My Hope
July 29, 2018, 2:21 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

“For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth.” (Psalm 71:5)

As I drove past a small church, I noticed their sign.  On it was a short message – hope is trusting things unseen.  I thought, great thought but as I drove it was like the Holy Spirit was causing me to re-think the statement.  As I pondered the words, I realized they were insufficient as a definition and explanation for hope.  My problem wasn’t with trusting or unseen, but with THINGS!  So I thought about improving the definition.  Things was such a generalization.  What about trusting the wind?  The wind is unseen although it’s results aren’t.  Maybe on a hot day, I could trust a gentle breeze to bring relief, but the wind associated with a storm or hurricane produces no hope, only horror at the devastation it produces.  So hope isn’t trusting everything unseen.  I need something or someone who has characteristics that give meaning to my hope.  Biblically, hope seems to be based in something or someone that always comes through for you.  God directed me to Psalm 71.  The writer is an older man, like me, who is reflecting back on his life.  Life, being life, is full of events, circumstances, and incidents which at time are blessings mixed with tragedies.  There are great times of success as well as the times of crushing defeats.  Does that describe your life.  All of these were at one time unseen, but collectively don’t provide the basis for trust.

Look at the verse, the psalmist directs his words and focus to God.  Remember, this is an older person, reviewing his life.  The one thing or person he can always trust in any and all situations is God.  He comes through.  The writer relays this insight; “thou art my trust FROM MY YOUTH.”  Throughout the stages of life the one certainty, and the only certainty was, is, and always will be God.  Can’t you see the assurance the psalmist has in God that is not learned in a classroom or from a sermon.  This assurance comes from a daily relationship with God.  I find Him trustworthy and consistent to His revealed character.  I find Him present in both blessings and storms.  And even when I can’t see the “why” through walking with God, I have learned to trust Him regardless of whether He helps me understand.  As an older person, I can shout AMEN to “You are my hope, LORD GOD”.  My hope is in Christ alone!  You?

Jesus, my strength when I am weak


Hope in Despair
November 18, 2018, 8:07 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Hope in Despair (1st Peter 1:3-9)

When studying the book of First Peter among the most important things to know is information about the writing of the book. So here are a few things to know. First, it was written by Peter, the apostle. Most agree with this view, but a question arises because of what we imagine Peter to be. He was a poor, uneducated fisherman. Sometimes we might picture Peter as the guy with a fishing pole, standing on the seashore, pulling in a few fish each day and barely making ends meet. We can see that the invitation to follow Jesus might have been a career move up and not much of a sacrifice. The reality maybe was different. Most likely Peter was part-owner in a successful fishing business. While not as wealthy as the Jewish religious leaders or corrupt government workers, he most likely made a good living. His business may have continued during his absence because he most likely had a wife to support. He must have had intelligence to successfully run a business, so the reference to him be “unlearned” or “ignorant” was a charge made by Jewish religious leaders who felt intimidated by the authority with which he spoke, as he shared the Good News about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of salvation is provided. Often when a logical argument to prove our point isn’t possible, our second line of defense is to attack with slander. Peter is the human leader used by God to take the Gospel to Jews and Samaritans as well as opening the door to Gentiles. Because of his involvement in sharing the Gospel, Peter is arrested and taken to Rome around the time that Nero burnt Rome and then blamed it on the Christians. The Roman government and many Roman citizens began persecuted the new believers in Christ, something they didn’t expect. It is into this world that Peter writes to encourage these “baby Christians” to focus on the great mercy of God and His eternal goodness while living in a world in crisis.

As we begin our study, notice Peter initially focuses the early church on celebrating God. Peter tells these early Christians to fill their worship with praise for God. So, let me stop and ask you, what about God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, do you want to celebrate right now? What three people just want to celebrate God right now?

With what aspects of God did Peter focus their celebration upon?

First, I see Peter direct our attention to God’s mercy. Remember that mercy is God withholding something bad from us that we deserve. So, simply put, Peter is telling us to celebrate God’s decision to save us instead of allowing us to remain eternally separated from Him. But take notice that Peter, who has experienced first-hand this mercy. Do you see what Peter calls this mercy? Many of you note the adjective “great” in front of mercy. But to help you understand how he views this, and more importantly, how God sees this, consider these words- extravagant mercy, a fountain of mercy, abundant and boundless mercy. Peter may be thinking back to the time after his failure of three times denying Jesus, Jesus showed this incredible and unbelievable kindness of not only forgiving him but also telling him that he was going to be used of God in amazing ways to take care of the early church. Stop for a moment and think in your life of the times you have broken God’s heart and commands with your sin. We are so unworthy and yet He saved us and wants to use us. Notice the meaning of the words Peter writes- “God has caused us to be born from above, spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose to a hope and confident assurance that is LIVING through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

But there is also a second reason we are to praise God. We have an eternal inheritance. This perfect inheritance is special because it can never perish, never be defiled, and never be diminished. We have God’s promise that this inheritance is ours and that He will personally preserve this inheritance for us in heaven. To the original readers, Peter encouraged their hearts with this personal inheritance and reminded them that though they had lost much of their material blessings, they had something better that they would never lose. Paul describes these as “every spiritual blessing” and both assure us that this special inheritance is protected and assured by God Himself. Today, the important things aren’t ours to lose. We can’t lose them because they are kept by God and not us. Notice how Peter describes this treasure of an inheritance. It is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for us.

For just a moment, let us look at how God keeps this inheritance for us. In verse 5 we read about this inheritance being protected and shielded by the power of God until it will be revealed to us. The idea that is the reason for praise is that God constantly guards US and our inheritance until the full effect of SALVATION is ready to be revealed. The words for “kept” or guards” comes from a military term which means “fort” or “an army stationed to defend a city”. According to this verse, we are constantly being watched or guarded and protected by the mighty power of God. The third result of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ is that we will one day see “FULL salvation”. Today, have you experienced peace that passes all understanding? What about the presence of the Holy Spirit, helping you when you thought you would fail. Every once in a while, we experience the results of walking in obedience with God. As we grow in Him, hopefully, these experiences are more frequent and describe life as we know it. But, there are those times when “I” get in the way. My sinful nature pops up and I want to live my way and do things on my own and make what I want the goal of my life. Peter knew about life lived that way and he wanted us to know, that one day, we will see what life, lived God’s way, all the time, is like. When we do, Peter promised us that we would be amazed.

And then Peter throws the curve. Okay, you knew this was coming. Time for a sports story. Today, let’s suppose you have a child and he or she wants to play baseball. You sign them up for a team. But most likely, though you call it “baseball” it is “tee-ball”. Tee-ball is play time with a stick and a ball. You place the ball on a holder and then start whacking it with the stick. Once you put the ball in play, it’s off to the races. You begin running near things that are called bases. Sometimes you may hit the ball to a group of players who decide to change the game to hide and seek, capture the flag (ball), or let’s be pirates and bury the ball treasure. From “tee ball” you move to coach pitch or machine pitch and someone or something throws you easy pitches to hit, tossing them over the plate so you can crush the ball. The game then takes a vicious turn as an opponent throws to you. Now the game gets harder because no longer is your success and positive self-image important. You now see if you can hit. Many leave the game here. But for those who remain, the testing is not over. Harder pitches, better defense, and greater competition make the game more difficult and the success sweeter. You think you have mastered the game and then- the pitchers learn to throw the curveball. This is the time when baseball players are born. Up to this time, you have played a game but when the curve is introduced, the game becomes an object lesson for life. As a new Christian, our hearts are tender toward God and He guides us. Many times, He has a person who encourages us and helps us grow. The ground has been plowed, the seed planted, and weeds removed. Water is brought in and animals are kept out by the farmer, who according to John 15, is God. We are growing, battles are being won, and life is good. Then comes the curve.

Peter describes this curve in verses 6 and 7. This curve is different kinds of trouble. These troubles are better described as trials or tests. For the people who read this letter first, their tests included being forced to leave everything as you run from persecution. Families were destroyed as a result of our obedience to Christ. Being identified with Him caused many to stand as misfits within the society in which they lived. Some of these readers had been beaten, some had been imprisoned, and some had seen loved ones die before their eyes. To be honest, they struggled with knowing why God allowed them to suffer when they were following Him. Here is what Peter tells them about the “curve”.

