He is More than Enough

He Did! Series - Part 3

he-did-capssmallerI want to tell you a story.  I want to tell you a Bible story.  Bible stories are the best kind of stories of all, do you know why?  Because they are true.

It’s important that you know that the Bible is true, because it means you can trust it.  It means that no matter how crazy or miraculous something is, it means you can trust it.  Last week we talked about one of the miracles of Jesus, the healing of the ten men.  This week we are going to talk about another one.

In this story, we see that Jesus is about to feed 5000 people.  Now, it’s important to remember that when they say Jesus fed the 5000, they are only counting the men. Only the men were considered important enough to count. So, let’s do some math…

Now let’s imagine, because we don’t know for sure, that each man brought his wife.  How many people would that be?  That’s right, it would now be 10,000.  Now let’s pretend that each family had two kids, even though they probably had more than that at that time, but since this is just an estimate, let’s say they have two.  How many is that?  You’re correct, it would now be 20,000.  That’s a huge number.

So these people all just gathered to be near Jesus.  There weren’t fliers or advertisements.  They had heard stories from friends about Jesus and how he healed people. How he performed miracles.  How he was preaching different from the guys at the temple, and they wanted to see.  These were people that needed miracles.  They needed healing, and they needed hope.  So they came to find him and they sat and listened to him talk all day.

As the day drew on, they realized that they didn’t have enough food to give these people.  I mean… who carries enough food for 20,000 people?  So Jesus asks the disciples, because he already knew the answer, where shall we buy bread for all of these people?  Can you imagine how much it would cost to buy bread for 20,000 people?

Then, this is the really cool part, a little boy steps forward with his lunch.  Five small loaves of barley bread and two little fish.  We’re basically talking about a first century lunchable.  Now, I don’t know about you, but a lunchable isn’t even enough to feed my daughter, not even close to feeding 20,000 people.  But Jesus knows that it is more than enough.

He takes the little boy’s small offering and He is about to do something huge!!!  He blesses the food, and then tells the disciples to start breaking off pieces of it and passing it around.  So basically everyone starts grabbing a cracker out of this lunchable, and passing it on.  However, it never runs out.  They keep passing and passing and passing.  Everyone ended up having more than they needed.

Jesus made sure that everything that wasn’t eaten was collected up, Let nothing be wasted.  When they collected it all, they had twelve baskets of bread.  All that from one little boy’s lunch.

So why do we tell this story?  What do you think?

Well, we tell this story for a few reasons, but there are two I want you to think about.  The first is the little boy.  He brought the little things that he had to Jesus, and it was more than enough.  He brought what everyone else thought would be worthless to God, and Jesus did great things with it.  Whatever we have to offer Jesus will be accepted, and like he said, Nothing will be wasted.

The second thing I want you to notice is that all these people came seeking Jesus with no plan to take care of themselves.  They just showed up trusting that Jesus was the answer.  That he had what they needed and they were right.  All they did was chase him down, and they would be fine.  It’s true.  They were fine.  Jesus provided for everyone, and they were right to trust him.

So, what does this mean for us today?  It means that we can trust Jesus to provide for us.  He will take care of us.  Whatever we have to bring to Him will be accepted and it will be more than enough. We don’t have to plan to feed the 20,000, we just have to find the one that can.  We can seek Jesus just like they did and He will be what we need.  He will provide for us.

Let us pray….

He Will Never Leave You

He Did! Series - Part 2

he-did-capssmallerI want to tell you a story.  I want to tell you a Bible story.  Bible stories are the best kind of stories of all, do you know why?  Because they are true.

It’s important that you know that the Bible is true, because it means you can trust it.  It means that no matter how crazy or miraculous something is, it means you can trust it.  Last week we talked about one of the miracles of Jesus, the healing of the ten men.  This week we are going to talk about another one.

In this miracle, we are going to learn a couple of really cool things about Jesus.  About who he is.  In this story, we see that Jesus had decided that they should cross to the other side of the lake.  When they got into the boat, Jesus, who was very tired fell asleep on a cushion.

Now that seems like the boring part of the story, but it’s important.  Jesus got tired.  He fell asleep.  Even with what happens in a moment, we see that Jesus was so tired he didn’t even wake up.  I know, that you are thinking… so what?  Everyone sleeps.  That’s not a miracle.

No, it’s not a miracle to sleep.  What it is is another example of how much like us Jesus is.  When we talk about miracles it becomes easy to see the God part of Jesus.  It’s easy to seem him as different from us, and we can forget that he was a lot like us too.  He got tired.  He needed to sleep.  He was 100% God and he was 100% man.  Jesus was like us, and that means he knows us and understands us.

Anyway, while he was sleeping a storm came up.  Now remember that Peter and James and a couple of other guys were fishermen, so they weren’t slouches when it came to boating, but they were afraid.  The storm was sloshing water over the sides of the boat and they thought they were going to sink.  Meanwhile, Jesus is still sleeping.

