WHAT HAPPENED WHEN WE BELIEVED?

TITUS 3:4-7: “But— When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What happened when we believed? What is the difference between the Old and the New Covenants? What did we bring to the table when we were saved?

I can think of no better summary of the New Birth than Paul’s statement of faith in the book of Titus. In direct contrast to the Judaizers who said you must keep the Law to be saved, Paul reminds Titus of the core of the Christian faith. However, before he does that he reminds Titus of what we brought to the table in the work of salvation.

  • “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other.” ‭‭Titus‬ ‭3:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What did we bring to the table? We brought our foolishness and disobedience. We brought our bondage to sin, lust, and pleasure. And we brought a broken heart filled with all forms of evil, envy, and hatred. It was like we had our totaled car hauled up to the new car dealer and wanted top dollar for our trade-in. The bottom line is,

WE BROUGHT NOTHING TO THE TABLE!

Now, let’s contrast what God did for us in Jesus Christ. First, he revealed His kindness and love through Jesus Christ. All of Jesus’ ministry was a physical expression of the true heart of the Father. This is why Jesus said – “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” Numerous times Jesus said – “You have heard it said…but I say unto you…”. Jesus came to reveal the kindness and love of the Father.

Did we earn this kindness and love? We have already seen that we were broken beyond repair. Then why did Jesus choose us? Were we somehow more desirable than others? Were we more righteous than others? We were none of these things.

  • “…he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.”

It was God’s mercy. It was His unmerited favor and love. It was His willingness to become a man, live a perfect life, and bear the sins of all mankind on the cross. Salvation is the work of God from start to finish. We bring nothing to the table and we can do nothing to save ourselves. We are saved by grace through faith – alone! We are called to believe and confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Yet, it is God’s mercy and grace that enables us to do this. This too is a great mystery of the faith!

The New Covenant is so much different than the Old Covenant. It is not only for the reasons noted above. It is also for what takes place in this wonderful transaction of faith. In the Old Covenant sins were temporarily covered over by the continual blood of the sacrifice. Yet, our sins were never removed. In the New Covenant, these are the wonderful things that take place.

  • “He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

Our sins are not just covered – they are removed! We are given a new heart through the new birth. Jesus’ final sacrifice, His shed blood, does not cover our sins – It washes them white as snow. The Holy Spirit gives us a new heart and we experience a new birth – a spiritual rebirth!

  • “He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

On the Day of Pentecost, everything changed. The Holy Spirit, who once only fell upon select people who were called by God, did not only fall upon all believers – He came to live within them! In the same way that Jesus Christ was baptized in the Holy Spirit, now we too have the Holy Spirit poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior! It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life that makes the New Covenant one of relationship with the living God and not adherence to an external set of laws and rituals.

  • “Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

The mystery of the New Covenant, now being revealed in us, is – “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” There is something that takes place in the heart of every born-again believer. It is a new confidence for living, a new hope, a new assurance. It is the hope of glory, the promise of eternal life. It is that blessed assurance that this life is not the end. We have an eternity to live in fellowship with God and with those who call upon the name of Jesus!

When you break down this simple paragraph you will find that it holds within it the totality of our faith. It is one of the most powerful and succinct statements of faith in the Bible. It is a statement that we should all take to heart and read often. It holds within it the blessed hope of a life with Jesus now and in the life to come!

Lord, thank You for Your unfathomable kindness, love, and mercy!

In Jesus Name!

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THE PATHWAY OF LIFE… (Law or Grace?)

PROVERBS 7:2-3: “Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the pathway of life? Is there a difference between the pathway of life and the source of life? What role does grace have in the relationship between salvation and obedience? A clear understanding of these questions is needed!

There is a clear difference between the source of life and the pathway of life. When we misunderstand these two principles we will either miss the door of salvation all together or we will never reach our full potential in Jesus Christ. The commandments of God were never meant to be the source of life. The source of life is found only by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

  • “Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” Romans‬ ‭3:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If we approach God’s commands as the source of life we will be continually frustrated. The law was given as an expression of God’s holiness, which is life. However, when we try to achieve a right standing with God by keeping these commands we fail. His commands, His holiness, only reveals how sinful we really are! Paul wrestled with this as he wrote his epistle to the Romans.

