“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NASB)

As I drove down the road the other day this verse came to me and started me thinking. I thought, what exactly is it that can be learned about God’s attributes and nature by observing creation only, without even reading a Bible?

So here’s what I discovered. Everyday the Sun rises, goes through its course and sets like clockwork. In fact that is how a clockworks isn’t it? We judge what time it is by the Sun. Looking at the ocean we realize it comes in only so far before it has to go out again. The seasons change right on schedule. In fact this is the promise God gave to Noah in Genesis 8. He said, “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” So, even if you had nothing else you could come to the conclusion God is orderly and faithful.

The next thing that came to me is how everything we need to live and thrive on this planet is right here on the planet. We don’t have to send for anything outside of our system in order to sustain us. All the food, water, material and energy we require is found right here on good ole planet earth or within our system. From this we can surmise God is a provider. Just by watching the birds we discover, as Jesus said, “They don’t store up food in barns and yet our Heavenly Father feeds them.”

We can even learn a little something about how life comes from death by simply looking at seeds. For all practical purposes a seed seems to be insignificant; and yet once it’s planted, has a little water and sunlight, it brings forth life. Jesus himself said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is a principle with God, it’s how things work. God is into bringing life out of dead things.

So I would wrap this up by saying even without a Bible we can determine there is a God and he is a faithful, orderly provider who has the power to bring life from death. I’m sure there are more, but to me these few are more than enough to see that the God who created everything is a God we can trust.

For those of us that do own a Bible I would consider us beyond blessed to have the ability to read about this God and his relationship with the many others that have come and gone before us. On top of that, through the Word, we also have the privilege to read about Jesus Christ, not just to believe in but to receive him so we might have that eternal life he has promised.

Louie

I just read part of an interview with Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the band Blondie, where she said, “Well, I’m not so much a person who deals with facts as much as feelings.” What a statement! This seems to be where many Christians I know live as well.

Recently I’ve heard more than one person, Christians mind you, say they have said or done something that bothered them deeply. While anyone with the slightest bit of a conscience would agree we’ve all been there; could it be we are looking for a feeling rather than trusting in the facts?

The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ and him crucified is enough to deal with our trespasses and sins. In fact we’re told “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Notice what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say he will give us a feeling of confirmation to go along with the forgiveness.

While humans were created to think and feel, thoughts and feelings don’t get the final word. If in fact the Bible is the Word of God, and I believe it is, we have to trust what it says, even when our feelings don’t confirm it. While feeling forgiven would be nice we can’t always count on it. If we’re holding out for a feeling we may be committing yet another sin, the sin of unbelief.

When a Christian commits a sin they are instructed to confess it to God. Confessing means agreeing with God, in other words, he shows us we’ve sinned and we agree with him saying, “Your’e absolutely right God that was wrong of me…thank you for the forgiveness and cleansing you have provided for me in your Son Jesus Christ.” Of course there’s a good chance you need to go to someone and make things right with them too. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another”, but for now let’s just stay focused on the matter at hand.

After the sin and confession we are to continue our walk in the Spirit trusting Christ to be ever present just as he has promised. When we fail to do so, instead walking around in self-hatred and condemnation, it proves we don’t really believe in Christ’s provision. The truth is that’s what’s called unbelief. I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but what else could it be? If we have confessed the sin, and God’s promise is to forgive and cleanse us, why don’t we trust that? I’ll tell you why, because we,like Debbie Harry, are not people “who deal with facts as much as feelings.”

“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

Louie

Repentance is a great Bible word you don’t often hear outside of Christian circles or even in Christian circles for the most part. From time to time I ask people, I have the privilege to share the Word with, to define repentance for me. I usually get a few different answers such as being sorry, asking forgiveness or turning around. While all of these are part of what repentance means it all begins with a change of mind.