Now imagine this.  It’s storming, the water is about to sink the boat and these guys are yelling and screaming as they try to steer and scoop out water.  Jesus is sleeping.  He isn’t worried.  He isn’t scared.  He’s resting… because He trusts God.

Eventually the apostles wake him up and yell, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  Another gospel says that the apostles shouted… “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  Can you believe that?  Don’t you care?

It seems like they don’t trust Jesus, but they are scared.  We see that the same guys who are with Jesus all the time get scared.  We see that the same guys who sat at his feet, listened to him teach, and saw all of his miracles get scared sometimes too.  So scared that they weren’t sure if Jesus cared about them.

I know that’s happened to me before.  Sometimes I will have a life storm, where something really disappointing or scary happens, and I wonder where God is?  Why did God let this happen to me?  Doesn’t he care?

The answer is, He does care, and He has everything under control.  What you’ll see next is proof.  Jesus gets up, stands in the boat, and we all know that isn’t a good idea.  He then orders the storm to stop.  Immediately the wind stops, the rain stops, and the waves settle down and the lake is calm.  Can you imagine if you lived on the shore of the lake, and you are hearing it beat against the house and then it stopped all at once like it had never happened?  That’s just crazy.

Then he looks at the apostles and asks them why they didn’t have faith in him.  “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.  Those guys were blown away.  This had to be God in person.  They said, “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”

It’s the same thing he is asking us.  Where is your faith?  Why don’t you trust me?  I’ve never let you down before.  I was, I am, and I will always be your God.  The Bible says that God will never leave us nor forsake us.

So when the storm seems too big, and any moment you are sure you are going to sink, I want you to remember that Jesus is in the boat.  Jesus is in the boat with you and he is in complete control of the situation.  He wants you to trust him.  He wants you to rely on him.  He wants you to know… He’s got your back, even if you doubt and get scared.

Let us pray…

Be the One that Comes Back

He Did! Series - Part 1

he-did-capssmaller

I want to tell you a story.  I want to tell you a Bible story.  Bible stories are the best kind of stories of all, do you know why?  Because they are true.

It’s important that you know that the Bible is true, because it means you can trust it.  It means that no matter how crazy or miraculous something is, it means you can trust it.  It means for the next few weeks when I tell you the miracles of Christ, that you can believe them.  You can trust that the Jesus we talk about this morning, is the real Jesus.

Now we are going to be talking about eight miracles of Jesus, but I want to make sure that you know that there weren’t just eight miracles of Jesus.  Jesus was a miracle guy, and he had a bunch of them.

In this story in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is healing people.  He’s walking towards Jerusalem and he runs into ten guys.  These ten guys are together because they are all suffering from a disease.  The disease is called leprosy.  It’s a terrible disease that happens in your skin.  These ten guys were mostly Jewish like Jesus was, but one of them was a Samaritan.

Samaritans were outcasts.  They weren’t considered the same as everyone else.  They were considered nerds, or geeks.  You wouldn’t want to be seen with one, or have lunch with one, or have anyone ever know that you knew one.  I imagine that this guy was only with these Jewish guys because they were sick.  Their suffering had brought them together.

So these guys see Jesus walking with the disciples, and they yell out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  So, he stops and looks at these guys that are sick, and he has mercy on them.  He sympathizes with their condition.  Because they aren’t just sick, they are all outcasts.

Their disease means that they are unclean.  No one wants to be near them, no one wants to be around them, and they aren’t even allowed to go to church.  Now back then, if you couldn’t go to church, you couldn’t be forgiven.  You couldn’t make offerings to God.  You couldn’t even pray. No priest would have gone near them, but Jesus, the greatest of priests, did.

Now, these guys were hoping that Jesus would just wave his hand and they would be all better, but instead he told them to go and visit a priest and be declared that they were to go and show themselves to a priest.  Back then if you were unclean, as soon as you fixed the problem you went to a priest and went through a “be clean” ritual and then you could go back to church and people would stop avoiding you. However, if you went back to the priest before you were ready for the cleaning ceremony you would make the priest unclean and you would get in big trouble.

So, Jesus was asking them to believe that they had been healed, to act like they had been healed, before they had actually been healed.  He was asking them to believe in the miracle before they actually had the miracle.

So, all ten, not just one, all ten headed off to see the priest, even though they were all sick and gross.  That means that all ten believed that Jesus could do what he said he could do.

As they were walking to the priest, their skin suddenly healed.  They went from being sick, gross and disgusting to suddenly clean and healthy.  Their skin became whole and unbroken, and they were so happy.

Now here’s the part I really want you to pay attention to.  Nine of those ten guys went to the priest and started the clean ceremony.  They were ready to get on with their life and get back to the way things had always been, but one of them was different.

