Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

Peace Be With You

Today’s reading is John 20.

At what point do you believe something to be true? Do you have to hear it from a certain family member or friend? Do you have to hear it from a certain news source or just hear it multiple times?

We read today the well-known story of “Doubting Thomas” who would not believe until He saw Jesus even though 10 other of what have to be His best friends, which He spent time together with Jesus in the Holy Land observing miracles first-hand, said He was alive. I’m really glad we are continuing to focus on the words of Jesus because it caused me to look deeper into some of His other words here outside of Him telling Thomas to stick his fingers into His hands and side.

Many times, we ourselves face pain and problems in our life and struggle with where to turn, or we know those who face problems with relationships, family, careers, money, or health and can’t figure out where to turn. As Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and sees that Jesus is not there, she goes outside and weeps. Jesus then appears to her and says in John 20:15, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you seeking?” Later, in John 20:22 when Jesus appears to the disciples the first time He says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” He says in John 20:19, “Peace be with you.” And again, here in this same chapter in John 20:26 when He appears 8 days later to the disciples a second time He starts by saying again, “Peace be with you.” At first glance in reading this it seems as though He’s wishing for them to have peace, but upon further reading I believe He’s telling them that “Peace” is with them and “Peace” is Him. He asks Mary why she’s weeping and who she’s seeking because “Peace” is right in front of her! How many times is “Peace” right in front of us yet we don’t seek Him, we don’t see Him when he’s right there like Mary didn’t, or we don’t accept Him when He reaches His hand out? He could be right there in front of us, but as He says in John 20:22, it is up to us to “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Mike Baker of Eastview Christian Church says, “Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.” We must focus on the miracles right in front of us and the reasons the Gospel is true rather than the reasons it’s not. People often put more faith in reasons not to believe than reasons to believe. Are we more aware of the ways He’s working in our lives or more aware of the reasons we think He’s not? Are we more in touch with His presence in our lives or more focused on why we think He’s missing? Do we concentrate more on our blessings which come from Him or do we concentrate more on what we don’t have but want? Let us stop weeping and seek Him, see Him, accept Him, and “Receive the Holy Spirit” when He reaches out His hand.

 

The Truth

Today’s reading is John 8.

Jesus says in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Even Christians, often have trouble acknowledging the Devil’s presence in our lives and in the world. However, the Bible does not. In fact, the Devil or Satan is mentioned 90 times in the Bible. Jesus calls him the “father of lies” here which makes complete sense due the fact that the first sin started with his lie in Genesis 3:5 when he told Adam and Eve they would be like God if they ate the fruit. This is the first lie that Satan still tells us today…you are God.

This may seem silly, but when you take a step back it’s not too difficult to see in our own life and in the world today by what is found to be socially acceptable. Primarily it rears its ugly head when God tells us to do whatever “feels good” and that others should be able to do the same. We trade temporary satisfaction for joy and peace which God knows will come from following Him and restraining from what He calls a sin in the BIble. The “father of lies” also then furthers this lie by others telling us (which we then believe to be true ourselves) that we are judging others when we call what God calls a sin a sin and “that is not the Christian thing to do.” When we call a sin a sin and at the same time acknowledge that we ourselves are sinners as well needing forgiveness and that one sin is not worse than another sin (except for blaspheming the Holy Spirit) and all sin separates us from God, that is not judging..it’s speaking the truth.

The 2nd lie Satan tells us is God does not love you. Even when we acknowledge God exists and know that He sent His Son to die on the cross for us, this lie can subtly bind us from experiencing joy and most importantly keep us from truly being at peace through complete understanding God’s love . Up until the last few years, I found myself wondering at times if something didn’t go my way if it was because of a entirely unrelated sin I committed recently. While sin does have consequences in our lives and God often doesn’t stop the consequences, God does not make bad things happen to you because of something you did. Romans 8:1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:31 then says, “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us, will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” God is not against us. He does not punish us for sins. He says here in John 8:11, “Neither do I condemn you.” He does also then say,” …go and from now on sin no more.” He came with both grace and truth.

