Thursday, January 22, 2015

"The ONE true God!"

Is there one true religion?  How do you know who the REAL God is … or if there is one?  Can anyone know for sure?  The Muslims worship their "god," Christians worship ours, other religions have their own ideas of "god" and some say there is no god.  There is only one place to begin … at the beginning.  Satan wants people to believe there was no beginning … thus, evolution.  Those who have given up on any meaning in life or in death go to this default setting because they cannot imagine anything else.  Their minds are darkened and they are spiritually dead.

But for the rest of us, there is really only one place to start:  the beginning.  As the Apostle Paul addressed the men of Athens he said, "I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.'  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you"  (Acts 17:22-23).  He claimed to know the one true God … to have knowledge that the men of Athens did not have.  The same is true for those of us who know God today.  God Himself has given us knowledge that other people do not yet have, and it is our calling to share it.

Paul went on to begin with creation:  "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  From one man (Adam) He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live" (Acts 17:24-26).  That there is only ONE Creator, ONE God, should be clear to all except that they are spiritually dead and blind and make up all manner of "gods" in their own image to suit their own desires … gods that those who do not know the one true God think they can manipulate for their own purposes.

It is said that there are only three "mono-theistic" religions in the world:  Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  "Religious" Jews repeat the "shema" (the Hebrew word for "hear" or "listen") of Deuteronomy 6:4:  "Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one."  Christianity is the fulfillment of true biblical Judaism.  This one God, the Creator, reveals Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, and sends His Spirit into the world to work in those whom He has chosen (before He created the world - Ephesians 1:4).  This ONE God reveals that He exists in "three-in-oneness" - what we have called the "Trinity."   It would perhaps be better to say "Tri-unity" or "three-in-one," because the Father, Son and Spirit are ONE.

Jesus was aware of this when He prayed for the disciples and for those who would believe in Him through their message:  "I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be in us …" (John 17:21-22).  John writes, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life …" (John 1:1-4).  And, "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father" (John 1:14).  And more:  "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known" (John 1:18).

Jesus came to make the one true God known, and so He prayed to the Father, "Now this is eternal life:  that they may know YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent" (John 17:3).  Jesus said, "I have revealed You to those whom You gave me out of the world" (John 17:6).  Knowing the true God requires revelation.  You cannot know Him apart from God revealing Himself to you by His Spirit.  God revealed Himself in Jesus and following Jesus' ascension into heaven God sent His Spirit to inspire the writers of the New Testament, as He had the prophets of the Old Testament, to give us knowledge of HIM.  Apart from God's revelation of Himself by His Word and Spirit no one would know Him.

While Jews know of the God of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, most of them have not believed in Jesus as the Messiah, the One who came as true God in human form to make the perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross and to conquer death for all who would believe by His resurrection.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the ONLY true God!  There is no other.  Islam claims to believe in this one God and people claim that Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their religion back to Abraham, but it is not true.  Mohammed's "god" is NOT the God of Abraham.  Do not be deceived.  There is ONE true God and ONE true religion.  Christianity is the fulfillment of biblical Judaism.

As Paul continued to speak to the men of Athens in Acts 17, he says, "He (the Creator, this one true God) has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).  The one true God became a man in order to reconcile sinful people like you and me to Himself and so reveal His mercy, love, compassion and grace.  This message is unique to Christianity and is found only in the Bible, God's Word, His revelation of Himself.

With one voice the writers of Scripture, from Genesis through Malachi, from Matthew through Revelation, reveal the truth of the God of creation who plans our salvation, who accomplishes our salvation and who will finally deliver our salvation when He creates a new heaven and a new earth and comes to live with us forever in a perfect new world - the home of righteousness (II Peter 3:11-13).  Will you be there?  In the chaos of this world, are you living with the sure and certain hope that comes by faith in Jesus Christ, the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life?

There will be a day of judgment and the only escape is found in claiming the blood of Jesus as your payment for sin.  God … the one and only true God … has made a way for sinful people like you and me to be reconciled to Him.  You can know Him today by reading His Word and believing in Jesus Christ.  I pray that His Spirit confirms that message in your mind and on your heart today.  I pray that you find rest in the assurance that our God reigns over all things and over all people.  Evil men, deceived by Satan himself, do their worst, but God will deliver His people and we will one day see Him face to face.