One guy, the Samaritan, the geek, the loser, the outcast, was so happy that he went back to Jesus and praised God.  He wasn’t worried about what some priest would say about being clean.  He wasn’t worried about being allowed back into church, he wanted Jesus.  He went back to Jesus and praised God and thanked him for what he had done for him.  It says that he was so grateful that he actually threw himself at the feet of Jesus.

Now Jesus looked at this guy, and asked him, where are the others, weren’t all ten healed?  Has no one given praise to God but this foreigner?

No one said anything.  I guess they were all feeling a little embarrassed for those other guys, because they were more worried about being okay with people, and less worried about being okay with God.

Then I imagine that Jesus looked down on this Samaritan with a little smile, and offered him a hand up.  He said, “Rise and Go, your faith has made you well.”

What’s super cool here, is that the words when you read them in the Greek actually say… Your faith has made you saved.  So in one day, ten guys were healed, and one guy was saved.  All of them got healed, but one of them got the best thing of all, the promise of forever in Heaven with Christ.

What I want you to get from this story, is that I want you to always be that one guy.  I want for you to be the one that sees Jesus as better than other things.  I want for you to be the one that runs to Jesus, praising God.  I want you to have the grand prize, I want you to have forever in heaven with Jesus.

How do we get that?  Well, the Bible says that Say with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord.” Believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Then you will be saved.  To be saved means that you get forever in Heaven with Jesus, just like the one man that came back.  It means you are washed clean from all of your mistakes.  It means that you get to have a relationship with God every day from that point forward.  It means you get to be like the one that came back.

Let’s pray…

Staying Rooted in Christ

Seeds Series - Part 3

seedskidszone2

I want to tell you a story.  I want to tell you a bible story.  Bible stories are the best kind of stories of all, do you know why?  Because they are true.  This one is a very special Bible story, because the first person to tell this story was Jesus.  Last week we explained that Jesus used to tell people stories to explain to them about God and Heaven.  The idea of God is so huge, that the only way he could even begin to explain God so that we could understand was to give examples, or tell parables.

In this story, Jesus explains that He is a vine.  He grows deep into the ground, and he is the roots that bring out the water, the nutrients and all the good things that we need to grow strong and produce a lot of grapes.  Now when he was telling this story, they understood grapes and growing, so they were all nodding.  And he said that we were also a part of the vine.  We are like the branches off the vine where the fruit grows.

He said that the branch can only grow if it is connected to the vine.  It means that He, as the vine, is the source, and that we as the branch need him to grow or produce any fruit.  Has anyone ever seen a branch that could produce fruit when it wasn’t connected to the vine, or to the roots?  Has anyone ever pulled a flower off?  Does it live a long time, as long as it would have lived if it had stayed connected to the vine?

He also said that God was the gardener that cared for the vine.  Now if you know anything about gardening you know that the gardener has a lot to do.  He waters, he pulls out weeds, and he plants new plants.  God is the one that makes the Vine grow, he is the source of the nutrients.  It is from God that we get our strength and all of the good things.

It means that we need to trust Jesus to provide for us all that we need, just like the branch trusts the vine.  Just like the flower trusts the stem.  We get to be beautiful like a flower because we trust that Jesus is there holding us up.  We get to produce fruit that is sweet and good because we trust Jesus.  He is the roots of the vine, and he is the source of the life.

So what does this mean for us?  It means that in everyday life we need to trust Jesus too.  When we get scared, we need to trust Jesus.  When we don’t understand something, we need to trust Jesus.  When we are hurt or sad, we need to trust Jesus.  We need to trust that Jesus is going to be there, providing for us in every season, just like the vine provides for the branch.

Jesus said, “Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me. “I am the vine. You are the branches. If anyone remains joined to me, and I to him, he will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me.”

What that means is that we need to trust Jesus.  We need to turn to Jesus for everything.  No matter what challenge we are facing, we need to talk to Him about it.  Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, we need to include Him.  When we are scared, the Bible says that Jesus is the comforter.  When we get sick, the Bible says that Jesus is the healer.  When we don’t know what to do, the Bible says that Jesus is the wise counselor.  There really isn’t a situation that we can’t turn to Jesus.  Even if we do something bad or naughty, Jesus forgives us.  Jesus is the answer to every problem, and that’s why he told us to remain joined to him.  To find rest in him.  To include him.

We can also trust Jesus because he came for us.  He was with God, and he saw how much we were suffering, and how we were struggling.  He saw that we were branches without a strong vine.  We were disconnected from God.  We couldn’t reach God on our own.  So he came to us, to be the vine, and through Him we can reach God.

Let us pray…

What Kind of Seed Do I Want to Be?

Seeds Series - Part 1

Seeds Series

 

I want to tell you a story.  I want to tell you a bible story.  Bible stories are the best kind of stories of all, do you know why?  Because they are true.  This one is a very special Bible story, because the first person to tell this story was Jesus.  Now raise your hand if you know who Jesus is.  Well, Jesus was God’s son, and one of the things that he did was teach us about God and heaven.  Whenever he was teaching about God or Heaven he did it by telling stories.  Now that sounds pretty darn cool to me.  Tell me a story, and I’m sure to listen.

In this story he was talking about farmers and seeds.  Does everyone know what a seed is?

Well, in this story he compared people to seeds, because we just at the beginning of knowing about God, just like seeds are just at the beginning of growing into what they become.  He knew that if we knew about God we could grow into something very special.  So he started with seeds as the beginning of his story.  You can find this story told by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew in Chapter 13.

Now Jesus said that there are four types of seeds, and his story went something like this.  He said that once upon a time there was a farmer, and he was spreading out seeds for the planting.  Back then when a farmer planted the seeds, he scattered them around the field, kind of like how we plant grass seed today.  Some of the seeds fell on the path, where the ground was hard, and while it was lying there, birds came and ate it up.  Then some of the seeds fell on the rocky ground and the roots couldn’t go that deep, so they grew on the top fast but quickly died in the sun.  Then there were some seeds fell among the thorny bushes, and when that seed grew it was choked by the other plants and couldn’t survive.  Still other seed fell on very good ground, and it produced a healthy crop 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown.

Then Jesus stopped the story.  Now, you need to know something about Jesus stories.  When Jesus told a story, he told a parable.  Now it’s not a pair of bulls, it’s a parable.  It’s kind of like a story with a secret message hidden in it.  It’s when the storyteller teaches you something new by comparing it to something you already understand.  In this case, the people Jesus was talking to were farmers, and they understood his example.

However, they didn’t really understand this parable, so later the disciples asked Jesus to explain it.  So, because Jesus loved them so much, he did.

The soil represents our hearts.  The seeds represent the Word of God, or the Bible message about Jesus.  The first set of seeds that fell represented the person who heard about Jesus but didn’t understand.  Rather than think about it they just shrugged their shoulders and let the truth go, like being snatched away by birds.  They went back to their day and didn’t consider it for more than a moment.

The second set of seeds represent the kind of people that hear about Jesus and at first are really, really excited.  They look like they understand but it’s all just for a little while.  Once it’s no longer new or exciting, they let it go too.  They don’t really want to be a Christian, or make the hard choices that Christians make.  So, like the seeds that died in the bright sun because they had no deep roots, they also fall away from Jesus and do something else.

The third set of seeds represent the people that hear about Jesus and accept the truth at the same time.  They would probably be very good… if it weren’t for the weeds.  The thorny weeds represent all the other things in the world that they care about that they consider to be more important than Jesus.  They may understand the truth and they may be a Christian in their hearts, but they never share it with someone else.  Just like the seeds that were choked that never produced a crop, these people never share their faith or do anything with the gift that Jesus has given them.

Finally, the last set of seeds represents the people with willing and open hearts.  They hear the message of Jesus and they are excited about it.  They want to belong to Jesus.  They want to serve Jesus.  They accept that truth, they surrender their hearts to him, and he uses them to do great things for other people.  The crops of 100, 60, and 30 represent all the people that they share the truth with through ministry.  They represent other lives that are changed because they share the truth, and they share the gift that Jesus gave them.

So the sets of seeds all had the same chance to grow because they were scattered by the same farmer.  Just like all of us have the same chance to react to the truth about Jesus.  However, it was only the last seed of seeds that did what God needed them to do.

So our question today, is what kind of seed do we want to be?

Well, before you make up your mind or think about it… what is the good news, or the truth that the seed represents? What is the message that was scattered by the farmer?  Can anyone tell me?

The message is that we are all separated from God.  We’ve all done bad things that keep us from God.  These things that we have done are called sin, and when we did them it meant that we couldn’t be in God’s presence.  God is perfect and holy and sin cannot exist in the presence of God, so as long as we still have sin on us, we are doomed.  The Bible says that all of us are sinners and not one of us knows how to be good.  It also says that what we deserve for that sin is punishment.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to be punished, and I sure don’t want to be punished by God.  The good news that Jesus was telling us is that we don’t have to be.  He came to take our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to.

It’s like getting a bad report card, with all F’s and then the smartest kid in school offers to trade report cards with you.  He says that he will take the bad one, so that you can show your father the good one.  Doesn’t that sound pretty good? This other kid is willing to give you the credit for all of his hard work so that you can be rewarded, and he is willing to be grounded with your bad report card.  All you have to do is accept the offer.  Jesus must love us a whole lot for that to be true.  Sound too good to be true?