Jesus says in John 8:12…”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in the darkness, but have the light of life.” We all seek truth. That is what the world is looking for…truth. We find truth in the Word. John 1 refers to Him as the Word, and here in John 8:31 He says, “….If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Acting on how we we “feel” and the world telling us its ok for others to do the same will not set us free. This is what the “father of lies” tells us. But, Jesus tells us in John 8:34, “..Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” Sin (which is what God tells us is sin in the Bible..not the world) does not set us free as Satan tells us…it imprisons us. Jesus says again in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free in deed.” Read the Word. Run to His loving arms and be free. There you will find what we all need to have peace and joy…you will find truth and love.

 

Salvation Test

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.  – 1John 3:10

The NIV starts verse 10 out this way, ‘This is how we know’.  All throughout Scripture, obedience and love are the hallmarks of a true believer.  1 John 3:10 answers the question every believer should test themselves on: how do I know that I am saved?

God assures believers of their salvation through the Spirit. (1John 3:24)  A believer’s renewed heart compels them to obey the will of the Father in obedience to His word and to love God and others in deed and truth.  The presence of Christ in a believer is unmistakable to them over time.

And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. – 1John 3:24

Obedience and love.  Like all of Scripture, 1 John chapter 3 continues to return to these two hallmarks of a believer.  As you read through today’s Scripture: 1 John 3 and Psalm 41, be on the lookout for these.  As you enjoy the fellowship of Christ today, feel the Spirit leading you to obedience and love.  

If you have not committed your life to Christ, placed your trust in Him alone and repented from trusting in all other promises, imagine for a moment what your day would be like if you had.  Your whole life made new.  Ever going with a Companion who will reign in your heart and will never leave you.  A companion who is Master over all, King of Kings, who leads you beside still waters in righteousness, who makes you to lie down in green pastures. 

 

3rd Heaven

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?  This was the question posed during an opening devotional at a business meeting last week.  Answers ranged from, “I don’t think about Heaven very much – I don’t think I get it and so I just trust” and “I’m ashamed to say, I’ve had thoughts in the past about the continuous chanting and it worries me – will I be bored there?” to “I look forward to reuniting with loved ones” and “I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face-to-face.”

As we prepared to consider business here on Earth the scripture reading for the devotional was from Colossians 3:2, ‘Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.’  The discussion was Heaven.  The issue, we all agreed, was that we should be thinking about heaven more.  

What do you look forward to most about Heaven?

Have you ever been reading a book, listening to a sermon, or on your knees in prayer and been completely overwhelmed with a flood of emotion to commit everything to the LORD?  This is the time, I want to let go of everything I want and give it all to the LORD, I’m done with doing it my way, I always mess everything up, I want to rest and trust the LORD with everything: every moment, every thought, every desire.  

Expressing this feeling in words is challenging.  Perfect freedom.  Perfect trust.  Perfect peace.  If I’ve gotten close at all you may be recalling your own testimony of how you came to Christ or a renewed commitment to Christ along the way.  This feeling, in my estimation, is as good as it gets this side of life’s great divide.  

However, for me, this feeling is all too shortly followed by a failure.  My flesh realizes a victory as I choose, say, entertainment over time in the Word, etc.  

Still, If even for a brief moment, that feeling touches my soul as if to say, ‘this is what you were created for.”  I can not wait to be done with the fight against the flesh.  Until then, and through the power of the Spirit, we fight the good fight.

God would You bless us with more and more freedom from self as we wait on You?  Please be gentle with us LORD.  May our souls find rest in You.  Amen.  