Until then, may His truth lift you up and encourage you today, no matter what may be going on in your life.  May you know HIM and draw near to Him through faith in Jesus, offering Him your praise and thanks for His gift of salvation and living to proclaim His name to those around you.  There IS only ONE true God, and knowing HIM is life!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

"The truth about Islam ... "

Islam is a false religion, if it is a religion at all.  Mohammed was not a prophet of the one true God, the God of Abraham, because he denied Jesus, the Messiah, the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham that in his "Seed" all nations on the earth would be blessed.  Mohammed was a false prophet who made false claims about visions and the "religion" he founded was and is a masquerade for his political campaign to conquer the world, supposedly for "Allah."  "Jihad" is not a principle adopted by extremists within the Muslim community, but a command found in their "holy book."  That some Muslims currently live peaceful lives does not change the clear teaching of the Koran that they should not consider Jews or Christians as their friends.  Rather, they are commanded to claim the ground they walk on for Allah and to do what is necessary to promote the laws of Islam, if necessary, by force.  Islam is not a "religion" of peace, but has been, from its beginning, an excuse for war and oppression.

History proves these things for any who want to take an honest look at the past.  For those who foolishly and ignorantly compare the Crusades to what Muslims are doing today in the name of their "god," the Crusades, first of all, were led by the Popes to recapture the Holy Lands from the Muslims who had killed and massacred thousands to capture them in the first place.  But that didn't make them right.  While God commanded Israel in the Old Testament to destroy the nations that were living in the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when they came out of Egypt, it was because of their sinful rebellion and idolatry.  God would later judge Israel and the Jews as well, pointing to the truth that ALL mankind needs a Savior ... one who would bear God's wrath in our place ... the Messiah, the Christ ... Jesus, the eternal Son of God.

According to God's plan, Jesus fulfilled God's promises to send a Savior.  There is nothing in the Gospels or the New Testament that tells the followers of Jesus to kill anyone.  The Crusades were a response to the Muslim's desire to rule the world.  The Muslims, even then, wanted to kill everyone who wasn't Muslim.  Even though the Crusades could never be condoned as honoring to Christ and were certainly misguided, the intention was to remove the Muslims from Jerusalem.  Some sixty years after the death of Mohammed the Dome of the Rock mosque was built on the Temple Mount in order to desecrate what was a sacred place to the Jews and to prevent the temple from being rebuilt.  Islam is not, nor ever has been, a religion that wanted or desired or promoted peace, love, tolerance, compassion or order.  Today Shiites and Sunnis disagree on what will bring about the "end of the world" and the coming of the final leader of Islam ... so they fight against each other.

Look at Muslim nations ... is there peace and tranquility?  Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. ... Muslim nations in Africa???  They abuse women, kill their enemies and thrive on war and mayhem.  People need to be aware of the truth.  Christians need to study history and stop acting as though we have to be ashamed of the Crusades and not speak out against Islam because Christians did the same thing.  Some in the Crusades undoubtedly did horrible, despicable things in the name of Christ.  They were wrong.  They were NOT doing what Christ taught.  The Crusades were used by popes to gain territory.  The popes were corrupt and were themselves not true Christians.  Again, Christians need to be students of history to see what took place before the Reformation.  Then we need to know what Jesus said and what the Bible teaches.  Ignorance leads to a false sense of a common unity among mankind that simply does not exist.  EVIL exists in the world and Islam is evil!!

Anything and anyone that denies the one true God who sent His Son Jesus Christ is of Satan, being born of deception and rebellion and idolatry.  As followers of Jesus we are called to offer salvation to all people by calling them to confess their sin, to repent (to turn) and to believe in Jesus.  Only those who are born again by His Spirit will do so.  Meanwhile, we are called to expose evil.  Those who are called Muslim "extremists" are actually doing what the Koran tells them to do.  It IS their "religion" and it gives them their marching orders.  Yesterday Duke University stated that they were going to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be sounded from their bell-tower in order to promote religious pluralism.  After some protested, they thought better of their decision and reversed it ... for now.  The fact that they were going to do it reveals that they have swallowed the deception that Islam is a religion and that it is a religion of peace.  They are not alone.  Our President and other leaders seem to believe the same thing.  Even many in the church are being taught that we need to respect the teaching of all religions and engage in what is being called "principled pluralism," for the common good and the welfare of mankind.  All of this will lead, of course, to the rise of a world leader who will be the Antichrist foretold in the Bible.  He will offer peace, but will be bent on conquest.  Only the return of Jesus will destroy him and the armies of the nations who march against Israel and Jerusalem.

