THE VERDICT IS ALREADY IN!

I JOHN 5:6-10: “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Who is Jesus Christ? This is the most important question one will ever ask in their lifetime. It is a question that will determine their eternity and the entire trajectory of their life here on earth. This question has been debated over the centuries. Opposing sides have presented their arguments skillfully. There is only one problem.

THE VERDICT IS ALREADY IN!

John, in the closing of his first epistle, summarizes what he has written, and gives the believer a reason to stand firm in their faith. He also warns the unbeliever of the seriousness of their choices. In any court of law the verdict is determined by the preponderance of the evidence. God never calls us to faith in Christ blindly. The preponderance of the evidence is clear. Jesus is the Christ! Jesus is the Son of God! Jesus is the only way to enter into eternal life!

  • “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”

Jesus began His earthly ministry by entering into the baptismal waters, being baptized by John, and receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. Jesus was baptized to begin His ministry and to establish the pathway of righteousness for all who would believe. From this water, Jesus began His miraculous life of ministry. Jesus, in the course of His life, would fulfill over 40 unique prophecies, uttered by numerous Old Testament prophets, who spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and who lived hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth and ministry.

Jesus not only came by water, but he also came by blood. It was not the blood of the bulls and goats of the Old Testament sacrifices. It was by His own blood which He shed as He hung on the cross for our sins. Jesus became our Passover lamb. He died in our place. When He shed His blood, it was not simply that His blood fell to the ground under His wounds and through the piercing of His side – Jesus presented His own blood in the heavenly sanctuary as the final atonement for sin. In all of this, the Spirit bore witness by the sacred text and through Jesus’ miraculous life, death, and resurrection!

  • “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.”

In a court of law, a single testimony does not hold much weight, especially if it is hearsay. A witness’s testimony must be corroborated to hold any weight. The testimony of the deity of Jesus Christ was not simply through His own words. John makes it very clear. Two threefold testimonies bore witness to the deity of Jesus Christ.

The first was the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. This is the testimony of the triune God. We see the union and work of the trinity in the act of creation. We also see the union and the work of the trinity in the act of redemption!

  • “In the beginning God (the Father) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said (the Word, Jesus Christ, John 1:1), “Let there be light”; and there was light.” Genesis‬ ‭1:1-3‬ ‭NKJV (Parenthetical notes are mine for emphasis).‬‬
  • “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus (the Word made flesh) also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice (God the Father) came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” Luke‬ ‭3:21-22‬ ‭NKJV. (Parenthetical notes are mine for emphasis).‬‬‬‬

In creation, we see God the Father, the Spirit of God, and the Logos of God (Word of God, Jesus in His eternal state). In His baptism, we see Jesus, the Spirit of God, and the Father proclaiming – “…This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased!’ This was not the witness of one, or two – but the witness of three, the triune God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! And, as already established, there is another trilogy of confirmation as to the deity of Jesus Christ – the Spirit, the water, and the blood. This is why John writes,

  • “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.”

So who do you say Jesus is? Is He simply a good man who helped the poor? Is he merely a good teacher who left us with some golden nuggets of philosophy to enrich our lives? Or, is He God in human flesh? Is He the Son of God? Is He the Savior of the world and the only way to eternal life? John answers this question.

  • “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself…”

When one repents of their sin, turns to God, and places their faith in Jesus Christ – they are born again by the Spirit. Their sins are forgiven. They receive the gift of eternal life. And, the Holy Spirit comes to indwell their heart and life. This is why John says that the one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. Paul agrees with John and writes,

  • “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”. Romans‬ ‭8:15-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

What a blessed assurance! What eternal hope! Not only do we have the threefold testimonies of the Father, the Word, and the Spirit, along with the Spirit, the water, and the blood – we have the inner assurance and confirmation of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are the children of God! A born again believer knows, that they know, that they know, that they know – they are a child of God and have eternal life.

One can dismiss these truths. However, a mere dismissal will not make them untrue. God has spoken. He has confirmed His Son through two threefold witnesses. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ stand as a testimony in history that Jesus is God in human flesh and that He lives! Therefore, how we answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”, will not change the reality of the truth. It will only determine the reality and outcome of our life.

  • “…he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.”

In these days of uncertainty, there is one thing that stands as a source of true hope and strength. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus has conquered sin, death, and the devil. And, Jesus offers eternal life, and the hope of an abundant life today, to all those who will believe. This is a truth that cannot be altered. It is settled in the courts of heaven.

