“The God of All Comfort”

God is the God of all comfort

2Cor 1 Teddy Bears are given to foster children and those facing surgery as a way of comforting them when the future is an unknown. God has given us others to comfort us as we face times of difficulty. Paul noted that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Do you trust that He can comfort you in all of your troubles? Do you see your troubles as God’s open door for you to minister to others? Paul wanted the Corinthians and us to know that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” [2Cor 1:5]

 Are you confident and able to trust that God is involved in your circumstances? Paul’s testimony was that he was steadfast and immovable in whatever circumstance he found himself in because his hope was set on God alone.

Lastly, Paul reminded the Corinthians to pray without ceasing so that many people may give thanks to God. John Bunyan wrote: “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”

What adversity are you facing today, and how may we pray for you in this time?  

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Faith is Proven

Faith is all of this and more

Romans 12 to 16 What is faith? How do you know you have it, or how do you know it is real? These are questions that come to us from those who are struggling in their walk with the Lord. Faith is an intangible gift from God. You can’t see it or feel or smell it or touch it, but it is real. Faith is proven not by our feelings but by our way of walking, trusting God for each new step along a path He has ordered in eternity past. It is, as James said, proven by our works. Paul says we prove it by presenting our bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God. He notes that it must be without hypocrisy, for love is the highest and greatest gift to God and mankind. That is the real test of faith.

We all have those in our sphere of influence who are weak in their faith. How then do we engage them and encourage them? We do it by not judging them for their walk. Practically we “who are strong [in our faith] ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves.” [Rom 15:1 author addition]Further on, we are to receive each other just as Christ has received you.

May this day be a day in which we don’t look inwardly at our faith but outwardly in the demonstration of our faith to others.

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Grief and God

Only one way to God

Romans 9 to 11: Temporal losses of a job are tough, but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents, but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one. Paul’s heart is broken 💔 for his people, but he also knows and understands the why; they who are lost are stubborn just as he was and Pharaoh along with countless others. Truth: “if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us.” [Heb 10:26]

Men’s hearts are hard and stubborn.  They think there is a tomorrow when they can call upon God for salvation but there may be no tomorrow; today is the day of salvation. They know God’s mercy is evident and they understand that He has stretched out His hands to them but they keep delaying. Is this you? Have you called upon the Lord who saves? If not, know this; God and others are grieving for your soul.

Paul is speaking, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this your grief too for those who are lost? 

Blessed One, we must earnestly contend for the faith. [Jude 1:3] We must “go and make disciples.” [Matt 28] We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ. Just as Moses, Paul was willing to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved. Would we be so willing?

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What evidence does the world see in you?

Acts 22 Josh McDowell titled his book “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” He wrote it so that those who demand evidence as to what has changed your or my life. God used that book to change and continues to use it to change lives if people will listen. But, as so often is the case, Satan draws a veil of blindness over men’s hearts lest they see the glorious gospel and be saved. Yet, we must remember this; we serve the God of impossibilities.

Just as Paul, we all have a God Story of our first encounter with Jesus. Paul’s God Story reveals to us how we, too, can share our testimony before unbelievers. Paul first acquainted himself with the listening audience: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated with strictness under Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors,” Secondly, Paul shared with his listeners how he was just like them: “I was zealous for God just as all of you are today.” Thirdly, Paul shared what transpired to change his focus: I met Jesus the Nazarene, the Righteous One. Fourthly, he shared what transpired after that encounter. For Paul, it was to continue to Damascus, and then God’s plan would be revealed. You may have a different fourth step.

 If you have met Jesus along your Damascus road, you, too, have a God story.

Will you share it?

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“The People of the Cross”

Are you sharing about Jesus?

Acts 20 We are to be in a race of winning people to Christ and until He returns. We are the “people of the cross” with the message of truth: Jesus alone is The Way, The Truth, and The Life! [Jn 14:6]  Paul left the Ephesian elders for the last time: “testifying …about repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus.” [Acts 20:21] Paul’s testimony was: “I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.” [Acts 20:24]. Later he would write: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!” [2Ti 4:7]

We are to be busy testifying about the gospel message even when the wolves rear up. Remember this promise:  “Indeed, the Lord who commands armies has a plan,” and it will be fulfilled. [Isa 14:27] “Obedience is better than crumbling to the fears of speaking out.” [O. Harris] Be faithful to pray that God releases his angelic army, miraculous signs and wonders so that the enemy’s mission of destruction is hindered. Pray that unbelievers may have dreams that will convict and turn them from unbelief to the true Messiah. 

Pray that we remain steadfast as the “people of the cross.”

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God Uses the Faithful

Technology

Acts 17 Are you feeling less faithful because of the pandemic? Does it seem like you are in a holy huddle on Facebook, Twitter, and now Parler? Or are you using today’s technology to reach the unsaved with the gospel message? What is keeping all of us from our reaching our unsaved neighbors, unsaved family members, or others?