  • “…So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes.” Romans‬ ‭7:10-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, how do we justify these statements of Paul with the exhortation of Proverbs? Paul acknowledges that the Law, God’s commands, are holy, just, and true. However, the law is not what is the concern. The concern is our sin. If we use God’s commands as the source of life we find ourselves under the condemnation of sin. We must be delivered from this condemnation by something more powerful than our sin. We must be delivered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

  • “But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:21-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So, if God’s commands are not the source of life, what are they? They are the pathway of life! The pathway is the walk of faith for those who have been redeemed through faith in the completed work of Jesus Christ. They do not obey these commands to be accepted by God. They obey these commands because of their deep love for what He has done for them through our Lord Jesus Christ! They begin to live by the power of grace through the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus!

  • “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭6:12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God’s commands no longer produce in us the knowledge of sin because we have been crucified with Christ and we are risen with Him to a new way of living through the Spirit. What once brought death now brings light and life. It is not because of our effort, it is because of the freedom we have been given by God’s grace. What we could not do before Christ we find ourselves doing in the freedom and power of the Holy Spirit. As we walk in His love we are empowered to walk in His light and life. The commandment that proved to be death before we were saved becomes the pathway of life and fulfillment through God’s grace!

This is the difference between God’s commandments being the source of life and the pathway of life. God’s commands, apart from God’s grace, always lead to guilt and condemnation. The commandment reveals our sinful nature. This knowledge of sin brings us to Christ as we recognize our need for a Savior. When we are saved by grace through faith the commandment that once worked death becomes the very pathway of life as we walk no longer in our own strength but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s read the verses from Proverbs again in this light. Let’s meditate upon them with the understanding of grace and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin to enter into the fulness of life as we walk in the light of His life!

  • “Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.” (Proverbs 7:2-3 NLT)

In Jesus Name!

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END TIME CHECKLIST…

II TIMOTHY 3:1-5: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Are we really in the end times? Is Jesus’ return really getting closer? These two questions have been debated since these words were written…and even before. This was the last question the disciples asked Jesus before He ascended into heaven.

  • “So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Acts of the Apostles‬ ‭1:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus was quick to turn the disciples’ attention toward their mission and not the end of the age. However, does this mean we will not be able to discern the times? Paul writes in his letter to the Thessalonians,

  • “But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬

Not only are we not to be surprised by the last days, Jesus even gave us some insight on how to know when we are in the final season before the rapture of the Church and the End of the Age.

  • “Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?…“But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.” Matthew‬ ‭24:3, 8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Jesus spoke of world events as birth pains. I am not an expert on childbirth but I know one thing for certain. As the birth of the child grows nearer the frequency of the contractions and pain increases. This is a key to discerning the times. There has always been sin in the world. Yet, it is the frequency and intensity of sin that lets us know if we are living in the last days.

So, let’s take a look at Paul’s summary list to Timothy of the last days and ask the question – “Is the frequency and intensity of these things getting better or worse?”

  • “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money.”

Is our society becoming more benevolent or more selfish? Do people vote based on principles of righteousness or issues that affect their pocketbooks? Is greed on the rise or decline? Do we judge a person’s worth by their character or by their wealth?

  • “They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God,…”

When I grew up there was respect for the church and religion as a whole. Now, there is a growing contempt of the church. Entire political parties have taken God out of their platform and are working diligently to take God out of the public square. People are boastful and proud denying their very need for God. We are living in an ever-increasing godless culture.

  • “…disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful.”

All you need to do to witness whether this is an attitude and behavior problem that is growing in intensity and frequency is to visit your local Walmart. Listen to the conversations and the tone of voice children are using towards their parents. Watch how children behave when they are told they cannot have something. Watch parents allowing their children to run the show. There is a growing disrespect for authority. Teachers have to deal more with discipline than teaching. This is a growing and alarming problem.