So how will you answer the question – “Who is Jesus?” Will you proclaim – He is God the Son, my sacrifice for sins, my risen Lord, and my soon coming King? You have nothing but your sin, guilt, and shame but to lose, and you have all the riches of heaven to gain. What will your answer be?

In Jesus Name!

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DON’T FEAR!

I JOHN 4:17-19: “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Don’t fear! These are words that we all need to hear. We are just days from an election that could forever change the course of our nation. Each day we hear of more people who have contracted the dreaded coronavirus. And, foreign countries try to meddle in our elections as they rattle their sabers to elicit fear in the hearts of our citizens.

Yet, for the believer, above all of the noise, we hear God’s clear and reassuring call – DON’T FEAR!

This is a call to all believers. However, all believers are not heeding this call. Why is this? Satan is the author of fear. He uses every means within his arsenal to get us to forget who we are in Christ and what our true destiny is. We begin to look at this world as our hope. We lose sight of our eternal reward and the promise of God’s love working within us.

Just the other day I spoke with a friend. He is a believer. The conversation revolved around the upcoming election and his fear of what might happen. I tried to reassure him that God was in control. As we do our civic duty, as we vote for our Biblical values, we have to leave the results in God’s hands. We have to remember that He is orchestrating the events of these last days. He has a purpose for our lives. We do not look to governments or candidates for our peace and security. We look to the Lord!

John makes a very powerful statement under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

  • “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.”

God’s love has been poured out upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We have been rescued from death into life. We do not fear judgment for we have been fully pardoned by God’s grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. And, just as Jesus walked in the power of God through the Holy Spirit in His earthly ministry, so do we! As He is – so are we in this world. Jesus never succumbed to fear, but fully entrusted His life into the hands of the Father. We are to do the same!

Fear and love are polar opposites. They are like oil and water, they do not mix. If we are walking in love, we are being perfected in our faith. If we succumb to fear, we have forgotten the great love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

  • “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”

In these uncertain times, how do we overcome our fears? We draw near to God and we allow Him to perfect us in His love. We are perfected in love as we love God and as we love one another. The more we love the less we will fear. When we stand in His presence, when we stand in the glory of His love, fear will never exist in our lives again!

  • “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation‬ ‭21:3-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Why does God call us to love? He knows that it is the only way we can overcome the fears of life. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor includes our enemy. We are to love our enemies and pray for them. We are to share God’s love and point the way to Jesus Christ. Those who are striking out so vehemently on social media are doing so out of fear. Beloved, if we, who have experienced the love of God in Jesus Christ, allow our lights to be dimmed through fear, how will those who are bound in fear ever see the light?

And, so John concluded the fourth chapter with these words.

  • “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” I John‬ ‭4:20-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In these last days before the election, in a world that is bound by fear, let us who call upon the name of Jesus show His love. Let us always season our words with grace. Let us speak the truth in love. And, let us remember that…

  • “…the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” II Corinthians‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me to walk in the full assurance of faith. Set me free from fear. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to love, as You have loved me!

In Jesus Name!

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WILL I GO TO HEAVEN?

I JOHN 3:23: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Will I go to heaven? This is a question that many people are ignoring today. It is so easy to get caught up in the present struggle that we forget about the future. We live for the here and now and ignore the reality that one day this life will come to an end. And, then what?

When I was 30 years old, I found myself in between jobs. I had been working for a ministry that was moving its headquarters to Georgia. Living in California, and not feeling the call to leave, I found myself looking for work. I had worked both in ministry and in the grocery industry. The only job that I could find was selling life insurance.

I took on this new responsibility with a desire to succeed. The area that I was focused on was the home market. It entailed cold calling and setting up appointments to do a financial needs review with couples and individuals. Most of the appointments I ended up with were people over the age of 50. And, as a 30-year-old man, my eyes were opened wide. What I found was that more than 95% of those I met with had never considered their retirement or what would happen if they died!

They, like so many of us, we’re living for the moment. It is uncanny how moments turn into days, which turn into months, which turn into years. One day we wake up and 10, 20, 30 years have flown by. If we don’t plan now, what will we do when we face the years when we are forced to retire? More importantly, what will we do when we face the end of our life if we do not plan for our eternity?!

