Archive for December, 2018

Why did it happen this way? (Luke 1)

December 31, 2018

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people, Luke 1:68

In life we often wonder why things happen as they do.  Here are some examples:

  • Why did the Christian brother die at the height of his ministry?
  • Why does God allow disasters to come?
  • Why were we born where we are born?

Many people believe these are unanswerable questions.  However, this is not the case, God is sovereign in every second of life.  He is always at work, Romans 8:28.  But in our humanity we sometimes wonder why things happen as they do.

This question was on my mind as I read the story of Jesus being born of a virgin. I asked myself this question: “why did God do it this way?  R.C. Sproul comments:

“It is impossible to say whether the virgin birth was the only way Jesus could have come to earth and identified with His people.  As it is, it testifies to Jesus deity, setting Him apart from all others.”  Cited from Pg. 1455, “Reformation Study Bible.”

I believe this was God’s way of setting Jesus apart for the work of redemption.  Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Jesus became our substitute on the cross.  He alone knew no sin, II Corinthians 5:21. Jesus was unique.  This is why God birthed Him in such a unique way.

Someone asked the question: “If a person lived a perfect life and died, would they go to heaven without coming to Jesus?”

The question is flawed because it can’t happen this way.  You and I are not born perfect.  From birth we need a Savior!

I praise the Lord for sending our perfect Savior to give us new life and eternal life.

Advertisements

Looking forward to what is next (Acts 13)

December 28, 2018

 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2

It’s true, you have made it!  The previous statement applies to everyone who has followed our study on the life of Jesus in the gospel of Mark.  For 52 weeks FBC Jackson has been sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Each week we have been challenged by our reading plan and questions from each day.  God has changed many lives this year.

For example, I was talking on the phone with a precious senior lady in our church.  She said: “I have never studied so much in one year in my life. I have never dug so deep in God’s Word.”  She went to say, “I have never grown as much as I have this year.”

What a testimony of someone who, in their senior years of life, is still looking forward to what is next!  I believe the following is so true:

True significance is the prized possession of the one who follows the will of God.

Brothers and sisters, as we complete 2018 and look forward to 2019, God is calling us to go deeper and go farther than we have ever gone with Jesus.  God always wants us to go deeper and farther with Him. This was the case with Barnabas and Paul in Acts 13.  Both brothers were faithfully following the will of God where they were.  But now God had another mission for them.

The good news is this, they obeyed the will of God.  They carried the gospel where God had called them to go.  The church was with them. The Bible said, “They sent them out.”

As we approach a new year, I have written a book entitled, “What’s Next.”  This book seeks to lead us to see what God has for us in this new year. I am excited about continuing to do what God has called us to do.

I want to challenge you to walk with us as we seek to do what is next!!!  If you would like a copy of our new book and the 2019 reading plan, you can order both at our website, http://www.jacksonfbc.com

This Present Darkness (Ephesians 6)

December 27, 2018

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

As I opened my Bible to Ephesians 6, I could not help but peak back at Ephesians 5.  Paul begins chapter five with the word “therefore.”  This connecting word leads us back into chapter four where Paul writes about the difference between our old nature and our new nature. In chapter 5 Paul writes about the two expectations he has for the Ephesian church.

Paul desires for the church to imitate Christ in living a life of sacrificial love. Paul’s desire for the church is for the church to be set apart in their lives.  This was to happen in their personal lives, their lives at home, and in the workplace, 5:3-6:4.

Now, Paul comes to verse 10.  Paul reminds the church of how they were to live in a world he identifies as being filled with “present darkness.”

3 truths arise from verses 10-13:

  1. Satan rules a kingdom described as, “this present darkness.”
  2. Satan’s kingdom is filled with spiritual forces of evil.
  3. Satan’s kingdom is at war with the kingdom of God.

As Christ-followers we are called to stand strong in the Lord putting on the full armor of God in our battle with Satan’s kingdom.  As we are doing this Paul calls us to prayer.

Brothers and sisters, we can together push back the darkness of the kingdom of God as we lock arms in the kingdom of God in prayer.  Here are three prayer suggestions:

  1. Pray throughout the day in the Spirit.
  2. Pray throughout the day for everyone you see and for everyone that comes to mind.
  3. Pray throughout the day for the ministry of the gospel.

As you do this the Bible says, “God is transforming us from the Devil’s Kingdom to Heaven’s Kingdom.”

Colossians 1:13

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

You do not have to wait (Acts 1)

December 26, 2018

And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; Acts 1:4

I do not like to wait!!!  In particular I do not like to wait in fast-food drive through lines. The truth is, there are a few restaurants where I refuse to stop because of their slow drive-through lines.

So, if I am not one to wait, then why do I wait to share the gospel?

