Wednesday, January 28, 2015

We are justified by faith!

On sunday mornings I am preaching through the book of Galatians.  It has been a great time for me personally.  Studying and preparing sermons from this wonderful book has brought such a renewed passion to serve Jesus.  Before our time in the States I had preached through the first two chapters and last week was my first sunday back in the pulpit.  I did an overview and a refresher of where we have been and where we are going.  This sunday we will dive into chapter three and look at verses 1-5.  As I have been studying, so many of the commentaries have brought up the new perspective on Paul.  I haven't even touched that in my exposition and I don't plan to.  I haven't even really read much on it because I am still trying to come to terms with the old perspective on Paul.  The doctrine of justification by faith alone is such an amazing doctrine it is almost impossible to believe!  It is so inherent in us to try to do something for God that pleases Him so that we are able to take a little credit.  I always have to catch myself and search my motives, "Why am I doing this?"  Sometimes I think if I work harder or do more good Christian works, I am somehow securing my standing with God.  The fact of the matter is, my standing is secure with God based upon my faith in Christ and what He has done.  It has nothing to do with me.  I always feel this little bit of legalism creeping in or this works based righteousness crouching at the door.  Luther said this is the most important doctrine so it is imperative to know this article well, teach it to others and beat it into their heads continually!  I love that.  I need to beat it into my head continually.  When we understand that there is not one ounce of effort we can pour into the merits of our standing before God, this frees us up from trying to please God for our salvation and instead free us to live for Him with love and joy.  No longer do I have to worry if I have tipped the scales in my favor, I can just live the life He has called me to by the power of the Spirit and when I have my days where I fail, I know that I am still justified because my justification is based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ!  I don't have to wake up in the morning and stress to undo what I did and throw more good works on the scale.  I get up and thank Jesus for His grace and carry on being a Christian saved by grace through faith in Christ!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Man does not live by bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God!

For years I have done the Robert Murray M'Cheyne Bible reading plan.  It is an incredible plan that gets you deep into the Word of God.  If you stick to the schedule you will have read the Old Testament once and the Psalms and the New Testament twice in one year.  It is a lot of reading, but there isn't a better way to really soak up the Bible.  However, this year I decided to try a new plan, to switch things up.  There were several plans that I looked at but one caught my eye more than the others.  It is called the "Bible Eater" plan.  Let me say I couldn't be more excited for this plan.  I haven't been this fired up for my daily reading in a while.  Maybe it is the change of pace or the freshness of a new schedule, but whatever it is I am pumped.  We must remember that if we do a reading plan, it can't become a burden.  It isn't something that we do so we can just check it off our list.  The whole purpose to read through God's word is to know Him better and see His character and so we know how to live lives that bring glory to Him.  The description of this plan starts by saying "God hasn't told us how often or how much we are to read of His word but he has told we need the Scriptures in order to live."  That is so true and relevant.  We live in a time where the authority and sufficiency of the Bible is disregarded. People want to hear from God and have God speak to them.  People are reading silly little devotionals that supposedly record Jesus's words to them. But God has spoken in His word and if we want to hear the voice of God, we need to open up our Bibles. God speaks through His word.  I am not against devotionals.  I read Spurgeon's Mornings and Evenings and there are many other very good devotionals, but for some reason people are looking for this new or fresh revelation from God as if the one He has given is not sufficient and it breaks my heart.  God's words are life to us.  We are told that man does not live by bread alone but every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  If we want to be physically healthy we need to diet and exercise.  The same is true spiritually.  We need a good diet of God's word.  Paul told Timothy that, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16).  In other words the Bible is sufficient for all that we will face in life.  We need to be feasting on the meal that God has provided for us.  One thing about this new plan that I am using is that it highlights redemptive chapters.  Of course every chapter in the Bible is important because every word is breathed out from God. But some chapters are more crucial in helping us understand the big picture and see the overall picture of God's salvation plan.  So there is special emphasis on certain chapters that highlight the promises of Christ and His coming and redemption etc.  Jesus said the Scriptures testify of Him and sometimes we have the tendency of reading without focusing on how the section we are reading is pointing to Christ.  This plan helps in some of those areas.  If you aren't reading the word daily, let me encourage you to pick it up and spend some time with Jesus.  Meditate on God's word and who Christ is.  Read it with fresh eyes, looking to see how the passage you are reading fits with the overall picture of the Bible.  Maybe a plan will help you or maybe it won't but one thing is for sure, "man does not live by bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God", so open up that treasure that the Lord has been left to His people!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Feliz Año!!!

Happy new year to all.  As I reflect on 2014, I would have to say the first thought or word that comes to my head is struggle.  It was a difficult year.  Difficult in the ministry, personally, spiritually, difficult in all facets of life.  Yet at the same time it was also such a sweet year.  It was a year where the Lord stretched and stretched but did not break us.  We experienced His grace like we have never before.  It was such an intimate time of fellowship with Jesus.  I learned things of Him, that I would never have known had it not been the year we went through.  I learned things of myself, that I had not known and even had blocked out because it was too painful to deal with.  I would never want to go back through the year we just went through, but at the same time I would not trade it for anything.  If 2014 was what God allowed us to go through to mold us and mature us.  It was so worth it.  We saw,  like I said,  His sustaining grace like never before.  I can not wait to see what Jesus does this year!

Upon returning from our two and half month furlough, we hit the ground running.  We had two choclotadas and running around getting things back in order with our house and seeing people and I preached a midweek service and our Christmas message.  It was so refreshing to be strengthened by the Lord to continue in what He has called us to do.  We missed Peru and the ministry so much.  It was great to see the growth of the church and the people.  Everyone who stepped up did an amazing job.  It just confirmed in my heart that the Lord doesn't need me.  It is His church and His ministry and we just to get to be part of it.

There were a few issues that I was not looking forward to when we arrived back.  There was one particular burden that over 2014 had been taking so much energy and was such a constant draining of myself.  During our time in the States, I remember just asking the Lord to deal with the issue.  Once again the Lord has shown Himself in wonderful ways.  Several days ago this one issue that had plagued me, the Lord removed.  I don't even have to start this new year dealing with this or worrying about it or trying to handle this.  The Lord is His infinite grace handled it for me.  I am so encouraged and refreshed.  I can't begin to describe the freedom that Christ has given me to start this new year.  That is not to say, that this year will be trial free.  That is not to say that the Lord will remove every hardship, burden or obstacle off the course.  In fact I think that this year could be just as hard if not harder than last year.  If it is, I can look back and see how the Lord delivered us through 2014 and have no doubt that He will sustain us for 2015.  But it sure is a good way to kick off 2015.

I am excited to see what the Lord does this year in us and through us.  I am excited to see what the Lord does through all His people and throughout the world.  A friend of mine on Instagram encouraged me to keep making Jesus famous in Peru.  I thought, "wow, what a call!  What a privilege!"  But you know what?  That is everyone's calling who is in Christ.  We are to tell the world about Jesus.  Not only missionaries and pastors are to glorify Jesus.  Whoever takes the name of Christ is to be His witness.  To testify of His works, His love, His grace, His mercy, His justice, His wrath, everything about Him.  People need to know about how great our Jesus is.  We are in tumultuous times and the answer to the world's problems is Christ.  Let's make Jesus famous in our lives in 2015.

Soli Deo Gloria