Precious and Magnificent Promises

2 Peter 1:4  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

If you read yesterday’s post of Great Expectations, you caught a glimpse of what God expects from us.  He doesn’t expect for us to succeed in our efforts to please Him because He knows that the old nature cannot please God.(Romans 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.)  It is God that enables us to live holy (separated) lives, but just to be able to do the right thing still comes short of God plan for our lives.  It is one thing to know what is right.  It is still another to do what is right.  It is still another to have your nature altered so that you do what is right naturally.  If it were possible to do what is right all the time, it would still leave you unprepared for eternity.

Doing what is right is great and I do not want to minimize it.  Being right is even better because it is not performance oriented.  When you nature is changed, doing what is right is what you do naturally and takes no effort at all because your sin nature is being put to death daily and you find less and less in common with it.  So how does this transformation take place?

Our scripture gives us the initial clue to how this takes place.  God gives us exceeding great and precious promises to use in this process of transformation.  It is by our standing on these promises and rejecting the old nature that we begin to take on the divine nature.  For example, after I accepted the Lord as my Savior, I noticed that I couldn’t hold the same views that I previously held.  I began to understand things in a different light and my attitude toward others began to change.

Here is a partial list of just some of the promises to get you started in claiming them for your own.

  1. Eternal Life
  2. Nothing shall be impossible with God
  3. God will NEVER leave you or forsake you
  4. Nothing shall ever separate you from the Love of God
  5. God Loves you
  6. God is for you
  7. All things work together for good, to them that are the called
  8. All the treasuries of God are available to you
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Grace
  11. Mercy
  12. Spiritual Gifts
  13. Love (agape)

God would have us to take on His characteristics (likeness and image and dominion) to enable us to interact with Him through out eternity.  We become partakers of His divine nature as we make these promises our own life.

 

What Is Your Handicap?

I love the commercial where children from St. Jude hospital, who have varying disabilities refuse to be called handicapped.  Though they recognize that they are limited in some ways, they also believe that they are blessed in other ways.  They refuse to allow their limitation to make them a lesser person.

One of my grandchildren was a born premature and along with that came the disease, cerebral palsy.  This disease left her with major problems with her legs and has had to have surgery to give her more mobility.  Yesterday I was talking with her and she just made my heart leap.  She said that last year when we were here and she became a Christian, she decided to not let her disability make her a handicap but she had decided to turn it into an asset.

This attitude is the key to living a rich and full life.  It is the product of Christ working from within you to give you victory over your circumstances.  Everyone has limitations and circumstantial problems of one type or another.  I have never met a woman who felt she had no flaws nor a person who felt they had enough wealth not a star who was secure in their fame.  All of these things are temporary.  Age will steal a person’s beauty, the spotlight is only for a moment, and wealth is limited and will be gone at death.  What a person becomes in their victories are what make them more than what they were.  It is in the struggles that they are stretched into  greater capacities.

One of the greatest examples of this transformation process is the Apostle Paul who started out persecuting the church and was the leader at the stoning of Stephen.  After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he became the Apostle to the Gentiles and wrote 9 books of the New Testament.  At one point in his ministry, he was given “a thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord three times for it to be removed.  The Lord refused to remove it and stated “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1John 5:4 For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith.  Note: the eth ending on the word overcome.  It means that it is a contentious action and not a one time event.   Also, note that the faith referenced is faith in Jesus as Lord of life.  When we entrust ourselves to Him and follow in faithful obedience; then He uses His power to enable us to overcome whatever we face.  We can take life head on without fear and live it as it was intended.  Our struggles become the tools that God uses to deliver us out of this sin filled world.

Baby Steps 5

I was sharing the story of our experience with the pastor in Japan with our educational pastor and how gifting had opened up such a rich experience, when he suddenly said, You need to be teaching your book to our people, and then added this fall.  It was so sudden and unexpected yet somehow I knew that this also was from the Lord so I agreed and the time was set.

I had no basis on what to expect or how many would attend.  As the class began there were about 15 that showed up that first night and it grew several more during the classes on the book. Interest was high and several were asking questions and adding their insights.  One night after class there were a couple or three standing around and visiting when a lady spoke up and said, I think the Lord is asking me to translate your book into Spanish.  I was both stunned and surprised as I knew very little about her.  We began discussing the idea and I left her with the request that she pray about it and then we would talk some more.

