Monthly Archives: March 2014

Do You Need a Shepherd?

“The Lord is my shepherd….” – Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Trust Christ as your good shepherd. He promises to meet your needs.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,” He gives us rest and spiritual nourishment.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
He calms our troubled souls.

“He restoreth my soul;”He renews our spirit when we spend time with Him.

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake,”His Word teaches us how to live right.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;” He overcomes our fears, even of death.

“For thou art with me, thy rod and staff they comfort me.” He’s always with us to discipline and encourage. This makes us feel secure.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,”
He gives us strength with those who aren’t for us.

“Thou anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” He gives us an abundance of blessings.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,”
Daily, He reminds us of His love and forgiveness.

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He provides us eternal, abundant life.

If you are discouraged with the world and the difficulties you face; if you feel like a sheep without a shepherd, Jesus wants to be your good Shepherd. Every day is better when you know “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

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Words of Hope – Part 2

2 Corinthians 5:21

Well needless to say, having said that you are aware that there’s a lot in this verse. Let’s start at the beginning. The verse begins, “He made…” stop there. Now if you’re a Bible student the first question you’re going to ask is to whom does “He” refer? The answer comes quickly, look one word back at the end of verse 20…God. God is the antecedent. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf. The point is it’s God’s plan, He’s the benefactor. God is behind the whole reconciliation plan. He designed it. He worked it out. He brings it to fruition. It is His plan. This is a very crucial perspective and you’ll see why as I comment on it. There could be no reconciliation unless God initiated it. There could be no reconciliation unless God activated it. There could be no reconciliation unless God applied it. He had to design it and He has to execute it. It cannot come from any human source. Nothing man could do, nothing man could not do could produce reconciliation with God. It isn’t anything we do or don’t do. In fact all of our efforts in the religious realm amount to filthy rags, the Bible says. The world is literally filled with religion and all of that religion apart from Christianity is man producing a plan with the aid of Satan in which he can initiate reconciliation with God. That is the fatal flaw of all world religions no matter what name they come under.

Romans chapter 3:10 says, “There is none that does good, there is none righteous, no not one, there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God.” Nobody, absolutely nobody. Now you would think if there was anyone who could have devised the plan most aptly and pull it off it would have been the Jews, since after all, the Jews were the people of the true God, Yahweh, Jehovah. And God gave to them the law and the prophets and the covenants and the adoption and all of the things that Romans 9 mention. They had the revelation. They had the Old Testament and to them even salvation was given…salvation is of the Jews, of them and to them came the Messiah. If anyone could have devised a system by which they could have achieved reconciliation, it would have been the Jews. But they failed. And in Romans chapter 10 Paul comments on the failure by saying, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God is for Israel for their salvation,” they have not achieved it, they haven’t achieved reconciliation, with all that they received by way of divine revelation from God because they believed that somehow this reconciliation depended on them and therefore they’re not saved, I bear them witness Paul says in verse 2, they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge so not knowing about God’s righteousness they seek to establish their own. That’s what false religion is, in a word, it’s the religion of human achievement.

But they never can accomplish it because the only way that reconciliation could ever occur is if God reached out to sinners. And He did. It was God who made Him who knew no sin to be sin. It was God’s plan. He designed it. He initiated it. And He executed it. So that Jesus went to the cross not because men turned on Him, though they did, Jesus went to the cross not because seducing spirits orchestrated the minds of the religious leaders to plot His death, though they did. Jesus went to the cross not because an angry mob screamed for His blood, though they did. Jesus went to the cross because God planned it. God purposed it. And God designed it as the absolutely necessary means by which and by which alone reconciliation could take place. That’s why Jesus said, “I came into the world to do the Father’s will.” That’s why in John 18:11 He said, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given Me?” meaning the cup of wrath. That’s why in Hebrews chapter 10 the Lord Jesus is quoted as saying, “A body Thou hast prepared Me and I have come to do Thy will, O God.” That’s why in Acts 2 when Peter stood up on the day of Pentecost and preached to the population of Jerusalem, many of whom had been screaming for the blood of Jesus and been guilty of calling for His execution, Peter says to that crowd, “You have killed the Son of God by the determinate counsel and fore knowledge of God.” In other words, you did your evil deed but it was all in the plan of the Father.

