Archive for March, 2017

Active Faith (James 2)

March 31, 2017

22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works. James 2:22

As we come to James two the words of James at the end of chapter one still occupy my mind.  Here are those words:

. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James reminds us of the importance of active faith.  God is most pleased with our faith when it is active!!!  In this case, God is pleased when we are caring for the hurting and living holy lives.

Chapter 2 gives us warnings about how this can be hindered:

  • If we show partiality we are damaging our faith, Vs:1-7.
  • If we attempt to live by the law we are destroying our faith, Vs: 8-13.
  • If we live without being active in our faith we are revealing deceptive faith, Vs: 14-22.

Our Lord has called us to have an active faith.  A faith that focuses on the supreme law of loving others, especially in their time of hurt.  This faith focuses on being God’s hand and feet in the world.

Our Lord also has called us to an accountable faith.  A faith that does more than just sing, “I love you Lord.” We must have a faith that proves we love the Lord by obeying all that He commands.

So, will you and I have an active faith this day?  Get ready my brothers and sisters, “God is sending opportunities your way.  Cease them as one who is active in your faith.”

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Insight 101 (James 1)

March 30, 2017

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

What a night!  The bed was hard, the sleep was non-existent, and the mind would not stop asking questions.  Brothers and sisters, does the previous sentence describe your last few nights?  Could it be possible that you need insight?

The people in James day would have certainly responded to the question with a yes.  These believers were facing trials in many ways.  James writes to encourage them to walk by faith in these days.

In the first 12 verses we see the encouragement to embrace trials.

It was as if they were wasting the trials that came their way.  It was as if the benefit was overshadowed by the burden of each trial.  Brothers and sisters, trials always have a great purpose in our lives.  However, without insight we waste the trial.  Here are three suggestions for your trials:

  • Ask God to give you insight into the maturing purpose of your particular trials.
  • Accept the trial as God’s tool to mature your faith.
  • Anticipate the blessing that is to come.

When we take these steps we are brought to a settled place where we are encouraged to endure the moment with the expectation of the miracle that is coming!  You and I will be blessed in the end, James 1:12.  So in this moment I challenge you to back up and to slow down in your tired state.

Instead of tossing and turning in your bed at night. Stop and look up.  Call out to God for insight and then trust in God’s work in your life.  He knows what He is doing!!!

More than I thought (Galatians 6)

March 29, 2017

Brothers,[a] if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2

As I sat down in my familiar place to meet with God, it was with great excitement that I opened His Word to Galatians 6.  This chapter is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  From my memory I thought the following:

  • My Lord has called me to help restore those who are out of fellowship with God, Vs: 1.
  • My Lord has challenged me to pay close attention to my fellowship with God, Vs: 1B.
  • My Lord has challenged me to fulfill the law of Christ, Vs: 2.

It was in the rereading of the challenge in verse two when I became aware of this fact: “There is more in verse two than I thought.”  Brothers and sisters this is often the case in our spiritual lives.  As we grow in Christ we see things with a deeper understanding.

For example, when Paul writes, “Keep a close watch on yourselves,” he follows it up with actions to watch for:

  • We are to be humble, Vs: 3.
  • We are to hold ourselves in strong accountability, Vs: 4-5.
  • We are to plant seeds of faith so that our harvest will be a blessing, Vs: 6-8.
  • We are to stay the course without giving up, believing God will come through, Vs: 9.
  • We are to come to the aid of all who are suffering, Vs: 10.

I remembered all of these things, but verse two I had not remembered.  It was more than I thought.

Here is the deal:  “When God calls us to fulfill the Law of Christ,” He is teaching is to love God and to love all people including our enemies!  Now, do not just move on here.  Go back and reread the previous explanation of the Law of Christ.  Yes, you and I are even called to love our enemies.

Check out Mathew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Brothers and sisters, I want to have the same viewpoint as does my Lord.  If this is to happen I need to learn how to do the following: Love God more than I have ever before, pray for people more than I ever have before, and I need to help people as God has helped me.

