Thursday, July 19, 2018

Does God Change His Mind?

As God’s people can we truly petition God to change His mind about a situation if He is all-wise?  There are various passages of Scripture that speak about God’s character and His nature.

Malachi 3:6 says, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

Numbers 23:19 reads, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”

James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

According to these verses God does not change His mind and He is totally wise all of the time.  However, there are some verses in Scripture that are difficult to make sense of such as:  Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  There is also Exodus 32:14, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”  A final example would be in Jonah 3 where God told Jonah to prophecy that the great city of Nineveh would be overthrown unless the Assyrians repented. 

In Scripture God has made conditional declarations that if someone repented then God would relent.  When people abide by God’s operating principles then they can expect relief and at times even blessing.  In the book of Jonah that is exactly what happened with the Assyrians~~they repented and then God relented the punishment that He was going to deliver to them.  We can also learn that in Genesis 6:6 God helps us to understand his sadness and frustration with His creation that chose to rebel. 

It is also worth noting in James 4:2-3 that we have not because we do not ask God and sometimes we ask with wrong motives of selfishness.  Apparently God does hear us and grant us the desires of our hearts.  However, at times when our motives are not pure then He withholds.  Similarly, Christ told his followers in Mark 11:24 that they don’t have because they lack faith in what they ask for.  God sets the standards of criteria for blessing and not blessing His people.  Many times things are conditional contingent on the Christians obedience.

So, does God change~~the answer is definitely no.  However, God works from the principles of sowing and reaping with His people.  God also fulfills His end of the deal~~always.  In fact, when a sinner (called an enemy of God in Romans 8:7) places their faith in trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, they are then called God’s beloved children (1 John 1:12).  What or who changed~~we do.  God’s moral character and His righteous judgments always stay the same.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Why Do I Feel So Empty Inside?

Feeling empty inside is a very difficult emotion to describe to others.  Feeling empty may not always come from being physically fatigued.  At times, it feels like a part of you is missing and you can’t seem to put your finger on it.  At times it can come through grieving the loss of a loved one or not feeling love in return by another person.  You can feel empty due to failing to reach a goal or by something not happening that you were looking forward to with great anticipation. 
At times, you can be looking for the wrong things to satisfy your thirsty soul.  You end up coming back to the wrong well that will never satisfy your soul.  Who could ever understand the hurt, the longings, and the desires of our hearts?  Christ knows each one of your heartaches as well as your deep longings.
No matter what your lack of fulfillment may be, God’s Word gives hope and promises that you can cling to in your darkest hour and weakest moment.
2 Corinthians 12:10, “That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Ephesians 3:16-19, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
Psalm 25:16-17, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Feeling Betrayed?

If you are feeling betrayed or have been betrayed, you are most certainly not alone. God’s Word reveals that there have been many individuals who were betrayed by their own friends, their own families, and even their own children.  Our own Savior, Jesus Christ, was also betrayed like no one else and He suffered like no one has ever suffered (Isaiah 53).  Please be encouraged and challenged with some thoughts from Scripture concerning betrayal.
1 Corinthians 11:23-24, Paul says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
            Paul is writing to the church of Corinth that Jesus was betrayed for our sake and that He willingly gave of His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.  If we have been betrayed, let’s try to think of the ultimate betrayal of Jesus Christ who was abandoned by everyone (except his mother) in order to provide us with the gift of salvation.  He was rejected and left alone to die but He never retaliated.  
Psalm 37:25, David says, " I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”
            David writes from a life of experience and from a personal knowledge of God that He will not allow the righteous to suffer or allow them to have to beg for bread.  In that same chapter he encourages God’s people, “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6).  In other words, God will ultimately vindicate you.  He also encourages them to, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).  David’s experience in this life taught him to be patient and to look to the right Person to settle the score.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, Moses speaks for God, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them (your enemies), for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.  It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
            Moses was working to reassure Israel of the character of their God and to look to Him for strength, wisdom, and confidence about the uncertainties of life.  God is not like man who changes His mind or leaves when things get tough.  His promises are sure and His words are always safe.  God not only goes with us~~He goes before us as we look to Him into the future.   


Thursday, June 28, 2018

Are We Under the Mosaic Law Today?

This is a great question and I want to be careful how I answer this question.  Biblically we are no longer under the Mosaic Law, which included the 10 commandments and over 600 other laws.  The Law never could save a soul from their sins.  The Law served as a code of ethics to direct the Jews in how to live uprightly and morally before God.  The weight of the Law was heavy and it revealed how much the Jews needed a Savior to rescue them from this burden. 
Jesus Christ was prophesied as the one who would come and bring the righteousness that was necessary for a sinner to have a restored relationship with God the Father.  Jesus Christ’s death on the cross satisfied the wrath of God towards our sin (Rom. 3:24-25).  Christ was the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice that could serve as atonement for our sins.  In His death Jesus Christ fulfilled every righteous demand of the Law that God desired of us (Mt. 5:17-18).  As we place our faith in Christ we receive His righteousness and now God sees us as righteous through the blood of Christ.
We are told in Scripture that Christ fulfilled the Law in that we no longer have to labor for something that we could never obtain—righteousness comes through faith in Christ alone (Ro. 3:21-22).  The Jews still labor today under the weight of the Law and they are still looking forward to a Redeemer.  Paul says that the Law was our “guardian” until Christ came in order that we might be “justified by faith” in the person and work of Christ alone (Gal. 3:23-25). 
The standard for Christian living today is holiness.  1 Peter 1:16 tells Christians, “Be holy, because I am Holy.”  We no longer must embrace a set of rules for godly living. However, it is worth noting that nine out of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament apart from the Sabbath Day.  As well, the Ten Commandments can all be wrapped up in the two Great Commandments that Christ gave in Matthew 22:36-40, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He goes on to say that, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So, are we under the Mosaic Law, which includes the Ten Commandments—the answer is no.  We are under grace today (Rom. 6:14, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace.”)  Holiness is our standard for living and Christ’s righteousness has been applied to our lives when we placed our faith and trust in Him as our Savior and Lord.  Romans chapter three is clear that the Law is still valuable in that we see our depravity and our need for Christ (Rom. 3:31).  To choose to obey the Law for any salvific reasons, in my opinion, is to weaken and make light of the sufficiency and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Encourager

