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James 4-5: Don’t Let Tomorrow Mess Up Today

James 4:13-17 is a reminder I need today.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).

I recognize the point of this passage is about relying on God and understanding that I cannot boast as if to say I am somehow by my own power going to ensure that I survive another year and by my own power will make sure the business I conduct is profitable. However, where this struck me today was the reminder that the reason such mental games are foolish is because I don’t even know if I’m going to be here tomorrow.

My problem is often the very opposite. Instead of thinking about how successful I’m going to be over the next year, I can get bogged down in worries. “Oh no, the economy is failing. What will that do to my income or my retirement or…” “Oh no, my kids are growing up and I know they are going to be faced with all kinds of temptations. What am I going to do about that?” 

One of the crazy “Oh nos” I have happened last night. My wife took the car to go to the store. It was raining like crazy and she lingered. Suddenly my mind was filled with fear that something bad had happened, at any moment the police were going to show up and now I was going to be a single father of four children. Actually, nothing happened to her. She showed up at home just as usual. However, this morning as I was stuck in traffic I started thinking about that scary possibility and I actually began to be filled with fear as if it were already true. How crazy is that?

The fact is, someday my wife will die. It may be before me or after me. It may be while the kids are at home; it may be after they are on their own. The thing is, it has happened today. She is at home right now doing her part of our family work. Why let all the possibilities of tomorrow over which I have no control mess up today.

You see it works both ways. I shouldn’t let my arrogance think I am going to ensure some success is going to happen apart from God’s will. At the same time, I shouldn’t let my fears about what might happen tomorrow send my today in a panic. Rather, I should just rely on God and pray “As the Lord wills.” Then, each day, I can rely on the strength He gives me to make it through whatever happens today.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, James, relying on God, Surrender | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 11-12: By Faith the Evolutionist Sees How the World Was Formed

evolution-diagram_op_800x467

Fact or Faith?

I know evolutionists love to pick on verses like Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (ESV).

“Oh, look at those stupid Christians. They base their ideas about how we got here on faith.”

Um…wait a minute. What exactly do evolutionists base their opinion on? Were any of them there when the world was started? Did any of them watch while species came into existence? So then, their opinion is faith as well isn’t it? They believe in what they did not see? 

They, of course, will claim the evidence is on their side. That is up for debate. However, the point is when they present all their evidence and creationists present all our evidence, it still comes down to faith. Neither of us saw what happened. The evidences may make a strong case one way or the other. I would just like everyone to admit they are working on faith.

By the way, for all of you who think evolutionists have everything down as facts, just do some searching about how many differing theories there are about how it all began and how the species developed. What you find out is there aren’t nearly as many facts as evolutionists would like us to believe. Rather, there is just a lot of speculation. Of course, it is okay to speculate as long as you debt let God in the picture. They don’t mind argument and debate as long as the spiritual is not included. 

Please, just be honest. Evolutionists work from faith as much as Christians do. So, Christians, quit being intimidated. Feel free to believe what the Bible says about how the universe was created. Don’t feel like you are unintelligent just because your opinion is based on faith. So is everyone else’s.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

 

PS: If you would like to look a little deeper at the faith of the evolutionist, check out the sermon I preached at the Franklin Church of Christ entitled The Origins of Man: Fact vs. Story.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Creation, Evolution, Faith, Hebrews | , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Thessalonians 3-4: Comfort One Another with These Words

There were a couple of things in today’s reading that stood out, but how can I bypass these chapters without following the command at the end of them to comfort and encourage you with these words:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to me the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

I Thessalonians 4:13-17 (ESV)

There are two things that comfort me in this passage. 

1. If we live by faith, we can die by faith.

We do not have to face death with fear. We believe Jesus died and was resurrected, we know we will be as well. We know death is not an end, but merely a transition. We are not abandoned by Jesus when we die. Rather, we go to be with Him and will always be with him. What a comfort.