When I was young I thought I was invincible. Death did not seem a reality. I had my whole life ahead of me. And, then, at only 48 years of age – I faced death. My heart began to fail, my aortic valve went into atrophy, and I was being rolled down a cold corridor to face a surgery that could save or end my life.

No one has a guarantee on life. Life is a gift from God. Every breath we take is a gift from God. Life is a gift and death is a certainty. We all live, and we all will die. The question remains – When I die, will I go to heaven?

There is an innate knowing of eternal life in all of us. The will to live is an evidence of this. To die seems unnatural. Deep inside of us, we know that we were created to be eternal. Yet, through disobedience, sin entered the world. Death was the result of sin. We cannot ignore that sin exists. We see it in ourselves and we see it in others. We watch sin being displayed on the 24/7 news cycle each day. We will all have to give an account of our lives when we die. And, this account will determine whether we go to heaven or hell.

This account will not be determined by the amount of good that we have done in comparison to the sin we have committed. If this was the case, we all would be doomed. There is only one thing that we will be asked. There is only one thing that will be weighed in the balance of our eternity. It is – what did I do with Jesus?

  • “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”

Did I receive Jesus as my Lord and Savior? Did I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as Lord? Did I pick up my cross and follow Jesus? This is the sole determining factor that will decide my eternity. We must remember this important fact – there is only one door into heaven!

  • “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Good works will not do it. Social standing will make no difference. Our political affiliation will be meaningless. Jesus is the door to eternal life. We enter this door by grace through faith. There is no other way. The alternative is a bleak and frightful outcome.

  • “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How can we be assured that we are going to heaven? First, we have His promise. Second, we have the confirmation of the Holy Spirit working in us.

  • “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” I John‬ ‭5:11-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” I John‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Faith in Jesus Christ is evidenced by a love for God and others. The fruit of the Spirit can be summed up in one word – Love! Those who have believed on the name of the Son of God – they love! This is the commandment of ‭God. This is the assurance of eternal life. This is the only way to get to heaven.

Will you go to heaven? Listen – He is knocking at the door of your heart right now! Faith in Jesus Christ turns the knob and opens the door. And, when you open the door, you will be greeted with His love and forgiveness, and the assurance of eternal life!

  • “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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WHY AM I SO MISERABLE?

II PETER 2:20-22: “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Do Christians backslide? Do Christ-followers ever get entangled once again in the sin from which they have been set free? Do those who were once strong in their faith ever begin doubting their faith so much that they begin embracing the things that they once proclaimed to be wrong?

The answer is – YES! I have backslidden in my life. As a pastor, I have ministered to hundreds of individuals who have backslidden. I would be so bold to say that every believer in Jesus Christ has backslidden at some time in their life. Or, perhaps, as you are reading this, you find yourself in a backslidden state.

I grew up in the church. I don’t ever remember a time when I did not go to church. I went to Sunday School as a young child. My parents put me in a parochial school in which I learned the principles of the faith and had chapel every Wednesday. I believed in God with my whole heart. Yet, when I reached my teenage years I fell away from the Lord. I left the faith of my youth.

I never got into serious trouble. Yet, I did begin a life of partying and drinking. It seemed my life revolved around Friday and Saturday nights. We would try to score some beer and then party. All the while I knew that this was wrong. Whenever I would wake up from a night of partying I felt empty. There was a growing void in my life. I knew the light – but was walking in darkness.

On the outside, I looked like an upstanding young man. I was Senior Class President, on the honor roll, and I had a good job and my own car at age 16. I was clean-cut (because I worked in a grocery store), and my partying was something that I did in secret. My parents never really knew what was going on. Yet, the more I partied, the more I lied, the more I hid from the light, the greater the emptiness and despair. I became a very unhappy and angry person.

I will never forget one night that began the journey back to faith. We had scored some beer and we were looking for a place to drink. I was in my friend’s car. He pulled into the dark parking lot of a church and said – “Let’s drink here!” I rose up in opposition and said – “No way! I will not drink in the parking lot of a church!” I knew the light, and the cross on the church was shining ever so brightly in the midst of the darkness. I was miserable!

This is why Peter says,

  • “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.”

I was turning my back on everything that I knew was true. I was turning my back on my confession of faith and the principles of God’s Word that I had learned all these years. I was like the pig wallowing in the mire, the dog going back to his own vomit. I was in a crisis of faith!

It would not be long until the Lord graciously began to bring me back to Jesus. Following graduation, through the infatuation with a young girl who went to church 2-3 times a week, I wandered into a lighthouse of God’s truth. I was convicted and repented. One night, in my apartment, as an 18-year-old man, I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. At that moment His grace and forgiveness washed over me. The anger and the emptiness were replaced with His peace and Spirit.

I wish this was the only time I had backslidden in my life. It wasn’t. Over the years I have struggled at different points in my life. Sometimes I have been victorious and sometimes I have failed. Yet, over the years, and through the abundance of God’s faithfulness, grace, and forgiveness, I have learned to spot these weaknesses of the flesh. God is always faithful. When we are tempted, He will also provide a way of escape. By God’s grace, I have learned to take the way of escape and avoid the pitfall of backsliding.

If you find yourself in a backslidden condition, do not despair! You are not alone. Peter backslid as he denied Christ three times. Jesus restored Peter. Jesus restored me. And, Jesus will restore you too! It is not too late! You have not passed the point of no return! The sorrow and emptiness you feel is God’s way of reminding you that you have drifted from the light. All you need to do is to repent – turn from the darkness you find yourself in and turn to His light!

  • “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John‬ ‭1:8-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Dear one, right now – leave the pig trough! The Father waits with open arms to receive you through Jesus Christ our Lord! Forgiveness, healing, restoration, and strength are right around the corner. What are you waiting for? Look – up ahead – the Father is running to you to fill you with His embrace.

Lord, may you grant us all the grace to walk in Your light. When we fall, may we immediately run to you for forgiveness, cleansing, and the grace to begin again. Make the former things of our lives so distasteful that when they knock at our door we will not answer but will immediately run into the throne room of grace and mercy!

In Jesus Name!

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CASTING OUR CARES…

I PETER 5:6-9: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: How do you cast your cares upon the Lord? Have you ever noticed that some verses are easier to read than they are to do? When you are enduring an ongoing trial of faith, or an outright attack of the enemy, what does it mean to cast your cares upon the Lord?

Before we can consider that question we must understand the basic prerequisite. It is impossible to cast our cares upon the Lord if we are walking in pride. When we think of pride immediately thoughts of someone boasting and strutting their stuff comes into mind. Yet, pride can be much more than that. In fact, pride is any posture in our life other than complete surrender and trust in the Lord.

If we are trying to carry our burdens, we are walking in pride. If we are relying upon our previous experiences, we are walking in pride. Even if we are relying on our faith, and we forget the source of our faith, we are walking in pride. The first step in casting all your cares upon the Lord is to come to a place of personal brokenness. It is that place where we realize that without the Lord’s intervention all is lost. We run to His throne of mercy and grace in humility and full surrender.

When we come to this place we are ready to cast all our cares upon the Lord. The word “cast” in the Greek literally means – to “throw upon.” There needs to be a releasing on our part of that which we are holding onto so tightly. When I think of this I am reminded of the story of Peter after Jesus’ resurrection. Feeling defeated, doubting his future, Peter went back to what he knew best. Peter went back to the same boat that Jesus had called him from and set out to return to a life of fishing.

Jesus had asked Peter to let go of his nets and become a fisher of men. When we are discouraged, when a trial or attack persists, the first thing we are tempted to do is return to what we know. We run to our nets. If God is not moving – we will! If the prayer is not answered – we will give it some help! This is what Peter did. When Jesus met him at the water, Jesus did not rebuke him. Jesus asked Peter to cast his net in the water one more time.

  • “And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some. ” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.” John‬ ‭21:6-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

With these words, Jesus began to restore Peter from his personal denial and lapse of faith. When Peter heard these words he left the nets and the others in the boat, plunged himself into the sea, and swam to Jesus! Rest assured, this was the last time Peter ever returned to his boat! Peter had learned to let go. He had “thrown upon” Jesus all his failures, all his needs, and all his hope! At this moment Peter humbled himself and cast all his cares upon the Lord!

Jesus’ loving restoration of Peter reminds us of the truth of the words of I Peter. Who better to write them! Only a former fisherman could say with such personal testament – “…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Peter plunged into the water because he remembered the awesome truth – “He cares for you!” No matter what we are facing, we are not alone. Jesus is our Great High Priest. He is always standing at the right hand of God interceding for us. He is there to bear our burden and ease our load!

