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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fellowship with the Living God

Fellowship with the Living God
1 John 1:1-2:2
Amazingly, the Bible tells us that we can have fellowship with the living God.  Rich fellowship – bringing us “fullness of joy”. (1 John 1:3-4) When we believe in Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to live within us and teach and guide us. If we are willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can have fellowship with the Lord and our lives can be a continual feast!  
Scripture tells us that:” God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5b) And when we have fellowship with our good God, who is all light, Scripture says that we will be “walking in the light”.   (1 John 1:7) And when we walk in the light, or when we have fellowship with our God and Father, we have joy and peace.  Why don’t we Christians always “walk in the light” since it is such a joyful path?  Why do dark shadows so often creep in and follow us?  How do we get off the path so easily?
The Bible says that sin can get in the way of our fellowship with God.  Scripture says: “If we say that we have fellowship with God, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1:6) If we have believed in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, our sin isn’t going to take away our salvation.  After we believe in Christ, if we purposely continue sinning, we are still part of God’s family.  But our holding onto sin may take away our close fellowship with God. 
God has a plan.  Scripture says: “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9) Confessing our sins before a faithful and just God brings cleansing and forgiveness.  We will not be completely free of sin until we die and often, we don’t even recognize some of our sins.  The Holy Spirit is working on us, and when we do recognize a sin, we are told to confess it in prayer and turn from it.
 We often try to overlook our sin or make excuses for it. I have a problem loving some people. Especially people who treat me badly and people who try to tear down the Christian faith.  I make excuses for my sin of hating certain people.  But I can’t get around the fact that Scripture tells us to “Love and pray for our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) Without the help of the Holy Spirit, I find it impossible to love these folks.  So, I need God’s help in order to be able to obey Him.
 On many occasions, I have had to ask the Lord to give me His love for the person who was treating me badly or attacking the Christian gospel. And amazingly, He always answers those prayers.  (I may slip and have to ask Him for His love again and again!) But He always supplies it again if I want it. God calls His children to live a life of love and to pray for our enemies. And He calls us to let Him deal and judge the person who is giving us trouble.
We are called to confess our sins when we become conscious of them and not make excuses.  We humans sometimes boast that we can have fellowship with God while living in unrepentant sins.  But we are trying to lower God to the human (sinful) level.
 The Bible says that if we claim to be close to God while being determined to go on actively sinning, we deny the truth.  Scripture says: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 John 1;6) The Bible speaks often about the “truth”.  But what is this truth?  The Word of God, the Bible, is the truth.  When we study the Scriptures, we can discover what is good and what is sinful.  Our job is to trust and obey. That is the ticket!  When we trust and obey, even though we are sinners, we can have joyful fellowship with the Living God.     
But then there is another way we can mess it up.  We humans sometimes boast that we can have fellowship with God by living a sinless life.  If we can just be good enough, spiritual enough on our own, we can have fellowship with God.  But we are all sinners and the Bible says that claiming that we are without sin denies the truth and makes God out to be a liar.  Scripture says: “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us…  If we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 and 10)
It sounds confusing and impossible for us.  But the righteousness of Jesus uniquely suits Him for His role as our Helper when we have sinned.  Jesus is our eternal Advocate.  Jesus fills us with His Spirit and covers us with His righteousness, and Scripture says: “the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7b) His Spirit in us is changing us.  God’s offer is for us to confess our sins and a faithful and just God will bring cleansing and forgiveness. No other religion on earth offers us anything like this.  God is the real joy giver! There is no greater place to be on earth than in the presence of God.    





