Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Now that Tom Cruise has been annointed as the "Christ" of Scientology, we have another example of mistaken identity in a man claiming to be the second coming of Christ, read about it here.

What a sad thing, the deception is evident. Jesus warned us that many will come in His name claiming, here He is. Based on their doctrine, the rejection of all things biblical Christianity, this is clearly a potentially dangerous cult that will likely have a bad end. Jim Jones never had as large of a following as this guy, to my knowledge. Pray for the people that are deceived and for the one doing the deceiving. May the real Jesus reveal Himself and turn back this foolishness.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Sermon --1/28/07--Faith's Call to Holiness

Faith’s Call to Holiness—1 Peter 1:13-16

We’ve been looking at how Faith changes our lives how we can Praise God for our New Life and Living Hope, how we can rejoice even in trials, and how we must marvel in the message God has passed down to us.

In our walk with Christ—we must understand that Faith calls us to a life of Holiness. 1 Peter 1:15-16—“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”

Holy means to be set apart—in this sense morally distinguished from the rest of the world in belief, action, and thought. Holiness is much about consistency—consistency of character, consistency between what you say you are and what you really are.

In Faith’s Call to Holiness, we must show 4 things.

Determination—prepare your minds

Prepare—to put in proper condition or readiness—make a concerted effort at getting something ready. Older translations use the terms, “gird up the loins of your mind”. That may sound strange but think about it—if you were wearing several layers of loose fitting robes that hung down to you shins, can you just start running at full speed whenever you want to? Anyone want to try it?

For a people that wore long flowing robes, to move quickly, to fight, or to work hard, you had to pick up or tie up your clothes.

It’s just like our need to put on a belt—I expect my grandfather would have said something like—“hitch up your britches”. Can anyone think of another phrase?

“Roll Up Your Sleeves.”

They had to make a deliberate decision to get ready and prepare themselves for action. They had to put in some effort, not just sit back and let things magically happen. But Peter wasn’t talking about clothes, he was talking about…

Your Mind—while there are many things our mind is wired to do—learn languages for example—your mind and thinking doesn’t come pre-wired or preprogrammed with knowledge that can help you accomplish architecture or calculus. Those things are learned. Your mind requires preparation to accomplish great things.

Your will, your thinking, your controlling agent. Your mind not someone else’s. Many have said that victory, invention, and other things are won with 10% Perspiration and 90% Inspiration. Athletes, soldiers, car salesmen, you name it, must have their mind prepared for the game, for the battle or whatever situation before the physical side begins. They must have a plan, must be focused on the goal, they must be determined and prepared mentally to accomplish the task at hand.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

That is Determination, but determination with a purpose. All believers must prepare your minds b/c Though Precedes Action …

For Action—it is pointless to make all the preparation necessary and then do nothing with that preparation.

no one gets all the ingredients for cookies on the table and then sits down expecting to taste the results. All the preparation is useless if you don’t use it, if you don’t follow up your thoughts and ideas and listening to the leadership of God with action, with obedience.

Preparation without action is like Good Intentions. For those of you who teach, how many times have you heard, “Well, I intended to write my paper. I really wanted to. I even did the research for it.”

This is a clear example that God does not want you and me to sit idly by and let not get involved. Take today for example—you come here to fellowship together, you come here to worship God, you come here to hear from His word—if you think God is satisfied with you just showing up, just sitting in the pew and going home and your done for the week—then let me say clearly that you are sadly mistaken.

This isn’t about legalism or guilt, or twisting your arm—it is about the fact that this time here is Preparation—you are supposed to be fed and encouraged here—to be prepared by God—FOR ACTION out there. To live your life changed, ready and prepared to respond to His leadership, to serve the person sitting next to you or your neighbor or your spouse. To be ready and prepared to ACT ON HIS BEHALF.

1 Peter 3:15—“always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but do this with gentleness & respect.”

If you never think or believe that you may be called upon to enter a battle—then you won’t be ready when the call to prayerfully intercede for someone comes. You won’t be ready to answer someone’s question about your faith or their problem with the Bible if you have no intention of letting this time of Worship to Prepare you to be used for the Kingdom of God.

Have any of you been a backup in some organized sport? Not the starter, IOW. You have to be ready to go into the game at any time. Imagine if in next weeks Superbowl, some of the Bear’s backups had the attitude—“well, I’m probably not going to play anyway, so I don’t need to bring my helmet out to the sideline.
I might as well not wear my pads or uniform. I’ll be able to enjoy it more if I’m in my street clothes and I’ve got my camera.”

Your mind must be prepared for action. You must be Determined to Prepare your mind. You must also show…

Discipline—be self-controlled

What does Self-Control look like to you? What does someone without Self-Control look like?

You be-self controlled—this is not an easy task—it is not natural to be self-controlled. Self-Controlled means to reign in impulse and sheer reaction. While it is possible for someone to learn self-control apart from faith in Christ—there is a reason that Self-Control is listed as one of the Fruits of the Spirit. God at work in our lives produces Self-Control

To be self-controlled is to not allow other things to control you—things like your desires, like your emotions, like temptations. No one else is responsible for you—other people’s actions and behavior is only able to control you if you give them the power to do so. So don’t worry, complain, or criticize what other people are doing or getting away with. As long as you are looking at them, you’re letting some part of yourself get away with something.

One of the things that you are Determining your mind to do is be in control of your emotions, desires, and that self-centered nature that powerfully fights with you to think of only what you want, only what you “need” and willing to do anything to get it, even sacrifice, insult, belittle or abuse those you love. You must have self-control as opposed to out of control or hysterical in the face of trials, troubles, temptations, or conflict.

If you are not self-controlled, then you are vulnerable to any and every temptation Satan throws your way. Satan knows how to play your emotions and desires. He knows how to provoke you to act and live out of control. What is damaged in those moments is your walk with Christ, your testimony to His love and forgiveness.

Self-Discipline is also alive and well when your conscience tells you something and you don’t talk back. So often we know what we should do but and ignore the good and choose whatever is most satisfying at the moment.

Self-Discipline and control has the ability to save your life. It keeps you fit and ready when the battle comes upon you.