So, now I will ask you again… what kind of seed do you want to be?  Do you want to be the first kind that hears about Jesus and then doesn’t care?  Do you want to be the kind that gets all excited about it at church but then forgets on the car ride home?  Do you want to be the kind that prays with me about Jesus, accepts his gift, but then never tells anyone else about it?  Or do you want to be the kind that accepts the gift of Jesus and then begins a relationship with him? It’s a big decision.  It’s really something to think about.

Let us pray…

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Trials & Tribulations

Philippians 4:13

9Philippians 4:13 (NIV)
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

As we read this scripture, we may easily jump to our own conclusion about what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us, that through Christ’s strength and presence in our lives, we can do all things.  Really?  All things?  Can I jump off a bridge and fly because Christ lives in me?  Can I deliberately, and foolishly put myself in danger because of this verse?

As we study the Bible, what we must learn to do is to read all verses in context.  We must challenge our understanding with a series of questions.  What is contained within the scripture both before and after the verse in question?  What is the theme of the chapter as a whole, and the book it is contained in?  Who was the author writing to?  What was their situation?  All of these questions are a starting point to ensure that we do not take scripture out of context to make it mean something it does not, or to make it mean something we want it to.

As we look at the preceding verses of this chapter in the Letter to the Philippians, we will see what the Apostle Paul is describing.  He is describing what our attitude and our thoughts must be as we journey through life with Christ.  We must understand first that this letter was written during a time of extreme persecution to the church.  There were attacks from the local culture and from the Jews as they saw their proselytes moving towards Jesus and away from their faith.  When this letter was written, Paul was actually in a Roman prison suffering in a way that cannot be understood in our current circumstances.

So Paul starts this chapter by describing some challenging life situations for the early church in these verses of scripture.    Although we may not encounter these same set of circumstances, Paul gives us a foundation on how to handle trials in our life in these first thirteen verses of Philippians chapter 4.  Life situations that we, as Christians, must decide what our attitude and thoughts must be before we journey through them. Below, we will look at the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to rejoice in the face of these challenges that may come our way.

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

As we think about life challenges, it is not always easy to rejoice. Life has a way of loading us up with burdens, our hands being so full of our own thoughts and troubles, that we cannot lift them up to God.  The psalmist in Psalms 32:11 calls us to “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”  We should rejoice in The Lord no matter what our current situation may be, because we are righteous.  We are known by God.  We are saved from eternal separation from Him by the blood of Jesus Christ.  We are upright before God.  We have right standing before Him.  This is cause for celebration, no matter what our life situation may be.  This is cause for rejoicing!

It was important for Paul to start with this admonition because too often we forget.  We get so caught up in our current drama that we forget where we stand with Christ as believers.  We forget the price that has been paid for us, the blood spilled on our behalf.  We forget what that single act of Christ ensures us, and that is eternity in Heaven.  We forget that our life is short in suffering compared to the eternity of joy waiting for us in the presence of God.  The psalmist writes, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4 ESV).”

What our salvation does not promise us is a life without complications or challenges.  As Paul describes these challenges, some of us may have or be facing them now.  We may know someone who has faced them.  We may not be facing any of them, but may be afraid that someday we will.  Wherever you may find yourself in this list, Paul it telling us, in spite of these, rejoice.  Paul is calling us to rejoice in the face of:

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

  • Anxiety

Philippians 4:7 (NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • Doubt and fear

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

  • Negative thoughts about ourselves and others

Philippians 4:11 (NIV)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

  • Discontent or unhappiness

Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

  • When mistreated by others
  • When facing hunger or thirst
  • When daunted by financial concerns
  • When facing lack or loss

Why is Paul instructing us to rejoice in the midst of these challenges?  How is it possible that he is suffering from hunger and neglect while in prison, but he can write for us to rejoice?  How can he be content in this circumstance? Because of what he states in verse 13 “ I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  No matter what we will face, we can choose to rejoice and ask Jesus for the strength to persevere.  We can know that He will be with us at all times. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  We can stand upon His word in these areas and know that through Him we will come through.

Why can Paul write these things?  Because he lived them.  Paul faced hunger and thirst, he faced lack, he was mistreated and cast down.  I can only suggest that he faced the opportunities to have anxiety, bad thoughts and fears.  However, Paul knew who God is.  He knew who Christ is.  Further, Paul knew that he was in God’s will and purpose for his life.  In that, Paul could stand and rejoice. As he wrote in this letter, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). No matter the external circumstances Paul found himself facing, He knew that Christ lived in Him.  He knew that in all things, Christ would strengthen him.

So as we journey through life, we can choose each day the approach we take.  We may not be able to control our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to each situation.  Will we stand and rejoice, or will we lower our head and walk with a heavy burden.  I encourage you, rejoice!  For, you are a child of God Almighty.  The very presence of God lives within you.  Face the situation, seek comfort in prayer and God’s Holy Word, lift your hands and praise Him, for He will strengthen you to face this day, and every day thereafter.