2. There is more than this life.

Some days life is just frustrating. I wonder why anyone would remotely want to keep on dealing with it. The reason…there is more to life than this life. There is something worth striving for when this life is over. I don’t want to give up because a victory is coming and I want to be on the winning side when it happens. 

Be comforted. Life is tough, but the goal waiting for us is worth everything we go through. Death may be hard, but for us it is a victory.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Death, Encouragement, I Thessalonians, resurrection | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Peter 5-II Peter 1: Now That I’m a Christian, What Must I Do To be Saved?

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brother affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make our calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

II Peter 1:5-11 (ESV)

I recognize we cannot earn our way into heaven. If we are saved, it will be because God is good enough; not because we are. At the same time, I recognize not just everybody will be provided with an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In fact, it seems not just everyone who has ever believed and obeyed Jesus for a time will be provided that entrance. 

Rather, those who pursue this standard of growth will gain entrance. Our growth rests on the foundation of faith, but we must add to it. We must continually work on…

  • Faith–believing in God, believing God and trusting God’s way is right.
  • Virtue–the moral excellence to do what is right because it is right.
  • Knowledge–getting God’s word into our heads and hearts.
  • Self-control–doing what is right in the face of persuasion to do otherwise.
  • Steadfastness–stringing moments of self-control together in a row, even in the face of opposition.
  • Godliness–honoring God and revering Him with every action.
  • Brotherly affection–treating our brethren with kindness, tender-heartedness and forgiveness.
  • Love–obeying God from the heart and seeking what is best for others.

There are some things I recognize from this passage:

  1. “Going to church” is not the equivalent of being a disciple.
  2. I need to work on me; I need to work on my relationship with others; I need to work on my relationship with God; I need to work on these every day.
  3. I don’t get to rest based on what I accomplished yesterday, I have to keep growing.
  4. I don’t have to be perfect today, I just need to make progress.
Keep the faith and keep reading,
ELC

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, Growth, II Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, salvation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Peter 1-2: God’s Tests Show Me Where to Work

On Saturday, I had a heart to heart with my oldest daughter. She had to take an online quiz for a class she is taking. Her first time through, she didn’t do so well and became very upset because she knew her teacher would see it. That was when I explained to her the purpose of tests. The purpose of the test is not to do really, really well and impress the teacher. The purpose of the test is simply to see which parts of the class she has already learned and which parts she needs to study harder. Granted, I get the fact that few teachers present the tests that way, but that is how we need to look at them if they will do us any good. Otherwise, we will merely get upset about how poorly we did, not learn anything and then do even worse as the course progresses.

That is very much like what Peter says in I Peter 1:6-7:

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (ESV).

God will allow our faith to be tested, but then Peter describes it as being like gold that is tested by fire. That is an interesting picture. When gold is tested by fire, it is put in a crucible and then heated past the melting point. When that occurs, the denser gold goes to the bottom of the crucible and the less dense slag and impurity rises to the top. This allows the refiner to skim the impurity off the top. This testing is not to see if the gold passes or fails. This testing is to let the impurity rise to the top so the gold can be refined.

That is exactly what testing our faith does to us. God does not test our faith to see if we pass or fail. He tests us so the impurity will rise to the top and we can work on it.

Sadly, I often do something wrong when stress is high or trouble is happening. In those moments, I often say, “That’s okay, God will understand how difficult things are for me right now.” The point of the heat, the trial, the struggle, the test is not to grant us an excuse and an exception to sin. The point of the heat is to cause the impurity to rise to the top so we can see what we need to work on. 

If somebody slanders us at work and we get caught up in the moment, allowing malice to set in our hearts and then seeking vengeance, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands, they did such and such to me and I couldn’t help myself.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this.” Then we can skim it off the top. If we get home and our spouse says something accusatory and we blow up with wrath and clamoring, showing our resentment and bitterness, we shouldn’t say, “Well, God understands when my spouse acts like that I’m just going to blow my top.” Rather, we need to say, “Oh wow, look at this impurity that was hiding in my heart. I need to work on this. I need to skim this off.”

