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Be Holy!?

You talk about impossible tasks. Here are a few that are humanly impossible on your own, without help from anyone or any thing:

  • Swim from California to Japan without stopping
  • Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in one day
  • Read 40,000 novels in one hour
  • Live a life of perfect holiness

Yet, God calls us to holy living. He says it this way:

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)

No doubt your desires draw you away from holy living. Mine tug on me, and yours tug on you. They try to pull us down. But according to the Word of God (v14), we do not have to conform any long to the desires of our former way of life, the way we were before Jesus changed our lives. There is another way. There is a way to holy living, a life filled with love and joy and grace and hope and goodness and courage and everything God wants our lives to be.

God is holy. In verse 16, we are reminded that it is God Himself who is the Holy One. He is morally pure, perfect in every way. He always thinks the right thoughts, says the right things, feels the right emotions, and does the right things. He is so holy and so good that He is truly the picture of holiness, our example to follow, but humanly speaking we can never attain to His level of holiness. He is all-loving, all-joyful, all-caring and all-everything-that-is-good. And He calls us to be holy like He is holy. Wow.

God reveals the way to holiness. Through Jesus, God shows us the way to a holy life, but it may be different than what you are thinking. See, Jesus was not just a moral teacher who lived an exemplary life for us to try to follow. Rather, Jesus lived a perfect life, paid the penalty for our sin on the cross, and rose from the dead, and when we put our trust in Him as Lord and Savior of our life, He forgives our sin and fills us the Holy Spirit, thereby giving us the resources within us to live a holy life. Jesus lives through us, transforming us from from our old way of life to a life of holy living. It is not by striving that we attain holiness. It is by trusting in Jesus that we are made holy by God (clean, pure, forgiven) and by trusting in Jesus that we live holy lives.

Yes, you can be holy. In 1 Peter 1:13-16, we learn some important truths about holy living:

  • Be focused — set your mind ready for action
  • Be self-controlled –– be serious about living for Christ!
  • Set your hope on God’s grace — trust in Jesus and His grace in your life; your hope for salvation and for holy living is found only in Him
  • Be obedient — one day at a time, truly one moment at a time, ask Jesus to help you be obedient to Him with every word you say, every thought that you think, every emotion that you feel, every action you take (see John 15:1-17)

Being holy is impossible on your own, but with God all things are possible.

Be holy because He is holy.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Your Salvation

8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. 11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.

The good news of salvation was proclaimed to you (vv10-12). 

  • The good news is a message of suffering, glory and grace. That is, it is a message of the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, the glory of His resurrection and ascension, and the grace that is offered to people through Jesus.
  • The good news is a message proclaimed by the Scriptures. Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, the gospel of Jesus is proclaimed. For example, in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we read of the Suffering Servant, a portrait written about Jesus some 700 years before He was born. Even hundreds of years before that, in Genesis we see that Jesus is foreshadowed in these and other ways:
    • the seed of the woman
    • animal skins to cover Adam & Eve
    • Abel’s blood sacrifice
    • the door of the ark
    • Melchizedek
    • Abraham’s promise of a son to bless the nations
    • the sacrifice of Isaac
    • Joseph rescuing his people in Egypt
  • The good news is a message proclaimed by God’s servants. In verses 10-12, we see that both prophets and “those who preached to you” are mentioned as proclaimers of God’s message. They are servants of God, representing all of the people of God. It is the job of every follower of Jesus to proclaim the good news of salvation to all who will hear.
  • The good news is a message proclaimed by the Holy Spirit. These verses in 1 Peter make it clear that we are not relying on our own strength to proclaim the message, but rather the Holy Spirit works through us both to strengthen us as we share the good news and even giving us the words to say!

Your salvation impacts you (vv8-9). How is your life different now that you have trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

  • You love Jesus. You love Him even though you have never physically seen Him. You love Him and want to obey His commands.
  • You believe in Him. You trust in Him, believe in Him, and follow His ways.
  • You experience incredible joy.
  • You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul.  

