Another World

“For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” – [2 Timothy 4:10 KJV]

About a year ago, I was youth pastoring at a small church in a small town and I spent four weeks preaching through the book of 2nd Timothy because I wanted to bring my youth group to the reality that even in this modern day the beloved church of God is persecuted. In my preparation for this sermon series I studied as much I could, trying to get every bit of information I could about this book and through all my studying, I never noticed this simple phrase, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world….” It made me think that if there is a present world then there must be a world that is not yet present, Heaven. Demas had not just fallen in love with the world, but in the process, he fell out of love with the thought of being with our savior in Heaven.

I urge you, don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes upon the goal. Continually fall in love with Jesus! Review the words of Paul the Apostle:

 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus…For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” – [Philippians 3:13-14, 20-21 KJV]

Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Our Only Comfort

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – [Romans 14:7-8 ESV]

“What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” – [The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1]

When I was a boy, my grandmother made me a refrigerator magnet out of plastic material and yarn with a picture of a boy  holding a satchel over his shoulder and sub-caption read, “You can’t run from God.”

I believe that everything preaches a sermon and the sermon that this refrigerator magnet preached was one of the omnipresent love of God.

As I read these verses and this quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded of the words of Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O What foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

What a thought that we belong in life and in death. Our family and friends can go with us but when we pass from this life to the next, Jesus will still be with us.

The High Priest of Hebrews

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” – [Hebrews 9:11-12 KJV]

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” – [Hebrews 9:11-12 ESV]

“But.” this three letter word can the tone of any sentence and, if used correctly, can bring good news out of bad news. The ox ford says that this three letter word is used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been mentioned. In this passage of Scripture, found in the letter to the Hebrews, the writer starts describing the setup of the temple and in verse 11 he gives us the reason that we don’t have live under works and the law any more. He begins teaching us about the hope of eternal redemption through Christ’s blood. The Old Covenant system wasn’t personal enough. The Old Covenant system never dealt with the issue of your sin it only rolled it back. It didn’t have the power to give you victory over sin and relieve your conscious.

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.”- [Hebrews 9:8-10 ESV]
“They related mainly to outward and ceremonial rites, and even when offerings were made for sin the conscience was not relieved. They could not expiate guilt; they could not make the soul pure; they could not of themselves impart peace to the soul by reconciling it to God. They could not fully accomplish what the conscience needed to have done in order to give it peace. Nothing will do this but the blood of the Redeemer…The idea here is, that those ordinances were only temporary in their nature, and were designed to endure until a more perfect system should be introduced. They were of value “to introduce” that better system; they were not adapted to purify the conscience and remove the stains of guilt from the soul.” – Albert Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament

When Christ came He made a way for us to personally go before the throne of grace and ask of Him exactly what we need. What a thought! We, a people that deserve death and Hell, have the privilege of coming before our Heavenly Father and asking for anything that we might need.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” – [Hebrews 4:14-16 KJV]

Out of this passage of Scripture I noticed three ‘T’ words that stood out to me:

1.) Touched

2.) Tempted

3.) Throne

I’ll probably post more about this later but the thought occurred to me: Jesus, our High Priest, was TEMPTED so He could be TOUCHED at the THRONE of grace.

Thank you so much for reading this. I hope you were encouraged or blessed in some way. Remember that you are loved today by the King of Kings!

 

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 3

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post of this series we left off talking about how God has adopted us by making us accepted into His family. I want to continue this by talking about a subject that’s near and dear to my heart and that is redemption.

5. He has redeemed us (Ephesians 1:7)

Humanity is scarred and tainted with sin. Adam took a bite of the forbidden fruit and stained humanity with his rebellion. Since then all of humanity has been totally depraved. Before Christ saved us we were dead in our sin. I’m not sure how much the church today understands that. We were DEAD in our sin. There was nothing alive about us. An accurate picture of redemption is God taking a dead man and making him alive. RC Sproul describes this process better than I ever could.