A Call to Holy Living

Ephesians 5:18-20

Adam DrummThe Apostle Paul in this fifth chapter of Ephesians is giving an exhortation to the believers in the Church at Ephesus, calling them to Holy living. He is leading them through a series of scripture and teaching them how to walk as a Christian. As we come to this eighteenth verse in Chapter Five, Paul gives a command that is based upon the previous verses, and is the foundation for the verses to follow. This is a verse that I would call a hinge point. It is the verse that instructs believers on how Holy living is even possible.

Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

At first glance, it may appear that Paul is giving us a command not to drink wine or alcohol. However, what we are going to look at is the greater meaning behind this verse. What Paul is giving us in this verse is a comparison. As stated, in the previous verses, Paul has outlined some guidelines for the Christian walk, and in verse 18 he is telling us how living them will be possible. “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Why did Paul include the comparison with wine? It’s not so much the comparison to wine, but the effect that wine has on an individual. To be drunk on something means to have consumed such a quantity that it has overtaken you. It gives the sense of being led by, controlled by and carried by something out of your control. You have made the conscience decision to let this substance take over and influence you actions and behavior, your decisions and possibly their outcome. In that sense, wine is representative as a type of the world, or even as our own flesh. Do we want to be led by this world or by our own flesh?

Paul is telling believers to choose carefully what we let control us. To choose what we decide to consume to the point of giving up control to it. Paul is pleading with them “Do not let the world and your flesh overtake you, but be so consumed by The Holy Spirit that you are led by Him. That it is He that carries you and control you. It is through His influence that your actions and behaviors are decided.”

It is a constant choice to choose what controls us and leads us. Each day we must make this choice. As we give ourselves daily to be filled with the Holy Spirit, our life will begin to be controlled by His will and controlled by Him. It is a constant filling by His Holy Spirit. It is allowing yourself to be overcome by the Spirit, so that your actions are overwhelmed, just as when you are intoxicated. Paul then writes in verses 19-20 what it looks like when we are filled with His Spirit and led by Him.

Ephesians 5:19 (ESV)
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

It’s joy. Joy unspeakable. Joy overwhelming. Contagious Joy. Joy because we are filled with His presence. Joy in spite of our circumstances or trials. Joy that many people may not be able to understand. It is easy to let life and troubles overcome you. It is easy to let life determine your attitude and steal your joy. However, it is the desire of Jesus for us to live in joy. In His own words “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:11. As we are filled with His Holy Spirit, His joy will remain in us. His joy will overtake us and manifest itself through us in songs, hymns and singing in the face of trials.

Ephesians 5:20 (ESV)
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Have you ever met somebody that is able to give thanks to God in the middle of loss? It is not easily understandable. It is contrary to what we usually expect from people. It just doesn’t make sense. How can they be happy and thankful after a bad doctor’s report? After losing a job, losing a loved one or losing a spouse. Really? Thankful? But it is possible.

When we live our life consumed by His Holy Spirit, we begin to understand God’s will and purpose in a great way. We begin to read His Word with clarity and pray with intention. We begin to draw closer to Him and our relationship blossoms. Our faith grows. Although we may not understand, or even agree with what has happened, we begin to trust God. As Paul writes in Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Our faith become unshakable because we are consumed by Him, led by Him and walk with Him at all moments of our life.

Ephesians 5:21 (ESV)
submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Finally, being overcome by the Holy Spirit allows you to submit or surrender to one another.  Submission is a tough subject to talk about. At first, most people will easily say they have submitted. Whether we are talking about submission to God, or to others above us. Submission is easy when we are all in agreement. Doing what is easy, what we agree with and what we actually wanted to do in the first place is not hard. However, that is not real submission.

Real submission is evidenced when it is difficult. When we are challenged with the difficulty of the task, a differing opinion, or when what we have been asked to do is not what we want to do at all. When it is not “your way.” That is when real submission is seen. Paul is telling us that without the presence of the Holy Spirit, that real submission is not possible apart from the strength and influence of the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus knelt in the garden the night of His arrest, He prayed that we would be “one” John 17:21-22. Jesus prayed that we as His Church would be in unity. To do that, we must be willing to submit to one another. We must believe as Paul writes in Romans 13:1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

We must believe and trust in God that whatever authority has been placed over us has been placed there by Him. We must be willing to submit in spite of what we may feel or think, to the point that it does not go against God’s Word. As we live controlled by His Spirit, we learn to fear God more than man. Our ability to submit comes more from our desire to please God and live according to His word, then to please those above us.

Being joyful in the face of trials. Thanksgiving in the face of loss. Submission in spite of feelings.  This is what Holy Living looks like, and it’s a tough order to fill.  However, this is the outcome of a life overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit.  These commands are not possible on our own. These directives are not possible if we are led by ourselves, our flesh, or this world. These are only possible with God. We must choose this day what we will give ourselves over to. “But be filled with the Holy Spirit” Paul’s desire for the believers then, and God’s desire for us now.

