STARTING OVER OR STARTING FRESH
Spring is a great time to start over or in some cases start fresh. God has shown us the need for a fresh start due the fall. Romans 8:22-23. Not
only has creation suffered the results of sin, but we, ourselves also. For those who have never accepted Jesus Christ as personal Savior, John
1:12-13 & Titus 3:5. God has made it possible for everyone to start fresh. He offers us the free gift of eternal life because the sin debt has
already been paid by Jesus on the cross of Calvary, Hebrews 10:14. As Christians, Spring is a great time to start over, Philippians 3:12-13 & Hebrews 12:1.
We need to lay aside the things that weigh us down, the guilt and failures of the past and re-enter the Christian life with a renewed
purpose and strength that comes from looking to Jesus Christ the Author and Finisher of our Faith. Remember starting fresh or starting
over is a choice that we make, Joshua 24:15. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Modern technology is a great asset but only when it is operating. For the last two weeks, our sermon series on Daniel has failed to record thus leaving us with a void in our series of messages. I would like to attempt to bridge that gap a little by recapping the last two weeks in a brief outline.
We looked on the 7th of February at the first verse in Daniel chapter 2. The title of the message is, “The Dream of Dreamers”. You can watch the sermon if you have not yet on our site under the sermon tab. By the end of the sermon we discovered that Nebuchadnezzar was a man who had “everything” more wealth, power, status, control and influence than possibly any other person who ever lived and was worried and fearful about tomorrow. Nebuchadnezzar really had nothing! Everything he had was temporary and he had no hope for tomorrow. How about you? Is your life so full of “everything” that you have no hope for tomorrow? Don’t be a Nebuchadnezzar, you can find the hope in Jesus Christ!
On the 11th of February we continued our series with a look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The title of the message is, “The Dream is Certain, the Interpretation is Sure”. As Daniel breaks down the dream that frightened Nebuchadnezzar he gets very specific with his interpretation as he allows us to see that this dream is the “backbone” to biblical prophecy. This dream covers from Nebuchadnezzar day to the days that are before us and the days that lay ahead. This dream reveals the dramatic events as they unfold leading up to the return of Christ and take us into the Millennial Kingdom. What does this mean for us today? It means the “Dream is certain, the interpretation sure”. It means God’s Word is very clear about the times we live in. It also means that things are going to happen exactly as God says they are going to happen. Just like Nebuchadnezzar had “everything” but had nothing we too need to remember that our hope is not in the “stuff” of this world. We must remember that we are sojourners and pilgrims on this journey, and we are to lay up for ourselves “treasures in heaven” and “set our affections” on things above and not on the earth. We are to live with an expected awareness that Christ is on His way. And “when we see these things begin to come to pass” we are to look up, yes, but it should affect us and do something in us and cause us to live with anticipation/expectation. Paul tells us in Romans 13:11-14 that now is the time to get serious about Jesus Christ, why? Because He is coming! As a believer and follower of Christ how does your walk match up with that fact?
Last week, February 18th we began chapter 3 and looked at the first 18 verses. The title of the message is, “The Hebrew Children”. We looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! We learn a lot from these Hebrew children, but Chapter 3 is the first and last time we hear of them in the Bible. Our familiarity with them is regarding the fiery furnace and the presence of God with them amid the flames. The scene is 15 to 20 years after Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Nebuchadnezzar sets up a huge image in the plain of Dura. Some 200,000 to 300,000 people were summoned to the site and instructed that when they heard the instruments and music they were to bow down to the image. Well the music began, and several hundred thousand people hit the ground except for 3 Hebrew Children. Nebuchadnezzar finds out about it and summons the children to himself and asks them, “did you do this on purpose?” They very humbly answered him and said, this is not something we have to decide right now, we have already made up our minds that we are not going to bow down and worship any other God other than the true God. The king is furious and orders the children into the furnace. The furnace, at 7X’s hotter than it’s ever been killed the men who got close enough to throw the Hebrew children into it. But the children, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego go un-touched by fire and flame and as witnessed by the people there, there was a 4th person in the furnace having the appearance of the “Son of God.” Now, these children knew even before they were tossed into the furnace that God was “able” to deliver them out of the flames and out of the Kings' hands. But they had also said some of the most incredible words written in the Bible, “But if He doesn’t” we will not bow down to another God besides the true God. You see Nebuchadnezzar, our God is “able” but if He doesn’t deliver us we will still trust Him and have confidence in the fact that He knows what He is doing. WOW! Can I tell you something! Satan offers us a marketing faith. What I mean by that is, “If you worship me you will get this”. This is exactly what he did to Christ in the wilderness in Matthew 4:8-10. He told Jesus if He bowed down and worshipped him, he (Satan) would give Him the kingdoms of the world. That’s his marketing plan for us too. But in God’s economy, He (God) says, when things don’t make sense and you don’t understand fall back on what you do know. The God we serve is “able” to deliver us. But what is our response going to be “if He chooses not to?”
