Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving - Part 4

            As we approach our Thanksgiving celebration, I’ll close my look at thankfulness with one more thought.  This thought comes from Ephesians 2, starting in verse 8, where Paul writes: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 
            What we see in this passage is that salvation is a gift of God.  It’s something we receive by grace.  In other words, it’s an undeserved gift that God has given us.
            It’s an undeserved gift because we are all sinners.  And, because of our sin, the only thing we deserve is death and hell.  Yet, in spite of our sin and the punishment we deserve, God loved us enough to send his Son into the world.  Jesus loved us enough to give his life in our place, paying the penalty of our sin.  God loved us enough to offer his salvation to all people through faith in Jesus.
            Most of us believe that we’ll be saved in the end.  We believe that we’ll go to heaven.  However, this belief is based entirely upon our actions.  We believe that we’ll be saved because we think of ourselves as good people.  We believe that, over all, we’ve done more good than bad.
            However, as this passage tells us, our salvation is not our own doing.  It’s not the result of our works.  And, for this reason, we can’t boast in any way.  None of us can rightfully claim that we have earned our way into heaven.
            The only one who can take credit for our salvation is the Lord.  Were it not for him, none of us would be saved.  Were it not for him, we would be lost forever.
Even though it bruises our ego to hear of our sin and our inability to save ourselves, it’s a message that we need to hear.  Unless we realize this truth, we can’t receive the good news of the gospel.  As long as we try to save ourselves, we will not look to Christ for the salvation he’s already provided.  We will not receive his salvation for what it is, a gift freely given. 

Knowing this, we should be eternally grateful for the gift of Jesus.  We should be eternally grateful for the gift of salvation.  And, as we take time to thank God for his many blessings, this should be at the top of the list.

Monday, November 24, 2014

While we live in this world, we greatly value our physical body.  But, as we're confronted with death, our attitude changes.  We begin to act as if the spiritual is all that matters, disregarding the body.  However, the salvation of God means not only that we'll go to heaven at the time of death.  It means that, one day, our body will rise from that grave.We fail to realize Our Hope of the Resurrection.  To stream or download the audio file, please click on the link.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

            As we continue to reflect upon the blessings God has given us, we come to our material blessings.  Scripture teaches us that our wealth is something that’s been given to us by God.  And it also highlights the danger of thinking that it’s something that we’ve earned or acquired by our own abilities.
            In Deuteronomy 8, starting in verse 17, he says: Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
            In a land like Israel, where there was an abundance of the resources needed by the people, God knew that they would be tempted to take credit for everything they acquired.  They would be tempted to think that they had obtained material possessions by their own strength and effort.
            This is a temptation for us as well, especially in a country like the United States.  We too have an abundance of the resources we need for survival.  We’ve become wealthy and prosperous.  And we often begin to think that we’ve gained this wealth by our own abilities.
            After all, we may say, it’s we who worked hard for a good education.  It’s we who put in long hours at work to earn our pay.  It's we who climbed the corporate ladder.  It’s we who make decisions regarding how we handle our wealth. 
            Because of this, God’s reminder to Israel is something to which we should pay close attention.  He reminded them that it’s he who gave them the power to get wealth.  In other words, without his help, without his power, they wouldn’t have gained ownership of the things they now possessed.
            Again, the same is true for us.  If the Lord didn’t bless us with our talents, if he didn’t bless us with wisdom, if he didn’t bless us with strength and health, we wouldn’t be able to work and to prosper.  We wouldn’t be able to gain wealth.  So, in this way, all that we have is a gift of God.
            And not only is this true.  It’s also God who provides the resources by which we profit.  As we’re reminded in Matthew 5:45, it’s he who makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall.  As we’re reminded in Psalm 147:8-9, it’s God who prepares rain for the earth, makes grass to grow on the hills, and gives to the beasts their food.   As we’re reminded in Genesis 1, it’s he who created the world and everything in it.

