Who is in Charge?
June 19, 2017, 3:16 pm
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1st John 5:13-21. “Things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. and we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
John comes to the end of his first letter to the early church. In this letter, the Holy Spirit used John as He stressed the importance of love and truth in the midst of our journey of faith. Personally, this letter gives me evidence of my relationship to Jesus Christ that I can see in my own life. This is not a letter to critique others about their salvation but a guide to understand that being saved always results in a transformed life which is evident by our pursuit of truth and unconditional love for others. In simple words, John wants those of us who are saved to know and live like we are.
When we are pursuing God and following Him as both Savior and Lord, John teaches that prayers are answered because we are pursuing what God wants. So since we pray for what He wants, He is answering our prayers. John teaches us that pray can be spoken with a bold assurance that God is listening because we are in tune with His will.
Notice that God directs John to a specific example in which our bold praying can be see: praying for other Christians who are struggling with sin in their lives. Sin in the life of a Christian is a real danger. So John describes how God wants us to handle another’s sin, pray for our brother or sister.
In the midst of this passage there is a dilemma: there is a sin that ultimately leads to eternal separation from God. I think in this passage it has to do with accepting and following false teaching while rejecting Jesus Christ and God’s truth. The prayer for that is not the prayer in which we pray for a fellow believer. This person has never been saved because they have rejected Jesus.
A second difficult passage begins at verse 18. “we know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not”. Does that mean, anyone who is a Christian never sins? If so, I am not a Christian because I sin. Most likely you aren’t a Christian because you sin. So is anyone capable of not sinning? I think a little study reveals that this is referring to “practicing as a way of life, sin”. A Christian is not one who habitually as a pattern of life consistently sins willfully against God and His standards. This describes a person whose life is characterized by sin. There is not a change and there is no conviction for sin. I need to remind you that this passage is not a way of critiquing others, but a way of us seeing the evidences in our lives of a changed life. So if at this point, I am thinking about another person, I may have the problem myself. Is my life consumed about me doing enough for God to accept or approve of me? Do I live in a way that consistently involves me deceiving others? Am I know as a man of character or a character? Am I a grumpy old man, or a man of love and compassion? I guess we could use Paul’s two lists to determine the type of lifestyle I live. Is my life consistent with the works of my flesh or an example of the fruit of the Spirit. Maybe now is the time of a little self-evaluation, repentance and prayer. John describes our situation, we are godly people living in an ungodly world. John is such a bottom line person- if I am God’s He protects me from making sin a way of life. If I am not a Christian, then I am in the grip of the evil one, Satan. Each of us who are saved have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who reveals to us when we sin. His conviction is meant to bring us back to God. God please help me listen to You. We who know Christ are able to know that we are living in the truth, loving those who are of the truth, because we live in the Truth and in True Love.
John ends with what seems to be a warning to stay away from worshiping idols. But before you relax because you don’t have a little buddha in your room, think about our idols today. The biggest idol of today is us. We are the center of our universe and in some case, we extend that to the know universe. Just take a minute and watch how you drive. Is everybody else crazy because they make your driving experience more difficult? Do fast food places drive you crazy because you have to wait? Is everybody else at work lazy, stupid, favored, or promoted over you? Take a look at what your time, energy, money, emotions, and talk is about. Let’s make it simple: go look at your last 10 posts on social media. What were they about? What has your last 10 conversations been about? What were the last 10 purchases about? What about the top ten standards or values of life? Can you find them in the Bible and give the book, chapter, and verse and have studied it within the context of the passage? Found what you are worshiping yet? The idol we most need to keep away from is us. John reminds us to throw ourselves into the pursuit of God. All we need will be taken care of by Him. Seek first God.

