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!  

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.

Rejoice

One of the great benefits of using some kind of marking system in your Bible is that it will help with recall. It will help certain themes stand out. This is especially true when reading Luke 15.

This is a familiar chapter to many, particularly with the story of the son who squandered his estate with loose living, Luke 15:13. There would be great joy when he returned. But prior to this story, we see the theme of rejoicing.

“Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!” Luke 15:6.

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” Luke 15:7.

“When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’” Luke 15:9.

“But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” Luke 15:23-24.

“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found” Luke 15:32.

Reading this chapter should cause us to rejoice.

First, we should rejoice because at one time we too were lost. But thankfully, through the grace of God, we have been redeemed from our sins. We should rejoice.

Second, we should rejoice because when it comes to doing God’s great work of evangelism, it truly is a blessing when a soul is saved. One of my favorite passages in this chapter is verse 7. The fact that even heaven rejoices when one person repents is so cool to think about. While many of us may never make the front page of a newspaper or have thousands of followers on social media, we can know that there was joy in heaven when we repented from our sins and began to follow Jesus. I love to use this verse after someone has been baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

The story of the son who was lost but then returned back home is a great story for us to think about. From this story, we should ask ourselves how we respond when a person repents. Are we filled with great joy? Are we excited and welcome them back into the fold with open arms? When we hear of someone obeying the gospel, do we feel the same excitement? Heaven rejoices, but are we rejoicing?

Jesus loved all men. He still does. He had mercy and compassion for those who were in sin. He spent time around the outcasts of His society. He would eventually die for them.

When a person is lost and then found, let us be sure to rejoice. Let’s appreciate what has truly taken place.

God’s Wish

The apostle Peter wrote to Christians who were standing firm in the grace of God. They were suffering various trials. Peter reminded them what they had already learned from the apostles, 2 Peter 3:1-2. As he spoke about mockers that would come, he spoke about the patience of God in verse 9. He said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

The promises of God will come to pass. One day He will return. We don’t know the day or the hour, but it will happen. He will return like a thief in the night, 2 Peter 3:10. What an amazing day that will be for those who are in Jesus Christ! We will be with our Savior for eternity. However, it will be a sad day for those who have rejected Jesus. For those who decided not to follow Him, it will be a bad day.

Yet God is patient. As Peter said, God doesn’t desire for anyone to be lost. That is good news! Many in the world don’t have a good understanding of God. Many believe He is a mean God who wants people to spend eternity in hell. That is not the case. Read 2 Peter 3:9 again. Peter said: “Not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” God’s wish is that no one will perish, but rather come to repentance and serve Him! The God of the Bible is one who loves all men. We know that because He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, John 3:16. God is love, 1 John 4:8. All men have an opportunity to be with Him in heaven. Throughout the scriptures, we have seen the patience of God.

  1. In the book of Jonah and other books of prophecy, we see the patience of God. He gave wicked Nineveh an opportunity to repent, In Jonah 3:10 it says, “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” Those in Nineveh were given a second chance. They repented. God is patient.
  2. God is still patient. He has sent His Son, so we could be saved from our sins.  We have His words preserved for us, so we can know Him and His will. The gospel continues to be proclaimed throughout the world, so men can be saved. God is patient. He desires all men to be saved. He desires all men to repent.

Let us never abuse the patience of God. Let us not take for the granted the opportunities He gives us to repent. Let us continue to talk to others about Jesus. Why? Because God’s wish is that none will perish. Ultimately, people have to make a decision to follow Him.  For some people, it may take a long time. Like God, we will have to be patient. We must continue to pray. We must continue to shine our lights. We must continue to help. This is God’s wish. Let’s make it our wish as well.

Have this mind

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(Philippians 2:4-5)

Hey everyone, thanks to those who have been writing for me lately. I really appreciate it. Right now my family is pretty heavily involved in care-giving. Mom has Alzheimer’s. We ask for your continued prayers as we go through this journey with her. It certainly takes a big team to help with care-giving. Please pray for my dad, this is very hard to watch your wife of 50 years go through this. Please pray for my brother and me and our families as we work together to find the best solutions for mom.

I know there are many others reading this who have been through this or are going through it right now. You understand.

The above passage from Philippians hits home even more as we think about all working together as a team to care for someone. Mindset is everything.

If anyone spent two minutes with our mom, they would know right away that this mindset from Philippians 2 is what defines her life. May this mindset be in us, too as we care for her.

One Word To Improve Your Marriage

It is one of the great blessings one can enjoy: marriage.  Yes, marriage is a good thing.  Marriage is from God, Genesis 2:23-24.  Marriage is a great blessing, Proverbs 5:15-19;  Ecclesiastes 9:9.   Marriage is to be a life long commitment, Matthew 19:4-6.