In his book, “Love Must Be Tough”, Dr. James Dobson relates the following principles: Letting Go, Forgiveness, and Restoration. None of these things are easy, but for Love [agape] to be effective, these actions must be followed. When you think about it, this is exactly what God did for us when He gave our first parents [Adam & Eve] a free will. Like us, they made the wrong choice which then resulted in God’s offer of forgiveness and restoration. The world’s view of love is the opposite. Rather than love being a decision, it is characterized as only a feeling.
Therefore, the world only loves those that love them back. This is a selfish view of love. “Do what I say or want, and I will love you.” God’s love is unconditional, everlasting, and all-encompassing. God can never stop loving because God IS love. 1 John 4:7-8. God’s love for us will never be based on our performance. We need never doubt God’s love for us, no matter what the circumstance or the feeling. “Lord, help me to experience Your love at all times.” And, “Help me to show others Your love as well.” Until Next Time Pastor Emeritus Jim Thomas
How are you doing in carrying out your New Year’s Resolution? You may have already discovered that good intentions do not necessarily result in consistent actions. According to one cited statistic, less then eight percent of us keep our New Year’s resolution. The rest of us go down in flames of failure. You may be surprised that the Bible speaks about a similar problem of wanting to live the Christian life and discovering that we repeatedly fail. Romans 7:15-24. Like Paul, we feel wretched, guilty, and overwhelmed by our lack of success in living the Christian life. I’ve been there. We all have. How do we get victory over the sin that so easily besets us? The answer is found in the next verse.
Romans 7:25. It is only through Jesus Christ that we can experience consistent victory over the lure of the world, [outside attack] the lust of the flesh, [the inside attack] and the lies of the Devil. Adrain Rogers made this wonderful statement. “There was only one man who ever lived the Christian life, and there is still only one! His name is Jesus.” I have made an amazing discovery in my own life. It is impossible for me to live the Christian life in my own strength, [the flesh]. Philippians 3:3. The Apostle Paul said, “…. I have no confidence in the flesh.” Neither should we. Philippians 2:12-13. Pay particular attention to verse 13. When David faced the giant, Goliath, he said, “The battle is the Lords.” 1 Samuel 17:47. New Year’s resolutions may not be a bad idea, if we recognize the power to achieve them, does not come from us, but from the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:27-31. Have a great day in the Lord!
Until Next Time
Pastor Emeritus Jim Thomas
First, rejoice in the birth of our Savior. We celebrate the birth of the Son of God, the Creator, our Messiah, Jesus The Christ. We rejoice that the King of kings came to earth, was born in a manger, and lived a perfect life. When Jesus was born, the joy of heaven was so great it could not be contained (Luke 2:18-24).
Second, consider His influence in our lives today. Christmas is a time for remembering the Son of God and renewing our desire to take upon us His name. It is a time to reassess our lives and examine our thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is a time of remembrance, of gratitude, and of forgiveness. A time to consider the Atonement of Jesus Christ and its meaning for each of us personally. Let it be a time of renewal and recommitment to live by the Word of God and to obey His commandments. By doing this, we honor Him far more than we ever could with lights, gifts, or parties.
Third, look with expected anticipation of His return. While the Christmas season is typically a time for looking back and celebrating the birth of our Lord, it seems to me that it should also be a time of looking to the future. Let us look forward. Let us prepare for that blessed day when He will come again. Let us be as wise as the saints of old, who watched for His coming earnestly.
