Motivation to Press On

1 Corinthians 15:51-58 51 For sure, I am telling you a secret. We will not all die, but we will all be changed. 52 In a very short time, in the twinkling of an eye, the Christians who have died will be raised. It will happen when the last trumpet sounds. The dead will be raised never to die again. Then the rest of us who are alive will be changed. 53 Our human bodies made from dust must be changed into a body that cannot be destroyed. Our human bodies that can die must be changed into bodies that will never die. 54 When this that can be destroyed has been changed into that which cannot be destroyed, and when this that does die has been changed into that which cannot die, then it will happen as the scriptures said it would happen. They said, “Death has no more power over life.” 55 O death, where is your power? O death, where are your pains? 56 The pain in death is sin. Sin has power over those under the Law. 57 But God is the One Who gives us power over sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. We give thanks to Him for this.

58 So then, Christian brothers, because of all this, be strong. Do not allow anyone to change your mind. Always do your work well for the Lord. You know that whatever you do for Him will not be wasted.

We would all agree life can be difficult. Pressures of daily living can feel overwhelming, relationships can disappoint us, and at times our expectations go unmet. So it’s good to remember an important truth that can sustain us: This life is not all there is; the best is yet to come.

Having the promise of the resurrection gives us the motivation we need to “be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We know that our efforts are never in vain and our Father has provided everything we need to succeed:

  • God’s Word reveals His purpose for all believers and transforms our character, thoughts, and behaviors to align with His desires.
  • The Holy Spirit providentially guides us into God’s will and empowers our obedience.
  • Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit and enable us to serve the Lord in the way He’s planned.
  • Prayer allows us to communicate with God at any time to receive guidance and grace to help with every need.

These remarkable divine provisions, together with the promise of resurrection and the glories of heaven, give us good reason to persevere and never lose heart.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Acts 2:22-39 22 “Jewish men, listen to what I have to say! You knew Jesus of the town of Nazareth by the powerful works He did. God worked through Jesus while He was with you. You all know this. 23 Jesus was handed over to sinful men. God knew this and planned for it to happen. You had sinful men take Him and nail Him to a cross. 24 But God raised Him up. He allowed Him to be set free from the pain of death. Death could not hold its power over Him.

25 “David said this about Him, ‘I can see the Lord before me all the time. He is at my right side so that I do not need to be troubled. 26 I am glad and my tongue is full of joy. My body rests in hope. 27 You will not leave my soul in death. You will not allow Your Holy One to be destroyed. 28 You have shown me the ways of life. I will be full of joy when I see Your face.’

29 “Brothers, I can tell you in plain words that our early father David not only died but was buried. We know where his grave is today. 30 He was one who spoke for God. He knew God had made a promise to him. From his family Christ would come and take His place as King. 31 He knew this before and spoke of Christ being raised from the dead. Christ’s soul would not be left in hell. His body would not be destroyed. 32 Jesus is this One! God has raised Him up and we have all seen Him.

33 “This Jesus has been lifted up to God’s right side. The Holy Spirit was promised by the Father. God has given Him to us. That is what you are seeing and hearing now! 34 It was not David who was taken up to heaven, because he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right side, 35 for those who hate You will be a place to rest Your feet.”’ 36 The whole Jewish nation must know for sure that God has made this Jesus, both Lord and Christ. He is the One you nailed to a cross!”

37 When the Jews heard this, their hearts were troubled. They said to Peter and to the other missionaries, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Be sorry for your sins and turn from them and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you and your children. It is to all people everywhere. It is to as many as the Lord our God will call.”

There’s some confusion in the church today concerning the Holy Spirit. A number of Christians think the indwelling of the Spirit occurs sometime after salvation, but Scripture teaches that He comes to permanently live within a new believer the moment he or she places faith in Jesus.

We don’t need to pray specific words for the Spirit to arrive. Nor do we have to attend a special service invoking His presence in order for Him to dwell in us. Any teaching that claims we can lose the Spirit and must regain Him over and over again is false. As soon as we trust in Jesus, His Spirit comes to abide with us forever (Then I will ask My Father and He will give you another Helper. He will be with you forever. John 14:16). This truth is essential to understand, because Scripture clearly says that anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit does not belong to Christ (But you are not doing what your sinful old selves want you to do. You are doing what the Holy Spirit tells you to do, if you have God’s Spirit living in you. No one belongs to Christ if he does not have Christ’s Spirit in him. Rom. 8:9).

