Monthly Archives: April 2013

Increasing Faith

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” – Luke 17:5 (ESV)

Lately I have been struggling in my faith, having feelings of fear in regard to things which have not [and likely will not] happen. A little self-examination has shown less time in prayer, Bible reading and Christian fellowship. Less time with those things means more time in things of the flesh and worldly concerns. That always brings feelings of discomfort.

I have many times had feelings of angst lately and I know it is directly linked to my lack of attention to God’s will for me, as I have given into more of the desires of this world. To remedy this, I have asked God to increase my faith, which of course will mean more attentiveness to the things that matter most.

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. -Mark 11:22-24 (NLT)

Fortunately, Jesus is very, very patient with me. Thank you, Father, for the grace You have shown me through the sacrifice of Your Son.

Paid In Full

Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this:

This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiseled in stone; This time “I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts.” He concludes, I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins. Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them. – Hebrews 10:11-18 (MSG)

Ever feel guilty for sins you have confessed in the past that are supposed to be forgiven and forgotten by God? Do you feel bad, even though you have accepted Jesus as your personal Savior and often tell others of His life-saving sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary? Perhaps Satan is busy putting messages in your head of a false doctrine of works or hinting that you are too far gone to have been saved?

Over and over, time and time again the message of God’s grace is plain and simple: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

Nothing feels better than paying a bill and getting a receipt that says “paid in full.” That piece of paper means you never have to worry about how you’re going to pay that debt. It means you cannot be held liable for any consequences for neglecting it. As Christians, we have several sheets of paper that indicate “paid in full” on them -and they are  pages within God’s Word, The Bible. Several times the paid-in-full stamp of Jesus is made clearly visible. Thank God for His awesome grace.

The Value of Fellowship

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:6-7 (ESV)

Sometimes I encounter Christians who do not attend any Church or fellowship with other believers. Often, they are judgmental and point to [what they believe is] bad doctrine as a reason to avoid others. It could be the Bible version somebody uses, the way they celebrate the Lord’s supper (Communion) or maybe the way they baptize. There’s usually some reason, perhaps a minor doctrinal disagreement or displeasure with  worship style that keeps them away. Whatever it is, it beings sadness to me to see folks deny themselves a substantial measure of comfort and happiness that comes from being with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Most importantly, I suspect that it displeases our Lord when we fragment ourselves and diminishes the message of love and transforming grace that Jesus brought to us from the Cross.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. – Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV)

Supreme Christ

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. – Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

This month at Calvary we continue in the study of the book of Hebrews and the supremacy of Christ. Today we looked at the priesthood of Jesus and how superior He was to any priest  who ever lived.  Here’s some great things to remember about Jesus: He is sympathetic.  His knowledge knows no equal.  He is accessible.  He is eternal.

Priests of the temple were appointed by reason of their lineage to serve as priests.  Jesus, as our great High Priest, was also appointed by His lineage — being the only begotten Son of God as it states in the Gospel of John: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16 (NIV).  

So what did priests do?  They interceded for man with God.  They made sacrifices.  They taught scripture.  What are some of the things Jesus did?  He taught us to pray.  He interceded on our behalf with His Father.  He made the ultimate, final sacrifice for our sins: Himself.  He taught scripture from the perspective of one who was there when it was written!  The Bible tells us that there is one God and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus (For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; – 1 Timothy 2:5).  Unlike earthly priests, who are here today and gone tomorrow, Jesus is forever: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. – Hebrews 13:8 (NLT).

So, if you find yourself in need of the services of a priest, turn to the One who can really do something about your situation and will never let you down – Jesus!

Why I Value The Writings Of The Apostle Paul So Much

I love the Bible. I consider it to be the infallible, inspired Word of God. All of it, even the most difficult parts of the Old Testament, contain things that God wants us to know. As the things He wants me to know are made known through the power of the Holy Spirit, that which seemed so difficult suddenly makes sense.

That said, I must confess that some parts are “more fun” to read than others and can offer to me [as the reader] points of immediate identification. Some parts are certainly more comforting and reassuring. Such can be said of Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Paul is certainly somebody who understood the value of grace. As a former persecutor of Christians, he caused much pain and suffering among early believers and was on his way to do more harm when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. Once he knew the living Lord firsthand, his heart surrendered to the tremendous love and power of our Lord. Suddenly, he was convicted of his wrongdoing and was made aware that nothing but the infinite grace of God could save him.

1And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
2And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
9And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. – Acts 9:1-9

He went on to write this: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4

One of my favorite Bible verses comes from his writing in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Here’s another that anybody who has been a Christian for even a short amount of time has probably read or heard: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

Having come from a somewhat ‘legalistic’ background of salvation through works (some in the Lutheran Church I was raised in actually put forth the teaching that infants who died before baptism were doomed to eternal hell). So they practiced infant baptism (an act which somehow was supposed to save). Such teaching is in my opinion a confusion of grace, to say the least – and I doubt it was really an official position of the Lutheran Church, either. I doubt many Lutherans (conservative or otherwise) agree anymore with such a teaching. Nevertheless, it was widely-believed in my youth by members of the church I attended and was ‘confirmed’ in. I’m sure some in other denominations held [or maybe hold] similar ideas. Baptism is a wonderful act of declaring faith and testimony to the saving of love of Jesus, but not a means in itself to salvation. I am quite sure that Catholicism also requires a certain amount of work to enter the kingdom. (Since I’m not Catholic, I really can’t speak with any authority on their beliefs). I do think that there are those in the Catholic Church who truly love Jesus and are every bit as Christian as anybody else could be. For myself, I’m grateful to have my salvation without needing the approval of other people’s traditions;  grace gives me the assurance I need as evidenced by the death and resurrection of my Savior Jesus. Some of the more fundamental Baptists I have encountered hold to a rigid set of “dos and don’ts” of their own that left me desperately hoping I could measure up. I am not saying that any of these folks don’t love Jesus or aren’t Christian, but I do believe they miss out on some of the finer parts of knowing and living in Jesus. And, sadly, I think they can sometimes help to deny others from discovering all that grace has to offer.

I attend a conservative, evangelical church that is big on teaching the Bible and not the traditions of humanity. Everyone is welcomed there. Love is the operative word  – the love of Jesus. Grace is the means by which we can receive that love. It took me a long time to come to terms with what it really means to know and love Jesus — to experience the reality of unconditional love. Remember what Paul said when he wrote to the Ephesians: salvation is a gift from God. We don’t earn it. The ‘works’ come when we come to know and love Jesus. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and the Holy Spirit comes to live and work in us, we find ourselves wanting to do the right thing. The ‘work’ is no longer unattainable, but becomes the fruit of the Spirit.

Adopted through Jesus

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:3-14

I came from a large family, but never knew how large that family would eventually grow to be — once I came to know Jesus and be an active participant in family affairs! It is nice to know that, no matter where I go, I can find brothers and sister in Christ to fellowship with and study God’s Word.

~The Incredible Love of Christ~

Ephesians 3:14: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

I love the writings of the Apostle Paul. No more need be added to these verses for the purposes of this post. Praise God.

The Law of Sin & Death

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:1-8 (ESV)

These verses are among my favorite of all the writings of Paul, and of the New Testament in general. I am reminded of my absolute need for God’s grace as expressed in the person of Jesus. It also reveals the necessity of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s walk with Christ.

(re-posted from another of my blogs)