A Reasonable Response


A Reasonable Response

We love Him because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
Some people imagine the God of the Old Testament as harsh and mean, while the God of the New Testament is loving and kind. But that is nonsense. There is only one God of both the Old and New Testaments, and He is a God of love.

He is a God who is gracious and a God who is full of mercy. But He is also a holy God and a righteous God. And He gives us absolutes to live by.

We find those absolutes in the Ten Commandments. And when God gave these commandments to the people of Israel, He also gave the motive for keeping them: I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery(Exodus 20:2 NLT).

Notice the Lord didn’t begin by threatening or scaring them. He started by reminding them of what kind of God He is: a loving, caring God who delivered them from their misery.

God was saying, loosely paraphrased, Hey, I took care of you guys. I delivered you from your bondage in Egypt. You were a slave there.

We might think, Well, that’s nice, but I’m not an Israelite who was delivered from bondage in Egypt.

Yes, that’s true, but if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, then you were a sinner who was delivered from the bondage of your sin, were you not?

Think about all that God has done for you. Because of that, you should want to reciprocate. You should want to honor Him in the way that you live. The apostle John reminds us, We love Him because He first loved us(1 John 4:19 NKJV).

He has certain expectations of us. Our love for God should be a response to His love for us

Peace and Profit

I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to benefit, who leads you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.  Isaiah 48:17-18 NASB

God didn’t promise insignificant blessings. Jesus Himself said He came to bring us life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Think about all God promised Israel. He promised to teach them to benefit,to direct them and give them overwhelming peace. They would experience a wave of righteousness. Their families would be blessed. They would have an intimate relationship with Him.

But there was a condition: They had to pay attention to His commands, know and obey His Word, and follow Him. He reminded them that “there is no peace for the wicked (v. 22). Ungodly people may seem to enjoy pleasures and rewards, but they never can have His peace.

God warned His people not to listen to or follow those who promised false rewards. They were to flee these influences. When they remembered all that God had done for them, they were to be filled with joy. They would realize the many ways He had provided for them, guided them, and protected them. Even when everything seemed hopeless, He was with them.

God promises these same rewards for you – that same peace and joy. He will guide you in the way you should go,and teach you how to profit. Do not follow the false gods and deceptive promises in the world. Instead, seek to know God. Obey Him. Follow Him. Trust Him. Seek first His Kingdom. Be confident that He will give you His peace.

Focus on the Finish Line

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:14
When you’re running a race and coming toward the end, you’re exhausted. You don’t feel as though you could go on another moment. But you realize that you’re almost at the end and have to finish the race you’ve begun.

I had a new pair of running shoes in the trunk of the car, just in case the rumor was true. And sure enough, it was. I put on my shoes, went to the starting line, and started sizing up my competition. And then the starter pistol went off.

Suddenly older guys were passing me; I couldn’t believe how fast they were. I was pouring it on, but about halfway into the race, I realized that not only was I going to lose, but I was going to lose horribly. So I just walked off the track.

Writing to the believers in Philippi, the apostle Paul said, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14 NKJV).

He also made this statement in 2 Timothy: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (4:7 NKJV). Paul used the Greek word agōn for fight,which translates to struggle or struggling.

This reminds us that we need to keep going and finish our race, even when it gets difficult.

How are you doing as a follower of Jesus? How are you doing in the race of life? Are you winning or losing? Are you gaining ground, or are you losing ground?

Press on. Keep running

SBS

Lord of Lords

Jesus is Lord over our infinite universe, and He is also Lord over our heart.
Philippians 2:5-11

What does it mean when we say that Jesus is Lord? We hear the word Lord so frequently that it sometimes loses its power and magnitude, but this is far more than a mere title Scripture gives to Jesus.

Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God bestowed on His Son the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This means the name given to Jesus is none other than Lord. You see, Lord is not something Jesus does; it’s who Jesus is: Our Savior is, and will always be, the sovereign ruler of everything in heaven and on earth.

Therefore, when we express that Jesus is Lord, our life should reflect His authority over us. Is there anything you attempt to hide from Christ? Have you refused to do something that He has called you to do? Scripture says that someday everyone will recognize Christ as Lord (Phil. 2:11). So we should invite Him into the dark areas of our life and allow Him to conform us to His image. A good place to begin is with the simple yet profound confession Jesus is Lord.

