Monday, April 30, 2012


“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  – Matthew 13:44-46

Here’s a question for you, what is being saved worth to you?  I mean, really, do you value being saved?

Is being saved worth spending at least a few minutes a day talking to God?  Is it worth a few hours on Sunday?  Is it worth a gift in the offering basket at church?  If you were given the choice to either renounce your faith in Christ or be tortured and killed, which would you choose?

It’s hard for most Americans to understand that there are people right now being persecuted, tortured, and even killed for their faith in Christ.  Right now, there is a pastor in Iran who will likely face the death penalty for nothing more than his faith.  Christians are persecuted in Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Iran, and many other countries.  I urge you to visit the Voice of the Martyrs website: to see what is going on in those countries, but also to see how the Christian’s faith is strengthened through their persecution.

When I was a youth leader in a church in Minnesota, our youth put together a short drama comparing the lives of two teenage boys, one Christian and the other Muslim.  The Christian teen wouldn’t even get out of bed to go to church while the Muslim teen was willing to sacrifice his life for Allah.

I have to admire the Muslims for their extreme devotion to their faith.  Their daily schedules are built completely around their prayer life and there are many who are unafraid to end their own lives for their faith.  Now, I don’t agree with their beliefs, but if Christians in America were to latch onto even a fraction of this devotion this nation would be an entirely different place.

The parables of Jesus about the treasure in the field and the pearl of great value speak to a sold out kind of devotion that is rare in America these days.  Jesus likened the Kingdom of Heaven (being saved) to a guy who found a treasure in a field.  The guy sold everything he had so that he could purchase the field.

Or the merchant of fine pearls, once he found the most valuable pearl, he sold everything that he had to buy it.

Why did they sell everything they had?  The answer is because the treasure was worth that much to them.

Jesus isn’t telling us that we have to sell all of our earthly possessions otherwise we won’t be saved.  What He is telling us, though, is that we should value our salvation so much that we would be willing to give everything we have, every part of our life to Him.

Do you value the work of salvation that Jesus did on the cross for you that you would give your entire life for Him?

Monday, April 23, 2012


Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice.  Isaiah 32:1

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  1 Peter 2:9, 10

One of my favorite things is to see how Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus.  The prophecy located in Isaiah 32 points to a King who will reign in righteousness.  Today, we can see that Jesus is that King.  No other king on earth has ever matched the righteousness of King Jesus.

So, if Jesus is the prophesied King who will reign in righteousness, the second part must also be true.  Indeed, it is true.  Peter declared that we are a royal priesthood.  Paul’s letters to the Romans, Galatians, and the Ephesians all declare that believers are heirs with Jesus.  If we are believers are royal and heirs of the King, then the believers are princes and princesses, only stands to reason.

My favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis.  The reason they are my favorite is because they remind me about the fact that I am of royalty.  I love how Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) addresses the heroes; Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan as royalty.  There are points where Aslan reminds them of their royal destinies.  I think God used C.S. Lewis to remind us of our position.  Every time I read the books or watch the movies, it reminds me of who I am in Christ.

We need that reminder that we are royalty, we need to step into that calling, and the world needs us to step into that calling.  Why?  Read the rest of Isaiah 32.  We will become like a shelter in the storm.  The fool will no longer be called noble (just watch reality TV, lot of people getting paid millions to act foolish).  The scoundrel will no longer be called honorable (the scoundrels are those who prey off the poor).

We are to be the princes and princesses who rule in justice.  I believe that we are seeing today (the over sexualization in the media, the rampant violence, the people who take advantage of the poor) because the Church at large has forgot its royal destiny. We must, I repeat, we must remember that we, each one of us, are a royal priesthood.

The world is hurting and people are dying without Jesus.  We cannot afford to sit around and wait for someone else to do the work.  First we need to listen to God’s voice calling us.  Second, we need to act in obedience to God’s word.  Third we must pray for more harvesters (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2).  Lastly we must take a stand.

