Do you know God’s name?


OnlyJesusIf I asked this in church or on the street, most people would just look at me funny. They might ask “What do you mean ‘do I know God’s name?’? It’s God! Well, yes and not exactly.

Names in the ancient Near East often functioned differently than names do today. In addition to identifying a person’s family or lineage, names were thought to reveal the nature of a person as well as some of their character. God’s name in Hebrew does that in many ways and there are fifty-two names referring to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Many times we read in our English Bible the name of God translated as Jehovah but in the Hebrew it is YAHWEH, although you will not find this written out completely because it is the Holy Name of God. It will be abbreviated. God’s names and the names for Jesus and the Holy Spirit all point to their nature, their innate character being distinct from each other and yet One as the Godhead, Three in One.

Each of them has a specific purpose and power, yet all of them are God. So how can we learn to recognize God in all of these names? By studying the Bible, praying about His nature and His character, seeking Him in Scripture and in everyday life! This is what we are supposed to be living out in our lives as Christians and followers of Jesus after all! So why do people seem to freak out when God’s true name is brought up or the name of God is shown as Adonai, the Lord? Because His nature and character is pure and holy, that is at least one of the reasons!

I won’t go into all of God’s names or the names of Jesus, but all of the names in Scripture describe His character and His attributes, just as many names of people in the Bible described their position or their family tree. Why bring God’s name up now? Because we have abandoned our respect and honor of His name, because we don’t revere names much at all anymore.

God loves us with a love that is boundless and deep and He has this for each of us because He designed each one of us to be or rather to have character traits which reflect Him. Whether we do so or not is our choice because until we choose to follow and believe in Jesus, we can’t reflect God in our lives. Before we are saved by Jesus, we are tarnished by sin, no matter how much good we try to do on our own.

Yes, donating lots of money can help many people in certain situations, if it is given to the right organization. But many who do this are doing it for tax purposes, getting something in return for their “help”. But, does it translate into more eternal rewards? Not unless you are doing it out of love through salvation by belief in Jesus.

500 years of Protestant religion


MartinLutherToday marks this anniversary and it is a good one because of what Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church. We don’t have to give money to a specific church or doctrine or denomination in order for us to be saved. Jesus accomplished that for all of us on the cross by paying in full the debt which each person owes for their sins. Not just since His death and resurrection, but all the way back to Adam, the debt was paid and He led the captives free from bondage to sin or to an eternity in Hades or Abraham’s Bosom whichever you prefer.

Paul wrote the book of Romans to the church in Rome but so many have benefitted from its wonderful message over the centuries and it is because of the message contained within it. We are saved by the grace of God and not by anything which we do ourselves, period. Granted the beginning of that sentence is from the book of Ephesians, but Paul wrote that one as well. My point is that there is no amount of work or money or “Hail Mary’s” or prayer or lighted candles which will bring Heaven any closer to you or for your eternity. It is the power of God’s grace through faith in Jesus which saves your soul and nothing else!

Romans 5:6-8
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus died for us, most of us, before we were ever born into this world! But, God knew each of us and our ability to serve Him and what we would do with Jesus in our hearts and it is for this reason that each of us who belong to HIm was called to become a Christian. Faith and belief in God and Jesus is what has brought salvation to many people through the ages, from Abraham on through the Old Testament, every person who was considered the least bit righteous did so because of their belief in God and His promises.

Belief and obedience to His Word was more important to God than all of the sacrifices in the temple. This is why believing in Jesus is so important for us today. The Bible is not just a book about the history of the Jewish people, it is God’s letter of love toward all people! Occasionally it is hard to understand, but with prayer and persistence it can be understood. Some of the concepts in the Bible are outdated today such as slavery but we do still have slavery in our world today, so it is relevant.

So many of our historical books are dated, yet the Spirit of God flows through the Bible and gives each person reading it a different message in their time of need. No matter what you are going through, there is a verse or chapter in the Bible which will give you comfort and direction if you will read it and pray for God to show you what He wants you to see in His Word for your situation.

The Protestant reformation brought about many good things, such as a printed version of God’s Word which any person who could read could also understand and believe in Jesus for salvation. Give God the glory for this accomplishment in our world and thank Him for calling you into His family.

