Month: October 2016

Is God’s love conditional?

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John 15

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

 

To look at this teaching of Christ and to see conditional love is a misread.  Jesus is teaching on abiding in Him.  To abide in something is to live there, like you abiding in your house or your apartment.  It is where you live.  The teaching here is that loving, obeying and abiding go hand-in-hand.  When we love Christ we abide in Him and we know His love.  When we keep His commands that love is confirmed and abiding is felt.  The flip-side is also true: when we do not keep Christ’s commands, even though His love never fails, we do not feel that we are abiding and do not sense His comforting love.

The variable is not the love of Christ but our sense of abiding.  When a child disobeys his parent(s) his residence does not change but he might wish he could abide somewhere else for a while.  The parent(s) love does not change but the child feels insecure in it because of his disobedience.  He is still loved and he still has a place to abide but nothing feels right about it.  So it is with our obedience/disobedience toward the Lord Jesus.  When we live obedient to His commands we are secure in His love and secure in our position of abiding in Him.  When we disobey Him, Christ’s attitude toward us does not change but our attitude toward Him does.

Abiding and love and obedience all go hand-in-hand.  Jesus kept the Father’s commandments and completed the work that the Father sent Him to do.  Jesus was ever secure in the Father’s love.  He concludes this with a teaching on joy.  When we abide and obey and enjoy the love, we have fullness of joy in this life.  My grandson, Owen, can go from happy to pouty in a New York second.  If he is corrected or does not get his way his joy immediately and facially disappears.  We may not be quite as transparent as a two-year old but our loss of joy when we disobey God is apparent.

Abide in the love of Christ, live to obey His commands, and know the fullness of His joy in you at all times.

I asked prayer for the McClain family.  Roberta’s funeral will be this Thursday.  Do keep them in prayer.  They know the Lord and are resting in Him but this is quite a shock.  Roberta showed no signs of any illness until she dropped to the floor last Tuesday. 

Be in prayer for our revival meetings!  Brent called me and is planning on speaking to us from the book of Titus.  Their family is really excited to come be with us as we have become a favorite church to them.  They have become pretty special to us as well. 

I hope to see more of you tonight for prayer and Bible study. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The Life-giving Vine

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John 15

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

 

There are two points to consider in this teaching.  The first point is that when the life of Christ flows through our lives, from Him to us, there isn’t anything that we cannot do for the Lord.  All things are possible in Him and all requests are heard and answered when prayed through our Lord.  There is spiritual fruit for us to bear and we can bear that fruit when the Lord Jesus lives in us and flows through us.

The key to understanding and living this teaching is the indwelling and life-flowing Jesus.  Just yesterday a young believer told me that it is just too hard to live the Christian life. This young believer is right.  It is too hard for us to live the Christian life.  Sin is too tempting and we just want to do it sometime.  But when Jesus lives in us He lives His life through us so it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives through us.  We do not live the Christian life but Christ, with His flowing energy, lives His life through us.  With Him in us all good things are possible.

The second teaching here is that those who do not have the indwelling and life-giving Lord Jesus are headed to certain eternal punishment.  The reference of Christ is specifically about being cast into fire, which in His teachings were always the fires of hell.  Those who do not bear fruit are not attached to Christ.  Those who are not attached to Christ will be cast away from Him in the time of their judgment and they will be burned.  (You can watch two messages that I recently gave entitled, “Is Hell for Real?” www.gracerforlifebc.com )

According to the rest of Jesus’ teachings on hell, this burning is not a consuming but a continual and eternal judgment.  Oh how we long to see men and women turn from their sin and come to know and to enjoy the life of Christ flowing through them.  The contrast presented by Jesus throughout His teachings is clear, it is eternal, it is avoidable, and it is the contrast between eternal living and eternal dying.  Come to the Vine and become one of His branches by faith in His work to save us from our sins.  Enjoy His life flowing through you and bearing His fruit in you.  There is no greater way to live or to die.