I will close with Isaiah 32:8  But he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tent Cities IV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  -  2 Corinthians 5:16-21

I have been talking about how we are living in a temporary dwelling place waiting for our permanent residence in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Since we are living in a temporary dwelling place waiting for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, not because of anything that we have done, but because Jesus paid the price for our entrance into our permanent dwelling we should think differently.  We need to think differently, because we are different.  We were full of guilt from sin, but now we are justified by grace through faith.  We were fatherless, but God has called us by children through adoption.  We were on the path to eternal death, but now we have been given eternal and abundant life.
We need to start looking at people as spiritual beings, not just bodies.  Our lives seem so long, but we’re just a breath of time.  Our bodies will expire, but our spirits will remain in eternity.  Our spirits are either destined for an eternity with God in heaven or eternal separation from God.  There are only two options.  Jesus is the perfect example of this, He made Himself flesh, but is ascended into heaven after His resurrection.

If we are indeed in Christ, we become a new creation.  For example, have you ever heard the term, “cuss like a sailor?”  In the Marines, I spent months on a ship and developed quite a potty mouth.  I also used to drink quite a bit.  The refrigerator in my apartment and a good amount of cabinet space was dedicated to the storage of various bottles of alcohols.  After I dedicated my life to Christ, these things did not have power over me anymore.  The grace God gave me empowered me to overcome these things because I am a new creation.

Of course, things don’t always happen overnight like that.  But you are a new creation.  You were destined for death, but now life is in you.  You were powerless to sin, but now you have power to overcome.  You were defeated, but now you’re victorious.  You are new.

This is the empowering gift of grace from God.  Jesus died for you, that you might be reconciled to God.  When sin covered you, that you could not approach the Most Holy God, you have been now covered by the cleansing blood of Jesus.  You are now able to approach the throne of God in boldness, because Jesus reconciled you to God.

Because you have been reconciled to God, you now have the duty and responsibility to reconcile other people to God.  You are now a minister!  Many people believe that they need some sort of title to serve in the church.  Well, you now have your title, minister of reconciliation.  Jesus has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation, entrusted.  Remember the parable of the talents?  The two wise servants invested what was entrusted to them.  The foolish servant hid what was entrusted to him.  You have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, what are you going to do with it?

 We are no longer citizens of this world.  We are now citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; we’re immigrants in the world.  Not only are we immigrants, we are ambassadors.  We represent the Kingdom of Heaven and the King.  An ambassador must live up to a very high standard because the ambassador represents his country.  If the ambassador acts foolishly, the actions of the ambassador become a direct reflection of the country he represents.

One of the biggest turn-offs to the younger generation is hypocrisy.  Whether you like it or not, you are being watched by the world.  Your actions speak for the Kingdom of Heaven.  By accepting Jesus as Savior, you have been given the responsibility of representing His Kingdom as an ambassador.  We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

 While drinking an alcoholic beverage is not a specific sin, many have fallen by the wayside because of an addiction to alcohol.  I would rather abstain from alcohol than to have someone see me, as an ambassador of Jesus, consume an alcoholic beverage and perhaps stumble.  I would rather be out of the loop by skipping a popular movie that contains gratuitous sinful behavior than to be seen walking out of the theater and be viewed as a hypocrite.  I do not want to condone sinful behavior.

 A wise philosopher said once said, “Actions speak louder than words.”  St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Preach the Gospel at all times – when necessary use words.”  The world is watching our actions.  If indeed, we are truly changed by the grace of God, our behaviors will change.  People will see that we live up to a higher standard.  They will want what we have.  We will have no need to desire what the world desires.  God is making His appeal through us.

Be reconciled to God.  Jesus paid the ultimate price, He who knew no sin, became sin for us.  Why?  So that we might live our lives the way we want to?  So that we can watch whatever movie we want, regardless of sinful content?  So that we can come to church on Sunday, but live like the devil the rest of the week?  No, I think not!  Jesus, the one who knew no sin, but became sin for us did this so that we might become the righteousness of God!

Please read the very first verse of the next chapter carefully: “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tent Cities III

 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.  But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.  We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.  For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.  – 2 Corinthians 5:11-15

When Paul writes, “Therefore,” we must always look to what he wrote previously.  In this case, we should look to the tent cities.  We could read it this way, “Because we are living in a tent temporarily while waiting for our permanent home in the Kingdom of Heaven and knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.”