Sadly, there are those who are married who would not describe their marriage as a blessing, but instead as a curse.  Unfortunately, many marriages (even in the church) will end up in divorce.  That shouldn’t be.  How can our marriages be the way God wants them to be?  If you had one word to tell a new couple to remember as they begin their marriage, what word would you want them to remember?  Maybe words like “love” or “selfless” or even “forgiveness” come to mind.  Those are all great words and should be a part of every marriage.  But there’s another one I want us to consider: ETERNITY.  Have you thought about how thinking more about eternity will have an impact on our marriages?  As we think about our marriages, we need to be thinking about eternity.  Specifically, we need to remember the following:

Your spouse is made in the image of God.  They too were made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26.  Therefore, they are unique and important in the eyes of God.  This may feel like a “Duh” kind of point, but I think in the process of time we can fail to view our spouses correctly.  We can begin to see our spouses more superficially and fail to focus on the fact that they have a soul.  Remember they are made in God’s image.  Treat them right, Matthew 7:12.

God wants us to help our spouse go to heaven.  A husband and wife should be so concerned about the other because they are made in the image of God, that they will do hard things because they want their spouse to go to heaven, 1 Peter 3:1-7.  The sad reality, however, is that I’ve seen couples not help but rather hinder each other.  How often do you think a husband or wife is thinking about eternity as they contemplate committing adultery, forsaking the assembly, or are filled with bitterness?  Let’s do all we can to help our spouse to go to heaven.

God wants us to be in heaven too.  How we treat our spouses will have spiritual consequences for us, 1 Peter 3:7.  Let’s be wise and remember what’s at stake.  I realize we can’t control our spouses.  We can’t force them to do anything.  A person’s spouse may not do right.  But we can control ourselves.  Even if they aren’t thinking about eternity, we can!  What does God see when He looks at our marriages?  Let’s be sure He sees love, mercy, forgiveness, and us thinking about eternity.

Their First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
(Revelation 2:4)

Ephesus would have been considered by most of us as a “sound church.” From the outside they were doing all the right things. They were facing persecution and standing firm against the devil. The congregation would not tolerate false doctrine and were testing any teacher to make sure the things said were directly from God. They were patiently enduring for Christ, but Christ said that they were about to lose their fellowship with Him. He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. They were in need of repentance!

Why? Because they had left their first love. Maybe if we were in Ephesus we would be shocked to hear these words from Jesus. We are doing all the right things, why would Jesus tell us to repent? They were doing works, indeed, but Jesus said they were not doing the “first works.” Whatever they were like before, they were not like that now. On the outside all appearances looked like this was a strong, Bible-teaching congregation. But to Jesus, He saw a congregation that was now going through the motions. The love they had at first was not there anymore.

This is true in churches, organizations, marriages, sports teams, etc. At first the fire is there. We know our “why.” A young couple is just full of energy, love, passion and all things are new! But after time, years, struggles, pain, stress, busy-ness, etc., the couple just starts going through the motions. That couple may even seem to many others like they have a great marriage, but to each other they know the “first love” is not there anymore. What happens in marriages, teams, businesses, and churches is that we forget where we came from and how we were when we got started.

We have to get back to those beginnings! Jesus told the church at Ephesus to “repent.” But how is that done? He told them to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Remember. Do the first works.

For a married couple it may mean going out on dates again. Getting out the wedding videos and watching them. Do you have those old love letters in a box somewhere? Read them. Remember when?

For Ephesus, they could do the same thing. They could get out the old love letters and read them again. There was this great letter called “Ephesians” sent to them by Paul decades before. It’s time to get that letter out and dust it off. Read the first half of Ephesians and you will rekindle the old flames once again. Remember what it was like when Jesus saved you from your sins and covered you in His grace and His blood. Remember where you came from. Think of the newness, fire and zeal you had when you were a new Christian. It’s time to get back to the beginning, back to the basics. Read the old love letters and rekindle the fire.

Are We Like Shem and Japheth?

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
(Genesis 9:20-28)

I listened to a sermon recently where the preacher was talking about covering one another in grace and love. The speaker referred to the above passage from Genesis when Shem and Japheth “covered” their father. Look at the lengths to which those two sons went to cover their father. They took a blanket, walked backward into the tent, and covered their father so that they would not see his nakedness. The other son, Ham, exposed his father’s shame, but the other sons tried to cover it.

How eager are we to “cover” one another in grace, love, mercy and forgiveness? Or on the flip side, are we like Ham in the tent mocking and spreading the word about another’s shame?

Here are some other passages for our meditation today. May we have the spirit of Shem and Japheth.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
(Proverbs 10:12)

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9)

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20)

Remember When?

