A Year of Restoration

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As 2018 ended and 2019 began, the word restoration kept springing to mind. To restore something whether it be a relationship, physical health, or house, simply means to bring an item back to its original state. Restoration is my word for the year as I seek to rebuild my relationship with God and my life.

Restoration in the Bible, like our word in English, can mean many things, such as the restoration brought about by prophecy, healing, the restoration of the Temple, and the restoration of the merciful/righteous. My focus on restoration will be the aspect of returning to God after a period of sin and trials.

2019 will mark twenty years since I first accepted Christ, and it has been a wild ride. I have faced many trials over the course of these years, which have often led to me questioning God’s plan, my decision making, leaving church, going back to church, and so on and so forth. I truly admire those who have spent their lives serving God without reservation or hesitation. I would like to get to that point and stay there.

This year I am working on restoring my relationship with God, while continuing to grow as an individual. There are numerous verses, Old and New Testament, concerning coming back to God after sin and trials. I would like to share a few of them.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” -1 Peter 5:10 (NIV).

“And when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I’ve commanded you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you.” -Deuteronomy 30:2-3 (NIV).

“Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” -Psalm 80, verses 3, 7, and 10 (NIV).

As we go forward into this year, let us be mindful of God’s grace. No matter what we’ve gone through, even if the situation pushed us away from God, we can always come back to Him. God bless.

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More than a Conqueror

Alexander the Great. Julius Caesar. Genghis Khan. Napoleon Bonaparte. The names of these men and others echo throughout the halls of history because they conquered nations and forged empires. However, despite the aptitude of their generals, their victorious strategies, the efficiency of their armies, and the most advanced weaponry known at the time, there were two enemies these men and their armies could never defeat: sin and death. The One who dealt the decisive blow to the curses of sin and death and is coming back to conclude his march against the army of darkness: The Lord Jesus Christ.

Please keep in mind that I am not glorifying war. I believe the horrors left by war have damaged the psyches of our brave men and women who have fought and have left a Grand Canyon size wake of tragedy and destruction in the lives of all of the innocents affected since time began. I believe it will be the return of Christ and only the return of Christ that will wash out these horrific stains from the fabric of humanity.

Though most of us may never serve our country in the respective branches of the military, we do on a daily basis face spiritual battles. In these battles against our sin natures and Satan’s forces, we are either winning, losing, or trying to maintain against the siege. Our demons can come from within or from the pits of hell, it is all the same. The struggle takes its toll and we can become fatigued from the constant fighting. When the despair grows stronger, we can find ourselves giving into the darkness, the bottle, or the needle, but it does not have to be that way.

If you are reading this and you have made it this far into life, let me congratulate you. You are an overcomer. You have been blessed with another day to seek God and to vanquish your foe. You have strength beyond measure. Life may have knocked you down to your knees, but you are in the perfect position to pray and receive your new strategy.

Romans chapter eight is among one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I cannot but be encouraged every time I read it. In particular, we will take a look at Romans 8:28-39.

 God is working it out

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, KJV, italics mine).

Whether you are experiencing a nightmare while awake or just living day by day, keep in mind that God is working it out for your good. This does not mean that everything in life will be good, but God can turn the situation around to show His glory and make Himself known in our lives.

Your life has purpose

“For whom he did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. Moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29-30, KJV).

Though our lives can seem to be an unending series of obstacles, God is using these obstacles as opportunities to make us more like Christ.

 God is on your side

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, KJV).

How can we even consider fainting and fretting when the fickle opinions and perceptions others have of us when the God who created the universe is in our corner?

God gave His all

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, KJV).

God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins, so who are we to doubt that God will carry us through this current trial?

We are justified in Christ

“Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34, KJV).

If the people around you reject you or do not hold you in high regard, do not worry about it. You have a God who believes you are to die for and He is praying for you at this moment.

We are more than conquerors

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Romans 8”35-37, KJV, italics mine).

The word used for conquerors is Hupernikao (Strong’s #5245), which means “to vanquish beyond; a decisive victory.” Hupernikao is derived from the words Huper (Strong’s #5228), which means “over, above, beyond, etc.,” and Nikao (Strong’s #3528), which means “to subdue.” Keep in mind that Nikao is the same word used in 1 John when it talks about us being overcomers in Christ. So to summarize this point, our relationship with Christ and our victory in Christ has earned us a clear and easy victory. In essence, Christ has run up the score so badly on the devil that he will never catch up. There are no substitutions or adjustments the enemy can make, the game is over, we are waiting for that last trumpet to blow. Because of His love for us, Christ will continue to intercede and defeat the enemy on our behalf. We are “hyper-conquerors” in Christ because we have more than enough firepower to subdue our enemy and to occupy what Christ has given to us.

