Monday, July 6, 2015

WE ARE SEALED UNTO GOD BY GRACE

Our God is so amazing!  Jesus told His disciples that His Father loved them, with the same love which He had for His Son!  In John 17:23, Jesus says, "I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me."  You and I know full well that we are unworthy, that we are sinners needing forgiveness, needing God's mercy.  And because we are unworthy, whatever good that God would do for us is pure grace - His unmerited favor!

The Father sent His only begotten Son to die for us because He loves us (Jn. 3:16)!  Jesus willingly offered Himself as our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7), just as Israel offered their sacrificial animals to cover their sins, and to restore fellowship between them and God (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:14)!  When we acknowledge our sin and our need of the Savior, the Holy Spirit gives us a new birth; we are born again (Jn. 3:3-8).  In addition, He takes up residence within us, to guide and comfort us (Jn. 14:17; 16:13).  Grace upon grace!

In addition, Jesus taught that the Father had sealed Jesus unto Himself; their relationship could never be broken.  John wrote:  "Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed" (Jn. 6:27). 

When we place our faith in Jesus, the Word of God says that we too are sealed as His possession.  The Apostle Paul wrote:  "For all the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.  Now He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest (a pledge or down-payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid)  of the Spirit in our hearts" (2 Cor. 1:20-22).  He elaborated on this awesome truth in his letter to the church at Ephesus:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:  having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.  In Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself:  that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:  in Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will:  that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.  In Whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation: in Whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:3-14).



Sunday, July 5, 2015

DON'T YOU JUST HATE IT WHEN YOUR PLANS ARE MESSED UP?

Have you ever started your day out with a frustrating situation, and after it was over, realized that God had been kind and merciful even in the difficulty?  That is the way my Sunday started.  I usually leave home about an hour and a half before Sunday school, so that I can get a McDonald's sausage McMuffin and a large diet coke.  However, today I didn't feel I should follow my routine, so when I got in line at the drive-through, I decided to get an apple turnover instead of the sandwich.  Well, not only was the line extremely slow today, by the time I got to the "pay-up" window, the manager was there to tell me it would take eight minutes to get the turnover prepared.  He said he had put the item in the oven when he saw my order on the monitor, and I told him I literally had sat in the line for more than eight minutes already.  Apparently he hadn't already started the turnover as he said, because he gave me a "free meal card" for my inconvenience, and when I got to the "pick up" window, the lady said to pull around, and that when it was finished, someone would bring it out to me.  Believe it or not, I sat out front for at least another ten minutes before it arrived.  Then it happened.  When I tried to put the car into drive, it was dead!  Oh great!

Well, as I thought about what I was going to do, two young men who had been seated on the patio with their wives, came over and told me to pop the hood.  One told me that it had to be the alternator, because I apparently had been driving on the battery power.  He checked and sure enough, the belt that connects everything, was gone!  One of them said, if I went to Auto Zone and got one, he would put it on right there in the McD's lot.  When I asked if Auto Zone was open at 8 a.m. on Sundays, and one of the wives called them to check; praise the Lord, they were!  I borrowed her cell phone (I don't own one), and called my wife, who arrived about ten minutes later.  We got the belt, and they fixed the car. 

Afterword, I started thinking about my granddaughter driving it the night before; I thanked God it didn't break down for her!  I remembered that the long ordeal of my drive through experience, had caused the car battery to die while I was parked next to the patio where my "rescuer" were.  The had tools; they had a cell phone; they had kind hearts; they were there for me by God's provision!  Had I driven down the road on my way to church, I would have broken down with no cell phone; with no rescuers; I would have been in a mess!

As it was, I actually was only about ten minutes late for Sunday school!  I am so thankful that God protected me from being stranded.  I am so thankful that my granddaughter didn't break down; I am so glad that Auto Zone was open!  And although it cost me for the belt, and I gave the good Samaritans some money for helping me, I was able to do that because my wife went next door to the McDonald's to the Meijer store where our bank's ATM is. 

The moral of the story:  when lines are long; when cashiers have a difficult time figuring out how much change she owed me; when car trouble throws you off schedule; there is a reason!  I invited one of the young men to church because he told me he was looking for a good church.  God is good!  Everything He allows to happen in our lives, is for a reason - a good reason!  Praise the Lord!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

THE BIBLE CALLS IT A STAR!

The star of Bethlehem, famous for leading the Magi to the young child Jesus (Matt. 2:1-11), appears to have been created on the day of His birth, although there is no proof of that. The fact that Gentiles recognized it as signaling the arrival of the King of the Jews, is a miracle in and of itself. There are some other details about the star that make it unique: its movement is described as having led them from the East to Jerusalem, stopping, and then moving south to Bethlehem. Because Jerusalem is only about five miles north of Bethlehem, the calculation of its precise position and the direction of movement are remarkable. We do not know how long each leg of the journey took, but their observation of it must have been over several months. And then, the fact that they were able to pin-point His home (Mt. 2:11), is beyond remarkable.

Many theories have been offered over the centuries, including calling it a meteoroid, also known as "a falling star" or "a shooting star." But meteoroids do not stop and start, nor do they make right-angle turns. Some have said it was the convergence of two or more planets, but they are incapable of those movements as well. I have not heard of anyone saying it was actually an angel, but it is a definite possibility. Angels are frequently called "stars" in the Word (Jud. 5:20; Job 38:7; Isa. 14:13; Dan. 8:10; Jude 1:13; Rev. 1:20; 6:13; 12:4). Angels are said to be bright (2 Cor. 11:14), and since angels were involved in the Nativity (Lk. 1-2), it is not all that unreasonable. It would explain the movement and the precise positioning.

The New Testament word translated "star," comes from the Ancient Greek word ἀστήρ (astér). Most are familiar with the word "Aster," as it is the name of a star-shaped flower, and an asterisk is a star-like symbol (*). The asterisk is used to call out a footnote. Typically, an asterisk is positioned after a word or phrase and preceding its accompanying message at the bottom of a page. I find it interesting that an asterisk acts as a "messenger" to alert the reader of additional information. The meaning of the words used for "angel" in the Bible, actually mean "messenger."

Regardless of what the "star" was, when it comes right down to it, it pales in comparison to the true Star that day. This Child born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-23; Lk. 1:26-35), was not only the center of attention on that special day, He is central to life itself. He created all that there is (Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:1-3). Notice in the Hebrews reference that He was the "brightness of His (Father's) glory, and the express image of His (Father's) person." Jesus is described as being the brightness of the sun at the Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2), in the vision of John (Rev. 1:16), and at His return (2 Thes. 2:8). After all, He is God (Matt. 1:23; Lk. 1:47; Jn. 20:28; Phil. 2:5-8; 1 Tim. 3:16; 4:10; Titus 2:10; Heb. 1:8-10; Jude 1:12; etc.), and God is Light (1 Jn. 1:5).
 
Ever wonder why some Christians need to "redefine" God's Word?

Friday, July 3, 2015

A BRIEF OUTLINE OF REVELATION

Written by the Apostle John (circa A.D. 95), the Book of Revelation consists of twenty-two chapters; these chapters reveal the vision revealed to him while he was exiled on the Isle of Patmos, a small island in the Aegean Sea, southwest of Ephesus.  According to Revelation 1:19, John's vision was divided into three parts:  John was to write what he had seen (Ch. 1); what was happening at the time of his vision (Ch. 2 & 3); and what was to occur in the future (Ch. 4 - 22).  John obviously recognized the glorified Jesus (1:10-18), for he had been one of three Apostles who had been with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17:1-9; Mk. 9:2-10; Lk. 9:28-36).

In Chapters 2 & 3, the vision describes seven churches that existed at the time John was in exile.  They are described by how God views them, and at the end of each description, John wrote:  "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).  For those churches that needed to be rebuked, received it; the two which received only praise from the Lord, Smyrna and Philadelphia, were commended for their faithfulness.

Chapters 4 & 5 describe what John was shown in heaven.  Chapter 4:1 is viewed by many to be symbolic of the Rapture of the Church prior to the Tribulation.  It is important to note that John is present on earth during the first three chapters, but the rest of the vision is revealed to him in heaven.  Chapters 6 - 10 describe the first half of the Tribulation.  During this time, Israel lives in relative peace, according to the covenant they make with the Antichrist (Dan. 9:27; Mt. 24:3-15; Rev. 6 - 10).

But we also know from Daniel 9:27 and Matthew 24:15, that the seven-year Tribulation will be divided into to halves.  Revelation 12-13 takes place at the mid-point in the Tribulation (three and a half years; 42 months; 1260 days), the second half begins with the Antichrist's "miraculous" healing from a mortal head wound (Rev. 13:3), and he being empowered by Satan himself (Rev. 13:2-4), commits the Abomination of Desolation (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Mt. 24:15); that is, when the Antichrist (the son of perdition - 2 Th. 2:3, the first beast - Rev. 13:1-10) declaring himself to be god.  The second beast (Rev. 13:11-18), also known as the False Prophet (Rev. 16:13; 19:20), attempts to make all of humanity worship the Antichrist.

Chapters 13-18 describe the second half of the seven-year Tribulation, which ends with Christ returning (Ch. 19), and His establishing the promise Kingdom which will last 1000 years (Rev. 20:1-6).  During that time, Satan is bound so that he can not influence mankind, but after the 1000 years, he is loosed and persuades mankind to revolt against Jesus (Rev. 20:7-10).  Following the casting of the Antichrist and the False Prophet into the eternal Lake of Fire, God judges mankind at the Great White Throne Judgment; all whose names are not found in the Book of Life, will join the Antichrist and the False Prophet in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15)!

From Chapter 21-22, we get a glimpse of what eternity will hold for those who love and serve God.  Today, we are so close to the end of the Church Age, and the beginning of the Tribulation.  If you have not accepted Christ's offer of forgiveness for you sins, and called on Him to be your Lord, NOW is the time to do so. 

TIME IS VERY, VERY, SHORT - ACCEPT JESUS TODAY WHILE YOU CAN! 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

JESUS IS JEHOVAH

  1. In Zech.12, Jehovah is speaking (v. 1, 4). In verse 10 Jehovah says, "They shall look upon ME whom they have pierced." This can refer to no one other than Christ (Jn.19:37; Rev. 1:7).
     
  2. The Jehovah of the Old Testament declares Himself to be the First and the Last: "Thus saith Jehovah the King of Israel and his redeemer the Jehovah of hosts; I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God: (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:11-12). Jesus is declared to be "the first and the last" on the pages of the New Testament (Rev. 1:8, 11, 17, 18; 22:13)!
      
  3. In Isa. 6:5, the prophet said, "Mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD (Jehovah) of hosts." Isaiah saw JEHOVAH! The Apostle John referred to this same event and made it very clear that the Person whom Isaiah saw was actually Jesus Christ: "These things said Esaias [Isaiah], when he saw His [Christ’s] glory, and spake of Him (Jn. 12:41).
     
  4. In Ps. 23:1, David declared that Jehovah is the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. According to the New Testament, it is Jesus who is the Great Shepherd of the Sheep (Jn. 10:11, 14: Heb. 13:20). Also, the Old Testament repeatedly refers to Jehovah as Israel's ROCK (Deut. 32:3, 4, 18; Ps. 18:2; 62:1-2; etc.). The New Testament clearly identifies this ROCK as Christ (1 Cor. 10:4)!
     
  5. In Ex. 3:14-15, we learn that JEHOVAH is the great "I AM." According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is the great "I AM" (Jn. 6:35; 8:12; 8:24; 8:58; 10:9; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 18:5-6).
      
  6. In Isa. 43:10-11 and 45:21, JEHOVAH declares Himself to be the ONLY SAVIOUR. There is no other Saviour besides Him! According to the New Testament, Jesus is declared to be the ONLY SAVIOUR (Acts 4:10-12)?
     
  7. In Isa. 45:21-22, JEHOVAH says, "Look unto ME and be ye saved...there is none else." In John 3:14-16 we are told to look unto the crucified One to be saved!
     
  8. In Isa. 45:21-23, JEHOVAH says, "that unto Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." In Phil. 2:9-11, this passage in Isaiah is applied to Christ, the One before Whom all shall someday bow!
     
  9. In Isa. 24:23 and Zeph. 3:15-17, we learn that JEHOVAH Himself will reign in Jerusalem during the coming kingdom age and will be in the midst of His people. The New Testament identifies Jesus as the future millennial King (Rev. 19:11-16; 20:4,6).
      
  10. In Isa. 40:3, we learn that there would be one who would prepare the way for the coming of Jehovah. In Mk. 1:1-3, John the Baptist served to prepare for Christ.
      
  11. Isa. 8:13-14 prophetically states that JEHOVAH will be "for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence." In 1 Pet. 2:7-8, these verses in Isaiah are applied to Jesus Christ.
     
  12. Compare Joel 2:32 with Acts 2:21, 36 and Romans 10:9, 13. Jesus is the LORD (Jehovah) upon whose Name sinners should call.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LEVELS OF SUFFERING IN HELL

Recently, there has been much debate over the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, and as a result, there have been many posts on Facebook, either celebrating the decision, or viewing the decision as another sign that the return of Jesus is imminent.  Those who favor the decision have been emboldened to confront opponents by either mocking them, or suggesting that they were not perfect; that they too sin, and consequently, they have no right to judge.  I agree.  We all fail to live according to the Law as presented in the Scriptures.  However, three things must be considered:  1] born again Christians, while trying to be obedient, fail because we are not yet Christ-like (Rom. 7:15-25; 1 Jn. 1:8-10; 3:1-2); 2] there is a difference between deliberately disobeying God, and failing to obey due to our weakness; and 3] some sins are more egregious than others.  That is why Jesus spoke of varying degrees of punishment.  Here are a few examples:

Matthew 10:15 - "Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."

Matthew 11:20-24 - "Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:  Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."

Mark 6:11 - "And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."

Luke 10:10-15 - "But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.  But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.  Woe unto thee, Chorazin!  Woe unto thee, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.  And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell."


Still, I have good news!  All manner of sin is forgivable except
 rejecting the conviction of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Identifies Jesus - "And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him.  And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost" (Jn. 1:32-33).

Provides the new birth - "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5-8).

Helps believers worship - "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him.  God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:23-24).

Fills to overflowing - "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink.  He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn. 7:37-39).

Indwells believers - "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (Jn. 14:16-18).

Teaches believers - "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" (Jn. 15:26).

Glorifies Jesus - "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.  He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.  All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (Jn. 16:13-15).

"...Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God,
whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).