Jesus Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).  Christians, it is time to educate yourselves by studying God's Word and studying history.  We are called to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).  God has given to the state the right to bear the sword (Romans 13).  As followers of Jesus we are called to be citizens of His kingdom.  As citizens of the United States or another nation that defends freedom for all people, we may be called to engage in battle and may at times need to defend ourselves and others from evil.  This we know:  there will not be true peace on earth until Jesus returns and defeats His enemies and ours.  Islam's desire is to rule the world.  Terrorism today is the result of the teachings of Islam and of those who worship no god but themselves.

Much, much more could be said and I will gladly entertain questions.  Send your comments and/or questions to  To those Muslims who may read these words, I share with you the words of Jesus:  "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.   This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God" (John 3:16-21).

There is a better way than living under the law and trying to earn your salvation.  Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  The Father sent His Son to become man that He might suffer God's wrath for sin and so save all who believe in Him.  Through faith in Jesus you can know that Jesus took your sin upon Himself and that His perfect righteousness is now credited to your account.  That's GRACE - undeserved favor.  This is what makes Christianity different than any other religion in the world.  The Bible reveals God's plan of salvation ... pointing out man's sin and revealing the ONLY way to be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:16-21, 6:2).  You, too, can turn from sin and idolatry and worship the one true God, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Lord.  He alone is God.

Now you have heard the truth and Jesus said the truth will set you free!!

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Does GOD satisfy your soul?"

An old song declared, "I can't get no … satisfaction!"  Such appears to be the constant state of people all over the world.  Why?  Because we look for it in the wrong place.  David writes in Psalm 63:1 ...

"O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." 

But he then goes on to say, "I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and glory.  Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You.  I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your Name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise You" (Psalm 63:2-5).

David had the Spirit of God within him and enjoyed a sweet fellowship with his Creator that was extremely rare in his day, before Jesus came and before the Spirit was poured out.  Yet, through the eyes of faith he had "seen God," believing that He was with him and that He loved him … and David loved God back.   He had found grace and forgiveness in God's mercy and he wrote songs of the joy he found in God, his Rock, his Fortress, his Deliver, his Redeemer … and more.  And David was not alone in finding satisfaction in God.  Isaiah wrote,

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.  Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare" (Isaiah 55:1-2).

He goes on to explain that it is in seeking God and finding His mercy, in confessing sin and finding forgiveness, in hearing God's Word and responding in faith that satisfaction is found.  Isaiah could only point to the "living water," but God used him to point to the One who Himself would satisfy the souls of all who would come to Him … Jesus, the Christ, who would take our sins upon Himself on the cross and rise from the dead, offering forgiveness and life to all who believed in Him!

Only Jesus could say, "Come to ME, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).  The "yoke" of Jesus is faith in the God who sent His Son to redeem you from sin and all its consequences.  Faith believes God's promises and finds satisfaction in GOD Himself.

Do not be like so many who continually want more from God and who question Him as soon as their every desire is not granted.  God Himself is enough.  Faith reveals itself as you go through the "valleys" of life and you continue to testify, "The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.  He guides me in the paths of righteousness for HIS name's sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, (EVEN THOUGH!) … I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Psalm 23:1-6).

Those are not just words to be read at a funeral … they are words to live by every day.  The Apostle Paul would write centuries later, "I have learned the secret of being content (satisfied) in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).  You can see how people take that last verse out of context.  Paul was talking about finding satisfaction in God and therefore being content in this world until he entered into the glory promised to all who believe in Jesus Christ and who find satisfaction in God alone.

That satisfaction allows you to say with Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73:  "I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And earth has nothing I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" (Psalm 73:23-26).

My prayer for YOU today as you read God's Word is that you will stop searching for satisfaction in the things of this world and find that only GOD, your Creator, who revealed Himself in His Son Jesus Christ, … only HE can satisfy your soul.  May you at this moment find rest in Him through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son and our Savior and Lord!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Are you too busy?? ... "

Someone asked me that question recently ... "Are you too busy?"  I've been thinking about that as I missed my first day writing a blog in more than a year, and then missed another!  Am I too busy?  Am I trying to do too many things?  What about you?  It made me ask another question:  "What does it mean to be too busy?"  How would you determine if you were too busy?  Some people think they're too busy if they have to go to work and then add anything else to their schedule.  Other people are constantly trying to find more time to do more things for more people but would never say they are "too busy."  What makes the difference?

Jesus was certainly busy as the crowds gathered around Him wherever He went and He taught His disciples and the crowds, debated with the Pharisees and healed the sick, cast out demons and a host of other things.  But He wasn't TOO busy because He still had time to go to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35).  And He often went to such places to pray:  "The news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (Luke 5:15-16).