When the First Step Ends in Failure!
April 22, 2017, 6:24 pm
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“My little children” starts off 1 John 2:1. Many Bible scholars jump pass these words to “deeper” issues but how important are these words! When I read these words, I think of “toddlers”. With three children and nine grandchildren, dealing with these precious “gifts from God” create memories which God often uses to remind us of His eternal truth. How often we try to warn them against doing something that may hurt them or teach them a new and necessary skill only to see their actions bring the very thing we wanted them to avoid or their attempts to try to use a skill end in failure, and many times tears. Think about that dear child taking that first step with our encouragement and teaching. Do you remember how that first step was so celebrated because of all the times that precious child ended on the floor? What about the warnings not to do something that are ignored, only to end in the pain we tried to get our little child to avoid? The Holy Spirit gives John the knowledge that we are “little children” of God, and even though the path to living right before God in this world is simple, it is difficult because we are little children, with a tendency to fail and fall. But take heart little children as your eyes are dried and you receive a hug from your heavenly Father and the encouragement to try again. Failure is only the final part of our story when we give up. This message from John, given to him to share by the Holy Spirit when he was the elder saint, doesn’t end here. Read the rest of the story and see the great news that destroys our fear of failure! Get up and try again! God is on our side!

Super Conqueror! Who Me?
January 15, 2017, 3:04 am
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I John 5: 4-5 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.”
In I John 5, verses 4 and 5, three times Christians are said to be overcomers. The word translated “overcomers” comes from a form of a Greek word that most of us know “Nike.” This word (or its various forms) means “overcomer or conqueror”. We wear shoes and uniforms made by Nike so we “conqueror” our opponents in athletic contests. Missiles were called Nike to show their superiority in battles. Previously John had used the word in John 16:33 as He encourages us with the words “I have overcome (conquered) the world”. For the Greeks the word could only be used of their mythical gods because while humans may win battles and contests, they also lost at times. Their understanding of Nike was overcoming or conquering in a way that assured final victory. What Jesus was telling us was that He had won the final victory and would never be defeated.
Think of the truth in I John. We, Christians, are called “overcomers”. Humans gaining the final victories. But what enabled these humans to gain the victory? In I John 5:4 we find that whosoever is born of God is an overcomer or conqueror. In I John 5:5, we see that whosoever believes in Jesus is an overcomer.
Let me end with a third passage, Romans 8:37 tells us that we are “more than conquerors”. Paul explains that we are “super conquerors” or “ultimate conquerors” through Jesus Christ. Nothing in life can defeat us or separate us from the love of Christ. Today, live as a ultimate conqueror in Christ!

What Do You Call a Chicken that Stops Laying Eggs?
September 10, 2016, 7:32 pm
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Mark 11:12-14 : “And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.”
I grew up in a small community in the southwestern part of Virginia and both my parents and grandparents had chickens. I have memories of going to gather eggs and I can remember the exciting surrounding preparing chickens for a meal. Up the road from me was a man named Kelly who loved to tell jokes and I remember him asking me “what do you call a chicken that stops laying?’ Before I could think of an answer, he yelled “supper!” as he went away laughing.
In a sense the passage in Mark is very similar. Jesus, early in the morning, is walking to Bethany, and sees a fig tree with leaves in the distance. Although it is most likely April and figs didn’t come until June, the tree having leaves was an indication that it also bore fig fruit, since the fruit can at the same time as the leaves. Surely Jesus knowing all things as God knew that the tree had no fruit. But as man, he went to see. But an important thing to remember is that the disciples went with him and heard his comments about the tree. In the only time during His earthly ministry, Jesus performs a miracle that was harmful. The fig tree was cursed to die.
I guess the question arises as to why we need to know this. Why is this passage in the Bible? Is this an example of Jesus losing His temper and doing something out of anger? That is so inconsistent with the character of Jesus as revealed in the Bible that even writing it out seems ridiculous. Jesus never would respond in that manner. So why it is here?
I think this is one of those times when we need to see the big picture of the chapter. In the first verses of the chapter, Jesus makes what we call the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It seems that He is being accepted as the King of the Jews. But notice verse 11. Jesus goes into Jerusalem into the Temple. He looks around and then leaves. Now look after the cursing of the fig tree. When Jesus returns to Jerusalem He goes into the Temple and cleansed the money-changers and those selling animals to be sacrificed at inflated prices.
The remaining details of chapters 11 and 12 highlight the fact that even though there were leaves on the trees (the Triumphal Entry) when Jesus came to inspect (looked around) He found no fruit. The interaction with the Jewish religious leaders demonstrates the “dead-ness” of their religion. Over and over again, combinations of the various types of religious leaders tried to trap Jesus with ridiculous questions and requests. Over and over again, Jesus responded in ways that embarrassed the leaders and revealed their lack of eternal life and wisdom from God. As you look at the end of chapter 12, in much the same way that Jesus condemned the fig tree, Jesus condemns the religious leaders. He talks about their great responsibility to direct them to God and their great failure because of the hardness of hearts that rejected God and His path to eternal life.
So what do we learn? First, we are accountable to God and Him alone. He searches our heart and knows the reality of our relationship with Him.
Second, those who proclaim that we have a relationship with God will have genuine Spirit-produced fruit, summed up by Jesus as loving God with our all and loving others through the Spirit’s work in us.
Third, we are to share our faith with others.
What Do You Call a Person Who Doesn’t Follow God? LOST!

