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.”

Global Warming

Image by Parabol Studio via Shutterstock.com, with elements furnished by NASA

Global Warming: The Real Thing!

The Second Letter of Peter; Chapter 3

In 2006 Al Gore was the narrator and brain child of the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, whose focus was the impending destruction brought about by global warming. Apparently Mr. Gore did not realize just how accurate his prognosis was, according to this chapter in 2 Peter.

1-2 This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

3-4 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

5-7 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

Present heavens and earth stored up for fire

8-10 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Never lose sight of the eternal world

11-13 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14-16 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. 15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

17-18 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Yes, it is true, the current heavens and earth will pass away in a violent ball of flame. But then, God will speak into existence new heavens and earth for us to dwell in forever. Until that day, verse 14 explains our orders, “And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make very effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight.”

Why would God do this? Read verse 7, above. By His Word God made the heavens and earth. And by His Word, He will enact a day of judgment when ungodly people will be destroyed.

Contented

“And My people will be satisfied with My goodness.” Jeremiah 31:14 

A synonym for contented is satisfied. And God has made us fully satisfied because of our relationship with Christ. Since that is so, when I become discontent or dissatisfied, I am actually saying God’s hand in my life is not sufficient to keep me contented. Which brings me to the unhappy conclusion that I am tearing at the fabric of my eternal relationship with my Lord and Savior. Rather than immersing myself in His Word and bathing myself in true contentment and satisfaction, I have turned to my own selfish desires where I find, not surprisingly, discontentment. Lord Jesus, forgive my shallow desires and bathe me in your everlasting Word. 

2 Corinthians 12:10  “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  

Romans 5:1-5  “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, 4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  

Philippians 4:11  “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”  

2 Corinthians 9:8  “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8  “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be content with what you have, for He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you. 6 This is why we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper, and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?”  

Proverbs 30:7-9  “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. 8 First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! 

    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs 9 For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. 

What now? We are laid bare before God, our excuses piled high like cord wood, waiting for a heavenly match to set them afire, burning away the impurities with only glowing hot embers of faith and contentment in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ remaining.  

Oh God, thank you for your eternal patience, grace and mercy. We see your light of hope gleaming brightly just over the horizon, beckoning us ever nearer to walk along this life-path, hand-in-hand. 

“But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins.”  1 John 1:7 

Follow Me!

“He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out…” John 2:15

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the city, with shoppers looking for bargains and negotiating for the best prices. They learned to favor the tables and stalls in the portico of the church. It was cooler and one could take time looking over the animals, goods and produce. Although it was on church grounds, buyers knew these sellers had the best variety.. 

Because of the Passover feast, sales were brisk at the market as the people needed sacrificial animals. Commerce had crept into their worship so thoroughly that no one noticed…except for one man on this day.

Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover and remember, with his disciples, God’s deliverance from the Angel of death. The blood of an innocent lamb brought their deliverance, just as His blood was about to deliver all people from the penalty of their sins.

 Jesus became incensed at what he saw; they were turning His Father’s house of worship into a house of commerce. This would not do. Grabbing common items readily available he fashioned a whip and returned to the temple/market renouncing their behavior, tossing tables over, scattering sellers and buyers alike, driving them and their animals from the temple!

Above the chaos, people heard his booming voice, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” John 2:16 CEB

After this shocking display the Jewish leaders demanded that he explain his behavior; to which Jesus said, “All right. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” NLT They didn’t understand he was referring to his own resurrection.

Would it be different today? Would we behave differently toward such extreme behavior from a pastor? Using hindsight and the benefit of two thousand years, we casually read over this event, understanding that Jesus was confronting the malaise of the church as it blended with the world, as many of us have today.

Jesus broke the religious rules; he challenged all current religious ideas of behavior and demanded action from his followers. Walking along the sea shore, Jesus called out to men, instructing them to lay down their lives right then and follow him. Not only did this cut off their earnings, it damaged the family business as well.

Would we respond differently today? If this type of Jesus barged into our church-world how would we receive him? If he showed up at a church bazaar, throwing tables and money about, what would we think? We would probably think he was crazy or too radical. We want church leaders who are more reasonable and predictable. We don’t want to be challenged to give up more and love more (especially to those who are slightly repugnant to us). We desire to feel comfortable in our church surroundings, smiling amiably to fellow members. We desire people who are easy to love.

Matt. 4:17  From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Matt. 4:18-22  “As Jesus walked alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew, throwing fishing nets into the sea, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.” 20 Right away, they left their nets and followed him. 21 Continuing on, he saw another set of brothers, James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee, their father repairing their nets. Jesus called them and 22 immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”

Jesus was the master of confrontation; the epitome of bluntness; his words penetrated the heart and stirred people to action. 

Matt. 7:24-27  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Matt. 8:21-22  “Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

Would it be different today? Is it? Do we expect God to work through us, through our church services, through our daily lives? Do we take up our cross daily? Imagine our response to the Lord if He told us to walk away from the funeral proceedings we were responsible for, and follow Me!

