Are You Born Again? Part 2

I hope you were able to answer the question in the title. If yes, then there are 3 very important aspects of your faith that are critical to your abundant life. Peter illustrates these in the remaining text in 1 Peter 1:1-9.

The first is found in verses 6 and 7 which explain that the Christian faith is tested with “various trials.” They are various because they are different for every believer. Each believer’s faith is weak in different areas and needs strengthening.

These trials and tests provide the necessary development of the genuineness of your faith. They replace artificial practice with supernatural faith. This world needs more genuine believers, not fake! Your unbelieving friend, spouse, or coworker needs your faith to be real! Your genuine faith reflects the image of Christ to a world who needs to see God’s real love and forgiveness! Stop settling for a plastic faith and seek to be a real, genuine witness for Christ!

Peter later explains in chapter 4 that these trials can be “fiery.” Not only are they “various”, but they can be painful. Peter compares our trials to the process of purifying gold. In order for gold to shine its brightest, it must be put through intense heat and pressure in order to remove the impurities. God is turning the heat up, not because He’s mad at you, but because He is completing a life changing work in your life. When He’s done, your faith will shine brighter than ever!

Therefore, according to Peter in 4:1, prepare your minds for the anticipated tests . You would be a fool, if you didn’t prepare for the tests in life! I have learned this lesson more than I would like to admit! The good news is, that scripture gives us a sure-fire way to pass these tests if we follow these disciplines!

The first, is learning and quoting promise scriptures! The Bible is full of them! There are even booklets devoted to these precious verses. Search the scriptures that speak specifically to your trial. Write them down and display them in a visible place that you frequent. When your trial is bearing down, read them out loud! Shout them out loud! As you shout, you will be amazed by the Holy Spirit’s transformative work in your mind and attitude!

A good promise scripture to begin with is found in James chapter 1 verses 2 – 4. These scriptures teach us of another important discipline that prepares us for our tests. James tells us to consider the outcome of our trials while going through them. We should learn the discipline of thanking God for the inevitable blessing that will result through our current hardship!

This activity requires faith! Therefore, I stress again, read promise scriptures out loud because faith comes by hearing! This is necessary because your intense trial can blind you from seeing anything beyond your present pain! Pray in this way, “Dear God, this trial hurts but I thank you that you will give me the grace and strength that I need to endure it! Thank you that this trial will produce a life changing work in me to make me a better witness for you!

I ask my congregation this question often: If you knew that your hardship would result in someone else’s salvation or healing, would it make it easier to endure? Who knows, just maybe the work He’s doing in you, is for the purpose of reaching someone else! This happens more than we realize!

The last discipline for our test prep is to present ourselves. An often quoted scripture in Romans 12:1 reads, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (ESV).” Our highest worship is to let God complete the trial He began in our life. This is our worship, because this is our way of will-fully giving control of our lives to God.

Some will run from God during hard times! They will neglect the activities of prayer, scripture reading, and church fellowship. In some cases, many will blame and resent God for the pain and stress they are experiencing! Don’t run from Him but to Him! This trial was designed with a test to see if you would run to God. The reward is a closeness to Him that you would not have otherwise known unless this hardship happened to you!

To recap, if you are born again then God is completing an amazing work in you! Your faith is being tried and tested in various, sometimes overbearing, ways. This is good news, because the outcome of your hardship will result in a great blessing for you, God, and others! Let God complete His work. Activate the disciplines of scripture reading, thanksgiving, and offering your life to Him! You will find the supernatural support you need to endure ANY hardship!

Please comeback to my blog to discover Peter’s explanation of 2 more critical things that every believer needs to know about their Christian faith.

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Are you born again?

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What is the Christian faith?  If you have it, then you posses the greatest gift that anyone could have!  There is no earthly money or power that can acquire it!  If you have refused this faith, then maybe, you have misunderstood it.  Please open your minds and let Peter’s explanation of this faith in 1 Peter 1:1-9 guide you into the most powerful experience you will ever have!

