Your Navigator

YOUR NAVIGATOR

 

Navigation systems have been around for years. It’s only been a short time that man has discovered them. Thirty miles away from my former home in North Carolina is a town called Bat Cave, you might have guessed it; bats live in caves in that area. Bats use echolocation to navigate and find food in the dark. They send out waves from their mouth or nose; when the sound wave hits an object, it produces an echo. They can detect an insect as small as a mosquito in complete darkness. Whales use sound waves to navigate in the water. We call that Sonar which is short for Sound Navigation and Ranging. Scientists first studied animals in order to gather data in developing electronically activated navigation devices.  

 

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite based system which is an aid in navigation. It is made up of a network of 24 satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense.  GPS was originally used for military operations in the 1980’s. Today the government has made the system available for civilian use. In the mid 70’s I had a pager clipped to my belt which allowed me to receive a beeping signal which displayed an electronic phone number from someone wanting to reach me. If I was on the road, I would have to locate a telephone booth in order to make a return call; we have progressed a lot more since then.   On the internet we can now pull up Google Earth and with new 3D imagery see cities, land, oceans, and mountains all with a click of a button. In joking we probably discussed which came first the chicken or the egg?  The real question should be did the animals come first, that God created which have built in navigational detectors, or the scientists and engineers who more recently invented electronic GPS devices?  In Colorado we see thousands of geese this time of year. They are migratory birds coming mostly from Canada and heading farther south. There are more than 650 species of North American breeding birds heading towards a warmer climate, more than ½ are migratory. A female bar-tailed godwit was recently found to have flown 7,145 miles nonstop from Alaska to New Zealand without taking a break for food or drink, the journey took nine days.  A study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and PRBO Conservation Science fitted satellite transmitters on 16 birds and tracked their flight. They were born having a built in navigation system. We’ve heard the phrase bird brain; even though it’s small in size we are no match to the birds when it comes to navigation. Some of these  birds have never made the long trip before, going sight unseen, and if they were off just 2 degrees, they would have missed New Zealand altogether.  

 

While pondering these thoughts, I began to wonder why God didn’t give us the ability to navigate like the animals we’ve discussed rather than needing to use handheld devices. Then the following thought occurred to me: These animals were created with different sensors in order to survive against harmful predators, be able to obtain food, and to exist in their particular environment. They use their instinct when needed in all situations. . Their length of life is relatively short compared to humans.  God designed us differently for a reason. When we study the Bible we begin to realize He is our guide.  The way we might think of it today is: He is our GPS.  He will lead or navigate us through a multitude of situations and we can never lose our way if we are reading and following His way.  Since God knows everything, He could have provided us with much more of this information 100 years ago, but He is more interested in our getting to know Him rather than just giving us more knowledge.  His desire is for us to have a relationship with Him.  So how can we do that?   Looking for answers in life from the Bible, learning for the sake of learning is not what He has in mind for us. 

2 Timothy 3:7 tells us, “Always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

   

 

It’s interesting to note the more knowledge we have, the smarter we think we become. Consequently, our feelings for God or belief that we need Him are set aside or used only as a last resort. As we become more independent, we become less dependent on Him. He is aware of that and sometimes gets our attention through pain or hardship in order to help us rethink our priorities in life. When we are young we think we can take all kind of risks and that no harm will come to us. We believe we will live forever. Once we realize 60-70% of our life has passed, we might become more open to where we might live once our time on this earth has ended. Some people may not want to consider, or talk about it.  They try and maintain a distant, non-talkative stance on the issue. Some may feel no one can really know, so let’s just forget about it and wait and see what happens when it happens. It’s interesting to me that many people plan for their retirement years, have a savings plan, look for ways to become debt-free, but at the same time give no thought to an after-life. At one time I thought that way, but by the guidance and help from friends, I have complete confidence where I will be taken after death. I now look at my life here on earth as merely basic training in preparation for the next one. So how can I be so confident in my next 100-200 years or longer?  It’s because I continue to read the Bible, have put my trust in God’s hands, and have received that inner peace that only He can give. The following verses found in the Bible have spoken to me and have given me that security and hope are found in the Bible. 

 

The hope I have in following Jesus Christ is found in

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” I can honestly say because I trust in the Lord I have that perfect peace and rest that He and only He can bring me each day. The thought, whose mind is stayed on Thee means, fixed or focused on Christ. It’s not the only thing I think about, but He is the motivating focus in my life. The desire to please Him first is my primary goal. By doing so, I follow His mission and plan to share His good news of salvation to others and act according to what His will is for me. There is a song that goes like this, “On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand.” So what is sinking sand? It is everything this world has to offer, a new home, a new car, money in the bank, a secure job, being active in or following sports, or traveling anywhere in the world. That by itself is not wrong, still it doesn’t compare to an intimate relationship one can have with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Another verse about peace is found in John 14:27, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 1 John 2:15-18, “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. For all that is in the world… the lust of the flesh… the lust of the eyes…  and the pride of life… is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

 

My hope is being in heaven with Jesus.

John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” The key verse in the Bible for one who wants to turn away from his sin, and wants a new joyful life is found in John 3:16-18, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life;” “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  

 

Once a person accepts Jesus Christ as his own personal Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit enters into his or her heart. He is the one who reveals the Truth of God’s Word to them which causes them to want to learn more about Him. Many times they develop a desire to memorize Bible verses which help them grow in the faith. They become keenly aware of activities taking place around them in the world and begin to discern the difference between good and evil. Satan, the evil one, restricts and suppresses these truths. He knows his time will be coming to an end and he wants everyone to forget Jesus Christ and the joy they will receive from knowing Him.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6, “If our gospel is veiled, (Hidden) it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age, (Satan) has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”   In other words, Satan doesn’t want people to know the truth. He will bring up all kind of things that have happened to them or their family in the past in order to keep them from listening and hearing the truth that God wants them to know. God wants to open our hearts and ears so one will hear and believes the truth. Since we are born with a free will, we can stubbornly close those thoughts out of our mind, trying to keep us from hearing the truth. In spite of this battle going on inside of one’s soul, God will see to it that His Word will not be forgotten, and He will bring it back to their mind in various ways and at various times. Isaiah 55:11, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

  Once a person trusts in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, and desires to follow Him wherever He leads them they automatically bond with other believers. I have met hundreds of Christians in the United States and from other parts of the world from east to west. Their backgrounds and culture may be different, still there is a common bond because of fact that Jesus Christ dwells in each of their lives and that common bond is what makes the relationship work. There are other friends I have known for 50 years, who have been successful in business or I have known since High School days, although we have certain things in common, the intimate bonding is not there because Satan keeps a wedge between us.  As a result there is not a common spiritual bond.

 

So why are all of these thoughts important? It’s because I know the consequences my friends will face if they just float through life and ignore the message. What is the message? It’s simply that by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, recognizing we are sinners, and He died on the cross to save us from our sins, then through faith we will have eternal life. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people, if there is no evidence that Christ is the center of one’s life and their focus is only on themselves instead of Him, then they will be in for a big surprise at the end. I care too much to see that happen to them.

Romans 14:10-12  tells us this, “…For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written as I live every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God”, so then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

It’s not about what we’ve done for Him or others, but what He’s already done for us that we can have salvation.   

 

As I begin this New Year, 2017, I’m looking forward to getting to know God in a deeper more meaningful way. By finding and reading a Bible, you can let Him speak to you as well. This year could be the best New Year of your life. The choice is yours; I hope you’ll join me. We can grow together in learning these truths. In conclusion, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



“God the Son”

GOD THE SON

 

God the Son, is that right? Shouldn’t it be Son of God? By changing the order of the words are we implying that Jesus Christ is actually God? If He’s the Son, doesn’t that mean He is lower than God? We know in our human life that a father precedes the son, so isn’t the same way in the spiritual world? Why do we capitalize letters in front of Jesus’s name? Should He be elevated as high as God in the Old Testament? These are great questions that have passed through my mind also at one time. Considering this is the Christmas season and you’ve probably heard someone say, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  Let’s explore some references and then I’ll leave it up to you to make up your own mind, fair enough?   

 

Even though there are hundreds of belief systems in the world, they usually have the same thing in common. That is, they either elevate man by trying to make him like God or try and reduce God to man’s level. That ideology seems easier to accept rather than attempt to fathom how much greater God is than mortal man. Ask yourself this, “If God is merely man, how does He keep all the stars and galaxies in place, the sun to rise in the east each morning and set in the west? How about all the amazing created things we see all around us? If man is elevated like God, what makes that individual greater or more special than the rest of us?”  Rather than listening to someone, who has developed what he or she thinks one should believe written only a short time ago, let’s reach back hundreds of years and see what God is trying to share with us today. If we are open to learning, and willing to listen; could it be He has a message for us that might draw a connection between what we may think of God, and the baby we celebrate on Christmas day?

