Friday, November 29, 2019

I Choose

Do you wonder if you make choices that affect you, or are you a fatalist believing it just happens to you?  I am saddened if you are the latter as life just doesn’t happen to you. O yes, disasters and storms happen that you didn’t plan. God does allow tragedy in your life. He does not prevent all the trouble, even though He could. Why doesn’t He prevent and stop illness and trouble. What kind of God does that?  He is a good God, One who has bigger and longer-range view than you. He is a perfecting God not a pampering God one pastor said.  God wants to build us up, strengthen us for the journey so that we can persevere and be mature and complete lacking nothing as James 1:2-4 tells us. And yes, we do have choices- Choose to sin-choose to suffer. There are consequences to our choices.


So what do we do in this uncertain world? I say, choose the thing that is unchanging and immovable- God. God is the creator of the universe. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable and imminent. He is near to all who call upon His name and He is in control when we are not. He is God and we are not. We have the choice to live for Him or for ourselves. The difference is life or death- heaven or hell. We make choices by the 1000s, big and small. God gives us the innate intelligence to make many choices easily and many not so easily. And He holds the keys and the answers.  But He also gives us the choice as to whether we trust Him as Savior and Lord and live through and for Him. He is good and wants us to choose Him. If we do, He gives us His Holy Spirit to live and reign in our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit we have the wisdom to choose right. God reveals His will for us: through prayer; His word, the Bible; other godly people and circumstances. They don’t have to align, we just need to listen and look for where He is working and go there. God does all things for our good and His glory. So today, choose life.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New International Version (NIV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;    his love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

Friday, November 22, 2019

Struggle

Do you struggle against sin? I don’t know your response, but I know that mine is YES!  In Hebrews 12 the author tells us that since we have a great host or cloud of witnesses in heaven, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggles you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addressed you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.’ Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons.”  (Hebrews 12:1b-7).

What an incredible passage. God is working in us to perfect us and give us endurance to resist sinful choices. Yes, we choose our way, even if someone sins against us, we still choose our response. By faith we make decisions to obey and follow God’s commandments. Paul also used this race metaphor in 1 Timothy 4:7 saying, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” He admonishes the Galatians that as they run the race to listen to the truth and not the world or our sinful desires that act like yeast and puff us up. In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that Christ has set us free, so we must stand firm in faith and not be burdened by sin.

God has given us the strength through the indwelling Holy Spirit to stand and decide to obey. Don’t do anything in the dark that you would not do in the light. It will be found out. God will reveal our sin. Don’t hide it, but confess it to God and another godly person that they may encourage you as you walk in the way God designed. As my book of the same name quotes from Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”  In His still small voice through the Holy Spirit, God is guiding us. Read the word and know the truth.  C.S. Lewis tells us in The Problem of Pain, that God whispers in our good times (possibly sin) and yells in our pain.


Sin always takes us further and deeper than we planned. It works that way because Satan urges and convinces us of its benefits. But it will never work out well, unless we confess and change. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind as Paul says in Romans 12:2, so that you will become living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God and not conforming to this world, but knowing and doing God’s good and perfect will.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Convince and Complete

I recently wrote of the Counselor, the Holy Spirit who guides and leads believers in the way to go. The third person of the trinity also comforts us while He convicts us of sin. I heard Adrian Rogers speak on this John 16 passage about the Holy Spirit’s power. He stated that we need convincing of our sin. I think that is true because at least I am not always listening very well. Yes, I have been convicted of my sins and I am turning around and changing, but am I convinced?


God is not slow, but I think we often are slow to believe and understand how awful our sins are. God cannot have any sin in His presence. We must be changed and made new, without sin. This is a one-time point of salvation, but it is also a process of sanctification. This process is one of completion. It is not easy and requires trial and trying. James tells us that these trials make us mature and complete lacking nothing if we stay or persevere through them. We need to learn from them. Paul said as Jesus to the Philippians, Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9). God is working on and in us, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Isn’t that a wonderful promise? God will complete what He has begun in each of us in His way and His timing. We need to be obedient and stay under His wing and ways until completion. This is not over until Jesus says it is over.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Problem of Evil

Faith is hard at times. There is the disciple who said, “I believe, but help my unbelief.”  The prophet Isaiah spoke for God saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…So is my word goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:8-11).

I have said that this country does not have a very good theology of suffering or hardship. Even Jesus said, “Why have you forsaken me?” Pain is hard and trials will accomplish their purpose, to make us mature and complete lacking nothing. God will answer, He is not slow and His arm is not too short as one Rabbi said in Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People. He initially thought that God did not have the power to intervene and change things. He does and His intent is to bring paradise back to a New Earth.

