Tag Archives: relationship

Christmas Thoughts

As a person gets up in years, Christmas seems to take on a different meaning as I set back to reminisce my dreams and aspirations of my youth. Some of my dreams are fading because of my physical ability to do them. I tend to look back at my past dreams and how they have been affected by various trials and difficulties that have happened along the way. The dreams of a large family with lots of children and grandchildren gives way to the fact that the  children have grown and become parts of other families with their own dreams.

As I ponder the dreams of my past and my family’s present, I wonder if I have given them the right instructions for reaching their dreams. Have I laid the foundation that they build on? Will they trust God as their Savior? Do they know that God as given them the gift of Salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ? Do they know there is a place in Heaven for all of God’s children? Will they teach these values to their children and grandchildren?

In the Book of Genesis, God lays out the foundation of His dreams and aspirations. In six days, God created all the essential parts of His dream. He even made mankind in God’s own image, and it was good. He also made a special place where mankind could enjoy the beauty of his creation. God was able to go to Adam and Eve and have a great evening of fellowship. God wanted that relationship and he still wants a relationship with all his children, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.

God had given Adam and Eve one important instruction: Do not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, or you will die. It was not long before that was changed. Eve was tempted and ate of the forbidden tree. In the cool of the day God was looking for Adam and eve, but they were hiding. God had to banish them from the Garden because they disobeyed Him.

It wasn’t long until Cain killed his brother Abel and people continue to disobey God. God sent a flood to wipe out the sinfulness of mankind; He confused their language; He made them walk in the wilderness for years, He made them become slaves to foreigners, He gave them a Kings because they wanted one. And so it goes throughout the Bible. But God still wanted that relationship with man.

In fact, God wanted that relationship so badly that He sent his only Son to die for the sins of man, God wanted to restore eternal life to those who love him. It is a Christmas time that we celebrate the beginning of this dream; the birth of His Son, Jesus. God’s primary reason for sending his only son was to forgive sins and restore eternal life to mankind.

However, the religious leaders were so upset with God that they did everything they could do to get Jesus out of the picture. Finally on Good Friday they made good on their threats. They nail Jesus to a cross. What they did not understand was that Jesus had become the perfect sacrifice. It was the only sacrifice that would take the past, present, and future sins of man to their eternal destination. Man could now be perfect in God’s eyes.

The second purpose for Jesus death took place Easter morning. God reached down and raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus became victorious over death.

Things are different this time around. This time God is letting man choose who he will follow. God wants everyone to accept the gift of salvation, but he is not going to force it on mankind. In fact, for those people who accept the gift of salvation and are willing to follow Christ will be given a home in heaven. Revelation 21 tells about this heaven:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5(NIV)

The new heaven and the new earth are better than the current heaven and earth. There is no separation between the new heaven and the new earth. God dwelling place will be with the people. We will be able to have eternal, uninterrupted fellowship with God. God’ ultimate dream will become reality. Sin and sinful behavior will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, never to be released on earth again. There will be unity at last. We will be restored to the perfect condition in which God made us originally and sin will never separate use from God again.

 

NOTE: All scripture in this blog have been downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

Your Articles of Faith

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

How important is it for you to know what you believe?

This may sound like a strange question; however it could be critical to how you behave. Remember Peter? He was the disciple that cut the ear off the guard who came to take Jesus. He was the one who walked on water until he took his eyes of Jesus. He was also the disciple who denied Jesus ‘three times before the cock crows’. This is the same Peter who tells us to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15(NIV)

If you have hope for the future, you must believe something. What do you believe?

Many times when Christians are asked a question about their faith, they frequently begin their response with something like: “This is what my pastor says…”, or “The church believes…”, or “The denomination believes…”, or “I was taught…” And some of you may say:” What difference does it make?”

Suppose that you were driving your car and a stranger stopped you and said: “Someone said the road might be flooded and it is possible the bridge is washed out.” Or suppose another stranger stops you and says: “The road is flooded and the bridge has been washed out.” Which person would you be inclined to believe: the first person who heard the road was flooded, or the second person who knew the road was flooded?

