“The Word of God is Powerful”

bible-prayers2aBible history is fascinating and teaches us many practical as well as spiritual lessons. The prophet Nahum was sent to encourage the kingdom of Judah as they were being assaulted by the Assyrians. In particular it was the king of Nineveh who was brutal. If you think ISIS is brutal, you “ain’t seen nothing yet.” In a contest for the title of “most brutal”  Assyria would win hands down.

While Judah waits for Nahum’s prophecy to happen, God in His mercy places a righteous king, Josiah on the throne in Judah. Why did Josiah earn the reputation of a righteous king? He was transformed by the renewing of his mind through the power of the Word of God and that happens when the Holy Spirit steps in and convicts us of our sin. [Rom 12/John 16]

God’s Word pierced his heart. He “heard the words of the law scroll, and he tore his clothes,” [2Kings 22]. And like Jeremiah reminded us in ch 6, he knew he stood at a crossroads. He considered the path before him, sought wise counsel and followed through on it. The point of his story is not the discovery of the Law but that it led to a complete reformation personally and nationally. Josiah allowed God to reform his thinking and his actions and it will do the same for you. Take another example, Martin Luther. He too was transformed by the renewing of his mind when he read ““The righteous by faith will live.” He too stood at a crossroads and on Oct 31st he nailed his 95 theses on the castle door and sparked the reformation that led to where we are today.

Both Josiah and Luther were reformed by the Word of God and it will do the same for you. But, be forewarned, when the Holy Spirit takes charge powerful things happen. King Josiah cleansed the temple, removed the idols, and deposed false teachers. Martin Luther caused the church to wake up and bring the gospel message to the people.

Are you ready for God to work in your life?

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Are You Good?

mark 10 you are good enough2We all love the warm and fuzzy’s but in Mark 10 Jesus strips away those to reveal who we really are. We either have  hard hearts,  receptive hearts or blind hearts and it all begins with one question: Are we good? The rich young ruler called Jesus “Good Teacher.”  Jesus asks him pointedly, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” If you believe me to be good and only God is good, then I am God. Are you really wanting me as God to show who you really are?

Our measure of “goodness” is faulty for the Law was given to reveal to us who God is and who we are. The rich young man felt he had “done” all good things but knew he was lacking in one area. He was truly asking, what am I missing but when the scales are removed from his eyes, he sees but is unwilling to give up that one thing—his riches. He was blind to his breaking of the first and last commandment: have no other gods before me and do not covet. When that was revealed he was unwilling to surrender those and follow God.

God wants us to see that to have eternal life we must see ourselves as God sees us. We have missed the mark of God’s standard.  “we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But, the promise for eternal life is there when we are willing to surrender our “wages of sin” and receive the “gift of eternal life.” [Rom 6:23]

Are you good?

Are you willing to surrender all to Jesus?

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“Talking to Yourself…”

 

psalm 34 assurance2How many times today have you caught yourself talking to yourself? Are you rehearsing the words of the accuser of the brethren? He says “you cannot be assured of your salvation.” You are not alone my friend. Before David was crowned king he faced many difficult and challenging circumstances and often if truth be known, they came about because he was blameshifting, not taking ownership of his own sin of unbelief in God. We too often go this route and fail to see God’s graciousness in spite of ourselves. It is important when God reveals this to us that we stop and testify to who God is and who we are.

Jesus reminded us “the mouth speaks what fills the heart.” [Matt 12] Therefore, we must fill our hearts with the inspired Word of God that we might resist the devil and tell him to “Go away.”  His desire is to make you doubt but God’s word is true: NO ONE or NOTHING can snatch us from the Father’s hands where our names are engraved upon his palms. Speak the words of Jesus and Satan will flee from us and in that moment, the Illuminating Holy Spirit will come and refresh our spirits.

If you want assurance, hold fast to your confession. Confidently approach the throne of grace. Cling to that which is good. “STAY, PRAY and WATCH.”  It is then that you will see the truth of John 3:36 “The one who believes in the Son “HAS,” eternal life.

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Treasures…Here Today, Gone Tomorrow…OR???