We cannot be separated from Christ

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature , shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, KJV).

Go forth and conquer in Christ, for He has given you the victory. God bless you all.

 

 

John the Baptist and Doubt

It is perfectly normal to have our doubts about people and situations. If we face a difficult life decision such as a career change, getting married, or seeking help to overcome a problem, we can and will have our doubts as to whether or not we are doing the right thing. Doubt, if it is allowed to run free in our minds can be crippling and lead us to indecision and inaction. Doubt is corrosive like an acid that eats away at our faith.

In matters of faith, doubt can make us think and say such things as “Have I missed God’s call on my life?” “How can I be sure the Bible is God’s word?” “If I took a stand for God, why am I going through this?” If you have ever struggled with these questions or others like it, you are in good company.

John the Baptist was one person who struggled with doubt. John the Baptist reached a point in his life where he even began to doubt who Jesus was. John the Baptist was imprisoned for speaking out against the relationship of King Herod and his wife, Herodias, who was the former wife of Herod’s brother. Old Testament law forbid one brother from marrying another brother’s wife while that brother was alive. It was while John was in prison that he began to doubt.

“After Jesus had finished instructing His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee. When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” (Matthew 11:1-3, NIV, see also Luke 7:18-20).

“Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.’” (Matthew 11:4-6, NIV, see also Luke 7:21-23).

Throughout the Old Testament, there are miracles recorded, but not miracles on the scale of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus did not condemn John for his doubt, but reminded him of all that was taking place. The Gospels record only a small portion of Jesus’ miracles, but they are sufficient to make anyone believe that Jesus was the Messiah. John the Baptist was later executed by King Herod (Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, and Luke 9:7-9), but let us examine John’s life prior to his imprisonment:

*John preached repentance and baptized people in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:1-6, Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-17).

*John criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for their religious hypocrisy (Matthew 3:7-10).

*John said the Messiah was coming after him (Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8, John 1:15, John 1:19-28).

*John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and witnessed the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus and heard the voice of God (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22).

*John stated that his ministry would lose influence when Jesus came on the scene (John 3:27-36).

*John declared Jesus to be the Messiah (John 1:29-34).

John’s disciples posed his question as Jesus was ministering. Think for a moment the impact this question would have had on the crowd. “John the Baptist is having his doubts?” “Is this Jesus really the Messiah?” However, Jesus used this moment to confirm John’s ministry as the forerunner to Jesus as the Messiah.

“As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare the way before you. Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he…And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’” (Matthew 11:7-11; 11:14-15, NIV).

Notice that the Scripture says as John’s disciples were leaving, meaning there is the possibility they overheard Jesus talking about John the Baptist. John’s disciples relaying not only Jesus’ miracles but His statements about John would have encouraged John’s spirit and confirmed John’s ministry.

Jude 1:22 says to “Be merciful to those who doubt.” (NIV). When we come across a doubting brother or sister, do not belittle what they are battling. If John the Baptist can have his doubts, then no one is immune from doubt. However, we must remember that doubt and faith cannot co-exist. If we come to God with doubts while we pray, we will be what James calls “double-minded” (James 1:6-8).

Just as Jesus told John’s disciples to tell of the miracles, so too we must remember the greatest miracle Jesus ever performed in our lives: our salvation. What has God already done in your life? What does God’s Word say about you? (I would encourage you to read Ephesians). If we feed our faith, we will starve our doubt. Meditate on the goodness of God and place His Word in your heart. God bless you all.

 

The Horn of our Salvation

There’s a popular expression in the United States that says, “You have to grab the bull by the horns.” The expression is not meant to be taken literally because grabbing a bull by its horns would be a dangerous- if not deadly proposition. Rather, “take the bull by the horns” symbolizes taking control of a situation. However, as we all know, there are situations we cannot take control of, but we must place our faith in God and let Him guide us.

             In Scripture, horns represent many things including:

             *Ram’s horns were used to make shofars.

             *Horns were used to carry anointing oil.

             *Horns symbolized a ruler or nation’s authority or power.