Your salvation impacts heaven (v12). 

  • all of heaven rejoices, when even one sinner repents! (Luke 15)
  • the angels lean in, to see the amazing thing that has happened to you (v12)
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Living Hope

Within the heart of every person there is a longing for hope.

  • hope that inspires
  • hope that ensures
  • hope that endures

The word “hope” is used nowadays in phrases such as, “I hope so.” For example, someone might ask you if you are going to join them for dinner. Because you know you have a very busy afternoon and evening already planned yet you really want to go, you might say, “I hope so.” You are essentially saying, “I want it to occur, but not sure if it will.”

That kind of hope is much different than the way the Bible uses the word “hope.” In the Bible, the word “hope” when it is referring to God or the way we relate to God means “absolute confidence.” It is a certain hope. The only lasting hope we have is found in Christ. The only eternal hope we have is found in Christ. The only true living hope that we have is found in Christ.

We have a living hope because of our new birth!

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

We praise God who is our Heavenly Father and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ because He has given us new birth. Even though we were spiritually dead in our sins, He has given us new birth through Christ.

  • He gave us new birth according to His mercy, not because we deserved it
  • He gave us new birth through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead
  • He gave us new birth that gives us a living hope

We have a living hope because we have an inheritance kept in heaven for us!

…and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5)

We have a living hope on earth because we know that we will spend eternity with God in heaven. As born again believers in Jesus, we recognize that we are temporary residents on earth but permanent residents in heaven. As a matter of fact, our reservations in heaven are already confirmed.

It is a good feeling when you arrive at a hotel for check-in and they are able to find your reservation. Because the reservation was made in advance, when you arrive you can get your key right away and go right into your room. And as a matter of fact, because you have advanced reservations, even the trip from your home to the hotel is worry free about where you will sleep that night because your reservation is confirmed.

In a similar but much stronger way, when you place your faith in Jesus Christ, God writes your name in the Lamb’s book of life. He essentially writes down your reservations in heaven, and reserves you a place for all of eternity. Here are a few words the Bible uses to describe your eternal inheritance.

  • inheritance that is imperishable
  • inheritance that is uncorrupted
  • inheritance that is unfading
  • inheritance that is kept in heaven for you
  • inheritance that is protected by God’s power
  • inheritance that is guaranteed by your faith in Jesus for salvation
  • inheritance that will be revealed at the last time

Because your reservation in heaven is confirmed by God, you can endure and even enjoy the journey of life, the “trip” from here to there. That is a living hope.

We have a living hope because our trials have a purpose!

You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

God is in control of the events of history. He is in control of world events and He is in control of the details of our lives. And at His very core, God is good. When you experience trials of life, you can be full of hope even though the trials themselves may be difficult. You have a living hope because your trials have a purpose.

What is that purpose?

  • Your trials prove that your faith in Christ is genuine
  • Your trials purify you (similar to a goldsmith purifying gold)
  • Your trials result in you giving praise, glory and honor to Jesus

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a living hope!

  • new birth!
  • inheritance kept in heaven for you!
  • trials have a purpose!
 
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Posted by on August 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Christian Hospitality

One mark of a Christ-follower is showing hospitality. We follow in the example of Jesus when we show hospitality to all people. In the first century, hospitality was important because hotels and restaurants were not easily accessible. Additionally for the first century followers of Jesus, times of persecution made Christian hospitality vitally important. Followers of Jesus could find refuge at one another’s homes. The first churches even met in homes, which is one form of Christian hospitality.

9 Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)

You need people to show you hospitality, and others need you to show them hospitality. God made us to exist in community. Whether it be a newcomer to your town, a friend from church, a neighbor, or anyone else, God calls us as Christ-followers to show hospitality to all people. Some cultures are bent more toward hospitality than others, but in any culture Christian hospitality is distinctive, authentic, and Christ-honoring. What does Christian hospitality look like in our world today?

