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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.. Psalm 41:6

Finding Sanctuary in our Anxieties

There's a lot of talking about sanctuary on television today. You can hear it spoken of on practically every news cast. But are you aware how big a sanctuary and refuge our God is? Are you struggling today with something that seems too big to overcome? God's power to help us is magnified in the working of all three Persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The Psalmist writes that our God is a very present help in the time of trouble. He in His all-knowing attribute doesn't miss one wit of what we are currently going through. But why does God seem to hesitate at times in answering our prayers? In the world there is an evil presence in open and savage rebellion against God in Satan and his angels. We are in a spiritual war, not battling physical beings and obstacles but waging war with unseen evil against the cosmic forces over this present darkness, spiritual dominions and principalities, the rulers, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

In the book of Daniel we read that as soon as Daniel prayed a prayer of petition, God immediately dispatched the answer. But Satanic forces fought for 21 days against letting the answer through (Daniel 10:12-13). Even though Satan's power was lessened when Jesus died and rose from the dead he still remains a powerful foe of the Christian believer.

How can one feel the peace of God when lust hits or there are bills to be paid and no money in the bank account or you're dealing with family troubles or problems that seem impossible to solve? Enlarging your view of God is a good first step. He is awesome in His might and completely powerful to do all He purposes to do. Remember He heard Daniel's prayer request and immediately dispatched an answer.

I trust in God's sanctification. That is the state of growing in divine grace. It is a daily maturity marked by a quiet and trusting spirit in God and the promises in His Word. I read God's word daily. If you are anxious or worried reading in the Psalms is a good place to start concerning God's love, power and promises that are available in His Son, Christ Jesus. We must remember too that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Roman 8:26). When we take sanctuary or refuge in God and rest in His ability to answer prayer we can rest in His perfect will for our lives. One of the biggest helps for me, outside of immersing myself daily in God's Word and prayer, is reaching out to other believers for prayer and support. The Bible tells us to bear one another's burdens and fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). Many people praying together is powerful and knowing others know of your struggle and are praying for you can be a great comfort.

Taking sanctuary in the Living God brings consolation and hope. He has opened that door of rest and refuge for you. All you need do is walk through and lay your burdens in His hands trusting in His mercy and His awesome power. He knows what you need even before you ask (Matthew 6:8). You can lay all your burdens and anxieties on Him because He cares for you (1st Peter 5:7). May you be refreshed, encouraged and strengthened in Christ in your life today as you find sanctuary through the God of the impossible.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go I will send Him to you. John 16:7

The Forgotten God

Is the Holy Spirit some lone invisible apparition that you occasionally think about a few Sundays throughout the year? We often have such a small view of God and a large view of ourselves that it is very possible for us to think there is little or no need for the Holy Spirit at all. The Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead and completely and fully God (Acts 5:3-4). I sometimes believe many Christians don't think of or consider Him at all. He is to many the 'Forgotten God'.

He is fully the Almighty God who draws, moves on and in, gives spiritual gifts, and acts in full holy authoritative power and righteous judgment. Before Jesus went to heaven He breathed on His disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Shortly after He left them and returned to His Father the Spirit fell on the disciples in Jerusalem in a marvelously powerful way (Acts 2: 1-4).

The Holy Spirit is the 'Major Agent' in the working of the Church and in the lives of Christian believers. In His purity and beauty He works to convict unbelievers of sin concerning righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). He regenerates us (John 3:5-8, Titus 3:5), guides us into all truth (John 16:13), glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26, 16:13-14), leads us (Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18, Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1), sanctifies (2nd Thessalonians 2:13), empowers (Luke 4:14, 24:49, Romans 15:19, Acts 1:8) Brings us righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17) and is our guarantee and deposit of the future resurrection (2nd Corinthians 1:22, 5:5) among many of His works.

