Believe and Declare

John 3:16 tells us that God’s love for us is so great that He gave His Son, Jesus, to die for us. He did this so that all who believe in Jesus are able to have eternal life with Him in heaven. God has provided the means for our salvation. What is required on our part is to believe and declare.

It is with our hearts and our mouths that we accept God’s gracious gift of salvation (Romans 10:9-10). In our hearts, we must not only believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but also that He died for our sins and was raised from the dead. In doing this, Jesus conquered death and restored us to eternal life. When we truly believe this in our hearts, we are justified in God’s eyes. We must then use our mouths to declare our faith, our belief that Jesus is Lord and that He died and was raised again. When we believe this with our hearts and declare it with our mouths, we will be saved.

Preach the Gospel in Words and Deeds

After His resurrection and before He ascended into heaven, Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, telling them that they were to go into the world and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). This commission was not just for the disciples, but also for all believers, then and now. As followers of Christ, we are to spread the good news of salvation through Jesus to anyone who has not heard it. There is a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that says, “Go into the world and preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” We need to preach the Gospel not only in words, but also in the way in which we live.

If our lives do not live up to what we are preaching, the message becomes muddled and will likely be received with skepticism by those who hear it. What we are saying will appear as hypocrisy. In order for the message to be received in the way that God intends it to be, we must show ourselves to be true followers of Christ, people who are striving to be like Jesus.

We are in a time in history where this is more important than ever. I believe we are in the time spoken of by Paul in his second letter to Timothy, a time when those who are of the world will turn from sound doctrine and turn to those who teach what they want to hear. In our society, many people turn their ears to false teachers. The opinions and beliefs of celebrities, politicians, and the like–people who do not speak the truth of Christ–are valued more than the Word of God. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

As believers, we must always be ready to preach the word in any season of life. We should be both students and hearers of the Word but, just as importantly, we must do what the Word says (James 1:22). Only then will the true message of the Gospel be received by a world so greatly in need of it.

Fellowship with God

Paul ends his second letter to the church in Corinth with a blessing. He prays that the Corinthian believers will experience the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the communion or fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I have read these words many times but, as I read them today, something stood out to me. This verse is not just a blessing, but it also speaks to community with the Trinity and how we can obtain it.

When God created man, He intended for man to be in a relationship with Him. His desire was that man would enjoy fellowship, or community, with Him. That relationship, that fellowship was broken when sin entered the world through man’s disobedience. But God still desired that man have that fellowship with Him, so He provided a way for it to happen. That is what I see put very simply in the words of 2 Corinthians 13:14.

Our restored fellowship with the triune God begins with Jesus’ grace. In obedience to the Father, Jesus came to earth and gave His life as a ransom for our sins. Although He was without sin, He took upon Himself the punishment that we deserved so that we could have eternal life. He provided for our salvation through His amazing grace (Ephesians 2:18).

The restoration of our fellowship with God also comes from the love of the Father. While God is righteous and just God and He knew that we deserved the punishment for our sin, He is also a loving Father. His love for us is so great that He gave His Son to take our place and pay the penalty for our sin. He did this so that those who believe in His Son may have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Jesus’ grace and the love of God have provided the means for us to have eternal fellowship with God in heaven. But, we can also enjoy that fellowship with God now right here on earth through the Holy Spirit. When we believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, when we confess our sins and turn away from them, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. He comes alongside us and walks with us. He guides us and speaks to us. When we have accepted the grace of Jesus and the love of the Father, we have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Our community with the Trinity is restored.

Lord, thank You for Your great and immeasurable love. Thank You for the amazing grace of Your Son, Jesus. And thank You for the enduring and comforting fellowship of the Holy Spirit. May Jesus’ grace, Your love, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of us. Amen! 

The Importance of Community

In the 1960s, the folk rock duo, Simon & Garfunkel, sang a song called “I Am a Rock.” The lyrics speak of a person who has chosen to wall himself off from others. The song ends with this person’s reason for desiring to be alone–if he isolates himself from others, he won’t feel pain or shed tears of sadness or disappointment. God’s Word tells us that to live like that, to be alone, is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 4:8). Rather, it is better to surround ourselves with brothers and sisters, friends who will be there to lift us up in our times of need (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

As followers of Christ, we need understand the importance of community. We were not created to go through life alone. God Himself said that it is not a good thing for a man (or woman) to be alone. It was for that reason that, after creating Adam, the first man, God created a helper for him, the first woman, Eve (Genesis 2:18). Man was not created by God to be alone.