“God just doesn’t throw a life preserver to a drowning person. He goes to the bottom of the sea, and pulls a corpse from the bottom of the sea, takes him up on the bank, breathes into him the breath of life and makes him alive.” – R.C. Sproul

Here’s a few verses in Ephesians that describe this:

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – [Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV]

I don’t like to say that I found God or I found Christ, prefer to say He found me because I when I was dead in my sins, I was just that, dead. Dead men can’t choose anything. God had to reach below the bottom and pick me up and save me. It’s only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ do we have redemption and salvation. What I really love about Ephesians 2 is that in the first three verses Paul talks about our sinful state and in verse four he makes this transition:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – [Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV]

The first two words just stick out to me. “But God.” “I was headed down the wrong pathway, but God…”, “I was on my way to Hell, but God..”, “I was stuck in my sin, but God…” What a wonderful thing to know that we don’t have to have a period at end of those sentence but instead we can have a “but God…”. This is truly the story of our redemption: God bringing a dead corpse back to life by simply breathing the power of the Holy Spirit over him. I love what Adam Clarke’s Commentary says about Christian redemption.

“God has glorified his grace by giving us redemption by the blood of his Son, and this redemption consists in forgiving and delivering us from our sins; so then Christ’s blood was the redemption price paid down for our salvation: and this was according to the riches of his grace; as his grace is rich or abundant in benevolence, so it was manifested in beneficence to mankind, in their redemption by the sacrifice of Christ, the measure of redeeming grace being the measure of God’s own eternal goodness.” – Adam Clarke Commentary

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you. Always remember that you are loved by the King of Kings and you are special in his sight.

Finding the Strength

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

I won’t go into a lot of details about what happened. There’s much I could tell, but it doesn’t need to be told. On February 22, I left my home of Pottsville, Arkansas for what I thought would be the greener pastures of Altura, Minnesota. I went to go be with my fiance of four years and we were finally going to get married. I will leave it at this: we mutually decided that it would be best if we broke up. I tell you all of this to tell you that after being broken, I am finding the strength to come back home and start over. In this I’ve questioned God and received no answer. I’ve disappointed myself and I’ve disappointed my loved ones. I feel as though I have nothing left except and I suppose, in the end, that’s all I really need. I don’t need man’s approval. I need God’s approval and forgiveness and I believe I have that now. We all make mistakes. I just need to take the life lessons I’ve learned and move on. 

Waiting at the BP gas station in Plainview, Minnesota, I opened up my Bible and read Jeremiah 12:1 in this translation. 

“You will be in the right, O Lord,
   when I lay charges against you;
   but let me put my case to you.
Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
   Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” 

–  [Jeremiah 12:1 NRSV]

The first thing that I noticed were the words, “You will be right…”. Jeremiah is complaining to God and before saying anything he admits that God will be right no matter what he says to Him. This begs the question, why are you going to argue with someone that you know will be right in the end. The only conclusion I can think of is that it just makes you feel better to get your feelings off of your chest. When I talk to God about my situation I know that He knows what is best. I know that it is His will and for my betterment to go through what I’m going through but sometimes it just makes me feel better to bring my case before God to just talk and bring my case before him because I know He loves me and in the end, He will still be just and loving. 

“…you have judged in my favor;
    from your throne you have judged with fairness.” 

-[Psalm 9:4 NLT]

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 2

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post, we left off talking about the nine things that God has done for us through Christ’s blood.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get started on Predestination, I want to finish up my thoughts about being chosen. We’ve already established that this word ‘chosen’ is an active choosing. It implies that God has chosen us out of a group. We know that the elect are chosen. What find interesting is the word for ‘chosen’ is an active choosing and the word for ‘church’ is ekklesia is ‘ones who are called out’. This is an active calling. Think about it. God has His thumb on you and He’s calling out to be separate from the influence from the world, separate from the negative influence of the culture, separate from the negative influence of society, but even an even greater scale than that, I believe that this is referring to your divine destiny. You are called and chosen to do something great for thing Kingdom of God for such a time as this. What a profound thought that everything that has happened to you whether it is good or bad has been setting you up for great things in God. You might ask me, “How can you say that something bad that’s happened to me has been setting me up?” In Romans there is a promise that all things will work together for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – [Romans 8:28 KJV]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – [Romans 8:37 ESV]

I like where Paul says at the beginning of verse 28, “we know”. He’s saying that “we are confident; we are fully convinced that God is always working and operating for the good of His people.”