One of the ways you know you are too busy is if you don't have time (or take time) to pray.  There are just so many hours in the day and so many days in the week.  If you don't have time to spend in prayer with your Father in heaven, you are too busy.  God would not ever intend for any of His children to be so busy that they do not have time for the most important relationship in their lives ... our relationship with HIM!  And speaking of relationships, you know you are too busy if you don't have time for your family.  Jesus said that God's greatest commandment is to love the LORD our God with all our heart soul, mind and strength, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:1-5; Matthew 22:37-40).  Those in your family are your closest "neighbors."  Loving God and loving others takes TIME!  Relationships take time ... it's what life is all about!!

I've learned to say, "No," to some good things in recent years in order to say, "Yes" to God and to those closest to me.  I'm still learning to do that more frequently.  God, family and Church need to be at the top of your priority list.  Prayer is a lifeline for those who know our Father in heaven, and along with prayer, reading and studying God's Word and meditating on His truth is essential to a life that pleases Him and that brings glory to His Name.  Through prayer and the reading and studying of His Word the Spirit strengthens your faith and equips you to become mature.  Remember, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17).

Knowing what God's Word says and having the time to put in into practice requires TIME!  The biblical illiteracy of so many in the visible church and the pressure of life that squeezes out time for prayer is leaving people vulnerable to stress and anxiety and depression because they don't have the ammunition to fight the enemy!!  This is not a new problem.  The writer of Hebrews laments, "We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's Word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food! ... Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:11-12,14).

As much as we like to eat, it requires some effort.  And eating well, requires more effort.  Fast foods have proven unhealthy for millions.  Trying to feed your spirit in the same way leads to disaster.  Spiritual growth takes TIME!!  Are you too busy?  Examine your life as you begin this new year and see where you need to eliminate the things that are preventing you from experiencing the life Jesus came to give those who are His disciples.  Life is too precious and goes by too fast to miss the joy God offers to those who seek Him!

After writing a blog every day for a year as we read through the Bible together, I said I would be writing something MOST days.  If you miss me for a day or two ... or perhaps even for a week!  Know that I'll be spending time praying, reading, studying, writing, talking with people and loving people ... and go and do likewise.

Friday, January 2, 2015

"To know that you are loved … this much!!"

Over and over the Psalmist writes, "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the LORD say this - those He redeemed from the hand of the foe …" (Psalm 107:1-2).  He goes on to repeat throughout the psalm, "Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men …" (107:8,15,21,31).  And he concludes, "Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD" (107:43).

There is in these words a truth that explains why many reject God, turn away from religion and live without a sure and certain hope … they are not redeemed and therefore are not wise!  It is only those who have been "redeemed" who can even begin to comprehend God's love and to respond by loving Him back.  And it is to these that the Holy Spirit gives wisdom to grasp, though partially so, the depth of God's love for us in Jesus Christ … a love so amazing that apart from His Spirit we cannot possibly come to grips with its power to transform us.

To begin, those who glibly claim that "God loves everybody," miss the meaning of those familiar words from John 3:16:  "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son …"  The meaning of the word, "world," there refers to people from all nations.  From the time of Abraham, God had shown His love and declared His love to one people group:  Israel.  They were and are His "chosen people."  Out of a human race in utter and total rebellion against Him, God chose to reveal Himself to these people.  The rest of the world lay in spiritual darkness and even most of the people of Israel were not given the wisdom required to truly know God and love Him and serve Him.

Jesus declared that God was now fulfilling His promise to Abraham by sending HIM to be a blessing to the "world," to ALL nations.  God was now choosing some from every people, tribe, nation and tongue to be adopted into His family through faith in His Son, the promised Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is these that God sent Jesus to "redeem," to "purchase" with His blood, shed on the cross.  John's vision of the Lamb seated on His throne in Revelation 5 reveals the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders singing a new song:  "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slain, and with Your blood You purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9).

Though God would have been perfectly just to judge the entire human race because of our sin and rebellion, He determined to set His love on those whom He chose to be His and sent Jesus Christ to "redeem" us by His blood shed on the cross.  "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ …" (I Peter 1:18-19).  This is why Jesus said to His disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. … You did not choose Me, but I chose you …" (John 15:13, 16).

That was true of the disciples and that is true of every person who is redeemed by His blood and born again by His Spirit.  God's amazing grace is tied to His amazing love.  "Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD" (Psalm 107:43).  If you have come to know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord you need to understand that it was not the choice of your own "free will" … the decision of a heart and mind dead in sin.  John says it so clearly in I John 4:19:  "WE love because He FIRST loved us" (I John 4:19).