Peter opens his first letter to the Christians of his day by reminding them of what their faith is, as well as three important things they need to be aware of regarding their faith.  It’s important that we revisit the essence of our faith.  Many well-meaning Christian believers have gone off track and have promoted a faith that is not Biblical.  This has resulted in Christ being misrepresented to world.  This explains why many have reduced our faith to a political ideology or an intolerant way of living.

In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter begins his definition of the Christian faith by reminding the reader that we are “born again to a living hope.”  To be a Christian means we have been born again from a dead life apart from Christ to a new and living life joined with Christ.  I am a new person with new hopes and passions! The same power that brought Jesus back to life is the now living in me! This power is bringing dead things back to life in me everyday! You can come alive in ways you never imagined through a born again experience in Christ!

He goes on to describe the Christian faith in verse 4, by reminding the reader that we have an “inheritance that is imperishable.” Our faith promises us that God will provide all that we need for our current and future life.  We have a great hope that Christ will return from preparing a place for us so that we will live with Him in an eternal paradise! Death isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of a real life without pain and distress!

Peter finishes his definition of the Christian faith by explaining in verse 5 that we are “guarded through faith for a salvation.”  Our faith offers a great hope that we are saved from the future effects of sin.  Scripture teaches us that slavery to sin separates us from God.  This sin will sentence us into an eternal damnation.  Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, however, served as a ransom  to redeem us as slaves to sin!  We are now free from sin and can come near to God, and experience all of His wonderful promises for our current and future life in Him!

It is important that we understand what our faith is.  Are we a political organization insisting that the country follow our rules?  Are we another religion with rituals that make us feel better about ourselves?  We are more than that.  We have had an encounter with Christ and we are born again!  Our lives have radically changed and we now  have a living Hope.  Our hope assures us that Christ will come back for us to live with him in paradise! This promise has been secured for us through Christ’s sacrifice for our sins!

Today you can be born again!  You can experience life in a new way!  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead can enter your life and give you a living hope!  Ask Christ into your heart and seek his forgiveness!  This will be the best decision you have ever made!

Peter goes on in these verses presenting 3 important things at every believer should know about their Christian.  Stay tuned for second part of this message.

Building God’s House-Retreat or Resist, Part 2

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The celebration immediately came to a pause in Chapter 4.  In verse 1, the writer tells us that Israel’s adversaries sought to stop the building project.  These were inhabitants who claimed ownership of the land that Israel was building on.  They refused to accept the proclamation of the supreme ruler of the land.  They waged an organized strategy to destroy Gods plan to rebuild.

We will encounter many types of adversaries as we set out to build Gods kingdom. The apostle Peter warns us of a powerful adversary in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  This adversary refuses to accept Jesus’ proclamation to build the Kingdom of God in His territory.  You see, the adversary, in his mind he owns your home, workplace, and community.  He will not let you build freely in his territory without opposing you.  His goal is total destruction and he will ramp up his efforts if he is threatened by you.

The adversaries’ strategy is laid out in the remaining verses of chapter 4.  Their first attempt was to infiltrate the project through agents of sabotage.  They hoped to convince the Israelites that they could help them build as they had their interest in mind.  Israel was not deceived and they refused partnering with them.

The unseen forces of evil use these agents of sabotage by using close friends or family because we trust them. Often times, they are media personalities we allow into our domain through the television or Internet.  Their goal is to distract you from building in order to destroy your efforts.  Be sober-minded and alert.  Pray with me, “Lord, deliver me from evil relationships that distract me from your calling.”