I don’t mean to go all Joel Osteen on you or anything but sometimes you’ve just got to determine within your heart that everything is going to be good in the end because God loves you and He might allow bad things to happen but in the end it will all be good.

3. He has predestined us. (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

Again, this is a touchy subject for Calvinists and Arminians alike. After all of the research and studying I’ve done on it I feel like I should side with Finis Jennings Dake on the issue:

“It is God’s plan that He has foreknown and predestined, not the individual conformity of free wills to the plan. He has called all people and all are free to accept or reject the call (Jn. 3:16; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestined to be consigned to eternal hell as an everlasting monument of His wrath on rebels (Isa. 66:22-24; Rev. 14:9-11; Mt. 25:41,46). This is the sum of foreknowledge and predestination.” – Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

For me, personally, the issue of predestination and election is something that I keep in the open hand. I can take it or leave it. What I mean by the closed hand and open hand metaphor is this: if someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?” I said “Yes” and take what was coming to me. If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe that man can choose whether he is saved or not?” I’d say, “Wait a minute. Let’s talk about this.” I’m willing to die for Jesus but not over my position on predestination and election. Moving on…

4. He has made us accepted. (Ephesians 1:6)

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – [Ephesians 1:6 KJV]

I absolutely love Scofield’s position on this verse.

“Adoption (huiothesia, “placing as a son”) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth John 1:12, 13 whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son. Gal 4:1-5 The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience Gal 4:6 but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints, which is called “the redemption of the body” Rom 8:23; 1Th 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; 1Jn 3:2” – Scofield Reference Bible

I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or not, that ought to make you want to shout and run laps. We are not just adopted but we are made to know that we are accepted by God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’. Sometimes in families where the child is adopted they can’t sense that they don’t belong. Their adopted parents might treat them well and love them dearly but the child knows that there is something different. It’s like they have an innate feeling that those are not their biological parents but with God there is no vacant feeling. He makes feel wanted and when we become saved he plants the Holy Spirit inside to make us know that we are one of His own.

I hope this has helped you an encouraged you today. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!

 

Confessions: Unforgiveness and Bitterness

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” – [Ephesians 4:29-32 NLT]

I know a lot of times I post about theology but there are other times, like now, that I just like I need to share with you from my heart. Recently, I’ve discovered that I’ve been holding unforgiveness and bitterness in my heart against some people that I didn’t even know that I had resentment against. I’ve just been talking a lot of things through lately with myself and someone else that I love dearly and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t hold unforgiveness back in my heart anymore over something that happened two and a half years ago. Holding a grudge is only destructive to the person who is holding the grudge. There’s nothing that you gain from continually being angry over things that don’t affect you anymore.

In these verses in Ephesians we find Paul talking to the church at Ephesus instructing them not to use foul or abusive language. I like what the Good News Bible says in verse 29:

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” – [Ephesians 4:29 GNB]

After reading this and continuing to read in verse 30, you find that using harmful words is in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit. God gave us a tongue to use wholesome speech for His glory. We’re supposed to use positive words to help people and be blessing. Lately, I’ve been guilty of complaining too much when I’ve been blessed far beyond what I deserve.

What I find interesting is that these ‘harmful words’ are not only in conjunction with grieving the Holy Spirit but apparently they are also connected with bitterness and unforgiveness. The reason they are connected is because in Luke it says:

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” – [Luke 6:45 ESV]

If we really speak what is out of our heart then if our speech is negative then we need to examine our heart. The word for ‘harmful’, in the Greek, literally means something that is putrid or rotten. When I think of something that is rotten I think of something that is dead. When we hold unforgiveness in our hearts it will come out in our speech and we will hold on to dead issues that cause our hearts and our speech to be rotten and it will cause the hearers of that speech to feel rotten as well about your situation. But when our speech is good it will do good to those that hear it. The word for ‘good’, in the Greek, is the word charis which is also used for the word, grace. This leads me to believe that when our speech is good and wholesome it communicates something to the hearers about the grace of God. As your thinking about this, let God begin to melt your heart and take out things that don’t need to have any place there. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!