Archive | January, 2011

Bound and Bold

24 Jan

Paul spent a lot of time in jail because of what he believed in.  Despite being a prisoner, he spoke out boldly about the Messiah.  When he was on trial before Festus and Agrippa, he recounted the story of how he became a Christian.

“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison.  And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.

“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.

“‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.

“And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’

“And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”

Suddenly, Festus shouted, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!”

But Paul replied, “I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner! King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do—”
Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”*

Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26:9-29

Despite the hardship that he endured in his life, Paul kept his eyes on the Lord and turned to him for strength.  I pray that we too will seek God in our lives, whether during hard times or great times.  I pray for boldness to carry out God’s will and to trust in the plan that he has for our lives.

 

Advertisements

Can You Earn Salvation?

21 Jan

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:1-10

As I read this scripture, I was reminded of the importance of being humble.  As His word says, “none of us can boast about it.”  Salvation is not something to boast about. It is something to praise God about. To worship and sing to Jesus about. To stand in awe because of the amazing gift that is given freely from God’s pure love and grace. 

I have often heard people talk about how so and so is a good person, so how can anyone say that they don’t deserve to go to heaven.  But, unfortunately, so many people have not understood the most important point, NO ONE deserves to go to heaven.  We all fall short.  It is by receiving Christ Jesus as our saviour, by recognizing that He died on a cross in order to take the punishment of our sins that we receive salvation.  Only by accepting Jesus into our hearts may we enter God’s presence.  Not one of us will ever deserve this gift.  However, ANYONE can receive the gift of salvation by turning to Christ, accepting him, and asking for forgiveness.

Thank God for his mercy, love, and grace!

Love…

19 Jan

Love is a recurring topic for me and it’s easy to explain why.  I seek it every day.  I want to feel loved.  Who doesn’t?

This morning as I was driving to work, I was blown away by how beautiful everything is.  All I wanted to do was praise God for the love he put into the world.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:9-10

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 John 4:16-17

His love moves me.  It brings tears to my eyes.  It gives me goose bumps.  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can compare to the love of Christ.

“Your Love,” by Brandon Heath

“Your Love is a Song,” by Switchfoot

Proverbs

18 Jan

People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at God. Proverbs 19:3

When we choose not to follow God’s will for our lives by turning our backs on Him, by blatantly refusing to listen to what His word teaches and His voice whispers to our souls, it makes no sense to blame Him. To be angry at Him for our own foolish decisions.  Yet, as this proverb says, it happens all the time. People make bad decisions and then turn their pain into anger directed at God. To live a life of happiness and joy, we have to seek God’s will and pray for His guidance. We have to follow Him and keep His instructions close to our hearts.

If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you will turn your back on knowledge. Proverbs 19:27

The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the  way? Proverbs 20:24

No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord. Proverbs 21:30

O my son, give me your heart. May your eyes take delight in following my ways. Proverbs 23:26

Visions

14 Jan

Daniel was a man blessed by God to see visions of what lies ahead.  This morning I read of Daniel’s visions of the end of times in the book of Daniel chapters 7-12.  He saw visions of the wars and kingdoms that would rise and fall leading up to the time when Satan is finally destroyed and all his power will be taken away forever.  It struck me, how Daniel was an ordinary man, chosen by God to do something extraordinary.  He tells of how he became so terrified when he would have visions that he even fainted.  But, God would always give him the strength to listen and bless him with the gift of understanding what he had had seen.  Now, we are able to read of what is to come and be aware of the signs because Daniel recorded this for us to learn.  After one of his visions (in Daniel 8), he prayed this prayer:

“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to our kings and princes and ancestors and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame. This is true of all of us, including the people of Judah and Jerusalem and all Israel, scattered near and far, wherever you have driven us because of our disloyalty to you. O LORD, we and our kings, princes, and ancestors are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him. We have not obeyed the LORD our God, for we have not followed the instructions he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has disobeyed your instruction and turned away, refusing to listen to your voice.

“So now the solemn curses and judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured down on us because of our sin. You have kept your word and done to us and our rulers exactly as you warned. Never has there been such a disaster as happened in Jerusalem. Every curse written against us in the Law of Moses has come true. Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the LORD our God by turning from our sins and recognizing his truth. Therefore, the LORD has brought upon us the disaster he prepared. The LORD our God was right to do all of these things, for we did not obey him.

