I wonder if we sometimes get so wrapped up in our situations that we forget who we are walking with on our journey from earth to glory. Martha did when her brother Lazarus got sick. They sent word to Jesus, but He did not come. In fact, He intentionally waited. When He finally came, Lazarus had been dead and in the grave for four days. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21 ESV).
Like Martha, our faith is tested by what we go through, and there are times when it's easy to loose faith even if it is only briefly. We may question God. Where is He in my time of need? Why is He not answering my prayers? Why do I or those I love have to go through this? Please know today that through it all, and in His grace, mercy and love, Jesus is perfecting your faith.
Martha quickly recovers and in the next breath she says to Jesus, "But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you" (John 11:22 ESV). In all appearances this seemed like a full recovery of her faith. After all, didn't she say the right thing? Maybe she did. Maybe those around heard her comment, and they thought, "What a person of faith!" Sometimes we can say the right words but be dying inside with lack of faith. Despite her words, Martha's faith was still deficient, and Jesus would need to perfect it a bit.
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:23-26 ESV)
Jesus got right to the point; He wanted Martha to see that no matter how bad the situation, He is the resurrection and the life. Nothing changes that -- absolutely nothing. Jesus spoke a word that day and called her brother out of death and back into life. Lazarus came walking out of the cold, dark tomb in response to Jesus' command. Death was defeated, and life came forth out of the darkness.
Beloved, no matter how dark your situation may be today and no matter how little faith you may have, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life. He walks with us, and He talks with us. He leads us, and He guides us. He is our shepherd, and we know His voice. It's the voice that brings calm in the storm and calls life out of death. May we say as David said, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4 ESV)."
Let Jesus bring comfort to you today in the midst of your crises. In His grace, mercy, and love, He is perfecting the faith that He has already deposited within you. He knows just what you need and the time that you need it. He is never late. He is always right in time.
There is nothing that we can see on earth which does not either show the wretchedness of man or the mercy of God. One either sees the powerlessness of man without God, or the strength of man with God. -- Blaise Pascal
You may have just completed the worse week in your life; be strong and courageous. You may be getting ready to go into the worse week in your life; be strong and courageous. Your health may be failing; be strong and courageous. Your finances may not be enough; be strong and courageous.
In the midst of a world that grows increasingly out of step with the Gospel, be strong and courageous. In the midst of world terrorism, be strong and courageous. In the midst of economic uncertainty, be strong and courageous. In the midst of wars and rumors of wars, be strong and courageous. In the midst of global warming and record setting numbers of natural disasters, be strong and courageous. In the midst of a flu pandemic, be strong and courageous.
In Joshua Chapter 1 of God’s Word, God tells Joshua repeatedly to “be strong and courageous.”
After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, "Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:1-9 ESV)
God is getting ready to take Joshua and the people of Israel on a journey out of the wilderness in which they had been wondering in for forty years and into the Promised Land. It won’t be easy. They would face a lot of obstacles on their journey that they would have to overcome, but God is telling them to be strong and courageous.
We likewise are on a journey. On our journey, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Jesus is taking us out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. It’s a journey from earth to Glory. We will face a lot of obstacles on our journey that we will have to overcome, but God encourages us to be strong and courageous.
In the midst of known and unknown obstacles in life, how do we stay strong and courageous?
I will attempt to answer that question in the next two blog posts.
Beloved, please give me the freedom of asking you some questions. What are you doing with your life today? Are you denying self daily? Are you following Christ daily? Is your life a reflection of His life? Are you a part of the kingdom of God that has been established in Jesus that He is currently ruling over? Have you been baptized into His body by the Holy Spirit (referred to as regeneration or born again)?
Please do not confuse church membership or walking an aisle and repeating a prayer after a minister as a replacement for any of these. These acts of the modern church are not found in Scripture. Following Jesus and continuing His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit is found in Scripture and is the fruit of those who have been birthed into His Kingdom through the Holy Spirit.
