I CHOOSE TO BLESS THE LORD!

PSALM 103:1-5: “My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. My soul, bless the Lord, and do not forget all his benefits. He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases. He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion. He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle.” CSB

OBSERVATION: When was the last time I took an inventory of all the blessings the Lord has given to me? In life, it is easy to rehearse our struggles, hurts, and disappointments. However, do they really compare to all the benefits the Lord has given to us?

David recounts the blessings of the Lord in Psalm 103. He does not do it from a merely intellectual level. Rather, he calls to his very soul and all that is within him to bless the Lord. He stands ready to worship the Lord with all of His heart, his soul, his mind, and his strength! This has always been the call to the children of God. It is not only our privilege to worship the Lord, it is the very sacrifice that God desires.

  • “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship.” Romans 12:1 CSB

Our worship is not merely something we do because He calls us to worship. It is a heartfelt response of love for all He has done for us. And, oh, what He has done for us!

He forgives all your iniquity!

If He never did anything other than this, it would be enough to worship Him for all eternity. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to die in our place. He did not merely forgive us of our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He removed our sins. He granted us a full and complete pardon!

  • “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his faithful love toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalms 103:11-12 CSB

He heals all your diseases!

Jesus Christ is not only our Savior, He is also our healer. When He bore our sins on the cross of Calvary, He also bore our diseases. His ministry was marked by compassion as He healed the sick. And Jesus is still healing the sick today. He has called us to be His ambassadors to both preach the Gospel and to lay hands on the sick. The ministry of healing did not end with the Apostles. It continues today through the gifts of the Holy Spirit working through the church!

  • “Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:14-15 CSB

He redeems your life from the Pit; he crowns you with faithful love and compassion.

To live without Christ is to live without hope. I have done many funerals for families who had no eternal hope. There is a distinct difference when you do a funeral for a believer and an unbeliever. The believer rests in the hope of the resurrection. There is grief for the temporary loss of the one they loved. However, there is an abounding hope that they will one day be reunited in heaven. We sorrow at times of loss, yet we sorrow in hope. It is the hope of the resurrection and the power of His faithful love and compassion that sustain us!

  • “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 CSB

He satisfies you with good things; your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

If I were to write down all the blessings the Lord has brought into my life it would fill more than a book! I do not serve the Lord for His blessings. I serve the Lord because He called me. I have answered the call to pick up my cross, deny myself, and follow Him. This is a call to lay everything and anything down in obedience to Him. Yet, when we do this, we are never met with loss. He brings forth in our lives His overflowing blessing. We walk in a never ending revelation of His glory being revealed in our lives. And as we do, He renews our youth like the eagle!

  • “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never becomes faint or weary; there is no limit to his understanding. He gives strength to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Youths may become faint and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not become weary, they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 CSB

On this Sunday morning, I have a choice. I can choose to rehearse my struggles, hurts, and disappointments – or I can choose to bless the Lord with all my soul. I can rise up and let all that is within me bless His holy name.

Lord, this morning I choose to worship, I choose to praise, I choose to bless Your holy name!

In Jesus Name!

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SPIRIT FILLED AND BALANCED…

I CORINTHIANS 14:37-40: “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command. If anyone ignores this, he will be ignored. So then, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other tongues. But everything is to be done decently and in order.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What should a spirit filled church service look like? Why do people generally react negatively to the word Pentecostal? Why is there so much misunderstanding and difference of opinion about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit? Could it have more to do with how we act than what we believe?

I am a Pentecostal pastor. I did not grow up in a Pentecostal church. I grew up in a Lutheran church. My initial experience was one of liturgy, form, and order. However, when it comes to order, you can err on either side of the spectrum. When I was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, I attended a charismatic independent church. You might say I was on the swinging pendulum.

Over the years I have pastored an independent charismatic church, a Brethren in Christ church, and a Foursquare church. I have learned wonderful things from all of these, including my Lutheran background as a child. And one thing I have learned is this. We all create our own liturgy that can become a stumbling block to someone who walks into our church. We can be so worried about our form, that we hinder the moving of the Holy Spirit. Or, we can be so free in our expression, that we hinder others from hearing the Spirit’s voice.

This is what Paul was addressing to the Corinthian church. If ever there was a spirit filled church, it was the church at Corinth. They were moving in the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each worship service was a powerful expression of everything the Spirit had given them. Yet, their freedom of expression, their exuberance of worship, their exercise of spiritual gifts, was missing the mark. They forgot that the goal of all that God has given us is twofold. It is to reach the lost and to build up the church!

