Posted in My Journey

God’s Love for Us

God saves those who believe Jesus is his son. Through him, people will have salvation from the penalty of sin, which is death. And by no other name can anyone find salvation.

As deceitful as the human heart is (Jeremiah 17:9), God gives life to those who sincerely repent of their sins. He calls those who are willing to change their lives, those who are broken and sorrowful, and those who are remorseful for what they have done (Matthew 22:14). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we Christians can overcome. Of ourselves, we have no power to do anything, but with God’s spirit, all things are possible (Luke 18:27).

The joy we have comes from knowing Jesus is living inside us—now, at this moment. He is living inside us, making us aware of the battle that rages deep within our hearts. As much as we want to obey him, keep his commandments, and love others as ourselves, the old self does not want to stay dead in that watery grave of baptism. Our flesh fights against the spirit and we end up doing what we do not want to do, as the apostle Paul said:

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

How awful we are that we would ignore the things we ought to do to want to sin. Yet, Jesus living inside us makes us aware of just how ugly sin is. And we pray about it; and we ask God to forgive us; and we ask him to wash away our sins with Jesus’ blood (Acts 22:16). And because we are sinners, and God hears a penitent heart (Psalms 51:17), he forgives us, not because he has to, but because he wants to. Could God have loved us any more than for him to give his only son as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16)?

Oh, how wonderful God is! We may sin, but his love for us is greater, taller, stronger, deeper and wider than anything we could ever imagine.

For this reason, nothing can come between God’s love and us.

Posted in My Journey

God Does Not Abandon His Children

God is wonderful, amazing and patient with us. He knows what we need, when we need it and how. He surely keeps his promises to those who believe Christ is his son, but even more so, he will bless those who need it the most in their time of need.

I had something happen to me this week that I will tell you because I think it is important that everyone knows that when God acts, he acts swiftly, with purpose and with compassion. He definitely does not abandon his children, and this is one of those occasions I felt closer to God. I knew he was there, and he was looking out for me, taking away any insecurity I had during those moments I was feeling alone.

I had attended an event last week with a group of friends that I was looking forward to all year. We had the opportunity to share in food, fun and festivities. The event featured a potluck meal and a flexible seating arrangement, which I thought was great. It certainly promoted mingling. When we arrived, we dispersed, found the food, plated everything and proceeded to find a table. Only, when we did find an empty table, it could fit six and no more. There were seven of us. I was the last man standing, so to speak. So there I was, plate in hand filled with food without a seat. That sudden feeling of abandonment gripped my tummy, and for a while, it would not let go.

I decided to look for another place to sit, even though all the other tables seemed full. As I walked through the crowd, praying to God for restoration, I eventually did find a seat along the sidelines. Individual chairs were available and I took one. And once I had settled in, one of my friends who had taken a seat with the others, left the group, came and sat with me. God knew what I needed.

Now, I am relating this story to tell you that God does not abandon his people. At times we may feel alone and seemingly without support, but God knows above all else, how to resolve our situation in order to make it work for good. I am remembering the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost when he said:

“He foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.” (Acts 2:31)

If God could raise his son Jesus from the dead, imagine what more he could do when we face something infinitely smaller in scale and we call on his name.

God has proven time and again his mercy for us Christians will never fail (Psalms 28:6). His love for us abounds (Romans 8:38-39) and his grace upon our lives goes beyond this lifetime and into the next (Ephesians 2:8). We have his spirit to encourage us (John 14:16), we have his joy to carry us through trials (James 1:2-3), and we have peace to settle us when weariness hits our bones (Psalms 4:8). He is the great redeemer (Psalms 78:35) and counselor (Isaiah 9:6). He will always be there for us.

God will never abandon us.

Posted in Bible Studies

Mark Your Bible

How do you mark your bible? A member of a church I once attended asked the minister this very question. The minister related this story during a sermon. His answer was surprising. He said, “How do you mark your bible? You mark your bible.”

As simplistic as it sounds, he was right. Sometimes we tend to overanalyze a rudimentary task and place a process around it when, in fact, all we need to do is do what comes naturally.

I say this because I am one of those people who needs structure and cannot start a project until I have all the pieces in place of where I want to go, what I want to do, and with whom I want to do it. Some tasks are meant to be organic, in that what we are doing at the moment is what should be done.

However, that is not to say that if you have a bible-marking system that works for you that you ought to abandon it. On the contrary, keep doing what you are doing. If it helps you learn the scriptures, there is no need to change something that is working. My advice is for those Christians who are wondering what to do when they buy their first bible and want to make notes in it but have no idea how to do that.

Again, I will say it: mark your bible.

How I used to mark my bible

How I marked my bible thirty years ago

I once had an elaborate marking system that enabled me to visually look at certain passages of the bible and know instantly what it was about. My color categories where:

  1. Blue—God
  2. Red—Angels and demons
  3. Brown—Humanity
  4. Orange—Civilization
  5. Purple—Israel
  6. Yellow—Church
  7. Green—Kingdom of God

In addition to coloring the verses, I also placed red-pen boxes around words I would want to define; and if something really stood out, I would underline phrases and words with a red pen. Of course, thinking I would need to differentiate what I learned at home with what I learned at church, I would carry around a blue pen and mark my bible that way during sermons.

For a long time, this system suited me. I appreciated it, and I enjoyed reading through marked sections again, gleaning tidbits of truth as I went along. I found, though, as the years went on, my understanding had grown and what I had believed twenty-five, thirty years ago, is not what I believe today. Several fundamentals are the same, but through diligent prayer and bible study, scriptures I had once marked as one thing suddenly had taken on a different meaning.