Why Did Christ Come?

Hebrews 2: 9-12

1A common question asked today is “Why did Christ have to come as a man?”  Most would argue that God could have just decided to forgive sin, or that God could just decide to let all people into Heaven.  Why did Christ have to come and suffer if God is good?  As we look at the passage of scripture from Hebrews 2:9-12, we see five reasons why Jesus came to Earth as a man, what these five reasons mean to us, and how they answer the questions posed above.

Reason #1) To Identify with us.
Hebrews 2:9 (ESV)
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels,

Christ came to Earth to identify with us.  Christ did not just “appear” one day as a fully grown man and go directly to the cross.  Christ came, lower than the angels, stripping Himself of all Heavenly privileges, becoming fully man while still being fully God.  Christ was born as we are born.  He grew as we grow.  Christ experienced life as we experience.  He experienced pain, suffering, happiness and hurt.  Christ lost loved ones, celebrated the births of brothers and sisters, and we believe, lost His earthly father, Joseph, at a young age.  Christ came as a man to identify with us, both in life here on Earth, and for eternity as our High Priest.  For as the writer of Hebrews will tell us in Chapter 4:15, we have a High Priest who can identify with us in our weaknesses, as He has been tempted and trialed as we have.  And in verse 16, it is because of this fact, that we may approach Him with confidence.  It is because we know He can identify with us that we can bring our prayers, petitions, hurts, weaknesses and any situation we may be going through, and He will understand.  Christ came to identify with us.

Reason #2) To die for us.
Hebrews 2:9 (ESV)
But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

Christ came to Earth to die for us.  What Christ would accomplish for us through His death, we could never accomplish on our own.  As the prophet Isaiah writes in Isaiah Chapter 64:6 “Our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.”  No matter how clean or righteous we may try to be on our own, we could never accomplish through our entire life what Jesus accomplishes on our behalf at the Cross.  He came to “taste death for everyone” so that we would not have to.  There is not one person who is without need of salvation.  As the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  For God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” 2Peter 3:9.  Through Christ, a perfect sacrifice, the sin of every man and woman on Earth has been paid for.  As Hebrews 2:9 states, it is by the “grace” of God that Christ should taste death for every man.  Christ endured the pain of the Cross so that by His grace, we would not have to.  Christ came to die for us.

Reason #3) To walk before us
Hebrews 2:10 (ESV)
“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Christ came to walk before us.  In this passage of scripture, the word “captain” is a Greek word, archegos.  This word in the Greek means pioneer, originator or leader.  It denotes the impression of someone going before others, carving a path or finding a way.  This is exactly what Christ has done for us.  Through His death, burial and resurrection, Christ is the “captain” of our salvation.  Christ has walked before us.  Christ has shown us the way, and in His own words declares the same, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6.  Jesus has led the way by example, and we may follow Him on this journey to God the Father with certainty and trust.  We may follow Him through our own death, burial and resurrection.  Not physical death, although that will happen to all eventually, but by choosing to repent of our sins, we may die with Christ, bury the old man and sin nature, and rise again with Him as a new creation.  As The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Christ has come to lead us to new life.  Christ has come to lead us into relationship with God.  Christ has come to walk before us.

Reason #4) To make us one
Hebrews 2:11 (ESV)
“For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

Christ came to make us “one” As the verse states, Jesus who is sanctified and we that are sanctified are one, and He is not ashamed to call us brethren, or brothers.  In this verse, Jesus is calling us “one.”  As Paul writes in Romans Chapter 6:8 “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For those who have repented, died and rose again with Christ, He calls us brothers.  We are now identified with Christ.  And, as His brothers, and High Priest, He lives to make intercession for us in Heaven, Romans 8:34.  For, to be confident in our identity in and with Christ is to know who we are, and whose we are.  It is to know the freedom we have been given through His blood and our relationship with Him.  It is to call His Father, our Father.  Christ also came to make us one with each other.  As Jesus prayed the night before His crucifixion, we read in John 17:21 Jesus prayed that we may be “one” as He and The Father are “one”  Christ prayed that we as believers would be in unity as He and The Father are in unity.  We, as believer in Christ must live in unity with one another.  We must learn to love one another, help one another and forgive one another.  Christ has not come so we may live in division, but in unity.  Our lives and our purpose must be united.  We must live for Christ, a united Church and a united people identified with Him.  Just as Christ was “one” with God, we must be “one” with Christ, and “one” with each other to fulfill His purpose on Earth, “that all should reach repentance” 2Peter 3:9.  Christ came to make us one.