“O Lord our God, you brought lasting honor to your name by rescuing your people from Egypt in a great display of power. But we have sinned and are full of wickedness. In view of all your faithful mercies, Lord, please turn your furious anger away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. All the neighboring nations mock Jerusalem and your people because of our sins and the sins of our ancestors.

“O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary.

“O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy.

“O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.” Daniel 9:4-19

Daniel pleaded for forgiveness for the Lord’s people and God listened to those prayers.  He received more visions and even greater understanding.  His book closes with an account of the Time of the End:

“At that time Michael, the archangel who stands guard over your nation, will arise. Then there will be a time of anguish greater than any since nations first came into existence. But at that time every one of your people whose name is written in the book will be rescued. Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever. But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”

Then I, Daniel, looked and saw two others standing on opposite banks of the river. One of them asked the man dressed in linen, who was now standing above the river, “How long will it be until these shocking events are over?”

The man dressed in linen, who was standing above the river, raised both his hands toward heaven and took a solemn oath by the One who lives forever, saying, “It will go on for a time, times, and half a time. When the shattering of the holy people has finally come to an end, all these things will have happened.”

I heard what he said, but I did not understand what he meant. So I asked, “How will all this finally end, my lord?”

But he said, “Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means.

“From the time the daily sacrifice is stopped and the sacrilegious object that causes desecration is set up to be worshiped, there will be 1,290 days. And blessed are those who wait and remain until the end of the 1,335 days!

“As for you, go your way until the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days, you will rise again to receive the inheritance set aside for you.” Daniel 12:1-13

I thank God for His word, for His forgiveness, and for His peace. I seek His kingdom and I pray for His will in my life. As we await the time of the return of His Son Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of all the prophecies foretold in His holy book, let us seek His will above all else.

You Have Won Your Battle

11 Jan

Have you ever stopped to think about the battles that take place around the world?  The newspaper always has updates on various battles that are taking place around the world and the casualties of these wars.  But what about the battles that take place in the spiritual world? “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12

I am writing to you who are God’s children
because your sins have been forgiven through Jesus.
I am writing to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I am writing to you who are young in the faith
because you have won your battle with the evil one.
I have written to you who are God’s children
because you know the Father.
I have written to you who are mature in the faith
because you know Christ, who existed from the beginning.
I have written to you who are young in the faith
because you are strong.
God’s word lives in your hearts,
and you have won your battle with the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14

Do Not Love This World
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Last night, as I read 1 John 2, I was struck by the significance of the words, “You have won your battle with the evil one.”  Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, the battle has been won. Satan is defeated by  Jesus’ death on the cross. He saved us from the shackles of sin, from death.  Once the battle is won, death no longer has a hold on us because we will have eternal life.  Our hearts are filled with the holy spirit and our eyes can be fixed on Heaven, not on this world.  Jesus brings hope and peace into our lives. Praise God!!

Raising the Dead

10 Jan

I just finished reading the book, “Raising the Dead: A Doctor Encounters the Miraculous” by the cardiologist Chauncey W. Crandall.  This book tells of the experiences Dr. Crandall has had with patients actually coming back to life after being pronounced dead (for up to 40 minutes!).  His book tells of his spiritual journey with Christ and how his life experiences have grown his faith in tremendous ways.  I got chicken skin so many times reading this book that I actually lost count!

So rather than give away too many details of the book, I am going to share what the New Testament says about the resurrection of the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:

The Resurrection of Christ

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

The Resurrection of the Dead

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, “God has put all things under his authority.” (Of course, when it says “all things are under his authority,” that does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.) Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.

If the dead will not be raised, what point is there in people being baptized for those who are dead? Why do it unless the dead will someday rise again?

And why should we ourselves risk our lives hour by hour? For I swear, dear brothers and sisters, that I face death daily. This is as certain as my pride in what Christ Jesus our Lord has done in you. And what value was there in fighting wild beasts—those people of Ephesus—if there will be no resurrection from the dead? And if there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character.” Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all. 1 Corinthians 15:12-34