Jesus was approachable. Men, women, rich, poor, kids, teenagers, religious leaders, and those far away from God knew that Jesus was approachable to them. He did not ignore them nor was he too busy for them. When people approached him, he was really interested in them. He welcomed them. He listened to them. He talked with them. He cared about them. They were important to him. He was approachable.

  • Are you approachable?

Jesus was helpful. He regularly met the physical and spiritual needs of people. He showed people love, the kind of love that exists in strong families. He showed love perfectly. He was encouraging to others, always pointing them to follow God’s path for their lives. He was full of hope. Even during difficult times, he was helpful. This is one example of Christian hospitality. This can happen everywhere you go.

  • Are you helpful to others? 

Jesus shared. When Jesus was given a lunch of two fishes and five loaves, he miraculously turned this into a meal to feed more than 5000 people. Jesus gave his time to teach others, heal the sick, and bring salvation to the lost. All of this is true even though the Bible says that Jesus did not even have a permanent place to lay his head. The early followers of Jesus shared meals with one another, regularly spent time in one another’s homes, and shared of their resources to make sure that the real financial and physical needs of others were met. They truly had the mindset that they were stewards of God’s resources and because of this they were willing to give to others when legitimate needs existed. They shared with one another.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

  • Do you share with others? 

PRAYER: Lord, help me to follow in the example of Jesus in every way. Let me be a person who shows true Christian hospitality. Through this hospitality, may I be used to help meet the needs of others and point people to Jesus. Let people see that Jesus is a loving, caring Savior who will save them and meet their every need. As I show hospitality to other believers, may we be mutually encouraged in our faith in Christ. As I show hospitality to unbelievers, may they be drawn to faith in Jesus and may they put their trust in him as Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Chosen by God

It is an amazing, humbling realization to know that the eternal God of the universe knows who you are, cares about you, and chooses to invite you to be part of His eternal family. In his first letter, a fisherman-turned-preacher named Simon Peter wrote to a group of churches to encourage them and instruct them in the ways of Christ. He begins the letter this way:

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ:

To the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ.

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

Five truths emerge from this power-packed greeting by Peter. This truths demonstrate how incredibly God can change a person’s life and how focused that person’s life can be. Peter was not a trained rabbi or theologian. He was simply a follower of Jesus whose life had been totally transformed by the person and the power of Jesus.

1. We are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. In verses one and two we see several phrases that talk about our salvation. Peter reminds the Christ-followers to whom he is writing that they have been chosen by God (v1) and that they were chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father (v2). They were saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and saved for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ (v2), meaning that as a saved person, one chosen by God, their testimony would declare to others that Jesus’ blood can save them too.

2. We are strangers in a foreign land. Chosen ones, do you ever feel like this world is not your home? Peter initially pens this letter to churches scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). These people for the most part had not fled to those areas; these were people who lived in those areas. When he said to them that they are temporary residents (v1), he was not implying that they would be moving soon. Rather, he was reminding them (and us) that we are citizens of heaven. It is no wonder that it feels like the world’s system is against us. The world’s system is not the way of Christ. Realize, Jesus-follower, that you are a stranger in a foreign land.

3. We are set apart by the Spirit for obedience. In verse two, Peter reminds us that we are set apart. This is part of what it means to be chosen by God. We are set apart for His purposes. 1 Peter 1:2 clearly states that we are “set apart by the Spirit for obedience.” It is the Holy Spirit who sets us apart. We do not set ourselves apart; He sets us apart. And we are set apart with a purpose. The purpose is not to judgmental or arrogant. We are set apart for obedience to Jesus, to be just like Him in every way. We are chosen by God to be obedient to Jesus, the best life a person could ever live.