Many today are caught in the trap of religious duty because they do not truly know the love of God.  Believing that God loves everybody the same, they think it no big deal that they are "saved" because it was their decision.  These seem to believe that God should be happy they chose Him and so they go on about life living to please themselves and offering God their leftovers.  Preachers and teachers then try to prod them to do good, to obey God's commands, to worship, to pray, to give, to serve … but their words seem to fall on deaf ears.  It is because those who are "listening" are not HEARING!!  Their ears are still deaf and their minds are still closed because their hearts are still hard.

God's Spirit is the only one who can break through the darkness and create a new heart and the evidence of the new birth is LOVE!!  This love for Christ arises from a deep awareness of God's holiness and of my sin … an awareness that drops me to my knees in thanksgiving for a Savior.  If you do not understand the depths of your sin and of your need for forgiveness, you will never understand the depth of God's love in sending Jesus to pay the penalty for sin.  So many in the church (and all those outside of it) fail to understand these things because they do not have the wisdom that comes only from the Spirit.  "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (I Corinthians 2:14).

We who by God's sovereign choice and amazing grace have been born again have been given the wisdom to understand that there is nothing we have done, can do, are doing or ever will do to earn God's love and grace … nothing!!  We stand as guilty as the vilest sinner before a holy God, and yet, my Father in heaven has set His love on me and has opened my heart and mind to receive Jesus as my Savior, to acknowledge Him as my Lord.  My life is His and I love Him … I love Him!!!  And I am so very thankful for His redemption that I willingly and joyfully serve Him, even to the point of death.  So great is His love that I owe Him my very life … forever!!

To know that you are loved this much will transform your life!  No person can ever accuse God of being unfair.  If He judged everyone, He would be fair.  And because He is God, His choosing of some reveals His wisdom, grace, patience, mercy, compassion, love and so much more.  When you know you are one of His chosen ones, then and only then will you begin to grasp how much you are loved. "Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the LORD" (107:43).  I pray that you will join me in making this a lifelong pursuit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"Enjoy God's gifts ... and have a BLESSED new year!! "

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (I Timothy 6:17-19).

Starting the new year with joy is God's desire for all who know Him ... so how do you do that?  It may seem easy for some.  You have what you want (at least most of it), and your life seems to be going pretty well.  Life is good, so you have joy.  Others find it hard to be joyful because they want something they don't have, life has delivered a trial or disappointment, or worse - a tragedy.  How do you have joy when times are hard?  There are thousands of different scenarios as people head into the new year, but still God calls those who are His to "be joyful always" (I Thessalonians 5:16).  How do you do that?

There is only one way ...  FIRST, you need to know God.  It's not enough to know "about" God.  A lot of people know "about" God and get upset when their "god" doesn't do what they want "it" to do.  So they have joy when their "religion" seems to be working for them, and they lose their joy when it doesn't.  When their god is nice to them they're happy, when he/she/it isn't nice to them, they're sad, angry and depressed.  Such is the emotional/spiritual state of millions of people.  As we live in this world the "haves" seem to have joy, while the "have nots" seem to be incapable of joy.  Still, there are some who prove that there's more to joy than what you have or experience.  These have learned the secret of contentment through oneness with Christ.

Earlier in I Timothy 6, Paul writes, "Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that" (I Timothy 6:6-8).  Those who truly know God through faith in Jesus Christ have joy daily because we find our joy not in what God gives us, but in God Himself.  HE IS OUR JOY!!  When Paul says in the verses above that God "richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment," the "everything" is the opportunity to live with Him and for Him, being "rich in good deeds, and ... generous and willing to share ... in this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life" (I Timothy 6:18-19).

You see, living for yourself doesn't give you joy!!  It just doesn't.  Living for God by rejoicing in Him and loving others is the path to true joy.  Who knew that obedience to God's commands to love Him and to love others was the pathway to true joy?!! GOD did!  No wonder the Psalmist wrote, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:1-2).  By giving His Son to pay our penalty for sin and then giving us His Spirit to enable us to live in obedience to His commands God has given us everything we need to find JOY!

Only those who truly know the God of salvation can ENJOY the gifts God gives ... beginning with the gift of His Son ... "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.  Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs ..."  HOW???  "Know that the LORD is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100:1-5).  And it is in enjoying THESE things that we who believe discover the joy God promises His children.

May you know that joy today and every day in the new year by drawing near to God through faith in Jesus and living to please and honor Him, living with Him and for Him, by the power of His Spirit living within you.  Have something better than a "happy" new year ... have a BLESSED new year.