Only God could call the second member of the trinity to become incarnate and come into the world and humble Himself and take on the form of a man and be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, only God could ask that of Him. Only God could design an atonement for sin that would satisfy His justice because only God knows what it takes to satisfy His justice. Only God knows what propitiates His wrath. We don’t know. Only God could decide how His own infinite holiness, intense hatred of sin and inflexible justice could be perfectly satisfied without destroying the sinner in that satisfaction. Only God could know what it would take to make a sinner acceptable to Him so that that sinner could escape eternal hell and live in the very presence of God in His own house. Only God could determine how the spiritual nature and the supreme authority and the unchangeable perfection of His law which is holy, just and good could be completely satisfied and the lawbreaker completely justified and rightly and purely forgiven and accepted, though fallen, guilty and depraved.

Only God could bring all of those components to reconciliation. Only God knew what it would take. Only God knew how to solve the dilemma. Only He knew what would satisfy His righteous requirement. Only He knew how He could spend His wrath so that wrath was consummated. Only He knew what it took to bear the burden of sin, to endure the punishment of His fury, only He knew. And so while the world may call the gospel and the work of Jesus Christ foolish, foolishness, it is to those who believe the wisdom of God, is it not? It may seem foolish to the world but it is the purest and profoundest wisdom that the infinitely holy God could devise a plan consistent with His infinite holiness to reconcile utterly wicked sinners…only God. So God is the benefactor. God is the benefactor. He is the one who made the plan, He is the one who must execute the plan.

That is so important, beloved, absolutely important. It all flows out of this great reality…God so loved the world…right? That He gave. And that is exactly what Paul says in different terms in Romans chapter 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died in our place.” It all came out of God’s love. While we were enemies, verse 10 says, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son. And God initiated it because He loved us. God, Ephesians 2:4 says, who is rich in mercy for the great love wherewith He had loved us has granted us salvation. God loves sinners. That’s why in Colossians 1 the Apostle Paul says, “Thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” Only God knew what the qualifications were. Only God could qualify us. He was the only one who could know the standard. And thanks to Him, for He delivered us from the domain of darkness. He transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

That is exactly why the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” It was the Father who chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. It was the Father who predestined us to the adoption as sons through Jesus Christ. Everything is through the praise of His glory. It is He who freely bestowed on us salvation in the beloved, who gave us redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, etc., etc. It was the Father who designed to lavish on us all wisdom and insight and all riches of grace.

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Words of Hope Part 1

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The Bible makes it clear, first of all, that all people are sinners by nature and by action. In fact, all people are sinners from birth. And thus all people are born alienated from God who is holy, cannot look upon sin, cannot fellowship with sinners. That alienation because of sin prevents us from knowing God. He is too perfectly holy to have anything to do with sin.

The result of that rejection and alienation because of sin is the result of eternity in hell. So this alienation into which every human being is born is indeed a serious issue. It means that everybody who lives their life without God and if they die in that condition, will spend their eternity without God in torment.

The most deadly virus in the world is not the HIV virus, it is the SIN virus. Like the HIV virus, it kills everyone it infects, only unlike the HIV virus it infects everyone. It kills not just in time but in eternity, it kills not just physically but spiritually. There is no cure for the HIV virus, but thankfully there is a cure for the SIN virus. In fact, God has made it possible for sinners to be cured so thoroughly and completely that they can be reconciled to God and have eternal fellowship in His presence.

And that is the good news, that is what Christianity preaches, that’s the gospel. There is a cure for the SIN virus so that the hostility between people and God can end now and forever and sinners can be reconciled to holy God. In fact, if you look back at verses 18, 19 and 20 you see several times the word “reconciled” in one form or another. Verse 18 says, “God who reconciled us to Himself.” Verse 19, “That God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” And at the end of verse 20 we call on sinners to be reconciled to God.

This is the good news, friend. This is the great news that you don’t have to live godlessly now and you don’t have to live godlessly in eternity. You don’t need to suffer through this life without God and to suffer eternal torment without God in the life to come. Reconciliation is possible.