Follow Jesus today Beloved. Follow Him. He will take you on a wonderful journey from earth to glory and many people will be touched along the way as you reveal His kingdom to them through following Him. You will befriend people along the way that you never imagined as you see them through His eyes instead of through the eyes of society. Many will sense His love through you and desire to be a citizen of His Kingdom. That is how His Kingdom grows. We are given opportunity to not only participate in His Kingdom now, but also to help it expand. What a wonderful opportunity. Do not pass it up. And never go back.
Friend, if you are not yet following Jesus, please know today that Jesus is calling you. His call is the same as it was on this day alongside the Sea of Galilee. He calls you right where you are at and He calls you just as you are. You are not what He wants you to be yet, but that does not matter to Him. He calls you anyway and promises to make you what He wants you to be. What you will become depends upon you following Him. You don’t have to go to a church service, walk an aisle and repeat a prayer after a pastor. Jesus did not teach that at all. All you have to do is to step out of what you have grown accustomed to – that is the boat that you are in. Don’t hold on to the things of this world with a white knuckled intensity – that is your nets. Just drop the nets, get out of the boat and follow Jesus. He will take you on an exciting and rewarding journey from earth to glory.
Jesus’ call demands an immediate response. These ones alongside the Sea of Galilee this day would have to leave their former way of life and its agenda. They would have to leave the security in which they had grown comfortable. They would have to place themselves under the authority and teachings of Jesus. They would have to trust Him. They would have to walk in the faith that Jesus was now initiating in them in order for that faith to grow and one day reach perfection. It would not be an easy journey, but it would be a rewarding journey.
They made the right choice that day. It was immediate. They dropped the nets. They got out of the boat. And they followed Jesus. What will you do today?
In what does one believe? Jesus said “repent and believe in the gospel.” One must believe that Father loves them so much that he placed in motion a plan of redemption from sin even before they were created. He wants to give us His very best to show His love for us, so He sent Jesus, His only begotten son, to be the sacrifice for our sin. We must believe in that good news. It is the good news of God. We must believe in the love of Father. We must believe that Jesus is the Savior, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Jesus made it simple – repent and believe. Those who truly repent and believe will experience the kingdom of God now and be participants in growing His kingdom here on earth as we await the return of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.
Beloved, Jesus’ message has not changed. It’s the same today as it was when He walked this earth over 2,000 years ago. He brought the good news of God which is that God loves us and the kingdom of God is near. We can participate in it now. We don’t have to wait for a future age. All we have to do is repent and believe. Praise the Lord! To God be all the glory! Amen.
Time is something in which we are much attuned. We look back on our life and wonder where all the time has gone. We can not account for all of it, but we have milestones along the timeline of our life that are very meaningful. For me those times are when I graduated from college, when I got married, when I had children, when I was ordained as a minister of the Gospel and when I finally realized what it meant to follow Christ, taking up the cross and beginning this wonderful journey from earth to glory.
Throughout the time of the Old Testament, from Abraham through the Prophets, Christ was anticipated and expected. As we today read through the Old Testament, we see that Christ was typified throughout. We learn that the salvation of man through Christ is not a random act, but very well orchestrated by Father. Father loves all people so much; He had a plan of redemption in place even before the foundation of the world was formed. But it would not be in man’s timing. It would be in Father’s perfect timing. Jesus came into our world and announces that the time is fulfilled, and indeed it is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
Jesus fulfilled the old covenant which identified our sinfulness and He brought us a new covenant that would bring deliverance from the power of sin. Under the old covenant the power of sin was identified, but not broken. Under the new covenant, the power of sin has been broken through what Christ accomplished at the cross of Calvary. And in Father’s perfect timing Jesus came into our world. Beloved, God is and has always been in total control.
Jesus was the greatest person that has ever walked this earth. He came into our world and revealed to us the heart of God through His words and through His actions. His message continues to speak to us in our day. His message has not changed. If He were invited into church services this weekend, what would He preach? What message would He deliver?