The early church understood the importance of community. Not only did they gather together to praise and worship the Lord and to share in His grace, but they also shared all that they owned with each other. They made sure that all of the believers were taken care of. Because they understood the need for community, because they made it their practice to gather together, they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31-35). The result is that more and more believers were added to the body of Christ every day.

Jesus’ words also teach us the importance of community. On the night before He gave His life for us, Jesus prayed not just for His disciples, but also for all of us who would come to know Him because of the testimony of the disciples. In that prayer, Jesus prayed that we would all be one–just as He and the Father are one. Jesus knew that our ability to live in community with one another was necessary for the world to believe that He was sent by God and that God loves all of us (John 17:20-23).

Community is important, not just for each of us as individuals, but also for the kingdom of God here on earth.

Waiting

How many of us like waiting? I know it’s not a strong point for me! Waiting on lines at an amusement park, sitting in traffic, sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, and being placed on hold while waiting to speak to a customer service rep are not things I enjoy. Waiting can be difficult.

There are many Bible verses that talk about waiting on the Lord, especially in the Book of Psalms. In fact, Scripture tells us that waiting on the Lord is a good thing, something that has many benefits for us. When we wait on the Lord, He strengthens our hearts (Psalm 31:24). We are given the promise that, when we wait on Him, He will hear our cry (Psalm 40:1) and He will answer us (Psalm 38:15). Those of us who wait on the Lord will inherit the earth (Psalm 37:9).

James 5:7 tells us that we need to wait patiently, just as a farmer does while he waits for his crops to grow. It is through that waiting that the fruit of the earth will grow to the point where it provides the sustenance that our bodies need. The same is true for our hearts and souls when we wait patiently on the Lord. Sometimes time is needed before the thing that we are asking for is truly what we need in our lives.

Waiting requires patience, which is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But patience does not come naturally to us. We need the help of the Holy Spirit for that fruit to grow in us. Patience is a fruit that is well worth receiving. The Bible tells us that patience produces character in us, which in turn produces hope, a hope that will never disappoint us because it comes from God (Romans 5:3-5).

Lord, I pray for patience. Help me to learn the value of this fruit of Your Holy Spirit and to be open to having this fruit grow in my life. Help me also to fully understand the value of waiting on You. You know what is best for me and You know when it is best for me. Help me to have patience as I wait on Your answer to my prayers and as I wait on Your will for my life. I ask all of these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen!

How Should a Christian Act?

What does it mean to be a Christian, a follower of Christ? Does it mean believing that Jesus Christ is the Lord and that He died for our sins? Does it mean seeking His forgiveness and turning away from sin? Does it mean following His ways? Being a Christian does mean and require all of these things. But, how should a Christian act?

While Scripture gives us many answers to this question, especially in the words of Jesus Himself, one of the best explanations of how a Christian should act is found in the words of Romans 12:9-21. This passage of Scripture, written by Paul to the Roman believers, gives a comprehensive list of the ways in which a Christian should act.

A Christian is called to love with sincerity. Our love must be genuine and not just for show. Love that is not genuine is hypocrisy. We must hate what is evil and turn away from it. Instead, we must cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

Christians should love one another as we love members of our own families. We can demonstrate that kind of love by putting others ahead of ourselves and by treating each other with honor. (Romans 12:10)

We are called to serve the Lord with our lives and we must be diligent in doing so. We should approach our service with zeal and fervency of spirit. (Romans 12:11)

As Christians, we have hope that comes from the Lord and from His promises. We should always rejoice in that hope. When faced with trials and with suffering, we should do so with patience. And, we should never cease in praying to our heavenly Father. (Romans 12:12).

As followers of Christ, part of the family of Christ, we need to be concerned with the needs of God’s people. We should always be willing to help our brothers and sisters who are in need, and we must always practice hospitality when it comes to our family in Christ. (Romans 12:13)

When we face persecution from those who hate us, we must never curse them. Instead, we should bless them. (Romans 12:14) That is exactly what Jesus taught (Matthew 5:44) and what he demonstrated in His own life.

