Friday, October 26, 2012

The Gift of Memory

The Gift of Memory

Lamentations 3:19-25
Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.

 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.

There was great sorrow over Judah’s judgment because of the sin of rebellion and this caused Jeremiah to consider the grace, mercy, and compassion of God. As bleak as the situation of judgment had become, God was faithful in His lovingkindness toward Judah and according to His matchless character kept all His promises to them––––they would not be destroyed forever. Malachi 3:6 ~ For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (The book of Lamentations teaches all believers how to deal with the memories of suffering and hardship.)

Memory can sometimes be the servant of hopelessness when we are faced with things beyond our control. The mind thinks of despairing and dark predicaments of the past, present and unknown future. Sometimes memory stands like a cloud over us raining down it’s unwanted thoughts and at times we are unable to, “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” ( 2 Corinthians 10:5). Memory brought Jeremiah to despair thinking of the people of Israel and their perpetual sin without repentance. Jeremiah 19:15 ~ Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words. 

The same memory that brought Jeremiah to despair brought him life and comfort again when he, in turning to the Truth of God and bowing before the throne of grace, was restored unto joy remembering where he found true hope. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; for they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23.) There is no need for one to live in a state of despair, for truth will transform memory into an angel of comfort. The memory that may have brought so many dark and gloomy things into a believer’s life can be trained to carry a wealth of hopeful thoughts and replace them with joy.

“In John Bunyons’s allegorical book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian was locked up in Doubting Castle, memory was the club the famous giant would beat his captives with so terribly. They remembered how they had left the right road, how they had been warned not to do so, and how in rebellion, they had wandered into By-path Meadow. They remembered all their past misdeeds, their sins, their evil thoughts and evil words, and all these were like knots of wood in the club, causing sorrowful bruises and wounds in their poor suffering bodies.

However, one night, the same memory that had whipped them, helped to set them free, for it whispered something in Christians’s ear. He then cried out, ‘What a fool I am to lie in a stinking dungeon when I can walk in freedom! I have a key in my inside coat pocket, called Promise. It will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.’ So he put his hand into his coat pocket and, with much joy, he pulled out the key and thrust it into the lock and the key did open it and all the others, too. By this blessed act of memory, poor Christian and Hopeful were set free.”

Consider where we would be without Christ and how despairing our afflictions would be without His mercies that fail not. Something better truly awaits us, for Jeremiah reminds us that there are some mercies that continue, they are new every morning. Remember the pit from whence we came and thank God continuously–––singing of His compassions which delight the soul day after day. When our mind is fixed on the gospel of Christ and not on the memories stained with sin, we can with great assurance exult the blessings of the gospel while standing before God in freedom, pronounced righteous with no condemnation, having absolute peace with God.

Thought:  The gift of memory can keep your hearts from complaining when the circumstances of life are not at all comfortable. When you have lost much but you have not lost your God remember, your God becomes your all in all. If you have lost everything because of sin or situations beyond your control but you have not lost your God, then you still have all, because Christ is your ALL in all.  Your sufficiency is from God in knowing He is enough and His gift of memory gives hope to sustain you.

Quotes from “The Pilgrim’s Progress” by John Bunyon and “Finding Peace in Life’s Storms” by Charles Spurgeon

Friday, October 19, 2012

Deity vs. Demons

Deity vs.Demons
Mark 5:8-13
For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.  Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.  And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, ( they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.

When we talk about the deity of Christ we are talking about the teaching that Jesus Christ is fully God and possesses all the attributes that belong to God equally. The term “deity” describes one who possesses the attributes and characteristics of God. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ took on humanity, not that a human Jesus took on some form of divinity. Christ has power over disease, death and demons because He is God.

We have learned from the Bible, that there is a wicked force of evil spirits in the world called demons. Created by God as holy angels, their home was heaven and they served and worshiped God. Through pride and rebellion they became evil and their leader, Lucifer, also known as Satan and the devil, lead one third of those holy angels in his prideful rebellion. As a result of their rebellion and pride, they were cast out of heaven by God Himself. (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:14-19 and Revelation 20:8-10 tell of his sentence.) Fallen angels, being created by God originally, will live forever and will one day be thrown into a lake of fire where they will be tormented forever. They will never be redeemed, forgiven, nor will they or can they repent. They are forever doomed.