So what is the fear of the Lord?

the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
Psalm 19:9

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
    and he makes known to them his covenant.
Psalm 25:14

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
     on those who hope in his steadfast love
Psalm 33:18

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways!
Psalm 128:1

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

I could go on and on about what the Bible says about the fear of the Lord.  Okay, so right off the bat, when we’re talking about the fear of God, we’re not talking about being afraid of Him.  God did not give us that kind of spirit (2 Timothy 1:7).  Psalm 24:14 says that the friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him.  If we were in absolute terror and dread, of the Lord, how would we ever have friendship with Him?

The proper fear of the Lord is a deep reverence and awe of Him.  When I think of the fear of the Lord, I think of how God appeared to Moses as a burning bush.  I love being around fire, even though we have fire down to a science, there’s still something mysterious about it.  I have a healthy awe and reverence of the fire and I do not treat fire casually.  If I treat fire casually, it has the potential to be very destructive.  However; if I treat fire with respect, I can bask in the warm glow.

God is holy.  Yes, God is our friend and He loves us, but we should not approach Him too casually.  I think about Nadab and Abihu (Aaron’s sons) who approached God with unauthorized fire in Leviticus 10.  They were quickly consumed by fire because they approached God in a casual manner.
The fear of the Lord is not only a deep reverence of awe of Him but also the hatred of all that is evil (Proverbs 8:13).  Knowing that God is holy and to be revered and that we should hate evil, we should want to persuade others.

Paul said, “What we are is known to God.”  We, who have accepted Jesus’ death on the cross for our own sins, are known by God as His children and we are loved by Him.  It seems kind of odd that Paul would say, “I hope that it is known in your conscience.”  But have you ever heard someone say, “I know in my mind that God loves me, but I don’t feel it in my heart.”  That’s kind of what Paul is saying here.  We know that God loves us in our minds, but when we really feel God’s overwhelming love for us, it changes us.  When we are changed by God’s love, we are empowered to do good things.

One of the biggest battles is between outward appearance and the heart.  It’s easy to judge a person by their outward appearance, but difficult to tell their heart.  The Pharisees had an outward appearance of holiness, but in their hearts they were no better than whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27).  If we allow God to change our hearts, we will be beyond reproach from those who boast about their outward holiness.

Jesus died not only for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  In sin we all are considered dead.  However, once we die to sin, we gain life (what a paradox).  Jesus’ death for all does not mean that all will be saved, but only those who accept that Jesus died for our sake and who no longer live for themselves will be saved.  Jesus gave His life for us; His love should compel us to give our lives to Him because He purchased our lives with His blood.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tent Cities II

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  – 2 Corinthians 5:6-10

Yesterday, I shared my experience in Kuwait and how I saw people living in tents waiting for their city to be built.  Today, I am going to continue on reading from 2 Corinthians 5.  This chapter is a reminder that our current lives are not permanent.  We are made for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul likened life on earth as living in a tent in yesterday’s paragraph.  Paul carries that thought on in the next paragraph.  Paul said that while we’re living in this tent we groan.  But He also said that God has prepared us and has given us the Holy Spirit as His promise.

This is why Paul is always of good courage.  Paul recognized that his life was all about Jesus.  He knew that everything that he went through was to prepare him for the greatness of Heaven to come.

When Paul said that while we are at home (that is on earth), we are away from the Lord.  This does not mean that His Spirit is not and presence is not with us.  Paul is simply saying that we are away from the manifest glory of God in heaven (see Isaiah chapter 6 for more information).

Paul is always of good cheer because he knew that whatever hardships or troubles he faced were temporary.  He knew his permanent dwelling was with God in His manifest glory.  Paul said, for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  While he would have preferred to be done with his life so that he could spend the rest of eternity in heaven, he knew he had a purpose.