             *Horns indicated physical strength.

For any horned animal-whether it be a bull, a ram, a goat, an elk, or deer, horns can represent strength. In the Old Testament, there is an expression “The horn of my salvation” that we will examine. Throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament, people such as Moses, Miriam, Deborah and Barak, Hannah, and even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, sang songs of victory and deliverance that the Lord had provided.

Hannah, after many years of being barren, gave birth to a son named Samuel, who became the last judge of Israel. After Hannah dedicated Samuel to the service of the priesthood, she sang a song, rejoicing in what the Lord had done

 “And Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.” (1 Samuel 2:1, NKJV, emphasis mine).

Hannah realized that her strength did not come from within herself, but her strength was exalted in the Lord. As Hannah prayed and praised God, God strengthened her and brought forth the miracle of Samuel’s birth.

King David was another person who relied and trusted in God during difficult times in his life. Anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel after God rejected Saul, David spent a decade on the run from Saul, who wanted to kill him. David wrote songs and psalms to the Lord, praising Him for all He had done. David, like Hannah, realized that his strength did not rest in his abilities, but depended upon the Lord.

“The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:3, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:2, NKJV, emphasis mine).

“For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted…But My faithfulness and My mercy shall be with him, and in My name his horn shall be exalted.” (Psalm 89:17, 24, NKJV, emphasis mine).

There are also other places in the Psalms, where the word “horn” is mentioned concerning strength and our salvation.

“But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.” (Psalm 92:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

 Speaking of the person who fears the Lord, Psalm 112:9 states, “He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor.” (NKJV, emphasis mine).

“And He has exalted the horn of His people, the praise of all His saints- of the children of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 148:14, NKJV, emphasis mine).

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, how much more do we have to celebrate and rejoice in what our Lord has done for us? No matter the trial- whether you have been battling it for a long time or you were blindsided by it- God will strengthen you. Lift up His Name. Pray. Seek His Face. God‘s presence dwells in the praises of His people. Grace and peace to all of you.

What is True Prosperity for the Christian?

When you think about prosperity, what images come to mind? Do you think of a lavish mansion? An expensive car? A job title? A loaded bank account or stock portfolio? In Western culture, prosperity is frequently associated with material items and not spiritual blessings. Of course, there is within the Church a group of “prosperity teachers,” who teach that the Lord wants you to be financially well-to-do. The purpose of this post is not to refute the prosperity message nor is it to call out the teachers of said prosperity teaching. Of course, if God in His sovereign will, wants to bless a Christian financially, He is free to do so. That type of prosperity comes with a purpose and responsibility to advance the Kingdom and is not solely about material wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). This post will examine what it means to life a prosperous Christian life in regards to our walk with God and the pursuit of His Kingdom.

We Must Be in Right Relationship with God

     In order to prosper as a Christian, we must be in an active relationship with God, which means we have placed our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for our salvation.

     “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3,NIV).

     “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NIV).

God Wants Us to Prosper Spiritually

     We must understand that God is our loving Father, who wants the absolute best for His children, as would any parent.

     “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4, NIV).

We Must Be Active in Pursuing the Kingdom of God

     In order live a prosperous Christian life, we must put aside our old lifestyle and the world and follow hard after the things of God.

     “But you, man of God, flee from all of this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (1 Timothy 6:11-12, NIV).

     “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you shall appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV).

The Fruit of a Prosperous Christian Life

     Though far from an exhaustive list, here are some items and Scripture citations that show what biblical prosperity is:

     We will mediate on the Word of God and apply it to our lives- Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 1:1-3.

     We will live a life of obedience- Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalm 128:1-2; John 14:15.

     We are quick to confess our sins- Proverbs 28:13;1 John 1:9.

     We will be generous with our resources-  Proverbs 11:25; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

     We will develop a deep love for other people and realize their need for the Lord- Matthew 22:37-38; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:7-12.

     God’s word commands us to shine as lights in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. When it comes to Kingdom prosperity, there are no shortcuts. As Christians in this present world, we face the temptations to take the easy way to prosperity or the easy way out on a daily basis. When faced with those temptations, we must run to God and allow Him to show us the way to go. If we follow after the world’s idea of prosperity, we will ultimately find ourselves lost, grieving, and feeling empty. Just as Paul wrote to Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10, NIV). Brothers and sisters, pursue God and the true prosperity. Don’t take the bait of the world. God bless you all.