Come to find out, she was quite sincere and told me what she did for her job was working with translations into Spanish.  She was a member of our church and her family was also members.  I was still a little shocked by this recent turn of events but I did sense the Lord’s fingerprints all over this so I suggested that she move along and send me chapter one when she finished it.  She then told me that because of a sick mother and other commitments that it would be a few months before she could begin but that she would proceed.

Since then she has finished the first chapter and sent it to me.  Then I didn’t hear from her for several months.  I didn’t have her phone number but I did have her email so I dropped here a note and said that I had been praying for her but did not get an answer.  A few more months went by and one day I met her and her husband in the hall at church.  She then shared that she had been going through an extreme situation with her mother as well as several other matters.  She assured me that it was coming to an end and that she fully intended to continue.  I ran into her a few weeks later and she said she had been working on it and now has chapter two almost completed and that she would send it to me shortly.  She also reported to me that she is dealing with other situations that is causing her a lot of delay but that she could use the prayers to help here through this current time.  Please lift her up to the Lord in your prayers as well.

 

Baby Steps 4

The third translator came quite surprisingly.  A man I have been working with for over a quarter century, was having a struggle in knowing how the Lord wanted to use him.  He had studied Russian for several years and had made a couple trips to Russia.  He even had worked as a translator in the Russian language but because of a limitation he had, he had never been able to really find the work he fit into.  He was constantly second guessing God’s plan for him and as a result, was never able to settle on any one thing that God had made certain.

Knowing his background as well as his heart, I found myself giving him the same advice over and over again. Somehow he thought that he might miss something so he tried to add credence to everything that came along.  The result was that nothing was ever truly settled.  It is just as the Bible says,  Jas 1:8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

As I listened to him I found a common denominator which was that every conversation revolved around what he could do.  I then attempted to turn his attention  from himself to others.  It was not what he could do for God but how he could enrich the lives of others.  I also advised him that he needs to begin doing what was in his heart to do.  The thing he identified that was the greatest joy to do was Russian translation.  So then  I suggested to him that he simply begin to translate something for the practice to sharpen his skills again.  Lacking confidence, he wanted or needed something more specific so I suggested that he try my book, thinking that it would at least give him a start.  It seemed to be a mountain to him so I suggested that he begin with only one chapter.

Now he is growing more and more rapidly and moving at a faster pace continually.  He talks less of himself and more about others.  He has stated that the more he has translated, the easier it has become.  It is much easier to carry on a conversation with him now and his understanding grows every day.  One of the most outstanding  things that I see in him is his dedication to be precise and accurate in his work.  He is now finishing the third chapter and has every intention of finishing the book.  He has said several times that upon the completion of his work that it then needs to be examined by others for a more perfect translation.

Sometimes all of us needs a helping hand to lift us to a higher level of living.

to be continued . . .

Baby Steps 3

A second bond came from a pastor in Japan that I met on a trip to visit my son who was living and working in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son, Daniel, in Japan.  While we were there we determined that we wanted to visit a Christian church to have the experience and to aid us in our understanding of their culture.

We asked our daughter-in-law if she knew where on was and she put us in contact with a church.  The church then sent a car to pick us up as we didn’t know our way around the area.  We were so appreciative and wanted to thank them in the right way.  I knew that gifting was a big thing in Japan but we were on our way already so there wasn’t time to buy something.  Then I remembered that I had a copy of my book with me and determined to give that as a gift for their care for us.

Upon arrival, we were directed into the church and introduced to the pastor.  I then presented the pastor with my gift, not knowing if I was doing it right.  He hesitated for a moment and then he got misty and I thought he was going to cry.  I asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, No you don’t understand.  You see, I have been praying that the Lord would send me someone to encourage me and you are him.  Then I felt like crying.  Our bond was immediate as we both felt that this was a divine appointment.  I am not sure what he told the congregation but after the service we were surrounded by everyone and they all wanted to talk with us.  At one point I was talking to four people at the same time, trying to answer their questions and my wife was trying to talk to two more.  All the while the others were crowding around to listen.  This went on for the better part of an hour so we didn’t get any time to speak with the pastor.  He then requested for us to join him for lunch the next day.