Psalm 27:13-14
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Today’s reading: James 5 and Psalm 27

 

Sources for study on Heaven:

Sources for study on eternal rewards:

Among Us

Today’s Reading; James 4 and Psalm 26

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)

Among you” is translated by some scholars as “in you“. When I reflect on the many battles in my life this would be a consistent one. I understand that some of the many struggles we can face are not always visually seen by others. These struggles are faced “in you” and can internally impact your mind and heart.  These struggles can take away the joy you can fill into others. Our earthly desires, worries, and fears are tucked back in our mind and the wrestling match of external, desires are grappling with our internal thoughts and heart. Leaving us questioning within our heads and walking through this earthly life half-minded.

James pastoral counsel can lead us back to place of love, grace, and peace.  Personally, as I start back to the school year with much excitement. In my mind, my earthly demands, desires, and fixed mindset moments can make room for questioning thoughts and actions. My thoughts can be like a thief that robs me of being truly “in the moment” by wondering what is to come. It can be hard to be at peace with anyone else when you are not at peace with yourself. That’s what makes being in the word so valuable.   I’m reminded, we need to turn to our Father who provides all the peace we need. That God is with us all the time and I need to stop trying to do things my way.  Jesus said,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

As we continue to read through James we are reminded to simply ask. Call on Him at any and all times. In addition, when we pray we are to pray with the right motives.  James 4:3 We pray with faith and according to God’s will not ours.  This will detangle the internal mess that can leave you walking through our day with this internal struggle.  Here are a couple complimenting verses that God’s living word provides for us to pray through.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1John 5:14).

But when we ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).

It’s easy to get caught up in everything going on day by day, minute by minute. My prayer is that we not let our external worldly desires distract our internal mind and heart knowing that God has an eternal place waiting for us.  Be encouraged and don’t rob yourself of who we belong to. Steal back the moments God desires us to enjoy. James reminds us that the time is now to let go of these worries and fears.

“Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”    (James 4:14).

Today as I read one of daily devotionals Jesus Calling had this perfect reminder.

Trust Me in the midst of a messy day. Your inner calm- your Peace in My Presence- need not be shaken by what is going on around you. Though you live in this temporal world, your innermost being is rooted and grounded in eternity. When you start feeling stressed, detach yourself from the disturbances around you. Instead of desperately striving to maintain order and control in your little world, relax and remember that circumstances cannot touch My Peace.

Seek God’s Face, and He will share His mind with you, open your eyes to see things from His perspective. The peace I give is sufficient for you.  

Dear God,

Thank you for all our writers and readers. We celebrate and praise your living word and understand how your words breathe through us. Please continue to encourage us to look to you at all times and not fall into the half-minded living of the world. You call us son and daughter, salt and light.  Help us to trust your word always and share this good news with everyone. God we ask you to help us break the chains of  inner struggles and help us to know we can walk in victory with you always. Amen

Resources

Jesus Calling August 26th ~ Sarah Young

David Jeremiah Study Bible

The Village Church App August 2017 ~ Marked by Matt Chandler

Logos Bible ~ James 4

 

 

A Believer’s Battle with Sin

Sanctification is the separation of the believer from his sin.  This separation is a believer’s ongoing struggle and a battle with himself.  It is internal.

In chapter 7 of Romans, Paul’s internal struggle with sin reveals how sin wages war against the Christian.  Do you struggle with sin?  (God’s word says you do. Romans 3:23, 1John 1:8, Isaiah 53:6)  If you are ready to admit that, the next step is to accept it.

The peace that comes with accepting how we relate to God (we are sinners that have turned away from Him and if we believe in Jesus our sins will be forgiven) will feel like a heavy load being lifted from you.  Remove the expectation that you need to be perfect to become a Christian or that once you become a Christian you will no longer battle with sin.

It is not about you being perfect – it is about Jesus being perfect.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christians motivations to hate sin and flee from it.

Those who follow Christ hate sin because they remember what it did.  It crucified Christ.  In a way, when we sin it is like taking part in that.  This is the Christian’s motivation to hate sin and flee from it.