Casting our cares upon the Lord is difficult. Yet, by grace it is possible. However, when we throw our burdens upon the Lord – we must leave them there! The enemy of our souls is always trying to foster fear and personal insecurity. His lies are whispered in our ears. “What if God does not answer?”, he says. “What if nothing ever changes?”, he persists. “If you don’t pick up your burden and do something about it, nothing will ever change!”, he insists. Peter knew this battle all too well. This is why he writes,

  • “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”

How do we resist the enemy – steadfast in our faith? In this context the answer is we leave our cares at the foot of the cross. We cast them upon the Lord and we wait for His grace to meet our need. We refuse to take them up again. And, we realize that in this struggle we are not alone. Every child of God is going through this same experience to one degree or another. An old chorus echoes this truth very well.

“You’re not the Lone Ranger, don’t listen to the devil’s lies.
You’re not the Lone Ranger, so go ahead and dry your eyes.
You know Jesus walked this earth, and He’s been right where you are.
You’re not the Long ranger after all!”

If we humble ourselves before the Lord. If we “throw upon” Him all of our cares, knowing that He truly cares for us. And, if we refuse to pick them up again and try to solve them in our own wisdom and strength – God promises us His victory!

  • “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” I Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, this morning, I humble myself before You. I confess that I have laid my burdens down, only to pick them up again. I, like Peter, have returned to my boat. I need Your grace to truly “throw upon” You all of my cares. Lord take them from me. Grant me grace and faith to resist the temptation to pick them up again. And, give me the blessed assurance of Your victory in Jesus Christ my Lord!

In Jesus Name!

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SOCIAL ACTIVISM OR THE GOSPEL?

I PETER 2:18-25: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What is our call as Christ-followers with regard to the world we live in? Is it to rise up in social activism to right the wrongs of this world? Or, is it to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every situation, vocation, and location we find ourselves in.

It is tough to speak about slavery. We should all abhor this former practice in the United States. In fact, it was Christ-followers who led the charge to eradicate slavery in our land. However, was it their social activism that led them, or was it their response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that propelled them into action?

The context of Peter’s words regarding suffering for righteousness sake is in the context of slavery. Slavery was the norm of their world. Many slaves became believers. How were they to respond now to their masters? If Jesus was their Lord, how could they serve another? Should they rise up in a revolt to set themselves free?

Peter’s answer can be misunderstood. One needs to put on their critical thinking cap. Peter’s words can also be used to justify a practice that we all abhor. These words, along with others, were used to justify slavery. However, if we misuse his words it is because we do not understand the overarching truth that Peter was making in his epistle. Peter was not addressing slavery as a practice that was either good or evil. Peter was focused on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

  • “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. “

How we respond to the situations in life, albeit how unjust they may be, is a reflection of our faith in God. When we understand that our actions are the living witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will pause before acting. It is easy to protest and burn down a city. It is another thing altogether to patiently suffer for righteousness sake in order to maintain one’s witness for Jesus Christ.

I will never forget a Gospel tract that I read in High School. At this time I was not walking with Christ. There were some “Jesus Freaks” who would jam these tracts in our lockers. One of the tracks was entitled, “Holy Joe.” It was a story about a soldier who was ridiculed for his faith. The other soldiers would throw their boots at Joe. Joe would then take their boots, polish them, and give them back to the other soldiers. Joe suffered injustice in order to shine with the love and testimony of Jesus Christ.

Peter reminds us that this is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus endured mistreatment and suffering for our benefit. He endured the cross so that we might experience life.

  • “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed.”

The application of this truth is a very difficult thing. We are called to suffer for righteousness sake, but we are not called to suffer for wrongdoing or to continue in a situation that is harmful and destructive. This is not a call for an abused wife to continue allowing her husband to abuse her. Nor is it an excuse for any type of sinful behavior. It is a call for the believer to consider their actions in all situations – in light of the Gospel!

The presiding principle is – in my actions, will people see Jesus? In my actions, will I be showing the righteousness of Christ? In my actions, will people see a difference that is a reflection of the grace of God working in my life?

These are difficult times. As we take a stand for Jesus, as we proclaim the truth of the Gospel, we will experience suffering. We will be attacked, misunderstood, judged, and marginalized. We will be tempted to rise up and defend ourselves. We may even be tempted to strike back. Yet, in all that we do, in all that we say, we need to consider the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls – Jesus Christ!

