The First Day of the Rest of Your Life


2 Corinthians 6:2
For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)

“This is the first day of the rest of your life” was a popular saying a while back.  Perhaps it rang so true to us because we realized there is not a thing we can change about yesterday.  It is already spent and gone for better or worse it now abides in our past.  Tomorrow has not yet come, but today is another new beginning, another opportunity at life and living.
As Christians we often get a futuristic viewpoint as we are always seeing Christ or heaven in the future.  Certainly there will be a heaven and there will be a day of the Lord, but how does that relate to today?  Our passage today makes the point that today is the day of salvation.  Our salvation isn’t a one-time event when we went to the altar, repented of our sins and asked Christ into our hearts.  That may have been the beginning, but it certainly isn’t all there is to our salvation.  1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Our spirit is saved when we receive Christ, but there is an active work of salvation going on in our body and our soul.  Everyday should be a day of salvation for us in the sense that we are constantly pressing into a greater in-working of Christ’s nature and life.  The Holy Spirit is always wanting to deal with us, teach us, correct us, comfort us,  exhort us and instruct us in the ways of righteousness.  Each day is about Him.  We want each day to have eternal merit and purpose because Christ is in it and He is living through us to make a difference in our world and the lives of those who occupy that world.  The differences we make may be subtle; nothing really earth-shaking, but nevertheless it is impacting our world.  How are we influencing our world, through our actions, words and deeds?  Are people seeing who Christ really is through observing our lives or are they being impressed by what He is represented to be through the way we live, even when it is not like Him?
We can’t change yesterday and what has been done, but we can make a difference in our world today.  Each day the Lord gives us is a gift and often we are astounded by how quickly they pass by.  One day we will give an account of what we did with all of those days.  Did we make a difference?  Is the world a better place because we were in it?  There is a Latin phrase, “Carpe Deim”, it means, “Cease the Day”.  That is what we must do with each day that the Lord gives us breath.  Cease the day for Christ.  Live that day with a life that is pleasing and glorifying to Him.  Lift Him up and change somebody else’s day for the better because you were in it.  Each day is a gift and God has given each of us talents and abilities.  Each day gift someone with the blessing of you and the Christ that abides in you.  After all, it is the first day of the rest of your life.  Don’t waste it.
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrew 3:13)

Blessings,
kent

Patient in Tribulation

April 27, 2012

Romans 12:12
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Patient in Tribulation

Sometimes we get discouraged, our faith may begin to wane and doubt looks for opportunity to enter in.  We’ve all been there and we’ve all fought those battles from time to time.  Our natural mind starts to take over and we may begin to think, “Am I crazy, is there really a God and if so, does He really care about me?”  If He did, would I be going through all of these problems and issues in my life right now?
These are all legitimate questions and ones I would imagine all of us have wrestled with at times in our lives.  There is a reason that God didn’t take tribulations, trials, testing, persecutions and afflictions out of our life.  Nothing will test the metal of your faith like these fires will.  Nothing will solidify your confidence and commitment like these things will.
Have you watched kids who grew up having everything and having parents that took care of all of their problems and messes.  They are generally quite weak in their character.  They’ve never endured the hardships and disciplines that developed that character.  Often the strongest people we know may have grown up in the worst of circumstances and had the most challenges in life.
Listen to what Paul says about tribulation in Romans 5:1-5.  “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Are you crazy Paul?   Why would you rejoice in suffering?  Who would want that?
He rejoices in it, because of the fruit that it produces in patience, character and hope that does not disappoint.  It is our opportunity to lay hold of the love that God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  In your weakness, who makes you strong?  In your poverty, who makes you rich?  In your foolishness, who makes you wise?  It is in our deficiency, that we must find His sufficiency.  Psalms 105:19 says, “The LORD’s promise tested him through fiery trials until his prediction came true.”  In order to receive the promise you have to prove the promise.  The proof is in your faith to stand through the fiery testing till it comes to pass.
1 Peter 4:12-14 exhorts us, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
Listen again at what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-9.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  Suffering and trials are the refining fires of your faith, not to destroy, but to perfect you in the character of who you were called to be in Christ.  Those fires may touch everything around you; they may touch your very person, health, wealth and well-being, but they can only purify your faith that is “shielded by God’s power”.
Consider how the book of James starts out in James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What is with these  apostles telling us to count our tribulation and trials joy.  Don’t they know that because of them I have been tempted to give up.  I’ve doubted God and myself?
Metal is tempered through the fire.  God’s purifying His divine gold nature in you.  Through our suffering and trials we have to deal with the dross of our doubts, fears and unbelief.  The way up into Him is through the fire.  As God’s loving arms draws you closer into Him, His consuming fire is burning up more and more all that is not of Him.  Romans 8:17 encourages us with this truth, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
Finally Jesus encourages us with these words from John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  The good news is that the Overcomer of the world now resides in you.  As we allow His life to live and flow through us we rest from our own abilities and efforts to confidently trust that no matter what we face, we don’t face it alone.   Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith and in Him we shall prevail.