  • “They will consider nothing sacred.”

Churches and Synagogues are vandalized and burned. Ministers of the Lord are portrayed as ignorant, archaic, and foolish on almost every sitcom on television. The Lord’s name is used in vain in conversation, music, and rap. Politicians and Hollywood elites ridicule and dismiss anyone with faith. And, the Bible is rejected as the authoritative Word of God.

  • “They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control.”

Violence is on the increase in our cities, schools, and the public square. When people do not get their way they turn to rioting, looting, burning cities, and personal violence. There is no tolerance for differences of opinion. Revenge is sought more than reconciliation. And, we have forgotten the virtue of self-control. I want to live my truth no matter what it costs others in the process.

  • “They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.”

The sexual revolution has led to a society that loves pleasure more than God. Abortion is accepted as good and those who honor the life of the unborn are considered a threat to society. People every day, on social media, throw their family members and friends under the bus. Pride has replaced humility and a friend that sticks closer than a brother is harder and harder to find.

  • “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!”

People think they are religious simply because they meet in a building with a cross, a Star of David, or a steeple. One by one mainline denominations are leaving the orthodox Christian faith and embracing the moral teachings of our day. A false message of grace is being taught that emboldens people to live in sin rather than to grow in godliness. In so many churches today the Holy Spirit has left the building!

This is the checklist – as harsh as it may seem. It can get you depressed by simply reading it. Yet, we are not those who view such things this way. We understand that these are the signs that we are growing closer and closer to the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages.

Jesus gave us this exhortation,

  • “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke‬ ‭21:28‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Am I guaranteeing that Jesus will return in my lifetime? Absolutely not! However, I would have to be blind to not recognize that things are accelerating. And, as they accelerate I take assurance that I am in the light so that these days will not overtake me and surprise me as someone who lives in the darkness. As these things accelerate I find myself daily looking up and tuning my heart to hear the trumpet call when Jesus will return for His Church!

These are exciting times. They are times to be engaged in the church, faithful in ministry, and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are in the last days!

Lord Jesus, today, I choose to look up, to stand firm, to be engaged in proclaiming the Gospel – for Your redemption is closer now than it has ever been!

COME LORD JESUS!

In Jesus Name!

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DARE TO HOPE!

LAMENTATIONS 3:21-27: “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline:”. NLT
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OBSERVATION: Today, as I read these familiar words from Lamentations, I feel impressed to speak these words,

DARE TO HOPE!

I speak them to my own heart, and I speak them to any heart that is burdened and discouraged. The wonderful truth of the Christian faith is that there is always hope in Jesus Christ! It doesn’t matter what we are going through. A new day is coming. Each morning we are invited to meet His mercy and remember His faithfulness.

When someone says – “Be Hopeful,” it can seem insensitive when we are going through a very difficult time. Yet, we need to put these words in the context that we find them in the text. Many times we feel like our situation is impossible until we see someone else whose situation is much worse. No one could be in as bad of a situation as Jeremiah.

The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s expression of extreme grief as he witnessed the city of Jerusalem destroyed and his own people die from starvation and then the end of a sword. To witness God’s judgment is a sobering thing. And, to have been the messenger of that judgment takes it to a whole other level.

It was in the midst of this destruction, as flames burned, and the cries of people sounded in the street, that Jeremiah writes his lament. He wishes that he was never born than to witness such a tragedy. Yet, in the middle of this tragedy, Jeremiah pauses. There is something that undergirds him, that won’t let him fall into the depth of despair. That something is his faith in God. It is in this context that he writes,

  • “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this:..”

What did he remember? He remembered the faithful love of the Lord that never ends. He remembered God’s never-ending mercies. He remembered the faithfulness of God who always fulfilled His promises. He remembered that each day is made new by the love and mercy of God. So, Jeremiah speaks to himself and he says,

  • “I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline:”.

