SIN is extremely painful to God and to all creation. In Heaven, SIN caused a war that left millions of holy beings alienated from God and each other. On earth, SIN opened the flood gates to disease, decay and death. On Calvary, SIN tore a Father away from His only begotten Son, as They both suffered the anguish of separation while carrying through the plan of salvation. Listen to the voice of Christ as He cries out on Calvary: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). The separation that SIN causes is real.
This concept of SIN is rarely understood as evidenced by our love for it and continual practice of it. But when the Holy Spirit reveals SIN in its true nature, it will lose its attraction and will be seen as that which separates us from everything and everyone we love. It will be seen that death, divorce, war, and estrangement are all the results of SIN.
One might think that a topic so serious would be commonly discussed, yet SIN is rarely preached about. You may rarely hear sermons about it. This is not because it has ceased to exist. In actuality, it is more prominent today than ever before. Why is it that so many avoid the topic? It is because SIN has become acceptable, even fashionable in most religious circles. And because it's so common today, most close their eyes to it. Somehow, we believe that God will overlook the very thing that crucified His only begotten Son. But this is not true. God will never compromise with SIN. In Christ, He provided everything needful for us to overcome this terrible disease. But we must take advantage of His solution rather than avoid the problem altogether.
Divine love (agape) is SIN's only antidote. We do not naturally possess this type of love. Therefore, we do not naturally have a defense against SIN. Having a “good heart” will not suffice. Neither will being a “good” moral and decent person. Only the love which originates in God can deter the soul from SIN. Human love (Eros) is insufficient.
When we possess divine love we will cease to do that which creates a wedge between us and God. Our desire to be with God will be stronger than our desire to please ourselves through the practice of SIN. But when this love is lacking, we will embrace the separation and continue the practice of SIN without regard. This choice ultimately leads to condemnation: "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than life, because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).
Making a choice to continue in SIN when we know it is wrong is extremely dangerous and suicidal. Few realize that separation from God means separation from life itself. There is no such thing as "life" apart from God. "He that has the Son has life, He that has not the Son, has not life" (1 John 5:12). "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Creationists believe that it was God that gave life to all mankind. It is His to give, and His to take back. When we choose to practice SIN, we also choose to forfeit the life given to us as a gift. Contrary to popular belief, death is not an arbitrary punishment inflicted by God on those who choose a life of SIN. Death is simply the result of our separation from God, the supreme Source of life.
When we turn off the lights at night, darkness appears. Likewise, when we turn from the Source of life through SIN, death appears. This is why choosing to continue a life of SIN is nothing less than self-inflicted destruction. We destroy our own souls. God says, "He that sins against Me wrongs his own soul: all they that hate Me love death" (Proverbs 8:36). In the end, we'll have no one to blame but ourselves if we are lost.
It is my prayer that all will take advantage of the divine remedy. It is written, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us" (Romans 5:5). Divine love for God poured into the selfish soul is the only cure for SIN. It alone provides the power needed to resist temptation. It alone makes us loyal citizens of the city of God. It alone creates a desire to be with God so strong that it overpowers our fleshly cravings for SIN. This amazing love is a gift from God and it is freely given to anyone wishing to be delivered from SIN.
If you recognize your deficiencies today, there is hope for you. Realize that Jesus died in agony--while His Father watched in agony--so that you could be reconciled to God. Together, They experienced the awful separation that SIN causes so that you wouldn't have to. It is not enough for you to want to be saved from your life of difficulties, or even this evil world. You must desire to be saved from your life of SIN. You must desire to be rescued from all of your evil practices, practices that would never be permissible in the presence of Jesus. Thank God that all of this is possible through Christ, for it is written "all things are possible for him that believes" (Mark 9:23). Let's pray this prayer together:
"Jesus, I am sorry for the pain and agony that You experienced on Calvary. I realize now, that You were experiencing separation from our Father that my SIN caused. I still struggle with some things in my life, so please give me Your love to counteract my selfishness. I want to be filled with Your self-sacrificing love today. Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief. In Your name, Amen."
Praying for you--Pastor DL
I still remember the day I surrendered my life to Christ. Somewhere along the journey, I had been led to believe that once a person became a Christian, all of life's troubles would vanish. Boy was I wrong! Little did I know that making the best decision of my life would also expose me to the knowledge of spiritual warfare. I would discover not only the external temptations presented by Satan and the fleeting pleasures of the world, but I would also be introduced to the law of sin in my own flesh, the internal struggle that exists in every new believer.
Of course, I am not alone in this. Many new Christians are often shocked to find themselves bombarded with severe temptations from within and from without. When this happens, some eventually grow tired of the constant battle and close their eyes in carnality, lukewarmness, or indifference. And some Christians make the fatal decision to give up their hope for restoration altogether and return to their former lifestyle.
Friends, this saddens me, since in both cases, falling away from Christ is completely preventable. Years of counseling others have convinced me that having the right expectations on our journey to Heaven makes all the difference. When we understand temptation--its definition, its origin, its purpose, and its stages--we are better prepared to overcome it.
A little boy preparing for a weekend camping trip at the lake with his boy scout group was told by his mother to refrain from swimming that weekend. The boy had recently recovered from a terrible case of pneumonia and his mother wanted to ensure his safety. After packing his bags, he hurried out to meet his friends, and off they went. Returning home a few days later, his mother noticed her son's wet swimming trunks hanging in the family laundry room. When the little boy was asked why he went swimming against her wishes, he exclaimed, "Mom, I got tempted!" His mother then asked, "Well why did you take your swimsuit since I told you not to go swimming?" The little boy replied, "Just in case I got tempted!"
Friends, this is certainly not the correct way to handle temptation. Thankfully, the Bible provides a step-by-step plan to help us overcome any temptation. But before I outline the steps, I'd like to provide a quick overview of what is meant by the word "temptation".
In James 1:14, we learn, "Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." Here we learn that temptation means to be drawn, or enticed by our own pre-existing lusts. These "lusts" are "improper desires" that we inherit at birth and develop through the practice of bad habits. But I have great news for you. What I'm about to share is one of Satan's biggest secrets. He has studied the human mind for 6,000 years. And he desperately wants to hide this information from you. So pay close attention.
Today, God wants you to know that, although you are often enticed by your own desires, these desires alone do not incur the guilt of sin. For instance, we might have a strong desire to think wrong thoughts, say bad words, express wrong feelings, or do wrong acts. But when we resist these desires and refuse to harbor the feelings attached to them, we confuse the devil. He loses his primary weapon to deceive and destroy our faith.
Many sincere Christians fall victim to Satan's lies when they are tricked into believing that their strong desire to sin is sin itself! And when constantly bombarded by the enemy from within and from without, they give up hope, feeling as though their conversion was not authentic. But nothing could be further from the truth. In James 1:15, it is clear that lust must produce the thing desired before we incur the guilt of sin: "Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin." Notice here that a believer's lust (or strong desire) must conceive before it is considered a sin to God. The word conceive means "to take part in". A person takes part in sin when they give in to temptation. They stop resisting it. Rather than resist, they cherish the wrong thought or feeling. The desire becomes an act. And unless confessed and repented of, it leads to death.