One man, back in 1915 reportedly survived the torpedoing of the Lusitania because he had Determined to Discipline his mind and body to the freezing cold water before ever getting on the boat. He chose to “practice” by sitting in a tub of ice water every day for as long as possible. What started at a few minutes in the tub became a few hours. When the Lusitania was hit, this man was rescued from the near freezing water 5 hours later, still in excellent condition.

What if this man had never disciplined himself to withstand the cold water? What if he thought it wasn’t necessary, or that he was capable of surviving without deliberately setting his mind to survive.

That sadly describes far too many believers. We have not determined to be self-controlled in our preparation, we have not shown the discipline it takes to be self-sacrificing in our service of those around us.

We have not disciplined our mind to survive any struggle and temptation our enemy and this world throws at us. When someone wrongs us or says something hurtful—self-control keeps us from hurting back. We are not to treat each other or even non-believers with the kind of venom that our hearts can produce.

Not only must we Be Determined in our Preparation, and Discipline in our Thoughts and Actions, we must have the proper Direction and focus

Direction—set your hope--

This is the 4th time in 13 verses that Peter has mentioned Christ’s Return.

This Direction allows us to endure the present time of waiting and suffering

All the determination and discipline is useless without an eternal direction

So many people are desperate for any kind of direction in their lives. That’s why so many people are buying books about purpose, why so many others are looking to drugs and alcohol, why some are anticipating some sports team to give a direction and purpose in life.

All the determination and discipline is useless if it is not pointed in a direction that has eternal value. Most of you are where you are because of disciplined study and effort—that disciplined and studied effort had to be partnered with a

1 Corinthians 9:25, they do all those things to “get a crown [trophy, paycheck, title] that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Set—make a conscious decision

Your hope—your expectation and anticipation in what God is doing—your faith, your trust, your love for Jesus and the promise of His resurrection

Fully—completely, totally—relying and looking toward nothing else.

On the only thing that is worthy of our hope, only one thing that your Direction in life should be striving for, only one thing that should govern and dominate every decision, every thought, every action in life—the Grace that has been given to you and the Grace that Will be fully revealed when Jesus Christ Returns for His Bride.

If anything can give us the strength and the hope to make it through the trials and struggles of life, the Promise of the Return of Christ can.

That is our future, that is our Direction, that is what we have to look forward to. So much in life can be described by “Where have you Been and Where are you Going?”. Anyone without Christ may be able to tell you about their experiences, but they will never be able to say for sure what their future is going to be like, especially when they consider something like death. Believers may not know every step of the way, but there is a future that we can hold to, there is a certainty of where we are going, where the whole universe is going—the end that God has Prepared His Mind for Action: to Bring about a Certain End—He has determined the direction He is taking this universe.

God does not make a plan without the intention of carrying it out. The Future exists because God wills it.

Colossians tells us that all things hold together b/c of the ongoing work of Christ. This moment is in His hand, and so is the future. We can live that little phrase—“I may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.”

Faith calls us to be Determined, Disciplined and with the Proper Direction, but we must also show the proper Devotion.


2 Timothy 2:22—“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Jesus said, “if you love Me, obey My commands.” Now that we belong to Christ, we are called to a life of devotion in which the old way of life has been replaced. Just like children are to obey their parents, we are to live under the guidance and direction of God. but just like children, we have a choice to make.

We’ve had a heart transplant. Ask anyone who’s had one and they’ll tell you that if given the choice, they wouldn’t want the old diseased heart back.

V. 14—Living Bible—“Obey God because you are his children; don’t slip back into your old ways—doing evil because you knew no better.

In other words, ignorance is no longer our problem. We know the good things we should be doing, we know the way we should be living. Our temptation is to fall back into the old patterns, that it doesn’t matter how we live.

Instead Faith Calls us to Holiness. Just as He who called you is Holy—since everything about Jesus is Holy, without fault, without sin and since our lives are now His and He is to be living through us, then we must determine our minds, discipline ourselves, and direct our lives to the goal of being just like Him.

What does Holiness mean?

“Be Holy in all you do.” Be Holy—set apart from this world, living a different kind of life, having a different set of values and motives, thinking and acting in a way that distinguishes you from those who don’t know Christ.

This world is supposed to know we are His disciples by the way we love one another—by the way we serve one another, by the way we live for God and not ourselves.

When something is considered Holy it is because of its relationship to God. A goblet, an altar, a lampstand are ordinary so long as they are for common purposes but the moment they are “set apart” to serve God, they become Holy. This call to Holiness is a call for us to be Set Apart for divine service. Faith calls us to be set apart so God can use you for His purposes.

That’s why God calls the nation of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6—“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'

That’s why Peter later calls us a Peculiar people in the very next chapter. We are set apart as God’s possession, for Him to use and because He is Holy, we are made holy by His use of us and we must strive to live up to the proper instrument of God. True holiness, expresses itself in patient and loving service while awaiting the Lord’s return.

Devote yourselves every day in every moment, in every action in every word in every thought to your Faith.

Why would anyone truly come to Christ if He makes no difference in your life, if there is no change in your life? Why would the powers that be threaten or put down or suppress a group of people that are no threat to what they are trying to do? If they are casually going through life looking to government, trusting and depending on the government more than their belief and trust in the Hope of Christ?

True Faith calls you to a life of Holiness—calls you to a new life, a life set apart from what and who you used to be and calls you to a Determined, Disciplined, Directed, and Devoted Life in Christ. Are you willing? Have you entered into that new life in Christ?

Now, if you've made it this far in your reading, do you have any thoughts to add about holiness? About God's call and how it is to affect our thinking, our actions, our morals? One suggested that obedience needed to take a more prominent position. That's legitimate--obedience to what God has revealed about our lives and how we should live--in all things, not just the ones we like. We don't have the option of picking and choosing the commands of God--we're putting ourselves in His place when we do that. Any other thougths?


Friday, January 26, 2007

Possum Christians--Lessons from Nature

Here’s a lesson from nature that fits too much of the church today.

Opossums are famous not for their rugged good looks,

but for the act of “playing dead”.

Much of this behavior is probably over exaggerated, but the point is that at times, the possum stops running to get away from an advancing threat—many animals have a chase instinct—if it runs away from you, chase it and eat it. The reason is that the possum employs this tactic is because it is not very fast, doesn’t see well, isn’t very smart, and does not possesses a fearsome array of weapons. Playing dead is often its best chance at survival.