God doesn’t test us to let Him know whether our faith passes or fails. God tests us so we know where to work. Further, we don’t work on these issues to try to impress God. Let’s face it, none of our work could remotely impress the all-powerful and all-holy God. We do this because that is what the tests are all about. They are not there to give us a pass or fail grade. They are given to show us where to work because we believe God’s way works. Let’s get to work.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 10, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Growth, I Peter, perseverance, Responsibility, Testing | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mark 11-12: 3 Lessons About Hard Bible Questions

In Mark 12:18-23, the Sadducees who did not even believe in the resurrection asked Jesus a question. It had been a stumper that history tells us they had used to boggle the Pharisees who did believe in a resurrection. The question was not sincere. They didn’t really want to know the answer. They only wanted to cause Jesus problems. They were unprepared for His wisdom. Just like the Sadducees, I have heard and had hard Bible questions. I hope the questions I hear and have had are more sincere than the Sadducees were, but hard questions are…well, hard. I gain three lessons from this story about hard Bible questions.

1. We can think of some pretty tough questions.

Let’s face it, the Bible is not a primer. It is not “Cat in the Hat” or “See Dick and Jane.” It is deep and every time we read it we get deeper. It doesn’t spoon feed all the answers to us. Rather, it makes us dig. Therefore, we can come up with all kinds of tough questions that are difficult to answer. Sometimes, the answers may not seem readily available. 

I don’t know how many times I have studied with someone who had a hard question from the Bible that they couldn’t answer easily, so they began to question whether the Bible was accurate. Some even lost their faith. I would like to share a different perspective. We hold in our hands a book that purports to have the answers to our real problems. It claims to be from the infinite God. It tells us the meaning of life. It talks about spiritual living. It offers salvation. Do we honestly think such a book could exist without engendering some pretty tough questions. The reality is, if we couldn’t possibly come up with any tough questions about it or because of it, then we should question if it is really from God.

We can think of some pretty tough questions. That doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong.

2. There are even some questions we cannot answer.

Jesus answered the Sadducees direct question. That is, whose wife would that woman be. What intrigues me is from where He got the answer. As far as I know, there is no place in the Old Testament that said what Jesus said in Mark 12:25. Rather, Jesus, as God in the flesh, was providing new information here. In other words, the Sadducees and Pharisees could have studied their scriptures backwards and forwards and never learned what Jesus taught them here.

The fact is, the Bible has not been written to provide the answers to every question we can possibly imagine. It is written to teach, reprove, correct and train us in righteousness. It is written to equip us for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17). This means we may even come up with some questions for which we simply cannot find an answer. 

Once again, that doesn’t mean the Bible is not from God. It doesn’t mean the Bible is not true. Again, think about this from reality. Can we really expect the infinite God who knows all things to provide us with a book that contains infinity within? Don’t let the questions you can’t answer come between you and God. 

Mark Twain is reported to have said that it isn’t the parts of the Bible he doesn’t understand that bothered him but the parts that he did understand. In similar fashion, we must not dispense with the answers God did give just because there are some answers He didn’t.

3. The tough questions do not change the straightforward scriptures.

Jesus knew the Saducees were not interested in the answer to their actual question. They merely wanted to deny the resurrection. Jesus gave them the answer to their question but then hit their real problem head on. They didn’t believe in the resurrection. They didn’t believe in a spiritual realm with angels and the departed spirits of man. Jesus gave a scriptural answer to their main objection.

He commented on Exodus 3:6 in which God proclaimed He was presently the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Since God is a God of the living and not of the dead, then those men must have in some sense been alive even though their physical bodies had died long before. 

Here is the point. The Sadducees could develop any kind of difficult question they wanted about the resurrection. It wouldn’t change the fact that there is a resurrection.  We can come up with all kinds of questions. We can set up scenarios and situations that are hard to answer. However, those questions do not deny the simple and straightforward truths God has revealed in the Bible. 

