I’ll Be Back 

Revelation 22:20-21
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘ Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

If you are anything like me, you have echoed the cry of John, from time to time in your walk with God. It seems whenever things become difficult, confusing or frightening, my heart cries out, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I realize, the only reason for His delay is His desire to see others come to faith in Christ. Peter wrote,

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

There is a day coming, in the not so distant future, when all the promises of Scripture will be fulfilled, and Christ will return for His church and set up His kingdom. As John sat incarcerated on the island of Patmos, his heart longed for the return of his Savior and Lord.

That being said, it has often struck me, that the final promise of Scripture takes us from the promises of the future, to those of the present. After declaring Christ will return for His church, John reminds us that we are living in a present state of grace.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”

Grace can be defined as the giving nature of God. It i s expressed in His desire to save the lost, and to pour out lavish gifts upon His children. As we await the return of Christ, we live in the age of grace. The closer we get to the time of Christ’s return, the more difficult things will become on earth. As men harden their hearts to God, sin will increase and righteousness will become more and more scarce. It is vital to remember, although God will judge sin, it is His desire to save. The darker the background, the more brightly the message of the Gospel shines. Instead of becoming discrouraged by the present condition of things, let’s remember that it is in the heart of God to save. Let’s be busy praying for, and witnessing to, our friends and loved ones, until the day Christ calls us home.

Until He comes,

Pastor Jim

 

Full Of Grace 

2 Corinthians 8:9
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Grace is a beautiful word. We use it today to speak of the beauty of motion. We might refer to the “grace” of a gymnast or a figure skater. The word used in the Bible speaks of the giving nature of God. Webster defines it as, “the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from Him.” In other words, grace is the character trait of God that causes Him to want to give what is best to men. This grace is immeasurable. Paul wrote to the Ephesians regarding the giving nature of God,

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. . . “ Ephesians 1:7

“. . . that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7

Notice, he spoke of the riches of grace, and of the exceeding riches of grace. Riches refer to having a great amount. The term exceeding, means too much, or an over abundance. We could say, God has too much grace. So much, He cannot help but pour it out on those who belong to Him.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”

While His grace is more than we could ever completely fathom, it is also something we can measure and experience. It is measured at the cross. It was on the cross, ‘the exceeding riches of His grace” was poured out; Jesus used the simple phrase “He gave His only Son.” Because of the gift of Christ, the grace of God should never be questioned. Instead, it should be scrutinized. We should take our experiences, and measure them in light of the cross of Christ. While I will not even pretend to understand why each of us experiences the particular trial we are facing, I will take my trial and look at it through the eyes of grace, or the shadow of the cross. At the place where Jesus laid down the riches of His glory, in order to pave a way for me to come to God.

His grace is not only measured at the cross, but can also be experienced daily by the believer. Paul wrote, “for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…” This grace was something they were experiencing; because He became poor, they were becoming rich. Now, it is important we understand the language that Paul is using. He is not stating that following Jesus is the path to financial success or great earthly wealth. This is not a get rich quick scheme where, if you follow Jesus and are a faithful tither, you will end up the richest guy on the block. Paul is referring to the wealth of spiritual blessings that belong to the child of God. Earlier in the chapter, he spoke of the Macedonians who, though they were very poor, they were big givers and filled with great joy. As you daily walk with Jesus, you will experience the abundance of His grace flowing out to minister to you, regardless of the difficulty you are facing. If you are questioning His grace, go back to the cross and measure it. Reflect on how God gave His Son.

Pastor Jim

 

Honor

Romans 16:3b
“. . . my fellow workers in Christ Jesus

Years ago, I received a letter; I had been selected to be awarded for my accomplishments as a teacher. Upon reading the first paragraph, I was honored and somewhat humbled. My ego was stroked, as I was being told of the great responsibility I was fulfilling by teaching others. However, as I continued to read, I discovered any teacher who was willing to purchase the hundred-dollar, leather-bound book, would have their name listed in it. Even though I knew it was a scam, I was still slightly tempted to have my name in a book honoring me for my accomplishments.

We all love to be honored. We love when our accomplishments are recognized and applauded. We will even sit back and watch as others are honored for their acheivements. It is interesting to me, the things for which men are honored. When a person writes or sings a song… Honor. When a person entertains us with their acting, directing or producing skills… Honor. When a person accomplishes extraordinary feats with a ball… believe it or not, Honor. Like the trophies they receive, that honor will fade away and soon be forgotten. What of our accomplishments for the kingdom of God? Jesus told us they are stored away in heaven, where they will never decay.