Now let's quickly take a look at the steps to overcome any temptation.
In James 4:7, we read, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). When tempted to do evil, it's hard to think of anything more important than to immediately place the temptation in God's hands. Getting God involved at the onset is the key to getting the help needed for the next step.
What does this look like practically? It simply means entering into immediate dialogue with God about the present situation. Send up a quick prayer acknowledging that your desires are in conflict with His will. It's important to always be honest with God. I can't tell you how many times I've actually told God that I desired something that was forbidden. I've learned that being vulnerable with God is safe because He knows everything about me, yet still loves me unconditionally. Don't listen to Satan's lies when he tells you that you've gone too far or that you are too sinful for God to listen. Your need alone is the reason God is ready and willing to help you. He is not provoked by our selfish tendencies or inherited passions. So don't be afraid to share your inmost thoughts and feelings with Him. Acknowledging what you really are before God is the key to getting the help you need.
Once you have acknowledged your need, you'll then need to submit to His will for you. You do this by asking God for strength to do His will. Let your prayer be, "Lord, I submit to Your will for my life right now. Please grant me the desire to obey and the grace needed to obey, just as You said You would in Hebrews 4:16. Your desires for me are much better than my desires for me. I trust You and choose You now. In Your name, I pray, Amen.
After praying this prayer, you'll need to close the door to the temptation itself. This is a very important step. Sin starts in the mind. It is written, "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). And because sin starts in the mind, you'll want to address its point of origin. Here is another secret that Satan wants to keep from you. Although it may sometimes feel like it, Satan can never force you to sin. But he is a master at suggesting sinful thoughts through the five senses. He seeks to control you through the things that you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Realizing this, you'll need to make the necessary precautions to heed the counsel given to us in Philippians 4:8, which says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Set your thoughts on the things above. So, if it's a harmful substance then get it out of your presence. If it's a wrong feeling or emotion, replace that thought with something worthy of meditation. If it's bad company, find a new circle of influence. If it's bad entertainment, find healthy forms of leisure. These are just a few ways you can close the door to the temptation itself.
Precious friend, you are not alone in your temptations. The Lord has promised to weigh it before you even become aware of it. Rest assured that the blow that is aimed at you falls upon the Savior. And whatever touches you comes from Him who knows just what you can endure. He knows how to prepare you for your new home. And today, He is ready, willing, and able to keep you from falling if you would but submit to God and resist the devil.
Praying for you--Pastor DL
Willful sin is a believer's worst nightmare. This is because willful sin violates God's law of love and separates us from Him. (1 John 3:4). In Isaiah 59:2, God states, "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you". I'm not talking about sins we may commit in ignorance. I speak of sins we commit when we know better. In James 4:17, we are told, "To him that knows to do good, but do it not, to him it is sin." Whether your sin of choice is lying for a friend, fornication, greed, or pornography, or a heart sin, such as lust, covetousness, or jealously, it is important to know that all willful sin causes separation, and is painful to us, to others and God.
The greatest evidence of this excruciating pain is seen on Calvary, as we witness the separation between our heavenly Father and His only begotten Son. We also see it when marriages crumble, or when death snatches loved ones away. Let no one be deceived. Willful sin is the root cause of all our suffering. In layman's terms, it is nothing short of rebellion and keeps us from experiencing freedom from shame, guilt, and fear.
Thankfully, the death of Christ brought grace to the human family. This grace is a gift from God to help counteract our selfishness, the faulty equipment we inherited from birth. But I must be clear; grace is not only unmerited favor--it is power imparted to sincere followers of Jesus, enabling them to live a life of faith and benevolence. As it is written, "I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). And in 2 Corinthians 12:9, Christ clarifies exactly what this strength is when He says, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Let it be clear. Grace is simply the strength to obey.
When writing to the church of Ephesus, the apostle Paul informed the believers that they were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Of course, this is still true today. Weak sinners are saved when they accept the free gift of grace by faith. But saved from what you might ask?
First, they are saved from the penalty of their sins. According to the Bible, the penalty for sin is death, eternal death (Romans 6:23). But that's not all. They are also saved and rescued from the power of sin itself. Let me explain this a bit. An apple tree can only produce apples. Why? Because it's an apple tree. The same goes for any variety of fruit. The type of tree determines the type of fruit it produces. In Jesus' first sermon, He uses this same analogy to illustrate the difference between sin and sins. In Matthew 7:17, 18, He says, "Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Jesus is not simply teaching gardening skills here. He is making a comparison that illustrates our greatest need. We each need a heart transplant. Why? Because the corrupt heart we are born with can only produce corrupt fruit, a.k.a. sins. When we commit a wrong act, most people focus on the sin itself. But we are starting in the wrong place. In Matthew 15:19, Jesus explains where all these corrupt sins originate: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, etc...." The heart is the real problem.
This is the difference between sin and sins. Sins are wrong acts, which are forgivable (1 John 1:9). But sin is not. Sin is the sinful, selfish nature that God cannot excuse. It is the root cause of all our problems. And that sinful nature must die, and it must die daily. Praise God that Jesus came to forgive us. But praise Him more that He came to deliver us! The angel Gabriel gave Joseph this instruction when he found out she was pregnant: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shall call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthews 1:21). Friends, JESUS saves us from our sins by delivering us from the power of our sinful nature!
This is why Jesus is likened to the Great Physician. He is the only One that can perform the much-needed heart transplant! And He offers to do it in Ezekiel 36:26: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." What a promise! Jesus offers to take away the corrupt heart, the corrupt tree, and replace it with a new heart, a new tree that produces good fruit!
This is the only way we can ever stop committing willful sins. When we are willing to give up the reigns to our lives, the strength of God's imparted grace completely counteracts the power of the fallen sinful nature. Paul devoted much of the book of Romans to making this point clear. Here are three verses among many that stand out. In Romans 6:6, 7, we read, "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." In Romans 6:11, we read, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." In Romans 6:14, we read, "For sin shall not have dominion (rule) of you: for ye are not under the law but under grace."
These verses make it clear that born-again Christians should cease to commit willful sins. Why? Because the new heart, given to them by Jesus through His imparted grace, empowers them to live a life of faith and benevolence. Weak sinners are made strong. Strength is given to resist temptations. And God is glorified as they become His living epistles, testifying to the life-transforming ability of Christ revealed in their own lives.
Today, this is your calling. God is searching the globe, the highways, and byways, looking for anyone who will believe the gospel. God wants someone to be His witness. Because when the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to all the world, for a witness, then the end will come.