Luke 9:23  “Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”

Most of us cling tightly to our lives, our plans, our responsibilities. A close friend’s mother passed away some time ago and he was overwhelmed with the details of her funeral and memorial service following. It was an emotional time for all of his family. Consider now, Jesus walking up to him, in the midst of planning, fixing his gaze upon him saying, “Walk away, leave all this and follow me. Let these others bury the dead.” That would be crazy, we would say. And yet that is exactly what Jesus did!”

His Blood

“The blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin” 1 John 1:7

I had been a Christian for a short time when Victor Ernest, the pastor of my church told me the following story.

“I grew up in a spiritualist family. We believed that God was working through us and did not know it was actually the devil. We held seances in our home. One member of the family was the Medium who gave themselves to the spiritual force at each meeting. The medium, who was my sister, would slump in her chair as the spirit would talk to the people at the table. We could ask questions and the voice would answer. I was chosen to be the next medium in our family.

“Something inside me (I now know it was the Holy Spirit of God) guided me to a department store one day to buy a Bible. This was totally foreign to me but the guidance was strong. I knew nothing about bibles except I had seen very large ones on people’s coffee tables. I only had enough money to buy a small one (I thought it was just part of the bible).

“Secretly I took it home and began to read. Of course I began at the beginning, trying to understand Genesis, Leviticus, etc. I hid my Bible after each reading. One night, as I opened the bible, I was guided to read in the Book of First John and read about trying or testing the spirits: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.” 1 John 4:1.

“Later I read about the blood of Jesus as follows: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God…For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jersus is the Son of God.

“And Jesus Christ was revealed as God’s Son by his baptism in water, and by shedding His blood on the cross— not by water only, but by water and blood.” 1 John 5:1, 4-6

“I wasn’t exactly sure what I had just read or how important a part it would play in my life until a few days later at our next seance.

“Strangely enough, this seance was a question and answer time. After my sister allowed the spirit to take over and she slumped in her chair, a small megaphone raised off the table and floated in the air. It stopped at each person and we were allowed to ask a question. On this night, the megaphone allowed us to ask three questions in total.

“My first question was, Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” I had no idea I would ask this question! I did not know that the Spirit of God was directing me. The megaphone answered, “Of course my son,” and passed on.

My second question was, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior?” The megaphone answered, “Of course my son, why do you doubt?” I was stunned and confused by this time.

My third question was, “Do you believe that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from our sins?” The megaphone fell to the table and my sister was thrown backwards out of her chair. The seance was over and I knew my life would never be the same. Somehow I knew that my spiritual experiences to this point were not of God and I wanted to find out all about God. Shortly after that meeting, I packed my clothes and left home. I was 17. 

Ephesians 1:6-8, “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”

God changed the life of Victor Ernest when He revealed Himself through the Bible and that dramatic question and answer time in his home. Victor learned about the Holy Spirit and the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, which he freely shared for the remainder of his life. God brought me to hear Victor preach the truth of God’s Word. I gave my heart to Christ as a result of his preaching. 

The Savior Is Born


“The Savior, yes the Messiah, has been born this day” ~Luke 2:11

“The kids were so good in the Christmas pageant this year and it was so cute watching Sue and Ken’s little one play the part of baby Jesus,” said Claire.

“Yes, that was great. And Jimmy as one of the shepherds looked so good,” said Paul.

“Well, until his beard began to come off,” Claire chuckled.

And so it goes in children’s books and church plays; the baby Jesus, shepherds, scattered animals and three wise men carrying gifts, coming together in a makeshift manger scene. As the old saying goes, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

What’s wrong is the message. If you watched this pageant in your church what were your feelings? Did the simple child actors convey the importance of Christ’s birth to the audience? No! These children’s plays bring parental feelings of love for the actors, pride in their achievements with a little humor along the way. So what’s wrong with that you may ask.

Without exception, the birth of Jesus Christ is the most important human birth in the history of the world! His birth, the birth of our Savior, should bring jubilation, joy, amazement. The sanctuaries should resound with Hosannah’s and praise the Lord, our Savior is born. How did Luke describe the announcement to the shepherds?:

“That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

“Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

If we are to stage a reenactment of this unique historical moment, should’t we also include the angel Gabriel’s meeting with Mary before she became miraculously pregnant as found in Luke 1:26-38?

What must that have been like for Mary? The angel Gabriel sent by God to announce she would become pregnant and give birth to the Son of the Most High.

“Greetings favored woman! The Lord is with you! Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how  can this happen? I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.”

Lord God we praise your name. Through the virgin birth of your Son, Jesus, our Redeemer, you have saved our souls and forgiven our sins. We celebrate His birth and rejoice in our favor. We are jubilant and thankful that you love us so dearly you’ve sent Jesus to take upon Himself the death sentence brought about by our sins, as only He could do. Without earning it, simply by our proclamation of faith, you’ve cleansed our hearts and saved our souls. Let us celebrate the birth of our Savior whose obedience, even to his death on the cross, opened the door for our eternal forgiveness.

Children’s Christmas pageants are lovely, delightful, tender and filled with childlike innocence. They should always be on the annual calendar of events. But they should not be our only mention of this most revered, awesome, singular birth in the history of our world. Can we ever say Thank You enough?