How can we begin to acknowledge the Holy Spirit in our daily lives? I often pray directly to the Spirit for help during my prayer times when I don't know how to pray for someone or a situation. He intercedes perfectly to God on my behalf (Romans 8:26). I include the Holy Spirit in my praise and worship for as God He is worthy of all praise (1st Chronicles 16:25, 26-29, Psalms 29:1-2, 99:2-9, 100:1-5, Hebrews 12:28, Revelation 4:8-11). And I incorporate a bigger view of God, His Complete Holiness, Personal Identity, Attributes, Strengths, Magnitude and Magnificence are honored in my daily devotions. As God, the Holy Spirit is included in that. He is a divine Presence, a Power and a real Person.

Meditate on that and make Him a highly remembered part of the Godhead and of your daily adoration, worship, love and praise. He is to be revered and reverenced as God and considered worthy of all our worship and praise. It excites us spiritually when we have the joy of experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and as He exists in His Personal Being He will not be the Forgotten God. On the contrary, He will be remembered and recalled with awe and reverence. To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be all the glory forever and ever.


Monday, April 2, 2018

Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? Job 26:14

Enlarging God

Have you ever gotten out of a city's light pollution and it is dark enough to see the heavens? To stand and view the stars of just our own galaxy is awe inspiring and humbling. God, who has created the entire universe, is indeed immense and powerful in His Being. The heavens cannot contain Him (2nd Chronicles 2:6, Psalms 113:5, 1st Kings 8:27).

There have been times in my past when my view of God has been small and I have made Him into a God of my imagination, feeling and thinking He is just like me and ignoring all of his Attributes and the qualities of His perfect and divine character. I've failed to understand that He in the fullness of His Spiritual Magnitude and Character displays omnipotence (completely and totally powerful), omnipresence (everywhere at the same time), and omniscience (knows everything). He is perfectly holy, self-existent, infinite, personal, endowed with perfect wisdom, the Creator of all things, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable (cannot be changed or will not change), perfect. He is truth, impassable-without passion and not overwhelmed by any emotion, sovereign, He is capable of wrath, which leads Him to judgment and punishment of unrighteousness, God is jealous, He will not share the idea that He has to share our passion and affection with anyone or anything else. Immanent in His creation (involved directly with it). This does not exhaust His attributes for His Character is so vast and expansive that it can never be fully explored or comprehended.

Enlarging God results in changing our view of looking to Him just to see what we can get from Him. He wants more from us than that. He wants us to seek Him and to know Him first for Who He is which can only be accomplished through His Son Jesus Christ, whom He loves (John 14:6, Matthew 3:17, 17:5, Mark 1:11). A.W. Tozer wrote How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.

It is a believer's joy that we can turn to an infinite and holy Being where there can be no end to knowing Him. If your God is a limited God of your imagination you can enlarge Him by seeking Him first to create a fellowship with Him that is fulfilling and satisfying. At times He works with a whisper but when He thunders in His power who can understand? His perfections go on forever and He bids us to know Him so He can reveal Himself to us in so many personal and beautiful ways. That is His desire for you.

Is it time to enlarge your God?


Monday, March 26, 2018

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. Mark 16:5-6

Open and Empty

Three days after Jesus' dead body was taken down from a Roman cross and put in a tomb, the tomb was found open and empty. Many suggestions have been around for centuries trying to explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some of the suggestions are that He wasn't really dead when He was taken down from the cross to the absurd story that His disciples came in the night and stole His body from under the noses of seasoned Roman soldiers who were all sleeping on duty and then spreading the story Jesus had risen from the dead.

When the guards reported the empty tomb to the chief priests and the elders responsible for the death of Jesus they were bribed to say Christ's disciples stole the body while the guards slept (Matthew 28:11-15). In the Roman Army the penalty for any soldier sleeping on duty was death (fustuarium). The elders told the guards if the matter came to the governor's ears they would satisfy him and keep them out of trouble (Matthew 28:14). The guards accepted the bribe and spread the farfetched story that Jesus' disciples had stolen His body.