It is really alive, but it acting dead as if it were dead. If you were to walk up to a possum in this situation, you may be more inclined to avoid it. I’ve heard numerous stories of people picking up what they thought was a dead animal only to have it jump, hiss and act all dangerous. This is a tactic the possum employs only on occasion compared with the majority of its time behaving as an alive creature, walking, eating, etc.

This is a contrast to most Christians in America today. Whereas “playing dead” is the unusual circumstance for the possum, “playing dead” is practically standard fare for most of us in the church—don’t think that I’m excluding myself. We are alive, but we act most of the time as if we’re dead—we have little joy, little passion, little desire to serve, little stomach to make Him known. For us, it is the times of vibrancy and being alive that are the more unusual.

We started in this world the living dead. We were able to walk, talk, eat, sleep and do all those things when spiritually we were dead in our sins. Then when we submitted ourselves to Christ and asked Him into our lives, we were made alive—physically and spiritually—to truly live an abundant life that was never possible before. Instead of living this way—we are alive spending most of our time pretending to be dead with only occasional periods of true living.

An opossum plays dead to avoid a threat—we tend to play dead to avoid being threatening, or to avoid responsibility, or to avoid truly being sold out to serve, love and worship God with all our heart, soul mind and strength. We play dead to avoid conflict, we play dead to avoid offending, we play dead to fit in b/c everyone else is playing dead.

What do you think God thinks about this situation? Don’t you think He knows? When my son is pretending to be asleep, it’s obvious for me as his loving father. He does it usually to play, we do it to hide, thinking our lives are threatened. I believe you and I are truly afraid to live as if we were Alive in Christ. We’re more comfortable playing dead.

I’m tired of playing dead! Aren’t you? Can you see it in your own life? What evidences do you have for playing dead? What would an alive Christian look like?

I would appreciate your thoughts.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Free Grace & Free Access

I just came across a friend's blog talking about the Grace of God, how it is undeserved and cannot be earned. You can read the entry here.

One of the responders is a Mormon arguing the Mormon belief that there are 3 tiers of heaven. The following I was moved to write and thought I would post it on my own blog. Here you go.


I am so glad I don't have to work to earn God's love or His favor. I know I'm too lazy and incompetent for that.

I'm also glad He does not determine access to Him based on "performance". As a child of the King of Kings--I have the great pleasure of approaching the Throne of Grace with CONFIDENCE--His Presence is Heaven. He has invited me into His presence, not based on what I've done or earned but upon what Christ has done on my behalf--Jesus has entered and passed through the Holy of Holies--torn down any veil of separation--any tier of access (3 heavens and special members only access!!???) because of His atoning sacrifice. See Hebrews.

It's not what I bring to the table--it is solely what He brings to the table.

We may be rewarded for faithfulness and works once we get there, but access to the Father is not included in that.

I am adopted fully and completely as an heir and there is no future expectation that will make me more of an heir than my initial adoption.

Imagine if our adoption policies in the US followed the Mormon tiers of heaven.

Tier 1--Your adopted into the family, but until you do certain things, then you get to live in the doghouse and we'll give you the scraps off the table. Hey, at least you've got a roof and some food which is better than nothing.

Tier 2--You've done some good things now as a "member" of our family--(maybe you take out the garbage, or you made the lawn look real nice since you were out there all the time anyway)--now we'll let you come into the house and you have the permission to speak with our real children but you're still not allowed to eat at the table, nor do you get your own bedroom, nor are you allowed to have access to "Mom & Dad"

Tier 3--you're now a "contributing member of the family"--you've given enough money to cover room/board and adoption costs, maybe even let "Dad" retire early. Now we'll give you you're own bedroom, you can sit at the table, "Mom & Dad" will actually talk with you, and you are given the same status as one of their natural children.

To treat the adopted child differently than the natural child is illegal in most, presumably all states. What real parent could do that? What kind of loving God would do that?

Thank you God for fully adopting me and granting me access to You, to be able to call you Daddy and even climb into your lap. I know I don't deserve it--but you grant it anyway.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,



Sermon--1-21-07--Marvel at His Message

There are some great names in the history of our nation. If everyone were asked to choose who of our founders to ask to dinner you’d probably hear names like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry. We think of them b/c we would love to have insight into what they were thinking in the moment that history was decided. We would have many questions for them.

I don’t believe our questions would describe how the evening would go. I believe any such dinner conversation would be dominated by those men asking you about the state of the nation they fought and died for. As much as we would love to hear from them, they would love to hear from you. They’d want to know—“was it worth it?”, “did our experiment work?”, “what is the nation like today?”, “did freedom take hold in the hearts of the people?”, “do you really remember or care about what we did, we’re much more interested in what your life is like today?”.

The Great fathers of our nation would want to know if what they did, said, or believed then, was still having an effect even hundreds of years later. And hopefully, after a conversation with you, they would come away and truly believe—“what we went through was worth it. Seeing where you are, where the nation has come makes everything we did worthwhile. We were really thinking about the future of our children and their children. We were serving you.”

It’s amazing to consider that the founders of our nation were serving us, but they were. In the same way, when you hear great names of the faith like, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, they were serving you too. Even Peter in 1 Peter 1:12, realized that the Prophets of old were serving his generation. So names like Peter, Paul & John—would want to know about the Church today, would want to know about how things turned out, what they lived and died for.

To me, it is amazing and a marvel that the testimonies we read in Scripture are meant to serve us today. This book, the WoG was not written to sit on a shelf.

It was written to breathe life into our lifelessness, hope into our hopelessness, love into our selfishness, humility into our pridefulness, power into our powerlessness, forgiveness into our sinfulness, and light into our darkness. We can and should Marvel at the Message we have in Scripture.

2 weeks ago we saw how Angels can marvel at what we can Praise God for, all He has provided for us. Last week we looked at another aspect that Angels marvel at—how we can Rejoice at the Shield of God—we saw how through the refining of trials we are receiving the goal of our faith—the salvation of our souls.