If you look up the word repentance in a Strong’s concordance you will discover at the base of it all it means “to think differently.” Of course if you think differently you will be sorry for your sins, ask forgiveness and turn around but thinking differently is the starting point. So, the big question then is how do we begin to think differently? The short answer is it takes a miracle.

Reading in Isaiah 14:13-14 you will discover what I call the root of all wrong thinking. These verses have come to represent for me how we all think until Christ grants us repentance. We all start out with the mindset that we are worthy to be number one and can make ourselves into something great! Of course this is exactly what got Adam, and us, into this whole sin thing to begin with, but never-mind that, it won’t happen to you, right? Well, that’s part of the problem too, isn’t it? We have all been deceived into thinking “It” won’t happen to me. I’m number one, everything revolves around me and everything and everyone is here to do my bidding.

You see “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbeliever”, but thank God he saw fit to miraculously give sight to those that hear the gospel, place their faith in it and are born again. When one is born again they receive the mind of Christ. Now that is good news!

Repentance then is when we have our minds changed from that of our former ruler, Satan, and now have the mind of Christ. The mind of Satan whispers to us that we’re able to make ourselves like God, and the mind of Christ tells us we are to “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Although Jesus Christ was, himself, God he didn’t live as though he needed to exalt himself “rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (slave), and being made in the likeness of men, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Since Christ humbled himself; God exalted him. So you see the way to be exalted is by humbling yourself, and if you aren’t willing to humble yourself a sure way of being humbled is by exalting yourself. This is why we need to have a change of mind; because God’s ways truly aren’t our ways at least not until we have the mind of Christ.

When all is said and done there really is no amount of trying on our part that will bring us to repentance, in fact, the Bible tells us it is “the goodness of God that brings repentance.” There’s no doubt in my mind that it takes a work of God for us to even see we need a change of mind and another for us to receive the mind of Christ. So, no matter how you look at it; it takes a miracle. Thank God He’s still in the miracle business!

Louie

Our Wednesday night Bible study is in John 17 which some might say is the real “Lord’s prayer” even more so than the 23rd Psalm, but I’ll leave that to you to decide. One thing is for sure John 17 is quite the prayer, and it comes right before Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Since Jesus knew his arrest was imminent it must mean these final words to his Father, in front of his disciples, were of the utmost importance.

The 14th through 17th chapters in the gospel of John are some of the most amazing words I have ever read. Those four chapters are overwhelmingly made up of Jesus’ words to his disciples as he taught them about his going away, the coming of the Holy Spirit, what was going to happen after he left and what he expected of them.

John 17 is Jesus’ prayer that thankfully the Holy Spirit inspired John to record. In this chapter we discover what Jesus asks the Father and how he wants his disciples to be brought into union with the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. It has come to my attention this prayer is broken down into three main sections. Jesus talks of how he manifested the Father’s name to the disciples, he had given them his word and given them His glory.

Jesus makes it very clear that he and the Father are one and those that believe and receive what he offers are meant to be one with them. Apparently this has been the plan all along. Throughout the Biblical narrative God’s glory shines through because his word can be trusted because he guards the reputation of his name.

God gave Abraham his word about the whole world being blessed through his seed. In Christ it has happened. When Moses objected to being called to lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt he asked, “Who will I say sent me?” God revealed his name to him saying, “tell them I AM sent you.” Later Moses asked to see God’s glory, and when the time came for him to see, God revealed to him “It will come about, while my glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.” When God did reveal himself to Moses the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

Throughout the New Testament Jesus Christ makes several statements which invokes the name “I AM” in relation to himself. On one occasion he said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad…Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Wow! Jesus clearly taught that he was the one and same God that gave Abraham the promise and revealed his patience and loving-kindness to Moses.

Now in John 17 Jesus prays on behalf of his disciples longing for them to enter into oneness with the Father as he is. He said, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, (the disciples present at the time) but for those also who believe in me through their word; that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent me.”