Praying for you--Pastor DL
The love of Christ is so powerful that it can reach anyone, anywhere at any time. Today, I am going to share the story of a woman with a troubled past, but who personally experienced the transformative power of God's love. The story is so fascinating that it forever stands as a reminder that God's love can reach us no matter where we are in life.
You may know her as Mary, Mary of Magdala. When piecing together the vital facts about this woman's story as revealed in the four Gospels, we learn that she had earned the title "a sinner" (Luke 7:37). The context in reference suggests that she had a reputation for being sexually promiscuous. She is also the Mary of Magdalene discussed in Mark 16:9 as the "one out of whom (Jesus) had cast seven devils." But we know more about her than this. Looking at the evidence, we see that the woman who anointed Jesus' feet in Luke 7:37, 38 was the same one described by John as Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha (11:1, 2).
This means that Mary--Mary of Magdala, the sinner--came from a good home in Bethany, one of Jerusalem's better suburbs. Her brother was the highly respected Lazarus, and her sister Martha had earned a reputation for being a super hostess. Mary probably had as happy a childhood as any girl in Judea. That is until Simon the Pharisee, who was Mary's uncle, seduced her. Jesus' parable in Luke 7:40-47 seems to implicate him as the man who had originally ruined her life.
Research shows that young girls who are led this way regularly lose their self-respect and are frequently plagued by severe emotional problems. It is also common for them to keep the secret locked up in their hearts, where the poison of abuse can cause hopelessness. But what could Mary do? Judean social circles had very little compassion for a young girl caught in such a tragedy. Perhaps this is why she chose to flee to the village of Magdala in Galilee--as far away from home as she could go. It was in this village that Mary took a nose-dive into the depths of despair and degradation. A young, intelligent girl raised in a good home, now plunged into all-out immorality.
But in Christ, Mary found something different. He cared for her. His love was not self-interested. Unlike other men she had known, he wanted nothing from her. His influence on her awakened childhood dreams. In His presence, thoughts dawned that she was more than a thing to be discarded; she was a person.
The powerful love of Jesus had started to rebuild Mary. Hope began to arise. Her self-respect was being restored, one interaction at a time. But Mary would need the help that Jesus came to offer. Two of the Gospel writers characterized her as having been possessed by "seven demons" (Luke 8:2; Mark 16:9)! Mary would indeed struggle with demons to overcome. Christ's prayers would deliver her, but each time she would fall back into sin. Even Christ's own disciples became impatient with her. This is evident from the way Mark tells the story. I can almost hear them saying, "Let her go--she's had it. Don't waste any more time on her!" But Christ would not let Mary go. He well knew the circumstances that led to her poor decisions and difficulties.
Perhaps you can identify with Mary's experience. You decide to turn your life around. All goes well for a time. But some powerful temptation knocks you down. And no fall hurts like the one that comes after you think you are converted. With Mary, it was the love and patience, and perseverance of Jesus that inspired Mary to get up again, to keep trying. Then it happened. The seventh time Jesus prayed for her, she was delivered. The last demon was cast out. The last root of unbelieving despair.
Mary now realized the power of love as revealed in the gospel. She now realized what it meant to be saved--saved from the penalty and the power of sin. Christ had loved her. He had believed in her. He saw in her what no other man did. And the power of His love transformed her life forever.
It's no wonder we see her resurface during the final days of her Savior's life, with an outpouring of heartfelt appreciation for her deliverance and restoration. It's no wonder that Mary seeks the best possible gift from the best apothecary in town. From that alabaster box came a precious ointment that Mary would pour on her Savior--ointment that would cost Mary three hundred denarii, a worker's wage for a full year. Yet this gift represented her love and gratitude for the only Man who ever valued her, the One who restored her sense of self-worth. His love had reached her just where she was...and she would never be the same.
Friend, you are the beloved of God. Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul. You may say, I am sinful, very sinful. You may be; but the worse you are, the more you need Jesus. He turns no weeping, contrite soul away. Take courage today. He will not reject any who come to Him penitent and believing. Freely will He pardon all who come for forgiveness and restoration. He did it for Mary. He will do it for you. Let's pray this prayer together:
"Precious Jesus, I am inspired when hearing about Your patience with Mary. When no one else believed in her, You did. I am thankful that, although You know all my secrets, You love me still. Like Mary, I too, have made decisions that I'm not proud of. But today, I bury those mistakes in Your love. May Your love wash away my guilt, my shame, and all my fear. You can have it all right now. I trust You. In Your name, I pray, Amen."
Praying for you--Pastor DL
Over the centuries, there have been many attempts to answer the question: "Who is Michael the archangel?" Some believe that Michael is the highest of all angels. Others believe that Michael is another name for Jesus. But what does a detailed study of the Bible reveal? Today, we will explore the biblical references to this mighty being and consider his role in the divine plan.
Michael the archangel is mentioned in several passages in the Bible.
These verses combine to provide a wealth of information about this powerful being. But let's go a little further in our study. Let's allow the Bible to interpret itself before we form any conclusions.
In Jude 9, we learn that "Michael" is the "archangel". The name Michael means one "who is like God". The word "archangel" is derived from two Greek words: "arche," which means "chief," and "angelos," which means "messenger". When we put all this together, we learn that Micheal the archangel means "a chief messenger who is like God". Now, let's take a closer look at two Bible verses that will help us to understand exactly who this is.
In John 5, Jesus describes the events that will take place at His second coming. Picking up in verse 25, He says:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation."
Jesus describes a time in the future when, with His own voice, He will call from the grave His sleeping saints. Don't miss this. Jesus will resurrect the sleeping saints with His own voice. Praise the Lord for the resurrection! I long for the day when Jesus comes as King to restore all things!
At first glance, this text seems to have no association with our current study. However, it unlocks the key to understanding who Michael the archangel is. Let's add one additional scripture to this scenario.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, the apostle Paul describes the scene that takes place when Christ returns to the earth to resurrect His sleeping saints. Pay close attention to his use of words:
"For the LORD himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
This verse makes it clear that the voice that raises the sleeping saints at the second coming is none other than "the voice of the archangel". Again, it is the archangel's voice that calls the dead to life. Now you might be wondering, "Didn't we just read in John 5 that it was Jesus' voice that resurrects the sleeping saints?" Yes. This is exactly what we read. And this also means that the voice of the archangel is none other than the voice of Jesus.
Therefore, if Michael is the archangel, and the archangel is Jesus, then Jesus is Michael the archangel.
Now you may be wondering, why does Jesus have this name? Actually, this name is one of many names for Jesus. In the Bible, names often have special meanings and significance. This is because names were seen as a way to express the character or identity of the person being named. In addition to Jesus, which means "Savior" (Matthew 1:21), Jesus was also called "Emmanuel", which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). These names were given to help us understand His mission and identity more fully. And just as the names "Jesus" and "Emmanuel" were given to help us to understand His identity while on Earth, "Michael the archangel" helps us to understand His identity and positing before the incarnation.