 

By beginning with the Bible which has been around for centuries, we will try and see if it will shed some light on these questions. Instead of reading what someone else may say about the Bible, why not let the Bible speak for itself by comparing one Scripture with another?  If God has a message for us, He should be able to convey that message to us within one book and not as a substitute for another man’s written opinion. Some may be thinking isn’t the Bible just a book written by men? That’s a legitimate question, so we will begin with a verse where the Bible tells about itself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

The events in the Bible were written over a 1,600 year span of time. Forty different authors were used to carry out a central theme. Each one was different from the other.  Dr. Luke, who wrote the book of Luke, was a physician while Peter, who wrote the book of Peter, was a fisherman. Those books and others in the New Testament were written within 50 to 100 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Some of the Old Testament books date back as early as 1,450 BC. (Before Christ)  Although we don’t have an exact timeframe on the book of Job, some Biblical Scholars think it could be the oldest book written. It is the first of the wisdom books in the Old Testament and ties in well with the Epistle of James in the New Testament with the theme of suffering and practical living. The overall theme displayed throughout both the Old and New Testaments is Redemption and our need for a Redeemer and Savior to place us in good standing with God.  

 

How could all the writings happen the way they did? The beginning of the verse

2 Timothy 3:16 starts out, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”

Inspiration is God divinely interacting or leading the authors of the Scriptures in their writings to reveal a God given message to all mankind. Considering how it ties together in so many ways, it is totally different from any other book. God used the authors without changing their own personalities and abilities.  It was God-breathed.  If we accept the fact that the authority of the Scriptures and its writings, ultimately came from God, then we should be able to accept and recognize other supernatural events that have taken place in years past which would give us guidance and wisdom for the present and future. Now we’ll dig a little deeper into how something that was spoken in the Old Testament will give us some clarity and understanding to the birth of Jesus Christ written in the New Testament.

 

Last year at Christmas time we referred to a verse in the Old Testament which was Isaiah 9:6.  We will use this as a foundation or platform to learn more about God and what was said about Jesus Christ. At the time this was considered a prophetic verse which predicts events that will take place in the future. These prophesies were written by the prophet Isaiah around 700 BC. Of course he couldn’t know of these events; it had to be revealed to him through the inspiration of God. We will elaborate on its meaning as we continue this devotional.

Isaiah 9:6-7a, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”

 

This is a pivotal verse that ties the Old and New Testament together.

“For unto us a Child is born,” hadn’t taken place yet and wouldn’t for 700 years afterwards. Since God knows everything from eternity past to eternity future, He’s the one who had to instruct Isaiah what to write at that time, as well as, the others who will provide us will more insight. Back to the thought of God the Son, what does the New Testament say about this Child? The book of Matthew is the beginning of the New Testament. The theme is Christ the King, the genealogy and birth of Jesus and His early life. Matthew 1:18-24, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, “for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son, and called His name Jesus.”

 

A lot is taking place in the first chapter of Matthew. We may be more familiar with God the Father, but hadn’t thought of Him being God the Son, and now the introduction of God the Holy Spirit. Each one has a separate role or responsibilities, yet they are still the same God. This is what we call the Trinity. There is not an adequate illustration to describe the trinity, some think of water which can be solid like ice, a liquid, or steam from a kettle, all being used differently, but each is water. All three characteristics and attributes of God are far more complex than water, but our human mind can’t adequately comprehend it. Now why do you think it was necessary for Mary to be conceived by the Holy Spirit?  Why was the virgin birth important? Jesus had a heavenly origin, He was not born like us, but always was. If Joseph were His true father, then Jesus would only be a human being and not the Son of God. Life is in the blood, and we’ve inherited a sinful nature passed on through the blood of former generations. The Scripture tells us in

1 John 3:5, “He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.”

Because of that, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice and substitute for our sins. We need the faith to believe that or we will not receive the benefits of salvation either in this life or the next. For those who believe, their future home will be in Heaven.  

 

Jesus knew before his entrance on this earth what his mission was. He became a man, grew up and died and rose again to become our Savior.

John 17:1-8 is a conversation between Himself and God the Father, who couldn’t look at our sin except through Jesus Christ our substitute. The conversation that took place gives us some insight and understanding that Jesus fulfilled His mission here on earth and now He is looking forward to returning back to Heaven. Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to Heaven and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may Glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have Glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, Glorify Me together with Yourself, with the Glory which I had with You before the world was. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.”

 

Back to our verse in Isaiah 9:6, Jesus is our Prince of Peace. By our trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will receive that inner peace.

John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We won’t experience worldwide peace until Jesus Christ returns to earth once again. Writings about that are found in the book of Zechariah 14 and other passages that are prophetic events, things yet to come. What is most important at this point is not that you understand future events, but that you know that Jesus, who we celebrate at His birth, is more than just a baby. He was born for the purpose of becoming our Redeemer and Savior. He came to die, rise again, and can live in your heart. Once you have accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior, you will grow in your walk with Him and He will guide you into all truth on a daily basis. The Bible, referred to as God’s Word, is a living book. You will learn more daily about Him and how He works in your life if you are willing to listen and read His Word. Each day can be sweeter regardless of what you may be going through.

 

We would love to have you visit us at Gateway Baptist Church where we all learn together. This year Christmas falls on Sunday, we would love to have you visit us that day as we celebrate His birth. If you are reading this and live some distance from us, we can correspond by mail or by a phone call. In closing, our church wishes you a Merry, Merry Christmas.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Hall of Faith

HALL OF FAITH

 

Hall of Faith; shouldn’t it be called Hall of Fame? No, they are vastly different. Someone listed in the Hall of Fame is usually an athlete who has excelled above others in a particular sport. They might believe in Faith, but their accomplishment largely depends upon their hard work in training, long strenuous hours, and a motivation to exceed outstanding goals others. Overall it is accomplished by an individual’s desire to maximize their efforts and win a prize. We admire someone who has mastered such a feat which has placed them in the Hall of Fame. Anyone reading this who has achieved that goal, we applaud you. If there is a difference, who is it then that would be placed in the Hall of Faith, how did they get there, and exactly what is it?

 

Open the Bible to Hebrews 11:1 to see what faith is by God’s definition,

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him….that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

In the Hall of Fame there is a man made goal and a cheering crowd. In the Hall of Faith it is all about those who seek to please God regardless where the path may lead, even if they don’t see the end goal, and the cheering crowd is not the motivation for their faith.

 

We can see several names recorded in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Verse one starts describing things that are hoped for, but not seen. This is the substance of our faith. In verse six we discover that without faith it is impossible to please God; not highly unlikely, or it probably can’t happen, but the verse strongly emphasizes it is impossible. That implies man can’t please God without supernatural intervention. So the question that needs to be asked is, “How can it be possible for a sinful man to reach even the basic element of faith?” We will need to dig a little deeper in order to find the missing pieces of this mystery.

Mark 10:27, “Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by faith.” So all things are possible with God, but not with man and through Him, faith is made possible to the just. Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”  

So by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we receive the faith that is necessary to follow Him. We are not capable of exercising that kind of faith alone without God’s leading in our lives. Just as God provides us salvation through Jesus Christ, He also provides us the faith to follow Him. That first step is needed and it is referred to as saving faith. An earthly example might be a car. You can have an automobile with the highest horsepower motor in it, but if you don’t have fuel, you won’t be going anywhere. In the case of faith in the spiritual sense, you need to commit your life to Jesus Christ first, and then His spirit will live within you; He’s the one who will guide you through a faith-lived life. The more you trust in Him and not yourself, the greater your faith becomes.    

 

This is different than faith in a chair to hold you up. You don’t even have to think about that or that your car is dependable enough to get you to work. Although there are several names listed in the Hall Of Faith in Hebrews 11, for the sake of time and space we will focus on Abraham. Through a series of events that challenged his life and the journey he was placed in, we hope to learn some lessons that will strengthen our own personal faith. Abraham had several intimate conversations with the Lord Himself.  However before Abraham, the lifestyle of those on the earth had moved farther and farther from God so he caused the flood to take place. Afterwards God told Noah in

Genesis 9:1, “…to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.” At that time they all spoke the same language. In Genesis 11:4, “They said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

This displeased the Lord and He confused their language so they couldn’t understand one another’s speech. He then scattered them over the face of the earth so they ceased building the city. Therefore the name is called Babel. In spite of their rebellion, God was determined to rise up a leader who would follow His plan. That’s where Abraham came in. It’s difficult to find a definite timeline between the Tower of Babel and when Abraham was born. The Scriptures indicates he was born after that time period. We know he was a key figure used in sharing the truth about how God communicated during that time to both individuals and nations. At first he was called Abram, as we read on we will see why and when his name was changed to Abraham.

 

Genesis 12:1-9, now the Lord said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed  So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy five years old when he departed from Haran. Then Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the Terebinth Tree of Moreh, and the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord, so Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.”

 Today we have Atlas Maps, GPS’s, or we can Google Maps Plus; we also have cell phones and can call or text anywhere in the world. Abram had to trust the Lord completely to lead him into unknown territories, as well as supply his food, his safety, and to direct him to people he had never met before, many who were unfriendly and questioned his plans and purpose.  