It would be impossible to live the Christian life without the indwelling Spirit. He’s the one who guides us into God’s will, teaches us the truths of Scripture, transforms us into Christ’s likeness, and empowers us to serve and obey God successfully and joyfully.

When you fully understand this fundamental truth, you realize that instead of trying to “get the Spirit,” you need to live like the Spirit-filled Christian you are.

Letting Go of Baggage

Hebrews 12:1-3 All these many people who have had faith in God are around us like a cloud. Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should. Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect. He did not give up when He had to suffer shame and die on a cross. He knew of the joy that would be His later. Now He is sitting at the right side of God.

Sinful men spoke words of hate against Christ. He was willing to take such shame from sinners. Think of this so you will not get tired and give up.

If you’ve ever had to carry luggage while running to catch a flight or the bus, you know how difficult and exhausting it can be. Have you considered that the same could be said about carrying baggage from your past into your Christian life?

Sometimes the burdens we carry have been with us since childhood—painful experiences during those formative years can have a profound impact, even into adulthood. And things we saw, heard, or felt could negatively affect our spiritual life today. In fact, it’s possible to be unaware of the load because after bearing it for so long, we may have become accustomed to the weight and bulk. Perhaps it even feels normal, but it’s not what the heavenly Father wants for His children.

To run with endurance the course God has set for your life, you must lay aside these encumbrances. He can break any lingering unhealthy pattern and replace it with hope and deep satisfaction in Him. As you consider your background and childhood experiences, ask God to reveal the truth clearly. When you recognize ways in which others have had a negative influence, pray the He will give you a forgiving spirit and healing for any wounds that remain.

The Greatest Question Ever Asked

A friend once asked Isidor Isaac Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in science, how he became a scientist.

Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but she always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?”

“Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”

Continue: https://thepreachersword.com/2021/05/06/the-greatest-question-ever-asked/

Making God Our Priority

Philippians 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ

What is most important to you? Your family? Your job? Your health? Your hobbies? Your home? Your friends? Your things? Where would you place God in your list of things that are important to you? If you were setting a priority list – what would be first – second – and so forth?

Jesus was asked about the Greatest Command – and he responded with these two. Mark 12:30–31 – 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”

Loving God first and with our all is so important. It is easier said than done. When was the last time you had to choose between God and something else that was important to you? Jesus did it several times – the last time recorded was at the Garden of Gethsemane.

The rest is at: https://raymcdonald.wordpress.com/2021/05/07/making-god-our-priority/

How could they see and not believe?

We often ask the question: how could those ancient people witness the miracles of Jesus and not believe? It seems incomprehensible.

It is incomprehensible for good reason. Because they did believe. But their belief was not a faith reckoned to them as righteousness. We see this in several passages. Most clearly, I would say, at the end of John 2:

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25, NKJV)

Here we have a group who are observing Jesus’ wonderous signs, and scripture does not tell us “and amazingly they did not believe! Nope, they believed, but it was not the right kind of belief.

The text doesn’t say how they were deficient, but I’m willing to speculate they merely had an intellectual assent that Jesus was a sort of holy man  or prophet capable of miracles. Maybe at the level of Moses or Elijah. But not the Son of God who came to die and take away the sins of the world. Like Nicodemus, they knew something, but they were not (at least yet) born again. Jesus did not commit himself to them. At least at that time.
We also see this in Simon the Magician of Acts 8, who (seeing wonderous deeds done in Samaria in the name of Jesus) believed and was even baptized, only later to be excommunicated. He believed, but he didn’t understand.
We even see the same pattern with his close disciples. In Mark 8, Jesus reminds them that they had witnessed the miraculous feeding of thousands, but yet he felt compelled to ask: “How is it that you do not understand?” They had seen. They believed. But they did not understand. And Jesus did not commit himself to them. That is, until they did (imperfectly) understood, when Peter, speaking for the group, answers the direct question with “you are the Christ.” Then they believed and (somewhat) understood, and only then did Jesus commit himself and reveal the greatest mystery, that he must suffer and die.
So when a skeptic says that he would believe if God rearranged the stars to spell out “Hello World!” in ten languages, he is telling the truth. He would believe, but it wouldn’t be enough.

