Daily Prayers – Feb. 12

Scripture:  Genesis 12:1-3

Heavenly Father, on this day in America we celebrate the birth of Abraham Lincoln whom You used to free many from the bondage of slavery.  Like Abraham in the Bible, he trusted in You during turbulent times and You blessed him and the nation through him.  Now through Jesus Christ who descended from the first Abraham You offer freedom from the bondage of slavery to sin.  Help us to walk in that freedom by faith in Jesus.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Living as Citizens of God’s Kingdom #1 Trusting Christ In Our Circumstances

From Matthew 5:1-12

One of the dilemmas we face as Christians is, “How do we live in this world when we are not of this world?”  The moment we put our trust in Jesus Christ we became citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Living in a fallen world as a citizen of the Kingdom of God is not an easy task.  Romans 1:16-32 tells us the difference.  Both believers and unbelievers at some point know the truth about God, right living and final judgment.  This is something God puts within every human being.  The question is: “Who do we trust?”  God and His Word, or the manmade ideas?”  As citizens of the Kingdom of God we live by trusting the King, who is Jesus Christ.  We live by the Word of God.

Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount shows us how we should live as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

  1. The Beatitudes direct our trust towards God.
  2. The Teaching of Heart Holiness directs our lives to be lived for God with proper motives.
  3. He teaches us how to relate to one another.
  4. He teaches us how to order our priorities to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
  5. He also teaches us how to discern true teachers from false ones.

Today we will focus on putting our trust in God. Beginning with the Beatitudes which teach us to trust Christ to bless our circumstances.

Being poor in spirit means we recognize our need for God that we can’t make it on our own.  There is too much evil and complexity in our world to overcome it in our own strength.

When we trust in Christ during times of mourning the loss of someone or something.  We are trusting in His grace and power over that circumstance.  In the face of death, which we have no control over, we trust Christ.  We know through our faith in Christ that if our loved ones knew Christ, they are safe in heaven with Him.  Even if we don’t know the person’s spiritual standing with Christ, we trust that Christ has given them every opportunity to come into the Kingdom of God.  Such as He did with the thief on the cross next to Him.

When we trust in Christ even in the humble circumstances.  We have comfort and joy in knowing that Christ is able to work His righteousness through us.

Joni Eareckson Tada is a person who exemplifies humbling circumstances in modern times.  After being paralyzed from the shoulders down at the age of 17.  She mourned losing her mobility, she was totally dependent on God and the people He sent into her life to take care of her most basic needs in life.  Yet, as a Christian she began to hunger and thirst for a way to minister for justice and righteousness for those in the same circumstances.  She founded the ministry Joni and Friends that has become a worldwide ministry that helps disabled people around the world.  She has also found a way from her wheelchair to paint beautiful pictures and write wonderful books, such as Heaven, Your Real Home

Bart Millard of the band MercyMe is another great example of a Christian who rose above humble circumstances.  Today he is the author of the popular song, I Can Only Imagine and the lead singer in the band Mercy Me.  Yet he grew up in a broken home with an abusive father and a dysfunctional family life.  He mourned the loss of affection and attention a child should receive from their parents.  His father who had been sweet and loving at one time but suffered a severe accident that left him in a coma.  When his father came out of the coma, he was very abusive which led to the breakup of his family, physical abuse, and eventually indifference.  Bart hungered for the love and affection every child should have.  He found that love and support in his local church and surrendered his life to Christ while in Junior High.  Over time, he was able to forgive his father and restore that relationship.  The song I CAN ONLY IMAGINE came as a result of Bart trusting Christ in the midst of painful circumstances.  He has gone on to write beautiful music that praises God and encourages Christians around the world along with the band Mercy Me.  God took what had been evil in his life and created many beautiful things.

Any of us could be tempted to say, “my circumstances don’t allow me to.” 

That is when we trust Christ above all.

My mother spent her last 9-½ months of life in a nursing home, my father his last 5 years.  Some time during that time she met an artistic young woman who was about 21 and was a patient in the nursing home and dying.  Yet that young woman had faith in Jesus Christ and she literally saw a vision of Christ and drew a picture of Him.  My mother had a copy of that picture in her nursing home room as many residents did.  In spite of the circumstances that would rob her of everything in this life.  Christ provided a way for her to share His love with others.  That picture was a blessing to my mother and was given to my daughter and continues to be a reminder of the hope we have in Christ.