 

Please remember the McClain family in your prayers today. A week ago, the mom, Roberta, fell with an aneurism in her brain.  They disconnected all life-support last night.  The aneurism killed Roberta’s brain.  Her youngest is a seventeen year-old daughter.  Roberta and her husband Randy know the Lord and he is enjoying God’s peace while suffering the loss of his wife. 

Pray for our teens.  The struggles they face are often overwhelming to them.  I was awakened yesterday with one of our teens calling asking what to do for a friend who wanted to commit suicide.  Keep all of our teens in your prayers.

Next Sunday we begin a week of revival meetings with Brent Sivnksty.  Pray for God to revive our hearts.  God knows our needs and we are asking Him to use Brent to bring our needs to our attention so we can let God work on them. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Abide, dwell, bear fruit – not rocket science

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John 15

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

 

The key word in this passage is the word “abide.”  To abide in something means to live there or to dwell there.  If you are travelling and stop at a motel you abide there overnight.  When you get home you are abiding in your own house or your own apartment.  It is not a difficult word to explain or to understand.

In this teaching by Jesus we learn that He wants us to abide in Him while He abides in us.  When this unique relationship takes place and is maintained something happens: the fruit of the life of Jesus comes out of us.  Have you ever had a friend for so long that you knew what each other was thinking before anything was said?  It is like you are abiding in each other’s minds.  The Lord Jesus wants us to abide in Him and He wants to abide in us to that degree and more.

Suppose the Lord Jesus truly abode in you and helped you complete every thought and every sentence.  Suppose the indwelling Lord Jesus was able to guide you in your purchases and in your investments.  Suppose the Lord Jesus while living within you guided your thoughts about God and about people and about life and about sin and about righteousness and… you get the picture.  When Christ abides in us we have a relationship with Him that is quite unique.  We turn to Him for every answer, we turn to Him with every problem, and we turn to Him with every joy.  He is in us, abiding, living, and happily dwelling.

Our lives, filled with His, will naturally produce His attitudes, His reactions, and His concerns.  The fruit of the Holy Spirit will come from the branches of our lives.  So here is the question: Who or what is abiding in you?  Whose fruit you are bearing will tell you who is abiding in you.  When we are bearing uniquely spiritual fruit we can be confident that it is coming from the abiding Lord Jesus.

Last night my dad and I went to a meet and greet with Tonia Khouri.  Tonia is running for the US Congress seeking unseat Bill Foster.  Take a moment to look at her website.  As a Christian woman she brings godly character to the table.  As a successful business owner, she and her husband own Green T, she understands hard work and its benefits. 

Sunday morning I will be embarking on a new book of the Bible.  2 Corinthians was Paul’s fourth letter to the church at Corinth.  Paul started this church and truly loved the people there.  But Paul and the word of God were under constant attack by those who would pull this church away from its moorings.  I am looking forward to this series as I see our church in the chapters of this letter. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS 

A vine, a vinedresser, and fruit?

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John 15

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

We Midwesterners know very little about growing grapes.  I have been to Napa Valley California and have seen pristine vineyards as far as the eye can see.  Recently, I saw a house nearby that had a fence and a grapevine growing on it.  It wasn’t much but someone was growing their own grapes.  To the audience in Jerusalem, growing grapes was as normal as baseball and hotdogs.  Everything that Jesus said about this comparison to grapevines and to us in Him and Him in us they fully understood.

Jesus called Himself many things, He is the Good Shepherd, the Door, the Light of the world, the Bridegroom, and here He calls himself the true vine.  A healthy grapevine has life flowing through it.  I once cut too much of a vine growing into a tree in front of our house.  Bobbi noticed the leaves on top of the vine were dying.  Oops, I cut off the flow of life.  Jesus has His life energy flowing through Himself to us who are attached to Him.  The vine does not bear fruit but the vine gives life to the fruit-bearing branches.

We who call ourselves Christians, Christ-followers, disciples of Christ, children of God by faith, have no fruit-bearing capacity of our own but when we are attached, by grace, to the Lord Jesus, His life flowing through us bears spiritual fruit for God.  God is the vine dresser.  That is, He takes care of the vine to make sure it bears fruit. God so works in our lives purging and fertilizing so that we will bear fruit from Christ’s life flowing through us.  When we have things in our lives that hinder fruit-bearing God prunes or removes them so that we can bear better fruit for Him.