This week we’re going to Marvel at His Message. God has worked hard through the ages to tell us He is there, to tell us He loves us, to show us how we can have a right and eternal relationship with Him.

He does so in the pages of the Bible, through the lives and writings of Prophets and Apostles.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift that God has ever given to man. All the good from the Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book. I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”—attributed to Abraham Lincoln

Marvel at His Message—1:9-12

Prophets of Old

Spoke to you—all of those prophets in the OT, all of those writers and apostles of the NT weren’t just writing for their own benefit, just b/c they wanted to hear themselves talk or have some record of their thinking. All of these writers were inspired by God and He had a purpose in their writing.

All Scripture is God breathed—His message to you.—2 Timothy 3:16-- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

All Scripture—not some, not most, not just the things we like or approve of or agree with. All of Scripture is God breathed. It is Scripture not by our declaration but by God’s inspiration. This is only an issue b/c many parts of it reveals things in ourselves we don’t like spoken against.

God-Breathed or God Inspired—much like when God breathed the spirit into Adam and gave him life. He used the author’s mind, creativity and personality to communicate words directly from His heart.

Useful—in other words, it has a function and purpose—it’s not irrelevant to life.

Teaching—we need to be taught certain things—particularly, things about God need not be left to our imagination. The only way we know anything about God is because He chooses to reveal it to us—otherwise, we’re just speculating. The only way I can learn anything about another person is what they choose to show, reveal or teach me about them. I need to be taught Who God is—it doesn’t come naturally or by instinct. I need to be taught What He is like, who I am in relationship to Him, What He has done for me.

Scripture is also useful for Rebuking—which is one of the primary reasons why we question Scripture’s inspiration—we don’t like being rebuked. We don’t like being told that something we are doing is wrong and goes against the moral order of God. But we need to be rebuked. The confusion and resentment comes b/c when we are rebuked, our selfishness tends to assume the one rebuking just wants to be mean—however a genuine rebuke must have as its base motive love and redemption.

Correction goes right along with rebuke. Correcting a wrong behavior or a wrong belief about God, a wrong idea—detailing how and why something is wrong. Most of my learning has come from doing something wrong and then being taught the correct way. Imagine how effective a classroom setting could be if a teacher was never allowed to correct a wrong answer.

Thankfully, Scripture does not just tell us that we’re wrong—rebuke, or tell us why and how—correcting, it gives us the right way—Scripture is useful for Training in Righteousness. It teaches what God’s ways are and how we can live that way. It requires training—we require training for things that don’t come naturally to us—the righteous life that God desires us to live requires His training and work on us, our acceptance and application of that training. God saw to it that we are not only told how we’re living wrong, but also how we can live right.

Sadly, there are many of us who don’t know how to receive correction, are not coachable or teachable. They are the ones who never accept that they’ve done something wrong, never accept that you might have a better way to offer them, that fight you all along the way, and only do the “right way” so long as the coach is over their shoulder—then they go back to doing it their own way—where they are largely less effective, then combative as to why the world is so against them and complaining of why it is not easier.

This is what the Prophets and the apostles were writing, what God is hoping that their writing accomplishes in you and me.

They were writing to more than a nation, more than a church, a city, or a group of people. They were also writing the future.

As Peter indicates, they were searching and writing about what was coming to you—they were looking into the future at a glimpse of what God was going to be doing. They were trying to make sense of the Messiah’s Timing & Circumstances, the Messiah’s Teachings & Sufferings, and the Messiah’s Ongoing Glory

This tells me very clearly that Scripture is not just for the past but for the present. These great men of faith were writing a special message that they anticipate YOU reading and applying to your life.

Messiah’s Timing & Circumstances—how were the people to recognize the Messiah?—Isaiah spoke of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem, from a young Virgin girl, of the tribe of Judah, descended from Jesse and King David, that He would live around Galilee. This all takes place hundreds of years before Jesus was born.

The Messiah’s Teachings and Sufferings--What would the Messiah do? At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4:18, He quotes Isaiah 61 about preaching the good news to the poor, proclaiming freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, releasing the oppressed and the year of the Lord’s favor. Jesus said powerfully—“Today this message is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Isaiah 53:4-6, 12c—one of the most prophetic chapters in the Bible talks of the Suffering Servant bearing the sins of many and being pierced for our transgressions.

The gospels list various aspects of the predicted sufferings of Christ--e.g., hatred by his people, betrayal by his friend, being forsaken by his flock, his scourging and crucifixion,

Psalm 22—was written by King David some 900 years before Christ, David looked forward by picturing the Crucifixion in amazing detail. The most Messianic psalm starts with the same words Jesus cries from the Cross—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And that Psalm goes on to speak of Jesus hands and feet being pierced, of the soldiers gambling for Jesus’ clothes.

The Messiah’s Ongoing Glory--The glories the prophets speak of are His glories include his transfiguration, his resurrection, his glorious return, and his reign. The church is a vital part of those things—we live because of His resurrection, we look forward to His return, waiting for our Marriage to the Lamb of God, and we will reign with Him. We live to share His Message and Kingdom with a lost world.

The Prophets were looking forward to these things that we live with. Luke 10:24—“For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Prophets Testified to Christ and all that He said, all that He was to do, and all that He has yet to do. We are a part of the future that these great men of faith were looking forward to. These prophets are serving you today. So anyone who thinks that a collection of books written almost 2000 years ago and more, is not relevant to you today is mistaken.

It was written to you, it is proven through prophecy, and it has the securing of our eternity with God as its message.

What I find amazing in this Marveling at the Message of God is the fact that angels are considered “God’s messengers”, in fact, “angel” means—“messenger of God”. But these great messengers of God “long to look into these things”—they long to look into the messages we have from the pages of Scripture, they long to look into the salvation that God provides for the people He loves.

Many people say they believe the Bible, most households have at least one Bible, but it just sits on the shelf, it doesn’t really affect their lives or way of thinking.

A story is told of a devout father whose son was studying for the ministry. The son decided to go to Europe for an advanced degree, and the father worried that his simple faith would be spoiled by sophisticated, unbelieving professors. “Don’t let them take Jonah away from you,” he admonished, figuring the swallowed by a great fish story might be the first part of the Bible to go.