Here in Romans 16, we are reminded of what is honored in Heaven’s Kingdom. We read of men and woman who we will never find in a list of who’s who among men. If you Google “Famous People”, their names will never show up, nor will their accomplishments be regarded as great. Yet, their names are listed in the eternal Word of God, and their accomplishments remind us of how we can store up treasures that will last into eternity. Some of the things listed include: serving within the church, opening our houses up for a home fellowship, working alongside those who are preaching the Gospel, or teaching the Word, treating our place of business as a means to effect other for the Kingdom of God, sharing Christ, and passing the test that trials place upon us. As I read this list of men and women, I am encouraged by how important the “little” things are to God, and to the Apostle. What joy must have filled Paul’s heart, knowing the church in Rome was filled with people who were dedicating their time and energies to further the Kingdom. The work of ministry was not left to a few, but was supported by the faithful labor of many.

Rather than spending our time trying to gain the fleeting honor of men, let’s determine to live for an honor that will never fade away. Malachi writes of a book in heaven that includes the accomplishments of the saints. (Malachi 3:16) Allow me two final points of application.

First, I believe we would be amiss in our reading of the chapter, if we did not take a moment to give honor where honor is due.The following is a list of people who you will meet in heaven, who are recorded here for their impact upon the world. Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junia, Amplias, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, the household of Aristobulus, Herodion, the household of Narcissus, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, and his mother, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

Second, Paul ends this section by saying, “Greet one another.” It is not just those, who in times past, faithfully served Jesus who deserve honor, but those who are currently involved in impacting the world for Jesus. We should be looking for ways to serve the Lord today, as well as giving the proper place of honor to that service. Rather than looking at serving the Lord as a chore, we should look at it with the honor the Word of God places upon it. What will you do for Heaven’s Kingdom today?

Pastor Jim

 

One Mind 

Romans 15:5-6
“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

imageThis chapter contains many prayers of which this is the first. Paul is praying that the church might be like-minded, or rather, have one mind. As we look at the church today we see it is anything but one-minded. Worship styles vary from rock bands to congregational hymns; some churches meet in traditional buildings, while others meet in schools, parks or store fronts. Doctrinally, some churches are Calvinistic, Arminian, or somewhere in between. We have pre-, post- and mid-tribulation teachings, and there are even different views on how to perform a baptism.

Individual Christians, within the same church, also have a wide variety of opinions. From week to week, one thinks the worship or sermon was excellent, while another complains about the length, delivery or content. Who is right? If Paul is exhorting us to have the same mind, which mind should we have? I suggest to you, Paul is not instructing every Christian to have my mind or yours, but to have the mind of Christ. Writing to the Philippian church Paul said,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, . . .” Philippians 2:5

The mind we must develop is the mind that was in Christ; a mind-set that sought above all else, to be pleasing to the Father. “For even Christ did not please Himself…” (Romans 15:3). Practically, this was worked out as He lived for the things that please God, and exalted others above Himself. As we follow the life of Christ, we read of the needs of others being placed above His own. We know of times where He was hungry and tired, but that never stopped Him from investing in the lives of those around Him. The sick, weak, hurting, and unloved, all found a place of honor when they came into contact with Christ.

When I filter my thinking toward God and others, with the way Christ lived, I will find I am developing His mind. It is seen in laying aside the sinful things in life, placing the needs of others above my own, and seeking to please God above all else. Notice this is a commission given to every believer. It is not for a select few. Every Christian must live life by thinking of God and others, the way Christ did.

Pastor Jim

 

No Man Is An Island 

Romans 14:7
“For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.”

A Christian by the name of John Donne (1572-1631), is credited for the saying, “No man is an island.” He wrote it in a devotional message speaking of how our lives effect one another. Paul is writing about the same idea, because we are part of the body of Christ, our lives effect one another. The decision I make to follow the Lord will have an impact upon those around me, and their decision will impact me. In more recent times, a song was written with the chorus, “I don’t need anyone, I am really having fun being all alone, I am an island.” The song was a parody, where the artist was addressing the modern idea that our lives are our own, and our sins do not effect anyone else. Paul goes on to write,

Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

What a beautiful concept and wise way to live. When we come to the realization our lives do not really belong to us, but have been purchased by the Lord, we are free to live for His glory. There is no greater freedom in life than to live for the purpose for which we were designed. Instead of thinking of freedom as the ability to do whatever we want, we should realize, true freedom is found in living for Christ and others.

