Month: January 2017

Invested Faith brings great security

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Hebrews 10

37   “For yet a little while,

And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

38   Now the just shall live by faith;

But if anyone draws back,

My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

I am so thankful for the promise of Christ’s return!  From the day of His ascension and the promise of His return, the church of Jesus Christ has longed for Him to come back and to lead us to the Father.  We long for our King to take over His earth and to reign as King on the throne of David.  We long to see Satan defeated and righteousness as the ruling Constitution.

In this passage we see that the Lord is coming back for them who remain in faith.  We are justified by faith and Ephesians 2:8 tells us that God gives us the faith to be justified.  Once we become people of faith we are to maintain that faith.  Faith is like an investment for when it is well taken care of it grows but when it is abused it diminishes.

The writer of Hebrews defines this well and lets us all know that when we draw back from our faith the soul of God does not have pleasure in us, that is, He is not well-pleased.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith we cannot please God therefore when we do live by faith ever investing it into greater actions by faith then God is pleased with us.  There is nothing greater in this life than the smile of God upon our lives.

In verse 39 we learn that we, the people of faith in God, those justified by faith, are not of those who draw back to perdition or to destruction.  We are not going to be destroyed with those who have no faith.  On the contrary, we are those who believe and the object of our belief is our salvation.  Hallelujah! What a Savior.  He gives us the faith to believe, we invest that faith in Him, our faith increases and with that increase of faith comes an increase in our eternal confidence.  Our souls are saved. My friends, I will be going to two funerals this week.  The body dies. The soul lives.  Those who by faith become followers of Jesus Christ and throughout their lives invest that faith into greater acts of trust will know that this faith of theirs will result in the salvation of their souls.

No wonder Paul could write, “We sorrow not as those who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again then we also believe that God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”

It is a heavy week for our church. We have lost a dear friend and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.  Nancy Hall went to be with Jesus Sunday evening around 6:00.  Her funeral will be this Friday at Calvary Church in their south chapel.  There will be a wake from 10:00-1:00 with the service at 1:00.  The ladies of our church, Grace for Life Bible Church, have been asked to provide cookies and bars for up to 200 guests.  If you can help with this please send me an email or a text letting me know how many you can bring. I have been asked to bring the gospel message at the funeral. Pray for this to be a time when God will be exalted and any there without Christ to be drawn to Him.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

Saved, sanctified, for what?

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Hebrews 9

21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

As I was dwelling on sanctification this morning the thought of the Temple furniture came to mind.  This furniture, the golden laver, the candlesticks, the alter, the basins for washing, the instruments of sacrifice and so on, were all made of gold or overlaid with gold.  We can’t really imagine the beauty of this room in the Temple of God.  Each of these pieces in the Temple had to be sprinkled with blood to sanctify them, to make them holy, for use. What was their use?  This golden furniture was used to make sacrifices of atonement for the sins of the people.

So, as God, who designed all of this furniture, saw it was it more glorious to Him when it was glistening in the sun or when it was being used?  Of course, we know this answer; God wanted this beautiful furniture used to make atonement of sin so that man could be close to God.  So then, was the furniture more beautiful when it was glistening and clean or when it was blood covered accomplishing the purpose of its creation?  Yes, the answer to this question depends on the perspective.  Since we are interested in God’s perspective then the right answer is that it was most beautiful when covered in sacrificial blood and atonement was being made.

During the Babylonian exile all of this furniture was seized as the plunder of war and was taken to warehouses in Babylon.  While there it would have been greatly admired, maybe in some sort of museum or show room, by all who walked by.  But to God this furniture in Babylon was useless.

Why does God save and sanctify us?  Are we made holy by God through the anointing blood of Christ to be on display or to be used?  How then are we to be used?  Are we more beautiful to God with our hands clean or with our hands dirty in His service?  Christ came to sanctify us, to make us holy, to be vessels of pure service to Him.  When we are in God’s service we are pointing others to the Savior so their sins can be atoned, justified before the Father.  Let’s get out of the showroom and into the workroom where God looks on us and sees us beautiful doing His sacrificial work.