Friends, Jesus is Michael the archangel. And soon, He will return to the earth with the great sound of a trumpet. All of the holy angels will join Him. And at that time, He will put an end to all pain and misery. It is my prayer that each of us will be ready to meet Him in the clouds on that day.
Praying for you--Pastor DL
For many, the Bible seems to present subjects and symbols that are difficult to understand. Who is Michael the archangel? What are the mysterious "beasts" that appear in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation? And what are the "clouds" that consistently appear when someone is traveling between Heaven and Earth? These may seem like trivial questions, but to the sincere believer, they create a thirst for deeper Bible study. If we would be saved eternally, we must live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We must form study habits that will fortify our faith, for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Today, I want to show you how to unlock all of these purportedly difficult-to-understand Bible subjects. I want to show you the key that, if used and practiced, will revive your interest and joy in studying the most amazing book ever written.
The key to understanding difficult Bible texts can be found in the Bible itself. In Isaiah 28:9, the question is asked, "Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?" This rhetorical question is quickly answered in the next verse. "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10).
This verse reveals that the key to understanding the Bible is to allow the Bible to interpret itself. One scripture must explain the next. This is what it means for "precept to be upon precept." Wise Bible students will not form a set of beliefs from one scripture only. Rather, they will scour the pages of Scripture to find all that is written on a subject to discover its true meaning. They will search the whole Bible, here a little, there a little. Now, let's put this key to the test today.
In Revelation 1:7, we are told that Jesus "cometh with clouds". In context, this scripture speaks of His second coming. But what exactly are the clouds on which He comes? At first glance, we might assume that the Son of God travels upon tiny water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air, a scene we've witnessed many times in movies. But let's apply our secret key to discover the answer.
In Psalms 104:3, we find our first clue. The psalmist writes the following about our LORD, "Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds His chariot." According to this verse, the LORD makes the "clouds" His chariot. But what is meant by the word "chariot"? In Biblical times, chariots were used to transport kings. Is this the implication here? Although tempting, we must not assume. Let's continue to apply our key.
We find our second clue in Psalms 68:17: "The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." According to this verse, another name for chariots are angels, a group of twenty thousand angels. With this key detail, we now have enough Bible information to accurately understand Revelation 1:7 which reads, Jesus cometh with clouds. According to the Bible, these clouds are chariots, and chariots are angels. Therefore clouds are thousands of angels that transport our God from place to place throughout His creation! Now, let's apply the key to other places in the Bible to see it all come together.
In Acts 1:9, we read about the Savior's final meeting with His followers after His resurrection. This special meeting took place 40 days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3). Jesus had told His disciples to meet Him in Galilee on Mount Olivet (Matthew 28:10; Acts 1:12). Now that He was about to return to Heaven, He had hoped to use this time to encourage them. Concerning this final visit, it is written, "And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). Since we now know that clouds are angels, we can safely conclude that the cloud that received Jesus was a large group of awaiting angels. They received their LORD and transported Him back to Heaven.
Interestingly, two of the angels stayed back to comfort the onlooking disciples. In Acts 1:10, we read, "And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven" (vs 10, 11). As we continue to apply our key, we learn from these angels that Jesus will return in the same way as He ascended into Heaven, with thousands of angels attending Him.
This is exactly what Jesus told His disciples when describing the scene of His second coming in Matthew 25:31: "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of glory." Angels, or clouds, are going to escort Jesus at the second coming, just as the angels told His disciples as they watched Him ascend into the clouds on Mount Olivet. And according to Matthew 24:31, the angels, or clouds, that return with Jesus will have important work to do. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds (with the angels) of Heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels (clouds) with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heaven to the other" (vs. 30, 31). As you can see, angels will gather the living and resurrected saints, and prepare them to meet the LORD in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).
This is only one example of how to apply the key. Others include Elijah's translation to Heaven in a chariot of fire, which we now understand to be angels. Or Elisha's prayer for God to open the eyes of his worried servant when their city was surrounded by a wicked king who had come to capture him. Elisha's prayer allowed his servant to see what Elisha saw through the eyes of faith--thousands of chariots of fire surrounding them to protect them. Using the key, we now know that chariots are thousands of angels.
Friends, we can trust the Bible. But we must make an effort to dive deeper to understand His expressed will. I hope you have enjoyed today's devotional thought, because we will cover other exciting subjects over the next few days. Using the key will allow the Bible to interpret itself, and in doing so, we will be drawn closer to our loving Savior.
Please let us know if you have a Bible subject that you'd like to understand better. You can contact us at www.onethoughtfulhour.com. Until next time, Maranatha!
Praying for you--Pastor DL
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to live lives that are pleasing to God and to make choices that honor Him. One of the most important decisions we will ever make is the decision to follow Christ and to surrender our lives to Him.
Unfortunately, many of us tend to procrastinate when it comes to this decision, putting it off until "someday" or "when the time is right." But the truth is, we never know when our time on earth will end. That's why it's so important to make the decision to fully surrender now, while we still have the chance. We are told in 2 Corinthians 6:2, "Behold now is the acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation" (ASV). This is not a decision that can be put off or taken lightly. It requires us to be serious and to act with urgency.
Years ago in the state of Ohio, a young man was found guilty of a terrible crime and was sentenced to death. Those who loved the young man worked to have his death sentence commuted to life in prison. When this failed, the boy's parents were granted a face-to-face audience with the governor. When their attempts to change the governor's mind failed, they begged him to visit their son at least. He agreed and went without announcement.
When the young man saw a sharp-dressed man approaching his cell, he said to himself, "Here comes some preacher to bother me--I won't see him." As the governor stepped up to the bars, he said, "Good morning, James." The young man just turned his back and would not answer. So the governor continued, "Your friends have been talking to me about you, and I have come to see you." The prisoner responded with a snarl, "I don't care to talk today." With compassion in his voice, the governor continued for a third time, "James, if you knew the importance of my message, I'm sure you would give me an audience." But James again replied, "I don't care to talk. Please do me a favor and go away." Finally, the governor obliged his request.
Soon afterward, a curious prison guard came by and asked, "Well James, how did the conversation between you and the governor turn out?" "The governor!" James yelled. "You don't mean to tell me that little man who looked like a preacher was Governor Nash! "Yes, that's exactly who that was. He came to see if he could help you." The prison guard replied.
The opportunity for James to suspend his death sentence was gone forever. Sadly, a few days later, they put the black cap over his face as he cried out, "Oh God, what a fool I was! He wanted to help me, and I wouldn't let him."
Although this story has a very sad ending, it teaches valuable lessons about the dangers of procrastinating life's biggest decision. James missed the opportunity to have his sentence suspended, due to his lack of willingness to listen and engage with the governor. Unfortunately, this is also true when it comes to spiritual to God. Like the prisoner, we too, are under condemnation in the prison cell of sin. But oh how many of us are unwilling or too busy to listen and engage with our God? In John 5:40, Jesus pleads, "You will not come to me, that you might have life."