Here are some notes from a sermon (first link in the resources below) on how sin battles with a believer:

  1. It is within us. James 1:14-15
  2. It is a battle of the mind, of our thoughts. Romans 7:23, 1Peter 1:13
  3. Victory is in Christ.
    1. Confess your sin to the LORD and ask his forgiveness. (1John 1:9, Proverbs 38:13)
    2. Ask the LORD for the strength to refuse to entertain sinful thoughts.  (2Corinthians 10:5, 2Timothy 1:7)
    3. Avoid evil. (Psalms 1:1-6, Matthew 18:7-9)
    4. Draw nigh to the LORD, pursue His Word.  (Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:6)

Here are three great sermons that will arm you with the truth regarding separating from your sin:

  1. Sanctification and Sins of the Mind
  2. Spiritual Stability, Part 5: Godly Thinking
  3. Breaking Sin’s Grip

Confused

Today’s Reading: Acts 19

One of the enemy’s best weapons is confusion.  When we are confused, we are unable to see things clearly.  It disrupts our decision-making process, often resulting in choices that are irrational and inconsistent with our core beliefs.  Many times, confusion is produced by the people around us.  We are continuously barraged with differing world views and alternative belief systems.  Want proof?  Take a closer look at today’s reading.  Did you notice in verse 29, “the whole city was in confusion?”

To understand the city’s confusion, we need to look back to verse 23.  Up until that point, Paul was actively spreading the word of God.  Acts 19:20 says that the Lord’s message Paul presented was “spread widely and had a powerful effect.”  Clearly, lives were being changed.  Not everyone, however, was happy about this.  In fact, a man named Demetrius was suddenly worried about the impact that these new beliefs would have on his business.  To combat this, he developed a strategy.  He knew, that it would be easy.  All he had to do was confuse people.

Demetrius starts with the economic conversation, encouraging them to consider the consequences of slowing sales.  It was enough to spark some fear, but not enough to start a rebellion.  To intensify their reaction, he adds confusion by suggesting that the magnificent goddess, Artemis will be robbed of her “great prestige.”  This was all it took.  The people were sufficiently overwhelmed by these significant changes.  The fear it stimulated caused their anger to boil (v18).  It wasn’t long before full on rebellion occurred and “everything was in confusion” (v32).

The sad reality is that we are subject to the same confusion.  J.I. Packer elaborates on this.  He says, “we are so consumed with great thoughts of man that we only have room for small thoughts of God.  Second, we are confused by modern skepticism.”  Is it any wonder that it’s one of Satan’s preferred weapons?  Thankfully, the Spirit who lives in us, is greater than the spirit who lives in this world (1 John 4:4).  When we arm ourselves with His truth, we win.  I have found a very practical way to avoid confusion.  It comes from remembering who God is and who I am.  The following affirmations, despite their simplicity, are powerful statements that bring clarity, hope, courage and refreshment.

I believe that God is who he says he is

I believe that God can do what God says he can do

I believe that I am who God says I am

I believe that I can do what God says I can do

God’s Word is alive and active in me

I believe God

 

Fully Known

     Fully known.  How do those words make you feel?  Peaceful?  Anxious? Calm?  Ashamed?  All of the above, maybe?  Does it depend on the situation, or maybe the person?  In John 8, our reading for today, Jesus makes it very clear that He knows the people around Him.  And not only does He know them, He FULLY KNOWS them,  He knows their thoughts, even when they don’t speak them aloud.  He knows their actions, even before they take them.  He knows them better than they know themselves.  He knows their hearts.

     Sometimes, Jesus reveals His knowledge of the people around Him in subtle ways.  For example, when He speaks to the crowd who accuses the woman of adultery, He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  Jesus knew that each of the accusers was a sinner.  Yet He didn’t need to call each person out on his individual, specific sin to make His point clear.  When the crowd heard His words, “they went away one by one.”  (John 8:9)  Likewise, in his conversation with the woman accused of adultery, Jesus did not need to name her sin to make His point.  He simply says to her, “…go, and from now on sin no more.”  (John 8: 11)  Simple, and subtle.