To answer that question we must go back to the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Jesus had just been baptized in water by John the Baptist. At His baptism, the Spirit descended on Him and Father spoke words of pleasure from the heavens. He was immediately driven into the wilderness where He would spend 40 days in seclusion being prepared for the ministry in front of Him that would include a violent death on a cross. He overcame temptation in the wilderness and came out ready to touch people at their point of need while He headed to the cross as the lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)
The location is Galilee, a province of Palestine. Palestine was divided into three provinces – Judea, Samaria and Galilee. Galilee was the northern most province and it’s here that we get to listen in to the message of Christ. He delivered the good news of God and it was fourfold: the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:9-11 ESV)
As John was baptizing all of the people who were repenting of their sins, Jesus appears on the scene. This is the most unlikely time for the Son of God to show up. Jesus had no need to repent of sins because He was sinless. But yet, He allowed John to baptize Him. His baptism was not for sins, but was to identify with people in their sin showing His willingness to submit to God’s judgment of their sin.
Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will, which meant certain death on a cross, was pleasing to the Father and demonstrated by the Father’s words and the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus. Notice that all three persons of the Trinity was present – the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
It is hard for us to comprehend what is taking place. Jesus came into our world to die for our sin. He was sinless and had no need to die for Himself. It was all about us. The Father loves us and wants to spend eternity with us so much that He sent Jesus. The Father wants us to experience life in Him and not death. And Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and He came. He left the glory of heaven and the splendor of the Father’s presence to come into our world to live and to die. He came as the son of man and He came as the son of God. He was 100% human and 100% God. As the son of man, he lived his life as an example for us to follow. As the son of God, He died for our sin taking God’s judgment for it upon Himself. And here at His baptism He, as a man, is indwelt by the Spirit just as all those who are born into God’s Kingdom would be.
Those who follow Christ making Him their Lord and Savior are baptized with the Holy Spirit by Jesus.
Paul explains this baptism best:
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:5-11 ESV)”
I received the following question yesterday and want to take time to answer it here on my blog:
What do you think the words "dead works" mean? I know what it means to me, but could you expound on it for me? I know how it is used in the scripture, but could it also apply to Christians? Thanks for your thoughts on this!
We know that faith without works, or faith without action is dead. Check out what the Word of God says:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(Jas 1:22-25 ESV)
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
(Jas 2:14-26 ESV)
So according to what God’s Word tells us, if a person does not act on what they believe, it is "dead faith".
I believe that "dead works" would be doing good deeds without truly believing in the simplicity of the cross, denying self, taking up the cross and following Jesus, having a personal relationship with Him.
There are a lot of good people destined to spend eternity in hell separated from God because they believe, but don't act or they act, but don't believe.
I've spent the last 18 years of my life encouraging people to build a relationship with Jesus and put their faith into action. I stopped referring to myself a long time ago as being a "Christian". Instead, I refer to myself as a "Christ follower". There is a big difference.
Christians believe and churches are full of them each weekend. Christ followers believe and follow Christ in point of need ministry outside the walls of a church building. They put their faith into action daily. When they see a need or an injustice, they go into action. They can not help it. It is a change that Jesus has brought to their way of thinking and their heart because they decided to follow Him.
If everyone that attended a church building on the weekends would put their faith in action during the week, our cities would be turned upside down for Jesus Christ. A justice revival would take place in every city.
It has been my experience that the Christians who believe, but do not put their faith into action are the hardest people in the world to reach for Jesus Christ. They think they are okay, but they are not. May God open their eyes to what it means to deny self, take up the cross and follow Jesus as they love God and ALL people as their self.
And for all those who do good deeds, but do not believe - may they be drawn to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; that their works would not be dead, but alive in Jesus Christ. They are close to the Kingdom of God which is already at hand.
Does the compassionate life not demand that we be present to those who suffer; does it not require that we enter into solidarity with the poor, oppressed, and downtrodden; does it not motivate us both to move into the thick of life and to experience the hardships of existence in solidarity with the outcasts?
- Henri Nouwen,
Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life
Have you ever been in a middle of a trial in your life where you questioned God’s presence? To be very transparent with you, I’ve been there. I have been to the place where God seems thousands of miles away and I’m here all alone dealing with life.
Maybe you have been hurt by someone close to you. Maybe you have suffered violence. Maybe you are fighting a physical ailment. Maybe you have been accused unjustly. Maybe you are going through one of the greatest storms of your life and you feel like God is absent.