I believe in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. When I say that I am a Pentecostal pastor, it is more than just a definition of the denomination that I am a part of. It is the realization that what happened on the Day of Pentecost is still happening today. All of God’s power, all of God’s gifts, and all of God’s call, are still for the church today. The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit did not stop at the completion of the canon of Scripture. God is still calling men and women to salvation. Jesus is still pouring out His Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is still giving gifts of power to the church.

  • “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 CSB

The issue is – how do we use them?

Paul does not discount any gift in I Corinthians 14. His issue is not whether the gifts should be expressed or exercised. His issue is how they are expressed and exercised. I have been in many a Pentecostal gathering where it was evident that no one ever read the 14th chapter of Corinthians. Everyone was doing their own thing. People were all speaking in tongues loudly, with no interpretation. And there was a general atmosphere of confusion and disorder that an outsider would interpret as madness.

So, what is the answer? Is it to shut down the gifts? Is it to forbid speaking in tongues? This is what I Corinthians 14 is all about. It is not a prohibition of using any gift. It is a guideline on how to use the gifts. And following these guidelines does not stifle our expression of worship. On the contrary, it enhances it. Why? Because it brings God’s order into our assembling. And it opens the door for one who is seeking to find God in our midst. Out style of worship should never deflect one who is seeking. It should both invite the presence of God into our midst and be an open door for one who is seeking to meet Jesus Christ as their Savior.

This is much different than being “seeker sensitive.” The seeker sensitive movement tended to dumb down things in the church in order to reach the seeker. God never tells us to dumb things down, or to stop moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. God simply tells us to do things decently and in order. When our worship is focused on giving Him glory, when we are operating in the gifts according to the principle of edification, and when we realize that the gifts God has given us are not for show, something wonderful happens!

  • “If, therefore, the whole church assembles together and all are speaking in other tongues and people who are outsiders or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all are prophesying and some unbeliever or outsider comes in, he is convicted by all and is called to account by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, “God is really among you.” 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 CSB

In all my years of pastoring I contended for power and order. I believed that you did not have to exclude one in order to have the other. Moving in the power of the Holy Spirit is not doing things loosely. Rather, it is listening to His voice and doing things as He directs. It is using the gifts for the purpose of edification. It is watching our decibels and understanding the difference between talking to God and addressing the church. It is coming under the rule of peace as we move in the realm of power.

I am proud to be a Pentecostal pastor. In fact, in reality, all Christians are Pentecostal. The church was born on Pentecost. The church is fully dependent on the anointing and power fo the Holy Spirit. And, if we are going to fulfill His Great Commission, the church must be moving in the fullness and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! What a wonderful provision of God to show us how to do it in this wonderful chapter. It is the culmination of gifts and love. It is I Corinthians 12 and 13 put into practice. It is the call to moderation in all things, in the fullness of His power!

Lord, help me to walk in the fullness and power of Your Spirit, and in the fullness and of Your order and peace.

In Jesus Name!

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DON’T FORGET THE HOLY SPIRIT!

I CORINTHIANS 12:1-3: “Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be led off to the idols that could not speak. Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Don’t forget the Holy Spirit! Paul begins the twelfth chapter of I Corinthians with this exhortation.

  • “Now concerning what comes from the Spirit: brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.”

Many translations say, “Now concerning spiritual gifts…”. However, in the Greek the literal translation is “spirituals,” or “spiritual things” from the Spirit. It includes not only the gifts, but the ministry and operation of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and in the life of the church.

It is important that we don’t forget the Holy Spirit!

With the popularity of Star Wars, and with the familiar call – “May the force be with you,” we need to be careful that we do not view the Holy Spirit as merely the force of God. The Holy Spirit is a person, the third member of the Holy Trinity. It is through His ministry that we come to faith in Christ, grow in Christ, and minister the life of Christ – through the gifts that He gives. In fact, we can know nothing about Jesus Christ apart from the Holy Spirit!

  • “Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
  • “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” John 16:12-14 CSB

The revelation of Jesus Christ comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit only came upon a selected few of God’s leaders, priests, and prophets. When Jesus walked this earth He was baptized with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, without measure. And when Jesus ascended into heaven, on the Day of Pentecost, He poured out the Holy Spirit upon all believers. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin, our need for a Savior, and who helps us grow and walk in the victory that Christ secured on the cross of Calvary.