For Paul, the magistrates and the Judaizers kept repeating the words “go away, go away, go away” no matter where they were preaching. Paul could have given up, but instead, he pressed on from Philippi to Thessalonica, Berea, and then Athens. In each place, Paul presented what the author of Hebrews was saying: Jesus is better than the prophets, the unknown idols, the angels, or the Law. The Thessalonians disagreed, but the Bereans decided to check out Paul’s words. Dr. Luke records that they were more noble than the Thessalonians, for they heard and then searched the scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true. Even today, they are held up as an example for us to follow. The gospel message doesn’t change and God is looking for the faithful that will step beyond the boundaries to reach the lost.

Do you hear the “Go Away” refrain over and over?  Remember: the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved; it is the power of God. [1Cor 1: 18]  Ask God to show you how to share the gospel creatively. Try using technology:

https://netbible.org/  and now https://knowinggod.org/

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God’s Hit List and Unlocked Hearts

The Holy Spirit unlocks the heart

 Acts 16 A common saying goes like this: When one door closes, another opens. In the meantime, more often than not, we are left wondering what God is up to.  Dr. Luke does not tell the how or why; only that Paul and Silas’ journey to Philippi opened the door to suffering, false imprisonment and the beginnings of the Philippian church.

Through a series of circumstances, the Holy Spirit pierced the hearts of two Philippians and they responded to the offer of salvation. First, there is the seller of Purple, Lydia, who accepts Jesus and invites Paul and Silas to come and stay in [her] house. [Acts 16:15] Later their preaching causes an uproar in the city and the magistrates beat and falsely imprison Paul and Silas. But, God has another person on His list to hear the message of salvation. He sends an earthquake to awaken the heart of the jailer by opening the jail cells. The fearful jailer thinking that the prisoners were escaping was about to commit suicide until Paul and Silas assured him they were all accounted for. He took Paul and Silas, washed their wounds, fed them, and asked this all-important question “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]  

We may not know what God is doing but He will direct us to those who need to hear these words. “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom 10:9]

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“The Peter Problem”

The Peter Problem

Acts 11 Did you ever have a day when God, through the Holy Spirit, reaches down to remind us that we have the message of good news? From Genesis to Revelation, the truth is that Jesus died for all—not just for some or not as one group over another as the first century Jews did. Instead, the Holy Spirit says, “go and make disciples of ALL nations.” Peter also had this problem, and we do as well.

By our very nature, we are ethnocentric; sometimes, even unconsciously, we establish taboos regarding who will hear the good news. We stand guilty before God because we have a Peter problem. Like Peter, we establish a boundary by thinking salvation is for “us” but not for “them.” Peter finally got the message, but it took three times for it to register. How many times do we need to hear: go and make disciples?  Do we need a three-time lesson as well? We are slow to respond not because we don’t know the truth but because we live and move in a ‘holy huddle.’

Just think how life would be different for the Cornelius’ of this world if we ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We must pray that God gives a fresh vision for the world that needs to hear the gospel message.

God is not willing anyone to perish, but all hear and respond to the gospel message.

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“Acceptance And/Or Rejection”

Will you follow Jesus?

Acts 6 to 9 The gospel narrative revealed a fickle populace. They wanted miracles but not the Savior. After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were moved by the Holy Spirit’s power to share the good news but just as with Christ; the message was accepted only as the physical needs were met but rejected when the spiritual needs were noted. 

The Greek-speaking Jewish widows raised a complaint that they were being rejected in the food distribution. Out of this predicament, two men will surface; Stephen and Philip. Stephen will debate and preach but is finally rejected by the religious council, stoned, and left to die. Philip will leave Jerusalem and be used by the Holy Spirit to bring the gospel message to Samaria and Caesarea. A chief rejecter, Saul, meets Messiah on the road to Damascus, and his life is forever changed, yet he too is rejected by many. 

No matter where God has placed us, we meet fickle people. They desire but do not have because, as James said, they ask amiss. [James 4:2] No matter the circumstance, the gospel message is used to pierce the hearts of men, so they are without excuse. [Rom 1:20]

God asks, do you love me more than these? [John 21:15-19] Will you pick up your cross and follow Him—no matter where it leads.

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“Salvation in No Other Name”

There is no other name by which men can be saved

Acts 4 Satan is a master at deception and pride. He uses both to place power in the hands of a few and when the sin of pride takes hold, corruption is the end product.

The religious leaders thought they were done with this “Jesus thing” by crucifying him, but now before them stands a man who has been healed by this same “dead” Jesus. They realized that they had no body to use as evidence to refute his claims. They noted that uneducated and unlearned Peter and John had been with this Jesus.  They were living proof of “do not worry about how to speak or what to say for what you should say will be given to you.” [Mt 10:19] God provided the religious leaders evidence of a man healed by His power and they could not deny it.  

It is only by the grace of God that once again these leaders heard the truth that salvation takes place  “not by works of righteousness … but on the basis of his mercy” [Tit 3:5] and  “there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12] Yet, Satan blinds the minds of those who refuse to believe, so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel. [2Cor 4:4] It is because of the evidence they now stand without excuse. They saw and chose to deny it.

When the evidence is before you, will you believe?

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