Today, I would like for us to consider two passages of Scripture where God calls us to our former days. Remember When? This is a great exercise for a church, for individuals and for married couples. It’s time to revisit how we used to be, what we used to feel like, and what our perspective was back then.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:32-36)

These Christians were about to give up and go back to Judaism in order to avoid the persecutions they were facing. They were just done, and they were tired and discouraged. Sadly, some just wanted to quit. This is a very real situation for many Christians, many churches and many marriages. What does the Hebrew writer ask them to do? Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian? Do you recall what you felt like? How did you feel about living for Jesus, even when you were being persecuted for it? What happened to that fire and that enthusiasm? It’s time to go back to the beginning like you were on the honeymoon with Jesus.

Here’s another passage in which Jesus is speaking to the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” everything right, but they were about to lose their fellowship with Jesus. Why? The love they had at first was gone. As one writer said, “They were gun barrel straight on doctrine but without any gun powder in the bullets.” What does Jesus say is the remedy? Go back to the beginning. Get back to your roots. Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian?

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
(Revelation 2:1-7)

I think those of us who are older should spend more time just listening and observing those who are younger. Instead of constantly being in teacher mode, maybe we as the teachers need to be the students. Those young Christians have a lot of zeal and idealism, and we would do well by remembering what it was like when we were that on fire for Jesus. Instead of accusing them of being young, arrogant and idealistic, maybe we could get stirred up again by working with them.

It might be that we observe a young married couple that is just gushing with love for one another. We can gag at that and make fun of it, or we can say to ourselves, “Remember when?” Maybe our romance, and idealism, and fire is gone and we need to do some rekindling. Instead of making fun of that young couple by telling them the “reality” of what’s coming, maybe we can rejoice with them and help bring our fire back once again.

Request. Response. Resolution.

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?“  She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”  22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”  They said to Him, “We are able.”  23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”  24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said…   (Matt 20:20-25; NKJV)

Right after Jesus reveals His betrayal and death to the disciples, He is asked that seats of honor would be granted to two of them when Jesus comes into His kingdom.  As I said earlier, I don’t want to be too hard on these guys as we all find ourselves putting our foot in our mouths when we start thinking of ourselves first.  They were asking for the “chief seats” and I think we can get into this trap too.  It is not hard to understand why.  They see what it looks like with Roman and Jewish leadership…what the trappings of power look like.  They have been on the wrong end of things for their entire lives and now they have an opportunity to be on top.  So, through their own selfish lens, they (or should I say their mother) asks for what they want.  It is selfish and it is misguided but it is what they “wanted”.  We can make the same mistake.

Jesus responds by qualifying what they are asking.  Per the previous statement, He asks if they can endure the cup (signifying God’s wrath) and baptism He will have.  Of course, they are certain they can…though they don’t really know what they are saying.  Jesus knows and He tells them what will come to pass in the future as a result of their faithfulness but right now they can’t see past the “chief seats”.  James will drink the cup of martyrdom (Acts 12:2) and we know that many disciples of Jesus suffered a lot (even death) because of their faith.  In the moment, however, the brothers can’t see that and only want to be in a place of honor with the King…even if they don’t yet fully understand it.

The result within the immediate family (of the 12) was the other 10 becoming very displeased with the brothers.  I don’t know if they are upset because they didn’t think to ask first, because they understood what Jesus was saying of betrayal and death and were hurt these two would be so selfish or what exactly got under their skin.  The bottom line is, the brothers’ selfish behavior created division within the group and it is starting to boil over.  This is not uncommon even today.  If there is a brother who is acting selfishly or in a way that is not unifying the group, we can get upset and then we can start talking among ourselves and then we can let it boil over and great division takes place.  What we should do, however, is do what Jesus does.

This is one of my favorite images in the Bible.  As this disagreement begins to take place within the 12, what does Jesus do?  He calls them to Himself.  I picture a huddle and maybe even a group hug eventually.  But here, Jesus calls them together and He teaches for them all to learn.  That is the case with us…we all need to learn from our own and from others shortfalls and mistakes.  None of us are perfect and when another hurts us or wrongs us due to their selfish behavior…call them near and bring Jesus with you.  Talk about it, pray about it, love one another.  We all get off track and take our eye off the ball.  This will hurt when the consequence of this is against us.  But it will hurt a whole lot more if we lose a brother and we have a great example in our Savior of how to call each other close, learn from each other and love one another…God is glorified in that!

There is a lot going on in these verses but the visual in my mind from God’s word of Jesus putting His arms around His disciples, pulling them near and teaching them…redeeming them…loving them is one that brings joy, hope and peace to my heart today.  I hope it does the same for you and if you need to repent and draw someone close that you might have pushed away…do that today.  Ask for someone to help in that.  Jesus is waiting and will go too.