 

Another method that adversaries use is the often-effective strategy of discouragement.  In verses 4-5, we read that Israel’s opponents used agents of fear and confusion.  These agents would utter threats of great harm and commit acts of terror.   Agents of confusion were assigned to coerce leaders of the project to misuse resources for their personal gain.  These acts would slow the builders’ efforts for 16 years in order to deal with the threats and corruption of the project.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6, that we wrestle against these agents of discouragement.  They are rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil.  They capitalize on our human vulnerabilities to inject fear into our minds.  Fear, having experienced personally, is a debilitating force that requires God’s Word to combat.  Be sober-minded and alert! Conquer your fear through the discipline of declaring God’s promises out loud! Yes, OUT LOUD!

Be sober-minded and alert.  Pray for your church leaders.  The adversary has targeted them to steer God’s building program in a dangerous direction.  Please pray with me, “Lord, lead my pastor not into temptation but deliver him or her from evil.”  This is as much of our responsibility as theirs.  The success of the building project depends on this prayer.

The last strategy employed by the adversaries was agents of accusation.  They smeared the character and motives of these builders.  They wrote the current king stating the Israelites were building for the purposes of making themselves greater than the king.

Our society is quick to call a smear campaign a low blow.  However, we have seen how a person’s credibility can be compromised overnight when spiritual forces of evil use communication tools of the day to misrepresent a person of threat.  These dark powers will sink to low levels to retain their reign over your family, community, and even church.  Be sober-minded and alert.  Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:13, “prepare your mind for action.”  Be ready to react to these false claims through careful study and dependency on the prophetic work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is God’s agent, to combat the agents of opposition that keeps us from joining God’s great building project.  Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we can resist the devil and he will flee.  Partner with the Holy Spirit today.  You can lay the foundation of Jesus’ work of forgiveness and rebirth in your home and community with His help.  You can build on that foundation with walls of promises of scripture.  The Spirit is able to enforce Gods proclamation to build His house in your life, home, and community.

Can you imagine how amazing this building will be?  The joy of seeing His kingdom in my home and community stirs my heart to build.  Will you build with me?  Don’t worry about your mansion, it’s already underway.

Building God’s House-Retreat or Resist? Part 1

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Have you accepted Gods call to build?  Are you actively building His Kingdom to those around you by sharing Gods message of love and a new life?  If so, there is a good chance you encountered stiff opposition to your efforts.  Many have even given up in their attempt to build.  If this is the case, and it is for a serious builder, then today’s message will empower you to resist these adversities to build His kingdom in your life, home, and community.

There is no greater excitement in this world than building Gods house. Jesus gave us this great promise, while we dedicate our life to building His Kingdom, we will experience an abundant-filled life while He builds our house in heaven.

The calling to build the greatest project in the world also comes with a warning.  There is great opposition from others and we, builders, need to be aware of the threats.  If not, we risk the dangers of delaying or deserting the project prematurely.  Scripture reminds us that we have all of the necessary tools and weapons to be successful, but we must be prepared to confront the threats.

These threats are best illustrated in the story of Israel’s return from exile to rebuild the temple. In the first chapter of Ezra, we read that the king of Persia proclaimed that the temple in Israel should be rebuilt.  We also read that in verse 5, God stirred up the heart of some to return to Israel to rebuild the temple.

This verse offers great hope for a believer who has lost the passion to build.  If God was willing to stir the hearts of those in Israel who walked away from Gods first building project, how much more will he stir our hearts to build again in this age of grace?  This is a prayer that delights God.  Please pray with me today, “Lord, stir my heart to build today.”  

 Many Israelites returned and in chapter 3, we read that they laid the foundation.  There was a great celebration that day.  Remember when I said that there was no greater excitement than building His kingdom?  There were trumpets, cymbals, and joyful shouts!  The joy of The Lord is literally out of this world! It’s a supernatural infusion of the gladness of God that words cannot explain! It you haven’t experienced this joy, then offer your life to Him! This will set you up to encounter this powerful happiness from God!(I am shouting from excitement at this point!)

You will need the strength from this joy to successfully build where God has assigned you.   This strength will empower you to confront the forces that will oppose your efforts.  You will be victorious if you stand firm in the strength of The Lord! 