Enjoy being attached to Christ and let God so shape your vine so that your life can bear spiritual fruit for God’s purpose and glory.

In yesterday’s post I asked prayer about a prayer project.  I wrote a facebook post asking people to join me in fasting and prayer for the salvation of Hillary and Donald.  The Christian church is severely divided over this election and I suggested that we unite in fasting and in prayer.  My challenge is that we take five days before the election on November 8 for prayer and fasting pleading with God for the salvation of these candidates.  Only their humbling before God will give us any hope that either of them will make a good President.  The five days of uniting prayer and fasting need not be consecutive but should be intentional.  (To read the whole statement go to my Facebook page.)

Today, my son Justin is leaving for Kenya for fifteen days.  Through his pastor there is an opportunity for Justin to teach pastors on the seminary level.  These pastors are hungry for theological truth and will spend all that they have to come for two weeks of biblical instruction.  Pray with us for travel safety, for clarity of heart and mind to teach, and for God to shape Justin while he is there.  Pray also for Katelyn and the four boys as their dad is away.  Thank you.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

There is a spiritual enemy and Satan is his name

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John 14

29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.

Ephesians 2

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

Revelation 20

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Genesis 3

15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

Ephesians 6

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

My friends note today that Satan is our enemy.  He is the ruler of this earth at this time. His residence is here and he lives to deceive and to destroy.  We are to fight against this enemy of our souls every day for he works tirelessly to draw us away from Truth, away from Life, and away from the right Way.

Notice that Satan’s end was predicted in Genesis 3.  The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. Satan’s end is described in Revelation 20 and 21 where he will be removed from this earth and from all influencing powers.  He will eventually be cast into hell which was prepared for him and his fallen angels.

Nonetheless, Satan is a powerful enemy that we are instructed to be aware of, put the armor on to fight and no longer to walk in his deceitful ways.  Jesus showed us how to overcome Satan by the word of God and James told us to submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.

Do not underestimate Satan’s power or his goals.  As a liar he lies all the time therefore his promises are never believable.  But he has been lying for a very long time and is very good at it.  Jesus wants us to know that He, in stark contrast, is the Truth.  Everything Jesus taught is true and right and leads to life and peace and joy in Him.  Jesus said that Satan has nothing in Him.  There is no agreement between them.  Jesus went to the Cross to defeat sin and death, to crush the serpents head, and He did.  Hallelujah!

In this life, we are warned not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices, his ways, and his plans.  Following the Lord Jesus is the way around the deceiver.  Jesus called His disciples to follow Him which was a call away from following Satan and his wicked ways.  Come away today.  Follow Christ.  God has given Him all things in heaven and in earth and there will come a day when Satan will be dethroned from this earth and will be cast into hell as the defeated enemy that he is.  Fear not, greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.

It is Wednesday; these weeks just keep clicking by.  Pray for our teens as they gather tonight around some fun and around God’s word.  Pray for Mike as he prepares his heart to speak to them that he would know God’s wisdom and power.  Pray for our teens to open their hearts to Christ in every way.

Pray for our children in Kids4Truth to begin following the Lord at very young ages.  Pastor Bill often told how that as a nine year old boy he gave his heart to Christ.  Building a foundation in the hearts of our children is important and vital work. Pray for the workers to be prepared to point the kids to Christ.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Peace and Submission

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John 14

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I.

 

We are going to notice today that Jesus Christ fully accepts His position in the Trinity which puts Him lower than the Father.  Jesus is God.  We rejoice in this great fact.  Jesus came to earth, God in flesh, the incarnation of God.  Jesus promised His peace to His followers and we all should rest in the peace of God given and maintained by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here, Jesus taught us that He was going to the Father and that He was coming back.  Again, this is a very encouraging teaching which we looked at earlier.  The Apostles had trouble with Christ leaving so He reminded them again that He was leaving and that He was coming back.  He wanted them to rejoice  because He was going to the Father who was greater than He.