In Acts 1, Luke records Jesus last days on the earth in one summary verse:

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While with the Apostles, Jesus gives two commands to the church:

  • Wait for the Holy Spirit, 1:4-5.
  • Take the gospel to all nations of the world, 1:8.

Brothers and sisters, I have good news, you and I do not have wait any longer.  The Holy Spirit has already come, Acts 2.  You and I, as Christ-followers have power, wisdom, and discernment from God.

So, why do we wait? Brothers and sisters, these are the darkest days in the history of our nation.  If ever there was a time the church needed to take the gospel it is now.  We cannot afford to wait one more day,

I want to challenge every Christ-follower to do the following in the new year:

1. Resolve to overcome your fear in the power of the Holy Spirit, II Timothy 1:6-7.

2. Overcome your forgetfulness by daily reading through your prayer list in a journal you will create.

3. Overcome your flesh by renewing your mind daily in God’s Word, Romans 12:2.

 

Everything has a purpose (Romans 9)

December 25, 2018

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory Romans 9:22-23

As you awake to read this mornings blog, it is Christmas day.  I want to join the choirs of heaven in singing, “the Lord has come.”  Oh how awesome to know the Lord did send a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

I pray your day with be filled with love for God and love for people.

As I read Romans 9 this morning my love for God and for people increased.  My love for people increased as I read of Paul’s sacrificing love for His people, Vs: 1-3.  Paul was willing to give up his own life if it would lead to his people coming to salvation. My love for God increased as I read of His sovereign purposes in extending mercy to men in leading them to saving faith, Vs: 6-18.

I found my heart being warmed by the news of God’s mercy to all nations in Vs: 19-32.

On this Christmas day, Romans 9 let me to be reminded of 5 Christmas truths:

  1. Jesus came as the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
  2. Jesus came to identify as one of us,
  3. Jesus went to the cross so that you and I could become children of God.
  4. Jesus came to extend mercy to us.
  5. Jesus is still extending mercy to us.

Brothers and sisters, everything has a purpose. I pray the world comes to understand the purpose of Christmas.

 

A Treasured Possession (Deuteronomy 7)

December 24, 2018

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 7:6

As I sit down to write, I have just completed reading Deuteronomy 6 and 7. I have also read amazing cross-reference passages like Psalm 105:

He is the Lord our God;
    his judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers his covenant forever,
    the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
    his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
    to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
    as your portion for an inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,
    of little account, and sojourners in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
    from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
    he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
    do my prophets no harm!

On this December 24 I am reminded how on that glorious night over two thousand years ago, Jesus came to be our Savior, Lk. 1:68-72

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has visited and redeemed his people
69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we should be saved from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us;
72 to show the mercy promised to our fathers
    and to remember his holy covenant,

Question: “why did God do all this for us?”

The answer is clear, from Scripture:  “He did this because He set His love on us.”

It was the same way with Israel in Deuteronomy 7.  He chose them not because they were a mighty people who were a force in the world.  He chose them not because they were perfect or always faithful.  He chose them because of His love.

On this December 24 I am reminded of two truths that will always be true:

  • God will always be faithful.
  • God will always be righteous.

For those who reject God will find Him rejecting them!  Israel’s story is one of these two truths.

I wonder, what is the story of our lives today?  God intends for you and I to live as His treasured possessions:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. I Peter 2:9

I challenge you to take time today to reflect on who you are His treasured possession!

Since We Believe (I Thessalonians 4)

December 21, 2018

14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  I Thessalonians 4:14

Somethings are easier to believe than other things.  It’s easy to believe what you can see, but it is not so easy to believe what you have not seen.  For example, my grandparents grew up in a day when no one had ever been to the moon.  When the first moon walk occurred, my grandmother refused to believe it.  To the day of her death she believed, it was a hoax.

Question: how many people struggle with believing in Jesus?  The answer, much of the world.

The Apostle Paul is writing to a people who had believed (1:4).  Their belief has led to both actions and anticipation:

 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned (Actions) to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait (Anticipation) for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Here in chapter 4 we see both the actions and anticipation at work:

  • They were to continue living holy lives, Vs: 7.
  • They were to continue in brotherly love, Vs: 9-10.
  • They were to continue to be a witness to others, Vs:11-12.
  • They were to continue to look for Jesus Second-Coming, Vs: 13-18.

Think through what we have read. If the church had not believed in Jesus, none of the above actions would be taking place.  Brothers and sisters, I believe.  Because I believe I have actions of faith. But I also have anticipation that my faith will be realized when I see Jesus.

As we come to the end of this year, will we see Jesus?  Could it be that we will see Him at the beginning of a new year?  One thing is for sure, if I live for Him, revival could come to my town!!!  This is my goal in the new year.