Blessings,
kent

White Collar

April 25, 2012

White Collar

James 2:1-9
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, [the Lord] of glory, with respect of persons.  For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;  And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?  Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

If we are truly honest with ourselves most of us would have to admit that we are respecters of persons in one regard or another.  There may be those who aren’t as smart or as accomplished as we are in areas.  They may not be as wealthy, as clean, as organized, as good of workers or live up to the standards we have for ourselves or the standards we consequently impose upon others.  We all have our measuring sticks that are most often formed by our prejudices, upbringing, circle of friends and personal opinions.  In the same way we look down on some, we elevate and look up to others who exceed our personal standard or accomplishments.  We often show our favoritism and respect more to the rich or accomplished who need it less than we do to the poor or less accomplished who may truly need it more.  If we truly search our hearts and attitudes most of us will find that we still have this white collar-blue collar mentality, richer-poorer, smarter-dumber, cooler-dorkier, more spiritual-less spiritual, fashionable-drab, any number of different areas in our lives where we make a class distinction.  Jesus didn’t make a very big impression with the white collar Pharisees when he hung around with the blue-collar sinners and publicans.  Jesus came to do away with these distinctions and make us realize that though He was God and the King of Kings, He laid it all down and became the servant of all.  He loved all the same and treated each one with dignity, love and respect.   Even for the least of men Jesus died and gave His life.  He was not a respecter of persons.  He didn’t give special favor to those who were rich or influential and He didn’t despise and reject those who were lowly, poor and undesirable.  Do we have these same values at work in our lives today?  I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of areas in my life that I fall short in this area.  There are too many areas that I am conditional with my love, my giving and my serving.
The Lord wants to speak to us today about repenting of these prejudices that we carry towards others either for or against.  We must see each one through the eyes and heart of the Father.  If God loved them enough to die for them, who am I to despise and judge them?  A quote was sent to me the other day that said something to the effect, “even God waits to till the end of a man’s life to judge him.”  Do we have the heart of a savior or a judge?  James says, if we are a respecter of persons, we sin.  Am I and are you willing to let the Christ in us, touch each person where they are at.  Are we willing humble ourselves to lift up and minister to the lowly and the unlovely?  The truth is, much of this takes us out of our comfort zone and puts our natural man in places it probably doesn’t want to be.  We are no longer living our lives for just us; we are the extension and expression of the life and love of God.  God is willing to go places we would rather not.  Will we go there with Him? Will we be His servants or are we too proud and too good?  Will we honor the rich, influential and powerful, who are often the ones who despise and ridicule you and your God while, in effect, we do the same thing to those that are lower down than we are on the pecking order of society?  God sees us all the same.  In the end we all face death and in death no one is above another.  What makes the difference is what we did in life.  Did we truly love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength?  Did we truly love our neighbor as ourselves?  The Lord showed us in the parables that our neighbor could be anyone we come into contact with in our lives.  If we don’t truly love God, how can we love our neighbor?  And if we don’t truly love our neighbor, how can we truly love God?  God’s love in us has to work both vertically and horizontally just like the cross of Jesus.  Maybe there are some areas we need to examine in our lives where we are those white-collar respecters of persons.  How deep does God’s love go in you and me?