When Paul says that we make it our aim to please Him (God), he isn’t saying that we have to perform to please God.  I remember when I was a young lad, I loved and appreciated my mother a lot (I still do).  I knew she loved me and that no matter what I did, she would always love me.  Because of this fact, I wanted to please my mother.  I loved all of the little art projects and stuff that I did for Mother’s Day.  Even if I drew something that could barely count as an abstract piece, I was so proud because this thing would please my mother.

That’s the same spirit we should have with God.  He loves us so very much and has given us every good thing.  Shouldn’t we want to please God?

When Paul writes that we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, he is not saying that we will be judged whether or not we will gain entrance to heaven or not.  Those who have confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that Jesus is Lord will gain access to heaven as promised. 

The sense these verses should give us is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19, 20.  Jesus told us not to store treasure for ourselves on earth, but to store treasures in heaven.  Or in 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 Paul tells us that the work we have done will be tested and revealed.

The words good and evil that Paul used would be better defined as worthwhile and worthless.  The point that should be communicated is that we will be rewarded in heaven for every good and worthwhile thing that we have done.  And for every worthless thing that we have done, we will not receive the reward that would have come to us.  Remember, this is not about whether or not we will get into heaven to be with Jesus.  This is just about being rewarded for what we have done.

May God bless you richly on this day, you are one day closer to when He calls you home or when He returns.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tent Villages

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.  For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  2 Corinthians 5:1-5

Different countries have different laws regarding citizenship.  Some countries allow for dual citizenship, while other countries require that you must renounce your former citizenship before you can become a citizen of that country.  The United States of America does not allow dual citizenship, upon becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, an immigrant must give up their citizen status to any other country.

When we accept that Jesus died to forgive us and invite Him into our lives as our Savior, we renounce our citizenship to the world.  We become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven with immigrant status to the world.  Yup, we’re in the world but not of it any longer.

We, therefore, must not think of ourselves as part of this world.  We have a much higher calling, a much better citizenship.  2 Corinthians 5 gives is an example of how this concept.

I have traveled around the globe, literally.  I was in Kuwait for a few months driving trucks.  One of the most interesting things I have seen is the way they build.  In Kuwait, they build the whole city at the same time.  Houses, businesses, apartments, etc… it all gets built before anybody can move in.

Just outside of the city being constructed, there were Bedouin tent villages.  I even saw a tent with a satellite dish outside of it.  The people living in the tents were waiting for the city to be built so that they could move into the city.  Their expectation was to move from the temporary dwelling of a tent into a solid more permanent home made with bricks and concrete.

That’s kind of what Paul is talking about here.  We’re like the Bedouins living in a temporary place waiting for a more permanent home.  We’re not here very long.

When I was in the Marines, I spent a lot of time living in a tent.  It’s not comfortable living in a tent at all.  Tents are dirty, they can tip over from high winds, you have no place to keep your things, and you have no security.  Tents aren’t supposed to be comfortable.

We’re not in this world to be comfortable; we’re in this life to live for God and to wait patiently on our call to enter into our permanent dwelling.  That’s why Paul writes, in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.  God is preparing us for our eternal dwelling with Him!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Responsibility part II

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:1

Yesterday, I was discussing a lesson from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I would like to carry that on today.  The grace of God is such a precious gift and with that gift comes empowerment and responsibility.

In Philippians 2:12, Paul tells us to walk out our salvation with fear and trembling.

When I was young, a family friend gave me a goose egg to hatch.  I took care of the egg.  I wrapped it in a towel and stored it safely in a shoe box.  I placed a lamp over the egg to keep it nice and warm.  The egg was a precious gift and I took great care so that the little gosling inside would hatch.  Since I wanted the egg to hatch, I didn’t play hot potato with the egg.

I was entrusted with the egg with the intention and expectation that I would take care of the egg so that it would hatch and I would return the gosling to its owner.  If, after I had received the egg, I would have left it outside in the cold and undefended, I would have taken the egg as if it meant nothing to me.  If I had played catch using the egg as a ball, I would have let the farmer that entrusted me with the egg down; my word to him would have meant nothing.