I’m not sure if you would consider yourself an encourager or not but I know that I love to be around people who lift my spirits and breath life into my soul.  I suppose if we don’t know if we are that encourager at this time in our life then perhaps we could ask a handful of people for their honest opinion of us.  For many of us, there is a natural tendency to suck the life out of others when things are not going our way. In fact, I’ve been guilty of that before and God has convicted my heart that I need to build others up.  My prayer is that others would leave encouraged having spent time around me.  It is not a matter of others thinking better of me but that I have helped to give them more of a “God-shaped” perspective about their lives and circumstances. 

Allow these verses to shape our hearts and minds as we seek to encourage others:

1 Samuel 23:16, “And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God.”

Romans 14:19, “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14, “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

Hebrews 3:13, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.”

Pray that God would make you an encourager towards others.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

What to Say at a Time of Loss

Have you ever been at a loss of what to say when a friend or loved one has passed away?  Most of us have been at a loss of words especially when we have no idea about the eternal state of the individual who has passed away.  You see, for the Christian, this is a "home going."  For the non-Christian, it truly is passing away.  Scripture is clear that all souls will live forever but not all will experience eternal bliss with God the Father. 

Many things can be said for the one who knows the Lord as their Savior such as:
  • Praise God, they are now home!
  • Their hope is now fulfilled in Christ.
  • They are now healed and rejoicing forever.
  • We will be able to enjoy their presence again.
  • This is not a "good bye" but a "see you later."
  • There is no more pain or sorrow.
  • They are able to rest in God's presence.  
  • They have left a big mark on my own life and many others.
  • They lived as an example of Christ-likeness.
  • They will indeed be missed but we are thankful they are with Christ.
For the non-Christian it is very difficult to know what  to say.  If we were to say what Scripture says it would paint a horrific picture about their eternal state now in Hell.  The greatest things that can said are for those who remain.  We can always express gratitude and thankfulness for the deceased but how do we help cast the light of the Gospel for those who remain and don't know Jesus Christ.  Some of the following things could be said:

  • I am praying for you and your family.
  • I will be in touch with you and I would like to come alongside of you during this time.
  • I am praying for God to sustain you (God can do this for the lost as well.)
  • I am praying for God to meet your every need.
  • God was not caught off guard; He remains in control.
  • God loves your family so much.  I'd love to share and meet again with you.
Of course the things that are said to those that don't know Christ are harder because the reality is grim.  However, God can always work through those who don't know Him through circumstances and the tenderness of the situation.  Many people will allow us to talk about God during this time that they would not allow at any other time. Let's see this loss of life to be able to share about the gift of live through Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

What Happens to Our Bodies After Death?

Years ago I had a conversation with a man who believed that when an individual dies that his soul and body would stay in the grave until Christ returned to set up His Millennial Kingdom on earth.  This idea is called "soul sleep" and it is not a biblical thought.  In fact, the moment we die, we face the judgment of God.  Hebrews 9:27 says that, " is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment."

Christians can live with the confidence that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8).  Although their bodies are placed into the ground their soul is ushered into the presence of Christ immediately.  Unfortunately, for unbelievers, death means everlasting punishment in hell immediately following death (Luke 16:22-23).  However, they will wait for their final destination in the Lake of Fire after their physical resurrection.

When Christ returns, believers' bodies will be resurrected and they will be given glorified bodies (1 Cor. 15:50-54; 1 Thess. 4:13-17). It would appear that while the souls of believers go to be with Christ immediately after death, the physical body remains in the grave awaiting the return of Jesus Christ.  At that resurrection of believers (1 Thess. 4:13-17), the physical body is resurrected, glorified, and then reunited with their soul. This reunited and glorified body and soul will be the possession of the believer for all eternity in the new heavens and new earth.  It would appear that our glorified bodies will be recognizable in Heaven as we look at Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31.  Also, Moses and Elijah were recognizable at the transfiguration in Matthew 17:3-4.

It could be said that after death a person resides in a temporary dwelling place called heaven and hell.   Believers will ultimately be granted entrance into the new heavens and new earth when Christ returns according to Revelation 21. We are told that those who rejected Christ will be physically resurrected (with their body and soul) and ultimately be sent to the lake of fire as mentioned in Revelation 20:15.