We suffer these trials to prove that our faith is pure and authentic. Here is what is very important about my last statement. God doesn’t need to see if you are real and it is not important that others see it. It is important that you do. God allows this testing to encourage you. Major league players struggle with hitting curves. And to be honest, a good curveball gives many hitters trouble. Great curve balls are unhittable and most batters never make contact on those. Some even look ridiculous. But at this point in their lives, these hitters know they can hit the curve. They keep swinging and if a pitcher makes a mistake, the ball is often hit out of the park. You and I will miss the curves of life many times. Sometimes we will take a swing and look ridiculous. But we keep swinging because we are real. We lose battles, we get discouraged, we feel like failures. But we realize our limitations and failures and start trusting God more and more and relying on our abilities less and less. We place our full faith in God. Peter also reminds us that these tests last for a “short time”. Just remember, our life is a vapor, a blink when compared to eternity. Also, remember that our testing begins to filter out the impurities that mar our Christ-likeness. Just like gold is refined through fire, so our lives are made pure in the process of trials and tests. We find out that we are the real deal. Peter steps up and challenges these men and women to remain faithful to Jesus, who also suffered for not conforming to this world. I am not in step with this world. We need to reach the world with the transforming message of the Gospel, but we should never conform to the world to do it. If you are weird, just make sure it is because you walk following God and not because you are weird. Rejoice in trials because they are changing you. When you see Jesus face to face, your authentic, testing by the “curveball” faith will result in even more praise, more glory, and more honor when He is revealed. Today, we Peter challenges us to focus on God. Getting our heads and hearts right will result in our loving Him with a passion although we see only with the eyes of faith. But our experience will be filled with overflowing joy because we are hopelessly devoted to Him. Right now, we can reap the full harvest of our faith, the salvation of our souls. Right now, we are saved and if we get a grip of that, we are free to live in the joy of the Lord right now. We already have the treasure of our salvation- a relationship with God through Jesus. Celebrate, today.

So don’t let the news steal your joy. Don’t let your problems steal your joy. Don’t let your failures steal your joy.

Put your life in Him and start living with Hope in Despair

Giving, God’s Way
September 30, 2018, 3:11 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: ,

A really sweet and godly lady felt led to place her two children into a private Christian school, even though the cost would stretch the family budget.  Her husband was all in, and she was even willing to take a job within the school so she could bring her children and be with them.  But to do all this, she sacrificed.  With Christmas season coming, the realization that gifts for her children would be difficult to provide brought grief to this precious mom.  Some people noticed her sadness and learned of her need.  So one morning before she came into work, one family brought gifts that they had purchased for her family.  Never told her.   They gave freely and generously as an act of love for this precious woman and her precious children.  One more thing, the family that gave the gift made the decision to do so, even though it meant they sacrificed.  The joy of this dear family for gifts from their sacrifice was one of the best gifts the family experienced for the season.  

In 2 Corinthians, Paul explains what giving is.  He shares his great excitement about the sacrificial giving of the churches of Macedonia.  This group of saints had experienced difficulty by facing troubles that led to a lack of the abundance of money.  The are a great example not that money doesn’t bring happiness, but more importantly, it doesn’t bring joy.  Happiness is temporary and is dependent on what reaction we have to something that we desire.  A great meal, a fun activity, new clothes for some and perhaps a new tool for others.  Yet this group of people, who according to Paul had given of themselves as a living sacrifice to the Master and Savior as the most important priority in their life, also freely gave to others and had abundant joy from their act.  Paul explained they weren’t forced into giving, but wanted to freely give.  He encourages the Corinthians, who were excited to give, to finish the job so that this special work of grace of giving.  Paul explains that he is not commanding or ordering them to give but to give because of the example of the Macedonians.  And Paul reminds them of a greater example, that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was rich but for our sake became poor in order that we might become rich in spiritual things.

True giving is first of all, freely giving.  We are not compelled to give.  We give because it is an act arising from our love of God and our love for others.  Second, true giving is both the desire to give and the completion of giving.  Third, true giving is not judged by what you don’t have to give, but by what you do have to give.  Giving is not a competition between believers.  God doesn’t intend for you to have troubles as you try to give what others give.  God knows that true giving does involve sacrifice, but Paul reminds the Corinthians that he doesn’t want them to experience poverty because of their giving while others are a ease because they give so much more without the sacrifice.  Fourth, true giving is a voluntary distribution of GOD’S resources.  All of our wealth and possessions are really God’s.  At times He moves you to give it to someone who needs it.  What a privilege to share this with you.  Finally, Paul reminds us that today, we may be blessed to help financially, and tomorrow we may be the one receiving the help.  I don’t know if Paul is telling the Corinthian church that they may be in need and the Jerusalem church will help the financially or if their financial gift will be repaid through the Jerusalem church’s spiritual gifts

So today, are you looking for the opportunities that God brings your ways to help by giving?  Remember, you receive the gift of eternal life first.  Then your first gift is yourself to God.   This gift includes your talents, your gifts, your time and your wealth.  Next, get ready to give.  Our Lord Jesus Christ gave of His great riches so we who were poor spiritually could, through Him become a son of God, as we stand before Him with the wealth of imputed righteousness enabling us to be accepted in the Beloved.