I pray that during this Christmas season and always, we will see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and display sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us. May this gratitude cause in us a desire to renew our minds and to follow Him. May it also lead us to draw closer to our family, our church, and our neighbors. And may we look steadfastly forward to that blessed day when the resurrected Christ will walk the earth again as our Lord, our King, and our blessed Redeemer.
TROUBLING TRIALS PART III HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS RESPOND?
Let’s be honest, many of us respond by complaining or we are surprised and find it difficult to understand why these troubles are happening to us. [1 Peter 4:12] Peter then gives us the right response. [1 Peter 4:13-16]. So how do I get from complaining to rejoicing? This may surprise you, but it is impossible in our own strength. In fact, it is not natural, rather it is supernatural. These Scriptures are filled with accounts where Godly men and women experienced suffering and trials that were to the point of overwhelming. [1 Corinthians 1:8] & [2 Corinthians 4:7-12] The Apostle Paul gives us a very personal account of great pain and suffering and how the Lord gave him the supernatural ability to go from great sorrow to even greater rejoicing. [2 Corinthians 12:7-10] The key to responding positively to trials and suffering is to understand and trust God’s eternal purpose, and yielding completely to His plan. “…My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.” All of us would agree that our desire is to experience God’s strength in our lives. It is the testimony of Scripture and my own personal experience that God’s strength is only released in our lives when we yield totally to Him. My greatest obstacle to experiencing God’s strength, provision, and direction for my life is ME! I suspect the same is true of you as well. This truth is not complicated nor is it simplistic. I have discovered that coming to the end of myself and yielding to God is a life-long process. [Philippians 2:12- 13] Let me leave this topic with one more encouragement.
[Colossians 3:1-4] [Philippians 1:20-21]
Until Next Time, Pastor Emeritus Jim Thomas
WHERE DO TRIALS COME FROM?
To begin with, we must understand that God is sovereign over all things. Romans 11:33-36 “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all
things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. Colossians 1:16-17 “ For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him, all things consist.”
Next, we must understand that God is not the author of sin! James 1:13-17 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every
the perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
So Where Do Trials Come From?
God either sends trials or He allows trials. He sends trials into the lives of unbelievers as either a form of judgment or to bring them to the place of repentance. Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” The woman in Mark 8, who was caught in the act of adultery was humiliated and about to be stoned, Jesus intervened. Mark
8:10-11 “When Jesus had lifted up himself and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man
condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” The first example was of
judgment and the second was to bring about repentance.
God allows trials to come into the lives of believers to correct us when we get off track. Hebrews 12:6-8 “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and
scourges every son whom he receives. If ye endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, …...” He also allows all the circumstances [good, bad, ugly] that come into our lives for our good and His glory and also to mold and shape us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28-29 “And we know that all things work
together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son….” 1 Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”
Finally, the Bible tells us that both believers and unbelievers experience troubling trials. Matthew 5:45 “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Romans 8:22-23 “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the
Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Next time we will explore how we, as Christians should respond to troubling Trials.
Until Next Time
Pastor Emeritus Jim Thomas
EVERYONE FACES TRIALS & EXPERIENCES SUFFERING
In these articles, I will attempt to discuss the trials that plague both Christians and Non-Christians. To begin with, trials are inevitable. The Bible makes no attempt to say otherwise nor does the Bible teach that mature, dedicated Christian are free from the trials of life. Job 14:1 “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Further Job was the most righteous man of his day. Job 1:1 “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Paul tells us in, 2 Corinthians 1:8 “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:” God used the Apostle Paul to establish many New Testament Churches and write most of the New Testament, yet he experienced great persecution and incredible suffering.
I share this Scriptural evidence to unmask the false teaching that is pervading the Church today through so-called ‘Name it and claim it, believe it and receive it, health and prosperity preachers’. In fact, the Scriptures teach that believers will experience more trials and suffer then unbelievers. This is not a popular truth, but it is the truth. By the way, the Bible says, John 8:32 “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus warned His followers in John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
In future articles, we will explore the reasons for trials.Until Next Time
Pastor Emeritus Jim Thomas
In 1 Peter 5:8 we are reminded to, “Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. When Satan comes at us he doesn’t say, “hey, I am the devil; let’s ruin your life”.