    Later in John 8, however, Jesus reveals to the Pharisees that He knows them as well, and this time, He is less subtle.  In fact, He does not hesitate to name their sins.  Here are several examples:

– He knew that the Pharisees judged according to the flesh  (John 8:15)

– He knew that the Pharisees sought to kill Him, and He knew why –                            because His word had found no place in them (John 8:37) and because                      they couldn’t bear to hear His word  (John 8:43)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not believe Him  (John 8:45)

– He knew that the Pharisees did not know God  (John 8:55)

Not only does Jesus know the adulterous woman’s heart and the hearts of the Pharisees.  He also knows our hearts, yours and mine.  David confirms this in Psalm 139:1-4:   “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.”    I think that David’s tone here is not one of embarrassment but one of relief.  He sounds thankful to be fully known by his Creator – and in this, David serves as a good example for us.

We, too, can give thanks that our God fully knows us and wants to have a relationship with us.  Any relationship deepens as we allow ourselves to be fully known by the other person, and our relationship with Jesus is no different.  Furthermore, relationships strengthen when we ourselves seek to more deeply know the other person as well.  Jesus, too, wants us to seek to know Him better.  I pray that the fact that we are fully known by our Creator gives us not anxiety and shame, but peace and comfort.  And I pray that we would seek to know Him better as we rest in the security that we are fully known, and fully loved.

 

And Peter

Our prayers are with the LaFrance’s.

Yesterday’s post highlighted the tearing of the curtain and the final price that was paid in full for our sin. It represents an opportunity for closeness to God.

In today’s reading (Mark 16) the angel has a message for Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James to carry. He tells them to go and tell it to Jesus’s disciples ‘and Peter.’

When I read this I thought to myself ‘what an interesting way to address a group.’ Knowing that the selection of words was precise I began to wonder why ‘and Peter’? My thoughts went to the message. It’s my understanding that ‘angel’ means messenger. So I can presume this angel had a message. Further, that every message has intended recipients. Also, that carrying a message includes seeing it is received. Could it have been, to ensure the task was completed and all the intended recipients received the message, that special note needed to be made for Peter to know the message was for him as well? that the angel knew Peter would not include himself in the category of the disciples without this special inclusion?

If so, considering how Peter must have felt, reminds me of so much scripture that had yet to be revealed calling us to hold fast, (Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 10:23, 1Thessalonians 5:21, Revelation 2:25, Revelation 3:3) remain salty, (Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34) and overcome in the face of trails. (Romans 12:21, James 1:21, 1John 5:4) Praise God for His Word! It encourages me that we need not be perfect to be useful to God more that we need not try to do it on our own. Such a burden would certainly leave one feeling like they had fallen from the graces of God at the slightest misstep. Knowing that perhaps, Peter struggled with a lie that his poor performances may disqualify him from God’s service is a good reminder that I need to cling to these scriptures.

Indeed we have been purchased in our imperfection. God, knowing the future value, decided on the price and it was highest. By His grace and mercy we are made useful to Him. I’m reminded of a study on the armor of God. Specifically, the shoes.

And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; – Ephesians 6:15

To make ready for battle in the good news that we have made peace with God. We have made peace with God and so we are on God’s side. God is with us! He will not leave us. We should not be without this peace when working for the LORD and fighting the good fight. (Ephesians 6:10) The truth stays us and gives us firm footing to complete the work God has given us to do. (Isaiah 41:13, Psalm 27:1, John 16:33, Romans 8:17-18, 1Corinthians 15:57, Philippians 4:13)

God has given us His armor. May we all use it well. Amen.

 

Photo: Raphael – Christ’s Charge to Peter