Christians need to show empathy. We should rejoice in the joy of others and share their joy. When others are hurting or filled with sorrow, we need to share their hurts and sorrows. (Romans 12:15)

We must live in harmony with one another and not be proud or snobbish. Rather, we must demonstrate humility and be willing to associate with everyone, not just those who are like ourselves. We should avoid conceit. (Romans 12:16)

When faced with evil, a follower of Christ must never repay it with evil. Our behavior when faced with evil should be above reproach. We should, as we are able, live in peace with others, and we should never seek vengeance. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and we must leave that to Him. We must love our enemies, even feeding them when they are hungry or providing drink when they are thirsty. As Christians, we must always look to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21).

If we need an example of someone whose life demonstrates all of these behaviors, all we need to do is turn to the pages of the Gospels. There we will find that, in following the behaviors outlined in Romans 12, we are following those of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Faith

How important is it to have faith? Considering the fact that it is one of the gifts of the Spirit, it is very important and something we should all desire to have.

Scripture tells us that we cannot hope to please God without faith. It is impossible to even come to God without believing He exists (Hebrews 11:6). So, God is pleased by our faith. Jesus demonstrated this when He responded to the faith of the centurion who believed that Jesus could heal his sick servant but just giving the word. Jesus’ response to the “great faith” of the centurion (Matthew 8:10) clearly shows that He was pleased.

Faith can accomplish much in the life of the believer. James 5:15 tells us that the prayer of faith can not only heal the sick, but also forgive sins. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, we see many examples of people receiving healing and forgiveness through Jesus simply because of their faith.

In Mark 11:22-24, Jesus taught that faith can give us the ability to move mountains. When facing a difficult situation in your life, one that appears to be as unmovable as a mountain, prayers offered in faith will bring an answer from God. Through faith, that mountain will be moved. Faith is also one part of the whole armor of God by which we can secure victory in our spiritual battles. Ephesians 6:16 describes faith as a shield by which we can deflect all that the enemy of our souls throws at us.

Finally, and most importantly, faith is what we need for salvation. It is by God’s amazing grace given through our faith in Jesus that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). The Lord’s promise to us in John 3:16 is that, because God loves us so much, when we believe in Jesus–when we put our faith in Him–we will not perish but will have eternal life. And that is the best reason of all to have faith!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

“You always leave the lights on!”

“You never give me a chance to speak!”

How many times have you said things like these to someone or has someone said them to you? In most cases, these words are an exaggeration. How many of us “always” do things like leaving the lights on or “never” do something like give someone else a chance to speak? We speak in absolutes like “always” and “never” out of frustration, not because we really mean them.

Paul uses words like these in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, but these words are not exaggerations. They are not absolutes being used out of frustration. They are words that reflect God’s will for us.

Verse 16 tells us that we need to rejoice “always”. We need to be glad and to take delight in the Lord. He is the source of true joy. This is so important that Paul gave that same instruction to the Philippians, stating it even more emphatically (Philippians 4:4).

Verse 17 tells us that we should pray “continually.” Not just once in a while, or when we are going through tough times, but all the time. We should pray without ceasing. God desires to hear our prayers. He wants us to lift up our prayers to Him day and night without losing heart. He wants us to seek His will and His answer to our prayers.

And verse 18 tells us that we should give thanks in “everything.” Not just in some things. Not just in good things or in good times. We need to give thanks in everything, in good times and in bad.

All of these things are God’s will for us, so remember to rejoice in the Lord, pray, and give thanks, not just today, not just tomorrow, but every single day of your life.

"Whole Life" Worship

One of the popular trends in nutrition and dieting is the idea of eating whole foods. These are foods that are not processed or refined and retain their natural nutrients and benefits. They are nature’s best for us. When it comes to worship, I believe that God is looking for “whole life” worship.

Worship is a way through which we can express our love for God. As such, the worship we offer Him should contain all that we have and all that we are, our whole lives–whole life worship. This is the type of worship that Jesus was talking about when He said that we should worship God with our whole heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Whole life worship is our best for God.

The idea that we are to love the Lord, to worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is found in both the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:30). Our hearts must be His. We need to worship Him and Him alone. Our souls must also be His. We need to walk on the path of righteousness and avoid temptation. And, our minds must be His. We need to focus on Him and make Him the center of our lives. Our thoughts must be guided by Him. Finally, our strength must be His. We need to put all that we have into loving and worshiping Him. We need to be “whole life” worshipers.