Blessings,

kent

Grace Be Unto You

March 20, 2012

Grace Be Unto You


1 Corinthians 1:3
Grace [be] unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ.

This salutation and greeting it used around ten different times in the New Testament.  It is one of those phrases that might grow somewhat cliché’, but perhaps the Lord would have us take a little bit closer look at why this greeting was used.  I believe the Apostles used the salutation, because it was the grace of God that was the foundation and expression of God that gave all that were a part of the church hope and confidence in the call of God, the in-working of His life, the strength and the power to live godly lives.   One definition I read sums it up like this, “grace speaks of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.” If we take grace away from the Christian what do we have left except law and self-effort. We are right back to where we were before Christ.  It makes more sense when we read Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  It would be like me greeting you and saying, “what God has provided, be unto you.”  All that God has provided and that is working in us today as it is activated by our faith and confidence in Him, again a gift which He has provided, is the definition of grace.  When we say grace at a meal we are acknowledging and thanking God for what He has provided.  Grace is God’s provision for every need and in every circumstance.
When we speak grace to someone we are speaking a blessing of God’s provision and salvation working into their lives.  When we speak peace, we are speaking the blessed assurance that all God has said through His Word and through His Son Jesus Christ is right, true and shall come to pass.  We can take it to the bank and we can sleep through the night because of it.  It is the rest of God.
God would not have us take lightly the salutation contained in these scriptures.  They are the introduction and reminder that all things good flow through Him to those who believe and embrace His Word.  Even in the midst of great tribulation, suffering and persecution which many of the early Christians endured they could rest and take hope that the grace of God was sure and would bring them to their final destiny in Him.  “Christ in us” is the grace that is working out His exceeding great promises toward us that we might be partakers of the divine nature.
Today, and each day, “grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. “  Have a wonderful day and a wonderful life!

Blessings,
kent

The God of all Comfort

March 9, 2012


The God of all Comfort


2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We don’t always have explanations for the things we go through in life.  God does not always move in the realm of our time or our way of thinking.  We obviously would pray ourselves out of every trying and suffering circumstance, but God doesn’t always remove those hardships and the unpleasantries of life from us.  It is reassuring when we look at Paul and the apostles lives to see that though none probably walked closer and nearer to God than they did, they were not immune to hardship and suffering.  Yet here in this passage Paul speaks of our God and Father as being the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Yet the God of all comfort spared not His own Son.  Hebrew 5:7-9 tells us, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Even God’s own Son offered up strong prayers to be delivered from death and yet He had to go through it.  It tells us that even Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered “being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.”  So, is God sadistic?  Does He enjoy seeing people suffer?  You know, Adam and Eve didn’t have any trouble obeying and living sinless lives as long as there was no temptation or trials.  The difference is, where they failed in that they had never known hardship or suffering, Christ, the last Adam, overcame through death and suffering.  Trials and hardships are a part of our lives, but they aren’t there because God is mean and sadistic.  The fact is, that there are many times we wouldn’t be able to survive them if it weren’t for His comfort and grace.  Opposition is the element that forces us into a place of strength.  When we face oppositions that are beyond our strength, it forces us into someone stronger than we are.  In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul tells us what the Lord spoke to Him in that place.  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  It is in our weakness that we find our true strength, which is our God.  Our natural inclination is to want to be delivered and get out of the place of hardship, suffering and pain, but in that place is often the greatest work of transformation in our lives.  As we experience death outwardly, it forces us into life inwardly.  We begin to trust and rely upon God in ways we never would have otherwise.  And God is not insensitive to your pain.  He indwells you, so He is sharing your sufferings, your trials and your hardships.  His Word and the Life of His Spirit are there to comfort and encourage you.  Likewise others who have traveled this road come along side of you and identify with you, encouraging you in the place where you are.  What is being worked in us through our suffering and hardships is working in us the nature of comfort and compassion that we could not have had if we never walked that way.  With our suffering, God gives us comfort and reassurance.  We know that we are His; that He purchased us with a great price of suffering.  We have been privileged to share in that suffering as well as in the blessing, so that we also might learn obedience through the things we suffer and might be made perfect as Christ perfects us.
No precious vessel of honor becomes that way instantly or naturally.  There is a process that takes it from a place of rough raw materials, through crushing, purification and separations, to tooling, hammering crafting and polishing, till finally from the Master’s hand immerges the prize of such intense dealings and pain.  Is God preparing you as His mantle piece today?  See through the suffering into His heart of compassion and love, for whom the Lord loves He chastens.  Know that He is there with us in those hard places and He shares in our hurts, disappointments, sorrows and sicknesses.  See through the darkness of the hardships of this life into the light of His eternal love and comfort.  He has not left you or forsaken you, but is mighty in you to bring you through to victory.

Blessings,
kent

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