Now, the grace of God is not as fragile as an egg; however, we should treat the gift of grace carefully.  To put it another way, if someone went through a lot of trouble and great expense to give you an extravagant gift, would you throw the gift away?

Jesus, God Himself, chose to be born as a human baby.  He chose to suffer cruelty beyond imagination to give you the precious gift of grace.  He sacrificed everything at such a high cost to Himself.  That should motivate us to live and act differently.

Meditating on the grace that God has given me has changed the way I see things and the things that I do.  Knowing that I am a vessel in which the Holy Spirit of God dwells, I do not want to grieve Him.

It’s not about “religion,” it’s about relationship.  For example, my bride and I like to watch movies together.  It’s a great way for us to spend quality time together.  Now, my bride is very sensitive to the sight of blood and gore.  If I wanted to have quality time with my bride watching a movie, Saving Private Ryan would not be a wise movie choice.

If I want to maintain a close relationship with God, I should think about the things that I watch and where I go.  I should be concerned with what grieves the Holy Spirit.  What value is it for me to watch a movie that glorifies sin?  What benefit is it for me if I told a crude joke, if the joke would offend the Holy Spirit?

I had received the egg as a gift for the purpose of hatching the gosling that was inside.  In the same way, we are given grace as a gift for a purpose, that we might be the righteousness of God.

Moreover, He gives us the power and ability to live this out.  He partners with us to live as we ought.  We are not in this alone.

My friends, Jesus gave us a most excellent gift.  Why would I want to take that gift that He has given me as nothing, as if Jesus’ death on the cross in my place meant absolutely nothing to me? 

Thursday, April 12, 2012


And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  - Colossians 1:9, 10

Jesus surely has died because of our sins and He rose in power to free us from them.  He has overcome the world and fulfilled the law and the prophets to the fullest.

He has given us grace and in Him we find freedom, power, and authority through the Holy Spirit.  Grace; however, does not mean that we have a license to sin.  Quite the contrary, it means that we have power over sin.

As my friend, Peter Parker (Spiderman) learned the hard way, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Accepting the grace that Jesus so richly blessed us with also means we’ve entered into a partnership agreement with God Almighty, which carries responsibilities.

Here in Paul’s prayer for the Church of Colossae, he outlines some of those responsibilities. 
Even though this is a prayer, it is obvious that the verbs Paul uses in this prayer require action on the part of both God and the Colossians.

The first part is that we might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  I have covered a good portion about God’s will in a previous blog post, you can see that here:
Note that Paul not only prays that they would be filled with the understanding of God’s will, but that they would also be filled with the wisdom of it as well.  Wisdom is applied knowledge; in other words, it is applying God’s will to our lives and living it out.

Next Paul prays that the Colossians would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.  We are saved by grace through faith, this is a fact.  After we have accepted that grace through faith, should we return to the same sins that put Jesus on the cross in the first place?

Does one who purchases a valuable treasure keep it where it can be easily damaged?  Does a woman who purchased a dress for a special occasion use the dress to feed pigs? 

I think not!  Rather the one who buys a valuable treasure keeps it safe and protected.  The woman who buys a dress for a special occasion would be wise to keep the dress in the closet until the special occasion arrives. 

We have been bought with the highest price.  We have been entrusted with such a valuable treasure that we should want to guard and protect it.  Walking in a manner worthy of the Lord is not about “religion.”  It is about protecting our relationship with God by not grieving the Holy Spirit.  It is that we love God so much for what He has done for us, that we want to show Him that we value the gift that He has given us.  Any child naturally wants to please their parents, not because they’re trying to earn love but because they already have it.  We have already have God’s love, shouldn’t we want to things that please Him because He loves us that much?

Next Paul’s prays that the Colossians would bear fruit in every good work.  Again, we are saved by grace through faith.  Neither good work nor amount of money can get us in to heaven.  It is only through faith in Christ that we are saved. 

But Jesus said that we would be known by our fruits (Luke 6:43, 44).  An apple tree produces apples, an orange tree produces oranges, there’s only one way about it.  Grace is the greatest treasure in the world, nothing compares to it.  Jesus said that good people, out of the treasure of their hearts, produce good fruit (verse 45).  Our treasure, that is grace, should compel us to do good works that bear good fruit fit for the King.