Without belaboring the point let me finish up by saying everything is about God’s name, his word and his glory. Everything Jesus did was for these three reasons and he wants us to share in it with him. Therefore he went to the cross to enable us to be brought back into union with God. He reveals God to us and sanctifies us with his word, not to take us out of the world, but to send us in so we might express God’s name, word and glory as we invite others who will to join us in God’s glorious plan. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

Louie

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wanted to be somewhere else? It’s time to be there, you know you’re late, and there’s nothing you can do about it? That happened to me as I was on my way to the jail, but I had to work late. My flesh was throwing a fit, like a two-year-old. I was so mad. I knew there was nothing I could do about it so I started to focus on the fruit of the Spirit, knowing I already have the fruit of self control. Before I knew it, I was at the jail with a sigh of relief.

The Lord had prepared me to talk about Hebrews 4:12 and what it teaches us about soul and Spirit, joints and marrow, thoughts and intentions of the heart; it’s okay to have temptations and pulls. We talked about how our circumstances don’t have to rule how we behave, when Jesus lives on the inside, He exercises Spirit living inside us. I don’t understand it all, but I do know we can trust Him to do it.

Afterward I talked with a lady whom I have seen a bunch of times. Her note indicated that we haven’t talked in a while. She is leaving for rehab in a couple of weeks and wanted to let me know about it.

The next woman I chatted with had given her life to Jesus the week before. She had tears in her eyes as she poured out her heart about how it bothers her about the negativity from the other girls in her cell. I asked her if this was anything different than other times she was in jail. “It’s me that has changed this time,” she said. “That stuff never bothered me before, but now, I can’t wait to get out of here,” she continued. She proclaimed how she is never coming back to this place ever again. Her ex-husband, who is in prison has written to her and asked to be reconciled. I asked her if she was still in love with him and she said yes. He has also given his life to Jesus and wants to be the Christian husband he was intended to be.

It was getting late, so I looked for the other ministers to say good-bye. They invited me into the law box with them and an inmate who was struggling with anger and unforgiveness. Wait till you hear what happened next. She shared with us the hurts and anguish she has suffered throughout her life since she was 12 years old. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer, she began to let go of some horrific things. Each of the ministers were laying hands on her as she started to confess forgiveness for each person by naming them out loud. When it came time to forgive the man who sexually molested her as a child, she began to shake and her body temperature rose. I wanted to lay my hand on her head, but when she said this man’s name, God told me, “now”. When I put my hand on her head, the shaking immediately ceased and she became visibly calm. Everyone in the room knew a miracle had taken place. You should have seen the smile on her face once we left that room!

These are the very things that make my heart long to be where Jesus is, and this is one of the places He likes to manifest Himself for His glory.

Thank you, Jesus for who you are and what you are doing in the lives of people who seek your face. Thank you for you grace and mercy and love.

Tracey

 

We’ve been working our way through the gospel of Matthew in our Sunday school class, and this week we started in on chapter 12. As Tracey and I read it early Sunday morning at our kitchen table, as we usually do before class time, it became apparent to me how chapter 12 really is a continuation to Jesus’ invitation given at the end of 11. He said, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

As chapter 12 begins we see Jesus and his disciples getting into trouble with the religious Jews once again, only this time it’s for picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. The Pharisees said, “Look, your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” Jesus’ response is a bit of a jab at their pride because he says, “Have you not read…?” Clearly this was to show them, while they may have known the written word, they really didn’t have a clue about the Spirit behind it. Jesus proceeds to give them an example from David’s life, when he and his men ate the consecrated bread from the Temple, which would have been unlawful. He then went on to tell them about how the priests violated the Sabbath all the time. Then he drops this on them,”I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.”