Who is Jesus to you?
August 28, 2016, 8:10 pm
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Jesus, my strength when I am weak
Mark 8:29-30 “And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.”
When we read this remarkable passage, naturally our attention focuses upon “You are the Christ (the Messiah)!.” The Holy Spirit gave Peter insight into the real Jesus. Prior to this, we read of the current politically correct answer to whom Jesus was. Each recognized that Jesus was unique and a special person. There was something about Jesus that others noticed. But the cultural view of Jesus was insufficient. It lacked insight into who He really was. Peter’s answer correctly saw the Jesus was the Anointed of God, the Conquering King for whom the Jews longed. Peter, and perhaps most of the disciples saw Him in a way that others missed. So why did Jesus then “charge them that they should tell no man of him”? You would think that since others missed this, Jesus would want these guys to shout out to all the truth about Him. You know what? He did. The problem was that at the time Peter answered, they didn’t know the whole truth because of Bible ignorance. If you look at verse 31, you see that Jesus began to teach them the truth. The Anointed One, the Christ must suffer, be rejected by the Jewish religious authorities, and be put to death. But the great news, the Messiah would RISE AGAIN! The common view of the Messiah during the time of the disciples was that He would rescue the Jews from Roman control. The Messiah would come as the liberating King, saving the Jews from oppression and slavery at the hands of the Romans. So Jesus didn’t want people following Him for that reason.
Jesus had a much more important mission ahead of Him, planned from before Creation, that He would rescue all people from the chains of sin, death, and Satan. In order to do this, He would suffer and die. Old Testament prophets mentioned this, but the Jewish leaders passed it off because it wasn’t appealing. He had to teach them the truth about the mission of the Messiah. So what He was saying was this: don’t speak until you have the real story of the Gospel.
God wants us to share Him to others. I think He would want us to make sure that we share the real truth, that He rescued and liberated us from the penalty and power of sin. We are new creatures in Him and in God’s view, as righteous as Jesus. We are His and we are in Him. Is this the reality of your relationship with God in Christ Jesus? What is your answer to the question, “Who do you say I (Jesus) am (is)?

A Strange Reason to Rejoice
August 20, 2016, 9:08 pm
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jump for joy

I Peter 1:6-7 “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”

Doesn’t is seem a little strange to read a passage of Scripture that talks about rejoicing during trials?  Okay, I know that this is a message found several times in the Bible, but really when things are going great it is easy to rejoice but how about when life is falling apart?  For me, it is abnormal to my nature to rejoice when everything is goings in ways that I consider bad.  Guess what, this passage is even stranger that our first glance suggests.  Let’s look at the verse.  First look at “greatly rejoice”.  It comes from a Greek word, which is written in the present tense here and occurs 11 times in the New Testament, with three of those times in I Peter.  The correct translation would be something like “always jump for joy”.

I guess this leads to the question we are to ask “WHY?” especially considering some of the up and down experience that are a part of each person’s life.  Peter tells us in the verses at least three reasons we can jump for joy.  First, our experiences in this life are temporary.  Notice “though now for a SEASON”.  The things we deal with are limited, especially with eternity in view.  They are not permanent conditions.  They had a beginning and they will have an end.  Here’s the great news:  God is already at the end, just like He was at the beginning.  Nothing catches Him by surprise and nothing is out of His control.