But that brings up the question…How? The Apostle Paul has been talking about the ministry of reconciliation. We have been reconciled to God and now we preach reconciliation. He mentions the ministry or reconciliation in verses 18 and 19 and then in verse 20 he mentions it by saying, “We are ambassadors for Christ, we go out and we preach to sinners that they can be reconciled to God.” That’s our ministry. That is the good news.

But the question then comes up…how can that be? How can such a reconciliation take place? How can an absolutely and utterly holy God who is infinitely pure and perfect ever be reconciled to sinners? How can He do that who is too pure to look on sin or to fellowship with transgressors? How can God satisfy His just and holy law with a condemnation of sinners by full and deserved punishment and still show them mercy who deserve no mercy? How can God end the hostility and how can He take sinners into His holy heaven to live with Him forever in intimate communion? How? How can both justice and grace be satisfied? How can love toward sinners and righteousness come together? To put it in Paul’s words, how can God be just and a justifier of sinners?

Here verse 21 explains how, and carefully defines and perfectly balance the mystery of reconciliation. This shows us the essence of the atonement. This verse is the most powerful truth in Scripture because it embraces and explains how sinners can be reconciled to God. Here is where the paradox of redemption is resolved. Here is where the mystery is solved. Here is where the riddle is answered. Here is where we find how holy justice and perfect love can both be satisfied, how righteousness and mercy can embrace each other. And the truth of this one brief sentence solves the most profound dilemma of how God can reconcile with sinners.

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The Overcomers

Text: Revelation 12:10-12

“Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren . . . has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

We have seen our victory in Jesus because God is faithful (11:19-12:6) and Satan is vanquished (12:7-9). Yet, as verses 10-12 above explain, the saints on earth will suffer. In that passage, many avenues of our powerful victories over Satan are stated. The saints will overcome as more than conquerors through the blessedness of four powerful weapons:

1. The Word of Testimony: They will overcome Satan by the reality of their testimony because they have embraced Christ’s salvation by faith and He lives within them. People are saved not by what they say, but by the Word of God which is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

2. The Name of Jesus: God . . . has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).

3. The Blood of the Lamb: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11).

4. The Cross of Calvary: And you, being dead in your trespasses . . .  He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Colossians 2:13).

Last of all, our attention is drawn to the triumph factor. John says, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which kept the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17). Satan cannot win.

Just as the blood of the martyrs has proved to be the seed of the church, so during the Tribulation, persecution will but drive many Jewish people into the arms of the Lord Jesus. Satan, in his rage, displays a notable lack of imagination and originality. He has tried persecution many times before, and it has always failed to deter faith and conversion. That he tries it again is a mute confession of failure, the last resort of a desperate and darkened mind. The godly Jews will not recant. They will only scatter far and wide, bearing as they go the gospel of the Kingdom and their triumph will be complete.

What can Satan do with the likes of these godly Jews? Lock them up in prison, and they will convert their jailers; torture them, and they will become partakers of Christ’s sufferings and heirs to a great reward; martyr them, and they will go straight to be with Christ; turn them loose, and they will evangelize the world! The more the saints suffer, the more they will draw on Christ; the more they serve Christ, the more they will defeat the devil and have victory in Christ!

Learn from these faithful saints; do not shrink back from the persecution and affliction that is likely to come at work, in your family and in society. Through the Word of God, the name of Jesus, the blood of the Lamb and the cross of Calvary–be a saint who overcomes through Christ-like the faithful suffering saints in Revelation 12!

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Can You Have Faith Without Questions?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children.” Deuteronomy 29:29

There are certain things God has revealed, that’s what makes faith possible and there are certain things God has kept secret—that’s what makes faith necessary.

Paul says, “Now I know in part…” (1 Corinthians 1:12). We know in part and that is why we walk by faith and not by sight. Just as it is part of Christian faith to say we know what God has revealed, it is part of Christian humility to say we do not know what God has kept secret.