  • “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously…”

If we respond to these words with an argument, we have not heard them. If we respond to these words with anger, we have not heard them. If we use them to justify our sinful actions, we have not heard them. If there is anything more important to us then seeing men and women come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we have missed their intent.

Lord, these words are speaking directly to my heart. I wrestle with them deep within. I find myself pulled between activism and surrender. I confess that I have not fully considered these words in all of my actions. May I come anew to Your cross and find the grace I need to suffer without fighting, to speak without anger, and to make the proclamation of the Gospel the most important thing in my life!

In Jesus Name!

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WHEN A FRIEND WALKS AWAY FROM THEIR FAITH…

JAMES 5:19-20: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever had a close friend who wandered from the truth? When this happened what did you do? Did you simply pray and hope that they would return to the Lord? Or, did you get involved and do something?

I think we need to be reminded about the enemy’s end game for all of our lives.

  • “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” ‭‭John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Note the contrast between God’s objective and Satan’s. Jesus has come that we might experience life and life abundantly. The enemy of our souls is determined to kill, steal, and destroy everything that God has created. There is a battle waging for every soul on this earth.

For the born again child of God, the enemy has already lost the battle for their spirit. One who has truly been born again by the Spirit is secure in their salvation. Yet, they are not secure in their fruitfulness in this life. If the enemy cannot steal them away from God, he will try to destroy all the potential that God has placed in their life.

James is not addressing unbelievers when he says – “If anyone among you wanders away from the truth…”. He is addressing believers. James is fully aware that the enemy of our souls is always at work to dissuade a believer in Christ from a life of faith and obedience. A once vibrant faith can be clouded by doubt and disobedience and end up in unfruitfulness. This is what Paul is alluding to when he writes,

  • “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” I Corinthians‬ ‭3:11-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Note these sobering words – “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” What does fire do? Fire destroys. The picture here is of a believer who allowed their life to be misdirected from God’s will. They wandered from the truth. Their God-given potential was never realized. At the end of their life, they escaped death, but they entered into eternal life as one who escapes a fire with nothing more than the shirt on their back.

This is a sad picture and should make us all mad. We should rise up with righteous indignation against the wiles and deceitful plans of the enemy. And, when we see someone we love, someone we call friend, wander from the truth – WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING!

  • “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians‬ ‭6:1‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Why don’t we do this? Why do we keep silent? Why do we simply stand by while our friend rushes toward the cliff? We live in a world of bystanders. We have become like the priest and the rabbi who passed by the man who had been mugged by robbers. When there is a call for a Good Samaritan there are few who answer.

Some may object – “If I say something, then I will lose my friend.” Are we more concerned about our feelings and what someone thinks about us – than their own eternal reward? Are our comfort, our position, and our personal peace more precious than the soul of a dear friend? And, by our lack of candor, are we not actually encouraging them to continue down the pathway where all they will meet is sorrow and disappointment?

James is very clear – “…Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” So many times it is not the words of a father, mother, or family member that turns someone from their backsliding. Rather – IT IS THE TRUTH, SPOKEN IN LOVE, BY A CLOSE AND DEAR FRIEND.

I have learned in life that an expert is someone who lives 10 minutes from home. We can speak into the lives of our family members, and we should, but many times these words fall on deaf ears. However, when a friend, a Christian brother or sister that is not part of the immediate situation, has the courage to speak into someone’s life – it is received in a completely different way.

There is a price to speaking the truth in love. We may temporarily lose a friend. They may reject our words in an explosion of anger and accuse us of not caring. Yet, the Holy Spirit will work through our words and our prayers. I would rather try to turn someone from the error of their ways than see them continue down a destructive path, simply because I was afraid to speak up.

In the midst of a world that is rife with terrorism, one of the ways we are encouraged to keep people safe is – “If you see something, say something!” This is what James is exhorting us to do in the closing words of his epistle. What will happen if we don’t heed this exhortation? The odds are that nothing will change and our friend will continue down a pathway of destruction. What will happen if we do? There are no guarantees – but there is a great chance that God will use our love and our exhortation to turn them from the error of their ways.

I don’t know about you, but I am willing to take the chance to see a dear friend restored?

Are you?

Lord, speak to each one of our hearts today. Give us grace and courage to speak the truth in love. Let us be true ambassadors of Your love, reconciliation, and life.

In Jesus Name!