Sunday night was an amazing prayer service.  The Pray Chicago service at the Progressive Baptist Church in the shadow of Cellular Field, was one of the most powerful services I have ever attended. (I wish all of you had been there.) For two hours we sang, prayed, listened to the plea of the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King, had the Scriptures read, gathered in small groups for prayer, wept, and rejoiced.  At one point, Roy Patterson had a four year old girl brought up,  a truly beautiful little girl, who had been shot twice.  He then asked how many in this room of over a thousand people had a loved one shot.  More than a hundred and fifty people stood including a grandmother right behind me.  He then asked how many personally knew someone who had been shot and a third of the audience stood.  I wept.  These are people like me, Christian brothers and sisters who have personally felt the pain of violence in Chicago.  Dr. Irwin Lutzer spoke briefly about the necessity of unity in the body of Christ.  We prayed again and again.  Folks, my heart was touched and my life changed.  Join continually for a movement of the Holy Spirit of God to save souls all around us.  Salvation is the only answer. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

 

The Faith to Obey

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Hebrews 10

38   Now the just shall live by faith;

But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

If you have read my devotionals for a while you know that we are to obey the Word of God by faith.  Yes, we are saved by faith and we know that the faith to be saved is a gift from God, not of our works lest any of us should boast that we did something to earn our salvation.  Grace is God’s gift and so is the faith to be saved.

Once we are saved and enjoy the faith and the grace and the new life that follows God wants us to increase our faith by taking it into other areas of our lives.  Here in Hebrews 10 we learn that God takes pleasure in those who live by faith and has no pleasure in those who don’t.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.  (Stay with me here.)

The Christian life is above all a life of faith.  We are saved by faith, we follow Christ by faith and we live in obedience to God’s word by faith.  None of this makes sense to our flesh.  On any given day my flesh will tell me to chuck it all and live by sight.  “Get what I want, do what I want, and go where I want” is the cry of my flesh.  At the same time, and with greater authority, the Holy Spirit tells me to get what God wants, do what He says and go where He wants me to go.  Because I have been given the faith to believe and be saved I also have the faith to believe and obey.

Obedience to the Word of God and to the Spirit of God goes against my senses of sight, touch, and so on.  Therefore, to obey God is to do so by faith.  Believing that God knows what is right, that He is a good and wise God, and that He truly has my best for now and forever in His mind, I do what He says.  This is a continual act of obedience and submission by faith.  The battle comes when my flesh convinces me that I deserve “better” or I shouldn’t have to “give up” something.  When it does not feel right to me but is clear from God it takes faith to set aside what I “see” to do what God says.

God takes pleasure in us when we agree with Him and by faith do all that He says.  Let us be faithful to His word by ever submitting to His Lordship by faith fully believing that when we see Him it will be worth it all.  On that day, when our faith becomes sight, when God rejoices in welcoming us home, we will be eternally glad that we lived by faith in this life.

Last Sunday someone asked me why we don’t do testimonies in church anymore.  We have had some full services but this Sunday should be fairly normal.  So, if you have a testimony of God’s working His grace in you or through you bring it with you this Sunday.  We will take time to hear from you. 

I will be bringing a message from 2 Corinthians 3 this Sunday about the glory of the law and the glory of the New Covenant.  The God of the Old Testament had the same glory as the God of the New Testament.  We will look at the passing glory and the eternal glory and then question why we would ever want to live apart from God’s glory.  Pray for God to use this message in our daily lives.

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Who was Epaphras?

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Philemon

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers.

Colossians 1

as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf,

Colossians 4

12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.

 

There were men who travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys, some of whom we know very little about.  Epaphras was one of those men and I would like to introduce you to him.  It appears from Colossians 4:12 that Epaphras was from Colossi for Paul says that he was one of them. I find this interesting in that here is a man who was saved in and through a local church who then left his home and church to be a part of Paul’s mission’s team.

Travelling with Paul was no easy task.  Much of their travels were on foot.  We know that at times they slept outside and we know that they had a couple of shipwrecks.  We know that Paul was beaten and imprisoned leaving his travelling companions to get him food and care until he would be released.  When Paul was stoned at Lystra his travelling companions took his body and left town.  Epaphras was one of these companions of Paul.

