Categories
Articles

WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

We don’t sing the old hymns like we used to. Most churches have moved to the more contemporary style of music and occasionally pull out one of the old hymns of days gone by. I can still remember the lyrics of many of those old hymns I grew up hearing and singing and sometimes they give me such solace and peace. Recently, the Holy Spirit put one of those old hymns in my heart and mind and the chorus has been something that I find myself humming or singing throughout the day. When that happens, you know that God, through the Holy Spirit, is encouraging you to hold on to the message in those words. While the hymn’s title is “Blessed Assurance” written by Fanny Crosby in 1873, it is the chorus that is a constant on my heart and mind. The lyrics of the hymn are:

“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

{Refrain:}
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above:
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

{Refrain}

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

{Refrain}

That chorus “This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior, all the day long” is such a powerful and compelling message to those who claim to be Followers of Jesus Christ. This chorus being planted in my heart and mind, day and night, brought me to a point of self-examination and introspective searching. Can I truly say this is my story and this is my song? Or have I allowed other things to take the place of this being my story and praising my Savior is an occasional thing like Sunday morning in church or special occasions where I need to look holy to those around me? So let’s take a few moments together to give serious thought and honest evaluation to these questions.

God’s Word tells us ““The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior! He is the God who avenges me, who puts the nations under me, who sets me free from my enemies. You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me. Therefore I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.”(1) Do you remember every waking moment that The Lord lives and we owe praise to our Rock! He is the Rock of our salvation and He sets us free from our enemies. So often when I hear men talking about their struggles with maintaining a close walk with the Lord my mind immediately goes to the instructions given to us in 2 Samuel. How can we have a close relationship if we don’t remember first what brought us into a close relationship with the living Lord to in the first place? If we are not praising and exalting the One that brought us out of darkness then how can we possibly maintain a close relationship? Satan distracts us with busy-ness and draws our hearts and minds to numerous other activities and things that removes the eternal mindset we owe to the One who Lives and who gives us an eternal promise. We get caught up in the here and now and when we do, we are prime candidates for the temptations of the enemy!

While there are many scriptures and passages of scripture we could use as an example of “this is my story”, I don’t want to turn this article into a book, so we will use a single passage that hits all of the key points.

David testified “The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD. Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”(2)

  • So, using this passage, let’s pull out some key elements that should be part of our story:
  •  Whom shall I fear, whom shall I be afraid;
  •  The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
  •  Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident;
  • One thing I ask from the Lord, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life;
  • For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
  • I will sing and make music to the Lord;
  • Your face, LORD, I will seek;
  • The LORD will receive me;
  • Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors;
  • I remain confident in this: I will see goodness of the LORD in the land of the living;
  • Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD

While every man’s story will be different because of his life experiences, these elements should be interwoven in the story if he professes to have a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ. While the language will be different because we do not necessarily speak as scripture is written, the essence of each item above will be in the story. All of God’s men must be prepared to share “their story” so that God may be glorified and others may learn and grow from the story we tell. So, WHAT IS YOUR STORY?


(1) 2 Samuel 22:47-50
(2) Psalm 27:1-14

Categories
Articles

Scriptures of Encouragement and Consideration

This month I wanted to take time to share a variety of short writings concerning Scripture that contain both words of encouragement and/or words that should be pondered and given serious thought.  I hope they will be something you not only apply to your daily life but that you also share with those you minister in the days ahead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SO WHY DID GOD HAVE TO SEND JESUS INTO THE WORLD?

John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Probably the most widely known verse of scripture, regardless of the person’s beliefs, is John 3:16. Yet the next verse is so important to our understanding what God intended by what is written in verse 16. Jesus Christ did not come to earth, fully man yet fully God, to condemn the world … but to save it. Luke 19:10 tells us “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Someone filled with condemnation would not be seeking the lost so that He could save them now would He? Because of our sinful nature and sinful actions we are separated from God because God cannot look upon sin as if it is acceptable. Yet God desired fellowship with His creation (man and woman), so He had to make a way to atone or pay for the sin committed by each of us so that we could become acceptable in His sight. That is why Jesus had to come to earth. He came to be the sacrificial payment for all of mankind’s sin past, present and future. Because of Jesus shed blood we can be made clean in God’s sight. When we enter into a personal heart relationship with Him we are “covered by the blood” meaning all of our sins are forgiven and no longer visible because of the sin debt being paid in full by Jesus Christ death and resurrection.

You may be one of those people that believe God to be some mean, harsh Divine being that just wants to make our lives miserable and He likes nothing better than to see us fail. If this is your thinking, then I challenge you to read the four Gospels in the New Testament and show me in anywhere of the four where God is defined in this way! God loved us so much He gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sinners. How could a god with that much love be described as mean and cruel? Because our Heavenly Father wanted a way for our hearts to be rejoined with His, a sacrifice had to be made and it couldn’t be like the sacrifices of the Old Testament. It had to be a “once and for all kind” of sacrifice. Jesus was sent to the world to save it by giving His very life for you and me. God’s ultimate desire was to save the world — you and me — through his Son Jesus Christ.