People are more apt to listen to you if your beliefs are ‘first hand’ and not from a second or third source. Can you imagine an automobile salesperson trying to sell you a new car based on what his boss said about the car or about what the TV ads say about the car? Would you wonder if the salesperson knew what they were talking about?

I would like to challenge you to write out your “Articles of Faith”. You may ask what are “Articles of Faith”? Articles of Faith are simply spiritual beliefs that you have. Various Christian denominations have written down six to eighteen of their primary beliefs they hold dear to their faith.

Articles of Faith are usually in a prominent place so that people could look at them to determine if this was the church they wanted to attend. They were helpful to people moving into a community as they selected the church they would attend. In more recent years, if the people are going to be involved in church, they will usually go by the name of the church, which may, or may not actually represent what the church believes. The types of beliefs written in the Articles usually deal with the three persons of the trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and The Holy Spirit. Another article may deal with God’s word, another with a definition of sin, another about baptism, another about salvation, another about heaven and hell. Some articles of faith include more beliefs and some of the have just a few but each of these beliefs helps to identify the body of church members that attend that specific church.

Most of the beliefs listed in the Articles of Faith may vary significantly between denominations simply because we interpret the Bible differently. As a follower of Christ, you should be able to state your beliefs and the reason that you hold to such beliefs. You should be able to give the interpretation that you believe the Holy Spirit gives you regarding that belief.

It is much easier just to accept whatever belief is popular so we do not offend anyone. However, God tells us to be a light to the world but if we let our light resemble what already exists, we will be unable to change the world. We will still be in darkness.

God wants to have a relationship with us. But, if we do not recognize the importance of that relationship, we will continue to follow our old nature.

Note: all scriptures used in this blog were downloaded from: www.biblegateway.com

Recognizing the Gift of the Empty Tomb

Have you ever opened a gift or something that needed to be assembled, but when you open it you think there is something missing?

When we celebrate Easter, we often overlook what is really taking place on in the tomb. We get so excited about the events leading up to the crucifixion but spend little time regarding the tomb. Both are equally important.

Jesus blood shed on the cross was to pay for our sins. It was to redeem us from the sins that we have committed or will ever commit. It was for everyone including Adam and Eve. God’s purpose was to restore our relationship with Him.

Beginning with Adam and Eve, God illustrated the importance of the shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sin. In Genesis 3:20, the writer tells about God killing an animal to make a covering for Adam and Eve. Their knowledge told them they were naked and they were ashamed of their nakedness. They tried covering themselves with leaves. But the leaves were unacceptable for covering their nakedness; it required the shedding of blood.

Throughout the Old Testament the principle of shedding blood for sin was practiced in what they called the sin offering of the people.

 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22(NIV)

On the cross, Jesus took the sin of the whole world on his shoulders. His blood was shed for the atonement of our sins. In other words, His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins past, present, and future. This in itself would have been a great gift, but it is not the complete gift God intended.

Today we are looking at the second part of the gift, the ‘missing’ part. In Luke 24, Luke is telling us of the events of the early morning of the third day after the crucifixion.

The women went to the tomb very early because they wanted to give Jesus the correct ceremonial preparation for burial. At this time, the women were expecting to find Jesus in the tomb. However, they had some concern about how they would get into the tomb. But when they got there, the stone had been rolled away. The gift was unwrapped.

When the women arrived at the tomb, God had already un-wrapped the gift. The large stone that secured the tomb had been rolled away. The gift had been exposed but the women still did not recognize what the gift was. All they saw was an empty tomb. They were deeply concerned, wondering what had happened to Jesus. They wanted the gift to match their expectations.

It was then that two men in gleaming clothes appeared to the women and said:

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Luke 24:5b-7(NIV)

Jesus was not there. God had raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus was victorious over death. The sin of Adam and Eve that caused a spiritual separation between man and God had been overcome by Jesus. Jesus was alive. We can now enjoy a renewed relationship with God. We can now have the gift of eternal life with God our Father.