2 years later when the son returned, the father asked, “Do you still have Jonah in your Bible?”

The son laughed. “Jonah? That story isn’t even in YOUR Bible!”

The father replied, “It certainly is! What do you mean?”

Again the son laughed and insisted, “It’s not in your Bible. Go ahead, show it to me.”

The old man fumbled through his Bible, looking for the book of Jonah, but he couldn’t find it. At last he checked the table of contents for the proper page. When he turned there, he discovered the 3 pages comprising Jonah had been carefully cut from his Bible.

The son looked at his father and said, “I did it before I went away”. “What’s the difference whether I lose the Book of Jonah through studying under non-believers or YOU lose it through neglect?”

How does the Message of the Word of God affect you today? Are you living it, or are you letting it waste away through neglect? These prophets and apostles are continuing to preach the Good News to you today. The Glory of Christ is continuing to be revealed through the Life of the Church—and the Church’s history is being written in the lives of you and me and will not end until Christ returns for His Bride.

In the same way the Founders of this nation would want to hear about the state of the nation today, so would the writers that God used to pen the Scripture. They’d want to see if the testimony they gave to the Living God was still heeded, if it still changed lives.

The Word of God is still Living and Active and desires to be alive in your life and in your heart.

Hebrews 4:12-- For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Are you living to write yourself into the legacy of Christ, for the future of Christ’s kingdom on earth, or are you living only for yourself, hoping that your kids, grandkids… your future will pick up some religion along the way. We can Marvel at the Message we have been left, will the future be able to Marvel at how you are serving them?

Today we have the privilege of participating in a Legacy of Faith.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

There Were No Fences in the Garden

The following was published in the local Macomb newspaper on 1/12/07 in a weekly column that local ministers supply called Street & Steeple.

There were No Fences in the Garden.

As a parent of small children, fences are a valuable safety tool. Fences define boundaries; prevent unwanted things from getting in and preventing wanted things from escaping. The fences help parents provide some limit to the defenseless wanderer, protecting what is on the inside.

In a zoo, however, fences provide a different function. There, what is on the inside is in some manner dangerous. The fence keeps the dangerous thing separate, keeping us away from that danger, protecting what is on the outside, while still letting us see it.

In the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and 3, you will never read of a fence. God had given a command, not to eat the fruit of a certain tree—the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil—but He did not rope it off, deny them access or put up a fence.

God treated Adam and Eve like adults—like competent, morally responsible beings. He gave a warning, explained the consequences and provided Adam and Eve the freedom to choose—to follow or to disregard.

Look around and you will see examples of this, most of which you choose to follow—“Swim at Your Own Risk”, “Do Not Feed the Bears”, “Yield”, “Speed Limit 65”. OK so that last one is typically ignored—but you do so with the knowledge that there is greater risk to yourself and others, as well as potential consequences. After all, it’s not the police officer’s fault that you chose to speed.

So there was this tree, right in the middle of the Garden without a fence to protect it or us. Adam and Eve could walk right by it, could, if they wanted to, go up and touch it. How many times had they walked past this Tree, noticed it, wondered about it and chose to stay away from it even when there was no fence to prevent them? For some undetermined time, Adam and Eve coexisted with the Tree right in front of them, with no fence.

As a result, they enjoyed the benefits of the Garden—their food was provided, they had no fear of threat from the world around them, and most importantly, they enjoyed the presence of their Creator and had a close relationship with Him.

There was no fence, even with the command. But if the Tree and its fruit had such great consequences, why was there no fence, no protection?

Again, it comes down to Freedom. You and I have the freedom to choose what is right and choose what is wrong. A genuine relationship—which God wishes to have with each one of us— is only possible when there is choice. A Love Relationship only truly exists when both the one loving and the one who is loved have a say in the matter.

God did not put up a fence around what He declared off limits because He values love Given, not Taken. It is the misuse of our freedom that causes separation and pains the heart of God more than anything else in the universe.

This begs a couple of questions, what is so dangerous about the fruit of this tree? Why would God want to deny them access to this knowledge in the first place? The serpent in the account wanted Adam and Eve to believe that God was suppressing them, holding out on them and that God does not have their best interests at heart. Satan didn’t tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—he distorted the truth.

It was true that Adam and Eve would not instantly fall over dead upon eating the fruit. It was also true that they would gain an awareness of Good & Evil, just like God. But Satan neglected to tell them that gaining this knowledge would corrupt them. Satan used a classic trap—mix as much truth as you need to make the lie believable. What the serpent held back was devastating.

God has an awareness of evil, an understanding of it in such a way that it does not corrupt His Character or Holiness. He knows it, but evil is never a part of Him. The same could not be said for us. When we took the fruit and gained an awareness of evil—it corrupted us, it became a part of our nature. Our knowledge of evil shatters our innocence and holiness because we then want to put what we know into practice. Our knowledge of good and evil corrupts us and separates us from our Creator. This separation hurts the heart of God more than anything else in this universe.

I say all of this with the hope that you understand certain things. First, that God values and respects your freedom. God treats you as an adult—a free, competent moral being who is capable of understanding right from wrong so much so that He doesn’t put up fences to keep you from making a bad decision.

Second, that God values genuine relationship with you based on choice not coercion—He wants you to be His friend.

And lastly, that God proved He was willing to do anything to restore our broken relationship with Him by sending Jesus into the world. This is the spirit of John 15:13--“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sermon-1/14/07--Rejoicing in the Shield of God-- 1 Peter 1:6-12

In October 1993, police sharpshooters in Rochester, NY, surrounded a car. In the back seat of the car was a man with a rifle. The police attempted to negotiate with the man… no answer. The police watched and waited… no movement. Finally the police discovered the truth: the armed man in the back seat was a mannequin.

When the authorities tracked down the owner of the car, he told them he keeps the mannequin in his car for protection. “You’ve got to do this,” he said. “With the car-jackings, it helps if it looks like you’ve got a passenger.”

These are dangerous times and we all have a desire for protection. The question is whom do you rely on for protection?

Remember last week we began examining what it is that Angels are amazed at in 1 Peter 1. Peter begins by listing reasons what angels long to look into and why our Praise should change, for His Mercy, for our New Birth, for our Living Hope, for His Inheritance, and for His Protection. We’re looking closer at God’s protection this week and why we should Rejoice in the Shield of God—because of His Refuge.