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FAITH AND VOTING…

JAMES 2:18-20: “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What does faith have to do with voting? Many who are running for office are quoting Scriptures and making reference to their faith as they try to garner votes. Yet, how does a Christ-follower vet these statements, and how does their faith affect the way that they will vote?

To be honest, most people, including Christians, vote their pocketbook. Years ago the phrase was coined – “It’s the economy, stupid!” Yet, in the words of the great philosopher, Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does!” If we are going to truly allow our faith to guide us in how we vote we have to dig much deeper.

The future of a nation is not determined by its GDP. The future of a nation is determined by its morality. Year after year, as we have voted for our pocketbooks, we have watched a continual decrease in morality in our nation. The nightly news is filled with violence, burning, and senseless killing. And, if we are brutally honest, we are simply seeing the reflection in the mirror of our national morality at play.

Now, we cannot expect those who are not Christ-followers to uphold the values taught in Scripture. Yet, our faith calls us to do this. James makes it very clear. Truth faith is always followed by action. We are not saved by our works. However, true saving faith will always produce godly obedience and works of righteousness. And, this faith will both call us to the polls and guide us in how we vote.

There are two guiding principles that people of faith should use in determining which candidate and party they vote for. These two principles are the Ten Commandments (God’s moral code), and the sanctity of human life (God’s social code). Our society has thrown both of these under the bus. We cannot!

There are those quoting Scriptures, out of context, and without understanding, to sound spiritual as they uphold views that are counter to these two principles. We need to realize that anyone can quote a verse of Scripture out of context. Entire cults have been formed by this practice. Yet, the Christ-follower must look to the moral declarations of a Holy God and His concern for the sanctity of the unborn and the elderly, as guiding principles for their decision on how to vote.

Israel, as God’s chosen nation, was judged because they turned from God’s moral code and served other gods. They grew in their depravity to the extent that they were offering their children as sacrifices to the false god Molech. They watched as their children burned in the fire. We cannot even imagine such brutality. This is because the sacrifices that are made in our nation are made behind closed doors, in buildings of destruction that are cloaked as medical clinics.

If our nation is judged, if we witness the final slide into the mire and muck of depravity and social decay, it will be because we too simply stood by and did not exercise our faith. God is calling us to repent. God is calling us to pray. And, God is calling us to do our civic duty and vote.

“But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without voting, and I will show you my faith by how I vote at the polls.” (My paraphrase)

Lord, move in your people! This morning I repent of my sin. I cry out to you for our nation. Give me the grace and strength to let my voice be heard and my vote counted for the principles of righteousness and life!

In Jesus Name!

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THE FLAME OF REVIVAL…

JEREMIAH 17:14: “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever felt like you were stranded on a deserted island in the midst of the ocean? Perhaps you have taken an unpopular stand that has caused others to distance themselves from you. Or, perhaps the Lord has called you to do something that many do not understand. Regardless of the circumstance – you feel alone.

Jeremiah was alone. He was called by God, even before he was conceived. He was given the difficult task of prophesying to the nation of Judah at the height of their rebellion and sin. He stood alone against all the corrupt prophets and priests. No one wanted to hear what Jeremiah had to say. And, at the same time, they were conspiring to bring harm to Jeremiah to shut him up.

Jeremiah was faithful to the word of the Lord. Yet, Jeremiah also struggled with his calling. Many times he would question the Lord. He would ask – “Lord, why me?” This is a question that I have found myself asking many times in my life. There have been times when I knew I was in the center of God’s will but everything around me was going wrong. Alone, on the deserted island of obedience, I asked – “Lord, why me?”

In these times of isolation and questioning, we need to position ourselves as Jeremiah did when he cried out these words.

  • “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise.”

Jeremiah, in the midst of rejection, persecution, and despair, placed his life in the hands of Almighty God. Jeremiah knew that there was only one healer. Jeremiah knew that there was only one Savior. Jeremiah focused his heart on the Lord God Almighty in an attitude of prayer and worship. When we find ourselves in these solitary times we need to do the same.

There are times when we will be called to take a stand. I believe we live in such a time. In the midst of a world that embraces an upside-down morality, the believer stands as the only light of God’s truth. If we hide our light under the bushel then darkness will win. If we let out light shine then we will bear the same opposition and rejection that Jeremiah experienced.

The question is – “What will I do?”

