Archive for the Devotional Corner Category

Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

Posted in Articles, Devotional Corner with tags on February 7, 2015 by Stephen Hare

“Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”Luke 12:32

Before we begin to address this topic we can take such comfort and encouragement from Jesus’ words in Luke, that tell us not to fear, that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.

There are many different “brands” of Christianity these days, or so it would seem.

There are multitudes of churches throughout our country and the world at large that could be referred to or thought of as different flavors or expressions of the Christian faith.

Now, while it is nice to think that we are able to simply pick the one that best suits our preference, our spiritual persuasion or doctrinal belief system, we must never allow ourselves to think of these religious forms or expressions as a type of spiritual temperature gauge to somehow measure our proximity or relationship to God.

Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Mt 25:34

It should be understood that all the questions and discussion related to sound biblical doctrine and belief are secondary when it comes to knowing whether we will or will not enter the kingdom of heaven, for Jesus himself said, “Not everyone who keeps saying to me,  “Lord, Lord” will get into the kingdom from heaven, but only the person who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven.”  Mt 7:21

You will meet people all the time who claim to “know God” or to be a Christian, many whose lives don’t display any different qualities or standards morally or spiritually that would distinguish one from another.

To accurately understand our relationship to God we must look to the word that comes from God Himself.

The teaching of Paul in the book of Corinthians is consistent with that of Jesus, and he makes it clearly understood that not all people will enter the kingdom. He says in 1 Cor 6:9 “Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? “

“Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor abusers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you. But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the

name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. “

So then, while it is clear that not all will enter the kingdom, entrance is not denied based

exclusively on what we’ve done in the past since Paul says that many of those in the Corinthian

church were once defined by the disqualifying descriptors. But the amazing truth is that even

though a person might have been guilty of such crimes against God and themselves, God who is

rich in mercy forgives and cleanses us by the redemption that was purchased by the blood of

His own son, Jesus Christ, who died on our behalf.

“But you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the

name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. “

We are only denied access to the kingdom if we have not been washed and cleansed by the blood of

Christ and if we have continued to practice unrighteousness as the expression of our daily living;

that it is still presently not about what we once were, but who we still are.

Again Paul teaches in Galatians 5:20-21 –

“Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are:

adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, fightings, jealousies,

angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies,  envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling, and things like

these; of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that they who do such things shall not

inherit the kingdom of God.

Here again, Paul is emphasizing defining behavioral practices that if indulged in a

habitual way will prevent one from entering the kingdom of God.

James makes it clear that our faith in God must be accompanied by works, or our faith is really dead.

The Holy Spirit affirms that we are the children of God, enabling us to live according to a different set of ideals, principles and affections that are all rooted in the instruction of the Word of God.

James said that faith without works is dead, so that the only way to identify a faith that is genuine, is to examine the life of the professing believer. There will necessarily be evidence in the conduct and way of living that supports the profession of belief in God.

If there is no substantive change in our behavior or fundamental shift of our paradigm the way we view our life and reality; then upon what basis can we lay claim to biblical salvation, that is defined by a new creation?

The term “new creation” itself suggests that the old has died, and something new has begun. That is the experience of every christian, however different it might look for the individual.

If we truly believe that God is who He says He is, then we know that we are accountable to him for what we do with our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.

The scriptures tell us that all mankind is accountable before God; “all men are without excuse” and “everyone will appear before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for the things they have done in the flesh, whether good, or evil.”

The paradigm shift is that now we understand that we are accountable to God, whereas before we were completely blind to that reality.

For the one who knows to do right and does it not, it is sin. We may say that we have a relationship with God, but that relationship precludes the continued practice of sin.

If we understand that God is everywhere present, then that should affect the way that we relate to sin. To be comfortable sinning in God’s presence represents a denial that He is in fact present, and therefore reveals some level of non-reality exists.

“What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid, how shall those of us who have died with regard to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1

The grace of God doesn’t overlook sin, the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in the present age.