We don’t know anything about Epaphras’ talents but we do know that he was a man of great prayer.  Paul tells the Colossians that Epaphras labored fervently in prayers for them.  As a spiritually mature man, Epaphras prayed for his friend’s spiritual growth into the will of God more than for their physical well-being.

We also know that Epaphras was a faithful servant and minister of Jesus Christ.  Having left his home he committed to the ministry of God with the Apostle Paul.  Wherever God led Paul, Epaphras followed serving Paul and serving with Paul with love and zeal. Epaphras cared for people.  As Paul ended his letter to Philemon, Epaphras asked Paul to greet Philemon for him.

So often in the Bible we learn about great heroes of the faith, great men and women that we have a hard time identifying with.  Epaphras was not one of those people.  In him I see a man much like any of you who grew up in a pagan world, heard the gospel and grew in his church.  With a heart to serve his Savior, Epaphras volunteered to join up with Paul’s team and became a fellow-minister of the great Apostle.

What does God have for you?

Today is our son Steven’s birthday.  Like Ben and Anna’s little girl, Steve came one month early and very healthy.  What a joy to see a son grow up, give his heart to Christ and then to use his God-given talents in the Lord’s work.  Happy Birthday, Son.

Please keep Caleb and Lindsey in your prayers as they are seeking the Lord’s direction for their lives.  Different doors seem to be opening and closing leaving them in a place not quite sure where to go next.  Pray for God’s clarity to be made known to them.

Thanks for your prayers yesterday. 

I hope to see you tonight for prayer at church, Bible study, youth group and Kids4Truth.  Let’s join together as children of God seeking Him. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

The ability to forgive and the difference Christ makes

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Philemon

15 For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, 16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

17 If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. 18 But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. 19 I, Paul, am writing with my own hand. I will repay—not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. 20 Yes, brother, let me have joy from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in the Lord.

As Paul writes to his friend Philemon on behalf of his runaway slave Onesimus, he confirms to Philemon that his slave has now become a brother.  I have worked both for Christians and for non-Christians.  When working for a non-Christian the relationship is just a work relationship and less than a peer relationship as the owner saw me as nothing more than an employee doing his or her bidding.  But when I have worked for a Christian we had family bond between us.  Yes, I still worked as an employee but was able to fellowship as a brother in Christ.  Paul was explaining this to Philemon.  When Onesimus returned he would be more than a slave for he was now a brother in Christ.  Jesus changes everything!

Then Paul tells his friend Philemon that any financial cost he has incurred in the loss of Onesimus to put that loss on Paul’s ledger and Paul would repay his friend on behalf of the runaway slave now become a brother.  The burden of Philemon’s loss would naturally be placed upon the slave when he returned.  He would be given more work, harder work, and longer work to make up for what he had cost his owner.  Paul wanted to pay off all of Onesimus’ debt so that he would go back into the employ of Philemon without an extra burden.  Maybe we should be less demanding of full justice on our brothers and sisters.

But then, notice that Paul reminded Philemon that he owed Paul his very life.  In other words, Paul is asking Philemon to completely forgive any and all of Onesimus’ debt because he, Philemon, has been fully forgiven.  This sounds like the parable in Matthew 18 only there the servant did not forgive the one who owed him a debt.  Here Philemon shows the genuineness of his forgiveness by accepting Onesimus back as a brother and by forgiving all of his debt incurred before his salvation.

Yes, Jesus changes everything.   If Philemon was not a Christian and if Onesimus had run away and been returned it would not have been a good day for either man.  But in Christ, the return of the slave was the coming home of a brother and the rejoicing in all that Christ had done.  I am thankful to be the man I am in Christ and not the man I would have been without Him.  I am thankful that I can treat people as brothers and sisters and not as those who owe me something.  I am thankful that having been forgiven I am able to forgive all who sin against me.

This Sunday, Jessica Schuessler is going to be with us in church.  Jessica goes to abortion clinics for the express purpose of getting women to change their minds.  Back in November a woman that Jessica worked with had her baby.  The woman who had the baby had great need and we mentioned that need to our church.  We were able to help this woman who choose life and demonstrate that we, the Christian community, would support her right decision.  Jessica is seeking ongoing help to support women who choose life over abortion.  I am sure her presentation will be challenging to us and I hope we can rise to the occasion to be a part of her rescue operations.

