Posted in My Journey

Victory Over Sin

Believe that Jesus is the son of God and you will have salvation. He gave up his life for us while we were still sinners, so that his sacrifice would redeem us from the penalty of sin. But like a harlot, sin continually tempts us to love her in order that we may lose ourselves again to our fleshly desires.

King Solomon recognized sin’s wily ways. He wrote about them in the Book of Proverbs. In no greater context has he written about sin’s allure than that of adultery. This is what he says:

“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol (a place of darkness).” (Proverbs 5:3-5)

Solomon is saying that sin looks beautiful on the outside. Her words are sweet to the ears and her reasoning behind doing what she does is smoother than the finest oil you can find. But Solomon is also saying that once you remove sin’s mask, underneath is an ugly bitterness that will corrupt the soul and will cut the spirit like a sharp, two-edged sword. The ultimate destiny for those who follow her steps will be the path that leads to death and darkness.

And if that stern warning was not convincing enough to keep away from her, Solomon gave sin, that whore, a voice:

“I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” (Proverbs 7:16-19)

Sin’s deception is that she makes doing bad things look good. Even more so, if sin’s corruption can seduce the very elect, she will have accomplished what she had intended. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He later describes the fate of the unrepentant:

“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:23)

But the good news is that we have hope in Christ. We may fall and succumb to sin, but through Christ Jesus, our salvation is sure. The apostle Paul puts it this way in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

How wonderful to know that as Christians, we can look to Jesus as the source of our strength to overcome sin. What a delight it is to understand the fullness of God’s love through his mercy. And what a powerful destiny we have when finally sin and death will no longer exist.

All praise belongs to God Almighty in the highest, for he is good.

Posted in My Journey

Believe and Be Saved

Look to God and he will give you the answers you seek. Love him with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, and he will provide you with everything you need. He will never forsake you. He will never surrender you. He will always love you.

Look what it says in the latter part of the New Testament:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)

God has a plan for you, and that plan involves him changing your life. He is looking to raise you from the dead and to give you his kingdom as an inheritance (Matthew 25:34). Salvation will be yours, if you believe Jesus is the son of God (John 20:31).

Oh, how wonderful God is! He is generous, kind, affectionate and loving. His tender mercies toward us never end, and he has never failed us. When we think we are alone, he is there. When we feel tossed, he is there. And when our hope seems shattered, he is always there. He looks out for us, he keeps us, and he protects us.

There is no other God than God. He is the beginning and the end. He is the one who made all things, and he is willing to give all things to those who believe (Revelation 21:6).

I believe.

Posted in Bible Studies

Unmeasur’d Praise

Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) wrote Judas Maccabaeus. Many might know this opera by the familiar melody See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes. But it is the piece that follows that prompts me to praise God with fervent desire.

As a budding composer in the mid-Eighties, The Great Choruses of Bach and Handel has comforted, encouraged and motivated me to look to God for answers to my problems. While the decades passed, the song Sing Unto God has been my inspiration during those trying times.

I have not found a better version than that sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1984:

Lyrics

Sing unto God, and high affections raise,
To crown this conquest with unmeasur’d praise.

The song is in a constant crescendo, always growing bigger and bigger, leading to an ultimate exultation of God. When I think about the words “unmeasured praise”, I think about how the flowers in nature extend their pedals and swell with color as a tribute to their awesome creator. I think about how heavenly bodies scream across the night sky declaring God’s omnipotent reign. I think about how all the gigantic suns burst with flares throughout the universe, giving glory to his name. And I think about how I, without restraint, raise my hands to worship whenever I am in his presence.

Psalms 68 says—a portion of which Händel based Sing Unto God:

“Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!” (Psalms 68:4)

God is always there with us in the desert, ready and waiting for our praise. Let us give him that praise without measure. For all that he has done for us, giving his son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins; he deserves all of our worship.

Therefore, let us give thanks to the one who made us so wonderfully and a little lower than the angels for now. For he is the one who will ultimately crown us with glory and honor (Psalms 8:4-5).

Posted in My Journey

Repent and Believe

King David’s reign over Israel was unique in that he suffered much. For instance, Israel’s former king, Saul, chased him and wanted him dead; the Philistines continually attacked his kingdom and gave him no rest; he fell under the temptation of adultery with Bathsheba; he murdered her husband Uriah, who also happened to be one of his mighty warriors; and he fended against a bloody rebellion led by his son Absalom.

Yet God thought of David as a man after his own heart. How is that possible, considering all of David’s sins?

Look at what it says in the book of Acts:

“Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” (Acts 13:21-22)

The thing about David is that once he repented, he moved forward and resolved never to commit the same sin twice. David could have in fact written Psalms 51 on his knees while he sobbed, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalms 51:1-3).

As Christians, we may also feel deep sadness for the evil we once committed. God, though, sees our hearts and he will forgive us, as he did with David:

“Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” (Acts 13:23)

We just have to repent of our sins and believe Jesus is his son (Mark 1:15). Once we do that, salvation is ours. But we have to take that vital first step and come before him in prayer.

If you have come here feeling alone and lost, God knows. He will forgive you. God is there for you and he will help you find your way. He will help you find your center.

May God bless you always.

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.