4. We are sent out by Jesus to change the world. Simon Peter started as a fisherman, working with his family’s business and business partners. He was chosen by Jesus to be one of Jesus’ disciples! What a high honor. After three years of learning from Jesus, traveling with Jesus, eating meals with Jesus, and ministering with Jesus, Peter knew Jesus very well. No doubt that the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus rocked Peter’s world. Jesus’ original disciples now became apostles of Jesus. The word apostle (v1) means “sent out ones.” They were sent out by Jesus with a message that would change the world. It’s the same message we declare today: the message of Jesus Christ, crucified for our sins and raised again to give us eternal life. This is how Christ-followers change the world, by sharing that message far and wide to everyone who will listen.

5. We are supplied with grace and peace. The typical Roman greeting for a letter was the word, “Greetings.” But Peter and other biblical authors changed that greeting to display their faith in Christ. Rather than the word “Greetings,” they used the word “Grace.” And on top of that Peter added “Peace.” Peter spoke a blessing of grace and peace (v2) to the readers of the letter (including us!). Peter can proclaim grace and peace even though he is not the source of grace and peace — God is. For all those who are chosen by God, we are filled with His grace and peace, and that changes our lives!

Chosen by God. What an amazing blessing. Live like a chosen one today.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Pay Attention to What the Lord is Doing

When you pause long enough to think deeply about current events, what do you think about?

  • why the events are happening?
  • how to solve the problems?
  • the ways that current events will impact the future?
  • what the Lord is doing?

Did you catch the last one? We would be wise to pay attention to what the Lord is doing. In the midst of the good times, the Lord is at work. When things look bleak and grim, the Lord is still at work. Let me suggest three ways He is at work.

The Lord gives us His glorious instruction. The Bible is God’s Word to us. His Word is not just a list of rules and regulations, and it’s not just a book filled with old stories. The Bible is glorious. His instruction gives us the way to life! Read God’s Word, love His Word, obey His Word. When you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, you will have a desire to do all of those things, and your obedience to His Word will not feel like an obligation; it will feel like a joy. God gives us His glorious instruction (see verse 21 below). Pay attention to what the Lord is doing.

The Lord allows us to experience devastating defeats at times. This was true of the nation of Israel during the time of Isaiah (see verse 22 below). They experienced discipline in the form of military defeat because they turned their back on the Lord. When we disobey the Lord, He allows circumstances in our life with the purpose of bringing us back to Him. These defeats can be devastating, but they are not final. Pay attention to what the Lord is doing.

The Lord gives us hope for the future. God promises that there is hope for those who know Him. There is hope in Christ. There is eternal hope, and there is hope for tomorrow. Look to His Word and obey. As verse 23 says, “Who among you will pay attention to this? Let him listen and obey in the future.” Pay attention to what the Lord is doing.

Here are the words through Isaiah the prophet. The “servant” and “messenger” in this passage refer to the nation of Israel (aka, “Jacob”) in Isaiah’s day. The truths of this passage are relevant to our lives today. Read these verses, noticing verses 21-23 especially. After your read the verses, take time to re-read the three points above. Pay attention to what the Lord is doing.

Isaiah 42:18-25
18  “Listen, you deaf!
Look, you blind, so that you may see.
19  Who is blind but My servant,
or deaf like My messenger I am sending?
Who is blind like My dedicated one,
or blind like the servant of the LORD?
20  Though seeing many things, you do not obey.
Though his ears are open, he does not listen.”
21  The LORD was pleased, because of His righteousness,
to magnify His instruction and make it glorious.
22  But this is a people plundered and looted,
all of them trapped in holes or imprisoned in dungeons.
They have become plunder with no one to rescue them and loot,
with no one saying, “Give it back!”
23  Who among you will pay attention to this?
Let him listen and obey in the future.
24  Who gave Jacob to the robber, and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD? Have we not sinned against Him?
They were not willing to walk in His ways,
and they would not listen to His instruction.
25  So He poured out on Jacob His furious anger and the power of war.
It surrounded him with fire, but he did not know it;
it burned him, but he paid no attention.
 