It had nothing to do with condemnation; it had everything to do with love and mercy that only a loving, caring God could provide to His wayward and lost children. God’s Word tells us that His desire is that none should perish yet we know there will be those so deeply rooted in sin and pride that they will refuse to accept the gift of grace that is readily available to all who will receive it. So where are you today? In a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ, or are you still making excuses as to why you don’t believe God’s Word and direction for salvation. My prayer for you today is that you will be burdened by the Holy Spirit in an effort to bring you to an understanding of the saving grace that comes through a personal heart relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

 

WHO DO YOU CLAIM AS YOUR CORNERSTONE?

Acts 4:11-12 “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Satan has insured tremendous confusion about God and how a person can get to heaven. There are many, even church going people, that say “there are many ways someone can become close to God or something like God (a higher power) and get to heaven or whatever they call their eternity place.” While it sounds nice and very politically correct and socially acceptable, it is completely and 100% WRONG! God makes it very clear that His plan is based on one way and one way only to have eternity with Him. Paul boldly spoke to the rulers of Israel and told them “Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.” Paul is telling those in positions of leadership they should have been “building” the people to understand the Messiah and His presence among them yet they refused and denied him, primarily because of greed and the fear of losing power over the people (sound familiar?).

Much like people in our world today they didn’t want to face the fact that God has provided the means to build a solid indestructible relationship with Him. When Paul refers to Jesus by saying “has become the cornerstone” he is stating very clearly that a true relationship with our Creator begins with the cornerstone Jesus Christ. The cornerstone is the key to a structure being strong or weak. The cornerstone is what everything else relies upon and if the cornerstone fails then everything comes tumbling down. Too many people are depending on things or people to be their cornerstone and when those things fail everything and everyone comes crashing down with it.

Paul gives us the key to re-establishing our relationship (broken because of our sinful nature) with the Heavenly Father when he says “Salvation is in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Is Jesus your cornerstone? Are you building your life depending on Him for providing the strength and stability to accomplish God’s plan for your life? Jesus is the cornerstone and to rely on Him gives us what we need in this life and in addition we gain adoption into the Kingdom of Heaven to spend eternity with our Heavenly Father!

 

WHAT ROLE DOES MY MIND PLAY IN MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST?

2 Corinthians 10:5 “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

I want to focus on the second half of this verse which states “and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Anyone following my post for any length of time knows that I talk about the fact that our personal relationship with Jesus Christ starts and stays in our hearts. This is why it is so incredibly important that we do the things necessary to increase and grow in our faith so that we can surrender our minds to the direction of our heart because that is where our Jesus relationship exists. The mind is Satan’s playground and he uses any tactic possible to create doubt and fear.

A colleague once shared with me that Satan’s use of fear can be interpreted as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” You see he will twist and distort truth to try and get you twisted and confused in your faith. That is why this verse is so incredibly important. We must take every thought captive and not allow Satan to sneak into our minds and create doubt or confusion. If we seek to make every thought, not just our Sunday church thought but every thought every day focused on Christ then we can defeat the efforts to try and make us react in FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real).

Studying God’s Word, having a daily prayer life, and surrounding yourself with other Believers who can provide mentoring and support will develop and mature our abilities to allow the knowledge of Jesus Christ in our hearts direct the thoughts in our minds. Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Learning to utilize the direction the Holy Spirit gives us from the heart to control our thoughts so that we can focus on God’s truth and desires for us. This will give us a great shield of defense in our minds to guard against the one who seeks to destroy us … Satan. He knows how the world is going to end and where he will spend his eternity; therefore he wants to take as many of God’s creation with him as he possibly can.

Today determine that you are going to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior!

 

SO WHAT DO I DO WITH THE FREEDOM GAINED FROM MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST?

Galatians 5:13 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Let’s call today “Let’s Get Some Things Straight Friday!” As Believers in Christ our freedom comes from the forgiveness of sins which should not be interpreted as a license to go out and do anything and everything you want to do just because you happen to have a “Free Get out of Hell Card.” Paul is telling us that our freedom should not be used to “indulge the flesh” which can be defined as living our lives in such a way to attempt to fulfill our sinful worldly desires. To use our freedom in this way is in direct opposition to what the Holy Spirit has called us to leave behind. Not only is Paul giving us instruction on what not to do but he tells us what to do when he says “serve one another humbly in love.”

Look at the world around us.  We have become so self-centered and self-focused that we act insulted and appalled that someone would dare ask us to serve another person! Humility is viewed as a trait of the weak and to get ahead you have to look out for number one – SELF! Thank goodness that Jesus wasn’t looking out for Himself but humbled Himself to the point He surrendered His life for you and me. God’s Word tells us there is no greater love that a person can give than to lay down their life for another. We mumble and grumble about the condition of our nation and we wonder why we see people doing such horrific and cruel things to one another yet the key and critical question is “Am I living my life to teach others how to serve one another humbly in love?”

We complain about the church and wonder out loud “why don’t THEY do something,” yet aren’t WE the church. What is it that you are doing to help another person learn the true meaning of freedom which can only come through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? What are you doing to allow God to work through you to demonstrate humility by serving someone in need as an example of Christ’s love for us? LET’S GET SOME THINGS STRAIGHT FRIDAY … it all begins with me and if I am unwilling to live out the love of Christ and humble myself to serve others in need to show the love of Christ then I need to stop expecting others to do so. So which will it be?

 

SO HOW DOES GOD LOOK AT MY PAST?

Philippians 3:13b-14 “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I recently attended my high school class reunion. It was good to see some friends that I had not seen in many years and some I stay in touch with regularly but don’t get to see often enough.  As I reflected over the evening I found that there were some of my classmates still trying to live in their past, some who were haunted by their past and some that had moved on with their lives by putting their past, good or bad, behind them. It reminded me of how Satan is always trying to use our past mistakes as a way of distracting us and in fact he will try to use our past to control our future.

I love what Paul says in this passage in Philippians because of the way he says it: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” Too many people are restrained by their past and therefore they cannot move ahead as a result. As Followers of Christ we must remember that our past has been forgiven and so there is no need to be looking over our shoulder. If we do, we are doing exactly what Satan wants us to do; focus on our past! What we should be doing is looking ahead to seek out what God has in store for us. Not only in His promise of eternity with Him but in the present, what does God desire for me and from me? Are you pressing on toward the goal set before you or are you allowing your past to hold you in shackles and shame?

God’s forgiveness gives us the freedom to lay down the burdens of the past at the foot of the cross and leave them there. We never have to pick them up again and having that load lifted from our shoulders frees us to move on to the greater things God has in store for us. So here’s the simplicity of God’s plan; forgiveness equals freedom and freedom allows us to press on toward being the new creation that God allows us to become when we enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Don’t let your past dictate your future! Allow God’s forgiveness to set you free to become the person our Heavenly Father created you to be all along. Keep your eyes on Jesus and go for the prize that God has set before you!

 

ONCE I BECOME A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST, WHAT DO WORKS HAVE TO DO WITH THAT RELATIONSHIP?

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I have written often about grace and the fact that it is a gift from God and cannot be earned, bought or stolen. … It comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and no other way. Today I want to focus on the second part of this passage that tells us that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” Our relationship with Christ removes the focus from serving self to serving our Heavenly Father. While this is actually a simple concept, Satan wants to convince us that it is a very difficult road to travel and it is virtually impossible to accomplish. Simply stated, we put others before ourselves just as Christ put sinners ahead of His own life. As we grow in our faith, our understanding of God’s Word and our prayer communication with our Heavenly Father, the easier it becomes to see one’s self as servant rather than one to be served.

No matter what our position or station in life we can serve others to demonstrate God’s love for them. It is important to recognize that God does not need our help to accomplish His work! God is always at work all around us and we can choose to be a part of His work or we can refuse but either way, the work will be done as God has ordained it to be completed. God has had work planned for you before the foundation of the world and He is greatly pleased when you accept the assignment He has for you. However, never forget that God’s work will get done with or without us. We will all stand before God one day and for Followers of Jesus Christ the critical question we will need to be prepared to answer is “what did you do with your life after you accepted My gift of grace?”

I pray that everyone reading this message can say “I took part in doing your work Father and I served others to bring honor and glory to You!” If you can’t give that answer, then it’s time to give serious consideration to asking for God’s forgiveness and then seek His guidance and direction for the work He has for you to do. I can assure you that He will never give you an assignment that you and He can’t accomplish. As it is often said “God does not call the equipped He equips the called!”

 

WHAT DOES A PHYSICAL DEATH MEAN FOR A FOLLOWER OF JESUS CHRIST?

1 Corinthians 15:55-58 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

A dear friend and Sister in Christ shared this morning that her dad had passed away. While she shared the emotions involved with the loss of her dad, she stated “I’m so incredibly thankful for daddy always being there and leading us to the One who he is standing before right now, our Savior Jesus Christ. I’m praising through my tears.” As I read her post I was reminded of the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 that describes the victory we have been given over death because of our personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ. What a powerful message in the words “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?”

As Followers of Jesus Christ we know that there can be physical death that separates us from loved ones but this separation is only temporary. God’s Word tells us to be absent from the physical body is to be in the presence of the Lord! But Praise God, we know that we will see our Brothers and Sisters in Christ in heaven where we will spend eternity together. This precious Sister points out the thing all of us as Followers of Jesus Christ should be doing and that is sharing with others the Good News of Jesus Christ. Paul says we are to stand firm and let nothing move us. We are to give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord and while at times it may be difficult or challenging, laboring in the Lord is never in vain.

If you are a Follower of Jesus Christ then you have received the greatest gift ever offered to any person and that is God’s grace. With such a great and miraculous gift why would you keep that to yourself? We must share the power of grace and the promises that come with accepting it. If you truly care for a person then give them the knowledge of God’s grace and His desire to have an eternal relationship with them. If we do that, then you and I get the added benefit of being able to spend eternity with that person who accepts a personal heart relationship with Jesus Christ in God’s eternal home.

“Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” We have victory over physical death through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!