Darla, wasn’t feeling well the next day so I went on alone.  I was met with the pastor, his wife, his daughter and son-in-law at a fine restaurant and enjoyed a great meal.  He shared that he had read my entire book and was so impressed that he asked permission to use it in his work and of course I agreed.  He then told me of a member of his church that was impressed by our visit that she had determined to read my book as well.  The pastor challenged her with the question, you don’t speak English nor do you read English, so how do you intend to do that.  She replied that she had considered it and had decided that she would get an English/Japanese dictionary and read it that way. (Note, so far she has read three chapters.)  My immediate thought was, Lord give us this kind of dedication.

Our bond was instantaneous and has continued to this day.  He became my second translator though I wasn’t  even looking for another translator.  He now calls me his mentor though I learn from him continually.  His heart is so big that it includes all of Japan and China.  He has made at least 9 trips to China to train the young pastors there. Because of his schedule, the translation has been going slow but recently the Lord sent him an assistant so the work will gather momentum.  His goal is for all of Japan to read the book and to put their trust in the Lord.

to be continued . . .

Act Your Age

Today, as I was leaving church, I jokingly said to an elderly couple as we walked down the hallway, “You kids have a great week”.  The Lady responded with, “act your Age”.  To which I responded with an air of seriousness, “I understand that every cell in our bodies is replaced every 7 years.  Does that mean that I am supposed to act 7 years old?”  Her comment was not out of line as she was just getting back at me for my comment but it does bring up an interesting question.  How old are you?

I’ve heard it said that you are as old as you feel.  If that was true then some days I would be a much younger person and other days I would be quite old.  As we age the body changes and we cannot do what we used to do.  Furthermore, there are a number of other factors that determine how we feel.

Another measure of age is maturity.  Maturity is that undefined age that causes you to act within a set of guidelines that no one agrees on.  It can be wisdom, or agility or trips around the sun, or appropriate behavior or any number of other criterion that we may choose.  Loosely defined, old enough to know better.

One day I was sitting in my study when one of my daughters came in and boldly proclaimed, “Dad, you are older than dirt.”  At first I thought that was an insolent statement, but then I got to thinking about it and the Bible states that God knew us before the foundation of the world. (Eph 1:4, II Thes 2:13)  If God knew me before He made the dirt, then I am older than dirt.  Furthermore, you are too.

Not only did God know us before creation, but all of creation was made for Jesus (Col 1:16) whose plan was to bring many sons unto glory (He 2:10).  In other words, this world is a place to bring His children into existence, much like the womb is to us in physical birth.  Therefore we (christians) are to act like king’s kids, not spoiled and rotten but raised in the discipline and nurture of the Lord.  This world is not our home and our eternal existence lies beyond this world.

Writing your Personal Testimony

In today’s Sunday School class we studied the apostle Paul’s personal testimony and we closed the class with the challenge that if you haven’t written out your personal testimony, then you should.  It is one of the most powerful tools you have as a Christian to share the Gospel with others.  They may disagree with it but they cannot deny it.  Like the song goes, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know.”

There are three essential elements that go into an effective testimony.  The first element is what were you before you were saved.  You are not trying to tell all of the stories of your life, just enough to validate that you were on the wrong track.  Essentially, it will boil down to I was trying to go through life without Jesus to forgive, love and guide me.

The second essential element is What Happened?  What occurred that caused you to see that you were on the wrong road and how did you discover the right road?  The circumstances will probably be unique and different but the outcome will wind up as a personal experience with the one who died in your place and is now alive and you now know who He is, Jesus.  If this had never happened to you then you still don’t know for sure.  If it has, then it caused a life changing direction in your life and you are now dependent upon and a follower of, Jesus, who is the Christ.  (Jn 7:17)

The third essential element is What changes has this experience made in your life?  If there has been no changes and you are living just as you were before this experience then there is a problem with your testimony.  It could be that you did not meet the Lord but were dependent upon an experience or something other than the Lord.  If you meet him then there will be a change.  It may take a while for you to learn to listen to His voice or to know when He is guiding you but change will certainly happen.  If there is no change then it is worth finding out why.  It could also be because you have some doctrine (teachings) that you hold that contradict with the Bible.  If you truly want to know then read you bible and He will show you the error.  It may be painful to discover that what you always thought was so was really tradition or even superstition.  Another possibility is that you have been deceived in some manner and you need a trustworthy source that will aid you in your search.