What is Expected (I Corinthians 15)

December 20, 2018

 27 For “God[c] has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. I Corinthians 15:27

I thought it was a very fair question, but the person seemed offended by the question.  I wonder, would you be offended by the question?  I guess, before I can ask you if you would be offended by the question, I need to share the question.

                                          “What does God expect from you?”

Did the question offend you?  The church Paul was writing probably was offended by parts of what he wrote.  But in the chapter before us, they certainly would have been offended if they did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.

As Paul walks us through his proof text of why we must believe there is a resurrection, he includes teaching concerning the Second-Coming of Jesus.

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

As I read these words, I started to write down my expectations about the Second-Coming:

  1. Jesus will return to the earth in visible form (He was resurrected).
  2. Jesus will establish His kingdom.
  3. Jesus will destroy Satan and his kingdom.
  4. Jesus will destroy our last enemy, death.

Those expectations give us a Segway into God’s expectations for our lives:

  1. We are to die daily to ourselves, 15:31.
  2. We are to be steadfast in our walk with God, 15:58
  3. We are to be immovable in our walk with God, 15:58
  4. We are always be abounding in our walk with God, 15:58

Here is verse 58 in the New Living Translation:

58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

God’s expectations never change.  He always wants us to be enthusiastically moving forward in our walk with Him knowing the best is yet to come.

Believing what others see (John 20)

December 19, 2018

 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29

In the community where I grew up a tragedy happened.  My day told me the story of how a man entered the house of a mother and father, killing them as well as their adult son.  I was saddened by the news.  However, the next day my dad added more to the story as he had talked with someone who had been there just after the tragedy.

It seems that Dad’s details were more authentic having talked with an eye-witness.

In John 20 we have no less that 3 stories of people who were eye witnesses of  Jesus being alive after death:

  • Mary Magdalene saw the Lord, Vs: 11-18, she went out and began to announce, “I have seen the Lord.”
  • 10 disciples, minus Thomas, saw the Lord, Vs: 19-24.  They told Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.”
  • Thomas saw the Lord, Vs: 25-28,  Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”

Question: Does a person have to see to believe and is something true if no one sees it?

As we near Christmas, many easily believe that Jesus was born (but most do not accept that He was born of a virgin).  At the same time many more people have a hard time accepting that Jesus rose from the dead.

Brothers and sisters, without both events being true, you and I are still lost!!!

There is much I have never seen but I believe.  Allow me to offer you a short list:

  • I believe God created the world, even though I was not there, Genesis 1:1.
  • I believe God created man, even though I was not there, Genesis 2:14-18.
  • I believe man rebelled against God, even though I was not there, Genesis 3; Romans 5:12.
  • I believe Jesus came, even though I was not there, Lk. 2: 1-15.
  • I believe Jesus is God, even thought I was not there, Mark 9:1-8.
  • I believe Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, even though I was not there, I Corinthians 15:3-4.
  • I believe Jesus ascended back into heaven, even though I was not there, Acts 1:11.
  •  I believe Jesus is coming again, and I will be there, I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

One might say, “This is blind faith.”  I would say, “This is  faith that leads to eternal life with Jesus.”

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Because I believe, I go and tell what I believe.

Here are the lyrics to a beloved hymn:

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born
When I was a seeker
I sought both night and day
I asked the Lord to help me
And he showed me the way
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born
He made me a watchman
Upon a city wall
And if I am a Christian
I am the least of all
Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
Our Jesus Christ is born

Giving up too soon (Luke 24)

December 18, 2018

21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Luke 24:21

Recently I was watching a sports event on TV.  Very quickly it seemed as if this game was going to be a blow out.  The other team seemed to be overwhelmed by their opponents. The score at half-time was so lop-sided that I turned off the game.  The next day I was scanning the scores on ESPN.  To my shock, the other team came back in the second-half and won the game.  The first thing I though was this, “I gave up too soon.”

This was the first thing I thought as I read the story of the two Christ-followers who left Jerusalem on resurrection day. Two things stand out to me about their giving up:

  • They believed Jesus was the messiah until things fell apart.
  • They had hope that Jesus would triumph over their enemies.

But now, after three days of Jesus being in the grave, they have given up hope.  Brothers and sisters I must admit there are times when I have given up when things fell apart. I must admit there have been times when I wondered, what is God doing when enemies seemed to triumph.

Jesus speaks directly to the problem behind our giving up:

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. The Message

These followers had gotten in their head that Jesus will always keep you from trials.  These followers had gotten in their hearts that Jesus should not have had to go to the cross.

When we are tempted to give up, we need to get our heads out of our views and put our minds back in the Word of God.  When we are tempted to lose sight of what Jesus is doing, we need to strength our heart in faith.

As Jesus started at the beginning their minds were set straight and their hearts were set on fire for the truth of God’s Word.

So, here is my wisdom for you today:

Get your mind and heart out of your problems and your theories.  Get your mind and heart back in the Word of God!