Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Forty Brave Soldiers for Christ

This was on the inside flap of my church's bulletin this past Sunday - it is from Voice of the Martyrs...

Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire in A.D. 320.  However, Licinius, who controlled the Eastern half of the empire, broke allegiance with the West and continued to suppress Christianity.  When Licinius demanded that every soldier under his command sacrifice to the Roman gods, the forty Christian men of the "Thundering Legion" refused.  Their general, Lysias, had them whipped, torn with hooks, and then imprisoned in chains.  When they still refused to bow down and give up their worship of God, he ordered them stripped of their clothing and left in the middle of a frozen lake until they relented.  A warm bath was poured for any who would give up their convictions.  The men prayed together that their number would not be broken.  However, as it grew dark, one could not bear the cold any longer and ran to the warm bath.  One of the guards who had watched the forty brave soldiers sing to Christ became angry that one would give in to Lysias's orders.  His anger turned to conviction, and then his conviction turned to faith.  He tore off his clothes and ran out into the icy lake, fulfilling their promise to be "forty brave soldiers for Christ!"  The forty died together that day.  How about you?  Are you willing to take a stand for Christ at work, in your home, around your friends?  Today we take a look at some critical decisions Daniel made that could have cost him his life.  Unwavering, he was willing to lay it all on the line for God.  What creates this level of commitment and dedication?  Does your faith run that deep?  Put on the full armor and fight the fight.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Paul - An Example of Maintaining Joy While Suffering

Joy and suffering are close friends in the New Testament.  Paul suffered greatly and Paul never lost his joy - his God-given delight in the Person, People, and Purposes of God. He never lost his joy because of physical suffering, unfair circumstances, persecution, or friendly fire.  Paul chose joy.  He was imprisoned for years, for a crime for which he was not guilty. He looked at prison as a mission field. He saw that his suffering served a purpose - it encouraged other believers to be bold for Christ.  Paul's passion was Christ and the gospel, this was his joy. We have much to learn from Paul about suffering and being joyful. It's not about our circumstances. It is about delighting in Jesus, His people, and His purposes, no matter what our circumstances. Our source of joy is confidence in three things. In what God has done - taken us as an enemy, saved us, and placed us into His kingdom. Confidence in what God is doing - transforming us into the likeness of Jesus. Confidence in what God will do - Jesus is returning and will wipe away all tears and sorrows.  

Joy and suffering are friends – a truth that unbelievers will not understand, but every believer needs to understand and embrace.

When our desire for comfort eclipses our desire to see the gospel go forward, we lose our joy.

We shine most brightly and our faith is most real when we maintain our God-given joy - proclaiming the gospel, while under suffering.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Biblical Blessedness, Happiness

Biblical blessedness, true, rich, deep-down-joyful, vibrant, biblical happiness, springs from what we do, the actions we take, and from what God has done for us...Biblical blessedness, first begins with our right standing before God and then we respond to this incredible love for us...

"How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night."  Psalm 1:1,2

"How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!"  Psalm 32:1

"O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"  Psalm 34:8

"How blessed is he who considers the helpless;  the LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble."  Psalm 41:1

"How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You to dwell in Your courts.  We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple."  Psalm 65:4

"How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!"  Psalm 84:5

"O LORD of hosts, How blessed is the man who trusts in You!"  Psalm 84:12

"How blessed are those who keep justice, Who practice righteousness at all times."  Psalm 106:3

"Praise the LORD!  How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments."  Psalm 112:1

"How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, Who seek Him with all their heart."  Psalm 119:2

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sorrowing, Yet Always Rejoicing

Sorrowing, yet always rejoicing...

According to Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:10, this is the mark of a faithful minister of Christ.

Why do servants of God sorrow?

There is one thing that should always cause us sorrow - sin.  Our own sin, and the sins of the world.  All of us, have brought sin into our church's in one way or another.  The offense sin is to God and the grief it brings Him should cause us to sorrow.  Children of the King will be characterized by sorrow over sin.  We know we belong to Him when we mourn over our sin.  We know God has begun His good work in us when sin grieves us, when it breaks our hearts, like it breaks the heart of God.

How can we rejoice when we are also sorrowing?

When we focus on the cross, where Jesus stepped into our place and made the payment for our sin with His precious blood.  We have a constant and steady flow of grace and mercy for our sin, because Jesus laid aside the glories and privileges He had in heaven with the Father and took on the likeness of our flesh and went to the cross.  In this, we rejoice, and this is the good news we are to get out to the world, and the good news also that we are to faithfully remind each other in the family of God.

Sin is present right now and its affects.  It's all around us, but so is the mercy and grace and presence of Jesus Christ...sorrowing, dealing with our sin daily, yet always rejoicing in our Beloved Savior.

Someday sin is going to be gone.  When sin is gone, the sorrowing will be gone too.  And then there will only be rejoicing.  It's a day we look forward to, with great joy and anticipation.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Shall tribulation,
or distress, 
or persecution,
or famine,
or nakedness,
or peril,
or sword?

Just as it is written,

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death,
nor life,
nor angels,
nor principalities,
nor things present,
nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height,
nor depth, 
nor any other created thing,
shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:35-39

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our Incomparable Savior

"He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.

For by Him all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--
all things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things,
and in Him all things hold together.

He is also head of the body,
the church;
and He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."

Colossians 1:15-18