The only plausible consideration, and the only one that fully agrees with the eye witness accounts, is God resurrected Christ from the grave and He is alive today and seated at His right hand (Acts 1:9, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1). The question that leads all the rest is if the resurrection of Jesus was concocted by His followers why didn't the religious leaders simply produce His body? That would have stopped Christianity in its tracks. The chief priests and elders knew where He was buried. They put the guard detail at the tomb themselves under the command of Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:62-66)!

With the body missing from the tomb there was no reasonable explanation for the chief priests and elders as to how a sealed tomb with guards present could be open and empty nor explain the guards fearful reaction to what actually happened when the resurrection occurred. There was an earthquake and an angel appeared and moved the stone from the mouth of the tomb and sat on it and for fear of him they trembled and fell down as dead men (Matthew 28:2-4). The elders could not deny the tomb was open and empty. The only thing they could do was concoct the ludicrous story that weak and unarmed disciples outwitted some of Rome's best soldiers and made off with the body of Jesus.

All of the Christian faith revolves around the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The resurrection is the pivotal point of human history. Without it Christianity lapses into simply a man-made religion and loses any relationship with the Living God. If we only have hope in Christ in this life then we are of all people the most to be pitied (1st Corinthians 15:19). That Jesus rose from the dead means He is now alive and returning soon to restore and sit upon the throne of His ancestor David to rule in righteousness forever (2nd Samuel 7:16, Luke 1:32).

Easter is upon us and it is a joyous time of celebration and anticipation of the Second Advent of Christ. It is not about eggs and bunnies. It's about a Lamb. A Lamb that was slain for the sins of the world even before its foundation (1st Peter 1:18-20) and is risen from the dead and is alive forevermore. Rejoice and praise God for the day! The tomb is open and empty. Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Happy Easter.


Monday, March 19, 2018

When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man will die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Ezekiel 33:8

The Bridge is Out

The driver and his family had been following the fine wide highway for miles. It was an easy way to go. Coming around a bend they came upon a state highway worker with a large stop sign.

The driver stopped and rolled his window down and asked the road crew worker, “What's the problem?”

The road crew worker said, “The bridge ahead is out.”

Oh, that shouldn't be a problem,” said the driver.

The road crew worker lowered his sign. “I will be held responsible, not to mention guilty, if I don't warn you there is no bridge across the river and it is treacherous and deep. If you keep going you and your family will perish.”

The driver smirked. “How could a State that loves good drivers send them into a river to perish?” he asked. The road crew worker smiled sympathetically. “If you turn around and go back to Highway 7 it will take you safely to your destination. It's narrower than this road and a little harder to navigate but it will get you there. If you keep going down this road you will perish.”

The driver rolled his eyes with contempt. “Oh, I don't believe the bridge is out and as you can see this highway is wide and fine. And as far as I'm concerned I don't even believe there is a river. I'll go on and it'll be fine. I'm a good driver and the State should know that. Now stand back.”

Before the road crew worker could say another word the driver hit the gas and squealed around him and headed down the road. The road worker frowned as he watched the car disappear down the wide road. “Hmm,” he said to himself, “the narrow way is hard and few there be that find it.” Neither the driver nor his family were ever seen or heard from again. How could a State that loved good drivers send a person to a destroyed bridge on the edge of a swollen and raging river? It's simple. Even with the warning the driver chose to ignore it and go there. The State did not send him there.

Call me what you will but if I did not tell you that hell is an agonizingly real place and one to be shunned (Luke 16:19-31) I would be negligent and guilty in my duty to you as a follower of Christ. Jesus spoke often about hell (Matthew 8:12, 13:42, 25:46, Mark 9:42-48). Hell is eternal separation from God and a domain of great horror. Consider what Jesus had to say about it in the verses above. God doesn't send anyone to hell, they go there by their own choice. Have you never heard that the gates of hell are locked from the inside? In fact, God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2nd Peter 3:9). But how can a completely Holy God allow a completely sinful people to spend eternity in His presence?