Why We’re Sifted

Though Satan continues to lure us, his temptations are an opportunity to receive God’s grace and strength.

Luke 22:31-61

Jesus tells Peter that Satan has demanded permission to sift the disciples like wheat. It seems strange to think that the Enemy would have conversations with God about people on earth, but this is a reality—even Job was discussed (Job 1:6-12). Have you ever wondered if Satan discusses you? We may think we aren’t significant enough, but our true potential makes us important in the spiritual realm.

We often expect the Adversary to tempt us in our weak points—but he attacks where we are strong, too. In fact, we let down our guard because we have confidence in our strengths, and that’s when the Evil One moves in. Consider Peter: He was quick to boast of his loyalty to Jesus, and yet he failed in this very area when he denied knowing Jesus. The Enemy targets believers who understand God’s truth, because they’re his biggest threat.

Jesus compared the disciples to wheat because it was sifted through vigorous shaking that separated the chaff from the kernel. He knows Satan wants to shake our faith loose from its foundation so we’ll go our own way, away from God. Thankfully, the Lord can use this sifting process to purify our faith, positioning us to receive His grace instead.

It is by the resurrection of Jesus Christ that YOU WILL RECOVER!

1Corinthians 15:1-19 ,Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Without the Resurrection our faith is useless and futile.
The power of Easter is the power of the resurrection.
Without the resurrection, the Christian faith has no hope to rest upon.
Resurrection means the triumph of life over death and destruction.
Because of the miracle of Easter, we have a promise, and the power of resurrection life!
On a certain Friday, Jesus body was laid in a tomb and a stone rolled across the front of it. NEWS SPREAD: CERTAIN, UNDENIABLE DEATH! Hell celebrated, Jesus’ followers mourned … Confused, they hid in fear. ON THAT FRIDAY, BAD NEWS BLANKETED THE REGION… No one could see that Sunday was coming!

Many of you have lived through the horror of a Friday, as a nation, we’ve lived through the horror of Friday.

Luke 24 tells us that 3 days after Jesus’ death, a mighty angel rolled away the stone from the tomb and Christ stepped out, roaring with resurrection power.

Today, my message, just like then, will be clear:

JESUS IS ALIVE!
It wasn’t over!
He humiliated Hell,
He overpowered the grave,
He conquered death,
He caused evil to bow its knee.
He took your transgressions, sins, and iniquities and pronounced you FORGIVEN and FREE. Jesus was not, and is not dead… He is ALIVE! The tomb is the wrong message and an incomplete headline!

No matter what news you have read, or what future you have imagined… understand one thing:

Easter Sunday. Time to Celebrate


When we take time to celebrate God’s faithfulness in our life, we bring Him glory and honor.

You’ve probably heard the parable in which a shepherd loses one sheep and leaves 99 others behind in order to find it (Luke 15:3-7). This is a succinct, heartwarming picture of the Father’s love for us, but have you ever noticed the majority of the story focuses on celebration? First the shepherd rejoices in the found sheep, next he rejoices with his friends, and then Jesus says heaven rejoices in our repentance.

These days, we might celebrate a friend or loved one’s birthday, but how often do we pause to reflect and enjoy what God has done in his or her life? Or what He’s done in our own life? We’re usually too hurried and distracted to take inventory of the Lord’s faithfulness, or we underestimate the importance of rejoicing—a seemingly frivolous activity. But in this parable, Jesus makes it clear that we cannot celebrate God’s faithfulness enough—no matter how big or small the occasion may seem. When we take time to celebrate the Lord’s gifts, on Easter Sunday and all year long, we acknowledge His perfect provision and bring Him honor.

I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me! Isaiah 6:8 NASB

When Isaiah had a personal revelation of God, his life changed. He could no longer look at the world the same way. He had seen God sitting on a throne and witnessed the angels declaring, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of armies. The whole earth is full of His glory (v. 3). He realized that God was loftier than he had imagined.

Isaiah was awestruck by this image! He knew about God, but nothing prepared him for the overwhelming reality of this encounter. He felt the impact when the foundations of the thresholds trembled at His voice (v. 4).