To put it another way – if you want to grow in your faith, if you want to become more like Jesus, if you want to grow in godly character, you need the Holy Spirit! Some may respond, “But all Christians have the Holy Spirit!” This is true, but are all Christians walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit? This is the question. Am I walking in the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit? This is the critical question!

When a person believes in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit indwells their heart. In fact, more correctly, it was the Holy Spirit who gave them the ability to believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. All of Jesus disciples had done this before He ascended into heaven. And in John 20 we read,

  • “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23 CSB

Yet, to these same disciples Jesus, right before He ascended into heaven, said,

  • “While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. “Which,” he said, “you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.” Acts 1:4-5 CSB

In other words, they had received the Holy Spirit, but they also needed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. The word baptized means to be fully immersed, submerged, overflowing with. It is not enough that the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts. If we are to know Jesus Christ, if we are to grow in His grace, and if we are to fulfill His Great Commission – we need the fullness and the power of the Holy Spirit! If it was true for the first disciples, how much more is it true for us?

Don’t forget the Holy Spirit!

On the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples were gathered together in prayer, and in one accord, they were greeted with the sound of a mighty rushing wind. The Holy Spirit came upon them in the form of tongues of fire upon their head. They were all baptized in the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, magnifying and giving praise to God for all of His wonderful works. Peter, now empowered by the Holy Spirit, preached the Gospel to a great crowd and over 3000 were saved, baptized in water, and filled with the Holy Spirit. And the life of the miraculous church was begun.

Today, I find that I rely on so many things, except the Holy Spirit. This morning I am reminded of my need for His fullness in my life. I cannot complete the call of God on my life in human wisdom or strength. I need all that comes from the Spirit. I need to be daily baptized in the Holy Spirit. I need to drink deeply from His well.

Lord Jesus, baptize me anew in the Holy Spirit. Open my spiritual eyes to see You, know You, and follow You through the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit. Heavenly Father, thank You so much for sending Your Son, and for fulfilling this wonderful promise in our lives.

Help me never to forget the Holy Spirit!

  • “And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. I will even pour out my Spirit on my servants in those days, both men and women and they will prophesy. I will display wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below: blood and fire and a cloud of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Acts 2:17-21 CSB

In Jesus Name!

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THE POWER OF SELF CONTROL…

I CORINTHIANS 9:24-27: “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” CSB

OBSERVATION: How am I doing in the area of self control? Is my life marked by moderation in all things, or are there areas of excess that keep putting me on the sidelines? How can one develop self control in their life?

Paul addresses the issue of self control in the closing verses of I Corinthians chapter nine. He uses the athlete who runs a race in competition as his example. In a stadium race all the runners have a chance to run and win. However, only one person wins the prize. He then makes a statement that is both contradictory and encouraging at the same time.

  • “Run in such a way to win the prize.”

The prize the athlete was running for was a crown made of a wreath that would dry up and fade away. The prize that we are running for is our eternal reward in God’s kingdom. And this crown, the crown of glory, will never fade away. And the wonderful thing about the crown of glory, it is not reserved for just one, but all God’s children can attain the prize.

Yet, self control is needed!

Earlier Paul spoke of building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ in our lives (I Corinthians 3). We all have the choice of what materials we will use. If we walk in obedience to God’s commands in the power of the Holy Spirit, if we make love our aim, if we reach out to others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we will be building with gold, silver, and precious stones, and we will get a reward. However, if we lack self control, if our lives are marked by carnal ambitions, we will build with wood, hay, or stubble. And, although we will be saved, we will lose our reward.

Self control is needed.

Whenever the Olympics come around we are greeted with stories of great self sacrifice and victory. Why did the one individual win the race. Was it simply because they were more talented. When races are won by a mere one thousandth of a second, it is more than talent or luck that wins the race. It is self control. The gold medal goes to the one who put in the extra effort, kept their focus sharpened, did not become distracted by the other person in the lane next to them, or succumb to the temptations of the celebration the night before the race.

The prize goes to the one who exercised self control!

  • “So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

Paul realizes that he needs self control. To discipline one’s body is to recognize that we are all prone to excess in certain areas of our life. These excesses can be anything that distracts us from our sincere devotion to Jesus Christ. They may not even be sinful. We can be distracted from our devotion by good things too!

In all of life – self control is needed!

And, here is the wonderful truth that can set us free. Self control is not something that we develop. It is not a product of our human effort. It is not a call to works righteousness. The wonderful truth that will set us free is- self control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” Galatians 5:22-23 CSB

As we follow Jesus Christ, as we daily yield to the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit within, He will produce self control in our lives. This is a powerful truth. God wants us to win the race! He knows our human condition. We are not on our own. By God’s grace He produces the very self control in our lives that we need to run the race to win. All we need to do is daily yield our lives to His power and walk after the leading of the Holy Spirit!