Amen

Today’s sermon for all


Romans 15 & 16

Taking up where we left off last week, at Romans 15: 17 and following through chapter sixteen, Paul is writing his message to those in the Roman church but he is also writing to us as well. The Roman church was soon to undergo some terrible persecution as were many Christians in the Roman empire. Paul’s words of encouragement and hope helped those who were weak or new in their faith to bear up under the horrible ways which Emperor Nero would kill those who would not worship him.

17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. 18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, 19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. 20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.

Paul’s Plan to Visit Spain and Rome
(1 Corinthians 16:5-9)

23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you; 24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company. 25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. 27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. 28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain. 29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; 32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed. 33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Paul is writing here as an evangelist with a purpose and it was Jesus Who gave him that purpose. The same Savior who saved us all, if we will only believe, saved the chief persecutor of “the Way” as it was called to begin with. Jesus uses some of the most unlikely ministers at times, God has used a donkey in the past to bring a word to a stubborn prophet as well, so nothing is impossible for God. Even when we try to limit Him with our own ideas about Him in this life, at some point God will show you Who He is and what He can do, if that is what it takes to get your attention.

Chapter 16 is the end of Romans as a book, but what a book it is. Written by a persecutor turned evangelist and one which wrote more than half of the New Testament which we all have today, most of it written from a prison cell.

In this final chapter of the book of Romans, Paul is giving credit to all of those in Christ who have helped him is his ministry. He salutes them with words like a brother or a proud father might, and in a way he is. Many of his helpers come from people or house-churches which  his preaching had started, or were members of those small congregations.

Paul ends his epistle with words of encouragement and love brought out in his soul by Christ:

Beginning with verse 17 we see this:

Avoid Divisions
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. 19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. 20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Greetings from Paul’s Companions
21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.

22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.

23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother. 24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

Doxology
(Romans 11:33-36; Jude 1:24-25)

25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: 27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen. {Written to the Romans from Corinthus, and sent by Phebe servant of the church at Cenchrea.

So, you see in the ending of this epistle that Paul had many helpers who wrote for him when his hands could not. They carried the epistle to the churches which he could not go to in person due to chains or other restraints laid upon him. God used all of those around Paul who had been converted by his preaching very likely, God used them to further His Kingdom and these letters are still being used in the 21st century to bring others to Him. We are the fruit of much of Paul’s labors in Christ, the church today would not be what it is without God’s choosing of Paul to be His voice to the gentiles…us.

We are supposed to carry on this work in our lives, whether we are preaching to a congregation or to our families and friends with our life in Christ and the labor which we do in this life just by living out the ways taught in the Bible. This is the way of life, which so many early Christians who died for their faith, lived in front of those around them. It is also the life which we are called to live in Christ Jesus. Not living as if tomorrow is just a day, but that it may be the day that Jesus calls us home!

God uses even those of us who are weak in our faith, or believe ourselves to be, to carry out His purposes in our lives for Him and His Kingdom, not for our own gain in this life. We are to trade our life in Christ for bringing other lives into the Kingdom of God. How?

By living our Christian life as a reflection of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit one day at a time. People will notice, and whether they ask of you or not, if your walk with Christ is sincere then they will be drawn toward Him. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but when the Spirit touches their heart, they will because your witness for Christ doesn’t have to be in the sanctuary of a big church, but the sanctuary of life itself. Living our salvation and our walk with Jesus out one day at a time and one step at a time.

Which in truth is all that we can do.

2.5%? Really?


I am not speaking of the Social Security increase that our government is graciously giving to us out of our own money, which will supposedly come next year. I am speaking of a report which said that Christians in America tithe at the rate of 2.5% of their income! I know that jobs are hard to come by and it is hard to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck, but 2.5%!!

The prophet Malachi wrote to the nation of Israel over two thousand years ago because of something similar happening at the time, here is what God said to write and tell the people:

8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9 Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.  Malachi 3:8-12

If you are paid say $500 per week, before taxes and all the other stuff, 2.5% of your check would equal $12.50. That barely pays for one meal at a fast food place that serves decent hamburgers!

RaiseyourstandardofGivingI am a pastor and my wife and I try to tithe our ten percent, even if it is more than we can afford at times. It is true that sometimes we don’t tithe that much because of surprises which come up like doctor visits or other things which just happen. Even in the Great Depression people gave to the church at 3.3%! Not great, but better than we are doing today and they had far less that we have!

This article, which I put a link to above, breaks my heart. So much could be done, yet we still hold onto our money…tightly. Could we give more? Sure. Should we give more? Yes, but will we? It is a question which haunts my own soul and it isn’t easy to answer. Even though Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, your heart will be also“.

So, what should we do? Pray about your giving and your tithe, if you are a Christian, if you aren’t then give or don’t or just follow your heart. We could fix so many problems in the world IF we would give ten percent of our income and them make sure it was used in ways to help those who have little and need so much. How  could we do this? I don’t know. I am not a politician nor would I even know how to get the funds to the right people in the countries and the states which truly NEED it.

We need to repent of this tragedy. I need to repent of my own act of robbing God and robbing those who could be helped by this. Prayer and repentance and giving out of our heart is the answer for Puerto Rico and the poor in the rest of America as well as many countries in Africa and Asia, followed by feet taking the fruits of our giving to those who are in need. That is the only way to show Jesus to millions of people who will not see His love if we do not.

Follow Jesus


Romans 14   Disagreement between believers.

In Rome believers squabbled over whether or not to eat meat or whether to observe Jewish holy days and customs. If they had kept their convictions to themselves, there would’ve been no problem but they began to criticize and judge one another. The squabbling hasn’t abated even today. We argue over many more things, such as the color of carpet or which flowers to put out on a certain day or week. Some churches argue over even less important things than these, but the point is…we are supposed to be united in Christ! Regardless of our denomination or doctrine, yet the collective church is very divided in many ways.

Verses 1-12

In this section of the chapter, Paul begins and ends it with an admonition. He addressed those who were strong in their faith and did not waver toward holy days or diets but kept their freedom in Jesus Christ. He also addressed those who were worried about their diet or the Law and told them that they were immature in their faith. Many people think that Christians who follow strict rules in their faith are the more mature, when it is really the other way around. In the Roman church, the weak and immature Christians were judging the more mature Christians and the strong Christians were despising the weak Christians.

Paul told them to welcome one another and gave four reasons why they should. We are only focusing on one today.

The first reason is: God has received us into His family

It is not our individual responsibility to decide the requirements for Christian fellowship in a church, only the Lord can do this. To set up man-made restrictions or rules based on the personal prejudices or convictions is to go beyond the Word of God. Perhaps St. Augustine got it right when he said: “In essentials-unity; in non-essentials-liberty; in all things charity”. We are free in Jesus Christ to do that which brings honor and respect to the church and to the Word which we hold as the Truth.

When God sent Peter to take the gospel to the gentiles, the church criticized Peter because he ate with these new Christians. But God revealed His acceptance of them because He gave them the Holy Spirit just as He had done in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Peter did not stay in this freedom because later he refused to fellowship with the Gentiles at Antioch, where Paul had to rebuke him.

God showed both Peter and Paul that Christian fellowship was not to be based on food or religious calendars, but on their faith in Jesus and the freedom that we are given through Him.

In every church there are some who are more mature in their faith and some who are weak. The weak and the strong, young Christians in the faith and those who have been studying God’s Word for many years, are not to look down on each other because one feels freedom through Jesus and the other sees being a Christian as “following the rules”.

Peter asked the Lord, “Lord, what shall this man do?”; the Lord’s reply was, “What is that to you? Follow thou me!”

In other words, the Lord told him this: “Peter, make sure you have made Me Lord of your life. Let Me worry about John” or any other believer. When other Christians are criticizing other Christians for what they do, we are being judges. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing, follow Jesus and let Him be your Lord!

Paul emphasized this in verse 8 when he said: “Whether we live, therefore, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s”. Our responsibility is to the Lord and following Him in our life, not worrying about other Christians and their lives. If your brother in Christ is still drinking beer, don’t chastise him. If Jesus hasn’t convicted him of this, let him be. The same goes with smoking or any other so-called “vice”, follow Jesus in your life and let Jesus take care of other Christians.

Paul asked those who were young in their faith, the weaker Christians, “Why are you judging your brother?”; then he asked the same question to the stronger more mature Christians in the church. Both of them will stand at the judgment and be judged by the Lord in their walk with Him, so what is that to you or me?