Brothers and sisters, this is more than I thought.  But it is also more that I deserve from God!!!

I am free (Galatians 5)

March 28, 2017

n7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? Galatians 5:7

In my life I have always had a craving to hear people’s stories of life.  In particular I love to hear the stories of how Christ has worked in a person’s life. I have sat spell-bound listening to people tell how Christ brought them from darkness into His marvelous light. I have been brought to tears by those who have proclaimed, “He set me free.”  But I must admit, I have also been brought to tears when I have heard the stories of people who went back to where they used to be.

I wonder, “what is your story?”

Could it be, Paul is in tears as he writes to the churches in Galatia after hearing the tragic news, “Some of the people are going back to bondage?” I think this is probably so because of the emphatic way Paul begins chapter 5, “Stand fast in the liberty you have in Christ…”

Here in chapter 5 Paul practically reminds the church concerning the freedom they have to now live for Jesus.  Take time to walk through this liberating chapter under the following headings:

  • How did the people come to the place of freedom?

This was totally God’s work, Vs: 1.  Salvation was by faith alone in Christ alone.  Take a moment to review:  Jesus gave Himself (1:4) so that we could be free.  When Christ died on the cross we, by faith, united with him (2:20).  We were brought to life by the Spirit (3:3).  We were redeemed by His sacrifice (3:13).  He has adopted us into His family (4:5).

  • What were the people starting to do?

They were starting to slip back toward the slavery they were once in.  They were once in the slavery of self-effort.  They were once addicted to superstition.  They were slipping back into a sensual lifestyle.

  • What did they need to do?

They needed to walk in freedom.  They need to engage in war in freedom.  This happens in the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit directs us to live a Christ-centered life. The Holy Spirit directs us to reject a Christ-less life.

Paul is so clear here:  “If God has liberated you, live in this liberation!!!”

Oh how this should be our story.  The words of a precious song comes to mind.  Feast on these timeless words today:

  1. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
    Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
    Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

    • Refrain:
      This is my story, this is my song,
      Praising my Savior all the day long;
      This is my story, this is my song,
      Praising my Savior all the day long.
  2. Perfect submission, perfect delight,
    Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
    Angels, descending, bring from above
    Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
  3. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
    I in my Savior am happy and blest,
    Watching and waiting, looking above,
    Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

 

 

The joy of adoption (Galatians 4)

March 27, 2017

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:6-7

Growing up in the coal-mining hills of Eastern Kentucky taught me many things.  One of those things was this, “the richest deposit’s of natural resources are often found deepest in the ground.”  You have to dig for coal.

Spiritually speaking, “the richest understanding of God can only be found by digging deep into God’s Word.”

For those who have this desire, the book of Galatians becomes one of those deep placed.

The rich doctrine of “Justification by Faith” is the treasure of this book.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross (1:4), you and I can by faith (2:16-17) enter into the glorious riches of God’s acceptance!  This acceptance is accompanied by the great doctrine of “Adoption.”

Believers become heirs of faith (3:29) because of Jesus.  This is amazing.  John gave this amazing invitation in John 1:12

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

Because of this adoption we become heirs of all that God has in heaven (Romans 8:17).  This status changes everything about us:

  • We are now His children under His care and leadership (Matt. 6:25; Hebrews 12:5-11).
  • We are live for Him (Matthew 6:33).
  • We are to be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
  • We are to come to Him with every care and thought in life (Galatians 4:6).

Brothers and sisters, this is just the first layer of what adoption means.  I want to challenge you to dig deeper.   Spend time in such rich chapters of the Bible as Romans 8; Matthew 5-7; and Hebrews 12.  Take time to now reread Galatians 4 with this deeper understanding.

You now see why Paul was so burdened (Galatians 4:19) when the Galatians were about to go back to the way they used to live!!!

Praise God we have been adopted in God’s family!!!

Have you been scammed (Galatians 3)

March 24, 2017

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Galatians 3:1-2

A few weeks ago, my dad was relating to me about an experience he had in being scammed by a phone call that hooked him because he never considered the possibility of a scam.