Finally, Paul prays that they would increase in the knowledge of God.  There are only two ways that I know of to increase in the knowledge of God, study and prayer.  We should study God’s Word to know what He has said.  We pray to develop a deeper relationship with Him.

May you as well, walk in a manner worthy of God, fully pleasing to Him.  May you know His word deeper and may you be filled with His Spirit.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Suffering part III

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death – Philippians 3:12

I have been talking a lot a lot about suffering.  If it seems that I’m lingering on the subject, I do so unapologetically; I do not want any to become disqualified in the race.  I do not want believers to be misinformed.  The whole Gospel must be preached.  We cannot afford to proclaim the, “Come to Jesus and all your sickness will be healed,” or the “Come to Jesus and all of your financial concerns will get taken care of approach.”

Yes, God is able to heal us but not all get healed.  Paul didn’t get healed (2 Corinthians 12:9).  When Timothy was having stomach difficulties, he wasn’t healed (1 Timothy 5:23).  Epaphroditus wasn’t instantly and miraculously healed (Philippians 2:25).  Remember, that if a piece of cloth touched Paul’s skin, it could be used to heal people (Acts 19) and Paul healed people in Malta (Acts 28).  And if Peter’s shadow fell upon someone, they would be healed (Acts 5).  Yet, God did not miraculously heal Paul, Timothy, or Epaphroditus.

Yes, God does prosper us and meet our needs, but Jesus also said that if He was persecuted, His followers would also be persecuted (John 15:20).

What I am saying is this; if a new believer comes to Christ under the false precept that all of their financial difficulties will be taken care of, what happens if the new believer’s financial woes are not lifted instantly?  This may be damaging to someone so young in their faith.

So, this suffering stuff, what’s that got to do with me?  Read the rest of Philippians chapter 3.  Paul said that he is pressing toward the goal which is attaining resurrection from the dead.  Paul is focused on reaching the end that he forgets all that is behind him (verse 13).  Then Paul says that all mature believers should think that way and if they don’t, God’s going to reveal that to them (verse 15).  Then in verse 17, Paul tells us that we should be imitators of him, and desire to know the sufferings of Christ and becoming like in His death.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God” (2 Timothy 1:8).  And again in 2 Timothy 2:3, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”  And again in 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul writes, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul equates suffering with being a leader in the church, but also with being a believer.  Paul wrote this in Philippians 1:29, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

The very instant we accepted Jesus, we now have an enemy.  Peter said that the devil is wandering around like a roaring lion looking for victims to devour.  Then Peter writes, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:8-10).

Remember, there is a much higher calling.  We shouldn’t settle for living in a comfortable home, financial blessing, and a life without struggle.  This life is temporary, heaven is eternal.  This life is but a breath and a whisper compared to what is to come.  As the moon reflects the glory of the sun, the world we are living in is just a small reflection of the glory that awaits; or rather it is a shadow.

To remind you of this, I will leave you with a few closing verses.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:16-18

The struggles and the hardships that we will face are nothing compared with the glory that has been revealed to us.  If we are not healed in this present age, we will be given an imperishable body in resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:42).  If in this present age we face strife and hardships, Jesus returns we will be in a place without tears, without mourning, and without pain (Revelation 21:4).  If in this present age we are homeless, there will be a mansion waiting for us in heaven (John 14:1-3).  If we are lacking financially in this present age, in the New Jerusalem gold is just pavement (Revelation 21:21).

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Suffering Part II

that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, Philippians 3:10

Last week, I shared about Jesus suffering.  Jesus was mocked and beaten, whipped with a scourge, had a crown of thorns placed upon His head, had nails pounded in his wrists and feet, and was left to die a slow painful death.  And that’s what Paul wanted.

The next verse I am going to share with you is so scandalous, so shocking, that I’ve never heard a sermon about it.  Acts 9:16, “For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  If your Bible has red letters, this verse is written in red ink.  It’s Jesus talking, and He’s not talking about Satan, He’s talking about Paul.  After Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, Paul was stricken with blindness.  Jesus appeared to Ananias in a vision and commanded Ananias to remove the scales from Paul’s eyes.  Ananias hesitated and Jesus said that He would show Paul how much he must suffer for Jesus’ name.

