Faith Check

Today is a little bit of a faith check for you in your walk with Christ. 1 John 1-3 is chock full of encouragement to know God by following Jesus and that we can know we are doing this if our lives are evident of it. We can know that we are following Jesus if we are living in the light and if we are then we will have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all of our sin (1 John 1:5-7).

John reminded his readers that God is light and that there is no darkness within him so if those who claim to follow Christ are filled with darkness then they are fooling themselves. He also went on to say that IF we are following Jesus “then we will have fellowship with one another” (1 Jn. 1:7). This is expounded upon further when he said that

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness (1 Jn. 2:9-11).

If anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and anyone who hates a fellow believer is living and walking in darkness then is there a middle ground? Can we be indifferent towards one another and still walk in the light? If gray is a mix of white and black then if we are living in a gray zone can we truly say that we are walking in the light?

We were created to love God and to walk in fellowship with Him and with one another. When we fail to do this we are not realizing the fullness of God’s love for us nor are we able to fully live in the light that God has called us to live in.

1 John 3:18-24
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.

And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.

Our reflection of the light of our Father is dimmed by the darkness that we live in. When we are not living our lives fully in the light then we become marred by the darkness and our lives are less pure. In other words, when we are in true fellowship with God it will be reflected in our lives.

Living lives that are fully devoted to Christ creates a faith within us that is revealed through our actions, through our attitude, and through our relationships. We will make time for others because of the overwhelming love of God who wants all to come to Him to be restored. We will no longer be indifferent towards others, but we will love them regardless and we will have enough faith to stand in the path of the enemy and to speak life into their lives.

Try as we might, we cannot truly know who God is without each other. Our knowledge will never leave our head to infiltrate our heart and our lives if we try to do it alone and we never be effective in telling others about Christ if we do not love Him with all of our hearts or if we do not love the one in whom we are telling. Love is a choice and our actions are a result of that choice.

What are your actions saying about your choice to follow Jesus? Are they saying that I am just in this for me or are they truly reflecting the light of the Father and saying that the Father’s love is within me and I will do everything I can to share that love with the world and to bring people back into a right relationship with Him?

Life is different for most of us in America because we do not live life in community. The majority of us do not live with our families so we do not understand the strength that comes from relying upon one another, nor do we value one another as much because we are conditioned to believe that if we want something then the only thing that is stopping us from getting it is how hard we work for it. How much more would our lives be blessed if instead of living for ourselves we lived for those around us? Not only would we be blessing others, but they would be blessing us and we would all grow closer to Christ in the process.

We cannot and must not do this alone and anyone who thinks that they can has been fooled by the enemy and is walking in darkness. Anyone who believes they can do it alone has already chosen to do it alone and is missing out on the fullness of what God has for them in their life. We all need to learn how to think about ourselves less and to think about others more and when we do we will see more of God’s truth in our lives.

Created for Purpose

Mankind was created on purpose and for a purpose. When God created the world he created light and then separated the light from the darkness to create the first day. He went on to separate the waters and to make dry land appear, and on that land he created plants and trees. He created different seasons in different places and placed stars in the sky along with the sun and the moon. He filled the waters with all sorts of living creatures and filled the skies with birds and told them to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:22). Then the following day he created creatures to fill the lands and he created man in His own image to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:26).

God instructed man to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). God created man and immediately commanded them to be fruitful and increase in number, just as he had commanded the animals, but he also commanded man to subdue the earth. Man was immediately given a purpose after the creator of the universe “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). God placed him into the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. God created all the living creatures, but he brought them all to Adam to be named. Even though Adam was created he was created in the image of God and he shared a fellowship with God unlike any other.

Man was created to operate in relationship with God, but when man decided not to listen to God and sinned against Him the relationship was severed. Man was kicked out of the Garden where he was once given full reign and control over all things to care for them and to subdue them. On that day man lost more than he could have ever known. Today some things have changed for those who chose to follow Jesus because of His death on the cross. When Jesus died the veil was torn that separated man from God in the temple and because of this man is able to speak to God and to approach Him without going through a priest or a high priest because Jesus has become the greatest high priest and sits at the right hand of God the Father to intercede on our behalf.