On August 28, 2021, I was involved in a serious accident that could have cost me my life. I spent 11 days in the hospital and I am still recovering. Yet, during another prolonged recovery process in my life, I was filled with hope. It was not merely the hope of recovering. Rather, it was the hope of what the Lord was going to do in my life. As I waited, and as I hoped, the Holy Spirit began to speak into my life and open up the Word of God in a new way.

Even in the darkest of days, we can dare to hope!

Will you dare to hope? Will you dare to remember the unfailing love of God, His endless mercies, His abiding faithfulness, and His promise that you can meet Him anew each morning? Will you dare to receive revelation from the Holy Spirit as you open up His Word? Will you dare to allow Him to lead you into your new purposes of life?

WILL YOU DARE TO HOPE?

Lord, today I dare to hope! I dare to believe! I dare to remember Your goodness, mercy, and love! And, I dare to ask You to touch every hurting heart that cries out to You. Meet them and make their day anew with Your mercy and grace.

In Jesus Name!

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WHERE ARE THE APOSTLES?

II TIMOTHY 1:1: “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: As I look over the church in America today, and as I read the opening verse of II Timothy, chapter one, I am moved to ask,

WHERE ARE THE APOSTLES?

When we hear the word apostle we immediately think of the 12 apostles that walked with Jesus. There is a lot of speculation on who the 12th apostle is who replaced Judas Iscariot. I believe it was the Apostle Paul. He begins his letter to Timothy noting his calling. He was chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Yet, the apostles did not end with the 12. Paul himself is the one who gives us insight into God’s will for the function of the church in the book of Ephesians.

  • “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-13‬ ‭NLT‬

There are important things to note in these verses. The gift of apostles is listed with other gifts that we are comfortable identifying with the church today – evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The two gifts that are so often missing are the gifts of prophet and apostle. However, since my focus is on the apostle, I will only comment on it at this time.

Many have noted these as the “Office” gifts. Yet, nowhere does the Bible identify different ranks of officers in the Body of Christ. In fact, Jesus made it very clear that we were never to do this!

  • “But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world Lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew‬ ‭20:25-28‬ ‭NLT‬

These are not offices. They are functions. Yes, they are leadership roles. However, a leader is called to be a greater servant. And, Paul notes the purpose of these gifts in Ephesians.

  • “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”

The word equip, in the Greek language, literally means to mend nets. No one would think that the person, on the boat, mending nets, was superior to everyone else. Rather, he would be looked upon as a servant. The point I am trying to make is we have used these gifts as titles to separate the leaders from the followers. The true leaders should be on their knees mending the nets of the saints – not standing on pedestals demanding their respect.

So, what does this have to do with apostles? The gift of apostles has not passed away with the 12 apostles. It is a gift that should still be active in the church today. In fact, we need this gift desperately! Paul makes it very clear in his greeting to Timothy what the function of an apostle is.

  • “I have been sent out to tell others about the life he has promised through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Paul did not view himself as the “Preeminent Apostle Paul.” He was simply one who had been sent out to tell. others about the life God had promised through faith in Christ Jesus. The pastor, teacher, evangelist, and prophet, have a more localized ministry to the local church (although God can and does expand this).

Yet, there is only one gift that is sent out – and that is the gift of the apostle.

In America today we live in a post-Christian era. Churches are struggling after the Covid pandemic. Attendance is down. And, churches still try to reach the lost the old-fashioned way, by attracting them to come to church. This is a generation that does not even consider the church as an option. They did not grow up in Sunday School. They are Biblically illiterate. If we are going to reach this generation…

SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE SENT OUT!

We need apostles who will go into the unchartered territories and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These unchartered territories are not in Africa, they are right in our own backyard. They are in our offices, our supermarkets, our civic centers, and even in our churches! We need the gift of the apostle today more than ever.

The apostle does not nest. The apostle reaches people for Jesus Christ. They may even start a church. However, the difference between an apostle and a pastor is that the apostle will raise up leadership and then move on. They will keep going and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard. And, today in America,

THERE ARE MULTITUDES WHO HAVE NEVER CLEARLY HEARD THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!