When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, there were two trees in the garden: The ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ and the’ tree of life’.

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating of the ‘tree of good and evil’, God removed them from the Garden so they would not eat of the ‘tree of life’.

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24(NIV)

When Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins, He forgave all the sins of men, including the sins of Adam and Eve. Jesus was victorious over death. The death that resulted from Adam and Eve eating of the’ tree of good and evil’, no longer has control of our lives. We now have access to the second tree, the ‘tree of life’. If we accept his gift, ‘the tree of life’, we will live forever with Him.

Prior to Jesus death, He told his disciples these words in John 14:1-3(NIV):

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Because the tomb was empty, we also have the gift of an eternal home with Christ. Jesus had gone to prepare us a place, not just any place but a mansion.

Throughout the Old Testament, God promised his people that he was going to give them a Messiah. He was going to take care of his children. He promised to make the Children of Israel like the sands of the sea. Through the Prophets, God told what would happen in the future. He predicted that Jesus would be crucified and that he would prepare a place for those who believed in Him. Jesus kept all His promises mentioned in the Bible.

The women were so excited when they learned that Jesus was alive that they went to tell their friends the good news of salvation. They wanted to share their gift of the empty tomb.

“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.” John 14:9(NIV)

The other believers were still uncertain about the gift. They were confused. In fact Peter even ran back to the tomb to see for himself what had happened. Even though Jesus told them what would happen, they still were not ready for the gift that Jesus gave them

The women went to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’s body. It was not there.

Peter ran to the tomb hoping to see Jesus’s body. It was not there. Jesus was alive. He was victorious over death!

What would have happened if Jesus was still in the tomb? Where would you and I be today if the women would have found what they were expecting and Jesus was still in the tomb? Would they have had anything to tell the others? Would there be any hope for a future with God? If Jesus was still in the tomb, would you and I still be burdened with our past sin?

If Jesus were still in the tomb, we would have no hope for the future. Our life on earth would be futile. We would have nothing to live for and nothing to tell other that would allow them to get rid of their burden of sin and to enjoy the hope of eternal life with God. Jesus is our only hope.

If Jesus were still in the tomb, everything that God has promised in the Bible would be of no value, because we would not be able to believe any of the promises He made. But the good news is that Jesus was not there! He had been raised from the dead just as God had promised.

  • God does keep his promises.
  • God has forgiven our sin.
  • God is preparing a place for us. And
  • God is going to return to take us home with him.

Are you going to tell others about the gift in the empty tomb? The women were so excited about the gift that they hurried back to tell the others about the gift. Jesus is alive.

Jesus died on the cross to take care of our sinful past, but He was raised from the dead to prepare our future with Him. Have you accepted the ‘gift of the empty tomb’ or do you believe that Jesus is still in the tomb?

God wants to have a relationship with you.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:8-9(NIV)

God had a relationship with Adam and Eve and was looking for them in the cool of the evening. God is looking for you too. He wants a relationship with you too. He was willing to send Jesus to the cross and raise him from the dead so that He can have a relationship with you. He wants to have an eternal relationship with you.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog were from: www.biblegateway.com

 

Is Your Spiritual Life in a Rut?

Because of a recent, week-end snow, many churches in the area canceled their Sunday activities. In our church, the decision was made Saturday to have one worship service at 1:00 pm Sunday, for those who could safely come to church.

That Sunday morning, the sun was shining and the snow glistened from the morning sun. It was a beautiful day. But the day was different from anything I had experienced for years. On a normal Sunday, my wife and I would attend the 10:50 am service. Since it would be lunch time when we got out of church, my wife and I would usually eat out after church.

The first thing we had to decide was what to do about lunch? Do we eat at home or go out and hope we are done eating in time for church? Most of the churches had cancelled services, so we really did not have to ‘beat the Baptists’ to the restaurant.

After we ate, we arrived at church a few minutes before the service was to start. We greeted our friends with “Good Morning” before realizing it was afternoon. We had the usual “congregation upset” where you greet the people around you. Again everyone was saying “good morning”.