Precious child of God, it is critically important that you open your heart to God today. Do not reject that which you do not know. The prisoner in this story refused to listen to the governor due to his own preconceived notions--notions that turned out to be flat wrong. Thinking he was a preacher, he missed his one big moment to change the trajectory of his life. In the same way, many people today reject Christ because of their own preconceived ideas about Him. But I challenge you to come, taste, and see for yourself. Never let someone else's misguided opinion of God become your reality. There is simply too much at stake!
It is important for us to realize the fragility of life. Today's decisions can have eternal consequences. Time is short friends. Every day, thousands are going down into silence to await their day in court with God. Life's record is then closed. Probation forever ends. And each will have to give an account for the life we choose to live.
My friend, make a decision today, right now, to renew your commitment to Christ. Don't miss the opportunity to have your death sentence suspended. Although you may have strayed away in the past, and may be living in sin right now, the blood of Jesus is pure enough, strong enough to cleanse you from sin. He can deliver you from wrong habits. He can restore broken relationships. He can heal your broken heart. He can rewrite your past and provide a clear life purpose for the future. He can and will do it, if you choose right now. Let's pray together:
"Jesus, I want to surrender my life, my dreams, my past, and my future to You right now. I can't predict the future, and I don't know when my life will come to an end. But Lord, I want to be ready. Forgive me for neglecting to spend time with You. Forgive me for allowing my preconceived ideas to paint the wrong picture of You. I desire to know You personally, so please reveal Yourself to me in truth. I thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. In Your name, I pray, AMEN."
Praying for you--Pastor DL
Guilt is a common feeling that many people experience at some point in their lives. It is the feeling of responsibility or remorse for something you have done wrong. In the Bible, guilt is often associated with sin and the feeling of being unworthy in the eyes of God. However, the Bible also offers guidance on how to overcome guilt and find peace and forgiveness. Understanding how to manage these feelings is critical to living a successful and happy Christian life.
All around us are souls who are weighed down with feelings of guilt. We find them at work, school, social gatherings, and even at church. These feelings can cause serious emotional effects. Guilt can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, which can contribute to depression. It can cause feelings of fear and worry, which can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. When we feel guilty, we may feel unworthy or inadequate, which can lead to low self-esteem. Guilt can even make us feel ashamed and embarrassed, which can cause us to isolate ourselves from others. It damages relationships, often causing us to be less open and honest with those we love.
You may be wondering, from where do these harmful feelings originate? According to one author, "It is not hardship, toil, or poverty that degrades humanity. It is guilt, wrongdoing. This brings unrest and dissatisfaction" (Desire of Ages, p. 822). Another word for wrongdoing is sin, which is the transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4). Therefore, sin is the root cause of guilt. And these feelings, if not properly addressed, will completely disrupt our Christian experience. That is because it is impossible for faith to thrive in a guilt-ridden soul.
If you can identify with any of these feelings, listen up. This may be one of the most important lessons you could ever learn. There is a solution. But before I share the solution, I want to reveal the devil's strategy to keep you in a constant state of guilt. He doesn't want you to know this, because he fears that you will discover that he is a liar, and that your discovery will lead you to find peace in Christ. Therefore he desperately seeks to keep you from seeing the truth on this subject. The apostle Paul writes, "The god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
So what's the devil's strategy? First, he tempts us to sin and commit wrongdoing until we finally step over the line. Then he seeks to discourage us, by accusing us of committing the sin! "See what you did!" He taunts. "What hope is there for you? There is no use trying. You are lost. Do you think He will save you with all those sins? There is no hope for you." Satan suggests a myriad of thoughts such as these with the goal of plunging us into despair. He knows that feelings of guilt will crush our faith and leave us helpless against his future attacks. But we must remember that he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
So what's the solution? Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer of the 16th century, suffered from depression and guilt too, until he discovered God's plan for recovery. One day he was very discouraged. It seemed as if there was no use trying to live the life of faith, since every attempt ended in failure and defeat. He was extremely discouraged until one day, he had a dream that would change his life forever. He dreamed that the devil came into his room in Wartburg Castle. Everything was dark; everybody was against him. The devil presented a long piece of paper, a parchment, that reached down to the floor. He held it up, and on that piece of paper was a record of all Martin Luther's sins. The devil then asked, "Did you commit all these sins, Brother Martin?" Luther simply hung his head. "Yes," he said, "I committed them all." The devil then taunted, "Then what hope is there for you?"
Luther was profoundly discouraged but noticed that during the exchange, the devil was keeping his hand over something towards the bottom of the list. Finally he asked, "What is that under your hand? Take your hand away; let me see it all." He made the devil take his hand away, and what do you think he saw?" There in red ink, it said, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleans us from all sin." In this moment, Luther realized that it was ok to release a lifetime of guilt by casting it on Jesus Christ. "Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).
Right now, God wants to do the same for you. If you have carried the burden of guilt with you for years, know that today, you can give it to Jesus. Don't allow your past to dictate your future. The devil has attempted to keep his hand over this truth when you are discouraged. But today, the devil's hand has been removed. Claim this promise and believe it. "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleans us from all sin." This promise is for you. It is for every believing soul who comes to Jesus just as they are.
Guilt is an emotion that God never wanted us to experience. And He longs to set you free. Place your feeling of guilt in His hands by praying this prayer with me:
"Jesus, I'm thankful that You are willing to bear my burden, right now. I must admit, I have struggled with a wide spectrum of emotional difficulties over the years, but today, I release these to You. Lord, You can take them all. Please help me to detect and reject the devil's lies. I rest in Your promise that You will give me rest. Thank you for giving me Your peace. In Your name I pray, Amen."
Praying for you,
Tragedy can often produce the most touching accounts of love, faith and courage. It's an old adage that "light shines brightest in a dark room". This truth is clearly revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life, death and resurrection testifies that much pain and suffering can produce exceeding joy.
I remember reading about the rescue efforts resulting from an earthquake in China in May 2008. A woman was found buried under tons of debris and destruction after a building had collapsed on her. Unfortunately, when the rescue team found her, she was already deceased. But through the debris, the position in which she died could be seen. She was kneeling, with her whole body in a forward position, using only her hands and knees to support her body. The rescue workers were curious and pondered, was she praying when she died?
Thinking that this position was rather odd, one worker squeezed his hand through all the debris just to confirm that she was dead. He shouted a few times, using his baton to knock a few times on the bricks, but there was no response. When the crowd walked to the next building, the team leader suddenly ran back again, shouting, "Come quickly!" He went to her dead body, and used all his might to feel under the woman's body. He seemed to have felt something...then he shouted, "There's someone; there's a child, still alive."
After some struggle, the team and volunteers helped to clear all the debris and took the child from under her body. He was 4 months old and was wrapped in a beautiful blanket. When they removed him, he was still sleeping peacefully. His sleeping face warmed everyone's heart. The accompanying doctor performed some checks on him when something surprised him. Inside of the tightly wrapped blanket was a cell phone. On the screen, it read, "My dearest child, if you are able to survive, you must remember that I love you." The doctor began to weep, as did every other rescue worker. A mother's protective love had saved the life her child.
More than 2000 years ago, your Creator bent His body over you in order to take your blow. We are told that "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). His love for you motivated Him to protect you from destruction at any cost to Himself. And He too, has left you the reminder on record: "My child, remember that I love you."
When you are tempted to believe that Jesus has forsaken you, remember that He loves you. When you are fearful for the prospects of the future, remember that He loves you. When you are discouraged and are tempted to believe that you are too sinful to save, always remember that He loves you.
I can't help but think that after hearing about His amazing sacrifice on your behalf, you wouldn't want to thank Him. If so, why don't you join me in praying this prayer:
"Jesus, I want to thank You for bending over me and taking my blow on Calvary. Even now, You are praying over me. I am forever grateful for Your kindness towards me. Please help me to realize the greatness of Your sacrifice. Please create in me a growing appreciation for You. Save me from myself Lord! I believe, help Thou my unbelief. In Your name I pray, Amen."
"He brought me to the banqueting house, and His banner over me was love." Song of Solomon 2:4
Praying for you,
As a parent, there is nothing quite like watching your children grow and thrive. From the moment they take their first steps to the day they land their dream job, every milestone seems to be a cause for celebration. Not only do we celebrate our own children's accomplishments, birthdays and recitals, we invite others to join the celebration. We do this because we want our children to feel accepted, valued and loved.
We are not alone in this. The Father in Heaven has a Son too, and He desperately wants Him to be accepted, valued and loved. In fact, the entire controversy between light and darkness began in Heaven when Lucifer, an exalted angelic being, refused to acknowledge the supremacy of God's dear Son. And because of his rejection of Christ, "he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9). When Lucifer was cast out, his name changed to Satan, which means "adversary" or "opponent". And as the adversary of God, he seeks to demote and devalue Christ in every way possible. It is Satan's goal to keep the human mind preoccupied. He hates it when we stop to appreciate the Son of God, for he fears that if we do, the veil will be removed and we will see Christ in all of His beauty.
Of course, Satan's effort does not deter the Father one bit. The Father still seeks to exalt His Son and His sacrifice. He has even made accepting Christ the great ultimatum of our salvation. "He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:12). Ultimately, our acceptance or rejection of the Son will determine our destiny.
Allow me to share a story that highlights this. A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael, and they would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict erupted, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart, and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art."
The young man held out this package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this." The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He started in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later and there was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?" There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one." But the auctioneer persisted. "Will somebody bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100? $200?" Another voice said angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!" But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. "We have $10. Who will bid $20?" "Give it to him for $10. Let's see the other paintings." "$10 is the bid. Won't someone bid $20?" The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over." "What about the other paintings?" "I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"
Friends, this principle is still true today. He that takes the Son, gets everything. Jesus Christ is not a part of the gift. He is the Gift. And those who accept Him will inherit all things.
Praying for you,
Over the years, I've counseled many couples that were experiencing marital difficulties. Some were fighting to keep their marriages in tact. Others were on the verge of separation. Sometimes, both parties were committed to finding a solution. Other times, only one spouse showed sincere interest. And when counseling didn't work, I witnessed the pain and broken fragments of families torn apart by separation and divorce.
With such weighty and potentially devastating outcomes hanging in the balance, I would send up earnest petitions for heavenly wisdom. My desire was to guide couples safely back to shore. Some couples were reconciled and went on to live happy marriages. But unfortunately, some were not. None-the-less, these experiences taught me much about my own relationship with God.
For instance, in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, there is a very clear comparison made between a marriage between two people and the marriage between Christ and His church. Notice the following:
"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it". "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" (Ephesians 5:25; 5:22).
In these verses, clear instruction is given to both husbands and wives, counsel that if obeyed, would ensure a successful and happy union. But these verses are often taken out of context. However, when understood correctly, they reveal an invaluable spiritual principle that every successful follower of Christ will learn.
The apostle Paul, after further admonishing men to "love their wives as their own bodies" (vs 28), goes on to write, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ephesians 5:32). In this analogy, the church is compared to a married woman in a healthy, happy relationship with Christ. And because the relationship is healthy and because she is loved unconditionally, she is both willing and happy to submit to Christ's loving commands. In essence, this illustration teaches that the believer's love for Christ motivates him or her to submit to the loving authority of God. But not from obligation. It is His love that compels us to love.
Let me share a story that illustrates this principle better. A husband and wife didn't really love each other. The man was very demanding, so much so that he prepared a list of rules and regulations for his wife to follow. He insisted that she read them over every day and obey them to the letter. Among other things, his "do's and don'ts" indicated such details as what time she had to get up in the morning, when his breakfast should be served, and how the housework should be done. After several long years, the husband died.
As time passed, the woman fell in love with another man, one who dearly loved her. Soon they married. This husband did everything he could to make his new wife happy, continually showering her with tokens of his appreciation. One day when she was cleaning house, she found the list of commands her first husband had drawn up for her tucked away in a drawer.
As she looked it over, it dawned on her that even though her present husband hadn't given her any kind of list, she was doing everything her first husband's list required anyway! She realized she was so devoted to this man that her deepest desire was to please him out of love, not obligation.
Friends, it is love that makes the Christian experience sweet. And we can't produce this type of love. It is His love in us that compels us to serve Him and others with a thankful, appreciative, and happy heart. You might be wondering, "How do I obtain this type of love?" I have good news. Although this type of unselfish love does not originate in the human soul, you'll be happy to know that it is freely given to those who seek it. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." (Romans 5:5, KJV). Praise God for the gift!
How is it with you? Do you find it grievous to serve others? To serve God? Do you see His commands as a list of do's and don'ts? Is it hard to submit to your own spouse? If so, then don't be discouraged! The solution is found in Jesus. We only need a greater love. And that love is a gift from Jesus. He is ready and willing to fill you with this type of love just now. Will you pray this prayer with me:
"Jesus, I want and need Your unselfish love in my soul. I want to love as You love, feel as You feel, think as You think, and serve and You serve. I want to obey You, not from obligation, but from a heart warmed with a correct view of Your selfless sacrifice on Calvary. Please fill me now. Lord I believe. Help Thou, my unbelief. In Your Name, Amen."
Praying for you,
I still remember that perfectly clear and sunny morning. I was living in Santa Clarita, California, a mid-sized city about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles. At the time, I was the pastor of a small church connected to a christian academy. While unknown at the time, the events of that day would ultimately change my life forever.
My wife and I had just sat down to eat breakfast when I received a startling call from my sister, who lived in the same neighborhood as my mother in Danville, a small industrial town in southern Virginia. Her screeching voice alone was enough to convince me that something devastating had happened--and I was right. Our beloved mother had died tragically that morning in an accidental house fire. And just like that, I was plunged into one of the greatest storms I had ever experienced.
Of course, I am not alone friend. You too, have experienced similar storms. And although they vary in form, intensity and duration, the great storms of life are simply unavoidable. In fact, Jesus even told His followers to expect difficult times when He said, "In the world, you will have trouble" (John 16:33). According to Jesus, terrible storms of death, disease, disaster and disappointment are sure to find your door, if it hasn't already.
Knowing this, real questions begin to arise: How does Jesus expect me respond? What benefit is there in warning me of the tough times ahead? Nothing helps answer these sincere questions quite like a story I once heard about a farmer who owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. The farmer constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic because they dreaded the awful storms that raged across the ocean, wreaking havoc on buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants, most refused the job.
Finally, a small, thin man interviewed for the position. "Are you a good farmhand?" The farmer asked. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired the man. The little man worked well around the farm, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work.
Then one night the wind howled loudly. A mighty tempest was approaching. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a flashlight and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!" The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows."
Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarps. The cows were in the barn. The chickens were in the coops. The doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. Amazed and embarrassed, the farmer then understood what his hired hand meant by the words, "I can sleep when the wind blows." He had learned a great lesson that night. He then returned to his bed to sleep while the wind blew.
Preparation is the key to surviving any storm. Wise followers of Christ will learn the lesson taught by the little hired hand. They will prepare for the storm by covering their sins with the robe of Christ's righteousness--in advance. They will have tied down and secured an abiding relationship with Christ Jesus, the rock. They will have put their sins away, by sending them beforehand to the most holy place where Jesus now intercedes for the fallen race. They will have studied the life of Christ and become familiar with the character of God. They will have allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them, teach them, control them, sanctify them. And when the storm comes, because of their diligent preparation, they too, will be able to sleep while the wind blows.
Precious friend, do you desire to be ready for what's ahead? If yes, why don't you join me in renewing your commitment to Christ today by praying this prayer:
"Jesus, thank you for warning me of the storms to come. I want to be ready! I open my heart to You right now. I acknowledge my need Lord, for I am weak and helpless without You. Prepare me for the storms ahead. I desire to be forgiven, cleansed, renewed, reformed, empowered and prepared for the future by Your Holy Spirit. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Lord I believe. Help Thou, my unbelief. In Your Name, I pray. Amen."
"When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (Proverbs 3:24).
Praying for you,
Recently, I have been deeply impressed by the words of Christ, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). To me, this is the sum total of all the promises in the Bible: the personal presence of Jesus Christ abiding with me through all life's challenges. There is just something very comforting in knowing that He will never let me go.
God's ever-present care reminds me of an event that took place some years ago. In south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in a pond behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He happily jumped into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the pond, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.
His mother was in the house. When she looked out the window, to her horror, she saw the two as they got closer and closer to each other. In utter fear, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could. Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother. It was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim, and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal, and on his arms were deep scratches where his mother's fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.
The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with joy, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms too. I have them because my mom wouldn't let go."
You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too, not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic, but the scars of a painful past. Some of our scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret.
But some wounds are because God has refused to let us go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you. Sometimes we foolishly jump into dangerous situations and the enemy is waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins. Our kind Father desperately strives to deliver us from the enemy. He has great plans for you. "I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
We should thank our heavenly Father for His tender, compassionate love. If you discover that you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not, and will not, let you go.
"I will never leave you, nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5).
Praying for you,
The book of Revelation describes the final scenes of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. The entire book comes to a climax in the fourteenth chapter when we see the harvest of the earth, the second coming of Jesus, as He descends in the clouds to gather His saints from the four corners of the earth.
"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle...And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped." "For the Lord himself shall descent from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." (Revelation 14:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
The second coming of Christ will be the most cataclysmic event in the history of our world. In that day, only two classes of people will exist. The first class is clearly described in Revelation 14:12. "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." They have the Father's name written in their foreheads (Revelation 14:1), a symbol of the character they possess, a character imputed and imparted to them through the precious righteousness of Christ.
During the final crisis, when the whole world wonders after the beast (Revelation 13:3), only commandment keepers who possess the faith of Jesus will overcome. This makes it critically important that we understand this subject!
What exactly constitutes the faith of Jesus? Notice this straightforward answer from the following author:
"Faith in the ability of Christ to save us amply and fully and entirely is the faith of Jesus." (Selected Messages, Vol. 3, p. 172, Ellen G. White)
Do you believe that Jesus has the ability to save you? Do you believe that He can save you just now? This definition may sound simple at first glance, and it is; but there is more than meets the eye.
Salvation is multi-layered, and should be understood in all of its aspects. The apostle Paul writes that we are "saved by grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8). But we need to ask ourselves, "From what am I saved?" In order to answer this question, we must ask another question: "What is my current condition? What warrants the need for me to be saved?" A careful study of the Bible reveals that we need to be saved from three (3) things:
These are the three areas from which we need to be saved: Salvation from the penalty of sin, salvation from the power of sin, and salvation from the presence of sin.
Most of us have no problem accepting Christ's salvation from the penalty of sin. Who wouldn't welcome the news of someone paying off our debt? Especially a debt we could never pay ourselves! Thank God, this is exactly what Jesus did on Calvary. His death paid the debt, the eternal death sentence for every confessing, repenting believer. Likewise, most of us have no problem accepting Christ's soon deliverance from the presence of sin. When He finally comes in the clouds, who wouldn't be excited about the prospects of living eternally in a brand new world full of eternal peace? Salvation from both of these aspects of sin is generally welcomed by all. However, the last aspect of sin causes many problems for believers and non-believers alike.
Deliverance from sin's power is the main focus of Ephesians 2:8. "We are saved by grace through faith". This verse could just as easily be written as such, "We are saved from sin's controlling power by grace through the faith of Jesus". In this verse, grace is not simply unmerited favor. It is power imparted. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ imparts power to the weakest believer, enabling Him to overcome just as He overcame. The sinner who accepts this gift of Christ can then say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengths me!" (Philippians 4:13). Now, the believer, empowered by God's grace, is free to live a victorious life free from willful sin.
Believing that this victorious life is possible for you, and trusting in Jesus' ability to accomplish this in you, is the faith of Jesus.
Do you have the faith of Jesus?
"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
Praying for you,
Pastor Derick Logan
A colleague at work once taught me a lesson that I will never forget. She was a regular attending church member in a local church, and we occasionally discussed our views of the Bible. On this day, we were discussing the destruction of the lost. She believed in an eternally burning hellfire, a doctrine that has done much harm to the kingdom of God. Many atheists attribute their acceptance of evolution and rejection of creation to this very doctrine.
I had been looking for an opportunity to share the truth on this subject. I wanted her to know that God is not a sadistic tyrant who punishes His children for thousands of years. Rather, He is a God of love, and proved His love by dying on the cross to save us!
Well, the day had come, and with excitement I cheerily explained to her the events surrounding the destruction of the wicked. I shared that, although the doctrine of an eternally burning hell was popular, it wasn't in the Bible. I shared that the destruction of the wicked is an event that takes place at the end of the world. I shared that this event was a strange act to God and would break His heart. I shared that the wicked would not burn forever. (Here is a link to the study).
After the study, she looked at me and said, "If this is true, how are you going to get people to go to church?" The shocked look on my face prompted her to continue her thought. "If the wicked don't burn in hell forever, then what is their motivation to go to church?" In that one moment, I discovered the real reason why she, and millions of Christians, attend church. Her worship of God was motivated by the fear of destruction rather than love for God.
Sadly, many Christians today can identify with this woman. They don't long for heaven. They simply want to avoid hell. They don't enjoy Bible study. They don't really enjoy prayer. They simply go through the motions of being a "Christian" to check a box. Thankfully, the plan of salvation can correct this.
By looking continually to Christ, His goodness, His patience, His mercy, His compassion, His self-sacrificing love, the sinner is drawn to Him, for "it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance" (Romans 2:4). Spending time with Jesus will allow Him to recreate the soul in His own image. "A new heart also will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you" (Ezekiel 36:26). This new hearts comes with new thoughts, new feelings, and most importantly, a new and acceptable motivation for wanting Heaven.
I remember hearing the story of a slave who was being sold on an auction block. He was young, and his physique made it obvious that he was quite strong. The bidders were waging their bids. Higher and higher went the price. The slave was yelling vehemently that they were wasting their money. "I am not going to work for any man," he shouted. But the bidding continued until finally, the mallet struck, "Sold to the highest bidder!"
Angrily the slave kept cursing and raving. "You wasted your money, mister. I am working for no man." The owner did not seem to pay attention to his threats. For miles as the cart carried the slave, his defiant threats continued. When the cart reached the owner’s property, he went over to the slave, took the key to the chain, unlocked the lock, and removed the shackles. "Mister, didn't you hear me. I am not going to be your slave. I am not working. I told you, you wasted your money," yelled the slave. The owner simply said, "I bought you to set you free. You are free to go."
Taken aback by his purchaser's words, the slave said, "What?!" Again the owner said, "I bought you to set you free." The owner then turned to walk away. "Wait a minute. You are telling me I am free?", enquired the slave. "Yes!", responded the owner. Being gripped with appreciation and gratitude, the slave then said, "Mister, I'll serve you forever."
When we look to Jesus, we will find a Friend who purchased us to set us free from sin. He wants to free us from the shackles of shame, fear, guilt, and selfishness. He wants to free us from our selfish desires for Heaven and impart us with unselfish love for God and for others.
Jesus paid the maximum price to redeem you from the slavery of sin. We, too, have been bought with a price. Your freedom was purchased at a great sacrifice. And like this slave whose motivation for service changed upon realizing what his master had done for him, we should worship God, not from a heart of fear, but from a heart of great appreciation and gratitude for what He has done.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, ...But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:18, 19
Recently, a dear friend asked me to consider teaching a series of lessons with clear instruction for Christians who desire to stand faithfully for Jesus during the storms of life. Knowing that the crisis of the ages is on the horizon, I thought it was a very valid request.
This past weekend, I preached a sermon on the subject which I entitled, Five Steps to Standing for Christ. Today, I am going to continue this theme by sharing what I have found to be an important aspect of preparing for the final crisis. To stand through the final test we will need what I call "end-time" faith.
Many Christians do not exercise this type of faith. Rather, their salvation rests on their "feelings". If they feel "saved" they are happy. If they feel "lost" they are sad and discouraged. Their entire religious experience is built upon their own emotions. What an untrustworthy source!
Thankfully, those who pass through the final test will have learned the difference between real faith and fleeting feelings. In the book Early Writings, Ellen G. White writes this:
"Feeling is not faith; the two are distinct. Faith is ours to exercise, but joyful feeling and the blessing are God's to give. The grace of God comes to the soul through the channel of living faith, and that faith it is in our power to exercise." - Early Writings, pg. 72
In the book Early Writings, Ellen White writes this:
"Feeling is not faith; the two are distinct. Faith is ours to exercise, but joyful feeling and the blessing are God's to give. The grace of God comes to the soul through the channel of living faith, and that faith it is in our power to exercise." - Early Writings, pg. 72
Since faith and feeling are distinct, it is fair to say that true faith will not depend on feelings. Rather, true faith will claim the promised blessing even before it is realized or felt. Recognizing and understanding the differences between the two should become the highest priority for every sincere Christian preparing for the final test.
Our first duty is to pray according to God's will, asking for the very things that He has promised. After we have earnestly prayed, we are to receive the desired blessing, claiming it as ours. We are then to believe that we have the blessing because we have claimed it by faith. In this way, the blessing indeed becomes ours.
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Mark 11:24.
This is end-time faith. End-time faith believes that we have received the blessing even before we realize it or see it! Feelings have absolutely nothing to do with the process whatsoever. Feelings only stand to confuse and mislead the sincere believer. Feelings are not a safe guide.
Christ is our Example. While suspended on calvary's cross, our Savior felt the deep pangs of apparent abandonment. These feelings were an almost overwhelming temptation to Him. In His cry "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken Me?", Christ was experiencing the feelings of separation from His Father. In this moment of trial, Christ had to choose faith over His feelings. He had to exercise end-time faith. He had to trust that the marvelous plan of redemption, the plan that was laid before the foundation of the world, was still on course. He had to trust His Father. He had to trust the plan, even though His feelings were totally contrary to the plan.
I am thankful that our Savior exercised His faith rather than relying on His feelings! His Father had not abandoned the plan at all. In fact we are told exactly where the Father was when His Son was experiencing this temptation:
"In that thick darkness God's presence was hidden. ...God and His holy angels were beside the cross. The Father was with His Son. Yet His presence was not revealed. Had His glory flashed forth from the cloud, every human beholder would have been destroyed." -- Desire of Ages, pg. 753
The Father was with His Son through this trial. The Father left Heaven and came to the side of His suffering Son! How beautiful! How marvelous His love!
Although the Father did not reveal His presence, He was there. Many wonder why the Father did not reveal Himself. It is because Christ was treading the wine press alone. He was paying the awful wages of sin for us. Therefore, Christ was not to be comforted in that trying hour. On Him was laid the iniquity of us all. He was dying the death that our sins earned.
Friends, those who stand through the final test will have to exercise this type of faith. The very time to exercise faith is when you feel destitute of His presence. When the thick clouds of darkness gather about your soul, it is then time to exercise the faith of Jesus. True faith will rest on the promises in the Bible rather than on feelings. Now is the time to lay aside your feelings and embrace His promises. Now is the time to learn how to exercise end-time faith.
"If ye abide in Me, and my Words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." John 15:7