More than ever before, Isaiah realized how insignificant he was before such a holy God. He knew his lips were unclean, and he lived “among a people of unclean lips(v. 5). He felt unworthy, but God allowed him to experience His mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

Isaiah also heard God ask, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Isaiah felt compelled to respond. He realized God looked for people who would dedicate their lives to serve Him. So, he responded, Here am I. Send me!

How committed are you to serving God? Be willing to go where He wants you to and do what He calls you to do. Seek a more intimate relationship with Him. Humble yourself before Him. Worship Him! Dedicate your life to Him! He is worthy! He is holy

The Parable of the Forgiving Father

Luke 15:11-32 (15:21)

This week we come to a story from Jesus that is beloved by many. One of the best known of the parables, one that resonates with the heart and soul of many. It’s the story of two brothers and a father, the story of discontent and disgruntlement, the story of wandering in a far country, the story of return, and most of all, the story of forgiveness, reconciliation and redemption.

We set the stage with the Rabbi Jesus teaching amongst a large crowd. The tax collectors and sinners crowded close to hear Him, but some prim and proper townsfolk objected. (Objected both to the dregs of society and to the Rabbi Jesus welcoming and teaching them.)

When prim and proper folk gripe and complain about you or your friends showing a loving, caring welcome to others, what is your response? We know what Jesus’ response was: this parable of two brothers and a father.

We know what happened. The younger brother became discontented with his lot, his place in life and in the family. I am not sure whether you know, but upon their father’s death, the older son would receive twice as much as the younger son. That was the culture and custom of the Jewish tradition at that time. The younger son would only receive one third of the father’s assets – after the father died. But – the father in this parable was still alive, and well, and able to walk, talk and reason.

Can you believe the audacity of this son, asking right now for what he would receive after his father’s death…before the death actually happened? This was unheard of! What kind of disrespect was this? The height of disrespect from this discontented, disgruntled son!

One title this parable could have is The Story of the Lost Son,because the younger brother goes to a far country, spends all his money in riotous, profligate living, eventually doesn’t have a penny to his name, and is forced to herd pigs for a farmer just to scrape by and earn a pittance. After feeling sorry for himself, the younger brother finally wakes up.

Let’s hear what Dr. Luke says about this younger brother: 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

Did you hear? This son came to his senses! He realized how good he had it in his father’s house! At least this younger brother had the sense to return to his father.

Meanwhile, we have the older brother, back at home. This brother is doing his duty, working in the fields, obedient to his father’s wishes. Except, what was his attitude? Was he sour? Resentful? Feeling locked in and in a boxed-in place? Could this parable featuring the older brother also be called the Story of the Lost Son? Can we see some discontent and disgruntlement coming from the older son?

Let’s move to the father, and hear the next part of the story. But while the son 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. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 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. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

Hold it! Now we are going to get further information about the discontented older brother. On the surface, he’s the perfect son. Always obedient, always compliant. Except, listen to this: 25 Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

We focus again on the father. If we had a title of this parable from the father’s point of view, it could very well be The Story of the Forgiving Father.Yes, he freely forgave the younger son for his extreme disrespect, for spending all his father’s hard-earned money, and for crawling back home in such a disreputable condition. Plus, the father was loving and welcoming to his older son, the one who seemed to be permanently disgruntled, with a huge chip on his shoulder.

Sometimes, this totally loving, caring, welcoming father seems like a dream, a fantasy, something we could only hope for and never see in real life. Can anyone possibly be that fantastic and marvelous parent to their children? Or, am I – are we – just too jaded and cynical? Has life just beaten us down too much?

I have news for all of us. With this parable, Jesus lifts up the father as an example, as an image of God our Heavenly Parent. Jesus wants us to see how much God loves each one of us, and how willing our loving, caring God is to welcome us home. Even going so far as to run down the road to embrace us when we return in penitence and tears, or when we stay at home doing our duty in self-righteous disgruntlement and discontent.

Yes, God forgives! And yes, we are to do the same. As the petition of the Lord’s Prayer says, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” We need to continue to strive to forgive others, exactly in the same way and with the same loving, forgiving heart that God our Heavenly Parent had. Remember, the father ran down the road to forgive the prodigal – God offers forgiveness to both prodigal sons, all wayward children, no matter what.

Remember, what a loving, caring God we have. Always loving, caring and welcoming toward each one of us. Amen.