I rejoice over every church that is planted. Yet, the rate of churches being planted today is not keeping pace with the churches that are closing. Who can change this trend – the apostle! We need the next generation of John and Charles Wesley. They traveled on horseback from town to town bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, starting churches, and raising up leaders. Think of what we could do now with cars and modern technology!

Lord, awaken the apostles in the Body of Christ. I am not speaking of those who have taken the title and put it on their business cards. I am speaking of those who have been called and sent to go out and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, start churches, and raise up local leadership. Lord, bring revival in our land by awakening the gifts You have given to the church!

LORD, AWAKEN THE APOSTLES!

In Jesus Name!

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THE STORY OF EBED-MELECH (Does obedience really matter?)

JEREMIAH 39:15-17: “Meanwhile the word of the Lord had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Does obedience really matter? Is it really important to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only? In the midst of the book of Jeremiah, we find a wonderful story of someone most people may have never heard of – Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian.

I venture to guess that many people have never even read the story of Ebed-Melech. Who is he? Why is his store so significant? How is this story so important for me to understand and apply to my life today? Let’s take a look at the story as it unfolds and learn the wonderful truth it holds.

Jeremiah was called by God to prophesy against Jerusalem for her sins and rebellion against God. Most of the book of Jeremiah is difficult to read and really not very encouraging. The word of the Lord was simply this – Judgment is coming. The King of Babylon will destroy the Temple, burn down the city, kill people without discretion, and take the survivors away captive.

Obviously, this angered the leading officials and the commanders of the dwindling army that was left in Jerusalem. They viewed Jeremiah’s words as nothing short of treason. They refused to repent and worse yet – they plotted to kill Jeremiah. Finally, they went to King Zedekiah and pleaded for him to let them kill Jeremiah. King Zedekiah’s defenses had worn down. He replied to their request,

  • “…Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What happened next was tragic for Jeremiah. They took him from the prison he was in and lowered him into a dungeon (cistern) that did not have any water but was filled with thick mud.

  • “So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jeremiah, stuck in the mud, without food or water, was being left for dead. The leaders and nobles all conspired against him. The King resolved himself to Jeremiah’s fate. Everyone was happy with what had just happened except for one man.

This man was Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian.

  • “Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin, Ebed-Melech went out of the king’s house and spoke to the king, saying: “My Lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city.” Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, “Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies.” Jeremiah‬ ‭38:7-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In all of Jerusalem, there was only one man who was willing to be obedient to the Lord and stand up for the Lord’s prophet. He was not a Hebrew. He was not from a priestly line. He was not one of the princes or nobles. He was a foreigner who had joined himself with God’s people, had earned the king’s respect, and was part of the king’s court. Ebed-Melech risked his life and his position when he approached the king. Yet, he had no regard for all of this.

He knew that he must obey God!

Fast forward. The King of Babylon and his army break through the walls of Jerusalem. King Zedekiah tries to escape. He is captured and has to watch the Babylonians kill all of his sons. All the princes and nobles who conspired against Jeremiah were also killed. Jeremiah was released from prison by the King of Babylon and allowed to live wherever he chose. And, one other man was given preferential treatment and protected by the Lord. It was Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian!

  • “Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you. But I will deliver you in that day,” says the Lord, “and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me,” says the Lord.’ ”. Jeremiah 39:16-18

If there is ever any doubt that obedience makes a difference – just consider the story of Ebed-Melech, the Ethiopian. God is watching our lives and He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). We don’t always see it at once, and our obedience may not even be fully rewarded in this lifetime. Yet, we can stand on the sure promises of God’s Word – to obey is truly better than sacrifice!

  • “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” ‭‭James‬ ‭1:21-22, 25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me to live my life like Ebed-Melech. Help me to be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. And, help me to rest in Your promise that he who is a doer of the Word will be blessed in what he does!

OBEDIENCE REALLY DOES MATTER!

In Jesus Name!

