees. Until Friday afternoon. My wife and I were in Costco and the pain demanded to be addressed. I was debilitated and in agonizing pain. In time, this too, passed.

However, that evening it returned, even stronger. So strong and painful I thought I would die. I was taken to the hospital and had surgery to install two stents since  my arteries were 90% clogged. 

During the most painful chest pains, I understood the Holy Spirit speaking to me; “You always suffer through painful trials without complaining but you never consider them an opportunity for great joy! as I have instructed you to do. I want you to do that. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:2-3 (New Living Translation)

Ephesians 6:10-18 (Contemporary English Version)  10Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. 11Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. 12We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world. 13So put on all the armor that God gives. Then when that evil day comes, you will be able to defend yourself. And when the battle is over, you will still be standing firm. 14Be ready! Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God’s justice protect you like armor. 15Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. 16Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Let God’s saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God’s message that comes from the Spirit.18Never stop praying, especially for others. Always pray by the power of the Spirit. Stay alert and keep praying for God’s people. 

I could have died while suffering those chest pains but in spite of foolishly ignoring them, God kept me alive. Why? Some day we may discover the answer to that and millions of other questions…but that is His business, and so far, He chooses to keep us in the dark as He continues to guide us with His Light, Jesus Christ: “I have come into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness.” (Good News Translation)

We Are His Masterpiece

“For we are God’s masterpiece.” Eph. 2:10

Mike was 56 and had been a Christian for most of his life so he had settled into a mediocre form of faith in Christ. His examples growing up were two parents displaying opposite ends of the faith spectrum. His father was stoic and bound by rules he thought Christians should follow. His mother was frantic, fearing they would all end up in hell because they were not perfect. Mike carried a little of both views in his adult life.

After a life of half-hearted Christianity and secret sins, Mike began to wonder if he was really “saved”. He was walking in doubt, hoping he would be allowed into heaven but secretly doubting it. His feelings of failure and unworthiness grew each passing year because Mike was not working on his relationship with Christ. Mike had become lukewarm and no longer understood his total forgiveness and right standing in Christ.

Ephesians 2:8-10 “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

Mike’s eternal standing is secure and his life on earth can be filled with that assurance, rather than the forboding of imaginary unforgiveness which is a lie from the enemy of our souls. Satan wants Mike and any other Christian in doubt, to give up the promises of God and live in doubt—hopeless and ineffectual. Jesus wants us to repent of our sins, walking in the newness of life with Christ no matter what our situation.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 “For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

2 Timothy 1:9 “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

For various reasons, we take on the responsibility of saving ourselves, wrenching that responsibility and promise from Jesus. The Bible reminds us that Jesus’ death on the cross brought ultimate forgiveness to all who call upon His name. But because of Satan’s lies and our misplaced “feelings”, we fall into disbelief and discouragement.

Two men served in Viet Nam. During combat, one was wounded. His buddy carried him through the jungle for two days. The wounded man begged his friend to leave him so he could make it. He refused and they finally found base camp.

Years later, the one who was carried heard that his friend had a terminal disease and was bed-ridden. Since he was no longer married, he sold all his possessions and moved to live with his dying friend. He nursed him for over a year until the disease claimed his life. When asked why he did this, he replied, “He saved my life. There is nothing I would not have done for him to show my gratitude.”

Jesus gave His life to rescue us for all eternity. Is there nothing we would not do to show our gratitude?

Luke 10:19-20 “It is true that I have given you the power to tread on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the enemy’s power—there is nothing at all that can do you any harm. Yet it is not your power over evil spirits which should give such joy, but the fact that your names are written in Heaven.”

How Can I Experience God’s Peace?

“ I forget what is behind” ~Philippians 3:13

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.

What about those times we can’t find the bliss of sleep, tossing and turning as we replay the day’s challenges or those just around the corner of tomorrow? As the infomercial salesman says, “But wait, I have a solution for that!” And God really does. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

Are you carrying unnecessary burdens around like a steamer trunk? Going to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to relieve you of these burdens; thanking Him for His grace, forgiveness and mercy and then, after your prayers, you pick up your heavy load and walk away?

Do you find yourself thinking these thoughts, “I know God has forgiven me but—” “His grace and mercy are so wonderful but—” “I know He wants me to stop worrying about life but—” Are you really a believer or are you but-ing yourself into sleepless nights and a stomach ulcer?

What is God’s promised peace? Is it tangible or spiritual and is it impervious to Satan’s attacks and worldly pressures? Finally, is His peace permanent? Answers to this question are found in the Bible.

John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus made these promises to his followers as they were under tyrannical Roman rule. Not only that but they had chosen to walk away from their religious leaders to follow Christ which  brought scorn, arrests, beatings, and death! 

If Jesus could promise his followers in such dire living conditions that he was giving them peace, how can we possibly doubt his promises today? Consequently, if I am not walking in the peace of Christ that passes human understanding, who is to blame?

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

Romans 8:1-2; 9 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Philippians 3:7-9  But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him.” 

Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (knowing Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. Additionally, His sacrifice blotted out our past sins as well. Our arch-enemy, Satan will attempt to rekindle our memories of past failures but the shield of faith prevents those fiery darts from hitting home. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day. . .guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

Distilling It Down!

“Jesus, remember me” ~Luke 23:42

Jake and Scott found a booth, ordered coffee and a danish. It was their regular Monday, Wednesday routine. They shared classes on those days and became friends. They got great stimulation from discussing the lectures together. Sometimes their thoughts lined up but sometimes not, as was the case this day.

“What did you think of today’s lecture, Jake? I was surprised by his bald-faced, simple statement of faith in God. How could a guy so smart fall for that childish stuff?”