 

Genesis 17, God appeared to Abram again when he was ninety-nine years old, He said, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless, and I will make my covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations, no longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.” “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name, I will bless her, and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.”

 

Abraham truly loved and worshiped the Lord, but he doubted that God could do everything, especially allowing him to have a child at 100 years of age through Sarah who was 90. God said to Abraham,

“Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

Abraham then tried to do things his own way, His faith had not yet come to full maturity. As a result he caused unnecessary problems to come his way. I can relate to that. Perhaps it was back in the 70’s when I first saw a bumper sticker that said, “Why pray when you can worry.” It’s amazing how often we try to fix our own problems first, and then when we find out that doesn’t work, we turn to God to help us through a seemingly difficult situation that’s impossible with us, but not with Him. We know we should seek Him out first in prayer and the reading of His Word, but many times we look at Him as our last resort rather than the first.  

 

Yes, through unusual circumstances God’s plan went forward and Abraham’s faith was increased. This past Sunday our Pastor made a statement that fits this story. He said, “I do not set the course on how to live my life; the Lord does. The best place is to be on the course God has chosen for me.” He then referred to

Psalms 119: 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We need to live life one step at a time and let the Lord direct our steps. Once Abraham got back on track and began to trust the Lord in all circumstances, he was asked to stretch his faith in a most unusual way. Because of it, he turned out to be the leader God had intended him to be. Before I share these verses we need to keep in mind just how much God loved Abraham and the plans He had in using him. Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” It was his faith that saved him even though he didn’t know who Jesus Christ was then. He had saving faith that was put together by God to look forward to the day our redeemer, Jesus Christ, would die on the cross for his sins much like our looking back to our salvation through Christ in the past. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

 

The unusual circumstance Abraham was placed in is found in

Genesis 22: 1-19, “Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, Take now thy son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for a burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

 

“So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him.  For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

 

“Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord- Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” “Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son — blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.”   

 

We observe that Abraham trusted God completely without question. He knew what was asked of him, yet he rose early in the morning knowing what the stakes would be. When Isaac questioned his father on why they weren’t bringing along a lamb, Abraham calmly said, “God will provide.” Isaac also had complete trust in his father whom he loved and admired greatly. God had complete control of the situation by providing a ram caught in a thicket. He made it all possible by placing the ram at the right place, the right time, and kept it quiet, out of sight until the last second of time. Although at the time Abraham and Isaac didn’t know the purpose for this, God felt both had demonstrated their reverence and trust regardless of what they were asked to do. Abraham also remembered the promises he was given in using him to multiply the earth. He probably wondered how this could be possible if he sacrificed Isaac, but his faith in God and assurance God would provide the sacrifice needed was strong enough to obey. He knew it was a miracle that God allowed him to have Isaac in the first place by providing his birth at his old age. Regardless of many mistakes Abraham had made in the past, God was always faithful to him to take care of him and his family. No doubt both of their faith was greatly increased along with those of us today that read this story and believe God is able to do things where man cannot. A favorite verse of mine is

Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” As was mentioned earlier in Genesis 15:6, the verse is repeated again in the New Testament in James 3:23 with an added thought, “Abraham believed God and it was counted on to him for righteousness and he was called a friend of God.”

 

Theologians that have studied Genesis 22 sometimes call this a typology Scripture. They mean the behavior or type of Abraham is likened to God the father. Isaac was like Jesus Christ who willingly laid down His life on the cross for us. At the time of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection only Jesus Christ and God the Father fully understood the necessity of the cross, not even his disciples, or followers understood. The one main difference in the story is that Isaac was a sinner just like us, and his death could not take away our sins. We know Abraham loved Isaac and so God the Father loves His son Jesus Christ. It was necessary for Jesus to die and be raised again to become a substitute for our sins. God required animal sacrifices, in times past, to provide a temporary covering of sins and to foreshadow the perfect and complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The book of Hebrews is rich with explanations about the purpose of Jesus Christ death on the cross and the benefits for the believers.

Hebrews 2:9, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man.” Hebrews 4:14 and 15, “Seeing, then, that we have a great high priest, that is passed  into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 10:4, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” Hebrews 10:11 and 12, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering often the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.”  Hebrews 7:24-28, “Jesus Christ, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore he is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Encouragement

ENCOURAGEMENT

 

There are only a few letter differences between encouragement and discouragement. The word courage is the base word and center of both. One is a positive look at life while the other isn’t. Of course not all D words are bad or E words good, but  let’s consider some D’s such as doubt, disbelief, discontentment and discouragement.  The E’s appear to have a happier outlook such as enthusiasm, energy, excitement and encouragement. How we look at life many times determines how we act or react to a given situation. I had been preparing another devotional and was half way through it when I felt the need to write about encouragement. Perhaps it’s because we soon will be facing an upcoming Presidential election. Regardless of the outcome, if we approach the results with the right frame of mind, then we should be able to continue on, unless of course, we feel we have been going the wrong direction and sense the need to change.   

 

A few years ago I heard a story about someone who faced unbelievable tragedies in his life. The person interviewing him asked,

“How did you possibly keep going on?”  His answer has stuck in my mind ever since. “I learned I had a choice to either be bitter or better, there is only one letter difference, and I chose to become better from what I went through.” What a statement. Not only was his life changed in a positive way, but his attitude affected many others, including mine. Dave Ramsey has written several books and can be heard on several radio stations. He has helped thousands of people to reduce their debt, pay off their home early, learn to budget, and live within their means. He has a live session where people call in; tell of their financial situation and together they work out a solution. Many times when someone calls they ask him how he is doing. His answer usually is, “Better than I deserve.” More recently I head a discussion from someone in a difficult uncertain business who said, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”

 Other people have learned to cope with changes and difficulties so why shouldn’t we?  Are we thankful for what we have been blessed with or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have? 

 

A song has been popping up in my head so I stopped to look it up and was surprised to see when it was written. In 1883 Daniel W. Whittle wrote,

“There shall be showers of blessings: This is the promise of love; there shall be seasons refreshing, sent from the Savior above.” Then the chorus is repeated after each verse, “Showers of blessings, showers of blessings we need: Mercy-drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” The Bible is full of promises for blessings if we choose to learn and walk in the way God has intended for us. The very first verse in the book of Psalms begins with a thought of blessing.  Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

From those two verses we can see that the blessed man is one who delights in the law of the Lord and gives that preference instead of listening to those who are trying to lead him astray.   

 

It was my privilege while living in North Carolina to be involved with Celebrate Recovery on a weekly basis for a seven year period. It is similar to AA, but more of a ministry based outreach. Meals were provided ahead of time and then we sang songs and broke up into prayer groups where we were able discuss how our week had gone and to try and stay focused on what really matters. Before dividing up in smaller groups, we all stood together and quoted the Serenity Prayer. I believe the words are good for all of us to know, not just those struggling with addictions.  It was authored by an American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr 1892-1971. The best known- form is:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace, taking as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, trusting that You will make all things right, if I surrender to Your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.”   

This is recited together at every Celebrate Recovery event. Of course we need to pray on a personal basis to the Lord, but by praying this prayer in unison beforehand; it sets the stage for personal prayers in our discussion groups.

 

As of this writing we don’t yet know the outcome of the upcoming election. Still should our trust be placed solely on a President or other elected officials? God is the only one who knows what will unfold in a month, a year or several years ahead. We hope you look at the many blessing you now have and those you will receive in the future. Changes in life are inevitable; it’s how we face them that is most important. Like the Serenity Prayer, we need to seek the wisdom to know the difference. If we do that and look at each situation in a positive light, our lives will be better for it and others watching may be motivated to do the same.

 

Jeremiah 17:7, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will come from yielding fruit.” This verse is similar to Psalms 1:3, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

We all go through life experiencing changes. Some may be harder to accept than others. Still by studying God’s Word and learning the depth of His love for each of us, we will be able to grow like the tree whose roots are deep and not bothered by the storms of life that come our way.    

 

A song Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote came into being after observing the reaction of their three year old daughter. She was trying to make a picture for her Mom. She had all the items she needed. A variety of water color paints, the brushes and paper, all was going well until she dropped the paint in the middle of her drawing. The more she tried to correct the mistake the worse it got. She ran into the kitchen with the drippy mess and this is what she said

, “Oh Mommy,” she sobbed; “I tried to make you something beautiful, but just look! I dropped some paint, I tried to fix it, but it just got worse and now look!”  I’m sure this event prompted them to write the song “Something Beautiful.”  Here are the words, “Something Beautiful, something good. All my confusion He understood. All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife, but He made something beautiful of my life. If there ever were dreams that were lofty and noble, they were my dreams at the start, and hope for life’s best were the hopes that I harbor down deep in my heart, but my dreams turned to ashes and my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss, so I wrapped it all in the rags of life and laid it at the cross.”