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WELCOME BACK – TO JESUS! (A message to the seeking and backslidden.)

JEREMIAH 31:33-34: “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the greatest joy in life? Is it our families? Is it fulfillment in our job? is it friendships? Is it our relationship with the Lord? It is all these things – but so much more!

IT IS THE JOY OF BEING FORGIVEN!

Jeremiah was chosen by God, even before he was born, to deliver some very difficult messages to the nation of Judah. Jeremiah prophesied during the reign of the final kings of Judah, all the way to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. His words were difficult to speak and even difficult now to read. However, amid the prophecies of judgment, there were words of hope. In the 31st chapter of Jeremiah, we read about the New Covenant God would bring. We are the firstfruits of this New Covenant!

The Old Covenant focused on the Law and God’s regulations. The Law was given to reveal sin and keep us from sinning. However, there was no capacity within man to obey the Law. Over and over again the nation of Israel strayed away from God, disobeying His Law, and finding themselves under the judgment of God. The Law was holy, just, and good. It was not a problem with the Law, it was a problem with the human heart!

  • “At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good.” Romans‬ ‭7:9-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If there was ever hope for mankind it would take a change within man. Nothing outside of man could offer hope. This should speak volumes to our culture today. We look for hope in government spending, social programs, political agendas. These are just another form of the Law that failed to bring about change. We walk around under the judgment of God unless something changes deep within.

WE NEED TO BE FORGIVEN!

  • “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
  • “When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:11-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

THIS IS THE NEW COVENANT!

What man could not do – Jesus did for us on the cross! When we place our faith in Jesus Christ we are circumcised – but not by a physical procedure. God removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. He wipes away the entire record of our sin and gives us new life. He pours out His Holy Spirit upon us and Jesus comes to live in our new heart!

WE ARE FULLY FORGIVEN AND FULLY GOD’S CHILD!

This is why Paul can proclaim with confidence,

  • “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The hard drive, that contained all of our sins, has been wiped clean. The enemy of our souls has no basis to accuse us or condemn us. We are fully forgiven and fully pardoned. We know God and God lives within us. There is a personal relationship now that has replaced an external knowing. The Scriptures have come alive as we read them. The Holy Spirit is our constant companion and leads us daily into the wonderful fullness of the living God!

OH- THE JOY OF FULL FORGIVENESS THROUGH JESUS CHRIST!

Lord, this morning I pray for each person who reads this post. I pray that they can know the joy of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. I pray that they will surrender their lives to Jesus and receive a new heart and a new life!

And, for those who have backslidden and fallen away from the Lord…

LOOK UP AND SEE – THE FATHER AWAITS YOU IN OPEN ARMS!

  • “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬
  • “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” Luke‬ ‭15:20-24‬ ‭NLT‬‬

WELCOME BACK…TO JESUS!

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE…

II THESSALONIANS 2:4-8: “He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: A day is coming – when all hell breaks loose! It is a day that will be unlike any other day. We read the news today and think it is bad. This day will make everything that has happened in history look like child’s play.

Imagine a world without any restraint. A world where evil has full sway!

This is referred to in the Bible as the “Day of the Lord.” This day always refers to the Great Tribulation and God’s final dealing with mankind. At the beginning of this time, the spirit of the antichrist will be manifested in the true Antichrist. He will rise in power and nothing will stop him for a period of time. All hell will break loose! When will this happen?

When the ONE who is holding him back steps out of the way!

This is such a comforting promise for the church. The Thessalonians were under the impression that the persecution they were experiencing was the Day of the Lord. In Paul’s first letter to this church he had written about the “catching away,” or the rapture of the church. It would be a glorious day when the church would meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. The dead in Christ would rise first and then those remaining alive would be joined with them to always be with the Lord.

The ONE that Paul refers to is the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that now restrains evil from having its full power on the earth. When will the Holy Spirit step out of the way? It will be when the church is raptured to be with Christ. We must understand the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was present in the world but only rested upon certain prophets and leaders. In the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit now works in the earth through the Church.