All of our works, good or bad, will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ by the Lord Himself. It is not our place to do so in this life and it has nothing to do with our sins or our salvation since Christ paid the price for all of them and as believers our sins cannot be held against us anymore. In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul compares our ministries in Christ with the building of a temple. If we build with cheap materials, the fire will burn them up. If we use precious, lasting materials, then our temple (works) will last. If our works for the Lord pass the test, we receive the reward. If they are burned up, we lose our rewards but we are saved “yet so as by fire”.

Anything that we do in this life for the Lord and through His Strength will last, we should make sure of our faith in Him and our belief in Him. Your life is your witness just as every word and deed which others see you do. If it is done to please Jesus and would be approved by Him, then you are secure in your salvation. Don’t worry about what others say or do in their walk with Him, because Jesus is the final Judge and it is His approval which we should seek!

Our bad side and our good side


During disasters, which seems to be the only time, much of the goodness comes out in people. You see people helping others, regardless of color of skin, without regard to nationality or political party. Nobody asks if you are a Democrat or a Republican, how much money do you have or where do you work, but when people are in need of help, people do show up to help.

There are some exceptions of course. During a hurricane or tornado or rather afterwards, there will also be some who show up to see if they can find something for free. The come to steal from people and from businesses who have left their home or business because of the flood waters or the damage caused by the tornado. While the law enforcement can’t be everywhere, that is when these people take advantage of the situation and steal electronics and anything else they can carry away.

Two sides of society which are present in almost every place where there has been some disaster to happen. The only time I have never seen anyone doing these things is in areas where fire has destroyed homes and woodlands and grasslands. Why? Mostly because there is nothing to steal and what may be found in cars and homes after a fire isn’t worth stealing.

we-are-not-born-racist-people-learn-to-be-racist-6800532.pngWe need more helpers in America and around the world too. More people willing to help, regardless of the cost or any expectation of reward. It does seem that there are more of the helpers than there are of the looters and those who were shooting at rescuers. But honestly, there shouldn’t be anyone stealing during a time like the people in and around Houston are having!

God loves all of us and the times that we have to live through tragedies and disasters are just proof that Satan is in control of much of our world. The storm and the damage it caused may be used by God to bring out the best of us, regardless of the damage that it caused. Does God use disasters like this? Of course He does! There were far more good stories which have come out of this than bad ones, so far.

Seek to do good for people, like Jesus did, no matter the cost. Your reward for this will be in Heaven and in the smiles and the joy that you feel in helping others who truly need your help.

Taking advantage…


Do we take advantage of our opportunities or do we miss them or even throw them away? De we even notice when something comes along?

I am not talking about taking advantage of people in order to make money from them. I am speaking of taking advantage of an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. We have these opportunities many times during our week, whether at home or at work or even at a restaurant…but, do we use those opportunities for Christ?

john317Many of us actually don’t! Even if we are Christians and we are actually living our lives like we are supposed to, we just don’t speak up. Why is that? Are we afraid that we will be looked at as kooks? Jesus told His disciples to go and tell the gospel message to all of creation and they did! So…why can’t we?

In our world today it is not politically correct to tell someone about the Truth in Scripture, specifically if you are trying to get them to believe in Jesus. Today, in some parts of the world, it is dangerous to tell people about Jesus. But, it was dangerous for His disciples too, so why don’t we let people know about our Savior?

I think it has more to do with being rejected or maybe the rejection of our witness to them. In reality, it has more to do with the fact that they aren’t rejecting us but they are rejecting Jesus like the Pharisees did in His day. Tell someone about Him regardless of their reaction. If they want to know more, great! Invite them to church or open a Bible and show them Who Jesus was! If they tell you to leave them alone, then tell them if they want to know more they can call you. Then pray for them and leave. Let God work on them for a while.

Don’t brag….


I saw a picture a while back and it brought this to mind for me to write:

Animals don’t have to tell you what they are or what they are capable of, you just know by looking at them.

Lion

People usually have to tell you what their job or vocation is because when you look at someone, usually you can’t tell what they do for a living. Especially if they are not wearing a uniform. When you see someone with jeans and a nice shirt, you can’t tell if they might be a policeman or woman or maybe a doctor or lawyer…maybe even a nurse.

Our society looks at outward appearances such as the kind of house they live in or the car that they drive in order to figure out their worth and importance. God doesn’t look at any of that! He sees their heart and knows exactly what He gave them as far as their talents and abilities. Whether they are using them for Him or not is a totally different matter.