Two points for us today: First point is this, God the Father was in charge of all that took place in the next few hours and Jesus was, in the end, going to Him.  When God the Father is in charge and His will is being perfectly carried out, we should be at peace.  How wonderful it is for us to know that there is a God in heaven who is sovereign over all of the affairs of men.  Whatever takes place in this life, God is in control of because He is the greatest.  In the superiority and ultimate authority of God we should always find peace.

The second point is this: Jesus was OK with being in second place to the Father.  Knowing His position in the God-head, Jesus was able to do what the Father sent Him to do knowing that it was always the right thing to do.  In the teaching of the submission within the Trinity there are great lessons for us in our human relationships.  For while we know that we are to be submissive to God we are also supposed to live under human authority in this life.  Authority does not mean repression for Jesus did not live a repressed life. Authority gives us the freedom to do what we are called to do.

There are authority structures in the home between the children and the parents and between the husband and the wife.  Women today fight against this not understanding its value.  There is authority in society that people don’t like because they want independence not realizing that independence without authority leads to anarchy where there is no peace.

Jesus lived under the Father’ authority and still does today.  By His example, we are to accept the authority structures placed on this earth by the Father who is the ultimate One behind all authority.  Know this, when we fight against God-designed human authority we are really fighting against God and the result is that we lose His peace.

Pray about something with me.  I am going to announce a week-long fast to pray for the salvation of our presidential candidates.  This thing is so messy.  Christians are dividing between their American hopes and responsibilities and being a part of the sinfulness of the Clintons and the Trumps.  The answer is salvation, not a profession but a true possession of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Pray that the Christians in this country would rally around prayer for salvation.  Romans 10:13 applies here for we need to be saved. 

Yesterday my dad and I worked on the yard, sanding doors, and painting them.  It is good for him to be back up and out some. 

Check out the sermons on the reality of hell on the church website:  www.graceforlifebc.com

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

How is your peace account?

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John 14

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

 

Peace is a commodity that the world only talks about but really does not possess.  But then, how can anyone, apart from Christ, have peace with God.  If one does not have peace with God then they will only have temporary peace with one another. Human peace is dependent on our circumstances and on our emotions. So if the circumstances go sour and stay that way the emotions will eventually follow.  Even the strongest of people struggle with remaining at peace.

But Jesus, whom Isaiah called the Prince of peace, told His followers that He was going to leave His peace with them.  This is the difference between spending your own money and spending the money of a rich friend.  Your bank account has a limit but your rich friend’s account is limitless.  (That would be fun for a day.)  Your peace account only shows the peace that you can muster when all is well but the unlimited peace of Jesus Christ is an account you can draw on any time and all the time.

In fact, Jesus says here that his peace is different from the peace that the world gives.  The peace of Jesus Christ calms a troubled heart and takes away the fears of this life.  For when we know that Jesus loves us, is with us always, has paid for our sin, has prepared a home for us in heaven with God, and by His grace has enriched us both for life and for eternity, we have a peace that the world cannot match nor can it take away.

When people come to me for counsel I always tell them that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Prince of peace and that from His kingdom of peace He wants to bring peace into their troubled lives.  So the next time you face any trouble that seems to attack your peace, go to your Prince and get peace from His unlimited supply.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

By tomorrow I will have yesterday’s sermon on the rich man and Lazarus up on the church website.  This two Sunday focus on hell has been an important study for us.  It reminds us of the reality of God’s judgment and yet the desire of God for our salvation.  As we went out to street witness yesterday I saw each person as headed to heaven or to hell.  We handed out about 60 gospels of John and Romans plus a number of tracts.  Some people were interested, most of them were not. Pray for those who received the gospels to read them and to be led to salvation by the Holy Spirit. 

It was a joy to see Kendall baptized yesterday! What a thrill for us as a church to participate in the growth of this young man. Pray for Kendall to follow Christ anew and to live as a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.  

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS