Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Sap of His Spirit

"As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me."   John 15:4, NKJV

The branches of a vine "abide" by just remaining connected to the vine. Permanently. Consistently. Day after day, week after week, year after year. They simply rest in their position, allowing the sap of the vine to flow freely through them. They exert no effort of their own. The fruit that is subsequently borne on the branch is actually produced by the life-giving sap within.

To abide in Christ means to remain connected to Him so completely that the "sap" of His Spirit flows through every part of your being, including your mind, will, and emotions as well as your words and deeds. The "fruit" that you then bear is actually produced by His Spirit in you through no conscious effort of your own. If you and I want to be fruitful, we do not concentrate on fruit-bearing; we concentrate on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Extravagant Thanks

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.   Genesis 8:20, NIV

Noah took one-seventh of all of his flocks and herds and offered them in an extravagant sacrifice to the God of his salvation! Surely the sacrifice was one

of praise to God for His faithfulness and greatness,

of thanksgiving to God for His grace to save himself and his family,

of repentance from anything that would not be pleasing to God,

of rededication of his life to the One Who had saved it.

Noah must have been totally overwhelmed by the awareness that out of all the people who had been living on Planet Earth, God had saved him. Why? It was just God's grace! Noah had been righteous and blameless as he had walked with God, but he knew that did not make him worthy of salvation. His heart must have felt ready to burst with the intensity of his gratitude. There could be no other way to express what was in his heart than to give back to God the life that He alone had saved. How can you and I do less?


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Praying in Faith

Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.   Hebrews 11:6, NIV

Have you based your faith . . .

on what someone else has told you God wants to do for you?

on what you have seen Him do for another person?

on what you think is fair or loving?

on what you think would be in the best interest of those involved?

on a doctor's recommendation for treatment?

You and I must pray in faith, or our prayer will not be pleasing to God. If your faith as you pray is based on anything other than faith in God's specific promise given to you in His Word, then your prayer is on a shaky foundation. So ask God to give you a promise from His Word on which you can pray in faith.


Friday, February 22, 2013

God's Boundaries

"You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . ."   Genesis 2:16-17, NIV

In the first home, the Lord God taught man the difference between right and wrong. Adam needed to know what his boundaries were, what was acceptable to God and what was not.

Can you imagine the chaos that would result if a multilane highway had no painted markings to give direction to the traffic? Accidents and confusion would be the order of the day. No one complains about or resents the markings because drivers know the painted boundaries exist for their own benefit and safety.

Today we are surrounded by a generation of people who have grown up living according to their own moral codes, defying the boundaries set by God. As a result, it is a generation with no peace or sense of security. Rather than inhibiting us, moral guidelines free us to live in peace and security. The statistics on crime, divorce, abortion, and suicide give eloquent witness to the danger of living outside God's boundaries. He has drawn the lines - we need to stay within them!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Holy Spirit Changes Minds

"When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness."   John 16:8, NIV

Jesus Christ was crucified as a criminal, as a blaspheming heretic, as an enemy of Rome and of God. What changed the world's opinion of Him? Why does He go down in history as a good Man? Or a great Prophet? Why do people put their trust in a crucified Jew two thousand years after He lived on earth? The change in opinion was brought about by none other than the Holy Spirit Who convinced the world of the truth - that Jesus Christ was not only crucified, but that He rose from the dead! He's alive! Jesus announced to His disciples that "when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt . . . in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer" (16:8-10, NIV). The proof of the righteousness of Jesus Christ is in the fact that God didn't leave Him on the cross, bearing your sin and mine, but raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand, placing all authority in the universe under His feet!

Who do you know who needs to change his mind about Jesus? Pray for that person.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Spending Time with God

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You.   Psalm 63:1, NKJV

God seemed to come to my door one day and ask if I would start walking with Him by getting up early in the morning for prayer and Bible reading. At first I thought it was something I had to do. I dragged my feet because I found I didn't want to sacrifice the extra few minutes of sleep! He was so patient as He waited for me to understand that it wasn't something I had to do; instead it was a personal time of fellowship where I could just grow in my love relationship with Him.

