NOW

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

Yesterday (1/27) I wrote about how nothing is accidental with God and how Adam’s sin disappointed God –but it did not surprise Him. God’s plan for the redemption of the world was a plan adopted by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit long before the creation of the world. It was a plan that would not be cheap. In fact, this plan cost God His greatest treasure — His only Son. The point of yesterday’s message was that you and I are greatly blessed by the great plan of God developed in the past.

Look again at today’s verse (Ephesians 1:7). It says — “In Him we HAVE.” While the plan was developed in the past, God blesses us NOW because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.

We don’t live in the past. It has been said, “Yesterday has gone, tomorrow never comes, today is all that we have.” It is THIS MOMENT — the NOW that matters most.

The Bible teaches this principle in several places…

In Matthew 3, when Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist, John tried to prevent Him and said — “Me baptize YOU? It really should be the other way around!” But Jesus said to John, “Permit it to be so NOW (emphasis mine), for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

In John 12, Jesus is contemplating the horrors of the cross that was right before Him and He said, “NOW (emphasis mine) My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27).

Read through John 15 and 16 and underline the number of times Jesus uses the word NOW as He talks with His disciples. There seems to be a great application of Jesus’ words to the lives that you and I are living NOW.

You see, if your faith only has a past and no present — it really isn’t faith at all. The plan of God was established and carried out long, long ago when Jesus came to this earth and died on the cross for our sins — but because of our faith in Christ — it is a power that is ours NOW!

I don’t have to wait to become one of His children. That blessing is mine in this present life. Paul said, “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” I don’t have to wait for that redemption — I HAVE IT!

That word “redemption” is the noun form of the verb “redeem.” In the Old Testament, “redeem” meant “to buy back.” It was originally a secular term that was used to describe the work God has done in saving you and me. When Paul says we HAVE this redemption — he is announcing it as a present reality — a NOW blessing.

Let me carry that thought one step farther. Paul goes on to say that because we have the redemption NOW — we have “the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

Do you get that? It’s a great truth that can transform your life.

We don’t just have forgiveness — we have forgiveness that is equal to the “riches of His grace.” In other words, no matter what I have done, no matter how horrible my sin, no matter how vile my actions, its forgiveness is possible because of the lavishly wonderful grace of God!

That is why Paul can rejoice while sitting in a prison cell. He not only is the recipient of the blessing of a past action of God in Christ — he has the blessing of God’s grace NOW!

I don’t know what you are going through today — but I do know that God’s grace is sufficient. It is not just something you experienced many years ago when you got saved — it is a wonderful blessing that you have right NOW.

Rejoice Christian! You can’t do anything about yesterday — it is past never to return. You can’t control tomorrow — it may not even come. The only time you have is NOW! Stop and thank God for the blessing of His grace for the “NOWS” of your life.

Have a great day.

The Blessings of a Christian Heritage

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Ephesians 1:5)

The year was a.d. 60. The place was a prison cell in Rome. The man was the apostle Paul. Paul was God’s emissary to the Gentiles — the man who took Christianity around the known world in the first century. Historians — both secular and religious — agree that Paul was a great man.

But even great men have their “ups and downs.” With Paul coming to the end of his ministry we should perhaps expect that his letters from prison might take on a darker tone. Highs and lows seem to be an unavoidable part of living. Historians believe that Paul wrote four letters from that jail in Rome — Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

The surprising thing about this prison correspondence is the victorious tone expressed by the Apostle. Instead of being down — he is up. Instead of being cautious and sad — he is positive and joyous.

Here’s the lesson — I’ve learned that things don’t have to be wonderful on the outside for me to have peace on the inside. In my own life, my surroundings are seldom free of frustration — but the peace given to me by God is the thing that sustains me even in the darker times. Paul’s circumstances in prison were difficult at best. When he sat down to write Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon — he had been in jail for almost two years.