Monday, September 16, 2019

David and Goliath

David and Goliath
1 Samuel 17
The year was approximately 900 B.C. and the Israelites had gotten their very first king, King Saul.  The Philistines were neighbors and enemies of the Israelites during King Saul’s reign.  And the ruthless Philistines were always trying to pick fights and conquer the Israelites in order to enslave them.  So, King Saul’s men, were constantly fighting the Philistines. Sometimes they lost their battles with the Philistines and sometimes they won.  But whenever the Israelites trusted God for their victories, they won. 
During this time David was just a shepherd boy and too young to be a soldier. But three of his older brothers were soldiers in King Saul’s army. During one of the battles with the Philistines, David’s father, Jesse, asked David to go to the battleground and check up on his older brothers and bring them food.
 So, the next morning David left his sheep with a servant and took off hiking across the fields to find King Saul’s army and his brothers.  Scripture tells us that the battle was being fought in a valley between two hills.   The Philistines were camped on one hill and across the valley the Israelites were camped on the opposite hill.   Just as David arrived at the battleground, Goliath, a huge Philistine giant about 9 ½ feet tall, came stomping out from the Philistine army camp and stormed over to the Israelite camp shouting out curses at the Israelite soldiers.
Goliath, a champion of war, was wearing a bronze helmet and a heavy coat of scale armor. He had bronze shields on his legs and a bronze javelin slung on his back.  His spear shaft was heavy and long, and his shield bearer marched ahead of him carrying a heavy shield to protect him.
Every morning and evening for forty days now Goliath had been strutting up and down the valley shouting insults at the Israelite soldiers and daring one of them to be a man and come out and fight him!  Goliath is making fun of the God of Israel and mocking the Jewish soldiers for having a God that wouldn’t be able to save them from him and his might fighting power.
All the Israelite soldiers would run away each time Goliath would come out and bully them.   When David saw this he became very angry and he argued with his older brothers. David felt that one of the Israelite soldiers should trust God enough to go fight this giant. Why should Goliath be allowed to insult God?  Why didn’t one of King Saul soldiers trust God enough to fight this giant Philistine?  Eliab, David’s oldest brother, flew into a rage and told David to shut up.  He fussed that David was a stupid boy and didn’t understand. That Goliath, the giant and mighty man of war, with all of his armor would certainly kill any man who tried to fight him.  But little David insisted that God was bigger than any giant and someone, maybe he, should go fight Goliath in God’s Name. 
What David said was overheard and reported to King Saul, and the king sent for David to come to him.  David bowed before his king and said: “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine: your servant will go and fight him.”  (1 Samuel 17:32) King Saul insisted that David was just a boy and surely the giant would kill him.  But David insisted that the God of Israel would deliver him.  King Saul prayed for David and then tried to put his armor on David, but it didn’t fit.  So, David got five little stones from the creek bed and said that he would fight Goliath with his little slingshot. 
When David came out to fight, Goliath looked David over and saw that he was only a boy.  Scripture says that Goliath hated David and he said: “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks? “Goliath cursed David by his gods.  Then he roared at David: “Come here, I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!”  (1 Samuel 17: 43-44)
And David replied: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the Name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me, … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves: for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands.”  (1 Samuel 17:45-47) 
Goliath in a fury ran to attack, and David ran to the battle line to meet him.  Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, David slung it and struck Goliath on the forehead.  The stone sank into his forehead, and Goliath fell face down on the ground.  When the Philistine army saw that their hero was dead, they all turned and ran away.
David grew up and was chosen by God to be Israel’s next king. (2 Samuel) Scripture says that David was a man after God’s own heart. (Acts 13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14)   Why is that?  Let’s look at David’s life and see if we can find out why God was so pleased with David.  Why he was a man after God’s own heart!
 Even though David committed many big sins in his life, he was always deeply sorry and always quickly repented of them. David sincerely wanted God’s will for himself as well as for his country, Israel. God meant everything to David.  David loved God with all his heart, and he loved God’s Word and said that it was a light for his path. It is believed that David wrote many of the Psalms through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  
David was a humble servant. (1 Samuel 16:14-23) And a faithful and obedient son. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)   David wanted God and Gods’ Word more than anything else and he always gave God praise and honor and glory.  David was a victorious warrior.  He saw only the size of his God and not the size of the giant.
 Scripture says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) David firmly believed and trusted in God and he believed that God would answer his prayers. His bold faith pleased God.  I believe that David’s love and faith in God are the reasons that he was a man after God’s own heart.  
How do we measure up?  Do we go after the “giants” in our lives trusting God to be with us and fight our battles?  Have we let the size of the giants in our lives overwhelm the size of our God?  Do we believe the scriptures that tell us that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him?  Do we love and trust God and want His will in our lives?  Are we willing to obey Him?  Oh that we could live our lives so that they would bring joy to God’s heart the way David did.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Do's and Don'ts of Spirit Living