Titus 2:11

So then, whether we will or will not enter the kingdom will be determined by whether we have truly received the wonderful gift of His grace, and if we have it will be evidenced by the lives that we now live.

Every one of us has been alienated from the life of God because of who we are in our sin. That’s where we all begin, but that’s not where we need to stay. Being a Christian is more than mere words; it is who we have become.

We are no longer who or what we once were, and that necessitates actual change; not that we can produce on our own, but what God does in us and for us by the power of His Spirit who now resides in us.

It is the Father’s good pleasure to give to us the kingdom, but we must receive it, and the receiving of it requires that we begin to live lives that are worthy of it.

“Enter by the narrow is the gate, because the gate is wide and the road is spacious that leads to destruction, and many people are entering by it.  How narrow is the gate and how constricted is the road that leads to life, and there are few that find it!  Mt 7:13-14

There is no need for anyone to be deceived on this point since God has made it so clear. We can’t recreate ourselves, that is God’s work. But when we cry out to Him for mercy and He changes us by His power, it will become self-evident by our changed hearts and the trajectory of our lives.

So then, who will enter the kingdom of God?

If you are uncertain at this point, you should cry out to God for mercy until you see a changed life when you look in the mirror. If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you a court of law?

“Not everyone that keeps saying “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom from heaven, but only the one who keeps doing the will of my Father in heaven.”  Mt 7:21

Amen.

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The Sunshine of His Love

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , , on July 8, 2014 by Stephen Hare

This morning I woke with the early 70’s song, “Sunshine of Your Love” by Eric Clapton playing in my head.Really strange since I can’t remember the last time I heard the song. Of course, it was a great song when I was caught up in the “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” scene during my misspent and wayward youth, but the song really doesn’t hold any present value for me musically or in any other respect – nor do I want it playing in my head.

Fortunately, there is a redemptive “note” to this. It has caused me to reflect on what it might mean to be “in the sunshine of His love”, or in the “light of His (God’s) countenance.” As I consider the amazing grace, kindness and favor that was extended to me to draw me to Himself and that has been bestowed upon me, my thoughts are presently silenced, and my heart is full of praise and gratitude for the love of God toward me in Christ.

Further, what does it mean to be the “sunshine of His love”?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

2 Cor 2:14-15 says this, “Now thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” So then, we are “the sunshine of His love”, His “felt” presence in every place.

Prayer:

Lord, please allow me to be so connected with you and in-step with Your Holy Spirit, that I will truly be to You a fragrance of Christ, diffusing the knowledge of Your presence in every place.

Help me to live in the sunshine of Your amazing love forever. Amen.

Declared to be The Son of God With Power

Posted in Devotional Corner on April 20, 2014 by Stephen Hare

Empty Tomb

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,  concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,  and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

Romans 1:1-6a

The Holy Spirit who dwells in us even now continually testifies to the reality of the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and His ongoing presence in our lives.

As I was listening to the message today at church, I began to reflect on all the times and ways over the past 35 years that the Lord has proven Himself to be alive in my experience; whether through answered prayers (immediate, or eventual), through his word either spoken or written, for correction or instruction, by His presence or the perceived absence of it.

It is not what others have witnessed or testified to that has proved to be of greatest impact on my life, but what I have seen, heard and experienced of the Risen One personally that have been irrefutable evidences to me that He is truly alive and lives forevermore.

If you have encountered the living God, then you know exactly what I’m referring to. He speaks to us all and reveals Himself in a myriad of different ways, interacting and communicating to each of us in unique ways that are particular to us. He designed us to hear from and communicate with Him, but sin has introduced an insurmountable barrier…humanly speaking.

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.

Is 59:1-2

The good news is that in His crucifixion, He took upon Himself the iniquities of us all and has removed the wall of partition that separated us from Him, and now “we have access through faith into this grace in which we stand..” Romans 5:2

So then, if what I’ve just described hasn’t been your experience until now, and you’re still a skeptic, I would challenge you to simply examine the claims of Jesus about himself that are detailed in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and consider that throughout history many have risen who have attempted to disprove the veracity of the biblical record of His life, death and resurrection as well as accounts of events from Genesis to Revelation – and no one has ever been able to disprove anything in the bible.