One reason I have maintained my walk with God is that no one else - not my beloved family or my close and loyal friends - really understands me. No one else truly knows my fears and longings and hurts and dreams and failures. But He shares my feelings, my loneliness. Spending time with God as I "walk" with Him meets needs that are in the deepest part of me. He Himself is the solution to the loneliness of the human spirit.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Righteous Remnant

The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright.  Proverbs 11:5, NKJV

Just as certain physical characteristics are passed from one generation to another, so truth that leads to faith in God is passed from one generation to another. This is subtly revealed by the fact that Adam's life is not recorded in the genealogy of his firstborn, Cain, but in the genealogy of his third son, Seth. (Gen. 5:5-31) It was Seth's descendants who relayed faith in God while Cain's descendants rebelled against Him and therefore wasted their lives.

Age is not mentioned in the list of Cain's descendants while in Adam's genealogy the years of each man's life are carefully recorded. God lovingly counts the years of those in the righteous remnant, because they glorify Him.

Are you a spiritual descendent of Adam as well as a physical descendant? If the Lamb's book of life were opened today, would your name be found there? If you have been validated as an authentic child of God, your life has eternal meaning and priceless value in His sight.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines for Everyone

Getting to the Heart

Using the truths found in God’s Word, let’s unwrap the gift of God’s love in the letters from the word VALENTINE:

Valued—Being God’s Valentine means we are highly valued! The God of heaven and earth valued us enough to show his perfect love though his Son, Jesus Christ. And he did this while we were sinners (But God has shown us how much he loves us---it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!”  Romans 5:8). He brought us life through the death of his Son.

Adopted—The life he brings includes adoption by the Father. He has said to us, “Be mine!” He chose us before the creation of the world to be his children. Adopted by his grace, we are now children of the King of kings.

Loved—That is love! You are loved! The love of God is like no other. Remember the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 (read the chapter aloud)

1Co 13:1  I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.
1Co 13:2  I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains---but if I have no love, I am nothing.
1Co 13:3  I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned ---but if I have no love, this does me no good.
1Co 13:4  Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
1Co 13:5  love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs;
1Co 13:6  love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
1Co 13:7  Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.
1Co 13:8  Love is eternal. There are inspired messages, but they are temporary; there are gifts of speaking in strange tongues, but they will cease; there is knowledge, but it will pass.
1Co 13:9  For our gifts of knowledge and of inspired messages are only partial;
1Co 13:10  but when what is perfect comes, then what is partial will disappear.
1Co 13:11  When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways.
1Co 13:12  What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete---as complete as God's knowledge of me.
1Co 13:13  Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.

These words describe God’s perfect love. This is how he loves you—perfectly!

Entrusted with blessings—He has entrusted his love to our care. As sinners, we often ignore it, fail to return or share it, and even misuse it. Yet his love keeps coming to us, and along with it comes a package of other blessings. God entrusts these to our care while we live here on this earth — blessings such as his Word, food, clothing, health, strength, Christian friends, good government, peace, a good reputation, joy, and a host of others. Amazing blessings! Amazing love! All this comes to us as God’s gift, his gift of love, all entrusted to our care.

New Creation—Another of the blessings that comes with the love of God is the gift of life. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we receive true life, God’s kind of life. We have abundant life through Jesus and in him. This is not just scraping by, but life overflowing with love, a life beyond what we could imagine before we knew Christ. In Christ, we have become new creations—the old has gone, the new has come, come to life
(“Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.”
 2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Triumphant—Part of our new lives in Christ, grounded in his love, is the triumphant victory we receive. We have victory through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his triumphant resurrection on Easter morning. He defeated sin, death, and the devil. It’s his victory—but in love, he shares it with us so we can live triumphantly.

Insightful—As we live triumphantly, we realize we want to grow deeper and deeper in his love. That was Paul’s prayer for the people at the church in Philippi, and it’s Jesus’ prayer for us. He wants us to have a greater insight into just how in love with us he is! Read Philippians 1:911.

Php 1:9  I pray that your love will keep on growing more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect judgment,
Php 1:10  so that you will be able to choose what is best. Then you will be free from all impurity and blame on the Day of Christ.
Php 1:11  Your lives will be filled with the truly good qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, for the glory and praise of God.