Reason #5) To glorify God before us
Hebrews 2:12 (ESV)
“saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Christ came to glorify God before us.  In this verse Jesus is declaring that He will declare Gods name to His brothers, and He will sing God’s praises.  This is a quote from Psalms 22:22. Which is a Psalm that gives us both a picture of Christ’s death and His resurrection.  Through His death, burial and resurrection, Christ has declared God’s name and sang God’s praise to all man.  And, Christ will continue to sing praise to God forever more.  It is through Christ that God is glorified.  It is through Christ that God is made known and able to be known.  It is through Christ that we enter into relationship with God, that we are sanctified, set free and declared righteous.  It is through Christ that we are able to enter into praise of God and to God.  Just as Christ brought glory to God through His life here on Earth, His death, His burial, His resurrection, and now sits at Gods right hand in a place of honor, we too may bring glory to God through our death, our burial and our resurrection as a son of God and we also may bring God glory and sing His praise though our life here on Earth.

Why did Christ come?  Christ came to identify with us, to die for us, to walk before us, to call us “one” and to glorify God before us.  Now, we must choose to identify with Him, to die for Him, to walk with Him, to become with Him, and to glorify God because of Him.

Things that Make You Go Hmmm!

Pondering the bigger questions

Wendy DrummI recently had the opportunity to discuss some parts of the Bible with a close friend of mine. They wanted to understand how someone could be condemned and be separated from God without ever knowing about Jesus. They wanted to believe that God would make an exception or another alternative for people in third world nations, or those who could have gone their whole lives without knowing Jesus, or the salvation found only under his name.

I understand this dilemma because it is one I have struggled with before, and the answer is an unpleasant one, but it is also the truth. The Bible says that there is only one name by which people are saved (Acts 4:12). Only one. There are no other alternatives. In Romans, the Apostle Paul lies it out clearly, that all people are separated from God by sin. There is no righteous person (Romans 3:10). It matters not how well they have tried to live their lives, they are sinners. All of our good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In the history of the world there has only been one good man, and He didn’t need salvation because he brought it to us.

It also says in Romans that the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), not just physical death but spiritual death as well. There is no other compromise. There is no reprieve. If God were to neglect to punish sin, it diminishes His righteousness. He is perfect. He is holy. He is just. All sin must be punished, and all of us are sinners, so all of us are condemned to die. Period. It’s not pleasant, but it’s true.

So, that makes Jesus Christ the best thing to ever happen to the world. It makes the miracle of Good Friday and Easter the ultimate act of grace from a loving God. All sin must be punished, and that punishment is death, so Jesus Christ took that punishment for us, so that we would all have the right to be called the sons and daughters of God (John 1:12). There is grace. There is love. There is mercy. It’s all right there on the cross, and it came to fruition in the empty tomb. There is salvation for all people. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him would not die, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

There it is. The Good News of the gospel. So what does that mean for the person in the third world that has never heard of Jesus Christ? I’m sorry, but we all know exactly what it means, and that is why it’s so important that we, the body of Christ, get to them while there is still time, so that not one person would be lost (2 Peter 3:9).

I know that we would like to believe that God has a back-up plan for us failing to reach that individual, but there isn’t. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6).  The only way. If there was another way, then Jesus wouldn’t have needed to suffer on the cross. If us just being mostly good, or partially righteous earned us a one on one appointment with God for him to explain things, then why sacrifice His only son? Why did Jesus need to be stripped, beaten, tortured, ridiculed and executed if that was just one of the many ways we could get to God?

He wouldn’t. He didn’t. It’s just not reasonable. The Bible tells us who God is. It tells us who Christ is. It explains who we are, and how loved we are despite all that. It lays out exactly how we got to be this way, and how God, our loving father, accommodated us. It talks about a loving plan for salvation that existed before time began, and how that comes to life around us.

That’s who God is. That’s who Jesus is. That’s who we are. It may not be what we want, understand, or can explain, but God’s ways are not our ways, and you either accept and believe or you compromise the truth. You cannot alter what the Bible says without creating a God that simply does not exist. God is who He is. His ways are right, pure and holy, and they are beyond our understanding. If you want a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and the promise of forever in Heaven with our loving Father, then you need to know the facts. You need to know God’s Word, and what it really says.

But don’t believe me.  I would recommend that you read your Bible and verify that everything written here is true, because that’s what we’re looking for, right?  Then it’s decision making time.  Now that you have the truth… what are you going to do with it?

Matthew 6:5

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

It is easy to put on the “mask” of Christianity. Saying the right words, attending the right events, even posting the right things on Facebook. But true religion is less acting, and more action. True Christianity is your daily walk, the things you do that no one will ever know about, the way you treat those around you, the way you stand up, and take responsibility, especially when it will cost you something.

A MAN OF COURAGE will not back down from the challenge that is in front of him, he will not be afraid to pay any cost for his family, he will not be afraid to humble himself and admit when he has been wrong. No matter what, it is never too late to get back up, brush the dirt off, and say yes to what God has placed before you.

God believes in you.