When the Church is removed from the earth, the true Church, those who are true believers in Jesus Christ, then the ONE who now is holding back the Antichrist will be taken out of the way. Why did Paul write about the Day of the Lord to the Thessalonians if the church was not going to go through this time? It was to correct false teaching that the Day of the Lord had already begun.

  • “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.” II Thessalonians‬ ‭2:1-2 ‭NKJV‬‬

Some false teachers had been circulating a letter that was teaching the Day of the Lord had already begun. Paul exhorts them “…not to be shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us – as though the day of Christ (Day of the Lord) had come.” How does Paul comfort them regarding this false teaching? He makes it clear in the first verse of the second chapter.

“Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…”

There are two distinct events that will take place. The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Coming (at the end of the Great Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, Revelation 19); and our gathering together to Him (the catching away, the rapture of the church, I Thessalonians 4:13-18). The first is what they feared had already taken place. The latter was to comfort them that they would not be going through the Great Tribulation.

Paul then outlines what will take place during the Great Tribulation. This reflects what is written in the Book of Daniel, and later expounded in the book of Revelation, which had not been written at this time. Why did Paul go through such detail if the church was not going to be present during this time? It was to help them understand that the tribulation they were going through paled in comparison to what would be revealed. And, that before this could be revealed – the church would be gathered together with Christ!

Many object to the teaching of the rapture because the word is not found in the Bible. Yet, we use words that are not found in the Bible all the time to define the truths of the Bible. We use the word Trinity to define the revelation of one God, eternally existent in three distinct persons – the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. If one feels better using the term “catching away,” which is the literal translation of the Greek – so be it. The bottom line is this.

Before the Day of the Lord, the ONE who is holding Him back (through the Church) will be taken out of the way!

Before all hell breaks loose – WE WILL HEAR THE TRUMPET CALL OF GOD! I find great comfort in this truth. How should I respond to this comfort? Should I simply sit back, safe and secure, knowing that the rapture is coming? Or, should I be motivated to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone I can so that they too will be rescued from the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord?

Lord, help me to be motivated to reach others for Jesus Christ! Help me to walk in comfort and a sense of urgency at the same time. Your trumpet call could sound any time and then – all hell would break loose! Help me to lead as many I can to faith in Jesus Christ before that day.

In Jesus Name!

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THE CALLING OF GOD FOR MY LIFE… (What am I supposed to do?)

II THESSALONIANS 1:11-12: “So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: What is the calling of God for my life? What am I supposed to be doing for the Lord? These are questions that all Christ-followers sincerely ask themselves. When I committed my life to Jesus Christ these were the first questions I struggled with. Perhaps you are struggling with them too!

I love Paul’s words to the Thessalonians. He does not make it difficult to understand. He simply states,

  • “May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.”

Our life in Christ is a walk of faith. As we walk in faith we are led by the Spirit of God. When we listen to the Spirit, as we read God’s Word, as we pray, and as we learn to hear the “still small voice” inside of us, He will lead us into the will of God. As the Holy Spirit does this we will discover two things.

There is the Calling of God and the calling of God.

The first is our life’s call. It is what we are created to be and do. It involves our career and so much more. This is what we struggle to know and discover. We many times get stuck looking for the Calling of God that we neglect the calling of God. Let me unpack this statement.

The calling of God is to be Christlike in how we live. This means that we do not need to hear from heaven to do something good. When we have the opportunity to do something good, to bless someone, to share our faith, to offer consolation or encouragement, we are simply to do it. To put it in Paul’s words, we are to do whatever our faith prompts us to do!

I have found in my life that I was not able to discover the Calling of God until I engaged my life in the calling of God. We are not called to climb a mountain and wait until we hear from heaven. We have already heard from heaven. It is called the Word of God. We are called to live out God’s Word, empowered by His grace, and filled with His Spirit! The calling of God begins the minute we place our faith in Jesus Christ.