            So, as we thank God for his blessings, let us thank him for his provision.  Let us thank him for the material blessings he has provided.  Let us acknowledge that, apart from him, we would have nothing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Everything we have in this life has been given to us by God.  We've also received a very specific calling from the Lord.  So it only makes sense that we would use the blessing, given to us by God, to fulfill our calling.  However, we often try to separate our faith from the rest of our life.  Our faith doesn't truly direct our use of the blessings God has given us.  We aren't Faithful in Everything.  To stream or download the audio file, please click on the link.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Trusting God When It Doesn't Make Sense is on sale, in kindle form, for only $0.99.  If you haven't yet purchased your copy, now is a great time to do so.  It is also available in paperback.  However, I'm unable to offer the sale price in that form.  To view this book or to order, just click on the link.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Thanksgiving - Part 2

           As we approach Thanksgiving, and as we continue to think about the many things for which we’re thankful, we come to the topic of children.  It’s often said that children are a blessing.  And, Biblically speaking, this is absolutely true.
            In Psalm 127, starting in verse 3, we read: “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.  Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
            We also see in Scripture that, when God blessed his people, he did so with children.  God’s promise to Abraham included the promise of numerous descendants.  And his promise to Israel continued this theme.
            In Deuteronomy 28, God shared with Israel the blessings they would enjoy if they were faithful to him.  Among these blessings was that God would make them prosper in the fruit of their womb.  If they were faithless, he promised his curse.  And one of these curses was upon the fruit of their womb.
            When we go back to Bible times, we see that the people believed this.  It was an honor to have children.  A large family was considered a sign of God’s blessing.  However, being unable to bear children was often viewed as a disgrace.
            We know that some people, for various reasons, are unable to conceive.  And this certainly doesn’t imply that they’re outside of God’s blessing.  He can bless us in many ways.  However, their understanding of children is much more consistent with Scripture than our own.
            We seem to believe that you can have too much of a good thing.  We believe that children are a blessing, but we don’t want God to bless us too much.  We view too many children as a hindrance to our financial well-being, to our recreation, and to our sanity.

            However, recognizing what God’s Word says to us about children, let’s thank God for the great blessing he’s given us.  Let us recognize that our children (and our grandchildren) are a gift from his hand.  The Lord has graciously provided my wife and I with six children.   And, even though it can be challenging at times, each one of them is truly a gift from God.    

Monday, November 10, 2014

We're promised in Scripture that Jesus will return for us, that we might be with him where he is. We're promised that he's coming soon.  So, as believers, in Jesus, we eagerly expect his coming. We're Living with Expectancy as we anticipate the fulfillment of his promise.  However, if we're not prepared, if we aren't expecting his coming, we'll miss out.  The door will be shut and we'll be excluded from the blessings he's prepared for his faithful.  To stream or download the audio file, click on the link.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

            As we enter the month of November, a time of year that we associate with Thanksgiving, I thought we might consider some of the blessings God has given us.   We can’t be exhaustive, of course, because everything we have is a gift of God.  We would have nothing were it not for his work in our life.
Even though it may seem rather basic, the first blessing of God that we’ll consider is life itself.  We remember from the beginning of Genesis how God created the first couple.  We remember how he formed Adam from the dust of the earth, breathing into him the breath of life.  We then remember how, from Adam’s rib, he formed Eve.  This, of course, was the beginning of mankind as a whole.  They are the father and mother of us all.
This tells us that we’re not a random accident.  We’re not the product of chance.  We exist because God created mankind.  We exist because he gave us life.
            However, God didn’t stop there.  When God formed Adam and Eve, he didn’t simply begin a biological process that’s self-perpetuating.  He continues to actively create each life that enters this world.  As we read in Psalm 139:13, For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.”
            This is a beautiful picture of God’s creative work.  Those who knit, as well as those who enjoy the work of those who knit, value the hands on nature of this process.  Each piece is the result of their handiwork.  And, in the same way, we are the result of God’s handiwork.  He has personally made us.  He personally knits us together in our mother’s womb.   
            This isn’t a cute story, like that of the stork who delivers babies to couples.  We all know where babies come from.  God did set a process in place when he created the man and the woman.  However, this doesn’t mean that God is now inactive.  Each child that is conceived is his handiwork. 
            And not only did God create us.  Not only did he give us life.  We find in Scripture that he continues to sustain us from day to day.  Without his active work in creation, we would cease to exist, along with all things.  As the apostle Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-16, speaking of Jesus: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-- all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

            For these reasons, we should remember that God is the reason we exist.  We should remember that he is the giver of life.  And we should thank and praise him for this precious gift.

Monday, November 03, 2014

We talked yesterday about one of the main tenets of the Reformation, that we're saved through faith alone.  As we looked at Galatians 5, we learned that we are free from the Law and that we're to submit to it no longer.  We also saw that, if we look to the Law for salvation, we have been Severed from Christ.  To stream or download this audio file, click on the link.