Whether a child or an adult we will all face disappointments, no matter what your position or responsibilities are now. You may not get the Presidential candidate you want. One of them will also be disappointed, because only one can win. When it’s over we’ll need to accept the fact that God knew beforehand what the results would be. Life will continue to go on; our role should be to remain in constant prayer for whoever it is and to do our best in any vocation He has placed us in. Whether retired, a laborer, or President of a company, we will be interacting with other people. Each of our roles is important, especially to God. So keep on smiling, be happy, and see how you can be an encouragement to others. You’ll be surprised to see by doing so, that you will be more content within regardless of the difficulties you’ll face in life.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



“What God Hates”

 

WHAT GOD HATES

 

According to

Proverbs 6:16-19, God clearly tells us what He hates; we might call that the bad news, but as we read on, we will discover that there is good news. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God hates us. He hates sin which is a result of bad choices we often make, but never us personally. In Acts 10:34-35, “Peter… said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” So what is it that God hates in the Proverb verses? “These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”

 

If you attended a church at an early age you probably heard the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” If not, it goes like this:

“Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong, They are weak, but He is strong.” The chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!  The Bible tells me so.”

It was written by Anna Bartlett Warner around 1860. The circumstances surrounding it can be found online and through tragedy, the words and song came into being; it’s an amazing story.

 

We like to focus on love, pleasant things and happy experiences, but if we only learn of that aspect of God and don’t understand His complete nature, we can’t fully appreciate Him. Right from the beginning, you need to know God is Love, it is His very nature.  

I John 4:7-11, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  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.”

 

Unger’s Bible Dictionary defines the word propitiation this way: “The divine side of the work of Christ on the cross. Christ atoning death for the world’s sin altered the whole position of the human race in its relationship to God, for God recognizes what Christ accomplished in behalf of the world whether men enter into the blessings of it or not. What otherwise would be an awful judgment throne becomes an altar of infinite mercy.”  God is holy.

1 Samuel 2:2, “No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.” Isaiah 6:3, “…Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His Glory.”

Merrill Unger puts it this way, “The holiness of God is absolute; its law is in the perfection of His own being. God is in the most complete sense separate from evil. In Him is no possibility of sin. With infinite comprehension He perfectly measures the enormity of sin and hates it with a perfect hatred.  Holiness, so far as it appears in man anywhere, is an outcome of God’s gracious work in salvation, and yet not without the proper exertion of one’s own free will.”    

 

 Because God is holy and we are imperfect and unholy, God see us through someone who is sinless and holy and that is Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.”  2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Realizing just how deep God’s love is for us, shouldn’t we focus our minds on Him rather than our own selfish desires?  1 Peter 1:13-16 maps out the direction we should go if we want God’s best. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought in you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, be holy for I am holy.”

 We will never become holy and sinless like Jesus. Yes, He set the bar high, but if He has become first place in our lives, then shouldn’t we seek to follow the direction He has mapped out for us rather than continue to do what displeases Him?

 

What makes it difficult in my sharing these Scriptures is that I need to analyze my own motives. I won’t pretend that I’ve never done or thought of doing the things God hates. I will say however; that my goal is to do my best to please Him and try not to sin. Over time, reading the Scriptures, praying to Him, and trying to let Him take control of my life, those sins that grip my life should happen less often. There is no such thing as sinless perfection, meaning that one can get to the point in life when he no longer sins. There is a verse found in

1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

 

Whenever I’ve worked for someone else, I’ve tried to do my best to please my boss and do what’s in the best interest of the company. When I had my own Real Estate Company, my goal was to be honest and use integrity in all my dealings. I knew this would impact my staff and show other competitive agencies that our reputation meant more than the money we received. We developed a good base of agents who knew and adopted these principles. It wasn’t a requirement that each one believed like me, but they did their best to adhere to these principles. One particular day I hired a fellow named Fred. He worked out well.  He was the type of person I was seeking.  After the interview when he knew he would be on board, he leaned closer to me and said something that I will never forget, these were his exact words, “I will never, no never lie to you, unless, unless it is absolutely necessary!” My eyes got as big as saucers.  I began to wonder what I had gotten myself into.  Fred waited a moment and then laughed, so I began to laugh. I knew he had integrity and he was just telling me this as a joke.  He was trying to break the ice by humoring me.  He turned out to be a model agent and we had a great working relationship.  As funny as what he said by his joke, we need to ask ourselves when is it ok to lie and when could it be absolutely necessary?  The answer is never.  So why would we do it?  Usually the motive would be to protect ourselves from a wrong we’ve committed, or to protect someone else that had done the same.  By doing so, we’ve developed a cascade effect of covering up previous lies. So one finds themselves using a manipulative means to deny the truth.

Numbers 32:23, “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.”

 

We could have spent a great deal of time discussing each item God hates, but by focusing on just lying we can see the contrast on how we look at the subject and how God looks at it.  Hopefully this is helpful for us in determining how close or how far we want our relationship to God to be.  The question is, are we content to just think of ourselves or do we see the value in serving others?  More importantly, how is our feeling towards the one who gave us life here on earth and offers us the opportunity for eternal life?

 

Holiness is not something we can fully grasp because it is not our nature.  To become even close to God’s standards, it’s helpful to explore His characteristics and what His nature is like.  One of His many attributes is truth.  It is the opposite of lying.  Below are just a few verses about His nature in truth.  He never changes, but we do. 

 

Psalms 119:160, “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

John 17:17, “Sanctify them in Your truth, Your word is truth.” 

Job 34:10, “Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity.”

Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.”

John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

Now that we have seen what God hates and looked at a glimpse of His nature, how should we seek to live and please Him?

Psalms 119:9-16

gives us clarity into that:

 

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord! Teach me Your statutes, with my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



THE MIND

THE MIND

 

The mind is a subject that at first I decided not to tackle because I am not a medical doctor or a psychologist. Still there is something that intrigued me about it.  So I decided to look at it on a simple logical approach which should result in a reasonable conclusion. For example: Even though an animal has a brain, it cannot drive a car. We on the other hand can drive a car, but it takes a clear thinking mind to drive it safely. If one were to deliberately drive a car into a crowd of people or hit another on purpose, we would think that person was ‘out of his mind.’  I remember hearing the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  When I looked the phrase up, I was surprised and encouraged to read that since 1972, it had been used by the United Negro College Fund as their slogan. A statement taken from their advertising reads, “To close the gap between African Americans and the majority population, the UNCF plays a critical role in enabling more than 60,000 students each year to attend and get the education they want and deserve.” It took a bright mind to develop the program and the desire to carry it out.

 

It appears by this initial observation; the mind can be used in a constructive or destructive process. While pursuing it further I looked up some quotes from a variety of people to see what they had to say about the subject. Some determined to set their mind in a positive direction that helped them to accomplish many things.  We don’t have to agree with everything these people said or believed, but these quotes make some valid points. “Just as iron which is not used grows rusty, and water putrefies and freezes in the cold, so the mind of which no use is made is spoilt” – Leonard da Vinci.  “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people” – Eleanor Roosevelt.  “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling.  “A happy person is not a person who’s always in a good situation, but rather a person who always has a good attitude in every situation.” – Marc and Angel Chernoff.   “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius.

 

These quotes spoke to me in a personal way.  I know the feeling of being discouraged and down when suffering financially or facing the loss of a loved one.  These situations were not meant to cause me misery, but rather to help me realize that my focus needs to be on the Savior who suffered far more than anything I could imagine.  Hitting rock bottom became the pivotal point which God used in redirecting my life.  The concept of great minds down to small minds tells us to be busy with ideas that are designed to magnify the Lord rather than discussing people, which really is nothing more than gossip. There is a story about two women talking about another one, after going back and forth; the one said “Tell me more.” The other thought for a moment, “I’ve already told you more than I know.”  The truth is we need not discuss other people since it doesn’t glorify God, and usually we don’t know all the facts; even if we do, our discussion causes more damage than good.  A Bible verse that reminds us of that is found in

Matthew 7:3, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”

  This passage shows us what goes around comes around.  While you may be sharing the faults of others and neglecting your own, someone may place you in the center of their topic. It’s best not to be a participant in gossip, but rather keep a tight lip and leave that type of conversation if it arises.

 

A mind left to one’s conclusions without a proper guide will lead into a path of destruction. Some harbor their problems by staying depressed, some by using alcohol, drugs, or looking for a quick remedy in a relationship to ease an inward pain. There is another option that is found in the Word of God. First, we need to come to the realization that we can’t help ourselves and be willing to turn to someone who can. The Bible does address our need for a Savior and left to ourselves we will not find a solution. Once we recognize we are sinners in need of a Savior, and are open to the Lord Jesus Christ taking charge of our lives, then life can take on a real purpose and meaning; thereby filling an empty void.  Perhaps now is the time to admit your life’s problems are too overwhelming to deal with alone. Jesus is the one who loves you, died for you, and is willing to guide you into a new life filled with joy and hope. It doesn’t mean all your problems will become automatically erased, but you will have someone to turn to help you face the future regardless of the outcome.  