The Perfect Stranger

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Sunday’s message was about two men trying to make sense of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This story takes place immediately after Luke’s account of Jesus’ awakening from the tomb. Luke 24:28-32

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if He were going farther, 29 but they urged Him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So He went in to stay with them. 30 When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him. And He vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scripture.”

Who were these 2 men? We don’t know a lot about them but the writer wants us to know 2 important facts. They were sad and they were confused.

They were sad because Jesus was dead. In verse 17 of this chapter it says, “And they stood still, looking sad.”  They were in shock at what had just happened. Jesus, the one who gave them happiness, security, and hope was now dead.

We may find ourselves in a similar circumstance as these two men. What has brought us happiness, security, and hope for the future is no more. A relationship that once thrived is now in ruins. A dream that gave great life is now dead. Break ups, grief, crisis, and hurts have left us in despair. Like these men, our hope for salvation is over.

In addition to their sadness, they were confused. In verse 20, the writer states “our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him.” They were confused because their religion was powerless to save them. In fact, their religion killed their Savior.

Their religion were man-made rules and traditions. One would have hope for salvation if they strictly observed the rules. The problem with this religion was that there was little to no hope or joy. The harder one worked at this, the more they saw their insufficiencies. The only satisfaction one had was being able to compare themselves to others who were less successful in the religion.

We all have a religion whether we are church-goers or not. Religion is the practices we observe that we hope will save us. Intellectualism, working hard, playing hard, philanthropy, are just a few of the religions that many are hoping will save them. However, just like the experiences of these two men, many are confused because their religion has failed them. In fact, their religion is responsible for their dying Hope. Their only satisfaction lies in their ability to be more intellectual, work harder, play more, or give more than the other guy.

To add to this confusion, they heard rumors that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb. The women who visited the tomb were spreading reports that angels appeared to them saying that Jesus had risen from the dead. How could this be? What does all is mean? These were some of the thoughts running through the minds of these two men.

In response to the men’s sadness and confusion, this story gives us two important facts about God. The first is Jesus’ reaction to their concerns. We read in verse 15, “While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus Himself drew near and went with them.”

God comes to us when we seek Him. God really wants us to know this truth about Him as He has painted this idea throughout the entire Bible. One of the most famous examples is the verse “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened (Luke 7:8).”

There is great hope and joy in this scripture because if you are confused, if things are out of your control, don’t run away from Him, run to Him. When you do, God promises that He will come to your side to help you understand His plan and purpose for your circumstance. Verse 31 says “And their eyes were opened…”. God is eager to impart knowledge and understanding to anyone who seeks Him. Anyone!

I say “anyone” because God gave this understanding to even the uneducated. To those who were formally prostitutes, drunks, and cheats, in addition to the morally upright. To anyone who turned to God for understanding, He opened their eyes!

The other amazing truth about God in this story is His power to bring the dead back to life. Verse 31 says, “And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And He vanished from their sight.” The claims of the women were true. Jesus in fact has been raised from the dead. Not only have they heard the claim, but they have experienced first hand the resurrection power of God.

God is known for many wonderful things throughout the Bible, but what He really wants to get through to us is His desire to resurrect dead things. He wants us to have an encounter with this power through Jesus Christ. As these two men experienced first hand, if we open our hearts to Christ, He will come into our lives and bring the dead parts back to life.

In verse 32, the men say “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us.” Their encounter with Christ turned a broken heart into a heart full of burning passion for life. Give God the chance to give you this same gift on this Easter season. As you turn to Him, He will come to you. He promises. Please pray this prayer with me to invite Jesus into our lives.

“Dear Jesus, I want to be closer to you. I receive your love and forgiveness. I believe that Christ suffered for my sins and I am forgiven through His death. Thank you for the gift of life. Please open my eyes and my heart to your plans for my life. Please help me to live for you. Thank for answering my prayers.  Amen.”