History, archeology, astronomy and scientific study of our physical world only continue to verify the truth of the scriptures.

Please don’t think that I’m   trying to provoke an intellectual debate surrounding the reality of the resurrection. Many brilliant minds have gone to their graves and into eternity cleaving to their skepticism.

Rather, I’m inviting you to consider the claims of the living Christ who declared Himself to be “the Resurrection and the Life” who also  declared “whoever lives and believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

Romans 10:10 says, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

The question for you is not “Is God real?”  That has been proven countless times throughout all of human history, and the bible remains the most purchased and read book in the history of the world. If God’s account of Himself were a hoax, it would have been discounted long, long ago. The question is and remains, “Will you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be?”

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart (that is with all that you are) that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

He is Risen!!

 

An Unshakable Kingdom

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on April 13, 2014 by Stephen Hare

Early yesterday morning as I was preparing for work, I found myself considering this passage from the end of Hebrews 12; “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”

 

I wanted to share it, but had to be at work early, so only was able to share some of my thoughts briefly with my son Josh before heading out the door.

 

I find this passage to be very encouraging for a few reasons;

 

First, the writer is clear about the fact that we are presently receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. When we consider all of the incredible earthquakes, hurricanes, historically adverse weather and other such things, we understand that all the kingdoms on earth can be shaken, and we then also understand and can be sure that the unshakable kingdom we’re receiving is not of this earth.

 

The kingdom we are receiving is God’s kingdom and He is the giver of it, and so we have the assurance that we will receive it – and that He counts us as worthy recipients…royalty. Hard to fathom, considering our beginnings…but therefore all the more glorious. In Jesus’ own words, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

 

In light of this, we are instructed to “have grace”. So, how do we acquire this grace then, what is it, and where do we find it? “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. We must possess it, but it’s nothing that we can produce on our own. It has been made available to us in the person of God’s own Son, and by way of His atoning sacrifice and His resurrection from the dead.

 

Romans 5:2 tells us that “we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand…”. By virtue of our relationship to Jesus, we have been granted access to the grace that enables and empowers us to live in a way that is pleasing to God “acceptably, with reverence and godly fear”, and we therefore have fellowship with Him, which is what this is all about – what He has desired all along.

 

It’s so good to know that He sees the end result. He sees the fruit, when we can see only the seed that He has planted; so in spite of our own human frailty, weakness and failings, we can put our trust in the One who makes all things new and is preparing a place for us in His kingdom.

 

So much to be said about this passage, but so little time. Have to get ready for work again…

 

Hope you find this as encouraging as I do….Have a great day!

 

 

To What Does Your Soul Cling?

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on April 5, 2014 by Stephen Hare

“My Soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” Ps 119:25

“And now why take the road to Egypt to drink the waters of Sior? Or why take the road to Assyria to drink the waters of the river?”

Jer 2:18

Isn’t it so? Our souls cling to the earth and the things of it, but our souls will languish for lack of nourishment if we are drinking from the waters of Egypt.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, but our hope is not in the earth, but in heaven. The things of heaven are tied up in God’s word, and it is His word that raises our souls out of the dust from which we came.

David says, “I will eagerly race the way of Your commandments, for You will enable me to do so.” Ps 119:32

This is for us the very picture of faith. It is absolute trust that if I will act in accordance with what God has set forth in His word – what He has told me to do, He will meet me there and enable me to do whatever it is.

It is Abraham going out into the unknown to embrace the unfamiliar because of God’s word to him.

It is David running to meet Goliath; or the priests carrying the ark into Jordan – before the waters parted

The question must become “Will I act according to what I have heard from Him?”

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.” Ps 119:37

Revival in Gods’ way can be seen as a result of the turning of our affections as well as the catalyst. “I have restrained my feet from every evil way.”