 

Like a runner in a race, one’s mind needs to remain focused.  By looking behind to see how close their opponent is, the athlete will lose the race.  The Apostle Paul stayed focused in his life regardless of what others around them were doing.

1 Corinthians 9:24- 27, Paul tells us, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. Everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run, not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air, but I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” Paul was placing his efforts in what he would be given in a future life, that’s why he said he was looking for an imperishable crown. His efforts were focused on what would have eternal value.  2 Timothy 4:6-8 tells us Paul finished his life on earth strong. “…The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

 

Paul was unique.  His mind was totally focused on Jesus Christ and eternity. He’s not the only one in his day; nor is he the only one who is totally focused on the Lord today.  If our focus is off track, it can be adjusted to where it should be.  A way to start is to recognize where we are and what changes need to take place.

James 1:8, “…A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” That means we can’t be focused on the things of this world and the Lord at the same time. Yes, we need a place to live and a car to drive.  There is nothing wrong with taking a vacation to relax and enjoy something different for awhile.  The question we all need to ask ourselves; are we obsessed with those things?  Are they more important to us than following the Lord, seeking to please Him, or doing His will?  We all like to be blessed or receive blessings but where do they come from? Psalms 1:1-2, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”

  Meditation doesn’t mean we think only of the Lord and forget everyday decisions. The real thought is to try not to go through life without Him. Include Him in your daily activities.  Ask Him for wisdom before you make a purchase whether it is large or small. You’ll be surprised to see Him lead you in what we might call mundane, everyday routine events.  He wants to be the center of our lives since He cares for us deeply.  

 

In conclusion in order to get the best out of life regardless of our circumstances, we need to allow our mind to become properly focused. Again the Apostle Paul tells us how to do that in

Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Paul was a guide to those that trusted the Lord Jesus Christ in his day and we can follow his example today.  One who has even greater authority than Paul is Jesus Christ Himself. Found in Philippians 2: 5-11, Jesus Himself not only gives us an indication of where His mind was focused, but where our mind should be. That is, if we are to become a follower of Christ and enter into a life He has intended for us. The passage reads this way, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

 

After reading the above passage of Scripture, I’m drawn to the song “After all He’s done for me.” by Betsy Daavand and Wendell P. Loveless. The lyrics go like this:

 

After all He’s done for me

After all He’s done for me

How can I do less than give Him my best

And live for Him completely

After all He’s done for me     

 

 

 

 

 



“Authority”

 

AUTHORITY

 

The dictionaries definition of the word Authority says the following, “The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typicality political or administrative sphere.” Before you put down your glasses and think, “I’m tired of authority, people telling me what to do, and trying to blend my thoughts into their way of thinking,” let’s look at the positive aspects of authority. Even though you feel you have no authority at all, you may be surprised to discover how important your role can be in situations you believe you have absolutely no control. I would like to share a lesson I learned just recently and how I was used in spite of lacking authority.   

 

What prompted my thoughts on this subject is the realization that my life is radically different from what it was just a few years ago. I just came back from attending my first grandson’s High School graduation. Grandfathers are to show love and understanding and not carry the role of disciplinarian or they are to act as the chairman of the advisory committee.  Advice given to his grown married daughter is not acceptable anymore.  You see Grandpas are far different from Dads.  All they can do is try and be as pleasant as possible even when their family dog oversteps his bounds.

 

The trip to Asheville, North Carolina from Denver was a pleasant one and so was our family time together. It was however quite evident that my role as a take-charge father had slipped though my fingers. My daughter is a graduate of UNC Greensboro and has a Master of Library and Information Studies. She is in charge of a local library and I was given the best title she had for me which was a volunteer. As you might expect I did what I was told, but lacked any authority there. It was an enjoyable experience to see her carry out her duties and watch her use her ability to multitask several scenarios that arose throughout the day; she did it in a easy professional manner. Without a doubt, she made me a proud father.      

 

The return trip was quite different. I was scheduled to return at 12: 05 A.M. so I left my car at the airport rather than depend on uncertain transportation when arriving that late. We encountered a thunderstorm between Asheville and Charlotte which delayed us an hour between boarding and landing.  Then again in Denver 20 planes were ahead of us waiting in line for their turn to get to their assigned terminal port. I realized then I had no authority over the flight or the storm. So what made the difference in my attitude and acceptance of someone greater than I who had authority? Sitting by me was a young man who was hoping to get home by train from the airport to the Union Train Station; from there he planned to get a ride from a shuttle bus driver. His problem was the last train for the night was leaving at 1:30.  Our delay was making that travel plan impossible. I asked where he was going and he said Boulder, just 25 miles from Loveland.   I felt led to ask if he would like me to take him home. All of sudden the delayed time didn’t seem to matter. I became relaxed realizing I was given a purpose to get to know this young man and help him achieve his goal. I felt it a privilege to meet a new friend, possibly encourage him and share some of the lessons I have learned in life.  Was this apparent out-of-control situation about to test my faith and to give me confidence that someone greater than the pilot had even more authority?  Could it be that the one who is in control of the weather orchestrated the storm in such a way so a meeting with this fellow could take place?    

 

My new friend, (we’ll call him John) discovered we had a few things in common. He moved here from Michigan close to the city I was born. He told me he was Vietnamese, that his father had gotten a boat and headed for Hong Kong to escape communism. He had been shot at several times, but managed to keep going. The ships at sea were not allowed to rescue him, but could throw food overboard which they did. Once he made it to Hong Kong he became a free man. I asked him his age and he said 23. It was then I got a glimpse of the bigger picture. In 1965, while out of college a semester, I got a letter in the mail from the US Government, it basically said, “Welcome to the US Army, you’ll be picked up May 11th and taken to Fort Benning, Georgia for indoctrination”. It was there I received my first military haircut without asking me how I wanted it; I was 22 at the time. Afterwards I was sent to basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia and then on to Signal Corp training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. By the time I made it to Viet Nam, I was 23 years of age. Was this merely a consequence or was the Lord Himself bringing me full circle to understand John better and to see more clearly why I was sitting near him in the first place? Since I believe events in life are not just a random selection, I took it as God wanting me to bond with him and share the ultimate purpose of life. By making the right decision he could gain eternal freedom.

 

It turns out his parents moved to Florida, another place I grew up. He spent 3 months there, but because of the heat moved to Colorado. He found a job at a hospital and a cheap place to live. He did mention he no longer had a safety net with his parents. They’ve slowed down some now, but in order to survive like many coming to the United States, they had worked seven days a week. I told him I was drafted, was a radio operator, had security around me, but fortunately never had to shoot anyone. I was not in his country by choice, but now that I had a clearer picture and understanding what his family had to go through. We exchanged phone numbers and I gave him a book called “An Anchor for the Soul” by Ray Prichard. He thanked me and said he would read it. I got home that morning at 4 A.M. and felt that a mission placed in front of me was accomplished. I plan to call John from time to time. Pray that he finds the real meaning of life through the book or through future conversations.

 

So now that you see my authority as a grandpa has dwindled, how can I have any influence on others? It appears the first thing I need to do is to make sure to get myself out of the way. I realize that life is not about me. A plan might be to share with those in my family and friends what I have learned from others over the years.  Hopefully they will pick up some pointers that may be useful to them in planning out their lives. What amazes me is even when Jesus Christ was here on earth in person; many didn’t listen or take the time to learn from Him.

John 1:10-11 tells us, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”  Many of His own were referred to as the religious leaders of that day. Instead of accepting the authority of Jesus, they focused much of their time trying to impress others with what they knew about the religious system. It wasn’t so much that they couldn’t grasp what He was saying to them, but it hurt their self esteem to admit perhaps they didn’t have all the answers. In contrast to that we see a Roman centurion who had not received a religious upbringing and yet accepted His teaching and recognized who He was. We can read about him in Matthew chapter 8:5-10, “Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented. And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”  The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.  For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.  And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

  Twice the centurion addressed Jesus as Lord. He recognized His authority and Jesus recognized his faith, so Jesus, who had the ability to do so, answered his prayers.

 

Do we recognize His authority today, or do we feel by deliberately leaving Him out of our lives, somehow we can get what we want. Do we think that if we leave Him alone He will leave us alone? Can life run smoothly without Him? Is there anyone out there who can keep the sun and moon going or keep the stars in place? Sometimes it feels as if the politicians have all the answers and all we need to do is look to them. I wonder what God thinks about our placing ourselves above Him?

Psalms 2:1-4, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”  He who sets in heaven shall laugh.”

It’s not a ha-ha funny laugh, but rather, who do you think you are, trying to go against the Almighty God? He is the one that is in ultimate control. By turning our back on Him, we are opening ourselves up to His wrath and the consequences that follow.

 

Romans chapter 13 tells us we are to obey our authorities, realizing there is no authority except from God and those who exist are appointed by Him. The chapter tells us we are to love our neighbor and to act in a Christ-like manner. It doesn’t mean we can’t question the decisions that are made from those who are over us, especially if it appears they have their own personal interest at heart and not for what’s best for the nation. It was a different period of time, but Joshua became the leader of the Israelites after Moses died. Many of them were going their own way and started seeking out other gods, so

Joshua challenged them in chapter 24:14 and 15, “ Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   

 

Joshua made it clear the direction he was going. I believe he made the right choice and God blessed him and those that followed him. Others have made similar decisions like Ernest W. Blandly, in 1890. He was a Salvation Army officer, who wrote the following song after choosing between a comfortable post at an established church, and an alternate assignment to the New York waterfront and slum called “Hell’s Kitchen.” He chose the latter. The title of the song is, “WHERE HE LEADS ME I WILL FOLLOW.” It goes like this:

 

 

I can hear my Savior calling,

I can hear my Savior calling,

I can hear my Savior calling,

Take thy cross and follow, follow Me.

 

Refrain

 

Where He leads me I will follow,

Where He leads me I will follow,

Where He leads me I will follow:

I’ll go with Him, with Him, all the way.

 

By doing so, do you believe each man felt that inner peace that they made the right decision?  I ask myself, am I willing to commit my all to the Savior that died in my place?  Do you see the value in doing the same? How deep a relationship do you wish to have with the risen Lord and Savior? It is something for each of us to consider as the days pass by; and we are drawn that much closer to the end of our lives. It may be sooner than you think. Those, who have decided to follow Christ and accept Him as their personal Lord and Savior, will be able to be with Him in Heaven and will see Him display His total Glory, Majesty and Power in a perfect environment that is not clearly shown here on this earth.   

 



“Fear Not”

FEAR NOT

Those two words; “FEAR NOT”, don’t seem to go together. It’s likely if we were to ask

anyone on a street which word stands out to them, probably 90% or more would say

FEAR, very few would say the word NOT. Most of us are “programmed” to fear certain

things. There are some that consider it a thrill to climb a high rise office building on a

rope, jump across cars and busses on a motorcycle, or even dare to jump across a section

of the Grand Canyon. Most of us know how gravity works and we have a natural fear to

stay away from things that could harm us.

 

The word NOT is totally different from the emotion of FEAR. We naturally want to do

things we shouldn’t. If you are a mother, I’m sure you told your child; “Do not touch the

stove, it’s hot.” The moment you turn your back what happens? Your child is crying and

showing you his or her finger that is swelling with pain. When asked what happened, a

typical answer would be, “I don’t know, it just hurts.” Even from birth we don’t want to

acknowledge we would do anything wrong. In case you think you’ve outgrown that,

think again. What do you want to do when you see a sign on a fence that’s tells you not to

touch, “Wet Paint”? Ok, so we’re not that much different after all.

 

Having spent most of my adult years in Real Estate, I attended numerous seminars on

investments, communications, salesmen’s skills and the like. A few have stood out more

than others, so I’ll share briefly some of what I’ve learned. One was designed to train us

what to think or what not to think about. It started out well until my mind wandered.

 It happened when the teacher said, “Do not think about a Pink Elephant.”  The

funny thing was that was all I could think about during the entire class session. So what

does ‘NOT FEARING’ have to do with a pink elephant? In my mind it’s association.

Since I don’t live in Africa, I don’t expect to see an elephant in my front yard and

certainly not a pink one. Much of the things we fear never happen.  If they do, the

Lord will prepare us when it does. So instead of concentrating on the FEAR in FEAR

NOT, I concentrate on the NOT and compare my fear with the chances of running into

that pink elephant. What is important is to keep your focus off yourself, instead of fearing

the unknown, and to concentrate on a small percentage of an unlikely event.

 

Of course there are some things that do happen and we need to be alert of trends and

events that take place. These are items that affect us indirectly. In the early 70’s I went

to a Real Estate Investment seminar put on by the Miller/Schwab Team. Those two

fellows together owned 400 rental homes in Tampa, Florida. They were sharing how

to deal with tenants, repairs, and how to install protective clauses in leases among other things.

The statement was made, “You younger ones will live to see the day when home values

will reach $300,000 to $400,000.” At the time my average sales price was around $30,000.

I remember leaning over to the guy beside of me and saying, “What kind of liquid is he

mixing in his coffee?” Not only have I’ve seen these same homes go up in value 10-12

times greater in 40 years, but the average price of cars today are what home prices used to

  1. I did some investing, but rather than keep and hold, I bought, sold or traded. Those

who kept their investments for the long haul did far better than I. Inflation can either work

for or against us. But in spite of doing many wrong things, God has seen to it that I have a

place to live and I haven’t missed many meals. Yes, runaway inflation could be

 

something we fear. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the

future. We need NOT TO FEAR the unknown and be thankful for what the Lord has

given us rather that what we don’t have.

 

One final thought on these seminars and one that was a great help to my overcoming my

fear was a ‘Motivational One Day Seminar’ put on by a fellow named Roger Butcher. He

had a lot of good points, but the one that struck me the most was his saying, “Selling Real

Estate is a lot like fishing, you need to know when to give the fish the line and when to

reel him in.” A short time after hearing that, I had an offer on a home that had

been on the market 2 ½ years. You would think by now the owner would be ready to sell,

but that was not the case. He had turned down a dozen offers before I came along.  It was

widely known the home was overpriced and needed a lot of work; still I had a family that

wanted to purchase it. Realtors in most states are required to present all

written offers. Did FEAR enter my mind? Of course it did. I really didn’t want to face the

seller for FEAR I would just be tossed out of the house. I knew of the seller’s reputation

and what others before me had gone through. The hour had come when I could no longer

put off the appointment. After I was invited in, I handed the husband the contract. He was

opposite of me in a chair and his wife seated on a nearby couch. I felt as though they had

set the whole thing up; they weren’t going to follow my recommendation to meet

in the dining room where we could go through the price and terms together.

 

Of course I prayed prior to entering the sellers home and my mind went back to what

Roger had said. I didn’t give the appearance I was afraid what might happen, but I was

uncomfortable, to say the least. After we were all seated, I looked at both of them, got out

of my chair and addressed the sellers by name and handed the contract to the husband. In

less than 30 seconds, he saw the price and then proceeded to roll it up into a ball and

tossed it back to me. Rather than catch it, I let it land right at my feet. They were

probably expecting I would just get up and walk out like the others before me, but I

didn’t. In my heart I knew they needed some line; yes plenty of it, so I just sat there.  Was

I in control of the situation? Absolutely not! Was the seller in control? If you consider it

was their home then yes, more in control than I was. Still, when you deal with a frustrated

angry man, you realize he was out of control. One could also see by her expressions that

his wife’s views were not welcome either. So was anyone in control in the home that

evening? How should you react when you face an out of control person or circumstance?

 

There was one person present who was in control although I couldn’t see Him in person,

but He was counseling me into how to act. He clearly told me to pray and He

would bring the results the way He wanted it, all I was to do was listen. That person was

Jesus Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit who was then and still is my guide in

my daily decisions. I was instructed to leave the contract on the floor all crumbled up and

to let the seller speak, so that’s what I did and I received an ear full. The seller told me

how all the Realtors were alike and they weren’t doing their job. He then told me how

much better his home was than the inferior homes down the street that were selling. He

went through this long list of everything he had put into the home and why he should be

reimbursed for all of it. All I could do was sit there and listen. Then when he ran out of

steam and it was my turn to say something I asked the Lord, “Now What?” and I was

told, “Don’t say a word, and just wait”. It seemed like forever, but probably only 20-30

seconds when something happened that I never dreamed would take place. The seller,

 

still in his angry tone said, “Hand me that contract”. I reached down; still keeping it

crumbled up, walked across the living room and handed it to him. He then began to

straighten it up and said, “Where do I sign?” He signed the contract, then I handed it to

his wife for her to sign. All went well at the closing. It was definitely a learning

experience for me. My greatest lesson was to keep myself out of the way and let the

Lord be in charge of each situation.

 

Not every sale I’ve made works out in a miraculous way. I didn’t make every one of

them but still I could see God’s working hand time and time again. God wants us to

merely follow Him in His leading. When we do so, our fears become less. I would love to

come to the point in my life that I can honestly say FEAR NOT, all of the time. I’m

getting better, but I haven’t arrived yet. Going through life with His leading not only

makes life more rewarding, but joyful. A verse that summarizes what I’ve just shared

with you is found in

Isaiah 41:10, “FEAR NOT, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I

am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My

righteous right hand.”

 To be dismayed is being at a loss as to how to deal with a

situation. It’s to be unnerved by events that are taking place. As a result we are aroused

by fear. God doesn’t want us to live in that state of mind. He wants us to trust Him fully

and to rely on His judgment and guidance in the middle of apparent turmoil. Immediately

after the FEAR NOT in the Isaiah verse is the statement

, “FOR I AM WITH YOU.”

 We

are not meant to go through life alone. Let the Lord be with you at all times.  If He is

allowed in your heart, by your accepting Him as your personal Lord and Savior, then He

will guide you through your marriage, job, and other decisions you will be making. By

doing so, you will begin to live out the life that’s written

in Psalms 27:1, “The Lord

is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of

whom shall I be afraid?”

 

Perhaps you need to make some changes in your life and learning more about God and

what He has in store for you is a good place to start. We would love to have you come

visit us at Gateway Baptist Church where we learn together more about God in a personal

way and see what plans He has for your life. You won’t be a stranger here.



Miracles

MIRACLES

 

We couldn’t read the Bible without observing the miracles that have been documented.

At times we fall into a situation where it appears our backs are against a wall and we see

no way out unless a miracle takes place. Is there a difference between a miracle and a

consequence?  As we dig a little deeper, I believe we should be able to gain some clarity.

To start with let’s determine the definition of miracle:  it is an event that would be

impossible by natural law, but is brought to pass by the supernatural power of God. You

may be reading this and have a disease such as cancer, have lost a close loved one, or

facing a financial crisis. It’s understandable that you want an immediate fix, something,

or someone that will take the pain away. Does God care what you are going through?

Yes, He does. He also knows at some point, each of us is going to die but His main

objective is to see you establish a personal relationship with Him first. By doing so, you

will likely develop an internal peace that you have never experienced before no matter

what you are facing. It will also give you a clearer perspective for a greater understanding

 

 

Be careful in accepting a teaching that is, “name it and claim it”. The idea that because

God can do anything, He certainly wants me to be well and all I need is the faith that He

will heal me just as I wish. We can’t place God in a box and use Him only when we want

  1. Let’s begin with a simple event and progress with what we would call something life

changing. For the last few days I’ve been tearing down our old backyard fence and

replacing it with a new one. I took the tools I needed and placed two handfuls of screws

in my tool pouch. At the end of the day I saw I had used all the screws and was one short.

I looked on the ground, but none was there. I looked in my tool apron and found nothing.

I felt led to look again and sure enough right in the corner standing upright was the last

screw I needed; would we consider that a coincidence or a miracle? That situation could

go either way depending upon how you look at life.

 

 

Some people may look at unusual events that come together and conclude it as mostly a

coincidence and perhaps see an occasional miracle. As for myself I see life as a series of

miracles with an occasional coincident. Does it matter? I believe one sees life depending

on which side of the lens you’re looking through. I’m sure I wasted many years looking

from my viewpoint which only brought me more selfishness. I wasn’t aware of all the

miracles that were surrounding me. Once I began looking at life through God’s

perspective, miracles seemed to be a lot more evident

. Psalms 8:3-4, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have

ordained. What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”

The first and main miracle is in understanding and believing that God would send His Son to

come to earth and die for us. Who am I that He would be willing to sacrifice His life for

me? Once I accepted that as His plan, I began to want to know Him more intimately. That

took place by reading His Word (The Bible) and communicating with Him through

prayer. It was then I discovered how He could reveal His will in my marriage, in my job,

where to live, and how to conduct life on a daily basis through circumstances that He put

in my path. By following this guidance I became more aware of the steps I should take.

I call this a miracle trail conducted by His leading which has brought me to where I am today.

 

 

Has everything in life always been the way I wanted it? Not at all, but I’ve learned in the

process God’s always had my best interest at heart. I’ve actually grown closer to Him in

the most difficult times. Just so you know my life has not been a bed of roses, I lost my

first wife to cancer, had a son that was murdered at age 26 which was 12 years ago as of

this writing. Then my business was embezzled through a trusted manager, and lost most

of my assets through the downfall of the 2008 Real Estate market. My lesson is that life is

fragile and my focus needs to be on future spiritual things if I am going to make any

sense of it. In the midst of those storms, I saw God’s hand at work by His leading and

direction. The inner peace I received can’t be compared to anything else life has to offer.

If you are reading this and going through a difficult circumstance, how should you pray?

The only proper way to pray is; “Thy will be done.” We can only see our circumstances

at the present moment; we can’t look into the future, and have no way of telling how God

may be using our suffering to affect, not only our lives, but others also. Probably the most

difficult prayer Jesus made was to the Father alone, with His disciples not far away in

Gethsemane, knowing He was about to be crucified. Recorded in

Luke 22:41-42, He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it be Your will, take this cup away from Me;

nevertheless not My will, but yours, be done.”

Those five words, (If it be thy will) being left out of His prayer would have changed the course of history and salvation for
us would be none existent. God the Father could have stopped the whole process of His Son

going to the cross and redeeming us from our sins. Jesus knew what He was going to face

and as the God Man; He knew how much pain His body would be going through. Both

He and the Heavenly Father knew that it was necessary for Jesus, who lived a perfect life,

to be the only substitute capable of being the perfect sacrifice for our sin, so He allowed it to happen.

 

 

Jesus, fully aware of the suffering He would face also could see the future benefits of

bearing the pain.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us how we are to live. The following verse 2 shows

us how Jesus looked at the cross.

“Therefore we also, since

we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the

sin, which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before

us.”

(The cloud of witnesses is thought to be those that are listed in Hebrews chapter 11,

they have run the race and have endured. They are cheering for us to follow Jesus

and to become witnesses for Him ourselves. Some think they might be angels).

Whoever they might be, it’s evident we have support and a cheering section that wants us

to continue following Jesus regardless of the pain and consequences we may experience

here on this earth.

Hebrews 12:2  gives us a clearer picture of how Jesus looked at the cross.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who

for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat

down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Notice the phrase, “Who for the Joy”. Jesus looked beyond the pain and suffering, knowing He would be united with
those who have placed their faith and trust in Him. He is our example to look to beyond our  present circumstances

 

As much as I would like, I don’t have the power to remove any problems you may be

facing. The only thing I can do is help you turn your eyes on Jesus who does.  Still, He

has a plan for each of our lives and neither you nor I know what the future plan might

  1. Even when He was here on earth not everyone was healed. He knew that by always

doing miracles, people would follow Him because what they would gain and not trust Him

for whom He is. Not everyone He healed showed Him thanks. Luke 17:11-19 is the story of

the 10 lepers Jesus healed. He just spoke the word and they became whole again. He told

them to go show themselves to the priests. Only one, a Samaritan, returned and with a loud voice glorified God, fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.   Jesus miraculously opened the Apostle Paul’s eyes revealing   Spiritual truths to him in Acts chapter 9, but did not heal his body.             In

2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul pleaded to the Lord to heal him, “And lest I should be exalted

above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me,…

lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times

that it might depart from me”. And He said to me,” My grace is sufficient for you, for My

strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my

infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

 

There are several things we can learn from those verses in Corinthians. First of all it

doesn’t matter how good we are that determines if God will heal us. Neither does it

determine how much we pray that might change God’s mind. It’s clear in those verses

that God didn’t answer Paul’s prayer in order to keep him humble which made him more

effective for Christ. Think of it this way, if all the Christians were healed that live the

best Christian life they knew how, wouldn’t everyone want to become a Christian

so they could become healed? I’ve know many people who were Christians that died

peacefully, including those in my own family, that were not healed of their diseases.

What their lives showed me and their friends is that Jesus is the one that brought them

peace. They decided to follow Christ, to live for Him, and to face death with the joy of being

in heaven with Him for all eternity. Many who observed their lives gained the desire to

become like them; not wavering, but placing Christ first place in their hearts no

matter what was to take place. The real question is do we have that same kind of inner

peace? That wasn’t always true in my life, but today as I face the future, I

agree with the words and song penned by Robert Claire Loveless,

 

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,

Every day with Jesus I love Him more and more,

Jesus saves and keeps me, and He’s the one I’m waiting for,

Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.

 

Little is known about Robert Claire Loveless. He was born in Wheaton, Illinois in 1922

and died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 2009. He was in the Army in World War II.  Although

in a different time period, I was in Real Estate in DuPage County, where Wheaton is

located, from 1970-1982, and was in the Army. Those two events I can relate to, but

deeper than that is the assurance and knowledge that every day with Jesus is sweeter than

the day before. After being discharged from Viet Nam in 1967, the Lord led me to

LaGrange, Illinois. It was there, after seeing how much harm and evil can take place in a

war zone, I was ready and open to God’s will for my life. I went back to church and met

several like-minded young adults all in our early to mid-20s. One day one of them said,

“We have an opportunity to go to Scripture Press in Wheaton and learn more about the

Gospel of John” that was in 1968. It turned out our teacher was Dr. Merrill C. Tenney,

Dean of the Graduate School of Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. Our text book was

the one he wrote in 1948 called “John, the Gospel of Belief”. It is an analytic study of the

text. The book has been printed several times and can be purchased online today. Dr.