Demons operate in this world today to achieve the purpose of Satan and foil the purposes of God. They are behind this world's system of evil and they are the dominating powers in the lives of all people who do not belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Demons are real, and they are wicked. Jesus holds the ultimate power over demons and when He came, He delivered people from them. Christ, the apostles, and the 70 were the only ones who could cast out demons, and in every case the demon-possessed people were unbelievers. They cast out demons to show that the  Kingdom of God, true salvation had come.  Luke 10:17-20 ~ And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.  Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

There are ministries today that are operating under the guise of “Christian Exorcists,” which are extremely dangerous. Christ never gave us the power to exorcise demons out of people nor has he commanded us to perform such acts. There is only one time the word exorcists is used in the New Testament and that is found in Acts 19:13 ~ Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. These Jews tried to apply some kind of special formula to their exorcism by using the name of Jesus to remove the demons but they failed. Look what happens next in Acts 19:14,15.  And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? They had no power over this evil spirit only Jesus and Paul. The demon rejected their attempt to expel him from this person. This confirms that the power to cast out demons belonged to Jesus and the apostles and no one else––––the demon gave testimony to that.

The best way to overcome the power of demons is to be subject to Christ and willing to consciously submit to God’s authority. James 4:7 ~ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. The word “resist” literally means: “to take your stand against.” All people are either under the leadership of Christ or the leadership of Satan and his demons. If a person transfers their allegiance from Satan to Christ, Satan “will flee from them.” To release a person from the power of Satan would be to give them the gospel (which is the power of God unto salvation) and for them to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ who has power over all. Demons can't come and live in a Christian according to 2 Corinthians 6:15,16. And what concord (harmony) hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. We don't need to go around fearing demons because we are more than conquerors in Christ who loved us. We can live triumphant in Him. 1 John 4:4 ~ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.  Satan and his demons are in the world. Who's in us? God.

Thought:  Galatians 2:20 says, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. You are the temple of God and you bring into Satan’s realm the presence of Christ. You bring into the demonic realm the preaching of the gospel of Christ which wrecks and ruins their kingdom. Everything about you having been delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God's dear Son causes you to make demons tremble. When you show up, they are fearful because when you show up Jesus shows up. 1 Corinthians 6:17 ~ But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit. 
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God 
by Martin Luther

And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure for lo his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him."

Friday, October 12, 2012

What About Suicide?

What About Suicide?

Colossians 2:13-14
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

I was asked a question last week that caused me to ponder the full affects of the tragic reality of suicide. During Bible study, a young woman ask me, “Is suicide a sin and will those who commit the act, go to heaven?” My heart was grieved as she spoke, considering the possibility that someone she knew and loved may have committed such an act or that she herself was contemplating this step. In response, I replied: “Suicide is a serious sin and equal to murder according to Exodus 20:13 ~ Thou shalt not kill (murder), but as any other sin, it can be forgiven. The Word of God teaches us that our past, present and future sins are all forgiven, if we have truly been redeemed by God. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:38,39, that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” 

According to Scripture, if a person should take their life during a time of extreme weakness, they could be received into the presence of God. Jude 24 ~ Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.  But there would be cause to question this individual’s faith for even considering to take their life–––it could be that they have never been truly “Born Again,” by the Spirit of God. A Christian is characterized by their hope and purpose in life.  Romans 5:2-5 ~ By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 

Some may ask, “What is our purpose in life and what are we to do with the life that God has given us”? Luke 9:23-25 ~ And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? To take up the cross which Christ speaks of is to deny one’s self and be willing to obey Christ’s commandments, serve one another, and perhaps suffer, even unto death, if called to do so for His sake.

Those that repeatedly think about or consider suicide are practicing sin in their hearts. Proverbs 23:7 ~ For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. 1 John 3:9 ~ Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (habitual sinning); for his seed (permanently transformed into a new creation) remaineth in him: and he cannot sin,  (practice sin) because he is born of God. We must live out the gospel every day of our lives to be able to embrace the trials God has allowed. Living, breathing, and thinking about the gospel gives us the “Good News,” we so desperately need in realizing the gospel is our life, not just one part of it. The gospel slays sin at the root and encourages us to rest in the Righteousness of Christ knowing our standing is secure in Him regardless of our performance. 

Pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "God has reserved to himself the right to determine the end of life, because he alone knows the goal to which it is his will to lead it." When that leader of the German resistance to Hitler was being persecuted -- prior to his imprisonment and execution -- he affirmed: "Even if a person’s earthly life has become a torment for him, he must commit it intact to God’s hand, from which it came" (Ethics [Macmillan, 1955], pp. 124-5).

Thought: Suicide is a difficult issue to write about and hard to understand when someone you love decides to take such extreme measures. My encouragement to you dear friend is–––if you have someone that is struggling with thoughts of suicide, give them the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16 ~ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 

Such an awareness of their need for Christ should not leave them distressed but lift their spirit by magnifying the grace of God that has forgiven them of all their sins. The more they appreciate the magnitude of God’s forgiveness of sin, the more their love will grow for Christ and they will delight in worshipping Him, the Redeemer of their soul. Some dear people have definitely lost their focus in what the power of the gospel is and how important it can be in their daily walk. To experience the life-transforming power of the gospel in all areas of life and to preach the gospel to themselves daily, will cause them to be amazed at the difference it will make in their lives, while savoring the glories of God’s love–––from which they can never be separated.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Will Your Anchor Hold?

Will Your Anchor Hold in the Storms of Life?
Hebrews 6:17-20
Where in God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:  That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

What storms in life are you dealing with at this moment? Are you in the storm of life threatening health issues and nothing seems to be going the way you thought it would? Are you in the storm of a marriage relationship so rocky it could come to the point of shipwreck, divorce? Are you in the storm of overwhelming financial loss and there’s no visible hope that you will see relief  tomorrow? Has a child gone astray that you have loved and nurtured in the ways of the Lord and now they have left the faith they were rooted in? How do you find peace in these storms and know that Jesus will never let you go? How do you turn painful memories into blessings and build a solid foundation of faith and trust with the outpouring of God’s love? How do you receive daily strength and encouragement turning every agonizing heartache into experiencing God’s secure protection? How? Have you asked yourself these questions and many more being fully acquainted with the overwhelming storms of your life that surround you? 

I want to encourage your heart with a powerful tool for surviving daily struggles and temptations in the difficulties of life while meeting every longing of your heart. No case is too hard for God and no problem to difficult to overcome when we hope in God and replace fear and doubt with peace. Luke 1:37 ~ For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Trusting in the anchor of your soul will give you strength and faith in receiving the blessings of grace and peace. Hebrews 6:19 ~ Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. We must trust in the Lord for what we do not know having laid hold of faith in God for the outcome. A person who believes God gains strength for patience in suffering, and discovers that earnestly obeying Christ, in living out the gospel, brings peace and joy unspeakable. Our hope is embodied in Christ Himself who has entered into God’s presence on our behalf. Romans 8:34b....who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 

We must realize that a ship that is anchored will not be prevented from being tossed about and those on board from becoming sea sick but be assured, it won’t be driven away from where it is anchored. We may be greatly tossed around, but we are quite safe, for we have an anchor of the soul that is both secure and faithful. The anchor of our soul is our hope which gives us confidence in believing Him though we are unable to see Him. 1 Peter 1:8 ~ Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Times of trouble should cause us to have more confidence in Christ than ever before. When our head is pounding and our heart is aching, when all earthly joys have fled away, and when the shadow of death comes near, grow more and more confident that our Father in heaven cannot lie and He holds us secure in Him during the times of such turmoil and trouble.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
  Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

Priscilla Owens and William Kirkpatrick wrote this beautiful hymn in the 1800’s

Prayer: Father, help us not to resent the storms of life or be fearful of their effects.  Much like we prepare for a ravaging storm by anchoring valuables to a firm foundation, help us to anchor our hearts in the firm foundation of Your Word that will help us to withstand the testings and trials of life that are certain to come our way.  Even as a ship is proven to be seaworthy over its lifetime, may our faith be proven trustworthy as we hold onto You, the Anchor for our soul. Isaiah 26:3 ~ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.