It is the focus of the heart that determines our ability to see the kingdom of God – or not. Heavenly vision therefore, requires heavenly affections; and this is where faith and obedience mix.

Will we simply act in faith on what we have heard. We get to choose what we give our attention to, and in the ongoing sense, our affections are determined by the things we give our attention to, and that is what we will ultimately be conformed to; what we will become.

So many years later, and still I am not entirely captured by His brightness. It can’t be about the memory or “shadows” of an event, but the essence and reality of it which is eternal, and not passing.

Praying today the power of the Everlasting One will turn the focus of my affections heavenward, and in the turning, there I will find Him.

Nowhere do the scriptures present the crucified life as optional, but rather, as prerequisite to the risen life that is hidden with Christ in God.

By His grace and power today, we can resist the pull of the dust to which we too readily cling, and begin afresh with new affections for Him and the things of His kingdom.

May the Lord today direct our gaze to the wonders of Himself; that we would marvel and stand in awe of His transcendent life that He stooped so low to offer to us in its every dimension That He will enable not only our minds, but our hearts to “see” and reach again for the risen life that He has made available to us.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2

To Whom Are We Obliged?

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , , on March 4, 2014 by Stephen Hare

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”  Romans 8: 12-13

This passage makes it clear that we don’t owe our flesh anything. 

We are not under any obligation to perform the deeds that were characteristic of our way of life before we came into relationship with God; to conform ourselves to the former passions that once ruled our minds and our bodies – as when we were entirely ignorant of God and His ways.

“As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as the one who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written; “Be holy, for I am Holy.” 1st Peter 1: 14-16

The NIV has it this way;    As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.

As Paul said in so many ways throughout his letters, (and specifically in Romans 8)once we have once we have received the Spirit, we are no longer obligated to the flesh to live according to its demands.

However, once we have received the Holy Spirit, we do have an obligation to God to live according to the Spirit that He has given us. In other words, if we have received grace from God to walk in obedience, then we have an obligation to walk in obedience according to the grace that we have received from Him.

Conversely, if we have receive nothing from God, then we are obliged to live according to the flesh, and the result will be spiritual (and physical) death; and not necessarily in that order.

Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Actual mortification (the sanctification by death to the flesh that works its way into our reality experientially, and without which no one will see the Lord) requires us to invite Jesus ( the Holy Spirit) into all of our thought processes continually; not just once in a while, but always at all times “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (who was obedient to the point of death) and bringing all things that some would consider hidden, to the light, where “all things are laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”

Before God, nothing created is hidden, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Hebrews 4:3 (CJB)

Being obligated to the flesh is a losing proposition, and leads only to death. But being obligated to God because of the grace He has provided is a marvelous gift that leads to life everlasting.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the wisdom to act according to the grace you have so lavishly supplied in the person of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to whom belongs all glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen

Be At Peace

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on February 23, 2014 by Stephen Hare

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; Thereby good will come to you. Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; You will remove iniquity far from your tents. Then you will lay your gold in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks. Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver; For then you will have your delight in the Almighty, and lift u…p your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; So light will shine on your ways. When they cast you down, and you say, “Exaltation will come!” Then He will save the humble person. He will even deliver one who is not innocent; Yes, he will be delivered by the purity of your hands.” Job 22:21-30

For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: but you would not. Is 30:15

This passage from Job should inspire hope and confidence in the finished work of God’s redemption.  We are told first to acquaint ourselves with Him and the result will be peace. So how do we find Him who is unseen? Where do we go? We go to the scriptures where we find the record of God, given by His mouth to holy men of His choosing to reveal His nature, character and purpose for all mankind in time and eternity.

John 5:39 says, “…you search the scriptures thinking that in them you will have life, but these are they that testify of Me.”

Verse 22 tells us to receive instruction from His mouth. We are familiar with the passage that says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

This passage shows us what returning to the Lord looks like and what the result will be.

“Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”  Isaiah 55:7

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