We normally have two services on Sunday morning. We also have a lot of congregation participation in the service, so in some cases we had two different people to do the same thing, or we did not have anyone to do a given part of the service. But it was amazing. Everyone seemed to just step in and the service went smoothly.

The sequence of the service was the same as usual. However, I found myself a bit confused because it was afternoon and not morning. I had to think about what each part of the service meant to my worship that day. I realized that so many things we do have become so routine, that we miss the blessing God has for us.

As a society, we are moving at such a fast pace that our lives become routine. We do many things while we are thinking about the next thing we are going to do or say.

I ask you this question: “Is your spiritual life in a rut?” Are you going through the worship service thinking about what is next? Or, are you basking in an intimate relationship with God?

Hopefully your spiritual life is not bound up in just a church service. It should be obvious every minute of the day. Are we so wound up in following ‘our routine’ that we are unaware of God’s presence every moment of the day? Are we also unaware of the people around us that need a savior?

God made mankind so He would have someone with which to have a loving relationship. God loved us so much that he gave his only son so we could have a restored relationship with him. But we are so concerned about ourselves and what we are doing that we forget God.

The Apostle Peter says it best:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:11-17(NIV)

Enjoy the life that God gave you and do not let your routine activity destroy the relationship God wants with you.

NOTE: All scripture used in this blog was downloaded from www.biblegateway.com

What do you enjoy about Christmas?

For children, Christmas is frequently a time when they enjoy receiving gifts. The gifts are frequently toys or games that they have been wanting. The gifts come from parents, grandparents, teachers, leaders of the various activities in which they are involved.

As we get older, we enjoy the gifts from a special someone. They could be our best friends, the person we are dating at the time, or some other person that has a special meaning to our life.

As adults, we enjoy the gifts from our children or family members. We especially enjoy the company of our families and friends. We enjoy eating together, watching sport events of Christmas programs where our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren are participating.

As we grow older, the things that we enjoy about Christmas seem to move from material things to relationships that we develop over the years.

God wants us to enjoy a relationship with Him.

In the Old Testament when man sinned, there was a price to pay for those sins. The price was the shedding of blood of an innocent animal. People were required to go to the high priest to make these sacrifices.

The animals that were sacrificed were animals that did not have any blemishes. In other words, they needed to be “perfect” animals or in some cases doves. In most cases, they were sheep or lambs. The sacrifices were made to please God. People were required to obey the commandments and laws that God gave them. There salvation was based on what they did or did not do.

Making a sacrifice was something they were supposed to do when they had sinned against God or the fellow man. However, one day that changed. God loved us so much that he wanted us to be his children. He wanted to have a relationship with his children. He wanted the love of his children. He was going to send a sacrifice that would be for everybody. He was not going to force this relationship on people but rather have them love him willfully.

God had a plan. He was going to send his son Jesus down to earth to show His love for us. Jesus would be born as a baby and experience life on earth. He was going to show people how to love. Jesus taught us about his father and what the Father’s will was for his children. Jesus taught us who God is.

Jesus lived a perfect life while on earth. He did not live to have a high self-esteem; he did not live to please other people; he did not live to condemn the world. Jesus lived to do the will of his Father. Everything Jesus did was the will of his Father and not his own will.

After a short life on this earth, Jesus laid down his life for our sins. He became the perfect sacrifice. However, unlike the sacrifices made in the Old Testament, Jesus was raised to life again. JESUS WAS VICTORIOUS OVER DEATH!

Because Jesus was victorious over death, we who believe in him will be victorious over death also. We will be able to live eternally with our Father in Heaven! In eternity, we will no longer experience sickness, disappointment, separation, etc. We will have an eternal relationship with God the Father. We will be coheirs with Jesus. Everything that the Father has will be at our disposal. What a wonderful gift God gave us that first Christmas morning!

There is only one way to receive the gift of eternal life with God the Father. In John 14:6, Jesus said that He was the “way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

You cannot receive the gift of eternal life just by knowing who God is, by belonging to a certain church or religious cult, by living a good life; you can only receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.