Take some time and read those letters. You will quickly discover that the reason for Paul’s victorious attitude is simply this…the presence of Jesus Christ in his life. The presence of Christ transcends the highs and lows of life and sets our feet on the solid rock of salvation.

The coming of Christ into this world was no accident. It was not an after thought. That is one of the differences between God and that which He creates — nothing is accidental with God.

Think about some of the greatest discoveries of history that were accidental. Columbus was looking for a trade route to India and he discovered America! Alexander Fleming was trying to grow bacteria and came up with penicillin!

Accidents happen all around us — some good some bad. But that is dramatically different from what I know about God. Nothing is accidental with Him. His character won’t allow it. His Omniscience tells me that He knows EVERYTHING all at once. There are no secrets. His Omnipotence reminds me that His power is supreme. God can’t be tricked.

So sin didn’t surprise God — it may have disappointed Him — it saddened Him — but He was not surprised. Ephesians 1:3 says we are blessed by God “with every spiritual blessing” and all this happened IN CHRIST. The blessings you and I enjoy now in salvation were provided by God IN CHRIST because He knew us and we were not accidents! The hymn writer said, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.”

No matter what you may be going through in your life right now…REJOICE! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and have been saved by His shed blood — you are a child of God and NOTHING SURPRISES GOD! He knows where you are and what you are going through and He is blessing you…IN CHRIST!

Have a great day.

Trusting the Guidance of God

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

If you’ve read this blog very much, you will already know that Proverbs 3:5-6 are my “life verses.” My podcast is called the 3 5 6 Podcast with the 356 representing Proverbs 3:5-6.

Every so often, I revisit those verses to remind me of this wonderful promise God has given to us. I ask God to help me be so totally committed to Him that I am able to walk in the confidence of His guidance.

We are only 13 days into 2015 and while I can see the road ahead — I can’t see far. I’ve also come to realize that without the guidance of God and His wisdom, I won’t be able to see anything with any kind of understanding. If this year turns out like the previous, we will deal with some complex and confusing turns in the road — and those turns will test our knowledge and our commitment. There are hills to climb and bumpy roads to travel.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds me that we can make it — and we can make it victoriously if we trust God’s guidance. These verses have proven to be my battle cry during the testing times and my comfort and strength in uncertainty. The words of these verses are a sufficient roadmap — even though I can’t see all the turns, stops, difficulties or pleasures that are ahead.

May I take just a minute to remind myself (and you) of just what these verses teach?

First, they teach me that every decision, every action, and in ever development of my life, God WILL direct my path. I will get where I’m supposed to be going because God prepares and directs my way.

In addition to guiding me — God is personally involved with me on every step of my journey. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you i the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.”

While God provides the guidance, He also requires a few things from me. Proverbs 3:5-6 says I must acknowledge Him. I have to submit myself to His guidance. By acknowledging Him, I am also acknowledging that He is in control — not me. Maybe you’ve seen those license plates on cars that say — “God is my Co-Pilot.” By the way — if you have one of those — get rid of it! God is NOT my Co-Pilot — He is my PILOT! I pay attention to Him in all my ways — daytime or nighttime — work or play — rest or worship — in relationships and when I am alone. He is driving my life.

These verses also tell me to trust Him. The Bible says in James that we can’t be “double-minded” (James 1:8, 4:8). We can’t trust God and trust the world. We trust God even when there is no one else to trust. We trust Him in the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Finally, these verses remind me that I should NOT depend on myself. One translation says, “Don’t rely on your own insight.” This reminds me that I am absolutely inadequate without God’s guidance. I’ve learned through the year that I really can’t make it on my journey without Him. I only defeat myself and God’s purpose when I lean on my own understanding.

God wants to give us His guidance. He knows we need it — He knows we will fail without it. But He also knows our capacity to follow His direction. He waits for us to pay attention to Him — to trust Him with our whole heart — and to reject our own abilities to guide ourselves.

Trust the guidance of God. He will NEVER lead you astray.

