Be Courageous!

www.bible.com/72/jhn.16.33.hcsb

If there is any phrase often repeated in the Bible, it is “Be strong and courageous” or variations of it. That is very telling of what our role is. While God has conquered evil and death, done all of the heavy-lifting for our salvation, He still leaves it to us to have an attitude of strength and courage. He doesn’t offer His courage to us, but calls us to it.

So what is courage? What is this thing we call bravery or valor? Is it not the hope that things will turn out ok and acting accordingly? Men will brave fire and smoke to rescue people trapped in a burning building. We call that courage. Is it? Isn’t it also training yourself in the dangers of fire and learning how to avoid getting burned? Is it the willingness to subject yourself to danger, the uncertainty of random accident? Is that courage?

If so, then to call us to courage is to call us to “face uncertain days because He lives.” Our burning building is this world, burning down all around us. Our courage is the willingness to face the uncertainty of what will happen to us if we go in, to save someone in that building from burning to death. Courage is hope that we will be ok. Courage is knowing we go in with divine protection, knowing that death is only temporary. Courage is willing put ourselves at risk, even of death, to carry out our Father’s orders. That takes courage. He does not force us, but calls us to take the step forward.

Courage, like faith and hope, not only call for belief in something I may not have actually seen or experienced, but also the action to demonstrate our commitment. Be strong and courageous. For I have overcome the world.

God bless you today.

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Good Mourning

www.bible.com/72/mat.5.4.hcsb

What route do you take through grief? Elizabeth Kubler-Ross once penned the roadmap through grief. It starts with denial, then goes to anger, bargaining through to acceptance. Not everyone takes the same path, but the human reaction to grief for all its reasons tends toward the same direction as the human mind readjusts to a new normal. Grief isn’t over quickly either. While a person may experience all of these things in the immediate aftermath, they will also experience them on significant anniversaries and reminders of the event. Grief can last for a lifetime, depending on the significance of the object lost.

Knowing that mourning deals particularly with human loss, I am intrigued by Jesus’s statement. He pronounces blessing over those that mourn, for they shall receive comfort from God. This is the same Jesus who will rise from the dead just a year or so from this point giving the Christian cause for rejoicing. The resurrection directly refuted mourning, because the dead are raised! Aren’t these values in conflict? No.

In fact they complement each other. Jesus earlier words were placed in the future tense. “They shall be comforted.” Now we mourn, but in the future we will be comforted. What would change that would cause us to be comforted? Belief in the resurrection! Even now, we are comforted when a loved on dies that they are with Jesus. That is comforting. How are they with Jesus? Because if anyone believes in Jesus, though he were dead, is alive in Christ. This is a powerful truth in the midst of mourning. The possibility of life after death existed in Judaism before, but was refined and given more specifics in Christ. This is certainly comfort for the believer.

“But what about …”

If your loved one didn’t believe in Jesus, then we have every reason to mourn. I am sorry. If they were witnessed to and knew the requirements of the gospel and still refused to surrender to God’s Love, I am truly sorry. I know that sounds harsh, but Jesus endured hell for them. I believe some leniency will be given to those who have never heard, but they will be judged on the light they have been given and how obedient they were to it. “All have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God.” Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

God bless you today.

Sounds Like Work

www.bible.com/72/heb.11.6.hcsb

In Christian circles, a “work” is defined as something a person does to earn his salvation. Since Christians cannot warm their salvation through “works” but through grace (bought by the blood of Christ), “works” are seen as something Christians don’t need to worry about. We are saved by grace, right?

So what is this verse saying? Without Faith it is impossible to please God. Ow let me clarify. This verse is speaking to Christians, those who have already been saved through Christ. But the point being made is one of principle. It is part of the “hall of Faith” passage of Hebrews 11. It is stated as an absolute, something which is always true, no matter the circumstances. So what is meant here by faith? You might note that in this context, Faith is always accompanied by some evidence of that faith. By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice. By faith, Noah built a boat and so on. For each individual, their faith (which pleased God) was accompanied by a work that proved that faith. So might we go back and say that without faith (and thee evidence to back it up, i.e., works) it is impossible to please God. All of these men (and women) lived before Christ, so that their faith had to be established by an accompanying work in order for them to receive salvation from sin. Hmmm.

Now we are told that all we have to do is believe. Just believe, and we will be saved. That must mean that all demons are saved too, since James tells us that the demons believe in God. No? Maybe something else is required. We need to apply the blood of Christ to the heart to cleanse it from sin. How do we do that? Does that occur at the moment of faith? Is a quiet assent enough to qualify as saving faith? At least Baptists call for the Sinner’s Prayer (which cannot be found in the Bible). They say this needs to be done to “invite Jesus into your heart”. Well somebody get Noah in the phone. If Noah has merely prayed the sinner’s prayer, he would have been just fine, right? Oh, but Noah was given specific instructions as to how to be saved. He had to hold an ark. His faith in God motivated Him to build it. No, the direct message and instruction from God motivated him to build it. His faith motivated Him to carry it through.