  • “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:24-25 CSB

For years I struggled with an anemic devotional life. I cried out to the Lord to help me in my spiritual disciplines. I lacked discipline and self control. The Lord then gave me the L.I.F.E. plan that incorporates daily Bible reading, intercession, worship, and journaling into a daily devotional discipline. As I began to pursue this plan, something wonderful happened. I found the self control and discipline I needed. The Holy Spirit met me at the point of my need, and in answer to my prayer! Now, what once was a discipline has become my greatest delight!

If you need self control for any area in your life, you are not alone! God is standing ready to cultivate this in your life as you daily yield your life to Him and begin to walk and live by the Spirit. The wonderful thing about fruit is that we do not have to produce it. It naturally grows as we abide in Christ!

Lord, as Paul prayed, so I pray today. Lord, as I live in the Spirit, let me also keep in step with the Spirit in everything I do today! Grow in me the fruit of the Spirit. Grow in me – self control!

In Jesus Name!

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THE PROBLEM WITH SEXUAL SIN…

I CORINTHIANS 6:18-20: “Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.” CSB

OBSERVATION: Why is sexual immorality such a big problem in the church? Statistics show that over 40% of pastors struggle with addictions to pornography. And if the shepherd of the flock is struggling, what does that mean about the flock?

From the beginning of time the enemy of our souls has used sexual immorality as a trap to cause God’s people to stumble. Balak hired Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam instead blessed them (Numbers 22-24). Balak was enraged and sent Balaam away. However, the rest of the Biblical record gives us insight into Balaam’s love of money and how he advised Balak to put a stumbling block in front of Israel to cause them to sin and lose God’s favor.

  • “But I have a few things against you. You have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to place a stumbling block in front of the Israelites: to eat meat sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality.” Revelation 2:14 CSB

Balaam advised Balak to throw a pagan worship feast and to invite the Israelites. In the midst of drinking and celebration, when their defenses were down, they were tempted to enter into the pagan practices of sexual immorality, which was part of the pagan worship. This fall into immorality opened the door for Israel to adopt the worship of foreign gods and began the long downward spiral from God’s favor to their eventual exile into captivity.

The enemy still uses this tactic today. He tries to convince us – it’s only a movie, it’s only a party, it’s only what everyone else is doing. Inch by inch we lower our defenses. We begin to tolerate things that we once clearly believed were wrong. We begin to hang around with others who are also slipping from their convictions. This is done in an attempt to justify and appease our conscience. And, as we do this, we grieve the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

All sin grieves the Holy Spirit, but sexual sin attacks the very temple in which he lives – our bodies. When we give ourselves to sexual sin, or when we begin to justify it in the lives of others, we lower our spiritual defenses, we resist the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, and we become subject to even greater failures and addictive behaviors and thought patterns. This was true for the nation of Israel, and it is also true for the believer and the church.

Think of how many churches, how many marriages, how many children, and how many lives have been wrecked by the invasive power of sexual sin. Is it any wonder why we live in such a sexually permissive society. What our parents deemed as inappropriate, we have embraced as normal. And what we have embraced as normal, our children have viewed as puritanical and closed minded. We are on a slippery slope. Is there any hope!

I remember the words of the Apostle Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans.

  • “So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25 CSB

Jesus Christ is our hope and our victory! What we could not do in the weakness of our flesh, He can do in the power of His life and His Spirit! He can deliver us from the root of our addiction and break the cycle of – sin, guilt, shame, and regret. Yet, this is not just a call to prayer, it is also a call to action. God’s grace is given to us so that we can make the right choices. We can choose the avenue of escape. Nothing, including sexual sin, is stronger than the Grace of God!

  • “So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 CSB

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he urges us to be very practical in our approach to sexual temptation.