2peter 3 treasure2sIn the last days blatant scoffers will come into our midst proclaiming that which is contrary to the Word of God. They say time marches on just as it always has from creation but choose to deny the effects of sin upon this earth and mankind. They heap unto themselves treasures of silver and clothes which moths and decay will turn to dust or to be given to charity for another. [Job 27]. Yet, we who believe in the power of the risen Christ are commanded to be heaping treasures which will last for eternity. In reality Peter is telling us what we really already know but need reminding: the only things we can carry into eternity are holiness and godliness for riches are uncertain but good deeds, generosity to others and sharing of the truth of the gospel are untouched by the taint of this world.

In addition the scoffers of this world fail to see the mercy and grace of God’s patience in waiting for them to repent and turn to Him. Sadly one day they will stand before God and will hear “depart from me, I never knew you.” May we yearn instead to hear “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord.”

Beloved, where your heart is are your treasures. Are you sending your treasures on ahead to eternity or heaping them up here in a world of rust and decay?

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“Never Give Up–Hope in God”

ImageHow often through our day we find ourselves asking the “why” question? Why does a child disobey the parent? Why does my friend scoff and sneer? Why does it seem that a word spoken is taken differently than what I intended it to be? Why does it seems like God is silent and far away? It is at those time I need this reminder: God is as near as the whisper of the wind in the willows, as near as the soft clouds as they float across the sky, as near as the breath of life we take each moment.

In psalm 42 and 43, the psalmist asks two questions: Why do I go about mourning? Why are you cast down O my soul?

If we were honest we have those days when we question the same things. David had reason to mourn because of the constant threat of the enemies seeking his life. He missed the fellowship and the tabernacle. He missed the worship time with others.

Fast forward and we can also see and hear our Savior on the cross hearing the religious leaders and bystanders ask the same age old question the psalmist heard: Where is your God now? He saved others but he cannot save himself. It is at that point that vs 10 seems to be the cry of the heart “My enemies’ taunts cut into me to the bone.” This is how life seems to the psalmist as well. Where is God when he needs him?  His heart aches but his intellect says: hope in God! We can recall the promise of Jesus: I will never leave you nor forsake you. No matter the circumstance this is what we need to do as the palmist did: I will pray to God while I am trapped; I will recall God’s lovingkindness and the song He has put in my heart and in my prayers.

King Solomon said there is “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”[Eccl 3] But in those times we can echo: Hope thou in God for He is steadfast and He hears our heart. Our circumstances may not change but our heart and focus do change. That is why we can find solace, peace and joy in our deepest times. Today, if this is your lot in life and you are down, take heart, you are not alone. Both the psalmist and our Savior experienced this and they turned to God to lift themselves out of the miry clay. May you do the same.

 

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The Widow’s Mite….

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After teaching a parable regarding the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, being tested by the Sadducees about the resurrection and an interchange between an expert in the Law who is found to not “be far from the kingdom of God,” Jesus takes time out and sits down. This is one of the few times we see Jesus taking time from his “duties” to sit and just observe and use the teachable moment for his disciples. He chooses his “people watching” space near the Treasury Box. As he observes he notes two categories of people who come to offer their tithe this Passover season and uses this opportunity to teach us all a principle of “heart giving.”

First to capture Jesus’ attention are the experts in the law who come in their long flowing robes and seeking elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogue and the places of honor at banquets. Jesus says they also devour widow’s property and make a show of long and supposedly devout prayers. Beware of them as their outward show will only earn them a severe punishment.

But then his attention is arrested when as he watches the crowd, one person stands out above the rest. She is a poor widow. How did he notice her? Was it by the way she dressed or was it her age or was it because she was alone indicating she was like Anna of Luke’s gospel with no male husband or heir? As he watches, she approaches the treasury box. It is as if when she reaches this point that she stops and praises God for the gift that will keep on giving. The copper kettle does not ring loud and long but only a pittance of sound is heard from her two small copper coins yet Jesus notes her inner joy. Her small token will provide so much for service to others as it came from the heart. In her giving she is demonstrating that she trusts God for her daily provision from His hand. Note Jesus said she gave out of her poverty and gave from the very livelihood on which to subsist. Others may have taken this opportunity to chide her saying why not keep one to provide for your needs? Ah, but she might answer, this what I desire to do for Him—from my heart. He will care for my daily needs.