With Jesus interceding on our behalf and the Holy Spirit guiding us in our lives we have the opportunity to enter into a place of communication and relationship with God. The relationship is certainly not what it was in the Garden and until Jesus returns it will not be like that again, but we are able to talk to God and to listen to Him in such a manner that we can live our lives to the fullest. The problem is that just as Adam chose to ignore God and to turn away from Him we do the same thing. We allow ourselves to be deceived by Satan who wants nothing more than to rob us of our glory and joy that can only come from the Father. Jesus told us that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10). If we want to have a full life we must follow Jesus and resist the temptations of Satan.

James 4:4-10
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

It is only by placing our trust in God and following Him that we are able to be near to God and to be who we were created to be. It is through our faith and belief in Him that we are able to recognize what He is leading us into, but the opposite is also true. When we fail to seek Him, when we turn our hearts away from God our lives begin to reflect something that God did not intend for them to be. We must keep our eyes set upon Jesus and trust in Him even during times of testing.

Hebrews 3:7-19
So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

It is our duty to encourage one another daily in keeping the faith so that none of us turn away from the Lord which means we have to be involved in one another’s lives and we have to be willing to speak out against acts that would be dishonoring to God. We need to encourage each other by reminding each other of what God has already done for us and what He is still doing in our lives. We must be willing to stand alongside one another when things get tough so that those who are going through trials do not have to carry the weight of the trial on their own.

Remember that Jesus came so that we could have life and have it to the fullest. What is stopping you from living your life to the fullest today? Where is your focus? Are you focused on seeking God and following Him or are you focused on something else? We each have a choice to make every single day and in each moment of the day whether or not to seek God and follow Him or not. When we do not we become separated from God and it is only by truly repenting of our sins that we will be able to begin to restore our relationship with God and with others. Thank God that by His grace through the blood of Jesus Christ that our sins have been paid for and that we can be forgiven when we truly repent!

Redeemed, Renewed, and Transformed

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let me remind you and me that “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 8:1). Jesus Christ died on the cross to free us from the slavery of that world that is Satan’s. Jesus Christ died so that all who put their trust in Him and follow Him will be redeemed and given a new life. No longer must we follow the ways of the world. No longer are we enslaved by the desires of our flesh, but we are being renewed by the life giving Spirit of God that lives within us.

Galatians 4:21-31
21 Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22 The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.

24 These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25 And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26 But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27 As Isaiah said,

“Rejoice, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband!”

28 And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29 But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.

30 But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.

I am a fan of the written Law because it gives me something written that can be followed, but I need to be careful because it is not the Law that saves. The Law kills and does not provide life. It is only through following Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit that we receive life. It is only through loving obedience to the Holy Spirit that we become transformed and the time may come when our lives reflect portions of the written Law, but they are only a reflection because we have been filled with the real thing. We possess within us the power of God that saves, His life giving Spirit that was sent by Jesus when He ascended into heaven for our sake.

Galatians 5:16-26
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Following the Spirit creates true spiritual fruit within our lives that following the Law cannot do. Following the Law instead produces that opposite, because it is out of our own personal power that we follow the Law, not the Spirit’s. When we put our trust in the Law we are really putting our trust in ourselves and while following the Spirit may seem like a blind and unassuming faith it is the only kind of faith that truly brings life. When we follow the Spirit in our redemption our spirit is renewed and our life is transformed. When we give up our lives as Christ did in loving obedience and submission to the Father we die to ourselves and our selfish ambitions and are raised with Christ who is seated at the right hand of God our Father (Mark 16:19-20).

The Law was meant to show us our sin, but the Spirit was sent to lead us in life. Following the Law only produces death, but following the Spirit yields fruit in our lives that is pure and far better than we could ever hope to achieve through following the Law. Jesus Christ is risen and we have been set free from the chains of bondage that we were once wrapped in if we put our trust in Him and follow Him with all of our heart. It is then that our lives will be transformed and will produce the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

May God bless you immensely with the fruit of the Spirit as you place your trust and your love in Him. May He guide you through the renewal of your Spirit which leads to life to put to death the sinful desires that once enslaved you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Life doesn’t have to be so discouraging

When I read the news these days I cannot help but to shake my head and wonder what is going on in America. I am discouraged by decisions that are being made as well as reactions to decisions being made. In a nation that is supposedly comprised of almost seventy percent of its people that claim Christianity as their religion, roughly 226 million people, it continues to astonish me how we act toward one another and in regards to our leaders.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” We live in a country that is by large a peaceful country in which we are very privileged and blessed, but how often do we pray for our leaders? How often do we give thanks for what we have?