When I placed my faith in Jesus Christ I was struggling with discovering the Calling of God for my life. I just could not seem to find it, so I just began living out the calling of God in my life. It was in this process that God began to reveal and define His Calling for my life. It was when I was engaged in living for Christ, simply to please Him, that I discovered my life’s direction and call.

I have always used this phrase in business – “It is easier to turn an 18 wheeler when it is moving than when it is standing still.” This is true with a truck and it is true with my life. I discover the next step in my Calling when I become engaged fully in my calling! It is on the pathway of love and obedience, serving others, that God reveals His will in my life. Paul speaks of this process in his epistle to the Romans.

  • “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭MSG‬‬

A recent book I read spoke of fulfilling God Goals in your life. To keep with the theme of what we have been talking about, and to put it another way, there are God Goals and God goals. One is our life’s call and purpose, the other is simply the expression of our life in Christ. It is taking our “…everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and placing it before God as an offering.” (The Message, Romans 12:1)

Lord, this morning I am seeking the God Goal for my life! Help me to place this search on the altar and engage in fulfilling the God goals that are right in front of me. Help me to follow and fulfill everything my faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit prompts me to do. May I not miss the good that is right before me as I seek the Good that is my life’s call.

In Jesus Name!

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AM I READY!

I THESSALONIANS 4:16-18: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: The Lord Jesus Christ is coming for His Church, the Bride of Christ. That day will be announced with a commanding shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God. There is nothing that needs to happen before this day takes place. It could take place at any moment. This brings me to an important question.

AM I READY?

Am I living a life that is filled with expectation, or am I simply existing from one day to the other? Am I using the gifts that God has given me to build His Kingdom, or am I simply living for my comfort and enjoyment? Is my life becoming more like Jesus Christ each day, or have I stagnated in my spiritual growth?

These questions are not meant to suggest that a true believer will be left behind when the rapture takes place. They are meant to stir up my spirit, to test my readiness, to measure my expectation. If I was a member of a wedding party, say the best man, then I would be at the church on time, with my tux on, and the wedding ring in my pocket. I would not be sitting at home watching TV and eating chips.

I think that we live our lives like Jesus’ return is something the Bible teaches but we probably won’t see in our lifetime. This is an easy attitude to cultivate seeing that it has been over 2000 years since Jesus walked this earth. However, this is an incorrect assessment of both Biblical truth and time. Peter addressed this attitude in his second epistle.

  • “Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” 2 Peter‬ ‭3:3-4, 8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Time is something that was created for man when God created the world. God is infinite and is not limited to time like we are. God’s promises are not dictated by man’s watch. A thousand years to man is like one day to God. Using this analogy, it has only been 2 days since Jesus walked this earth. The Lord has always done miraculous things on the third day! On the third day, He rose again from the dead. And, on the third day, He will return for His Church.

With this understanding, what manner of men and women should we be? Should we be slack concerning our church attendance and engagement in Kingdom business, or should we be faithful, diligent, and joyfully serving God where He has called us? Should our lives be filled with activities and habits that keep us from growing, or should we be coming to the Cross for cleansing and freedom? Should we hide from the world, or should we engage the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I NEED TO BE READY FOR THE TRUMPET CALL OF CHRIST!

Think of it! In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we will hear the last trump. God will miraculously pull together all the atoms of those who have died and will bring them together, transforming them into their glorious resurrection bodies. Then, those of us who are still alive will be caught up (raptured) into the air and joined with the saints who have been transformed. From that moment we will be free from this world of sin and united with Christ for all eternity.

THIS DAY COULD HAPPEN AT ANY MOMENT!

I am moved to challenge myself this morning. It is time to get ready. It is time to be engaged. It is time to remember that each day the Lord tarries is a day that He wants someone else to be saved. It is a time for churches to get out of their seats and into the streets. It is a time to live a life filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in the power of God!

IT IS A TIME TO BE READY!

  • “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.” Matthew‬ ‭24:45-46‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, help me to be a faithful, sensible servant, fully engaged in my calling and doing Your will!

COME, LORD JESUS, COME!

In Jesus Name!

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