When I first read this, I didn’t understand why this was in the Bible; could it really be Jesus talking?  I wrestled with the verse and I read on.  I read verses like 2 Corinthians 11:24-26 where Paul describes being beaten with rods three times, whipped 39 times with a lash five times, and was stoned with rocks.  Then Paul was shipwrecked three times.  But before this, Paul begins his 2nd letter to the Church in Corinth saying, “If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:6,7).”

When Paul was beaten, he was being beaten for our comfort and salvation.  And Paul goes on again to say that Paul endured all of this so that he would learn not rely on themselves but on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Then in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul says that he has a messenger of Satan, a thorn in his side.  This thorn is probably blindness as Paul used scribes to write his letters and then in Galatians 6:11 Paul says he is writing with large letters so that the Galatians would know it was him.  This is Paul, a man whom if a piece of cloth or an apron touched him, the cloth or apron could be sent away and it would heal diseases and cast out demons (Acts 19), this is Paul who cured people in Malta of their diseases (Acts 28).  And when Paul asked Jesus to remove the thorn three times, the thorn would not be removed.

Why not?  First, so Paul would not rely on himself and become conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7).  Second, so that Paul would learn to rely totally on God’s grace (verse 9a).  And lastly so that God would be magnified through Paul (verse 9b). 

Paul learned to be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  Why was he content?  Because all everything he went through was for the sake of Christ, because in Paul’s weakness, he found strength (verse 10).

On top of everything, Paul rejoiced in his sufferings (Colossians 1:24).  Paul rejoiced in his sufferings because it was for the sake of the church at Colossae and the body of Christ.  If you read on, it would seem that Paul equated suffering with being a minister of the Gospel of Christ.

I have to wonder what would have happened if Paul did not face suffering as he did.  Would Paul have been as effective as a minister of the Gospel of Christ?  Would Paul have written such thought provoking letters?  Would Paul have preached with such authority?  Would I have come to know Jesus today if Paul had not faced such sufferings?

To be continued...

Monday, April 9, 2012

Suffering part I

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death – Philippians 3:10

The tomb is empty, Jesus took our sin upon Himself in death upon the cross, but rose again in power.  I hope that you celebrated with your friends and family on Resurrection Sunday.  While His death is a somber occasion because it was our sin that put Jesus on the cross, in His resurrection we are guaranteed a new life with Him.  Jesus came to make all things new, starting with our hearts.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about the “resurrection power;” however, I almost never hear it preached about in its context.  I think that’s unfortunate, because it is doing the church a disservice by holding back on bits and pieces of the Bible.  One of the biggest parts that gets held back or made less important (at least here in America) is suffering.  I believe this it is a disservice to hold this information back from new believers, the reason I believe this is because hard times will come.  It’s a cruel world, but Jesus is always good.  We cannot afford to teach new believers that if they come to Jesus, all of their problems will be taken care of, they will be blessed, and that they will prosper financially.  Yes, through Jesus, we do receive blessing, He does promise He will take care of our needs, and He has plans to prosper us.  But that does not mean that all who come to Christ will drive nice cars, live problem free, have perfect health, and live in luxurious homes.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against praying for healing, we should pray for healing (James 5:14).  God is our Healer, He created the human body and knows every little detail and is able to heal our bodies to the uttermost.  But when a physical ailment does not get healed, does that make God any less good?  By no means!  He is still good.  He has cured us of the ultimate disease, sin and we will not face eternal death.

We should pray for what we need, James 4:2 says that we do not have because we do not ask.  But James 4:3 says that when we do ask, we ask with the wrong desires in our heart. It’s not that God doesn’t want give us good things, it is because He wants to give us His best.  When God does not fulfill our prayers, it is because He’s got something better around the corner.