Second, notice the phrase “if need be”.  There is a purpose in why we go through these experience.  We need them.  Perhaps John Piper has it right when he observed “this is God’s universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world.”   Paul talked about knowing the “fellowship of His sufferings.   Charles Swindoll concluded “the path of obedience is often marked by times of suffering and loss.”  Peter knew first hand that when we go through things in life, we can be emptied of self-reliance and able to be filled with God and His strength.  Remember the encouragement to be filled (controlled) with (by) the Holy Spirit.  He is our strength but we can also respond to life in a Christ-like way when we have the Fruit of the Spirit.

Third, perhaps the greatest purpose is “that the trial of your faith . . . might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.  As Elisabeth Elliot observed, “we want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others”  That is a life that brings praise, honor, and glory to Jesus.  Joni Eareckson Tada, who knows something about being emptied of self through the event of life observed “the greatest good suffering can do for me is to increase my capacity for God.”

So, here is my final thought about these verses.  The word “heaviness” signifies physical or emotional pain or distress that brings extreme sadness into my life.  When Jesus questioned Peter about whether he truly loved Him after his three denials, Peter was grieved (the same Greek word).  He was heavy through the experience of his failure.  When Jesus experienced Gethsemane, a form of the same word, it demonstrates that human life is full of painful experiences.  Yet in both of these we see that sweetest victories came in the midst of great sufferings.  The distress comes in many various forms, some of which show the reality of our relationship with Christ.

How about you?  In the midst of your life today, what experiences are you facing?  Jump for joy because God is using them to show the reality of your relationship with Him and transforming you to be like Christ!  What you really believe is what you live.  What does your life say you believe?  Jump for joy!  God’s got this!

Sentenced To Death
March 23, 2016, 1:44 pm
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jesus or barabbas
We all know the story. Jesus and Barabbas stand before the crowd as Pilate offers to release a prisoner. Knowing Jesus was innocent, Pilate had picked a criminal who led a rebellion and was a murderer as the option. In a sense, Barabbas was a terrorist and his freedom posed a threat to the security of the people of Jerusalem. In contrast, Jesus was a peaceful man who spoke of love for enemies and had shown that love in the many miracles as well as in his speeches. He was no threat to anyone but the hypocritical Pharisees. They manipulated Pilate and placed him in an uncomfortable position and allowing the people a choice between a murder and miracle worker seemed to be an excellent way to avoid doing something he knew was wrong. Yet the Jewish religious leaders stirred the mob against Jesus and they yelled for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be killed. Faced with the potential of an embarrassing revolt, Pilate yielded to the mob’s demands, released Barabbas and ordered Jesus to be executed. His heart told him that Jesus was a good man, innocent of any wrong, but his bureaucratic mind told him to do what was politically correct. Washing his hands in front of the crowd was his symbolic attempt at removing the guilt from him and placing on others. We know the rest of Jesus’ story but what about Pilate?
We read nothing else about Pontius Pilate in the Bible but Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Pilate’s desire to protect his position by staying out of controversy didn’t save him from a tragic end. A rebellion in Samaria was violently quenched by Pilate but the Samaritans voiced their complaints about Pilate to the governor of Syria and he ordered Pilate to appear before Caesar to address their accusations. Not long after this, according to Eusebius, Pilate, “wearied with misfortunes”, killed himself. The details of his death are uncertain but one of the more popular views tell that Pilate sought to hide his sorrows on a mountain, now called Mt. Pilatus. After spending time in despair and sorrow, Pilate sought to wash his guilt away by plunging his body into the Lake of Lucerne, drowning and going out to eternity, separated from God after being so near. The man who asked Jesus “what is truth?” now knows the truth! Jesus Christ is God and offers salvation. The God of all came to restore the relationship He had with man by dying on the cross. We can be freed from our prisons built by our sin and guilt and liberated by the cross and resurrection of our Redeemer and Lord. What is the truth? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Rejoice! Done and Won by the True ONE!