Lord, I seek to be a “whole life” worshiper. Help me to do that. When I worship You, let it be with all of my heart, all of my soul, all of my mind, and all of my strength. Help me to worship You in the Spirit and in truth. Help me to stay tuned to Your Holy Spirit in all that I do and especially in my worship of You. Let me feel Your presence in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

He Looks Just Like His Dad!

“He looks just like his dad!”

“She has her mother’s eyes.”

We hear expressions like these all the time, especially when a new baby is born. We delight in the fact that, in one way or another, our children look like us. In the story of Creation, God is the proud Father as He creates the first man, Adam. God had already created all of the animals, all of the trees and plants, the rocks and hills, the mountains and the seas. But His most cherished creation was man because he looked just like Him. God created man and woman in His own image (Genesis 1:27). I can imagine the pride that God must have felt as He stepped back and looked at the man He had created. “He looks just like Me!”

Unfortunately, man’s resemblance to his Father was soon to change. Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin entered the world and marred man’s resemblance to God. They no longer bore the image of their Father. That image was covered by the veil of sin. This meant that all future generations, the offspring of Adam and Eve, no longer carried the image of God. They looked just like their earthly parents (Genesis 5:3).

But God desired that His children should look like Him. He wanted to hear people say, “Wow! You look just like your Father!” So, God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin and restore us to the image of God. Jesus is the visible image of God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus Himself said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). He looks just like His Father!

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the veil of sin has been removed from us and we can now not only see, but also reflect, the glory of God. And, as we come to know and follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes us look more and more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). As a result, we can now proudly say, “I look just like my Dad!”

Glory

What does it mean to give someone or some thing glory? The dictionary defines glory as praise, honor, or distinction. So, when we give glory to a person or thing, we are declaring to the world that this person or thing holds a place of honor in our hearts, that we glorify them.

We glorify our children or our spouses by displaying their pictures on our desk, in our homes, or even in our wallets. We glorify our favorite sports teams by wearing team jerseys, hats and jackets, or displaying banners in our rooms or outside our homes. But, how do we glorify the one person who deserves that glory more than any person on earth or any earthly thing? How do we glorify God? Do we have God’s picture hanging on our walls or wear jerseys bearing His name? In this day and age, we might actually do these things, but are they the best ways to give Him glory?

God is worthy of glory and Scripture is very clear that we should give glory to God. Psalm 96:3 says that we should glorify Him among the nations of the world. We are instructed in Psalm 29:1-2 to give God the glory due His name. We can give glory to God by the way in which we live our lives. When we follow His ways and obey His commandments, His name is glorified. When we live lives that are holy, turning from sin, we glorify Him with our bodies and our spirits, which belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). And we give glory to God when we seek to live in unity with each other, when we have the mind of Christ toward each other.

God saved us from our sins to show His glory. May the lives that we live give Him the glory, honor, and praise due His holy name!

Who Should Praise the Lord?

Who should praise the Lord? The answer to this question can be found in Psalm 148.

The first four verses (Psalm 148:1-14) tell us that praise should be offered from the heavens. The angels, the heavenly host, the sun, the moon, and the stars should offer Him praise. So, the responsibility for praise rests on every creature and every thing in the heavens.

But the responsibility for praise goes beyond that!

Verses 7 through 10 (Psalm 148:7-10) tell us that praise should be offered from the earth. The creatures of the sea and the sky, every animal that walks or crawls on the earth, the mountains, hills, trees and plants. Even the weather should praise the Lord.

But the responsibility for praise goes beyond that!

Praise is the responsibility of every person who ever has or ever will walk on this earth. That includes the kings, princes, and judges of the earth, all the people of the earth, men and women, young and old.

Psalm 148:5-6 tells us why praise should be offered by all of these creatures and all of these things. It’s because He spoke and they were created. They exist because He commanded it. They were created to give Him praise. The Lord is deserving of the praise of His entire creation, including us. His name alone should be exalted and His glory alone is above the earth and the heavens (Psalm 148:13).

Let everything that has breath, everything that exists in the heavens and on the earth, give Him praise.

Praise the Lord!

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