Ever since the beginning of man, we have been unfaithful and disobedient, bringing sin and sickness into the world. It was not created this way, but sin has brought decay and trouble. The Psalmist praises the God “who forgives all of our sins and heals all of our diseases, lifts our lives from the pit and satisfies the desires of our hearts that we might fly on wings of eagles.”  When I was suffering from tick borne illnesses that a medical school thought would be fatal to me, I prayed the words of the Psalm 103 written above and I was miraculously healed. Not all people are and God is not uncompassionate in not healing some.  David frequently cried out to God without seeing answers. But God hears and answers all prayers of faith unless we have unconfessed sin in our lives, and then He does not hear us.

Scripture is full of valleys and death, a natural part of life. It is God’s power that is working in our weaknesses as we trust and give thanks to Him in, and not for all things, for He is in all things.

He is compassionate and loving, full of mercy. His plans are to prosper and not harm us for a hope and a future, He tells us through Jeremiah. But we need to obey as there are consequences to sin and trials do occur. Our thoughts are not adequate to understand God’s ways. Yet He tells us His plans in Scripture. There have been over 300 Biblical prophecies that have come true as written in the most accurate book ever written. There are nearly 15,000 manuscripts of the Bible that are practically identical, written by 40 men inspired by the Holy Spirit over 1,500 years. They tell us that the creation of the nation of Israel was the last prophesy needed before Christ’s second coming or return to rule and reign and rid the world of evil.

Why does God wait until the end times to rid the world of evil, natural and moral? It’s the moral issues that are hard because man has free will and often choses cruelty, avarice and selfish power to try to control circumstances. God allows this and as a result many a hurt. He also allows us to combat or fight evil and to make morally good choices. Humans are not capable of solving the problem of evil because we will do things contrary to God’s intentions. God points us to good and gives us potential for it through the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit at salvation. This atonement brings us an imputed holiness through Christ that can overcome evil by making right choices in a sanctified or righteous life. Good is what glorifies Him and fulfills His will. That is, God wants us conformed to His nature. This is not a short-term view, but one that evaluates temporary suffering in light of eternal glory. God is looking to the greatest good.

God has announced a curse on mankind awaiting redemption from the bondage of sin. God did not create sin He merely provided the options of freedom that could result in sin.  But God allows sin and pain and suffering to bring us closer to Him. God grieves our sinfulness and is a victim of it. So He has provided the victory over sin through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection.

If this life were all there is then the problem of evil would be unresolvable. But Christianity’s doctrine of life hereafter teaches that there will be a great time of judgment- every sin will be recognized and the godly will be revealed. Punishment for evil will be justly administered, and the final dimension of eternal life will be granted to all who have responded to God’s loving offer.  Thus the complaint of the evil prospering and the righteous suffering will be satisfied.  God is making all things new in creating a new heaven and earth without sin when He returns very soon. Then we will be perfect.


One more problem. How could a loving God send anyone to hell? He does not; it is our choice to be left alone by God, therefore experiencing His absence forever- hell. Death is not final for either the believer or non-believer; it is simply choosing light with God or darkness and the absence of God forever.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Bread of Life

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the miraculous feeding of the 5,000-20,000 by Jesus included in all the gospels. The disciples did not understand the miracle and the provision of God in Christ as being our bread or sustenance in all things. Manna had been provided to the Israelites in Exodus. God said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you” (Exodus 16:4). The people had been grumbling to Moses about their new freedom from slavery ironically. God had provided the bread from heaven, yet the people just kept complaining until God annihilated the entire generation for rebellion against Him. The only safe haven is in the mercy of God’s provision.

Fast forward to John 6 and the feeding of the 5,000-20,000. Here God in Christ provides the bread bountifully through a little boy’s lunch. The crowd looks to Jesus for provision of material things in this miracle.  So having preached Jesus sends the disciples across Galilee to Capernaum while He went up the mountain alone to pray.

Once together again in Capernaum, after Jesus miraculously carried their boat “immediately” across the lake, He addresses the 12 about the bread again.  He lectures them of their material orientation telling them to look for eternal things. They ask Him what they must do to do the works God requires. ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent’ (John 6:29). Jesus now prepares them to understand the whole bread thing. He tells them that the manna was bread from heaven and that God is giving them “true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never grow hungry, and he who believes will never grow thirsty”  (John 6:32-35). The Jews were grumbling again after Jesus tells the Jews assembled that believing in Him would bring eternal life. He tells them that He is “The living bread.”  He says that if you eat this bread “you will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I give for the life of the world.”  Jesus is speaking of communion with Him.

This very dramatic representation is not usually read for Holy Communion services. In John 6:53-54 Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  He is speaking of believing in Him as life and life eternal. It is not saying that just eating this communion brings eternal life. We need to receive and believe.

Jesus continues His teaching telling them and us today that “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe”  (John 6:63-64).  God is saying that trusting in Jesus as God through His Spirit filling brings life, and apart from Him you are nothing as John 15 says.

Therefore, what is Holy Communion? It is remembering what Jesus has done for you and reclaiming your faith in His life, death and resurrection for your life. Remember when the two men walking to Emmaus witnessed Jesus breaking the bread and giving thanks? Their eyes were immediately opened and they recognized Him. Trust in the “Bread of Life” for your salvation today.