How I mark my bible today

Nowadays, I simply mark my bible. If a thought or a verse really stands out for me, affects me in a way that it has never affected me before, I mark it with whatever pen I have in my hand. I agree, it is a simplistic approach, but ultimately God through the Holy Spirit reveals what we need to remember when we read our bibles:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25)

It is not how we mark our bibles, but what we gain from those passages we have marked.

Posted in Bible Studies

God’s Purpose

God is amazing. He really is. There are no other gods, because he is the only God; and as many times as we read that, he is even more amazing when bad things happen to Christians.

The book of Acts tells us about the early days of the church, from the time when Jesus ascended to heaven to when the apostle Paul arrived in Rome. Of the numerous accounts told, one in particular is an inspiration for Christians going through trials.

This week’s scripture is in the book of Philippians:

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

The story of Stephen

In Acts, chapter 6, the apostles needed someone who would look after the widows in the church on their behalf in order that their preaching would not suffer neglect (Acts 6:1-2). They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. It was in those days that the church was growing larger, multiplying with believers (verses 3-7).

Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great signs and wonders among the people. But there were certain men who rose up against him, disputing with him, wanting him to stop what he was doing. The more they went against him, though, the more they could not seem to overcome the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen was speaking. So they tried another tactic. They secretly instigated false witnesses to spew lies against him, saying he had spoken evil of the law and of the temple (verses 8-12).

The men eventually seized Stephen, brought him before the high priest and accused him of blasphemy (verses 12-14). And after a lengthy speech where Stephen spoke about Israel’s history, Moses’ part in the exodus, and how his accusers were resisting the Holy Spirit, the men brought him outside the city and stoned him (Acts 7).

Had God failed Stephen?

For a Christian to read this account, it may seem as if God had failed Stephen. One might ask, why would God allow this to happen? Did not Stephen believe God would have rescued him? Would God not have silenced his accusers and intervened on his behalf?

However, two very important things happened during Stephen’s death. First, before the stoning, Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55). Second, those taking part in the stoning were laying their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul (verse 58). Both points are significant in that it shows God had not really abandoned Stephen during his time of trial; and not only God but also Jesus was there with him, reassuring him everything was going to be fine (verse 56). Even more so, Stephen did not die in vain. His death served to transform Saul from a man who persecuted the Christians, to the apostle Paul, a man preaching about Christ Jesus the son of God (Acts 22:20-21).

God has a purpose

Only God could do this. Only he could put meaning to a tragedy and make it work for good (Romans 8:28). As much as we try to understand why bad things happen to Christians, it all makes sense in the context of God using that tragedy to do good from a thousand perspectives (Psalms 147:5). We may gain a glimpse of a fraction of one of those perspectives, but God ultimately knows why certain things have to happen in certain ways (1 Corinthians 13:12).

What we have to do as Christians is trust him (Psalms 25:2). We may not receive the answer we desire, but we will certainly receive the answer we need (Philippians 4:19).

Posted in My Journey

You Are My Redeemer

Oh, Lord, creator of all things,
maker of all things great and small,
hear my prayer.

You are my redeemer;
you have given your son as a sacrifice for my sins.
My sins no longer blot me out of the book of life;
I am your servant; I am your son.

Lord, Father, you are my savior,
you are my king.
You are merciful and kind;
you have given me a tender heart.

When my enemies build ramparts against me,
you tear them down and turn them into dust.
I am safe with you,
for your bosom is my fortress and my strength. Selah.

All glory belongs to you, my God,
for your love is from everlasting to everlasting.
You are my redeemer;
you are my king.

Posted in My Journey

Trust in Jesus Until the End

My wife and I recently celebrated another year of marriage. As it has been our habit of late, we booked a very nice hotel for several nights north of town and enjoyed each other’s company in the midst of all that has been going on in our lives. We are incredibly thankful we could do that, considering our autistic son’s condition. He really wanted us to leave him in his younger brother’s care while we had time alone. It was a tough decision, but it also involved a certain amount of trust from our end to feel everything was going to be fine when we came back.

Now I understand what Jesus must have been thinking when he left his disciples to be with the Father. As it says in Acts, “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).

Much like my wife and I did, sending text messages to our younger son to reassure him we’d be back soon, Jesus sent his angels to his disciples to reassure them that he would be back soon. Sometimes, we, as parents, have to let go in order to allow our kids to grow. Jesus, who loves us, oh, so very much, is doing just that with us, Christians. The apostle Peter confirms this when he wrote:

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8)

There is nothing God would not do to save us, including giving his only son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins (John 3:16). As we grow in knowledge and in truth in Jesus, let us grow to love one another as Jesus loves us, so that when he comes back on that fateful day he will be able to say to us all, “Well done, good servant!”

Posted in Bible Studies

God Loves Us

God loves us so much that he was willing to give his son Jesus to save us from the penalty of sin. That through him, we could come before God’s throne and render our hearts and our minds to an omnipotent being who would do anything to have us sincerely call him Father.

One of the things one finds when reading scripture is the presence of intertwining thoughts between passages. There are interesting plays of words that a reader spots when viewing the bible as a complete text. For instance, Psalms 23:3 says:

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Then Matthew 5:10 says:

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Both verses contain the words “righteousness” and “sake” and both verses present a beautiful message of hope for those needing God’s presence in their lives.

But aside from verses that complement one another, the bible is rich with verses demonstrating God’s love for us:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)

“For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

Today’s simple message is this: with every moment God grants us breath, let us love one another as God loves us.