Pastor Jim

 

Time To Wake Up

Romans 13:11
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

I can remember times, as a child, when I had to wake up very early for an event I was looking forward to. I would set my alarm, and a backup, then wake up over and over again through the night to check the time. I did not want to sleep in and miss out. I recall, one morning, hearing the alarm go off, getting out of bed, getting dressed and walking out to the living room, where I put on my shoes. After a few moments, I heard my mom’s voice asking me what I was doing. As I began to answer, I noticed all the lights were on and my parents were watching television. It was eleven p.m., I had only been asleep for about an hour, and had dreamt I heard the sound of my alarm clock.

Paul is writing about the most important of all events, encouraging us not to sleep in and miss out. He writes concerning Salvation, reminding us, we are nearer to the return of Christ than any other time in human history. Just as there are signs that morning is approaching, so there are signs that Christ is coming. It is foolish to ignore the warnings and continue on in our spiritual slumber. Instead, we must live life prepared to face eternity. Paul tells us three necessary things to do in order to be prepared when the trumpet sounds and Christ calls us home.

First, we are to cast off the works of darkness. After Lazarus was resurrected, Jesus commanded that his burial clothes be removed. Those clothes were fitting for a dead man, but not for the living. They would stink of death and restrict life. In the same way, there are behaviors that might have ‘fit’ us before we came to Christ, but we must be cast aside. Paul mentions partying, drinking, sexual sin, lust, envy and strife. These things should remain in our past.

Second, we are to put on Christ. Christianity is not all about what we don’t do. Instead, it is about living for Jesus and becoming like Him. As we focus on growing in Him, we find His character traits become a part of us. We become more loving, merciful, kind, giving, compassionate and selfless. Paul referred to these as the fruit of the Spirit. It is important, at times, to do a Spiritual checkup to see if those traits are developing in our lives.

Finally, we are told not to make provision for the flesh. In other words, we must be careful not to make it easy to sin. If you are on a diet, it is probably not a great idea to watch “Cup Cake Wars”, or hang out at a bakery. In the same way, we all know the temptations we face and must remove ourselves as far from them as possible. Christians who live near the fence are the ones who are constantly falling in and out of sin.

Jesus is coming back! Let’s be ready when He comes. Let’s live so that we hear Him say, “Well Done!”

Pastor Jim

 

The Will Of God

Romans 12
Over the years, I have found most of us are trying to determine God’s will for our lives. We have come to understand, His ways are better than our ways and if we desire abundant life, we want to be in the center of His will. Most of us have heard the story of Jonah, a man who refused to go where God wanted him and was consequently swallowed by a large fish. I do not want to spend any time in the belly of the beast, and would much rather go where God wants, and do what God wants. Part of His will can be difficult to decipher and is only determined by following the example of Mary, sitting at His feet. If you are trying to decide what job to take, who to marry, or if you should have another child, the best thing to do is spend time with Jesus.

As you fast, pray and read His Word, you will find He gives direction to your life. But there is another side to the will of God, one that is of even greater importance, and is much easier to determine. It is His will for how we are to live. While at times it may be hard to obey, it it is never difficult to determine. Here in Romans 12, Paul gives 25 specific details as to how the Christian ought to behave.

1. Let love be without hypocrisy.
2. Abhor what is evil.
3. Cling to what is good.
4. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love.
5. In honor giving preference to one another.
6. Don’t lag in diligence.
7. Be fervent in spirit.
8. Serve the Lord.
9. Rejoice in hope.
10. Be patient in tribulation.
11. Continue steadfastly in prayer.
12. Distribute to the needs of the saints.
13. Be given to hospitality.
14. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16. Be of the same mind toward one another.
17. Do not set your mind on high things.
18. Associate with the humble.
19. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
20. Repay no one evil for evil.
21. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
22. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
23. Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
24. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
25. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This list gives us plenty to focus upon as we seek to uncover what is next in the plan of God for our lives.

Pastor Jim