Relentless Pursuit
July 28, 2018, 5:01 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , ,

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

As a young man, I often played in sports competition so many of my illustrations come from that background. In so many athletic endeavors, there is a finishing point. Imagine a close contest and the finishing line, the goal line, home plate is in sight and you are striving with all that is within you to reach that goal. All energy and attention is directed toward one goal. Paul shares with us his relentless pursuit of the goal and prize of Christianity, living life in the supernatural presence of the resurrection Lord God Jesus the Christ. Every ounce of energy, every thought, every emotion is directed in pursuing the place in the plan of the Lord God Jesus the Christ. We have the freedom to live life in the way God intended as we follow the Lord God Jesus the Christ. Make this your pursuit today!

A Short Lesson about Spiritual Gifts
July 22, 2018, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , ,

Paul taught, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us… let [us] use [them] in proportion to [our] faith,” Romans 12:6.

The spiritual gifts are found in three separate passages in the New Testament:  Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12–14; Ephesians 4

According to 1 Corinthians 12:6, God the Father pours in the power, Jesus the Son assigns the ministry, and God the Holy Spirit gives out the gifts as He deems necessary for the proper functioning of the church body.

The gifts organized:

Gifts used primarily for the establishment of churches

  • Establishing Gifts (Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:29):
    1. Apostles, (no longer needed)         2.  Prophets, (no longer needed)
    2. Evangelists (missionaries)              4.  Pastor-Teachers.

These gifts are used in the organizing and leading of the church as the people are equipped for the work of the ministry.

  • Supporting Gifts (Romans 12:6-8):
    1. Prophecy                                           6. Service,
    2. Teaching,                                           8. Encouragement,
    3. Giving,                                              10. Administration/Leadership,
    4. Mercy.

Gifts used as the tools to enable the ongoing ministry of the church today.

  • Ministry Gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 27-31):
    1. Wisdom,                                         13. Knowledge,
    2. Faith,                                                15. Healing,
    3. Miracles,                                         17. Prophecy,
    4. Helps,                                              19. Administration,
    5. Leadership,                                    21. Distinguishing Spirits,
    6. Speaking in Tongues,                  23. Interpreting Tongues.

If you are not allowing the Holy Spirit to work through your spiritual gift, you are causing the church to be impotent in carrying out its ministry.

Identifying and Using Your Spiritual Gifts:

  1. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability, distributed to individual Christians by the Holy Spirit that allows him/or her to work through their lives to help the church execute its mission on earth.
  2. Natural talents are physical abilities to do special things. Some natural talents might be musical ability, carpentry, mechanical aptitude, and artistic skills. Spiritual gifts are spiritual abilities to do certain things. Natural talents are often the vehicle through which spiritual gifts can be used.
  3. A spiritual gift is not the best indicator of Christian growth and maturity for a Christian. The best indicator of Christian maturity is the evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit in a believer’s life.
  4. Every believer has at least one spiritual gift.
  5. Spiritual gifts are given to believers when they are saved.
  6. Your prayers, faith, or life will not bring better spiritual gifts because God determines what gift you are given and remember it is a gift and therefore not earned.
  7. Spiritual gifts mature and develop over time and through use to their full effectiveness.
  8. While there are specific gifts or specific enablement for things necessary for the church, there are duties all Christians should have, regardless of their spiritual gift. For example, the gift of evangelism is a specific gift, but all Christians are to share the gospel. There is the gift of mercy, but all Christians are to be merciful.
  9. Spiritual gifts can be lost if we neglect them.
  10. Some spiritual gifts may be more beneficial to more people but since, some spiritual gifts are no longer needed, but no one should become proud because of their gift.
  11. Spiritual gifts can be misused.

5 Questions to Help You Identify Your Spiritual Gifts

  1. As I study how gifts operate in the Bible, do any resonate in my soul?
  2. What do I enjoy doing?
  3. What is the holy spirit telling me?
  4. What ministry in my life is God blessing?
  5. What gifts do others see operating in me?

As we are engaging in Christian service in obedience, others may see a gift in us long before we ourselves are aware of it. Occasionally, others recognize that we don’t possess a gift we think we have.

