Articles

Faith in an Invisible God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20)

These 2 verses are from the opening chapter of Romans and the first section is about being justified through a life of faith and the second section is a portion of a lesson about God’s wrath towards unrighteous people though I pulled it out in support of my thought this morning that our God is alive and working in eternity.

Over the weekend, my Brittany had pups and though it was a nerve-racking experience for me the owner, everything happened just as the Creator designed it.  I had worked to ensure that there was a safe and clean place for Ginger and her puppies and I was ready to help if I was needed…but I wasn’t.  As I sat and counted puppies and time, that was all I could do.  The design of life took care of the rest and it just occurred to me over and over how awesome our God the Designer is and how much I can see Him in all the creation and life around me.  God is revealed all around me (Psalms 19) and His handiwork should point to His all powerful nature.  I am His handiwork as well and if I can see what He has done and is doing in nature, I can trust He is doing and will do mighty things in my spiritual and physical life.

In remembering and praying for his brethren in Philippi, Paul says that he is confident in the fact that “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.  The design is our Father’s.  That is the work that is being done “behind the curtain” of our flesh.  We need to be present.  We need to be prepared.  But we also need to stand in trust of Him through faith…even if we cannot see Him.  God is all around us and He is working within us…take some time today and be present to see it and believe it and trust it.

Saved to Serve

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:4-10)

God has worked, is working and will work in our lives.  Out of His grace He has made us alive with Jesus.  He is Holy and we are not but He has reconciled us to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus.  We access that reconciliation through our obedience.  We are obedient, because we have faith in our Father and Elder Brother.  That is our part.  God is doing His part and we are to do ours in faith.  We cannot earn our salvation through our work but we are reconciled through our purposeful heart full of faith that what all God has said is true and that He has, can and will continue to save us.  God’s part is the heavy lifting…our part is faith.  But why?

God loves us and wants to work in our lives for our salvation and for our relationship with Him.  The result is a spiritually saved and alive person existing in a physical reality in which we reflect His work…we are His workmanship.  We have been created in Christ Jesus through God’s salvation so that we would do His work…His good works.  We are saved to serve and Almighty Abba Father and serve others so they might know Him.

God has and is bestowing His grace upon us and we are saved in Christ Jesus because of it.

We believe He has saved us through our unyielding faith in Him and what He says.

God’s work and our faith provides us an opportunity to serve while we have breath here on this earth and then to hear “Well done my good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:21) and we enter into our eternal rest with our eternal God in Heaven.

What God Did and Will Do

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:4-10)

For this text, I have underlined the words in bold above and in the margin of my bible I have written “What God Did!” and “What God Will Do!”.    When my eyes hit this part of my bible I am encouraged because the bottom line is that God has worked, is working and will work.  He is always working in me and for me and what He wants is to ensure that I make it home to Him.

Jesus is calling me (Come) and God is working…how awesome!  We see that He is rich in mercy, has great love, and He saves by grace.  Mercy, love, and grace from the Great I AM every moment of every day…backwards and forwards…that is where we are if we are in Christ Jesus through obedience to the gospel. 

Take these words today and be encouraged.  Mercy, love, grace.  God has done, is doing, and will do!  He is leading us home.  Heaven!  Salvation!  

Come

There is a passage in Matthew (11:28-30) that many of us are familiar with and often comes to mind for me when I am being challenged, am tired, or hurting.

 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

We are all laboring through this life and so is the devil.  He is working in different ways at different times to entrap us and keep us from Jesus and the Father.  It is work for us to fight through this and keep our eyes on heaven.  Jesus calls to us in that labor and invites us to Him and His rest.

Jesus says take His yoke and learn from Him.  A yoke is something that is fashioned for a beast of burden to pull something.  It is a tool made for work.  We are going to labor in this world but there is a way to work and have rest at the same time.  If we take the yoke of Jesus, the gospel, and put that around our neck and sit at His feet and learn, we will have rest.  Jesus is humble and kind with a heart to save and to teach.  He is looking to help us home in contrast to the devil who is interested in only destruction…and that burden is heavy.