The teachable moment for us is that her gift kept on giving for even today we read of this and marvel. When we give is it from the heart so that only the eyes of Jesus see? Do we offer praise for the small gifts that are given from the heart?

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“Honoring God with the Heart”

ImageWhen you read the word “defilement” what images come to mind? Is it some picture of a far off land and people searching through the dump looking for food? OR Is it some picture of a church with people dressed in their finest taking communion who have yet to take this step: Psa 51:2 Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin! Or this one: 1Co 11:28 A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. No matter which picture comes to mind, Jesus has a word for all of us: it is not the outward life but the inward life. If ever there were a picture of outward purity but inward defilement it is the hypocritical Pharisee…note it is not the Pharisees of the time of Jesus but it is the Pharisee within all of us. It is then that the words of Jesus should pierce our hearts and that we begin to look and see what He sees. He sees we have escalated traditions to the above inspired scripture. That was the problem of the first century Pharisees and why Jesus took such offense at them.

Wisely the Pharisees sought to protect Israel from the false prophets and teachers that they may never have to do another “lap around the wilderness” or Babylonian captivity again, but in their quest they had closed eyes to see and closed hearts to hear. Thus Jesus points them to their practices of washing and Corban (which is to set aside a gift to the temple which cannot be touched until an appointed time even if a need arises to care for one’s parents) to show them the true defilement is as Isaiah said: this people honor me with their lips but their heart is far from me. Their outward practices had become so ingrained that the washing of hands superseded the washing of the heart. Both Moses and Jeremiah pleaded with the people to do that step before they began to worship. Deu 10:16 Therefore, cleanse your heart and Jer 4:14 “Oh people of Jerusalem, purify your hearts .”

Today as we continue our journey to the cross let’s take time to do a spiritual heart check. Will you examine your hypocrisy as I also have to do? Where have I or you set aside what is good as Corban but have yet to set aside our sin?

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Are you just hearing or are you listening?

ImageJesus taught the listening audience with parables which are like illustrations that reveal the heart and spiritual truths. Wiersbe wrote: A parable begins innocently as a picture that arrests our attention and arouses our interest. But as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. If we continue to look by faith, the mirror becomes a window through which we see God and His truth. How we respond to that truth will determine what further truth God will teach us.” As Jesus presented the parable of the soils many heads were nodding yet later the disciples asked for clarification. Jesus asked them: “Don’t you understand this parable? Then how will you understand any parable?” And perhaps he is asking you and I the same questions.

“Listen!” This parable is about the three enemies: the “god” of hardness, the “god” of shallowness, the “god” of the crowded life. As the sower cast his seed some fell along the hardened path. This is a reflection of a hardened heart much like the religious leaders who watched with purpose to accuse and assassinate him. Their “god” is intellectualism and man-made rules even though Jesus provided the heavenly evidence of a withered hand restored. Some seed fell among the rocky ground. This is the “god” of the shallow heart that lacks hunger or thirst for the deep meanings of God. The Word does not penetrate their will or their way of life. These are unable to discern truth from error and thus are led away into false theology. The seed that fell among the thorns reflects the heart that is crowded by calendars and the clock—no time to read, study or meditate. These are satisfied with a “ticket punch” and not the deep truths that God offers those who seek Him. In sharp contrast is the seed that fell on the good soil/heart which reflects the hungering and thirsting heart that searches the Word to see if what is said is true. These are the Bereans that Paul commended. These are the ones whose seed sprouts, then a stalk appears, then the head and finally the fruit ready for harvest.

Jesus said: “Whoever has ears to hear had better listen!” In other words: Listen with your ears but hear with your heart.

Photo credit: moazmodernvinyl.com

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Sharing Your Faith to the Almost Persuaded….

ImageWhat do Felix, Festus, King Agrippa and Bernice all have in common with the rich man in Luke 16? They all in some way said that they were almost persuaded to accept Jesus but never did. They sealed their eternal destiny by a single word “almost.” To be almost is to be eternally lost because you have not made the most important decision of your life and this is what Paul presented to these four individuals.

Paul, by sharing, teaches us the primer of how to share one’s faith to those who have not heard and have not made any decision. Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel, for [he knew] it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” We must believe that as well. He had been waiting now for 2 full years and now with a captive audience he asked their patience as he recounts his journey from unbelief to belief and that is what you and I are to be doing.

Vs 4-19 Plant the seed through your faith story. Share who you before you met Christ. No one has your history and no one has your experiences, capitalize on those facts. Note Paul shared both his education and his religious training and then asks a question: “Why do you people think it is unbelievable that God raises the dead?” Before they could respond Paul continued.

Vs 20-26 Water the seed of their thinking just as Paul shared about his change and transformation. No one has your experience and no one has the same story. Jesus stopped him and opened his eyes to see his sin and how he had been persecuting Jesus.  Your story is not the same but it is still just as powerful as Paul’s.

Vs. 27- Ask the key question that will touch their hearts just as Paul revealed the heart of Agrippa. “Do you believe the prophets, King Agrippa? I know that you believe.” In other words, where do you stand before God, as an unbeliever or a believer?

Remember that all men will respond in some way. Festus said Paul was insane which revealed that he truly did not believe that God could raise someone from the dead nor did he believe that Paul actually met Jesus on the Damascus Road and was transformed. He discounted both and thus is without excuse. Agrippa sat squirming knowing if he answered he did believe then Festus would categorize him as crazy as well and that was a place he was not willing to be…so he answered “almost.” To be almost is to be eternally lost for you have not made any decision.  Bernice was silent, but was her heart pricked? The heart is God’s problem not ours.

Beloved, each of us has a story to tell, it is our story, in fact we are the expert because it is ours and ours alone! Peter said we have everything we need. It is the devil’s lie that we are not wise enough, strong enough, educated enough…we are…for God has prepared us to share. How the hearers respond is not our concern, our concern is to be obedient to share. We may not have two years to craft our story for God may bring someone today across our path. Are we ready? Can we share the Romans Road to salvation as Paul did?

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G.A.P. = God Answers Prayer (God opens Prison Doors)

ImageWe have walked alongside Peter from a small fishing village to a mountain top to his fearless preaching in the Temple. We have seen one who denied and yet was restored that he may lead the church in its beginning stages. We relate so much to Peter for his faltering steps are much like ours and our hearts yearn to meet him in glory! We have seen his impulsiveness and say, that is me. We see his denial and we say I have done the same once or twice. We see his love for Jesus when he said “if you are the Master, tell me come to you on the water.” And now in this chapter Dr. Luke will give us one more glimpse of his last days in Jerusalem with the exception of Acts 15. We find Peter in prison having earned the ire of Herod. And once again and as he has done before, Peter falls fast asleep.  Peter it seems never has a problem with insomnia! He slept while Jesus prayed and He slept while Moses and Enoch talked with Jesus on the mountain. He just closes his eyes and falls asleep! This time, to be sure that Peter does not escape, Herod has him chained to guards in his prison. But man’s chains are no match for the saints’ prayers!  

God is pleased with the saints’ prayers and often as he bends his ear to our words his heart is open to receive and answer as we beg. We must be like the Canaanite woman unwilling to give up but to seek an answer. When a brother or sister is imprisoned in some way, do we earnestly beg God for their deliverance according to His will or if truth be known is our mind here and there scattered with many thoughts or do we like Peter fall asleep on the watch? We would do well to take a lesson from these early believers whose very lives surrounded a lengthy time in earnest prayer. We remember what James wrote: “The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.” Would that we be like the early church who pounded the doors of heaven for God to answer and deliver.

When Peter is released by an angelic visitor who had to shake him awake and lead him like a child outside the prison walls, we find him knocking at the door of where the believers were sequestered. He might have muttered: it was easier getting out of prison than getting into Mary’s house!  Continuously knocking and finally gaining entrance the believers were astonished to see how God answered! Beloved, trust in the G.A.P. method…God Answers Prayers.

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