Sometimes it takes a very long time for us to find out what our talents are or even to realize that God gave them to us. We are born with some talents and some develop over time but God is the Creator and He gave each of us at least one talent to use for His Kingdom and purpose. Seek Him and find out what your real talent is today. You won’t be disappointed.

Understanding your role (part 3)


I didn’t realize that my sermon was quite so long, so I am having to add another post to finish it. I hope that you enjoy it. Remember, the first part is at http://inhisservicetilhecomes.com.

Part 2 was published on this site, so it should be easy to put them together. Try to read them in sequence so you get the context of the whole sermon.

This is the final piece so here it is:

In other words, do what Jesus did in that He took care of those having faith in Him with prayer and supplications often and He healed their afflictions in so much that it would give glory to God the Father. Of course, He kept himself from the sins of this world which is nigh impossible for us to do except that we have to  live in the Word and be praying to God for the strength to do so while we are present in this body.

Why does James call us to be strong in our faith and our walk with Jesus? Because of the witness that we have by claiming Jesus as our Savior. If you aren’t living out your faith on a daily walk with Him, then how will people be able to tell if you are a true Christian?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said it like this when he preached from this chapter:

“It is your faith which is tried. It is supposed that you have that faith. You are not the people of God, you are not truly brethren unless you are believers. It is this faith of yours which is peculiarly obnoxious to Satan and to the world which lieth in the wicked one. The hand of faith is against all evil, and all evil is against faith. Faith is that blessed grace which is most pleasing to God, and hence it is most displeasing to the devil. He rages at faith because he sees therein his own defeat and the victory of grace. Because the trial of your faith brings honour to the Lord, therefore the Lord Himself is sure to try it that out of its trial praise may come to His grace by which faith is sustained. It is by our faith that we are saved, justified, and brought near to God, and therefore it is no marvel that it is attacked. Faith is the standard bearer, and the object of the enemy is to strike him down that the battle may be gained. It is by our faith that we live; we began to live by it, and we continue to live by it, for “the just shall live by faith.” Hold fast, therefore, this your choice treasure. It is by faith, too, that Christians perform exploits. Faith is the conquering principle: therefore it is Satan’s policy to slay it even as Pharaoh sought to kill the male children when Israel dwelt in Egypt”.

(http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/spurgeon/all_joy_in_all_trials.htm)

In conclusion, we are to live out our faith daily, sometimes hourly if the temptation is ongoing, so that we will be counted as God’s adopted and influence others to want what we have found in Him! Amen?

Which god do you follow?


In today’s society, we have many gods. Phones, careers, cars, games, family, Facebook, all qualify to some extent as our “gods” at one time or another. Sometimes, we have more than one. We can’t leave the house or even get up in the morning without checking our phones and then we check in on Facebook. If we lose our phones, we will nearly tear the house apart trying to find this pocket computer which demands our attention every day!

Don’t make that face about this, you know that what I have written here is true because you have seen it in church or at home and certainly on the highway, although I hope not while you are driving. So, yes we have many gods which seem to claim so much of our time on a daily basis, sometimes even hourly, because I have seen people in my family at the dinner table or walking outside with the phone in front of them. They can’t seem to see past that four or five-inch screen in front of their faces.

I may be showing my age here but…how can you live like that?? There is so much more beauty and life going on around you without that screen taking all of your attention and you are missing most of it because of status updates or messages!! Whoever came up with that word certainly had the right idea to begin it with “mess”, because that is exactly what they do! Keeping up with those balloon messages and notification tones keeps many people occupied so much until they can’t pay attention to the rest of their life!

CallofDutyHow much better would our society be if we paid that much attention to the Bible? If we had to have it with us every day and read a part of it every hour of our waking day, wouldn’t our world be so much better than it is? I know we would offend many people by having our Bible out when we eat at the restaurant or when we sit to drink some coffee. But, wouldn’t our society really benefit much more in the area of morality and decent behavior if we patterned our life around God’s instructions for life, His Word?

A novel idea which, in my opinion, has come full circle and it is time for it to take its place in our society again. In schools, in the home, in business and in government, God’s Word should be consulted for all of these. Not as a state religion but as a guide to get our country back on the path which it started out on to begin with.