“I’d say it was a pretty deep faith for him to sort of preach to us today. By the way, he said his faith was in Christ.”

Taking a bite of his danish, Scott was obviously pondering. Then he said, “What’s the difference? And how do you have faith in someone who died like many other criminals thousands of years ago. Seems to me Jesus was just another misguided Jew looking for a following or just fighting against the Pharisees and the Roman government.”

“What do you think of Buddah, Scott? We both know some people who read about and try to follow his teachings and yet you don’t come against their faith as you are with those who profess faith in Christ.”

“Yeah, good point,” said Scott. “Except the Buddah was not executed as a criminal…was he?”

“No, I read once that he died of food poisoning when he was about 80. But back to Jesus. Not only did He bring lots of chaos and problems among the Jewish religious leaders, He claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior and Messiah.”

“Well, I heard that He was a prophet and a pretty good teacher so that’s good.”

Working on their second coffee, the men continued to discuss Jesus and who He really was. Or, as the professor said, “Jesus is still alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father!”

Finally Jake said, “Listen, Scott. I am a Christian and I believe in a living Savior, Jesus who died and was resurrected on the third day. Why don’t you open your phone to this Bible app and let’s read some verses so you can better understand what we’re talking about.”

1 Corinthians 2:1-2   

“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.” NLT

“Who was speaking here?” said Scott.

“That was the Apostle Paul who was a member of the Jewish religious leaders until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. We can talk more about that later. Just know that Paul’s transformation was a big deal since he had been arresting and killing followers of Christ.”

“Wow. What a difference.”

“Only God could make that sort of change,” said Jake. But let’s read more.”

Romans 3:21-25   

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past.” NLT

Romans 5:1-8   

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” NLT

“Scott, faith in Christ is simple, but also challenging. Let’s read a couple of verses in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus makes a promise to one of the criminals beside Him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus replied, I assure you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43 NLT

Jake said no more. They sipped their coffee. Scott was considering what he’d just learned and how it applied to him. “I have a sense this kind of decision to follow Christ would be a life-changer!”

“Sure would. Without bowing our heads or anything, let me pray with you, Scott. Just a simple prayer. Who knows, Life as you know it may be changing soon.” They prayed.

Obey The Government!

Obey the Government

March 27, 2021

“For God is the One who put it there” ~Romans 13:1

Phil, the church’s accountant, was stunned out of a sound sleep by the shrill ringing of his phone. Clearing the fog of sleep he answered and learned, to his consternation, that five of his congregants were in jail and needed him to post bond. The same frustrating five who willingly put themselves in opposition to the government, whether local or federal. As they saw it, the government is corrupt and needs someone to challenge it and they were those someones! But from Phil’s perspective, all these Christians did was stir the proverbial pot, bringing pain and problems, as well as wasting the churches money without any positive change. This morning, he took his time getting dressed.

An hour later, as they left the jail, Phil said, “I’ve got to say my piece here. When are you people going to stop causing all this trouble? You’re giving the church a bad name, not to mention Christians in general. Oh and people’s offerings too. Have you ever thought of that? Do you think the rest of us give tithe and offerings with the expectation of paying your bail?”

“Listen Phil, someone has to stand up for what’s right in our government. We can’t allow these corrupt people to just have their way, overtaxing us, forcing us to follow biased and wrong-spirited laws. We have to force the government to do what’s right!”

“Right according to who? You bunch? If you’re really concerned for the general welfare of your fellow citizens, run for office and really make a difference instead of acting like irresponsible teenagers; not to mention violating the Bible. Have you considered that?”

“What are you talking about, Phil. The last thing we would do is to violate God’s Word. God expects us to defend the downtrodden and those who cannot stand up for themselves.”

“Are you serious? What downtrodden are you helping? As for violating God’s Word, read the 13th chapter of Romans and see how you line up.”

“Well, what about in the Book of Acts when Peter and some others were arrested and they said they had to obey God rather than men.”

“Actually,” Phil replied, “ that happened because the apostles were preaching Jesus as well as performing miracles in His name. They were arrested but an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates, brought them out and told them to “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life.” and then they were re-arrested and that is when Peter said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

By this time they had arrived at the church. “I want you to come inside and we’ll have some coffee and share a little more about God establishing governments and kingdoms,” Phil said.

By now everyone was looking forward to what they might learn from the Lord. “Let’s look at Daniel 2:21, “World events are under [God’s] control. He removes kings and sets others on their thrones. He gives wise men their wisdom and scholars their intelligence.” We must remember that God is all powerful and very involved in world events. He is the creator and has a plan for His creations.”

“Now, let’s look at Romans 13:1, “Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.” During the Lord’s last three years on earth, did he ever say to his disciples that we must form groups and set about to overthrow this corrupt, evil government? Did Jesus confront any person of authority and demand better civil rights for everyone? Did he confront the Romans who were arresting, torturing, and killing His followers with demands they be released? Just the opposite.

One day Jesus called his disciples together and said, “Among the heathen, kings are tyrants and each minor official lords it over those beneath him. But among you it is quite different. Anyone wanting to be a leader among you must be your servant. And if you want to be right at the top, you must serve like a slave. Your attitude must be like My own, for I, the Messiah, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

“So,” Phil began, “what should we do about injustice and social wrongs? Since we have the Holy Spirit to guide us, we should always begin with the advice dispensed by the Book of James 1:5-8 “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and He will gladly tell you, for He is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask Him; He will not resent it. But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect Him to tell you for a doubtful mind will be as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; and every decision you then make will be uncertain, as you turn first this way, and then that. If you don’t ask with faith, don’t expect the Lord to give you any solid answer.”

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will disappear, but My Words remain forever.” Matthew 24:35

Since this is true, shouldn’t our focus be on spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?