 

As we keep reading, we will have all kinds of questions. However, we must not let them get us down or turn us from God’s truths.

So, as always, we must keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 5, 2008 Posted by | Mark, Questions, The Bible | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 9-10: What Mark’s Gospel is All About

No doubt, the Mount of Transfiguration experience was an amazing circumstance for Jesus and His inner circle. It was so profound to Peter he mentioned it when he wrote his second letter to the Christians dispersed throughout Asia  (cf. II Peter 1:18). 

For me, however, the more profound event is the one that occurred when Jesus and His circle returned from the mountain. The situation was not nearly as bad as when Moses returned from his mountaintop experience. However, Jesus returned into a hornet’s nest. The left behind disciples had been trying to heal a boy possessed of an unclean spirit but had failed miserably. The scribes were arguing with them. The boy’s father was pleading that they do something. The crowds were witnessing the whole thing.

I believe this is the central story and the key to grasping the purpose of Mark’s gospel account. It is certainly the central story as far as the order of writing. The middle verse of the book is Mark 9:16. However, it wouldn’t matter to me where this story was located in the book, I would still believe it is central to Mark’s theme. Everything in the gospel should be read in light of this story. It drives home the purpose of Jesus and His ministry.

Over and over again, Mark highlights the struggles the disciples had. Remember in yesterday’s reading we saw Jesus get exasperated with them because they still didn’t get it despite having seen Him feed 5000 with five loaves and 4000 with seven. The book will end with an intense highlight of the apostles not believing Jesus is resurrected despite His foretelling it and despite eye-witness testimony. In this story, we see the disciples lack of faith brought right to the front. Further, we see a man with a demon-possessed son provide the example for them. Jesus told the man, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23, ESV). This man then stood out as an example for the apostles, the crowd, the scribes and even for us. He replied: “I believe; help my unbelief!

That was where the apostles were. They believed, but their unbelief kept them from being able to cast out this unclean spirit. Check Jesus’ response to them when they asked why they failed. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29, ESV). That is to say, “The problem is you guys didn’t rely on God. You didn’t rest in your faith on God. You were trying to cast this demon out on your own.” They hadn’t acted in faith. Their unbelief kept them from using the abilities Jesus had given them to cast out unclean spirits. They may have thought they were somehow special because they had been picked by the master, but this unknown man with a demon-possessed son displayed more understanding and more faith than any of them.

More than the apostles, this is where I often am. I believe in God. I believe God. But in the moment of trial, where the rubber meets the road and my faith is put to the test, I often fall back on myself and my own strength. Instead of stepping out in faith and just doing things God’s way, I often revert to what makes sense to me. How many times do I have to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

What is so powerful about this story is Jesus followed this statement up with a great miracle. He didn’t wait until the man’s faith was perfect. He acted based on this man’s understanding that he needed to grow in faith. When I recognize I am not perfect, my faith needs to grow and I throw myself on Jesus to help increase my faith, God will work in my life. The Christian life is about progress not perfection. 

I will pray it again. You can pray it with me.

I believe; help my unbelief!

God will help us. The rest of Mark’ gospel is all about that help. Read it all in the light of this verse and its faith building message will come alive for you.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Faith, Healing, Jesus, Mark | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 7-8: The Patience of Disciple Making

Mark 8:23-25 intrigues me. So, I did a little research. It says:

And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored and he saw everything clearly (ESV).

This two stage miracle is such a contrast to the rest of the book. Throughout Mark, I can’t help but notice how often the word “immediately” is used (“straightway” if you read the King James Version). 

In fact, my research indicates Mark uses words which can be translated “immediately” 43 times. That means almost 6.5% of the verses in the book say something happened immediately. Additionally, these words are only used 57 times in the rest of the New Testament. That means almost half of the times we find these terms used are in just this one book. Mark is a fast gospel. Everything is happening immediately. Everything is happening right away. You get a sense of urgency and speed as you read.