The Light
July 20, 2018, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , ,
John the Apostle wrote to the early church “but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)  From this one verse, we discover one condition and two results.  
First the one condition- if we walk (or live) in the light that is Jesus.  We need to make sure that we don’t misunderstand what is being said.  John is explaining that since by God’s grace we have been placed in fellowship of light with Jesus from out of the darkness that characterizes our life before salvation- the darkness of sin.  John is not telling us that we have to stay in the light by our choices but that because of God’s grace we have the opportunity to walk in His light.  By faith I received that gift of grace and found myself aware of the reality and existence of God who reveals His way in His Word and illuminates my understanding of His light by the work of the Holy Spirit within me.
As a result of God in me, there are two dramatic results.  First, we fellowship with others who walk in the light that is Jesus.  Because God knows we struggle on our own, we have the wonderful fellowship that He provides with others who are taking the journey of Light in following Him.  Those believers or “light walkers” see life totally different than the culture we are in.  Each of us lifts the others and we find encouragement in our brothers and sisters as we follow Christ.  Second, we are cleansed from the stain of all sin.  Please remember that our new nature is not stained by sin.  God removes all sin from us and even eliminates the power that sin once had upon us.  I still struggle with sin and at times fail to follow Christ in the light.  However, my new life in Christ should never be characterized by a constant walk in darkness.  In my deepest struggle with my sin nature, I will never been separated from the light.  Jesus transformed me from being permanently in deep darkness to being eternally in the light of the powerful presence of God.  The proof of my salvation is walking in the light because a new life is indicated.  
By faith, we accept the grace and love of Jesus and turn from darkness to Him, the true and living Light. We follow Him, staying in His light. We become a part of His family and enjoy sharing His light with other followers and as we follow Him, we stay away from sin’s stain. What an amazing God we serve and love!

No Longer Fearful
July 19, 2018, 1:29 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

In looking at the above verse, these things are among the most obvious observations.  There are two mandates- Don’t fear anything and don’t be afraid.  There are five reasons for us to believe the two mandates- I (God) am with you, I (God) am your God, I (God) will strengthen you, I (God) will help you, I (God) will take hold of you with My righteous (victorious, saving, powerful, just) right hand.  Now we are faced with one choice- Trust God to do what He states He will do or live fearfully because we face overwhelming circumstances each day.

Seems pretty simple doesn’t it.   Yet each year research is done to find out what Americans fear.   A recent survey, called the Chapman University Survey of American Fears given in 2017 looked at eighty fears Americans have.  This survey which claimed to “provide an in-depth examination into the fears of average Americans” is based on the responses of 1.207 Americans. From this survey, the assertion that Americans’ top ten fears are: (1) corrupt government officials, (2) healthcare issues, (3) pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes, (4) pollution of drinking water, (5)  not having enough money for the future, (6) high medical bills, (7) U.S. involvement in another World War, (8) Global Warming and Climate Change, (9) North Korea using nuclear weapons, and (10) air pollution.  Of the eighty items on the lists, some were personal like death, sickness, unemployment, lost of personal data, tragedies and some where national.  Fear of public speaking, flying, and the sight of blood were included as well as the fear of zombies, ghosts, and clowns.  I don’t know if you noticed, but isn’t it interesting that the top ten reflected the majority of news stories in American media?  It seems like the impact of the news media is very strong in the American culture.   Maybe a real fear should be the impact of the news media upon the every day lives of Americans.

I think this highlights a major concern for Christians in several regards.  First, on a personal level, what are my fears.  To be honest, the fear of clowns is not a major fear of mine.  I don’t know that pollution and global warming would be high on my list either.  My fears tend to be more personal and relate to my life.  Most deal with the fear of future events that may or may not happen.  I wonder how many of my fears are “what if” fears.

Second, I noticed that the list of fears weren’t fear about what happens after death.  We are so focused on the limited and temporary time spent on earth that we fail to consider the unrestricted and eternal “time” that will be spent in eternity.  Yet, we the life which we exist upon this earth is described as a mist of steam that almost before you notice it, is gone.

Third, I noticed how much we concern ourselves with is material things.  Spiritual concerns are rarely things upon which we think yet that is the realm upon which God places emphasis.  We rarely give ourselves over to focusing on the things which matter most to God because we are so consumed with things that are sometimes ridiculous.  One such “fear” on the list was the fear of what people are saying about you.

So what are things we should fear?  According to the verse in Isaiah, nothing.  It is interesting to note that Isaiah is a prophetic book, written to Israel about judgment and exile to come upon them.  Israel failed to listen to God and as a result, faced judgment that would alter the nation.  But even in the midst of this, God wanted Israel to trust Him completely and to ignore the pursuit of the things associated with this life.  As the church, let us decide to set our affection upon God and the things of God.  Taking control of my life and surrendering it to God acknowledges that He is worthy of my complete and unreserved trust.  That should be the practice of those living with no fear.

Just wanted to get you to thinking about living without fear!  Blessings!