Shielded by God—1:5

Through Faith

By God’s Power

Until Christ’s Return

We are Shielded from the Controlling Nature of Sin, We are Shielded from the eternal effect of sin—broken relationship with God—we are shielded from the control and manipulation of the demonic—we are shielded from the full force of temptation because God has promised to provide a way out--even though we don’t always take advantage of it.

We are Not Shielded from all Suffering, from Pain or Difficulty. We are not shielded from all problems, emotions or decisions. We are not completely shielded from the effects of sin in our own lives or in the lives of others.

Yet we are still given Refuge and a place of safety, and we can still rejoice even in the midst of trials.

Rejoicing in the Shield of God—1:6-9

Rejoice for God’s Protection Until the Reality of His Coming.—

God is working to provide us refuge, to protect us now, today. And He will continue to work and protect and guide from this moment until Christ’s Return. Until we hear the trumpet sound, until we meet Him in the air—God will be our Refuge and our strong tower. Despite the long wait our faith has experienced over the years looking forward to His return, despite those that ridicule our belief in the promise of Christ, the reality that we hold on to with Hope—not wishful thinking, but Hope, is that He is returning. And we can and must rejoice in that fact.

Peter wants us to keep everything in the proper perspective. Our hope in Christ’s return changes everything.

No matter what is going on around you today, your Perspective must remain focused on The Reality of Christ’s Return. The reality of the Second Coming should change the way you look at and handle trials. Knowing Christ is returning to establish His kingdom, right all wrongs, and Elevate His people helps us to rejoice for God’s Refuge even during trials—because we know this world and our life in it will not always be this way. There is more than just a light at the end of the tunnel. He is the light! With that in mind you are more able to

Rejoice Even during Trials—Again, becoming a Follower & Disciple of Christ doesn’t mean that life is going to be nothing but roses from here on out. It doesn’t mean you won’t struggle, that you won’t experience loss or pain. We will experience those things just like everyone else because this world is fallen, it is marred by sin.

This world is no longer the perfect garden He made for us. So we will have struggles just like everybody else because we still live here.

In some ways, being a Xn may make you a bigger target in this world. The Scriptures call Satan the “Prince of This World”, and let me assure you that he will try harder to take you down once you have crossed enemy lines.

The unbelieving world—which hated and rejected Jesus, will at times treat believers with the same sentiment.

It is happening all over the world—hundreds of Chinese Xn’s are being arrested for attending church or training seminars . School kids in America are frequently required to redo assignments because of their “religious nature”. Churches are denied access to building permits in some communities in America because of their tax status.

Believers endure hardships and trials in this world just like everybody else, and on top of them, we sometimes suffer for our faith.

But remember the perspective that Peter is trying to give you—you Can rejoice even in the trials, rejoice during them, even overcoming them because as a Kingdom Believer, with you’re your mind and perspective focused on the Second Coming, compared to eternity you know they last only for “a little while” v. 6—which means the length of our trials here on earth do not compare to our time in eternity.

So we can rejoice in the relative short duration of our trials—admittedly, this is difficult—things seem long because of our limited frame of reference.

But if you and I will fully grasp the full meaning of the Kingdom of God, and will embrace the reality of it and live such, then we will even think in terms of eternity and not just the here and now.

But we can also rejoice that our sufferings and trials are not without purpose—they are not just random events with no meaning, no purpose or no benefit.

God’s Protection protects us from so many threats that we are unaware of, but when something happens, when some trial is allowed and comes our way it always has the same goal—the strengthening and growth of our faith. In this truth, I’m sure the angels marvel at how God can make something good of our trials here.

The Goal of Our Trials—READ v. 7

Trials have the ability to bring us closer to God or drive us further away from Him. What do you believe is God’s desire?
God’s desire is that we always be brought closer. As we’ve been seeing on Wednesday nights, even God’s anger desires to draw us closer rather than push us away.

God’s desire is that our momentary trials be understood in light of our greater eternity—these trials Refine our Faith and make our eternity even better.

Even though it may be painful, these things help us in some way, they prepare us for something, they refine us. With our limited perspective, we probably won’t ever fully understand how God will use our trials this side of His coming.

Alan Mairson wrote an article for National Geographic about beekeepers who raise and transport bees for a living. He told the story of Jeff and Christine Anderson and how their daughter overcome an allergy to bee stings.
To build up her immunity, doctors administered a series of injections to Rachel over a four-month period. But, in order to maintain immunity, she needed a shot or a bee sting every 6 weeks .
So every 6 weeks Rachel’s parents would go outside and catch a bee. Then, as Rachel recalls, “Mom would take hold of my arm and roll my sleeve up. Then my Dad would make the bee mad and stick it on me and count to ten before he took the stinger out. But it worked.

”Now when I accidentally get stung, it barely swells, it barely hurts.”
Imagine how hard it must have been for those parents to know this was the only way to help their daughter live. In a world full of bees, a loving father must not shield his child from every sting. In fact, for the child’s own good the father must at times induce pain.

Your Faith, your Eternity is more important to God than your happiness, it’s more important than your comfort—your faith is “of greater worth than gold”. So He is willing to do anything to make your faith better, more pure, more beautiful, more glorifying to Him.

You’ve probably seen pictures of gold nuggets, but have you ever seen gold ore? It’s not very pretty, in fact, it really doesn’t look anything like gold at all. Not until you begin heating the ore does the gold begin to separate from the other minerals and elements. Only after careful, deliberate and intense heat can something beautiful be made. God is refining you today so you will be beautiful in eternity.

Do you value your faith as much as God does? If your faith is this valuable to God, shouldn’t it be valuable to you as well? In fact, your faith should be of greater value to you than any earthly treasure—even gold itself. Even the purest, most beautiful gold will not last in eternity. Your faith must be similarly refined so it can be PROVEN GENUINE. In other words, if your faith is real—then nothing will come between you and God. No person, no hurt, no failure, no threat will be able to pull you away from your faith in God.

God wants to see your faith Proven Genuine! A genuine faith brings greater glory to Him!