Tenney was born April 16, 1904 and died March 18, 1985. I count it a privilege to have

learned from his teaching which propelled me into further study and knowledge of just

how wonderful our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is. It is not my intention to duplicate his

writing; it is a 321 page book and one worth having for anyone wanting to explore truth

in a deeper way. All I will share is the titles he gives to the 7 miracles that are written in

 

 

John 21:25 is the last verse in the Gospel of John, “And there are also many other things,

which Jesus did, which if they should all be written every one, I suppose the world itself

could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”

Yes, there is a lot more we

could learn if we had the information. If Jesus wanted to He could have walked in and

healed everyone in all the hospitals then and now, but His main purpose for His signs and

miracles is found

in John 20:31, “But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus

is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name.”

There are more miracles written in the other Gospels, but in John there are just 7. Their

purpose is to reveal Jesus Christ having complete deity, showing He is God and that no

human could do what is recorded in this book. With that said, I’m going to share the list

of miracles in the Gospel of John and give you the brief comment Dr. Tenney shares

 

 

  1. The Changing of Water into Wine 2:1-11. In this miracle of His ministry, Jesus
revealed Himself as the

Master of Quality

by effecting instantaneously the change

that the vine produces over a period of months.

 

  1. The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son 4:46-54. By healing the boy who was more
than twenty miles distant from Him, Jesus showed Himself the

Master of Distance, or Space.

 

  1. The Healing of the Impotent Man 5:1-9. The longer a disease afflicts a man, the

more difficult it is to cure. Jesus, by curing instantly an affliction of thirty-eight

years’ standing, became the

Master of Time.

 

  1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand 6:1-14. By multiplying the five flat loaves and

two small fishes of one boy’s lunch into enough to feed five thousand men,

besides women and children, Jesus showed Himself to be the

Master of Quantity

.

 

  1. The Walking on the Water 6:16-21. This miracle demonstrated His Mastery over Natural Law.

 

  1. The Healing of the Man Born Blind 9:1-12 (41). The point of this miracle is not

so much the fact that Jesus healed a difficult case as that He did so in answer to

the question as to why this man should have been so afflicted. Thereby Christ

showed that He was the

Master of Misfortune

.

 

  1. The Raising of Lazarus 11:1-46. This miracle indicated that Jesus incontrovertibly was  the Master of Death.

 

“These seven miracles, then, are preeminently signs because they point to those

aspects of Jesus ministry in which He demonstrated His transcendent control over all

the factors of life with which man is unable to cope.  Quality, space, time, quantity,

natural law, misfortune, and death circumscribe humanity’s world.  Daily existence is

a struggle against their limitations. Christ’s superiority over them as revealed by these

events (signs) was proof of His deity and a clue to understanding what the writer

desired to say about Him.

“These signs are written that you may believe.”



IF

IF

 The word IF carries a real punch depending on which side of IF a word is on. IF ONLY refers to the past while IF I CAN refers to the future. One of the biggest downfalls we all face is breaking away from the past. Some people live there by going over and over in their mind thinking IF ONLY. It’s like constantly looking in the rear view mirror believing IF ONLY I had done things differently perhaps my time now and my future would be better.

So, does IF I CAN become the solution for a brighter future? Not exactly, that has its problems too. That, by itself, can cause us just as much pain and discouragement as well. You might be placing all of your efforts on what you can do, which is really a repeat of your past. I’m sure in your past you did your best to make things work out and you’re still trying to figure out what went wrong. So what’s the solution?

My responsibility is to share with you a third perspective which is to bring God into the equation, otherwise I’m just rambling on with words. We might consider it like a dog running around in circles chasing its tail. If you are anything like me or had been for many years, I tried to fix my own problems by myself. When all my efforts failed, then I turned to God. Right or wrong, that seemed like the natural thing to do. The Scripture tells us in

Psalms 100:3, Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves.”

He made us so intricate that it would take volumes of reading and writing to begin to see how uniquely we are made. To touch on just the basics we were created with a mind, emotion, and will. Since He’s the one who made us, He should know what it takes for us to function. If so, why is it that we look to Him last, when trying to manage a difficult problem? The truth of the matter I find myself doing the same thing. Could it be pride that keeps us from asking for His help?

If you have children then you know they watch what you do. It’s their nature to want to be just like you. At three years old a child may think he can move a large boulder-size rock. If he sees you doing it, the conversation might go like this, “I can do it, I can do it Daddy.” A wise father would allow him to try and when he couldn’t,come beside him and say, “Let’s do it together.” Once it is moved he might praise him, “See you did it.” Our heavenly Father may allow us to try, but we need to recognize He’s the only one who can really make the difference. We need to look to Him first to solve our problems. Life without Him really is just a routine hum drum of working, making a living, raising a family so in turn when your kids are grown, they will do the same.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my family, my wife, my kids, and now my grand-kids. I want the best for them and their future. So how long into their future should I care for them? Only a few short years they are on this earth, probably 100 years or less? Should I care what will happen to them 200 years from now and for all of eternity? God has created us to live with Him forever. He’s preparing a place for us to live with him for all of time. It’s a gift that we receive and your children can receive IF each of us places our trust in Jesus Christ and makes him our Lord and Savior.

John 14:1-4 gives us those promises. It starts out this way, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Fathers house are many mansions; IF IT were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and IF I GO and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also, and where I go you know, and the way you know.”

It’s worth the time to continue on reading verses 5-29. Jesus is asked many questions as to His and the believer’s future and He answers them in those Scriptures.

When God uses the word IF it has a far deeper meaning than when we use it. The reason is we can go back on our word and many times do, but God cannot. Yes, God can do anything, but it’s against His nature to do some things. In the 50’s the golden age of Gospel Choirs, Rev. James Cleveland expressed it best when he sang the song, “God can do anything, but fail.”  Yes, He cannot fail, lie or sin in anyway, because His very essence is Truth. So when God tells us He will do something, we can count on it coming to pass, not necessarily always in our lifetime. Often times He sets a condition such as IF we follow His leading, He will bless us, but IF we ignore Him in the process, He has the right to withhold that blessing by allowing us to wait, or do something entirely different with us instead. He knows our circumstances, what’s best for us and in His time, shape us towards the direction we need to go.

Let’s begin our topic on a national level and then bring God’s IFs to a more personal.

2 Chronicles 7:14 was a passage from God to Solomon concerning Israel, it goes like this, “IF My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek MY face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

We could spend a lot of time analyzing that verse. Two things that stand out are prayer and humility. Can America learn from history here? Have we come to the place we think we know it all? Have we quit praying? Is God the last person our nation turns to? Do we show humility to others and ourselves? Is it possible if we made a u-turn and looked to God first, He could bless and unite us? I’ll let you decide.

On a personal level, it would be best to start a foundation of words with IF.

John 13:17 will help us set the stage. “IF you know these things, blessed are you IF you do them.” Our first question will be, “What things?” John 8:31,32, “Jesus said to those Jews who believed on Him, IF you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Three thoughts stand out here, abide in MY Word, know the truth, which added together equals freedom. Now let’s break it down a little further.

Abide in My Word is illustrated in

John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” So to abide is to stay in touch with or search the Scriptures looking for and finding truth. The goal should be to seek and to understand what God is saying about Himself. We are to be careful not to just accept everything we hear on the radio, TV, or even what a preacher may be telling us. By abiding and comparing what is written in the Word of God, He will lead and guide us into all truth. John 15:4,”Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Truth is recognizing the abiding process and knowing you cannot save yourself.

Romans 3;23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Life, both physical and eternal is a gift from God through Jesus Christ. We can’t survive without Him, especially our eternal souls. It’s like the branch can’t live apart from the vine that has the life. To conclude these thoughts, we will use a verse that starts with IF and ends with truth. 1 John 1:6, “IF we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”

Once we recognize we need a Savior and through faith, have trusted Him that His death, burial, and resurrection were sufficient to take away our sin and have asked forgiveness of our sin, we become a Christian. That first step is called Justification, (We become justified, to be declared righteous, to be made right with God). That occurs the moment we trust Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. The second step is called Sanctification, which means set apart. It’s when growth in our Christian life takes root. The more we read God’s Word, the more we want to yield to His will, and the more we want to become like Christ. It doesn’t mean we will never sin again. There is no such thing as sinless perfection in this lifetime, we are still sinners, but saved by grace. We will never be perfect like Him, but we will feel the need to step away from sinful practices that hinders our fellowship with Him. The third step is Glorification. That is when we get to heaven we will become sinless and will live our life in a glorified body for all eternity with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The lifelong process of Sanctification, on this earth, will have come to a close.

Sanctification is what a believer is going through in our earthly bodies. The Bible gives us the road map as to how to live in unison with our Savior. We can’t live this life on our own without His strength. This is by no means conclusive, but based on our subject matter will give us some ideal things we need to do as a Christian, and why it’s necessary to rely on Christ’s help to carry it through.

1 John 1:7-10, “IF we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. IF we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. IF we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”

In conclusion I want to leave you with some of God’s promises that you will receive when you have yielded yourself to Him.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b.

“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

“And My God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19. 

We hope this might shed some light into how Christianity works from the beginning and throughout all eternity. Come visit us at Gateway Baptist where we will learn more about the nature of God and what he has in store for us.