Question, “Is it possible that spiritually speaking, you and I could be scammed?”

The book of Galatians would answer this question with a resounding, “yes.”  Yesterday we focused on chapter two where Paul taught us clearly of where salvation comes from and how we receive it.

Today, Paul confronts those who in his own words were, “tricked,” “bewitched,” or scammed.  Paul could not believe they were allowing the scam to take root in their lives.

He had proclaimed the true gospel to them over and over, Vs: 2.  He reminded them of how they received Jesus Christ by faith.  The Holy Spirit was given to them as evidence of their true acceptance by God, Vs: 3.

But now the scam of having to work to earn salvation was coming into play.  Did these people really believe it was now all up to them?  If this scam is true, all the suffering they did in following Christ was a waste.

Brothers and sisters,  which is the scam?  Is it faith or is it works?

If were to ask Abraham this question, he would respond by simply saying, “The scam is a works salvation.”  Abraham had been declared right with God by faith in the work of Jesus Christ who was to come to take away the sins of the world.  Now, 6000 years later you and I must decide for ourselves.

Paul writes: “so then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”  

Allow the above Scripture to sink in.  I praise God for the revelation of the truth.  For those of us who know Jesus, the scam could be, “We need a special gospel for each group of people we meet.”  The fact is, the gospel is the real deal for all people.

Praise God for the truth!!!

The truth that brings rest (Galatians)

March 23, 2017

to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. Galatians 2:5

When he first came to my office it was clear, this man was exhausted.  Sleep had escaped him and peace could not be grasped.  The more he researched the issue the more troubled he became.  But then a something happened!

Brothers and sisters, “What happened?”

If you and I were to ask Paul this question, he would respond as follows:

  • Paul’s response: “The truth of this man’s salvation was at stake.”

In Galatians 2 we discover the deep burden Paul was under.  In II Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes, “We were in danger because of false teachers.”  These false teachers were trying to tear down the gospel.  They were trying to add human merit to salvation.

Paul had traveled to Jerusalem (Acts 15) to be a part of the Jerusalem council to deal with the issue.  Paul had an argument with Peter who failed to live out his life through the lens of the gospel when it came to the issue of prejudice.

Paul gives us an amazing revelation from God: “Salvation is in Christ alone by faith alone.”

Paul’s response: “God’s pardoning of this man’s sin was accomplished by Jesus on the cross.”

God accepted Jesus payment for humanities sin and God applied the pardon to each who by faith trusted in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.   This is so amazing to me.  R.C. Sproul writes, “God never goes back on this acceptance, Romans 5:1-5; 8:30.” Cited from Pg. 1695 “Reformation Study Bible.”

All who trust in Christ are united to Christ, Galatians 2:20.  Here is what this means:

  1. Christ represented us on the cross (I have been crucified with Christ).
  2. Christ receives us when we repent and evidence faith.
  3. Christ rules in our lives as we live out what He has put in us.

This truth known as the doctrine of justification brought rest to the man who came to my office.  For months he had been wrestling with the issue of, “How can I know  I am saved.”  This young man would by faith accept this truth.  Today this man is a pastor of a large church.  Recently I heard from him in an email.  I praise God for what he wrote:

“Pastor, I am still at rest in Jesus.”

Oh that you and I would come to this place and oh that we would lead others to this place!!!

“Urgent” (Galatians 1)

March 22, 2017

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” Galatians 1:6

Usually when two people have conversation there is a common greeting and a time for pleasantries.  But in Paul’s case there is an urgency about him that drives him to go directly to the subject at hand.

Question:  “Is there an urgency in your mind and heart today?”

Consider Paul’s urgency in Galatians 1.  Here we see the Apostle (Messenger) in two urgent viewpoints:

  • There is an urgent view-point concerning his ministry:

Paul knew God had called him to be an Apostle, Vs: 1.  Paul was called from a life of religious bigotry and religious blindness, 1:13-14.  Paul’s call was specific in that he was to be a minister to the Gentiles,1:15-16. This calling required intense training with the Lord, 1:17-19.

  • There is an urgent view-point concerning the message:

Christ gave Himself for our sin to deliver us from this present age. Christ rose from the dead. Paul knew, this was the only way anyone could be saved, 2:16-17.  This was God’s message to Paul.  It did not come from man or through man.

So, we ask, “Why the urgency?”

The church at Galatia was facing attacks from people who were distorting the message of the gospel and they were trying to tear down Paul’s ministry. For Paul the urgency was to make sure the people of Galatia believed the truth of the gospel.  Their souls were hanging in the balance.

In our day the message of the gospel and the true messengers of the gospel are under attack.  I ask, “Please join me in praying for an urgent call for the church to come back to the gospel and to stand with true gospel messengers.”

Is this true from where you sit? Hebrews 13

March 21, 2017

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

How often have we claimed that we believed something until the true test comes. This morning I came to a moment in the Book of Hebrews were the true test came.  It was a moment when I was very tired and I was trying to figure out what God was saying to me. Then came the promise I claimed.

Just before I write about the promise, let’s get in the context of the chapter. R.C. Sproul writes “In this last chapter the author gives us a tangible out-workings of faith and perseverance.”  Here is what God challenges us to do:

  • God calls us to love each other through times of trial.
  • God calls is us to reach out to others in their times of trial.
  • God calls us to carry for those who are displaced.
  • God calls us to honor our marriages.

Next we come to God’s command:  “Keep your life free from the love of money.”  The writer wanted us to know the trap of a coveting heart is always before us.

We ask ourselves how can we do this”  Answer, “Be content with what you have.”

This is so powerful:  “Live in peace being satisfied with what God has deemed as necessary for your life.”

3 questions at this moment:

  1. Has God provided for your needs?  Matthew 6:25.
  2. Has God ever let you down?  Psalm 37:23-26.
  3. Has God ever hung you out to dry?  Phil. 4:11-13.

Now here is where we come to where the test was for me and maybe for you.  Did I truly believe God was sufficient for every moment of my life.  I answered God’s questions as follows:

“God has always provided every need I have had in the moment.  God has never let me down and God has never hung me out to dry.”

It had been my experience where I sit, “God is good all the time!!!”

I pray that each who are going through trials will come to know this truth as well.

More weight than you can handle (Hebrews 12)

March 20, 2017

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3

Can you imagine how much God is responsible for?  Now that seems like a heretical question to me, but it is a question that is beyond our answer.  The one true God governs in the affairs of the entire universe and all who are in it.  Not only that, God carried the weight of the world on His Son Jesus when He went to the cross.

Now, for a moment, let us turn our attention to our lives and the weight we carry.  Certainly I could give you a generic list of weights people carry each day or I could give you my own personal list.  But instead, lets just admit that we each carry more weight than we can handle.

The people in the book of Hebrews would amen this same truth.  Notice how God directs us through the weight-bearing moments of our lives.

I.  The writer challenges us to follow the path of all true believers, Vs:1-4.

We are challenged to do as they did.  They were to lay aside both the weight and the sins of life.  They were to look to the author and finisher of their faith, Jesus Christ.  I praise God for Jesus coming and carrying the weight of sin to the cross.  I could never successfully carry the weight.  We see all the hostility Jesus carried and we gain new perspective.

II.  The writer challenges us to embrace the disciple of the Lord, Vs: 5-17.

We should not take God’s discipline lightly.  God’s discipline proves his love for us.  His discipline brings us to a liberating place that brings lasting fruit for our journey of faith.  We should not all the discipline to discourage us or defeat up.  We are to straighten our backs and move forward in God’s loving hands.  As we walk we are to focus on our sanctification.

III. The writer challenges us to engage in a life of praise because of what is to come, Vs: 18-29.

You and I are receiving a kingdom that could not be shaken.  We must take off the weight and put on acceptable praise.

As I consider all of this, I feel the weight coming off because God did not intend for me to carry the weight of the world.  He carried it to the cross and defeated it all.  I am called to work in faith looking toward a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

I hope this lightens your load today!!!