Needy—While growing in God’s love, we’ll constantly see how often we fail him. We will sin, have no doubt! We are Valentines, but needy Valentines. We need forgiveness. We need a love that won’t give up on us; a love that doesn’t have limits. God knows all about our needs, and that’s why he sent his one and only Son into the world to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Being God’s Valentine means our needs are met—most important, the need of forgiveness for our sins and salvation for our souls.

Equipped—Bask in the glory of God’s love for you. You are his Valentine. You share his life. He is truly in love with you. And through his perfect, unending, unconditional love, he equips you to love him and others. His love will shine through our lives, our words, and our actions.

Taking It Home
As a reminder that you are God’s Valentine, please accept this message as a gift. Let it remind you of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit through which you have received God’s gift of love! Happy Valentine’s Day in Jesus!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Open Your Eyes to Jesus

"He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you."   John 16:14, NIV

The world sees Jesus as a man, perhaps even a good or great man and possibly even a prophet, but still a man. It is the Holy Spirit Who opens our spiritual eyes of understanding so that we see Jesus as much more than just a man. We see Him as: our Creator - the Jehovah of the Old Testament - the long-awaited Messiah - the only Son of God - the Redeemer of Israel - the Lamb of God - the Savior of the world - the Good Shepherd - the risen Lord - the Judge of the universe - the reigning and ruling King of kings!

The only way we can be convinced of Who Jesus is, is through the enlightenment we have received from the Holy Spirit. Jesus explained, "When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you" (John 16:13-14, NIV). So . . . the next time you read your Bible, pray first and ask the Spirit of Truth to open your eyes to Jesus.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

God's Greater Purpose

"This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."   John 11:4, NIV

Why does God let things go from bad to worse for those He loves - those like me? Like Martha and Mary?
Yet, consider this: When Jesus expressed words of encouragement concerning Lazarus' condition, Lazarus had already died! (John 11:4) Was Jesus lying? Was His promise some sort of empty "hope so"? Was He just toying with Martha and Mary's feelings? 

NO! What Jesus said meant . . .

that Lazarus' sickness did not have physical death as its ultimate purpose.

that God has a greater purpose than our immediate comfort.

that getting what we want, when we want it, is not always the best for us or glorifying to God.

Would you tell God now, in prayer, that you want what He wants more than what you want? Then trust Him!


Friday, February 8, 2013

The Threat to Our Environment

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Romans 8:22, NIV

God created you and me to live with Him in His heavenly home, enjoying fellowship with Him and glorifying Him forever! Death was not part of His plan. It was through Adam's sin that death - temporal and eternal - entered humanity. And death entered creation as well.

Flowers fade. Grass withers. Birds sing in minor key. Trees lose their leaves because "creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom. 8:20-21, NIV). Because of man's sin, creation has been in a cycle of death and decay. The greatest threat to our environment is not fluorocarbon or nuclear testing or the burning of tropical forests in the Amazon River region or toxic waste. The greatest threat to our environment has been and is sin! So . . . help to clean up the environment by repenting of your sin!


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fulfilling the Law

The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.   Galatians 3:24, NKJV

The Christian life is motivated, not by a list of do's and don'ts, but by the gracious outpouring of God's love and blessing. We want to live our lives to please God because before Jesus "the law was given through Moses" (John 1:17a, NIV). Think of the law as summed up in the Ten Commandments.

The law didn't make us feel better. It made us feel worse.

The law didn't help us to be good. It revealed how bad we were.

The law didn't give us joy or peace. It made us feel guilty.

The law didn't help us measure up. It showed us we fall short.

The apostle Paul said the law was like our schoolmaster, teaching us how much we need a Savior. But "grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17b, NIV) because He perfectly fulfills the law. His life measures up to the standard established by the law, and when we receive Him by faith, His righteousness is credited to us. Therefore in Christ we too fulfill the law.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Separate from the World

"You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."  John 15:19, NIV

Separation from the world is logical, since we operate on a totally different level in every area of our lives. But separation is also a command we are to obey for our own benefit, lest we be pressed into the world's mold. However, separation from the world requires a certain amount of courage, because the world often views our separation as an indictment of itself and resents us for it.

Jesus underscored our separation from the world when He said, "You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

Hates you? Do you doubt this? Then I suggest you take a strong public stand for the uniqueness of Who Jesus is, for the truth of the Bible from cover to cover, for the necessity of living a life of integrity and purity and humility in order to please God. Then count the seconds before someone labels you an extreme fanatical element of the religious right! But while the world may mock you, heaven applauds you!


Sunday, February 3, 2013

10 Principles for New Christians - Pt 10

10. Troubleshooting -- Cults, Atheists, Skeptics

If you know the Lord, nothing will shake your faith. It is true that the man with an experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument. Take for example a little boy who is looking at a heater. His father warns him that it's hot. The child says, "O.K. I believe it's hot." At that point, he has an intellectual belief that the heater is hot. When his Dad leaves the room, he says, "I wonder if it really is hot?" He then reaches out his little hand and grabs the heater bar with his fingers. The second his flesh burns he stops believing the heater is hot. He now knows it's hot! He has moved out of the realm of "faith" into the realm of "experience."

In comes a heater expert and says, "Son, I have a B.A. in the study of heat. The heater is definitely not hot. I can prove it to you." The child would probably say, "Mr Expert, I don't care how many B.A.'s you have. I know that heater is hot -- I touched it! I'm not in the realm of belief, I'm in the realm of experience. Goodbye."

If you have touched the heater bar of God's love and forgiveness, if the Holy Spirit has "born witness" that you are a child of God (Romans 8:16), if you have received the Gospel with "power, the Holy Ghost and much assurance" (1 Thessalonians 1:5), you will never be shaken by a skeptic.

When cults tell you that you must acknowledge God's name to be saved, that you must worship on a certain day that you must be baptized by an elder of their church, don't panic. Merely go back to the Instruction Manual. The Bible has all the answers, and searching them out, will make you grow.

If you feel intimidated by atheists -- if you think they are "intellectuals," read the book, God Doesn't Believe in Atheists. It will show you that they are the opposite. It will also instruct you on how you can prove God's existence, and also prove that the "atheist" doesn't exist.

Finally, the way to prevent sporting injury and pain, is to keep yourself fit. Exercise. The Apostle Paul kept fit through exercise. He said, "Herein do I exercise myself, to always have a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16). Do the same. Listen to the voice of conscience. It's your friend, not your enemy. Remember the words of Solomon, "Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Keep the Day of Judgment before your eyes. On that Day, you will be glad for the cultivations of a tender conscience.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope the principles expounded have been helpful, and that any knowledge you have gained from it, will some day save you some pain.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

10 Principles for New Christians - Pt 9

9. Giving to God. 

It was once said that the wallet is the "last frontier." It is the final area to be conquered -- the last thing that comes to God in surrender. Jesus spoke much about money. He said that we cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). The word "mammon" was the common Aramaic word for riches, which is akin to a Hebrew word signifying "that which is to be trusted." In other words, we cannot trust God and money. Either money is our source of life, our great love, our joy, our sense of security, the supplier of our needs -- or God is.

When you open your purse or wallet, give generously and regularly to your local church. A guide as to how much you should give can be found in the "tithe" of the Old Testament -- 10% of your income. Whether you give this amount or not, make sure you do give something to the work of God (see Malachi 3:8-10). Give because you want to, not because you have to. God loves a cheerful giver (2Corinthians 9:7), so learn to hold your money with a loose hand.


Friday, February 1, 2013

10 Principles for New Christians - Pt 8

8. Water Baptism -- Sprinkle or Immerse?

The Bible Says , "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. . ." (Acts 2:38). 

There is therefore no question as to whether or not you should be baptized. The questions are how, when, and by whom?

It would also seem clear from scripture that those who were baptized, were fully immersed in water. Here's one reason why:

"And John was also baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there. . ."
(John 3:23).

If John was merely sprinkling believers, he would have only needed a cup full of water.
The Philippian jailer and his family were baptized at midnight, as soon as they believed. So what are you waiting for?

Who should baptize you? It is clear from Scripture that other believers had the privilege, but check with your pastor, he may want the honor himself.