  • Paul calls us to view our bodies as a temple of the living God (I Corinthians 6:19), and not as an instrument of sin. This means that our walk with Christ is not simply a spiritual one. It is a surrender of our spirit, souls, and our body. We cannot grow spiritually without renewing our mind with the Word of God, and we must discipline our body through obedience to God’s commands as we are empowered by God’s grace.
    • We are to affirm God’s provision of marriage as the proper place to find all expression and fulfillment of our sexual needs. This is a call to both men and women. If they cannot control their passions, the man and the woman are counseled to get married. In their marriage they are both to fulfill each other’s sexual needs as an expression of sacrificial love. They are not to withhold this expression of love, unless by mutual consent, and only for a preset period of time as they are devoted to prayer (I Corinthians 7)
    • For the single person this is a call to surround yourself with godly friends. Do not assume you are too strong to fall. If you cannot control your online temptations, employ a filter, or deactivate social platforms that cause you to be tempted. Use common sense. If you hang around the donut shop, you are going to eat a donut. Don’t put yourself in situations where you will be tempted. Renew your mind with the Word of God. Make worship a regular part of your life. And don’t hide from the church if you fall. Become accountable to godly men and women who can walk with you into your victory!

    Everyone has struggled with sexual sin and temptation. No one is outside of its allure. It is not the overt action that we must address first. Rather, it is the action of the mind and the heart. Sin considered, sin entertained, will become sin committed!

    • “No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15 CSB

    Remember – Jesus came so that we could have life, and life abundantly. The enemy only comes to steal, kill, and to destroy. We have a choice. We can surrender our thoughts and our bodies to temptation, or we can call upon the grace of God, draw upon the Word of God, cry out to the Spirit of God, and surround ourselves with men and women of God. Victory was secured on the cross of Calvary! It is ours, but it is ours for a choice! God is calling us by His Word and His Spirit – choose freedom, choose victory, choose life!

    • “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:5-9 CSB

    In Jesus Name!

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    THE DAY GOD OPENED MY EYES…

    I CORINTHIANS 2:12-16: “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” CSB

    OBSERVATION: Why is God’s Word so misunderstood? What is the reason Biblical values are held in such disregard in our day? How can the world uphold good as evil, and evil as good?

    I will never forget the day when God opened my eyes. I was brought up in the church. Not only did I go to church every Sunday, I also went to a Lutheran grade school where I learned Christian doctrine and Biblical values. At 13, like all my companions, I attended classes to prepare for confirmation. And at 13 I too was confirmed in the faith and celebrated my first communion.

    There was only one problem. I really did not understand anything. I believed in God and in Jesus Christ, but I did not understand the truths of the Bible. My father gave me a Bible for confirmation and would ask me if I was reading it. I felt guilty saying yes, because I really wasn’t. It was not that I did not try to read the Bible. Each time I picked it up and tried to read it I just did not get it.

    I felt like I was reading something in a foreign language.

    And so my journey continued. However, in High School, I began to party with my friends. I justified my actions as just having fun. My motto was – “I believe in God, but you don’t have to be a fanatic about it!” This was in the height of the Jesus Movement. Many of my friends had become “Jesus Freaks.” Yet, this would not happen to me! In fact, there was no need for it to happen to me. I was a Christian. I believed in God. And I went to church with my parents on Easter and Christmas!

    However, as with any teenager, I began to face personal inward crisis. In these dark times of loneliness and despair I reached for my Bible. I would try to read it and the result was always the same – nothing! However, there was a turning point when God opened my eyes. It was at the height of my personal crisis.

    When I finally cried out to the Lord, when I surrendered my life to Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord, something dramatic happened.

    I reached for my Bible and began to read it. It was like I was given the ability to understand a foreign language that I had never learned. The words began to jump off the page and into my heart. And there was something different about the words I was reading. The words were alive! I cannot explain it, but the more I read, the more I became alive. All of a sudden life began to make sense. I was receiving a wisdom that was from above. A wisdom not from human sources, but the wisdom of the living God through the Holy Spirit which had been given to me.

    This is what Paul is talking about in I Corinthians 2. It is what the Bible defines as the “Mind of Christ.”

    • “Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.”

    Many times we get so frustrated with people who don’t understand. And we forget – neither did we! Paul again reminds us,

    • “But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God’s Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually. “

    This is not to say that God’s truth is hidden or written in a special code. It is not. It is as clear as day. When Jesus taught He used earthly parables that were easy to understand. However, they only took root when they fell on the good ground of a heart that was surrendered in faith to Him. To the rest, they dismissed Him as simply another traveling teacher, or worse yet a deluded lunatic.

    But to all who believed, to all who called upon His name, He opened their eyes to see!

    Recently my brother in law found my original Bible. I had given it to him when he gave his life to Jesus Christ. When I turned its pages, when I saw the highlighting and notes, all of these wonderful memories came streaming back to my heart. There is no greater joy than to spend time meditating upon God’s Word. It is our source of hope and life. It is God speaking to us intimately and personally each and every day. And it is the only way we can continue to walk in the wisdom of God manifesting the mind of Christ.