When I go out into the public the majority of conversations that I hear are comprised of nothing more than discouraging remarks and complaints. I must admit that I can easily fall into this category as well, but as Christians shouldn’t we act differently, shouldn’t we respond differently?

Romans 13:1-5
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 3 For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. 4 The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. 5 So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

If we are truly following God then we have nothing to worry about. If we are truly praying for our leaders than we have nothing to worry about, because God’s Word tells us so and has proven the faithfulness of God when His people humble themselves and follow Him.

2 Chronicles 7:12-22
“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. 14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

17 “As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, 18 then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father, David, when I said, ‘One of your descendants will always rule over Israel.’

19 “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, 20 then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. 21 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’

22 “And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’”

If we truly want to see change in our country we need to stop complaining with one another and start kneeling with one another. We need to start fasting with one another and we need to start loving one another.

1 John 4:16-19
16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first.

Following God in love and actions is not a futile act, it is life giving and life changing. When we follow God in trust and love our lives are changed and the circumstances surrounding our lives are changed as well. We receive God’s favor because we are His chosen children. We have the power to change what is happening around us, but it’s not going to happen by complaining or rioting or by being hateful. It will ONLY happen if we will humble ourselves and submit to God who created all things and who sent Jesus to die on the cross so that we could have life. He did this out of His love for us and when we truly understand the depth of His love for us we will be humbled and will follow Him out of reverence and adoration. We can follow faithfully knowing that He loved us first.

May God bless you as you humble yourself before Him and turn from your wicked ways. May He strengthen you and encourage you as you seek His face in prayer and follow where He is leading you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’

Do NOT be Fooled!

Today’s message from the Word of God is a message of warning from Paul to the church in Corinth that should be considered prayerfully. Not all churches are being taught God’s Word or to follow God. Not all churches are being led by God’s children and if we are not in the Word of God we may not be able to recognize it. Satan is on the prowl everywhere and we must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) and be alert to the battle that is before us. If we do not we will be led astray because he is crafty and cunning and his message is a fanciful message of peace and love.

God is love…BUT…He also has a righteous anger for those who go against Him and His people. God is peace for the believer but he is fury for those who attack Him. We must constantly be alert of attacks and schemes of the enemy in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we trust and follow. Just because we are Christians or just because people claim to be Christians does not mean that we are not open to attack and we can be led astray if we are not careful. Here is Paul’s warning to the Corinthians…

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 New Living Translation

I hope you will put up with a little more of my foolishness. Please bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

5 But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. 6 I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way.

7 Was I wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return? 8 I “robbed” other churches by accepting their contributions so I could serve you at no cost. 9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be. 10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, no one in all of Greece will ever stop me from boasting about this. 11 Why? Because I don’t love you? God knows that I do.

12 But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours.13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

We live in a world where Satan is still allowed to roam and try to assert his control over us, but by the blood of Jesus Christ we have been freed from the power of sin that leads to death (Romans 8:2). Through God’s Word we receive understanding about the ways of Satan and because Christ has already defeated Satan we do not have to be overcome by the temptations of this world and that we can overcome evil by doing good (Romans 12:21).

When we accepted Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior of our lives we received the Holy Spirit and the mighty power of God, but we must learn to embrace and understand that power in order to effectively fight Satan and his followers. We must learn to see what the Father is doing, we must adopt His heart for others, His eye for evil, and His Spirit of truth and righteousness.

2 Peter 3:17-18
17 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

May God bless you as you learn His Word and understand the power that you have been given over the darkness that roams the world. May you be a blessing to others through that power as you open your eyes, and your heart, and your Spirit to all that the Father is doing around you and through you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Numbers 6:24-26
24 ‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
25 May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26 May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’