The world will often say to believers, “How do you explain this?” as if faith depended on having all the answers.  But if you had all the answers, you’d have no need of faith. The day will come when we’ll know fully, even as we’re fully known (13:12), but on that day faith will no longer be necessary. Faith will be turned to sight, and we’ll behold Christ! Until then, faith with questions will be the normal experience of the Christian life.

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Greater Is He

Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). Greater is He, the one who chose your body to be a holy temple for His dwelling place after He saved you, sanctified you. Now He dwells within, He who is greater than anything else on Earth or in Heaven. Paul said, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Galatians 2:20). Greater is He, greater is He!

God’s Holy Word is greater than all the words anyone else has ever spoken. If you could lump all man’s words together into a mountain they still would be weak, weak, weak compared to one word of God. There isn’t anything like the life, the love, the power, the greatness and the Spirit of God in His Word. It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Luke 4:4). Man shall live by every word of God that brings true life. Every word God speaks has His life, His greatness in it. For I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass (Ezekiel 12:25). He speaks, and what He says comes to pass because He is God. Never doubt Him; never doubt such a one as Lord God Almighty!

God’s Greatness Has No Limits
Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool(Isaiah 66:1). Man may think he is in control of many things on Earth, but God is so great, so mighty that all Earth looks to Him as small as a little footstool would look to us. The greatness of I Am has no limits. Why struggle to believe Him? The struggles to believe in the greatness of God come when we fail to use the sixth sense of faith to operate the other five spiritual senses. Living only in the five physical senses, we will not see the greatness of God in our lives. The physical senses must work in harmony with the spiritual senses. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). To worship God in Spirit, is to worship through the six spiritual senses.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10), He told the Psalmist. Be still and see His mighty power in action. Compare that which comes against you with Greater is He, and know that God can carry you through the stormiest trials. In Heaven we’ll be so ashamed of what bothered us, what held us down here on Earth that we won’t want to tell about it. The valleys we cried and cried over will look like tiny ruts. We will think, Lord, please don’t ever tell how I was so weak on Earth that I let the devil keep me bound in depression, oppression and fear. Angels, please don’t tell it either. I’m ashamed of the way I let little things get me down. The devil fooled me and made me think I couldn’t come out of that prison house, and I could have walked right out anytime.

Did you know that you can walk away from the devil anytime? God didn’t promise you oppression, depression, despair, fear. He promised you joy unspeakable and full of glory; He promised you faith; He promised you love that would cast out all fear. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love (I John 4:18).

Breaking free from the Power of Sin 

1 John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him.”

What happens when we come to know and believe God’s love for us? It changes us from the inside out. Our human spirits will respond to His love and it will become natural for His love to flow through us! As our love for Him grows, we will want to do what’s right, not feel obligated to do it, or feel like it’s a chore for us.

Our love for God needs to exceed our love for sin. As we come to know and understand God’s rich and deep love for us, our spirits will respond and our love for Him will grow naturally. When this happens, we will begin to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. We will be conformed to His image and become more like Him.

Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

As we are conformed to His image, we will begin to hate sin, because He hates sin. When we realize the great love that God has for us, and yet find ourselves in sin, it will lay a great burden on our shoulders that will make us feel awful for what we’ve done. We will be quick to repent because we will feel awful for the things we’ve done that we were wrong.

We need to come to know and understand God’s love for us if we are going to break free from the power of sin in our lives. As we grow in understanding of His great love for us, our human spirits will respond. They will begin to hate sin because of their love for God. Our love for God needs to outweigh our love for sin.

How do we increase our love for God? By learning of His love for us! Spending time with Him allows us to get to know Him and build a relationship with Him that will help us understand and realize the great love that He has for us. As we learn of His love for us, our spirits will respond and our love for Him will grow.

What about resisting the devil? We are to resist the devil, but also draw near to God at the same time. What happens when we draw near to Him? We become more aware of His love for us, which in turn helps us resist the devil and his temptations. Somebody who’s trying to lose weight may love chocolate, but if they think about losing weight, their ability to resist the chocolate becomes much stronger. James 4 speaks of temptations and how to deal with them, which can be nicely summed up in verses 7 and 8:

James 4:7-8, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”

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