    • “The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, and yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone. For who has known the Lord’s mind, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

    This spiritual understanding, the mind of Christ, is not given to the elite. It is not obtained through a theological degree. It is not earned through good works. It is freely given to all who lay down their life and receive the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ the Lord. It is given to the humble at heart, to the one with childlike faith. And the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to all who will believe.

    Jesus is our Savior, Healer, soon coming King – and He is still our Baptizer in the Holy Spirit.

    • “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:36-39 CSB

    Lord, wash me clean this morning through the blood of Jesus Christ. Baptize me anew with Your precious Holy Spirit. Open up your Word and help me discover the wonderful truths of Your heart. Heavenly Father – give me the mind of Christ!

    In Jesus Name!

    Posted in I Corinthians | Leave a comment

    THE MOST OFFENSIVE THING ABOUT CHRISTIANITY!

    I Corinthians 1:28-31: “God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us — our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” CSB

    OBSERVATION: Why doesn’t everyone believe in Jesus Christ? Think about it, Jesus said all you had to do is believe in Him and you would have eternal life. Why then would anyone refuse to believe in Him? Why would anyone not want to embrace the hope of eternal life as witnessed by the empty tomb?

    The answer to this question is what is missed in much of the church today. Each Sunday we proclaim the wonderful truth of the empty tomb, but we rarely talk about the cross. We mention the cross, it is our symbol of faith, we sing about it, but do we really understand it?

    We have forgotten that to enter the promises of the empty tomb – we must go through the cross.

    The cross is what Paul is referring to as insignificant and despised in the world. In fact, it is viewed as nothing but a symbol. The practical application of the cross is much of a foreign concept. The Jews stumbled over it because it was only reserved for criminals and was seen as the curse of the Law. The Gentiles stumbled over it because to them it was foolishness and beyond their intellect and reasoning. Yet, to Jesus and to the Apostle Paul it was the central theme of their message!

    • “Then he began to teach them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke openly about this. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning around and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are not thinking about God’s concerns but human concerns.” Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit someone to gain the whole world and yet lose his life? What can anyone give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 CSB

    Jesus told His disciples that He would have to go through the cross to fulfill the Father’s plan of redemption. Peter rebuked Jesus. Why talk about such things when you are the Son of God? Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, and His call to those who He was teaching, says it all. Without the cross there is no salvation. If we are ashamed of the cross, then we are ashamed of Jesus. If we reject the cross, then we reject Jesus. You cannot believe in Jesus without picking up the cross.

    This is where most of the misunderstanding comes. What does it mean to pick up your cross. Jesus made if very clear. It means that we must deny ourself. We must lay down not only our sin, but also our strengths. We must see that everything we are trusting in apart from Jesus Christ is but filthy rags. Our religion must be laid down. Our intellect must be laid down. Our pride must be nailed to the cross.

    We must come to Him first to die, before we can come to Him to live.

    Today, many want to live and receive the benefits of the empty tomb, but they do not want to die. They want to have Jesus and …. (fill in the blank). They are not willing to lay everything down in order to follow Him. Our churches today are filled with rich young rulers who have been given a false assurance of salvation without the cross. It is a very serious situation and condition. We must go through the cross to enter into the empty tomb! Paul emphasizes this point,

    • For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will set aside the intelligence of the intelligent. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made the world’s wisdom foolish? For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of what is preached. For the Jews ask for signs and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 CSB

    When I was 18 years old I knelt on the floor of my apartment and cried out to God. I surrendered everything to Him. I embraced the cross. And in the cross of Jesus Christ I found the wisdom of God. And it is the cross that I still cling to today. I am nothing without Jesus Christ. He is my wisdom, my redemption, my sanctification, and my peace. Each day I must die anew so that I can live. I must cling to the old rugged cross. It is the cross of Jesus Christ that is my victory. It is only because of the cross that I have eternal life through Him!

    Jesus did not say, “It is finished!,” when He walked out of the empty tomb.

    Jesus said, “It is finished!,” when He hung upon the cross and paid the full penalty for our sins.

    And when we embrace the cross of Jesus Christ our life begins.

    Lord, this morning I run to the cross! I will cherish the old rugged cross until the day I stand in Your presence. Through the cross I am crucified to the world and my sin – and yet I live! My life is forever united with Your death! My resurrection is forever united with Your life!

    In Jesus Name!

    Posted in I Corinthians, II Peter | Leave a comment