I have never been afraid to stand up for what I believe. I have faced the upstream battle for truth all of my life. Yet, can I be truly honest? I am tired. Like Jeremiah I find myself asking – “Why me Lord?” Why can’t someone else stand up for the truth? Why can’t I sit this one out? Why is my light so important?

Now, I know that my light is not any more important or significant than anyone else’s light. However, if I buy into the argument that someone else will do it, then there will be one less light. And, if the enemy can convince me, he can convince others also. If we all lay down our lights, thinking that we are insignificant, then there will be no light at all.

My light, my willingness to stand up for the truth, my obedience to the Word of God, is a small light. Yet, when this small light encourages someone else to join me, and this causes a chain reaction, the small lights that are gathered become God’s pillar of light to a dark and broken world.

All over this nation, people are gathering in public squares to worship. There is a flame of revival that is starting to be in ignited. You don’t see coverage of this on the nightly news. There are no burning buildings left in their wake. Yet – this fire is igniting hearts. When the enemy comes in like a flood – God always raises up a standard. And, just like in the 1970s, this movement is filled with young adults. As they lift up their hearts in worship and praise you can hear the words of Jeremiah.

  • “Heal us, O LORD, and we shall be healed; Save us, and we shall be saved, For You are our praise.”

May our hearts be ignited together with the flames of revival! Lord, heal us, save us!

In Jesus Name!

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JESUS IS PRAYING FOR ME!

HEBREWS 7:23-28: “Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever asked someone to pray for you? The answer to this question is obvious. We have all asked for prayer as we faced difficult decisions and circumstances in our lives. Yet, do we really believe that these prayers will be answered? Do we even know if the people we have asked to pray for us really will?

When you consider the life and ministry of Jesus, what stands out? What made Jesus’ ministry so effective? Was it because He was God in human flesh? We need to remember that when Jesus entered this world as a humble baby, He had emptied Himself of all His glory and power. When Jesus walked this earth He had at His disposal all the resources and tools that we have. Although He was born without sin, in His ministry and life He relied upon the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and prayer. Jesus prayed!

As we study the Gospels closely we will see a pattern in Jesus’ life. Over and over again He would slip away from His disciples, and the demands of ministry, and find a secluded place to pray to the Father. I believe this was the key to the effectiveness of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus said that He only spoke that which He heard the Father speak. Where did Jesus hear the Father speak? Jesus heard the Father speak as He abided with Him in prayer.

If we use a baseball analogy we could say that Jesus batted 1000! Every prayer that Jesus uttered before the Father was answered. And, every word that the Father spoke to Jesus was fulfilled. This is the difference between Jesus and us. Our sinful nature does not allow us to hear the Father’s voice the same way Jesus heard the Father. And, our lack of prayer limits our power and our effectiveness in carrying out the Father’s will. There is not a saint on this earth that bats 1000. The only one who holds this record is Jesus.

This may seem like a long preamble to make a simple point. Yet, it is a point that we so often miss. Jesus had a perfect prayer life. He abided in perfect communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit while He walked this earth. Every one of Jesus’ prayers was answered. And, here is what we need to grasp,

JESUS IS STILL PRAYING. AND HE IS PRAYING FOR ME (YOU)!

  • “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus is our High Priest. He is “…holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27). As our High Priest, He stands before the Father, and He lives to pray for us! And, here is what I need to grasp.

JESUS’ PRAYERS ARE ALWAYS ANSWERED!

Through Jesus’ intercession for me, I am assured that I will be saved to the uttermost. The word translated “uttermost,” literally means – entirely, to the full end. This means that Jesus is interceding for me this very moment, in this hour of need. It also means that He will continue to intercede for me until His will and calling for my life is fulfilled. He is a faithful High Priest. He is my living High Priest. He stands between me and the Father and He also stands between the Father and the enemy on my behalf!

  • “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Romans‬ ‭8:33-34‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This morning, no matter what I am facing, I have the assurance that Jesus is praying for me! He will not forget to intercede on my behalf. He will not allow an accusation to be lifted up against me before the Father. He stands as my Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King. He is my Great High Priest. He is working on my behalf to save me to the uttermost!

Lord Jesus, thank you for interceding for me today! May I walk in this assurance. May I walk in the hope of eternal life. May I always remember this truth,

JESUS IS PRAYING FOR ME, AND HIS PRAYERS ARE ALWAYS ANSWERED!

In Jesus Name!

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