Notice that Paul doesn’t just stop at wanting to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection, but that Paul would share in the sufferings of Jesus, even to the point of becoming like Jesus in death.
I urge you brothers and sisters do not stop at merely knowing the power of His resurrection.  Upon accepting Jesus, we have accepted an enemy in Satan who tries to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  When we were in darkness, the world looked us over.  But now that we have the light of Christ, the world hates us (John 3:19-21).

This walk is not going to be easy.  But we have a wholly loving, Holy God, who is always good walking with us.

To be continued…

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Servant Song Part V

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
    Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
     make many to be accounted righteous,
     and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
     and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.  Isaiah 53:10-12

          It is Good Friday, it is good because I am released from eternal death and given eternal life.  Not by anything that I have done or because I deserve it, simply because God is just that good.  Where I was guilty of sin and deserved death, Jesus removed the sting of death which is mercy.  And rather than giving me death, He gave me an abundant eternal life which is God’s grace.

          May you be blessed richly as we celebrate that Jesus took our place upon the cross and paid the penalty of death for us.  To celebrate the week of Christ’s passion, I have been going over the section of the Old Testament known as the Servant Song starting at the end of Isaiah 52 and through Isaiah 53.  The Servant Song is a gripping foretelling of Jesus.

          - Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief;

Ever since the beginning of time, God had a plan in motion.  He knew that soon after He made mankind, they would break relationship with Him.  From the very beginning, there was Jesus (John 1:1-5).  It was not the death of His Son that necessarily pleased God, it was the fruit of His death that pleased God.  In John 12:24 Jesus told a parable about a kernel of grain.  If the kernel of grain were not to go into the earth and die, the kernel would remain alone.  But if the kernel of grain went into the earth and died, the kernel of grain would bear much fruit.  Jesus is the kernel of grain and you dear reader, are part of that fruit!

Jesus faced great grief in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knew His time was short and He would soon face intense suffering and death.  Jesus asked to have the cup removed from Him, if there was another way.  But Jesus submitted Himself to God’s will.  Still He knew it would not be easy, Jesus spent the next several minutes weeping and was in such grief that the biological phenomenon known as hematidrosis occurred (Luke 24:44).  When under intense pressure or fear the blood vessels around the sweat glands contract and then dilate violently, causing them to rupture. Blood then enters the glands and is secreted through the pores of the skin.

          - When His soul makes an offering for guilt He shall see His offspring;

In Leviticus 16:8,10, and 26 we are introduced to the Azazel or as it is often translated, scapegoat.  Two goats were brought before the Lord, the first goat was sacrificed to make atonement for the sins of the people.  The second goat was the scapegoat.  The priest was to lay both hands upon the scapegoat and symbolically place the guilt of the entire population of Israel upon the goat and the goat was set free.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the purpose of both goats.  He is the sacrifice that cleans our sins and all of our guilt was placed upon Him.

Hebrews 2:10 says, “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.”

          - He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;

40 days after the resurrection of Jesus, He was given the highest position in all of the universe, at the right hand of the Father.  And the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.  2 Peter 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  God’s will is for all to come to repentance.  How many people in 2,000 years have come to repentance through the sacrifice of Jesus!

          - by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Through knowledge of the Servant, Jesus, many would be made righteous.  Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness (Romans 4).  Just as when Abraham believed God, when we believe in the message of the Servant, our faith is counted as righteousness. 

1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the world.  Propitiation means substitute sacrifice, in other words, He took all of the iniquities upon Himself.

          - Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors;
Romans 8:38 says that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  When an army conquered a city, they would take all the treasures for themselves and the rest would be devoted to destruction.  Through Him, we have overcome the world.  When He returns victorious, we shall have a share in His treasure, because He was not afraid to pour His soul out.

Luke 22:37 confirms that Jesus is the Servant who will pour out His soul to death, as Jesus said that He would be numbered with the transgressors. 

                - yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Intercession is prayer and petition on behalf of another.  Jesus is constantly speaking to and petitioning the Father on our behalf!

Romans 8:34 shows us that Jesus is interceding for us constantly.  Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus is able to save us to the uttermost because He always lives to make intercession for us!

Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed!  Blessings and peace to you.