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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Sing a New Song to the Lord

Music is powerful. It can lift your spirits, make you dance, and make you smile. It can cause you to reflect, make you think, and make you cry. Music brings people together. Music can make you happy or it can make you sad. Music is powerful. We all know this. God knows this too.

Song-writers have a great gift. God is honored when they write songs that honor Him. And in each generation we need new songs that celebrate what God has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. This was true in David’s generation when the Psalms were written (1000 BC), it was true in the time of Isaiah (700 BC), it was true in the time of Jesus (1st century AD), it was true in the time of Martin Luther (16th century), it was true in the time of Fanny Crosby (19th century), it was true in the time of Bill Gaither (20th century) and it is true today.

If you are a Christian, you probably have some songs that you love to hear and love to sing. There are many reasons they may be important to you, such as:

  • they have rich theology and sound Christian doctrine
  • you sang them often so they are very familiar to you
  • they express to God what you’d like to express to Him
  • they were sung at important worship services you attended (revivals, special church services, etc)
  • you like the tune
  • they are great songs to sing

Have you ever thought about the fact that at one time those songs had not been written? Then someone used their gifts for the Lord: they wrote the lyrics, set them to music, and a great song of the faith was born! We are all grateful for the song.

If we are going to help the generations after us to worship the Lord through music, we must not only teach them the songs that we already know but we should expect that God will equip songwriters to write new songs to the Lord now and in the future, songs that they will love to sing for all of the same reasons that you love your favorite hymns and songs.

In the time of Isaiah, God reminded the people through Isaiah that they needed to write new songs to the Lord. In Isaiah chapter forty-two we read:

10 Sing a new song to the Lord;
sing His praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea with all that fills it,
you islands with your inhabitants.
11 Let the desert and its cities shout,
the settlements where Kedar dwells cry aloud.
Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy;
let them cry out from the mountaintops.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord
and declare His praise in the islands.
13 The Lord advances like a warrior;
He stirs up His zeal like a soldier.
He shouts, He roars aloud,
He prevails over His enemies.

14 “I have kept silent from ages past;
I have been quiet and restrained Myself.
But now, I will groan like a woman in labor,
gasping breathlessly.
15 I will lay waste mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation.
I will turn rivers into islands
and dry up marshes.
16 I will lead the blind by a way they did not know;
I will guide them on paths they have not known.
I will turn darkness to light in front of them
and rough places into level ground.
This is what I will do for them,
and I will not forsake them.
17 They will be turned back and utterly ashamed—
those who trust in idols
and say to metal-plated images:
You are our gods!

From these verses, we learn some important truths:

  • From the ends of the earth, sing a new song! (vv10-11)
    • songs from all nations, in all styles
  • Sing a new song of joy and victory (vv11-13)
    • songs that remind you of the joy of knowing the Lord — smile!
    • songs that remind you of the victory you have in Christ — eternally and on a daily basis
  • Through the new songs, declare who God is and what He has done! (vv14-17)
    • He has restrained Himself from displaying His wrath (v14)
    • He will now show His power (vv14-15,17)
    • He will lead and guide His people and never forsake them (v16)

The people of Isaiah’s day may not have felt they needed new songs. First, they had plenty of songs to sing (the Psalms, 150 of them in all, written 300 years prior) and their circumstances did not make them feel much like singing. But God was at work in their generation — even in the midst of their troubles — and through their songs they focused on Him, gave Him the praise He deserved, and aligned their lives with His will. And the words of Isaiah 42:10 still ring true today: sing a new song to the Lord.

So the next time you hear a worship song written by Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, Darlene Zschech, or another Christian songwriter that you may or may not have heard of, stop and thank the Lord that He is still at work today through His people, writing new songs about timeless truths that help us express our heart’s desires to the Lord through music.

Enjoy the songs you have sung for decades, but don’t be afraid to learn new songs. Listen to them. Sing them. These new songs are songs from all over the world, songs of joy and victory, songs declaring who God is and what He has done.

Sing a new song to the Lord.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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