Do’s and Don’ts of Spirit Living
The Bible tells us that when we believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the power of God – in the form of the Holy Spirit- is given to us as a gift!  The Holy Spirit is released into our lives and it is no longer we who live but it is Christ who lives in us and through us. (Galatians 2:20)
Without Christ, we humans are slaves to sin.  We are addicted to sin and we can’t free ourselves from sinning even when we try our best. But if we yield to Christ’s Spirit in us, we can be set free from being a slave to sin.  Christ has come to set us free - free from sin and death!  And His Holy Spirit in our lives is quietly changing and freeing us and re-making us in His image.
The Bible tells us that we are to “walk in the Spirit”.  I believe “walking in the Spirit” means living our lives allowing the Holy Spirit to be our guide. Scripture says: “Since we live by the Holy Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)   But how do we physically “walk in the Spirit” or “keep in step with the Spirit”?   The Bible gives us some directions or concrete steps to help us to “walk and keep in step with the Spirit.”
First, we are to drop the ego!  Scripture says: “Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”  (Galatians 5:26) Christians are to be humble.  Scripture says that:  Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  (Proverbs 16:18) As Christians we are told that we have been “crucified with Christ”.  (Galatians 2:20) Our old nature is on its’ way out and the new nature in Christ is maturing in us.  Let us keep in step with what the Spirit is doing in our lives and allow the Spirit to create a humble spirit in us.   
Second, we are to restore the fallen.  Scripture says; “Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any sin you who are spiritual should restore him or her in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch over yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1) If a Christian is caught in a sin we are to pray for guidance and gently confront him or her.  We can humbly and lovingly show this person the Scriptures that condemn their sinful words or actions.  We are not to call good evil or evil good. (Isaiah 5:20)
Thirdly, we are to bear one another’s burdens.  Scripture says: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Burden bearing honors Jesus Christ.  We are to help one another.  Be generous and feed the hungry, care for the sick, give to the poor and rescue persons in trouble.  Pray for others and welcome the stranger.  Jesus said that if we do good to people in need, we are doing good to Him.  And Jesus calls everyone who helped the needy into His kingdom.  (Matthew 25:34-40) Jesus also says that those who refused to feed the hungry or give to the poor or care for the sick here on earth, that they actually refused to feed Him and He refuses to allow them into His heavenly kingdom.  (Matthew 25:41-46) 
Forth, in our quest to “walk in the Spirit” we are told to take responsibility for ourselves.  Scripture says: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load.  (Galatians 6:3-5) We ae to self- examine ourselves. Check out our attitudes.  Work and try to carry our own weight.
Fifth, take responsibility for doing your share to help your church or ministry.  Scripture says: “Let the one who is taught the Word, share all good things with the one who come to you with the Word.”  (Galatians 6:6) Look after those who are running your local church if you can.  We are in a battle for the Truth and we all need to do our part. 
Sixth, don’t mock God with your life.  Scripture says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked.  For whatever you plant or work for, that you will also reap (or get back).  If a person works to build up his own ego and pride, he or she will get back corruption, but if a person works or plants to the Spirit, he or she will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8) We are not to ridicule God by the way we live our lives.  God wants us to live our lives for Him.
And last, we are not to tire of doing good.  Scripture says: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:9-10)
When we walk in the Spirit, we are to look for opportunities to bless people.  Let the Spirit lead us.  Do it all with love. God will give us what we need for the journey. As God has forgiven you, forgive others.  Place it all at God’s Feet.  God promises to give us the power to live wherever He puts us.  This is a list of some of the do’s and don’ts of Spirit living.  (Galatians 6:1-18)