As the church denomination of which I am a part is seriously divided over the Bible and its application.  I cannot change that circumstance, but I can trust Christ to lead me through these circumstances and make me a blessing of God’s grace to our world and the community around me.  As Christians even if we feel like we are paralyzed like Joni E. Tada, abused like Bart Millard, or dying like the unnamed woman it is Christ who works in and through us to bear fruit in His name.

As Christians in a fallen world living for the Kingdom of God, we are totally dependent on God.  Jesus told us apart from Him we can do nothing, that is why we must abide in Him.

As churches we must continue to work for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom.  Do we trust Christ to work in us no matter what our circumstances may be?  Do we trust Him even if everything we know falls apart?  Christ is the victor and if we keep our faith in Him, we also will share in that victory.

Thoughts from Super Bowl LIV

Like millions of others around the country on Sunday evening several of us gathered together in the home of one of our church members to have a party and watch Super Bowl LIV.  It was a superb game with two well-matched teams coming together on the football field.  However, the half-time show was described as “pornographic” or “close your eyes” as most of us were shocked by such an open display of heathen carnality.  I felt the only acceptable place for such a performance would be in a worship service for a pagan fertility god or goddess.  It might have been something you’d expect in a burlesque house or a brothel, but not as entertainment for the masses.

In the past God has displayed His wrath against the type of sins we see openly practiced and promoted in many western societies.  Look at the list of cities destroyed for their sins: Sodom, Gomorrah, Ninevah, Babylon, Samaria and the northern Kingdom of Israel, and Jerusalem at both the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians in 586 BC and again under the Romans in 70 AD.  Christ even warned five out of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 to repent of the sins they were engaging in or allowing to go on.  God is always the same, He does not change.

If the western society and our world is to survive it needs to come back to the righteousness of God found in Jesus Christ.  God gives people time to repent but the time will come when He will say something similar to what He said in Revelation 2:21, I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality.” – New Living Translation.

OUR MISSION: Revealing the Truth of Christ

OUR MISSION: Revealing the Truth of Christ

Monday, Jan. 6, 2020 is Epiphany of the Lord on the Church Calendar.  According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, “epiphany” means “a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.”  The Holy Bible is a revealing, a very clear testimony of Jesus Christ.  It reveals WHO He is, WHAT He has done, what HE WILL DO, and that HE CALLS all people to repentance and faith in Him.  For those of us who are Christians our mission is exactly the same.  Everyone who names the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is called upon to reveal who He is, what He has done, what He will do, and to call people to repentance and faith in Him.

We think of the wise men who came to worship Jesus.  They understood the call from the heavens and took time away from their daily lives to go and worship the baby Jesus.  They knew who He was by the signs in the heavens, they did not know all that He would do, but they put their faith in Him just the same.

Simeon and Anna had long been looking for God’s Savior.  Simeon knew through the Holy Spirit that he would see the Savior before he died.  He and Anna would have known well the prophecies of the Scriptures about the baby Jesus, they worshipped Him, put their faith in Him, and told others about Him.

The Scripture and all Creation reveal WHO Christ is. 

God placed signs in the heavens that the magi or wise men from the east would understand.  Even Balaam when he prophesied what God commanded him said, I see him, but not here and now.
    I perceive him, but far in the distant future.
A star will rise from Jacob;
    a scepter will emerge from Israel. –
Numbers 24:17  – NLT

From Balaam’s time it would be about 1400 years which would be in the distant future.    The wise men may well have been aware of this prophecy.  Or they may have been aware of Jacob’s prophesy recorded in Genesis 49:10, The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor. – NLT

Christ is the universal King and Savior given to us.  All of Scripture points to this truth.  Part of our job is to tell others WHO Jesus is.  He is God’s chosen King for all the nations, and He will reign over all the earth.  As Psalms 2:6 in the New Living Translation so bluntly puts it, For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”
And in v. 12, Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry,
    and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
    But what joy for all who take refuge in him!
– NLT.

Jerusalem will be the capitol of the world when Jesus’ reigns, because God has chosen it.

The Scripture also reveals WHAT Christ has done for us. 