Then you get to Mark 8:23-25 and for a brief moment, everything comes to a screeching halt. Jesus did not heal the man immediately. He healed him in stages. It didn’t happen right away or right now, it happened over a period of time. What is up with that?

I can’t help but notice this story is told right after Jesus rebuked His disciples for slow understanding. They had seen the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. However, when Jesus told them to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herodians, they just didn’t get it. You can hear the frustration or resignation in Jesus’ voice as Mark relates Him saying, “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” (Mark 8:17-18, ESV).

Then we get the story of the two stage healing. Jesus is giving an object lesson about the walk of discipleship. There is a lot of urgency and immediacy in Jesus’ work. However, He is patient. He knows making disciples out of mere men takes time. After a whole bunch of time, we still only see the plan of God the way this man saw people. He could see a faint outline, but no details. However, as we keep on walking with Jesus and keep allowing Him to clear our vision, we actually begin to see those details and get the real picture and not just some general and vague idea that leaves us still wondering about what is really going on. It will take time, but we can grow as disciples. We will struggle along the way, but we will get there.

Three Applications

1. I need to be thankful that Jesus is patient with me and my baby steps as a disciple.

2. I need to be patient with myself and keep working when I know I don’t always get it immediately.

3. I need to be patient with others when they are only making baby steps in their discipleship.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Growth, Healing, Jesus, Mark, Miracles, Patience | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 5-6: If Jesus Cared about an Unclean Woman, He Cares About Me Too

The Bible stories are not written to merely convey history. These are our stories. Of course, they are about other people, but they are about us. For instance, in today’s reading, I learned about an unclean woman who had a discharge of blood (today it is known as menorrhagia). Though she was unclean, though the crowds pressed in, though an official was waiting, Jesus not only healed the woman, but took time to comfort her. Let me share with you the lessons I learn for me from this story.

Lesson 1: The worldly physicians will not help me.

First, let me say that the parallel here is not about physical illness. If you are sick, go see a doctor. The parallel for us is our spiritual illness. We can gain all kinds of advice from pop psychology, the guys in the locker room and the girlfriends around the water cooler. Their advice will cause us to suffer much and drain us of our resources. Only Jesus can really help us.

Lesson 2: The crowds will not distract Jesus from me.

When Jesus asked, “Who touched Me?” the disciples were amazed. They pointed out the great crowds and thought it was silly to try to figure out who among those crowds had actually touched Him. Despite the crowds, however, Jesus knew exactly who it was and He wanted to take individual time with her. As I write this, a hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Thousands of people are praying that God do something about that (as I am also). However, with that kind of thing happening I can easily think the problems I’m facing directly will never make it to God because He is so busy dealing with those other prayers. But Jesus demonstrates that He has time for me, even in the midst of the crowd.

Lesson 3: The officials will not supersede me.

Jesus was talking to Jairus, an official of the synagogue. Additionally, this official was trying to hurry Jesus along. It is very easy for me to see everyone else as so much more important than me and so much better than me that Jesus would want to spend time helping them and not help me. But Jesus stopped His busy schedule with the important official to show compassion on this unclean woman. He will do the same for me.

Lesson 4: My uncleanness will not stop Jesus from blessing me.

Why wouldn’t the woman just go up to Jesus and ask for healing. So many others had? I can only imagine it was because she had 12 years of being trained in her uncleanness. According to the Law, everyone she touched became unclean. Everything she touched became unclean. Everyone who touched anything she touched became unclean. Why would this holy Rabbi want to heal someone so unclean? But He did. I must remember that Jesus is the great physician. He didn’t come to earth to rub elbows with other doctors. He came down to heal us of our uncleanness. Which leads to the next lesson I learn.

Lesson 5: Jesus wants me healed, whole and heading for heaven.