Jesus is inviting us to spiritual rest and not a complete relief from the struggles in our physical world or a life of comfort or idleness.  He is inviting us to protect ourselves with Him and to put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6) just as He did and be victorious just as He is. I think of it like a bullet proof vest.  The Kevlar covers the vital organs and will stop a bullet yet it is my understanding that even though the bullet is stopped, the force is enough to bruise and to hurt.  Just as the one who is shot is left aching but alive…we will also be spiritually safe and have rest in Jesus though we may hurt outwardly.

Safe in Jesus, that is the point of the day.  Jesus is safe and He provides rest.  God has begun a good work in those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ and He is faithful to complete it and He will not forsake you even if everyone else does.  That is the point to remember…and one more.  None of this is true if we do not respond to the first word of this text…”Come”.  Jesus is calling but we have to answer…in the moment and every day.

 

Paul’s Prayer

Brothers and Sisters,

I apologize for the brief break in articles and hope this finds you well and having a great summer. This work was started by a brother who loves Jesus and wants to provide encouragement to men as they work to serve Christ. The result has been a sustained set of biblical thoughts and messages that inform and encourage brethren as we all join in an eternally important work. I want to make every effort to keep this rolling an as we get going again, I would encourage you and invite you to contribute or if you have any other thoughts/questions, please reach out as we would love to hear from you.

For today, I want to draw your attention to one of Paul’s prayers found in Ephesians 3:14-21.

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him b glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is love and His love is for all and is demonstrated in those who have obeyed the gospel of Jesus and have been reconciled to Him. His love is awesome with a width that makes room for us all, a length that represent the extreme measures He will take to demonstrate it, a depth that has room for every sinner every time, and a height that is equal with an eternal and all powerful God who is lofty and yet ever present.

Love. It is a tough word but made easy in Christ. If God could love us so much as to offer His only Son, we should be able to love and live in Jesus despite what we are facing. That is where God wants us to be despite every effort of the devil to steal us away. God’s love is real and it is knowable and will completely fill us if we open our hearts and make room for it…but we will have to get rid of those things like bitterness, envy, anger, selfishness that crowd out the love God is filling us with. And make no mistake, God is and will do the work…we are His handiwork and He is working in us so that we will bring Him glory…in love…so that others might come and join the family of Jesus.

Take some time and think about Paul’s prayer. It’s a great one. It’s one we should emulate. Allow God to work. Get rid of the things you put in your heart through a fleshly perspective and make room for the love God has given and gives from a Heavenly perspective. Watch the fruit of the Spirit overtake the fruit of the flesh and rejoice with all thanksgiving.

Fruit of Love

Continuing the conversation from yesterday, I want to consider our relationships in terms of fruit.  This conversation starts with a self-examination and as I take these thoughts and look inward and at the results I am getting, I invite you to do the same. 

Specifically, I want to look at the target or what I want to be seeing in my life.  In looking at the standard and comparing what I am seeing in my life, the goal is to reflect on God’s word, respond in prayer, and refocus my activity towards the Gospel and my relationships with my brothers and sisters.  Fruit of the Spirit vs. Fruit of the Flesh. What does this mean to me? 

In Galatians 5:22-23, we see that a fruit of the spirit is LOVE…which is agape and a love of choice that is we choose Jesus and in His service choose the highest good for others.  We should see ourselves elevating the needs of others above our own and even if it hurts, is tough, comes at a cost, or takes a lot of effort we will decide and commit to resisting selfish words, actions and thoughts.

This is the kind of LOVE God has poured into our hearts (Romans 5:5) and this kind of LOVE furthers a deeper love for God as our Father (Romans 8:14-15; Galatians 4:6) and will spill over into our relationships (1 John 4:10-11, 16, 21) in which God is further glorified.