Have a great day.

Spiritual Sufficiency

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (II Corinthians 10:9)

There is much said about the suffering Paul endured in his life. He actually mentions his hardships to the Corinthian congregation at length. He describes the beating he received at the hands of the Jews, his shipwreck that threatened to take his life, the danger, the hunger, the labor, the toil, and the pressure of the churches (II Cor. 11:24-29).

You don’t have to have been shipwrecked or beaten with rods to understand suffering. This life is a suffering experience. The fact that people suffer is a given in life — we all do and we all have.

The question that most often asked of me is WHY? Why do we have to suffer? And that is a question Paul asked about himself. Not only does Paul write about the general tragedies that came his way, but in II Corinthians 12:7-10, he reveals that there was something in his life that he endured on a daily basis.

Scholars have for generations debated what Paul meant by the “thorn in the flesh.” Nobody knows for sure what it was — and I think that is by design. If we knew, we would begin to take pride in the fact that we may have the same thing in our lives. “Oh, I’m suffering just like my brother the Apostle Paul. I really understand what it means to suffer for the Lord.” TOO MUCH PRIDE is really a bad thing!

Paul is not as concerned with the WHAT of his thorn as he is with the WHY. He says this was given to him to keep him from being too prideful (v. 7). That doesn’t fully make sense to me. James 1:13 says that God doesn’t tempt us with evil and I know for a fact that the devil is not interested in my humility! So what is Paul trying to teach us in this passage?

I truly believe he was trying to get us to understand that we don’t have to fully understand the reasons we suffer in order for it to be used for the glory of God. Someone has observed that the flower must be crushed before it’s fragrance is released. Thorns and trials CAN BE blessings in disguise if they result in you and me recognizing the power of Jesus Christ in our lives.

If Paul had no thorn — would he have prayed as much? If Paul experienced no suffering — would he have missed the knowledge of the comfort of God that comes during those times? I don’t no for sure. I DO know that you don’t have to understand all the meaning of life’s sufferings in order for God to use it and you for His glory.

In the fact of suffering, Paul was able to keep his perspective. He was able to praise God. NOW I want to ask the question WHY? In the midst of suffering, people ask me — “WHY Pastor? Give me a reason to keep going. I’m suffering so much — WHY should I keep going? WHY can’t I just quit?”

Now that is a question I think Paul does answer. You see, in the answers Paul received to his prayers — he was able to keep going. These great words — “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” — are the answer to Paul’s prayer.

Three times Paul brought his concern to the Lord in prayer. And the answer he received literally transformed his life.

“I’m confused Pastor — what are you trying to tell me?”

The answer to our suffering is PRAYER. Do you lack comfort in your life today because of the trials you are enduring? PRAY!!! Are you lonely in the midst of a suffering you don’t understand? PRAY!!!

Paul received a spiritual sufficiency through the power of prayer. The suffering was NOT taken away. The thorn did NOT disappear. And yet Paul received an answer to his prayer. What was the answer?

“My grace is sufficient.”

When you and I learn this lesson — there will be a tremendous difference in our outlook on life. Look at what Paul said AFTER he received his answer — “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

I can’t tell you I completely understand this…I don’t. But I sure do have a desire to have that same attitude in my life when troubles and trials and suffering come my way. You see, the problem is NOT that God doesn’t answer our prayers — the problem IS I don’t always like the answer He gives me!

Here is the principle that we need to learn through suffering…

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:10).

EUREKA!!!!!

If the sufferings I must endure in this life steer me closer to my Savior — then they are absolutely worth it. When I view my own suffering in that way — I am able to have a greater sensitivity to others (people become more important to me). When I understand that my ultimate goal in life is to bring glory to my Father — I begin to see even the worst of life’s trials as an opportunity to reflect the grace of Christ toward others. I can truly encourage others — even in my suffering — because when I am weak — Christ is seen in me — and that makes me great!

Have a great day.