If the Pharisees didn’t have reason to be angry with Jesus before they sure do now. You mean to tell me Jesus is comparing himself to David, the priests and even saying he, himself, is greater than the temple? You see Jesus is our great Priest-King, and now that he has come the focus is shifting from a building to a person. Remember “the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us’? Jesus’ body, which includes all believers, is now the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Jesus invites us to come to him for rest. Could it be that Jesus is, and has always been, our real Sabbath? He tells them “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” You see the religious leaders had taken the Law of God, meant to point toward Christ, and it became more important than even loving each other. They had become deceived into thinking it was better to keep their rules than to feed the hungry or heal someone, especially if it happened to fall on their day of rest.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he told us “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” In other words now that Christ has come he is where we go to find rest.

How do we enter into this rest in Christ, you might ask? Well, the short answer is simply by faith. You see according to the writer of Hebrews the children of Israel never entered into rest because of unbelief. We all enter the same way and that’s by faith in the promise of God. God had told Israel the land was theirs and all they had to do was enter in and take it, but they didn’t. They sent a few spies in to come back with a report. Of course ten of the twelve didn’t think they could take it; so they never received what was promised. Much later Joshua and Caleb, the only two that believed God, finally did enter but it was only after the rest of them died in the wilderness.

As you read through Hebrews 4 you will read where we are told they were instructed to rest from their “own works.” You see the real rest Jesus is offering us is a rest from our own works, the works of the flesh or self effort. The only requirement God expects of us is to believe in the one he has sent, which of course is Jesus Christ. If we live our lives believing in him, the works of God will be displayed in our lives, and that is much different from our own works which come from the flesh.

In the end we discover Jesus is our King-priest, greater than the temple and the Lord of the Sabbath.Therefore he could do whatever he wanted on the Sabbath, and was justified in whatever he did. He was and is above all rituals and regulations. If you watch closely throughout the gospels you find Jesus being confronted over and over again by the religious leaders because he constantly did things that ran contrary to their understanding of God’s Law. While they kept pointing to the Law, Jesus subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, pointed to himself. While the Pharisees thought the Law was what it was all about in reality it was only there to point us to Jesus Christ, and even now he invites us to come to him, our true Sabbath, for rest.

Louie

I recently watched an interview with a billionaire and found one thing he said to be very interesting. At one point he brought up how he doesn’t really have anyone to answer to. Of course what he meant was he’s his own boss, and then he proceeded to talk about how he wears a t-shirt and tennis shoes everyday as if only billionaires have that privilege. I thought to myself, I do that everyday too, but I’m far from a billionaire!

What dawned on me, as I thought about that statement later, is how everyone is looking for peace, rest, meaning and contentment in their lives. This man is a billionaire and yet when questioned about what advantages and privileges that carries with it his answer was a simply how he gets to wear t-shirts, jeans and tennis shoes everyday. In other words he gets to do what most middle class, or even poor Americans, do for most of their lives. He had bought into the conformity of the world, and it’s suits and ties, until he became a billionaire, and now he finally gets to dress the way all of us have dressed for our whole lives.

The Apostle Paul told us in Philippians ” Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NASB)

You see contentment never comes with more money or things. Even though most know this in a mental way the disappointment that accompanies the deception of wealth is our best teacher. If the truth is told we all tend to go the wrong way before we discover the truth. Even though we hear the truth we almost always have to walk it out before it really comes home to us.

I really don’t know anything about this billionaire’s faith, or lack thereof, but I was glad to see he was finding pleasure in the simple things in life such as a t-shirt and tennis shoes. I think we’ve come a long way when we can finally sit still and enjoy nature around us, or the quiet company of someone we love, without having to always be on the run trying to obtain something from the world that can only be found in Christ. You see, the Apostle Paul actually had quite the resume, which is found in chapter 3 of Philippians, if anyone wants to read it. Without writing it all here let me just tell you what he discovered. He said, ” Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:7-8 NASB)

So you see whether we’re a billionaire or not it is only in Christ that true contentment is to be found. Attempting to find it elsewhere is like trying to quench your thirst by drinking saltwater. No matter how much you drink you will always be in need of more. There simply isn’t any lasting peace or contentment apart from Jesus Christ.

Louie