In Colossians 1:19-22 the Bible tells us, For God in all his fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
    everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. – NLT

The Good News of Christ is when we have that epiphany that Jesus has redeemed, even me, if I am willing to accept it.  It is a free gift that money cannot buy.

The Scripture reveals WHAT Christ will do.

Christ will come again, and He will judge the living and the dead.  Jesus made this clear when He said,  “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.” – Matthew 25:31-33 – NLT

This is a judgment of separation into the joys of heaven or the agony of the lake of fire and we call people to repentance and faith in Christ because it is coming. People must decide whether they will repent and believe in Jesus Christ or refuse His offer of salvation and grace.  We cannot force anyone to have faith in Jesus Christ, but we can encourage them because we love both God who wants them to come to Him freely by faith, and because we love them and do not want to see them perish, rather we want them to receive all the rewards God desires to give them.

There is also a judgment of rewards for Christians as Paul spoke about saying in Romans 14:10-12, “So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bend to me,
    and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’”

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. 13 So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall. – NLT.

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says that our works as Christians will be judged as well.  But God’s judgment is very different than ours in that we judge by outward appearance, God looks at the intention of the heart.

Because as Christians, we know Christ will do these judgments, we encourage one another to do our best for Christ from the purest of motives.  We also know that He will forgive and cleanse everyone who comes to Him.  He has the power and He will do it.  Isn’t that what love would do, tell what Christ will do?

Christ through us and the Bible is CALLING everyone to repentance and faith.

Paul told Timothy, “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord.”    We tell others who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. 

If a person has sinned and is repentant – He will forgive.  As Christians we know this by experience.

If a person is trapped by the power of sin – He will set them free.  As Christians we should know this also by our own experience, many do.

He will come again.  He will judge all mankind, the righteous and the wicked.  The righteous will be rewarded and the wicked will be condemned.  The message of the Bible remains the same as when Jesus first preached it: “Repent and believe the Good News.”  Our testimony, our witness might be the epiphany someone else needs to come to faith in Christ.

Meditation on the 12 Days of Christmas

The following are the notes I used in my message for Christmas Eve.

Meditation for the 12 Days of Christmas

On the church calendar Christmas is actually a 12-day celebration, beginning Dec. 25th and ending Jan. 6th.  Unfortunately, our culture largely builds up to Christmas day from Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  This is motivated by merchants selling more stuff.  Even most Christian radio stations broadcast Christmas music from Black Friday through Christmas Day, then go back to regular programming on Dec. 26, putting away the Christmas music until the next Black Friday.

What if we like our brothers and sisters in Christ who lived centuries before us, took a more spiritual focus on how we look at the time from Christmas to Epiphany?

What can we do for the 12 days of Christmas?  What can we do to benefit us as a whole person?

  1. Just rest.  The shopping is over, the parties are winding down so take some time to just rest and seek the “shalom” peace of wholeness and completeness in Christ.
  2. Meditate on the meaning of Immanuel – God with us. He is with us: in the morning, at noon, in the evening and all night long. He is with us when we are tired. When we are filled with energy. When we are happy or sad. Wherever we are and whenever God is with us.
  3. Take some time for personal house cleaning of your life. We need to clean our lives from: wrong attitudes, thoughts & actions, distractions that are unimportant, and get rid of fear and worry.
  4. Think about how to fill your life with beneficial things: a better prayer life, more meaningful Scripture study or devotion time, how to better serve others in love, and practice better self-discipline.

We really should strive for a more spiritual focus for Christmas because of all that Jesus did for us in coming as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.  Hebrews says, “For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.” – Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT.

There is a wonderful song: Cradle in the Shadow of the Cross that tells us that Jesus came for this purpose. While he was lovingly laid in a manger, he came to earth to give His life as a sacrifice for our sins. As God in the flesh death could not hold Him. By His resurrection from the dead Jesus frees us from the fear of dying.  He can free us from the frantic pace and demands of our modern world.  He will show us how to live in the Kingdom of God now in this world free from worry and with great joy even in the face of severe trials.

Jesus experienced what we experience: hunger in fasting, the joy of celebrations like the wedding in Cana.  In the summer he got hot and the winter cold.  He felt joy and anger.  He had friends and enemies.  Through all of it He set an example of what it means for us to live as a child of God in this world.  During the 12 days of Christmas just seek to be like Him and you will find more of the Peace of God, the wholeness of life we can all have in Christ.