Everything that happens in our lives must be understood in light of what will bring glory to God. Everything in your life is preparing you for service and glory today.

When your faith is proven genuine and made pure it results in Praise, Glory and Honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

A Genuine Faith is one that Walks by Faith, not by sight.

Unseen Faith at Work-- READ v. 8.

Sadly instead of living by faith and not by sight—you and I live most days by sight and not by faith. It comes more naturally to us. But we have so much more available to us.

These believers were either 2nd Gen. Xns or not in Israel during the life of Jesus—so they had never seen Him physically. But that did not keep them from loving Jesus with all their hearts. This describes you and me today—we have not seen Him, but we love Him and I hope you realize that He is the source of joy.

Many times during our trials our hearts sympathize with what Peter says—“though you do not see Him now”. In the midst of our struggles it seems like we cannot see His face, feel His Presence or hear His voice. But we still believe He is there walking us through the valley of the shadow of death. We still know that the unseen hand of Jesus is at work all around us.

Last week I reminded all of you of the fact that we will not be aware of the majority of instances when the Shield, Protection and Refuge of God is working. Even during trials and struggles His hand is still working.

The Hand of Jesus is working even when we cannot see Him. And True Faith will still believe in Him no matter what and in the midst of the trials God can and does fill you “with an inexpressible and glorious joy”.

It is based on the Hope in the Future and a Certainty of Christ’s Return which changes how we look at, how we respond to and how we handle everything that Life throws our way.

God’s desire is to refine us and prove us genuine. He wants to see you and me succeeding and growing in our faith because He does value us more than any treasure. We are God’s Pearl of Great Price—buried in a field that He was willing to sell everything and purchase.

We can Rejoice in God’s Shielding because when our faith has been proven genuine and when Praise, Glory and Honor Results in our lives at the coming of Christ we begin to understand that we are receiving the Goal of our Faith—vs. 9--the salvation of our souls. Our eternity is secured.

It may not make sense to us, but it is ours. We may not understand everything, but God is more interested in our Faith than our understanding.

The angels enjoy the benefit of seeing the spiritual world. They know by sight that it is real—whereas we live by faith

And I believe they marvel at how God relates to us and how we still desire, trust and have faith in Him. I believe they lean in when they see us filled with joy even during trials—especially those that come because of our faith when it would be so easy to avoid by denying Christ. I believe they are amazed at how God is refining you and me into something even better.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jesus-"Friend of Sinners"

In reading—“Breaking the Missional Code” by Ed Stetzer and David Putman, I came across this paragraph on pg. 117 that is a great reminder of the danger of Christians to separate a little too much from those who need to hear the Good News of Christ the most.

“Jesus was referred to as many things in the Gospels. In Luke he is characterized as a ‘friend of sinners.’ This was not meant as a compliment. As a matter of fact, it was part of the reaction the religious leaders had toward Christ and his tendency to go where the sinners were. It was one thing to call a tax collector named Levi to follow him, it was another to go to his home.”

How have you seen this attitude at work around you?

Have you been guilty of it?

What ways or steps can be taken to avoid this?

Who should we be like more: the religious leaders or Jesus?

Share your thoughts.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sermon--1/7/07--Capturing an Angel's Attention

Billy Graham in his book Angels: God’s Secret Agents, shared the account of…The Rev. John G. Paton, a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a story involving the protecting care of angels. Hostile natives surrounding his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. when daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. the chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had there with you?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard—hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did the Rev. Paton realize that God had sent his angels to protect them.

When you read accounts in Scripture of encounters with angels—the people are the ones that are amazed and astounded. The people are the ones that marvel at the presence of a holy messenger. We are so impressed by them, have you ever wondered what it would take to impress or marvel an angel?

I mean, when a single angel can go through the entire nation of Egypt in one night, or defeat an army of hundreds of thousands, is there anything we can do that would impress or defeat that angel? Is there anything about me that an angel marvels at? It can’t be how strong I am, it can’t be how fast I am, it can’t be how smart I am—there is only one thing that an angel marvels at, only one thing that makes them stoop over the shoulders of our existence—the Salvation God gives through His love for Us.

If it’s something they want to look into—to understand and find out about it s because of the impact our salvation has on us and the world.

God’s salvation has a dramatic impact on who we are; it changes us, it makes us strangers in the world. And when God is working to Change us, even angels stop and wonder.

The last sentence in 1 Peter 1:12 says—“Even angels long to look into these things.” That phrase, “long to look into” refers to a passionate examination, literally “to stoop over a thing in order to carefully look at it”. Kind of like reading over your shoulder or bending over backwards to get a better perspective. The angels go out of their way to understand, even going beyond the comfortable or convenient. They take a good long look and have an intense interest in the salvation of humanity. Luke 15:10 confirms that angels witness rejoicing when one sinner comes to repentance.

So if angels marvel at our salvation and the change that Faith brings to our lives, maybe we should look at what Peter says they want to look into.

Peter is writing to Christians who are strangers in this world. People who just don’t fit in with they way the world is operating, who have been personally chosen by the Father, sanctified by the Spirit through the blood of Christ. These Christians were enduring great difficulties and hardships because of their faith in Christ. And yet they continued to call upon God to change them further, and make them even stranger to the world. The work of God in our lives should change all that we are and also change the way we praise Him.

First we must Praise Him for His Provision—1:1-5

Why did God provide anything for us? Hasn’t He done enough for us? He created us, He gave us life, He set up this world for us to live seeing that it has air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. He saw to it that we had companionship. You would think He’s done enough for us.

The great thing about God is that He doesn’t create something and then walk away. He takes great interest in the lives of His creation. Because He knows what’s going on in this world, He knows that it is not right, and that we cannot do anything to fix it, so He provides. He does it…

Through His mercy—vs. 3,

God reached out to us when we certainly didn’t deserve it; after all, we were the ones who messed up His creation.
The reality of God’s mercy must change the reason and the enthusiasm with which we praise Him. He has provided for us when we didn’t deserve it.