Men, we do have a prayer breakfast this Saturday morning at Denny’s at 7:30.

Please keep Richard Powell and his family in your prayers.  His sister Joan died this week.  She was 85 and fell asleep in a chair.  Her husband is Daryl and Rich is with him in Michigan. 

Have a great day in the Lord,

PS

A man who demonstrated a changed heart

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Philemon

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.

Are you familiar with the story of Philemon and his slave, Onesimus?  This is a one chapter letter from Paul to a dear friend whom he had led to Jesus Christ. While in prison Paul had led a runaway slave who was also in prison to salvation through Christ.  This runaway slave, Onesimus, became a new man in Christ and brought great joy to Paul. When Onesimus was to be released from prison and returned to his owner it was realized that Paul knew his owner well.  This short letter is a plea from Paul to Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ.  It is a beautiful letter filled with compassion and love for both men.

As Paul begins his letter we learn something about Philemon.  Paul, probably from Onesimus, had heard of Philemon’s love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and toward all of the saints.  When Christ comes into a man or woman their love capacity changes.  Without Christ we can only love to a certain level but when Christ comes into our lives our capacity for loving others knows no bounds. Philemon was a changed man and it showed.

Knowing that this man whom he had led to Christ was so filled with love and with good works brought Paul great joy and comfort.  Philemon was a man who used his resources to refresh the Christian community as much as he could.  Because Philemon was so dialed in to the love of God and was so changed by the grace of God, Paul could confidently request that he receive Onesimus back into his house as a brother.

My last devotional came from Paul’s call to Titus to be a man of good works. Paul’s call to Philemon was based on the good works he had shown. James calls us to show our faith by our works. Philemon did.  Good works are the evidence of a changed life.  I am asking us all to be people of good works according to the biblical teaching and examples.  So what good works would our Lord have for you this year?

Baby Emilia Grace is doing well.  The whole family is rejoicing as is our entire church family.  It was fun to share with you all last night. 

Our teens still need our prayers.  The god of this world seeks to blind their eyes to the necessity of the gospel.  Sin is charming but they need their hearts changed by Christ.  Pray for Holy Spirit conviction of sin and true heart and life change. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS

Are you a pattern of good works, zealous to serve God?

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Titus 2

7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

3:8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

 

As Paul wrote to his young protégé, to Timothy, his son in the faith, he wanted this young pastor to know how to lead people to live the Christian life.  This short letter has several great lessons that we still benefit from.  Like 3:4 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”  Take some time and read this three chapter letter and let it speak God’s desires for all Christians into your heart.

There is one theme that Paul mentions four times in this letter.  It is this, Christians, those saved by the grace of God, are supposed to be doing good works.  We should model them, be zealous for them, devote ourselves to them, and teach others to devote themselves to the good works of helping those in urgent need and of bearing spiritual fruit.

I have been a pastor since I was 25 years old.  If you were to ask me what has changed in the church, I would tell you that people’s hearts to do good works has changed.  Getting help in the church has become a strain on the church leadership.  Church members love their church, come when they can, and serve when they want to.  Being zealous for good works and devoted, or as the King James puts it in 1 Corinthians 16:15, “they were addicted to the ministry”, is rare to find in Sunday morning church attenders.

In 2017 I am praying that more of you will pick up the spiritual responsibility of doing good works as a blood-bought child of God.  I pray that you will become zealous for good works because the Holy Spirit within you is leading you to do so.  When we end this life, there won’t be any awards for who was the most busy, the most educated, or had the most money.  God will be holding us accountable for how we served His kingdom with what He gave us.

Anna, Ben’s wife, is scheduled for a C-section delivery tomorrow morning at 8:00 our time.  They are in good spirits and are looking forward to seeing their new daughter.  Please keep them in your prayers for God to give them a healthy delivery of this their first child. 

I will post pictures when we get them.

It was wonderful to have the Massey family with us in church Sunday and in our home yesterday.  God is still at work at Victory Academy and Mark and Lynn are just doing a great job there.  We loved having Laura, Rory, Russel, Grace and Emma with us too. 

Have a great day in the Lord,
PS