Does the Bible carry a clear word of God for salvation? Yes, in fact it does. It says, if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16), you will be saved. It also says that repentance from sin leads to salvation. (1 Cor 7) It also says that if you confess the Lord’s name you will be saved (Rom 10) And it says that you are cleansed via baptism, your heart is purified to a clear conscience toward God (1Pet 3) , and you will rise from the waters of baptism in newness if life (Rom 6), from the waters of regeneration. If you are immersed in water (provided you have also believed) you will be saved. The Bible has a clear word for all of these. None of these, not even baptism, is a work to earn salvation, but a work to testify of faith. Faith which pleases God for salvation includes not only belief in God, but repentance from sin, confession of Christ’s Lordship over your life (and confession of faith in Christ) and immersion in water as cleansing for the spirit.

There is much more to say about this, but this will do for today. I want to encourage you, if you have not made a public confession of Jesus, nor repented of sin (putting your sinful past behind you) or been immersed in water, then you ought to look into these things.

God bless you today.

Pruning isn’t Pleasant

www.bible.com/72/jhn.15.2.hcsb

Just saying.

No, seriously, pruning your life is not a pleasant experience. It usually means losing something, maybe a job, a friend, even family members. It could be a marriage or a church. I hope it’s just bad habits or sinful behaviors. I hope. Because when the Lord starts pruning the former, you know He has serious work to do.

Maybe you have a fantastic job, but it keeps you from spending time doing the Lord’s work. Or you have a great friend, but they are leading you from your best Friend. Perhaps your marriage is amazing, but it isn’t holy. Pruning doesn’t explain all of these, nor would I say at the time of such trauma that that is what the Lord is doing, but He does prune, and it does hurt.

But when He prunes, it is so we will produce more fruit. He cuts away the extra growth that He doesn’t want or need. He may let it grow for a little while, your your conscious work on you for a bit, but only for a season. If you are trying to be a disciple, welcoming the pruning is a sign of maturity, of knowing that life is more that this world, but prep for the next.

This isn’t an easy one to write, because I’ve felt the pruning. And it always hurts. But sometimes God let’s me see what good comes from it. It takes faith to let Him prune, trust that He knows what to cut so that you will grow.

About two years ago, I was asked to step down from the pulpit and turn in my letter of resignation. That was hard. It still is. But God is showing me today some of the good. It has been a great challenge to my faith, but I still believe, because I trust Him.

God bless you through your trials today. Trust Him.

Happy Sunday!

www.bible.com/72/rom.10.17.hcsb

I hope this word finds you all doing well today. We have a great task to perform today, and I hope yours done with joy as mine is, attending with the local body of believers to worship. If faith come by hearing, then I pray that your messages from God’s word today are powerful and effective unto your faith, that by faith we are saved unto God.

God bless you all today.

TIME OUT FOR MOM

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Mother’s Day shouldn’t just be one day a year that we give special honor to these women, but it is usually this one day that we spend extra effort to be in church. A couple of churches ago we had a gentleman who resisted the impulse to attend worship most days of the year. But on Mother’s Day, his mother requested only one gift from him, his attendance in church. She gave up special dinners, gifts and all she could expect from a son who in all other respects loved and respected her. But on this one issue, he resisted her, except on Mother’s Day. It is a special gift to give to your mother to honor her especially on Mother’s Day.

Is one day enough to show your mother you honor her by showing up in her church on Mother’s Day?

In Joshua 1:17 it says “Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you, as he was with Moses.” The people were answering Joshua’s call to take the land of Canaan, but saying “the Lord your God” not “the Lord our God.” They didn’t take ownership, or enjoy a personal relationship with God. God belonged to someone else, and they just enjoyed the benefits of that relationship. We did the same things growing up in our mother’s house. She had a relationship with God. She prayed, she read her Bible, she took us to church, she leaned upon the Lord’s strength when we frustrated her.

We have been taught that Church just isn’t meaningful. Have you ever asked yourself why Mom ever went to church in the first place? Was her world so much different, the temptations so at odds with today that she wasn’t tempted to stay at home, especially on Sunday, when the prospect of getting kids up and ready for church just like every school day was every reason to skip church and take a day off?

Mom went to church every week to get that strength that doesn’t come from an energy boost. Mom went to church because she worshipped Jesus there. Hers was a personal relationship with God, not one that relied on others. She spoke to God personally, listened to His voice, and acted according to His will.

God’s plan is for everyone who approaches Him. You have questions? He welcomes them. You need answers, He has plenty! You need to belong? Welcome to the body of Christ! You need friends? We’ve got ‘em to spare! Don’t think the Church belongs to your mother. It can be yours too. He makes it very simple in the Scriptures:

  1. BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)

  2. TURN FROM YOUR SINS (2 Corinthians 7:10)

  3. CONFESS THE NAME OF JESUS as Lord (Romans 10:9)

  4. BE BAPTIZED for your sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and Eternal Life (Acts 2:38)

  5. LIVE FOR CHRIST! (Philippians 2:12)

This faith can be yours for the asking.