The LOVE of God should be center stage in our lives.  We are to walk in LOVE (Ephesians 5:1-2) and we should love one another fervently (1 Peter 1:22).  LOVE as a decision/choice is fruit bore out of our relationship with God and is therefore the “tie that binds” and “garment” we as Christians put on (Colossians 3:12-14).  “Loose” connections in our relationships or allowing our own personal preferences or desires guide our thoughts, words, or actions is an indicator that we need to take a step back and choose different so that we might act different.  LOVE God and be positioned to LOVE each other which should be our primary motive in everything we do (1 Corinthians 16:14).  Further, LOVING as God has LOVED us will prevent our liberty in Christ from becoming destructive selfishness (Galatians 5:13).

Again, I invite you to reflect on the above passages in God’s word and examine your life and your relationships.  Be prayerful and consider what you see?  Do you see people who are getting stronger and relationships that are getting more and more united or do you see strife, confusion, hurt, anger, division?  Based on what you see, what part are you playing?  Are you holding fast to God’s love…allowing it to fill your heart…so that you can pour it out to others? 

Past-Present-Future

Many of you who know me know that I am an Air Force veteran, a student of history, and very much enjoy learning about military history.  There is a quote that you might have heard that goes something like “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana first said this in 1905 but most remember Winston Churchill saying ‘Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it” during a speech in 1948. 

This is wise counsel and biblical.

Consider this passage from Romans 15 (1-5):

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hopeNow may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God has given us His Word and it is for our learning and it takes work and time…but in the verse above we see that God (through His Word) is patient and if we learn from Him we will have comfort and hope. Further, we can be link-minded with God toward our brethren and we will then be able to strengthen one another and glorify God. 

This is what is on my heart today and what I want to discuss with you over the next several days.  I want us to be united and to learn from God’s Word together so that we can edify one another, be strong when another is weak, love always…hold the line in the great spiritual battle we are engaged in. 

Let’s look at these attributes through the lens of self-examination and determination as to whether or not we are exhibiting them towards our brethren and if not what can we do differently so that we might have patience and be a comfort to each other as God is to us.

Spiritual Fruit not Fleshly Fruit.  That is the objective…what God expects of us.  Gentleness.  Continual self-examination.  Willingness to bear one another’s burdens.  Humility.  Ample knowledge of God’s Word.  Patience.  Sincere and demonstrated love. 

Let’s look at these together over the next several days and I invite you to look around and examine your relationships in Christ.  What do you see?  Do you see people who are getting stronger and relationships that are getting more and more united or do you see strife, confusion, hurt, anger, division?  Based on what you see, what part are you playing?  What fruit are you bearing?  Why?

We are not perfect nor will we ever be.  But we are in this together and we are saved by a Lord who was perfect but was willing to take on the burden of all of our imperfection and sins to the point of death on the cross so that we would be perfected and be able to go home to Abba Father in heaven.  Seems to me, with an example and an Elder Brother like that…we should be willing to do whatever we can in our life to bear spiritual fruit for the sake of our own soul and the souls of those around us.  We need to look in the mirror, examine our fruit, and if we don’t like what we see understand that we are going to have to be different or our history will be our present and will be our future.  Love you all!

Count The Cost

 “A pair of dead birds greet visitors at the chained front door of what would have been the YMCA on Dishman Road in Beaumont, Texas. The birds likely flew in an opening in the rear of the 22,000 square foot unfinished building ripped open by vandals or transients looking for a place to get out of this season’s unusually cold winter. The owner, Wells Fargo, is looking for a way out of the property it acquired through foreclosure after the YMCA declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy and construction halted in February 2010. For about $2 million dollars you could own this facility.”

I read this in a newspaper about five years ago while living in Beaumont, Texas. It made me think about the words of Jesus in Luke 14:25-33. Jesus talked about discipleship. Those who follow Him must count the cost. Jesus demands total allegiance. While many might initially begin to follow Him, they fail to finish because they didn’t count the cost.