Look at all of the suffering happening around the world even as you read this. There are people starving. There are people without fresh water. There are wars. There are natural disasters. There is genocide. Where is God?
I received an email from an individual that caught my attention. In the email they said (and I am quoting):
“Where is god? Sitting in heaven eating grapes when there is rape, murder, wars, starvation, etc., etc.
Kinda reminds one of an absentee father, has a child and then runs off and doesn’t support him.”
As I thought on this email, I prayed and asked God to help me answer it. I can only answer it by going to God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible is the only absolute truth we have to stand on today. Let’s look to what God says in His Word as His Word is our authoritative guide for all of our beliefs and our actions.
God is not far away eating grapes as wickedness abounds in this world. God’s Word says "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us.”” (Matthew 1:23 NIV) Jesus came as Immanuel, God with us. God left heaven to come to this wicked world to be with us.
This present world that we live in is not God’s Kingdom. This world is the devil’s kingdom. God’s heart is to save us from this world and place His kingdom within us. That is why He came into the world.
Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10 NIV). This world is presently the devil’s kingdom and he is the one that is stealing, killing and destroying. Not God. In the midst of all of the injustice, God is drawing people to Him through the cross of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:14-21 NIV)
At the cross, God Himself experienced the wickedness and the cruelty of this sinful world. God Himself came from heaven to earth and was born of a virgin. He gave of Himself in helping others. He was innocent of any crimes and was totally sinless. Yet, He was tortured beyond imagination. He experienced excruciating pain as He was beaten unjustly, His beard was plucked out, He was spat upon, and He was nailed to a cross. On the cross, He was thirsty and they gave Him vinegar to drink. At the cross, God experienced every thing that Satan and his kingdom could throw at Him. It was at the cross that He died so that we could experience a better life in His Kingdom.
In the model prayer Jesus told us to pray to God that His Kingdom would come. Every time we pray that prayer, we are one second closer to the return of Jesus as King to establish God’s Kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. Until He comes, He has placed a deposit of His kingdom in every Christ follower.
After experiencing death, the ultimate blow that Satan and his kingdom could throw, Jesus was filled with resurrection power and came walking out of a cold and damp tomb after three days. The grave could not hold Him. He went in dead, He came out full of life.
It is this resurrection power that comes into every person that puts their faith and trust in God and what He has accomplished at Calvary on our behalf. He conquered this present world and all of its wickedness. He conquered the devil. He conquered death, hell and the grave. As we become Christ followers, God fills us full of His presence. He fills us full of resurrection power.
Where is God? No, He is not far away eating grapes as sin and wickedness abounds. I will tell you where God is. God is always present with the believer.
Beloved, God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you according to His Word. In the midst of all the wickedness in a world that grows increasingly out of step with God’s Word, God Himself is with you. He dwells in you! He is your peace! He is your strength! He is your comfort! He has gone through pain and suffering just like you. He knows what you are going through and He is going to bring you through victoriously!
No matter what comes your way beloved, look to the cross of Jesus Christ. See there a God who cares about you enough to endure all that Satan and this evil world could throw at Him so that you can have abundant and everlasting life.
God is not like an absentee father. God did not run off from His children. No, His children ran off from Him.
In the Bible Jesus tells us about a Father and his sons. Jesus said "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." (Luke 15:11-24 NIV)
Please make some observations with me.
The son left the father. The father did not leave the son.
The father did not run after the son and clean up the mess caused by his son’s sin.
The father patiently waited for his son to return home.
The father’s love for his son never changed.
When the son came home, he was fully accepted.
Beloved, we can relate to this parable. God did not abandon us. We abandoned him when we went our own way and did our own thing. God patiently waited for us to come home. And when we did come home, we were fully accepted by Him. It didn’t matter where we had been and what we had done, His love had not changed and He accepted us just as we were.
Hallelujah! Rejoice that God is with you! He has never abandoned you! He loves you with a perfect Father’s love. He loves you so much, He sent Jesus to take care of your sin problem so that you can spend eternity with Him in His perfect kingdom!
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