Why did God choose eternal death as the penalty for the unrepentant? Because men and women can never fully pay for their sins and the payment for rebellion against God is eternal death even as the righteous price Christ fully paid to forgive sin is eternal life in Him. Eternal punishment was originally prepared for Satan and the angels who rebelled with him against God (Matthew 25:41).

Sin has destroyed the bridge we once had to God. However there is good news. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to fix it. He became the only Bridge of Access to God that has reestablished fellowship with Him once again (John 14:6). If you're in the driver's seat and you don't believe that God sent His Son to be that bridge to fellowship with Him then I would suggest you turn around and take the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-14) through the Son and believe on Him. It's true the way is narrower than the wide way that leads to destruction but it will still get you safely to where you want to go.

If you simply believe that Jesus is God's only begotten Son (Acts 16:31), who died for your sins and rose bodily from the grave three days later and will return again to Earth as its ruling King, you will have taken the narrow way to righteous eternal life. It's that simple. Why not trust in Jesus? What have you got to lose except a washed out bridge to disaster?


Saturday, March 10, 2018

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” 1st Peter 1:15-16

Wholly Holy

When I first read God's command 'Be holy for I am holy' I thought 'That's totally impossible!' It wasn't until I happened to come across the book The Pursuit of Holiness, by the author Jerry Bridges, that the explanation to be holy because God is holy became clear. He knows we can't be holy just like He is-that is impossible. But He calls us to a life of holy living by obeying His precepts and holy directions for our lives in our daily activities. That is completely doable.

After reading this book I became aware of how ignorant the average believer was concerning God's attribute of holiness. Shortly after reading the book I taught a weekend class on holiness. My first question to the class was; “Does God want to be known first for His holiness or His love?” To a person everyone said “For His love” and gasped when I said “He wants to be known first for His holiness.”

While we cannot attain the kind of perfect holiness that is the premier attribute of God the Father we can choose to seek to walk in a God-honoring fellowship with Him with the help of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Holiness is not an option, something you can take or leave. God's words in the Old Testament (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26) and the New Testament (cf 1:13-16,) are clear commands to practice and live a holy life.

Living a life of purity and righteousness, a holy life, is one of the most liberating things we can experience. It sets us apart to God, clears the conscience, allows the Holy Spirit to empower our hearts and minds, creates clearness of thought, excites the spirit within us to share Christ and disciple other Christians and leads us into a deeper fellowship with God which He, Himself, deeply desires. He is Wholly Holy in a way that is unfathomable, yet He desires us to live lives of righteousness in our behavior and our daily conduct. God says “Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you” (Leviticus 20:8). God's holiness is defined by an incomprehensible purity. His holiness is something that is impossible for us to attain but we can still walk obediently in His holy statutes and in that sense we can be pleasingly wholly holy to Him.


Monday, March 5, 2018

Consequently He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

The Perfect Person

If you had to defend yourself to a completely holy and pure God what would you say or do? Would you stand tall or cower? Would you speak with great skill or would you be tongue tied? Would you be confident or terrified?

Speaking of Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews says 'For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Hebrews 4:15).

A big problem exists for believers with the age-old accuser of Christians, Satan, who consistently attacks and brings rabid accusations against us. Even though Christ defeated sin when He died and rose from the dead three days later we're still plagued by a sin nature. It causes us to occasionally step out of the will of God giving the devil an excuse to accuse us before Him (Job 1:6-11). That's the bad news.

The good news is Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory and He continually defends us and contests the devil's attacks against us. He declares us forgiven by His sacrifice on the cross (Romans 5:10). Why do we need a high priest to intercede for us and another human at that? What better representation can we have before a perfectly Holy God than another perfectly holy fellow human being that experienced the physical hardships of life (Matthew 9:35, John 4:6-7, 31)? We don't need to ask if He'll do it for us. He's already on the job interceding for us as our great High Priest. Jesus is the Perfect Person for it. Now that is just perfect isn't it?