Jesus’ words in this text are some of the most challenging He taught. There is no middle ground when it comes to following Him. Being a disciple of Jesus is a life-long endeavor. There is no halftime, vacation, or sabbatical. How do you think the great crowds felt when they learned this?

How do we feel when we hear these words from Jesus?  Let’s consider a few thoughts from what Jesus said.

What is the cost? The cost of following Jesus is everything!  Despite the large crowds that were following Him, Jesus didn’t attempt to soften His words. His words were demanding, stringent, and probably shocking. To be a disciple of Jesus you must hate everyone including yourself, Luke 14:26. Jesus must be first. Jesus must come first before anyone else.  Many are surprised when they read the word “hate.” Certainly, we are to love all men. It’s the idea of “loving less.” We must love Jesus more than anyone else, including ourselves. Half-hearted discipleship will not work. An “every once in a while” kind of discipleship will not work. Read Revelation 3:15-17 as an example.

Can We Do It? Is it possible for us to put Jesus first above everyone and everything? The answer is YES. It is. Otherwise, Jesus would not have told us to do it. But it will require a lot of work. While our reward will be great, it will come with a price. But anything worthwhile comes with a price. The price of redeeming us required sacrifice on the part of Jesus, Ephesians 1:7. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised that the same will be true for us. We can do what Jesus says. We will have to trust Him at all times. We will have to remember the big picture: eternity with Him.

Will We Do It? We are to count the cost. We don’t want to be like the man who began to build but then never finished. When I’m studying with people and teaching them about Jesus, this is one of the passages I share with them. I want them to see what Jesus says about discipleship. It really is a serious matter and one really needs to consider what Jesus says about it. As Christians, let’s be sure that we finish. As Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”

Courage To Arise And Build

Nehemiah is one of my favorite stories to read about in the scriptures. Nehemiah got things done. Nehemiah had a plan and vision. Nehemiah was a great leader. Nehemiah was a man of God.

We can go on and on about these characteristics he had. Today, I want to consider another great quality Nehemiah had.

Nehemiah had great COURAGE.

In Nehemiah 1:1-4, he received terrible news. But the news he received didn’t crush his spirit. He indeed felt terrible. But he cried out to God. He turned to God. While he was in great pain hearing the news, it didn’t crush him. Rather, he had the courage to trust in God and continue to find a way to make a difference.

We need to have the courage to continue and to find ways to make a difference. Nehemiah could have received the news of his family and brethren, cried, and then continued on with his work. But he didn’t. He had the courage to arise and build. This is the mindset we must have.

But that’s not all. Nehemiah had the courage to speak. In Nehemiah 2:1-5, we find Nehemiah making a great request to King Artaxerxes. This took a lot of courage. Nehemiah had a lot riding on the line. Yet Nehemiah had the courage to open his mouth. This may not seem to be like a big deal, but it is. When it comes to arising and building, we will have to open our mouth.

We will need to open our mouth to help encourage our spouse and our children.

We will need to have the courage to open our mouth when things need to be corrected.

We will need to have the courage to open our mouth and apologize when we are wrong.

I’m sure there are other examples we could consider. The point? We need to have the courage to open our mouth like Nehemiah. We will have to override the fear of rejection, difficulties, etc. Nehemiah had the courage to ask the king. He got a YES!

Finally, we are going to need the courage to finish. At times, it can be easy to arise and build. People do this every New Year. People get excited. They listen to podcasts. They read blogs. They are ready for growth. But. They. Don’t. Finish.

I’ve been there and I’m sure you have too. This is where we will need to have courage. The courage to see something through even when it gets hard. That’s what Nehemiah did. He faced opposition, Nehemiah 4:1.  But he had the courage to finish building the wall. Let’s strive to have the courage to arise and build. Let’s go.