Justice—is getting what we deserve

Mercy—is not getting what we deserve

Grace—is getting overwhelmed by good things we don’t deserve

God has the right to strike us down with the proverbial lightening bolt the moment we sin against Him—that would be justice and what our sins deserve. God’s mercy and love motivates Him to do something else. James 2:13—“Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Paul shares similar sentiments in Titus 3:3-7 --“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” We must praise Him for His Great and amazing Mercy, and also b/c

We have a New Birth—a new life. We are not stuck in our old birth—we are not stuck in sin, we are not forever limited to being victims of circumstances beyond our control, we are not forever condemned by our bad decisions.

We could have been shown mercy, but still remained languishing and stuck in our sins, unable to do anything about them.

What we need is a changed life. And that is exactly what God is trying to give you…a New Life—a life He gives, a life He Provides—one that is abundant and free. Receiving that New Life changes everything. In Christ, you are set free to live a new life, all the chains are broken except those that you don’t want to give over to Christ.

It is such a new life that you can never really go back to the old one. Noah couldn’t go back after the flood. A Butterfly can never go back to being a caterpillar, nor should it ever want to. Nor can you.

When you have been changed into this new life, you have a new reason to Praise Him. We must praise Him as believers b/c we are Born Again into a life that is abundant and free.

We have been given grace we don’t deserve. We must praise Him for His Mercy, for the New Life He gives and also b/c…

We are given a Living Hope--

Genuine hope is not wishful thinking, but a firm assurance about things that are unseen and still in the future. Hebrews 11:1—“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

Our Hope is not something forever in the future, that is useless now, it is a living hope—a walking, breathing companion in life that goes with us even into the darkest places—hope that changes the way you live today, living every day, every moment every moment in what the NLT calls “Wonderful Expectation”—an expectation of what God is doing now and where He is taking you in the future.

A living hope is its present reward--F. B. Meyer calls the living hope “the link between our present and future.” Our Living Hope affects who we are and how we live right now. It changes the way we Praise Him today b/c we are considering the Future that is secure.

There are no uncertainties when it comes to the future God has planned for those who have received His Mercy & New Birth.

If God is the source of our hope, then what are we without Him? Without God we are hopeless. God is the source of our hope, that’s why if you don’t know Jesus, you have no hope according to Ephesians 2:12—“ remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” The only reason we have it is the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The hope for the Christian would be dead if Jesus was still in the tomb, but it is living because Jesus is living.

The Life Jesus lives today is a promise and guarantee that our future is secure with Him. We must praise God for His Mercy, Our New Birth and our Living Hope and also for…

Our Inheritance—NLT—Priceless

Earthly inheritances are uncertain at best. Sometimes the value of an estate drops sharply because of market declines. Sometimes wills are successfully contested by parties not mentioned in them. Sometimes people are deprived of an inheritance because of legal technicalities.

But this divine inheritance is not subject to any of the changes of time, and there are no loopholes in the believer’s title to it. It is kept in the safety-vault of heaven for the child of God.

The inheritance we have in Christ can never Perish—it’s not like livestock that can be wiped out by some disease.

It will never Spoil—like some bananas that you haven’t eaten in a week, and

it will never Fade—even if you wash it too often--the color will never run, the beauty will never diminish, it will never get covered over with dirt and dust, it will never lose it’s luster and need buffing and polishing.

The Inheritance that God is keeping and guarding for us in heaven is shining with beauty and power today like it was 2000 years ago the moment Jesus was raised from the dead.

The light of our inheritance is pulsing and shining with every beat of His heart.

As long as His heart is beating our inheritance will never Perish, Jesus’ body will never spoil or decay, Jesus’ glory will never fade. It is kept, held in trust for you in Heaven.

Should the reality of our inheritance not change the way we Praise Him? How can we just sit there and take it all for granted? How can we not sing with the loudest voice possible and not care how it sounds to someone else? How can we not be smiling while we sing? How can we be thinking of something else, or what your going to be doing after church when you have the Opportunity, you have the Blessing of Praising Almighty God! For His Mercy, for His New Life, for His Living Hope, For His Inheritance and also for His Protection

Our Protection until His Coming—

believe it or not—despite all of the troubles of this world, God is protecting us. He is shielding us.

We are shielded by God’s Power

Until our Complete Salvation is Revealed

When the hard times come, we assume God is no longer protecting us.

We have no idea the number and type of hardships that are avoided because of the Protection and shielding of God.

In the last few years the CIA is under a lot of heat for intelligence failures and other misinterpreted information. Some of it is deserved, but much of it is not. The reason I say that is b/c how you know when the CIA is really doing its job well. You know the CIA and other such agencies are doing well, when you never hear about them. Our nation has enemies working to destroy us and 98% of those threats are thwarted, arrested or eliminated before the public is even aware of it, and we may never know.

If that is the truth for us as a nation, how much more is it true for believers? We have a ruthless, heartless, murderous enemy attacking us, yet by our faith in the saving work of Christ we are shielded and protected in ways we will never know this side of eternity.

You weren’t even aware of the car accident the Shield of God saved you from as you drove home from the store this week did you? You weren’t even aware of the phone call Satan tried to use to keep you from coming this morning, or the sickness he tried to put in your children, or the bad night’s sleep, or burglar God made pass you by,
or the spark the shield of God put out so your house wouldn’t burn down.

When the Shield of God is working—most of the time you won’t even know it. Are you praising Him for His protection from so many unseen things or are you only complaining about the hardships He allows to come through to draw you closer to Him and strengthen your faith and dependence on Him?

David sang praises to God in the midst of hardships in 2 Samuel 22:1-4 because David understood that faith in God didn’t mean a life of ease.—“He said: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior--from violent men you save me. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.

We have so many reasons to praise Him. Peter lists 5 in just 5 verses and He could have listed more. His Provision is only the first part of what the angels long to look in to.

The Work of Christ in our lives changes us, we can no longer be the same—even our praise should be different—with more gratitude, with more power, with more enthusiasm, with more joy. Praise Him for His Mercy, for our New Life, for our Living Hope, For our Priceless Inheritance, and for Our Shield. He has provided so much for us to Praise Him for. Are angels marveling over the change in your life?

When was the last time the angels stooped over and marveled at what God was doing in your life? They may be marveling at what He is doing in you right now.

The word of God may be awakening a fire in your heart to know Him, to worship Him. Will you let me know about it so we can join them in their celebration?