How to Walk Wisely

Ephesians 5:1-17

Do as God would do. Much-loved children want to do as their fathers do. Live with love as Christ loved you. He gave Himself for us, a gift on the altar to God which was as a sweet smell to God. Do not let sex sins or anything sinful be even talked about among those who belong to Christ. Do not always want everything. Do not be guilty of telling bad stories and of foolish talk. These things are not for you to do. Instead, you are to give thanks for what God has done for you. Be sure of this! No person who does sex sins or who is not pure will have any part in the kingdom of Christ and of God. The same is true for the person who always wants what other people have. This becomes a god to him. Do not let anyone lead you in the wrong way with foolish talk. The anger of God comes on such people because they choose to not obey Him. Have nothing to do with them. At one time you lived in darkness. Now you are living in the light that comes from the Lord. Live as children who have the light of the Lord in them. This light gives us truth. It makes us right with God and makes us good. 10 Learn how to please the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the bad things done in darkness. Instead, show that these things are wrong. 12 It is a shame even to talk about these things done in secret. 13 All things can be seen when they are in the light. Everything that can be seen is in the light. 14 The scriptures say, “Wake up, you who are sleeping. Rise from the dead and Christ will give you light.” 15 So be careful how you live. Live as men who are wise and not foolish. 16 Make the best use of your time. These are sinful days. 17 Do not be foolish. Understand what the Lord wants you to do.

Godly wisdom enables us to view things as the Lord does and to respond according to biblical principles. This discernment isn’t automatic, but it is available to all believers who “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10; If you do not have wisdom, ask God for it. He is always ready to give it to you and will never say you are wrong for asking. James 1:5). And the best way to know what pleases God is to read His Word.

When we resolve to honor the Lord in all we do, say, and think, it transforms the way we make decisions. Instead of following natural instincts or sinful impulses, we’ll seek God’s viewpoint in a given situation. And when we want to know what He says about certain topics, Scripture will become our first resource, rather than our friends or the media.

With so many voices clamoring for us to follow worldly paths, we can’t afford to be careless in how we live. We can either walk in the world’s darkness or God’s light. The first option leads to foolishness, but the other is the way to goodness, righteousness, and truth.

Pleasing the Lord and conforming to His likeness are always the best choice. Ask for wisdom today, and God will guide you to live as children of light (Eph. 5:8).

Triumph!

When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Colossians 2:13-15

As we pick up from the last passage, we see right away the connection we discovered. Notice the link between “dead in your sins” and “uncircumcision.”  Here they are used interchangeably, and since they are used this way, we can be certain, as we were last time, that circumcision here is not the literal procedure done in physical terms.  While we were in our sins then, God made us alive in Christ and forgave our sins.   So far, this is easy to understand, and wonderful to behold, full as it is with the love and mercy of a loving Father in heaven.  It gets even better…

God cancelled the “written code” with its “regulations” that were “against us.”  So not only have our sins been forgiven, not only have we been made alive in Christ, but the Law that condemned us has been ended; from now on it’s all about Christ!

read more: https://lifereference.wordpress.com/2021/04/30/triumph-4/

How can we learn contentment? 

(J.R. Miller, “The Hidden Life” 1895)  LISTEN to audio!  Download audio

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11

How can we learn contentment? 

One step toward contentment, is patient submission to unavoidable ills and hardships. No earthly lot is perfect. No mortal ever yet in this world, has found a set of circumstances without some drawback. There are . . .
trials which we cannot change into blessings,
burdens which we cannot lay down,
crosses which we must continue to carry,
thorns in the flesh which must remain with their rankling pain.
When we have such trials, why should we not sweetly accept them as part of God’s best way with us?

Discontent never made . . .
a rough path smoother,
a heavy burden lighter,
a bitter cup less bitter,
a dark way brighter,
a sore sorrow less sore.
It only makes matters worse!

One who accepts with patience, that which he cannot change–has learned one secret of victorious living.

Another part of the lesson, is that we can learn to moderate our desires. “Having food and clothing,” says Paul again, “let us be content with these.” Very much of our discontent arises from envy of those who seem to be more favored than ourselves. Many people lose most of the comfort out of their own lot–in coveting the finer, more luxurious things which some neighbor has. Yet if they knew the whole story of the life they envy for its greater prosperity, they probably would not exchange for it their own lowlier life with its more humble circumstances. Or if they could make the exchange, it is not likely they would find half so much real happiness in the other position, as they would have enjoyed in their own.

Contentment does not dwell so often in palaces–as in the homes of the humble. The tall peaks rise higher and are more conspicuous–but the winds smite them more fiercely than they do the quiet valleys. And surely, the lot in life which God makes for us, is always the best which could be made for us for the time. He knows better than we do, what our true needs are.

The real cause of our discontent is not in our circumstances; if it were, a change of circumstances might cure it. It is in ourselves, and wherever we go–we shall carry our discontent heart with us. The only cure which will affect anything, must be the curing of the fever of discontent in us.

A fine secret of contentment, lies in finding and extracting all the pleasure we can get from the things we have–the common, everyday things; while we enter upon no mad, vain chase after impossible dreams. In whatever state we are in, we may find therein enough for our needs.

No earthly misfortune can touch the wealth which a Christian holds in the divine promises and hopes. Just in the measure, therefore, in which we learn to live for spiritual and unseen eternal realities–do we find contentment amid earth’s trials and losses. If we would live to please God, to build up Christlike character in ourselves, and to lay up treasure in Heaven–we shall not depend for happiness, on the way things go with us here on earth, nor on the measure of temporal goods we have. The earthly desires are crowded out by the higher and spiritual desires. We can do without childhood’s toys–when we have manhood’s better possessions. We desire the toys of this world less, as we get more of God and Heaven into our hearts.

Paul knew this secret. He cheerfully gave up all that this world had for him. Money had no power over him. He knew how to live in plenty; but he did not fret when poverty came instead. He was content in any trial, because earth meant so little–and Christ meant so much to him. He did not need the things he did not have. He was not made poor by the things he lost. He was not vexed by the sufferings he had to endure–because the sources of his life were in Heaven and could not be touched by earthly experiences of pain or loss.

These are hints of the way we may learn to be content in whatever circumstances. Surely the lesson is worth learning! One year of sweet contentment, amid earth’s troublous scenes–is better than a whole lifetime of vexed, restless discontent! The lesson can be learned, too, by anyone who is truly Christ’s disciple; for did not the Master say, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you.”

The artist painted life as a dark, storm-swept sea, covered with wrecks. Then out of the midst of the wild waves, he made to rise a great rock, in a cleft of which, high up, amid herbage and flowers–he painted a dove sitting quietly on her nest. It is a picture of Christian peace in the midst of this world’s strifes and storms. In the cleft of the Rock, is the home of contentment.

Basing Expectations on Truth

Mark 9:30-32

30 From there Jesus and His followers went through the country of Galilee. He did not want anyone to know where He was. 31 He taught His followers, saying, “The Son of Man will be handed over to men. They will kill Him. Three days after He is killed, He will be raised from the dead.” 32 They did not understand what He said and were afraid to ask Him.

We all jump to conclusions and make assumptions—even the disciples missed important truth in this way. Jesus told them repeatedly that He was going to be crucified and raised to life after three days. Their ears heard His words, but their minds and hearts didn’t.

The disciples knew Jesus was the Messiah, but their assumptions about how and when His kingdom would come kept them from hearing how the Lord actually said it would happen. They were looking for a Savior who would overthrow Rome and then rule with the disciples by His side. However, Jesus’ words of death and resurrection were the exact opposite of that. They hadn’t understood the promise of the resurrection, so when Jesus died, their dreams died too, which left them feeling hopeless (Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I give My spirit.” When He said this, He died. Luke 23:46; All the many people who came together to see the things that were done, went away beating themselves on their chests. Luke 23:48).

We might wonder, How could they be so dense? But before we judge them too harshly, let’s remember that we, too, often have ideas about how the Lord should work in our life and in the world.

God’s ways won’t always match ours, because He works from an eternal perspective and we don’t. So we must remember that His ways are best. Let’s drop our expectations and trust Him.