The most surprising part of this story for me is that the woman had been healed but was still afraid of Jesus. But again, I have to put myself in her shoes. Think about this, the Pharisees had developed their intricate rituals of washing because of people like this woman. They were afraid they may have accidentally touched some unclean person or something touched by an unclean person. After 12 years of that kind of treatment, it begins to take a toll on a person. She had no idea how such a holy person as Jesus might react. Would He berate and ridicule her for making Him unclean by touching Him? We know the answer. Of course not. In fact, Jesus, as the perfect man, was the exception to the rule. Because He was sinless the ritual uncleanness others needed to fear did not impact Him. In fact, because He was so holy, He made the unclean clean by His touch rather than being defiled by it. But back to the point at hand. This woman had nothing to fear. Jesus did not want to rebuke her for seeking healing. He wanted her to know that He wanted her healed. In like manner, He wants me healed. He wants me whole. He wants me going to heaven. He wants that so bad He came down here and died for it.

Lesson 6: Jesus will bless me on his timetable.

The woman suffered with this discharge for 12 years. God could have healed her at any time within those years. For me, if something last 12 days, I fall apart. I can’t imagine dealing with this kind of pain and illness for 12 years. In the end, however, God did bless this woman. I can only imagine that the reason God did it at this moment was because that was the moment this blessing most glorified Him and most benefited the woman. After all, had she merely been healed by one of the physicians 11 years earlier, we wouldn’t know her story would we? It is tough when I am in the midst of my trouble, but I need to have faith. God will bless me on His timetable.  I also need to have faith that when I rely on Him, if He doesn’t offer me the blessing I desperately want here, He has promised me the greatest blessing in the hereafter.

Lesson 7: Jesus expects me to act on my faith.

I can’t help but think of John 1:47-48, in which Jesus demonstrated that He saw Nathanael while he was lying under the fig tree. We have to understand that Jesus did not ask, “Who touched Me?” because He needed someone to tell Him. He already knew. He saw this woman while she was at home debating whether she would even try to find Him. He saw this woman as she stood on the edge of the crowd deciding if she should try to reach Him. He saw this woman as she dodged through the crowd and screwed up her courage to actually touch Him. Jesus saw all of this but did not heal her until she actually reached out and touched His garment. I must understand that the healing doesn’t come because I believe Jesus can heal me. The healing comes when I act on that faith and obey His word. James 2:14-26 makes that abundantly clear.

 

Jesus is amazing. Jesus does care. He cared about that unclean woman. He cares about me. He cares about you.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

p.s. If you would like to hear these lessons or read the full outline of the sermon I preached based on this passage. Click HERE.

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Blessing, Healing, Jesus, Love, Mark, salvation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 1-2: To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

DEATH!

The word strikes fear in the hearts of most people. Yet, it didn’t strike fear in Paul. In Philippians 1:21, he said “to die is gain” (ESV). Why? Because death was the doorway to being with Christ for Paul (cf. Philippians 1:23). Paul has accomplished here what few seem to be able to do.

We hear so much about living by faith. We also need to learn to die by faith. No doubt, I could probably write reams and reams and reams on what it means to live and die by faith. However, Paul actually gives us the key in Philippians 1:21. He wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (ESV). He saw two options. If he died, he would have personal gain, going to be forever with Christ. If he lived, that would benefit Christ and Christ’s plan because he would have fruitful labor helping the lost be saved and the saved be strengthened.

The fact is, the only reason “to die is gain” for Paul was because “to live is Christ” for Paul. If the first half of that statement were not true, then the second half would not be. If we want our death to be gain, then we need our life to be Christ.

Therefore, we need to ask, “What is my life? Is my life about Christ?” If living is not for Christ and has no fruitful labor for Him, then dying will not be gain for us. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t live our lives totally for ourselves pursuing our own goals, following the desires of our flesh, seeking our own pleasure and entertainment and then expect death to be about Jesus. It just won’t work.

If we want our death to be gain, then our life has to be Christ. What is your life about today?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 25, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Death, Faith, Philippians, salvation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment