Archive for May, 2017

It’s closer now (Romans 13)

May 31, 2017

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11

Years ago, when I was a little boy, my parents took me to see a movie that altered my life.  The movie was about the Second Coming of the Lord.  At the end of the movie a local pastor stood up and asked one question: “If Jesus had come back five minutes ago, where would you be now?”

I was just seven years old when I heard the truth of that question.  Forty-three years later I still feel the heaviness of that question.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 13 continues to address the spiritual graces we are to evidence as Christ-followers.  This chapter is rich in instruction:

  • God has called us to respect those in authority, 13:1-7.
  • God has called us to love all people, 13:8-10.
  • God has called us to be ready for Jesus Second-Coming, 13:11-14.

It is to the last bullet point that I want to focus for just a moment.  So often I look at life in terms of what do I need to do today or what will happen in the next 25 years.  But could it be that I should be thinking in terms of “what if the Lord returns today?”

The church in Rome had been lulled to sleep (thinking time would last forever).  The church needed to awaken to the lateness of the hour.  The church needed to cast off the things that were of the old nature and they needed to put on the things that belonged to the new nature.

This is certainly a daily battle.  I believe the key is simple: “We are not to focus on where we used to be or where we are now.  We are to focus on where we are headed!!!  It is true, “We are closer now to the Lord’s return than we have ever been.”  So let us live in light of His Second Coming.

Here is an older song that speaks volumes to this topic:

This morning’s front page headline reads,
Disaster strikes once more,
Writing on the wall is just too great to be ignored,
Floods and earthquakes everywhere,
Violence plagues our land,
The last days are upon us,
Christ’s coming is at hand.

Where would you be,
Had Jesus come back five minutes ago,
Would you still be here,
Alone and lost with without hope,
He will return as a thief in the night,
Will you be taken or left behind,
Where would you be,
Had Jesus come back five minutes ago.

The lost and dying world must face,
The judgment seat one day,
They’re hanging in the balance,
For this crime they must pay,
Refusing to accept God’s grace,
How could they be so blind,
The sand is quickly pouring through,
The hourglass of time.

(Tag)
Mother Nature, Father Time,
Won’t stop or change God’s plan,
Prophesies have been fulfilled,
He’s coming back again!

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What appeals to you? (Romans 12)

May 30, 2017

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

As I sit here at my desk, I am faced with a dilemma.  It is a major dilemma.  I have need to eat, but there is really nothing that appeals to me.  I have the usual choices, but for some reason I think there must be something that appeals to me.  Only a search will answer my dilemma.

Question: “Are you in a moment when nothing spiritual really appeals to you?”

This is a deep question that requires a deep investigation.  This truth appeals to my heart as I open my Bible to Romans 12.  Paul’s first words are, “I appeal to you.”  The KJV uses the word “beseech.”  The NLT uses the words, “I plead with you.”

The strength of this word is only seen in the understanding of where we are in Romans.  Paul has spent 11 chapters writing the richest theological truths of the Bible.  Every major doctrine of our salvation is covered in these chapters.  Beginning in chapter twelve we see the practical implications for those who have “been saved.”

Paul writes, because God’s mercy has been extended, you should….

  1. You should present your life to God as His worshipper and His worker.
  2. You should protect your mind from a worldly way of living.

Those who present their lives to God find that there is always an appeal to serve the Lord.  It is not an in and out deal or a change of venue deal.  It is a consistent walk with the God who gave you mercy.  You are worshipping Him and you are His worker for the long haul.

There will be many ups and downs but always you know you belong to Him and you are moving forward because this is fulfilling what appeals to you.

Here are the practical out working’s of this:

Vs: 3-8, “You humbly serve others with the gifts given to you by God.”

Vs: 9-21, “You live in holiness as examples to all who you live your life before.”

Brothers and sisters, I often find myself thinking, when it comes to eating, “nothing appeals to me.”  But when it comes to my faith, “Jesus always appeals to me!!!”  I pray it is the same for you.

A Thankful Heart on Memorial Day (Romans 11)

May 29, 2017

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

In America the last Monday is designated as Memorial Day.  Question: “Do you know why?”  Here is a little history lesson for us:

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service. It marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

Today we, as Americans give thanks for all who have died for our freedom.  But at the same time we also, as Christians, should be giving thanks every day for what Jesus did for us.

This is so clear in Romans 11.  This chapter is Paul’s climatic argument for God’s justice in condemning all men as sinners.  God did not reject Israel, she rejected God.  Gentiles did not choose God, God chose Gentiles.  Both would experience eternal destruction if not for the mercy of God.  Here is how Paul sums this up:

32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. 11:32

Paul’s direction to the Gentile race is simply, “Be humble before God.”   Paul’s direction to the Jewish race is simple, “Hunger for God.”

This morning I come with a thankful heart before this God who deserves glory forever!!! May the lyrics of the following song help you to have a thankful heart this memorial day:

Thankful Heart

I have a thankful heart that You have given me
And it can only come from You

There is no way to begin to tell you how I feel
There are no words to express how you’ve become so real
Jesus, You’ve given me so much I can’t repay
I have no offering

There is no way to begin to tell you how I feel
There’s nothing more I can say, and now way to repay
Your warming touch that melts my heart of stone
Your steadfast love I’ll never be alone

I have a thankful heart that You have given me
And it can only come from You
I have a thankful heart words don’t come easily
But I am sure you can see my thankful heart

Help me be a man of God
A man who’s after Your own heart
Help me show my gratitude
And keep in me a thankful heart

The rearview mirror of life (Romans 10)

May 26, 2017

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17

Today marks the end of a journey for the seniors at Jackson Hight School in Jackson Ga.  This evening each graduate will hear their name called and they will walk across the platform and receive their diploma.  Suddenly twelve years of work will now be in the rearview mirror of life.  Their last action as a student will be complete.

As they look back, over the next few months, there will be many joys and maybe a few sorrows remembered.  As I look back to those days in my own life, I think, “What did I do that really counted?”

You may ask, “How does this relate to Romans 10?”  Paul’s great desire if for people to be saved (10:1).  He shares with his readers how this can happen (10:9-10).  And he shares with his readers about the importance of  fellow believers sharing their faith (10:14-17).

Notice the words of Vs: 17, “So faith comes…”  Literally we could say, “Faith comes to be as one hears and responds to the Word of God.”

This is where the rearview mirror comes to be in my life.  I look back to those days and realize, “I could have been so valuable to God in helping fellow students to have a faith that would have come to be if I had been actively sharing what I knew!”  When I look in the rearview mirror I am reminded to be intentional as I look into the windshield of the life around me and in front of me.

I realize people from all different age groups read this blog.  I want to take a moment to challenge each of you personally:

  • If you are a student at any age, I challenge you to understand you have been sent by God, Vs: 15, to your school with a purpose of being a light.  Be the light.
  • If you are a young adult, I challenge you to discover how to proclaim the Word (Vs: 14) where you are.  Ask God to open doors and ask God to give you boldness to walk through those doors.
  • If you are a middle age adult, I challenge you to become more intentional as you are now in a place where you can go to place where people have never heard.
  • If you are blessed to be a senior adult, I challenge you to remember the clock is ticking.  Soon you will be with the Lord.  I know you want others to be there as well.

Bottom line: Some day you and I will walk across the platform (threshold of death) and we will receive from our Lord our diploma (Crown of righteousness).  Oh that we would hear Him whisper, “Well done my child, welcome home.”  

 

Above My Pay Grade (Romans 9)

May 25, 2017

25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living Go  Romans 9:25-26

Through the years I have often found myself in moments when it was hard to understand what was the answer to a tough question.  Always I have sought others opinions to what the answer would be.  Sometimes people would respond by saying, “I don’t know.  That is above my pay grade.”  Such an answer was suggesting, this is beyond my ability to understand.

When I read Romans 9, I think, “This is above my pay grade.”  For example, this is what R.C. Sproul wrote in his footnotes to this chapter:

“The divine choice is an expression of free and sovereign grace.  It is not merited by anything in those who are chosen. God owes sinners no mercy of any kind, only condemnation; so it is a wonder that He should choose to save any of us.” Cited from Pg. 1630 “The Reformation Study Bible.”

Question, “Is this above your pay grade?”

Here is what I know:

Paul has just finished teaching us about the wonder of God’s love for us (8:31-38).  Paul’s heart is breaking for those of his own nationality who have and continue to reject the love of Christ (9:1-5).  Paul reminds us that it is not God’s fault that men reject Jesus (9:6). The fact is, God’s Word always does it work in men’s hearts.  The true believer responds in faith (9:7-10).

Paul gives examples of God’s sovereign grace in saving people (9:9-12).  Jacob responded in faith so God showered him with love.  Esau rejected God so the wrath of God was poured out.  This is God’s perfect and justifiable hatred of sin.

Here is what I do not know:

I do not know who will respond to Jesus and who will reject Jesus.  I do not know why He decided to extend mercy to me, because I would still be lost had He not opened my eyes to my need, (9:14-29).

I do not know everything God does.  But I trust what He does.

Here is what I will do:

I will share the gospel with all people praying that each says, “yes to Jesus.”  (9:30-33).  All who come to Jesus are loved by God (John 3:16).  All who come to Jesus are never rejected (John 6:34-36).  All who come to Jesus are secure for eternity (John 10:27-30).  All who come to Jesus want others to come to Jesus (Romans 9:1-3).

Yes, it is true, “somethings are above our pay grade.”  But it is also true, “something are in our pay grade.”  The sowing of the seeds of the gospel is my business and yours.  So it’s time to move from Romans 9 to Romans 10 where you and I can pick up our seed.

What only God can do! (Romans 8)

May 24, 2017

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4

“Lord, please awaken me because this is too important to miss.” This was my prayer as I sought to understand Romans 8.  Maybe you need to pause in this moment and pray the same prayers?  If you have prayed this prayer, open your Bible to Romans 8 and read through the entire chapter at least twice before completing the reading of this blog.

Wow, was this chapter amazing or not?  I spent about one hour this morning writing in my journal what God spoke to me about.  I came to my prayer time saying, “I praise you for what only Jesus could do.”  Here are five points from my study of Romans 8:

  1. God has given us a new position before God, 8:1-3.

Allow the words, “no condemnation” to sink in.  Because of Jesus work on the cross, You and I are forgiven of our sin.  God does not look at us with a condemning eye.

2. God has given us a new path in the Holy Spirit, 8:4-17.

This new path must be a choice of the mind each and every day.  If we decide to walk in our mind we cannot please God.  We know we are saved by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives.  We now are heirs of Jesus Christ with a path that leads us to our heavenly home,

3. God has given us hope for the world to come, 8:18-25.

Some day this world will pass away (II Peter 3:10-11) and will give way to the world that is to come.  Oh what a day that will be.

4. God has given us the help of the Holy Spirit in our weakness, 8:26-27.

The Holy Spirit prays for us according to the will of God.  Now, this blessed my spiritual shocks off.  Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus intercede for us.  Wow, no wonder we are blessed.

5. God gives us the assurance of things to come, 8:28-38.

Because of what Jesus did and continues to do we are assured of things yet to be.  God’s love is ever with us and will ever be with us.

When I look back to where I began this day, “crying out, please awaken me.” And now when I look at where this chapter has taken me, “crying out, I want to know more.”  I can only say, “Thank you Jesus for doing what only you can do.”

If you have time, enjoy the lyrics to “The lion and the lamb”

He’s coming on the clouds, kings and kingdoms will bow down
And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare His praise
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

So open up the gates, make way before the King of kings
Our God who comes to save is here to set the captives free
For who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before Him
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Oh who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Oh who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Who can stop the Lord?

How would you describe yourself? (Romans 7)

May 23, 2017

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. Romans 7:18

A few days ago someone posted the following post: “I am sorry to inform my friends, but my beach body is having to be put on hold to next year.  Pardon my work in progress.”  As I read the post it was kind of funny.  But as I thought of todays reading it took on a different meaning.  I could see the persons standing in front of the mirror, both hoping for something but at the same time dealing with reality.

Question: “How would you describe yourself?”

In Romans 7:8 Paul speaks with clarity as he describes his life in the flesh.  For some people this type of description seems to be demoralizing, but for Paul it was a moment of deliverance.  Two questions arise as we study this chapter:

1.  How did Paul arrive at this view?

The answer is in Vs: 1-7.  God placed His life before Paul and in reading the Law he realized where he was with God.  Paul was already a sinner, but the law made it real to him.  Paul tried to receive the blessing that would come from perfect obedience to the law.  But he discovered there was within him a sinful nature that defied the law.

The law was good, Vs: 8-14.  It was Paul who was not so good.

2.  How was Paul able to overcome this view?

The answer is found in Vs: 15-24.  Take time to read of the already and not yet tension between being saved and still not arriving at complete sanctification.  Paul knew his victory was in Christ alone.  It was Christ alone who changed it all for Him.

In this moment I now post the following: “I am happy to report, I am saved.  But I also need to let you know, Christ is working on me to make me what He wants me to be.  Pardon the construction.”

Here is my construction verse:

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Truth about the Newness of Life (Romans 6)

May 22, 2017

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

Last week I attended a GBC Conference where Dr. Johnny Hunt was the speaker.  The conference focused on the work of a pastor and his team in the Kingdom Growth of churches.  The conference was great.  The number one challenge I gained from the conference was this: “Stick to the truth of God’s Word.”

Dr. Hunt spoke about the eroding mindset of church goers who were pushing back against the great truths of God’s Word.  At one point Dr. Hunt said: “At this rate, if we continue to tear down Gods Word, we will cease asking people to repent from anything.”  I have not been able to get away from that statement.

I believe the Apostle Paul, according to Romans 6, would amen the above statement.

In our reading for the day Paul is anticipating the negative response that is coming from those who do not understand grace.  In their minds, grace is a license to sin.  They believed Paul’s teaching on grace would lead to the total ignoring of the ethical requirements of the law.  The fact is, the opposite is the case.

Paul further teaches us about the glorious new life one has when true grace has been applied.   Those who have surrendered their lives to Christ have actually been set free from the dungeon of sins hold.  There is now a new desire placed within each person who says “yes” to Jesus.

Paul gives three commands to those who have been crucified with Christ, Vs: 12-13:

  • Sin must no longer be in charge of your decisions.  You now have authority in Christ.
  • Your life (members) is no longer to be used to further the sinful pleasures of the depraved man.
  • Your life (members) is now presented to God as a wonderful instrument for righteous deeds.

Paul further clarifies these commands in Vs: 14:

14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Paul gives us a compelling summary statement in Vs: 22:

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Those who have this newness of life have repented of their rebellious life and they are embracing this new life before God.  This is what it means to be set free and to become sanctified before God.  The greatest joy is in knowing that at the end of the road is eternal life in Jesus Christ!!!

I am so thankful (Romans 5)

May 19, 2017

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we[a] have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

Someone said, “you cannot appreciate where you are until you remember from where you came.”

When one reads Romans 5, if he or she has come to faith in Jesus Christ, the above statement is so true.

In my own life I came from a beginning that is described by Paul as a beginning in spiritual death, 5:12-14.  That death was given to me by my father who had received this death sentence from his father.  This death has been handed down generation after generation all the way back to Adam.  “Death reigned.”

But along that journey of death, life came to town.  That life was in the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.  Jesus purchased our redemption and Jesus has the power to give us life.  This life will abound to as many as believe on Him.

My journey in life is a journey of learning what this is all about.  Romans 5 is so crucial to our understanding of this journey.  Paul writes: “We are declared to be right with God through Jesus.”  The peace that governs my life was purchased by Jesus.

His gift to my life has changed everything about my life.  I know have a standing with God and now I have a future with God.

Yes the road is heavy at times.  But there is one who walks with me, strengthening me so that I will develop an enduring heart, a life filled with character, and a life filled with eternal hope.

All I can say is this, “God’s love has been abundantly poured out in my life!”

As we prepare ourselves for this weekend, may we take time to be thankful for what we have been given in Jesus!

Where one can rest (Romans 4)

May 18, 2017

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, Romans 4:16

It was so obvious to his friends, but not to him, something was wrong in his life.  The man was short with everyone and he always seemed to be staring off into space.  This man would lie awake at night, sometimes in a cold sweat.  He could not get any peace.

You ask, “What was his problem?”  He had no peace with God.  You ask, “Who was this man?”  His name was David.  In Psalm 32:1-2 we read the following:

32 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

David understood his sin stood in the way of being at peace with God.  David knew, without God’s peace there can be no peace in life or in the life to come.

In our reading for today Paul is proving to us that peace comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.  He gives us the example of Abraham who like David and like every person who has ever been born, began his life in sin and under the wrath of God.

For three chapters the question has been before us: “How can a person be right with God?”  Paul has put forth the answer.  A person is made right with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, 3:22-25.

Abraham is exhibit A of this truth.  Abraham did not earn his salvation.  It was a gift from God.  Abraham believed that God would sent the remedy for his sin.  He placed all of his faith in God’s work.  He rested all of his hopes in what was to come.  By doing so he became the father (the first one) to walk by faith and not by sight.  He became the father (the first one) to wait in faith and to receive the out working of faith in life coming to his family though humanly impossible.

Question: “Are you resting in God’s work for your salvation?”  Or could it be that you have some doubts or could it be that you are trying a combination of faith and works?

Abraham placed all of his faith in God before being circumcised.  His circumcision was an outward work because he believed in God. It was his sign of belief.  His 25 years of waiting for the promise of God in a child was his outward sign of belief in God.

This is why I live every day by the commandments of God.  This is why I serve him.  These are my outward signs of belief in the God who saved me and is coming for me someday!!!  I can rest in this truth even on my worst days of failure.

David discovered this same truth.  He was blessed to know his sins were forgiven by God.  He was a son of Abraham as well.

Paul closes this chapter with verses that give us both a spiritual mattress and pillow to rest upon:

21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

I challenge you to place all of your weight on these promises.  Rest in Him!!!