God does not want us to be selfish and keep this gift for ourselves; rather He wants us to share this unending gift with everyone we meet. God wants our lives to be a demonstration of who He is and not who we are.

This Christmas remember and enjoy the real reason Jesus came that Christmas night. Because Jesus came on Christmas and became the perfect sacrifice for our sin, we can live in peace even when the world seems to be falling apart and people fear what the future holds.

Jesus gave his followers these promises:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:1-4(NIV)

Later in that same chapter, Jesus said:

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27(NIV)

Over 65 Years ago, I accepted the gift of salvation made possible because Jesus was born, lived, and paid the price for my sin. Over those years, I have experienced disappointments, losses, persecution, loneliness, financial loss, times of physical difficulty, yes, and even times of war. However, through these times, I have felt the peace of God that he gives to those who believe in Him.

This Christmas season accepts God’s gift of salvation. Experience the peace that only God can give.

Merry Christmas

NOTE: all scripture in this blog were downloaded from www.Biblegateway.com December 13, 2015

The Model Prayer: Developing a Relationship With God

Matthew 6:9-15 (NIV)

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:9-15(NIV)

In Matthew 5 and the first part of Matthew 6, Jesus has just talked to the people about sins against others: murder, adultery, divorce, promises, vengeance, loving our enemies and giving to the poor. Jesus is attempting to teach his disciples about their relationships to their ‘neighbors’.

After these instructions, the disciples ask how they are to pray. So Jesus gave them a model to use in their prayers.

In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus gives us a model for prayer.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.Matthew 6:9-13(NIV)

First, Jesus tells us to honor God, Our Heavenly Father for who he is, what he has done, and will do. He is talking about our relationship with God. In Christ’s ministry, He taught that the Greatest Commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37(NIV))

Second, Jesus is addressing the second greatest commandment. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39(NIV))  Just as God loved us enough to forgive our sins, we must also love our neighbor enough to forgive them of their sins against us.

It should also be noted that in the model prayer, the act of forgiving our neighbor is in the past tense. It is not something that needs to happen in the future but rather something that has already taken place prior to praying. We cannot properly worship God if we have not forgiven our neighbor.

Just prior to Jesus giving the disciples the model prayer, Jesus was talking about forgiving others, which is an act of worship, he said:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24(NIV)

Immediately after giving the model prayer, in verse 14 and 15, Jesus emphasizes the importance of forgiveness. It needs to be noted that in these verses when Jesus is talking about forgiveness, he is talking about the forgiveness of the sins (debts) between us and other people. If we want God to answer our prayer, we need to forgive others.

Jesus  goes on to say that if you don’t forgive others, God will not forgive your sin. In other words, He will not hear our prayer if we have not forgiven others.  We cannot expect God to forgive our sins if we are unable to forgive others of their sin against us. We cannot demonstrate our love for others until we can forgive others.

In the model prayer, we are asking God to forgive us just as we have already forgiven others. In other words, if we haven’t forgiven others, we are asking that God not forgive us. When we continue to live in sin, our relationship with God is weakened.

God also knows that we are going to be tempted not to forgive others. Therefore in the model prayer, Jesus says that we are to ask for God’s help in protecting us from those situations that cause sin; those situations where Satan would interfere with our relationship with God.

The model prayer was not given to everyone, it was given to the disciples and, followers of Jesus. It was given because the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Because they were followers they already had a relationship with God, the reference about forgiveness is not talking about a prayer of salvation but a prayer of a believer or person that is already a follower of Christ. In other words, this prayer is not about losing one’s salvation if they don’t forgive others. But rather it is a prayer about maintaining a closer relationship with God by forgiving others.

The Lord’s prayer takes us in a complete circle. The goal is to have a relationship with God. For us to have a relationship with God, we must (1) worship him. For us to worship God, we must first (2) forgive others. Because we have difficulty forgiving others, we must (3) trust God to keep us from sin. When he keeps us free from sin, we are free to worship him.

 

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.