You should write it out then review it.  Then see if you can improve it.  Then use it and then go over it some more so that you have the document that accurately relays your story.  It is one of your most effective means of sharing the gospel.

Get Growing

Nice weather as we have had the past couple days gives me a bad case of spring fever.  Spring is my favorite time of year.  Everything seems to point to New Life as plants and animals awaken from winters hibernation.  The days get longer and milder and thoughts turn to better days.

One of the big events is the garden.  You may say it is way to early to be thinking about that but even before you plant it there is the cleanup from last years garden.  Then there is the preparation of the ground and the starting of the seedlings so that you can get a head start on the growth time.  Today I finished cleaning up from last years garden and even added a new planting area in my back yard.

So why would I go through all the work of working the soil and edging it with the stones?  Because the plants need more sun than they were getting in my existing garden spot.

Just as the plants need a lot of sun shine to be able to grow the vegetables we eat so also we need a lot of SON shine on our lives to provide us the proper nourishment  we need to grow spiritually.  Just as I had to make an adjustment to my gardening we also need to make adjustment to our lives if we are not getting adequate time with the Lord.

The farmer plants good grain and allows it to face the elements and die that it might live again and produce its fruit.  He suffers the loss of the seed because he believes in a harvest.  It is an exercise of faith in God’s goodness to bless us with the things we need.

Prisoners 2

The prison that I want to discuss today is that of having a COMPLEX.  There  are different types of complexes such as inferiority, superiority, persecution, invincibility, etc.  A complex is a perception about oneself that is believed because of a collection of pieces of information that may or may not be interrelated or complete. Several things go together to compile this belief such as emotion, success or failure, reports, bullying, prejudices. desires, etc.  However true or false the belief actually is, the person with the complex believes it to be true.  Often the case is not open for discussion so responding to the situation is extremely difficult.  It is not until the one with the complex comes to see the belief in relation to the full picture and not just a perception that real progress is made.

I often use the illustration of 4 people looking at a cup in the center of a table.  They are all looking at the same cup at the same time.  One sees a cup with a handle on the left, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle in the middle of the cup, the person on their left sees a cup with the handle on the right and the remaining person sees a cup with no handle at all.  This illustrates that perception is not the full picture and that a person that has a complex does not have a grasp on the full picture either.  It is probably impossible to talk someone with a complex out of their position.  If you are to help them you must first come along side of them and support their individual worth.  Relationship building takes time and love and a quick fix is highly improbable.  Then little by little you can examine each bit of information as it is presented to you. They need to see their perception in light of the greater truth so that they can unlock the chains that bind them because they are the ones that locked themselves in their own prison by their own acceptance of perception as truth.

The Bible declares that a person’s soul is more valuable than the whole world.  It is important for a person with a complex to see their value to Jesus and that He is come to give us life, real victory, not just a way to cope with life.  He will set us free from the imprisonment of our complex to live that life that is overflowing with abundance.  That is the message that they need to embrace.

 

Grace

Its that time of year when we file our taxes.  I know that many of us would like for the whole process to just go away or at least become simpler.  We remind each other so that we can get it done.  It was in one of these discussions we had with one of our daughters that she said she just found out that you can deduct your church giving from your taxable income.  I couldn’t believe what she just said.  She is 50 years old and just found out that was okay?  She said that it just didn’t seem right that we could get money for giving to the church.  I explained that the government isn’t giving us money for giving to the church but is just not taxing on the money we give.  It a principle that was established from the beginning of our nation.  The government recognized that it benefits from the church’s benevolence so it allows contributions as an exemption to taxation.

It reminded me how so many people do not understand the grace of God. There are so many, even in the church, that feel that everything must be earned.  A common saying is “there is no free ride”.  If it required that we earn everything by our merit then none of us would be able to meet the conditions for salvation as Ro 3:23 says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. And again in   Ga 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.  Salvation is a free gift as seen in   Ro 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.  Adam sinned and all of us became sinners so the second Adam died so that all of us could be free.  The way is open to everyone but we must appropriate it in order to receive the benefit.  We appropriate it by our placing ourselves under his authority and Lordship over us.  Otherwise we do not receive the benefit of eternal life just as one who never claimed the deduction on his taxes for the giving would not receive the deduction.  Grace is unmerited favor and it is offered because there would be no hope without it.