Reaching Forward

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 2:7-14

The new year is upon us, what can we learn from this past year that will help us move forward into the year coming in the most excellent way? We know Jesus Christ has a perfect will and plan for all of our lives, but how do I go about  discovering what it is? Let’s see if we can learn some spiritual truth to these questions from Paul’s writing his epistle to the believer’s in Philippi. The Greek word for “gain” (v.7) is an accounting term that means “profit.” The Greek word for “loss” also is an accounting term used to describe a business loss. Paul used language of business to describe the spiritual transaction that occurred when Christ redeemed him. All of his Jewish religious credentials that he thought were profit to him, were actually worthless and damning towards him. The first lesson we need to remember is that my religious background, no matter how significant does not automatically make me a Christian. Some people don’t realize yet, that God wants us to have a personal relationship with Him that comes through our faith and trust in the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ. We may go through the traditions of being baptized as an infant and confirmed while growing up, all of family and church introductions are an important part of a religious life, but none of these actions makes us a Christian. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14). Jesus spoke this parable to show us that whoever is trying to live by their own righteousness is not truly justified. No, those who are truly justified before God are those who are reckoned righteous before God by means of an imputed righteousness.

So as we step into the new year, make sure that your not just “playing church,” to enjoy the best God would have for you, is to have that authentic relationship by being born again, and the Spirit of God washing away and cleansing us from all sin. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7). Salvation has never been by works, but rather a gift from God. So we see that Paul was describing all of the profitable benefits that accrued to him, when he finally let go of his past achievements of obtaining a righteousness of the law, apart from the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Nothing in yours or my life should ever come close to being more important to us, than our relationship to God through Jesus Christ. As we begin a new year let us not let anything hold us back from wanting to know our Lord through the teaching and studying of His Word. Hold your church you attend accountable to Biblical truth that is accurate, rightly divided, and without hypocrisy. Our nations youth is suffering tremendous loss of personal accountability and integrity before God, because parents are not leading by example. The greatest truth we can ever learn, or teach to anyone, is our ever present need to be forgiven our sins and trespasses against God, and towards our fellow man.  That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (v.10)—To “know” Christ is not simply to have intellectual knowledge about Him; Paul used the Greek verb that means to know “experientially” or “personally,” Jesus said to His disciples: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27) It is equivalent to a shared life with Christ: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). When a person puts their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she spiritually participates with the Lord in His crucifixion and in His victory over sin and death by the power of His resurrection.

Beloved friend, As we move ahead into this new year, remember that none of us has arrived in that state of sinless perfection. The working of the Holy Spirit of God inside every believer is to conform us everyday into the likeness of Christ. It is called our sanctification. While we work, while we sleep, God is always at work in us. Paul uses the analogy of a runner in a race to describe the Christian’s spiritual growth. The believer has not reached their goal of Christlikeness, but like everyone who runs a race, we must continue and persevere through all of life’s triumph’s, trials, and temptations that is trying to get us to give up! But the best news is that God doesn’t give up on us: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6), one of the greatest promises of all Scripture, When God begins a work of salvation in a person, He finishes and perfects that work. Thus your life, and my life are all under construction. We are on our way to be in that same state of Christlikeness and one day, we will see Him face to face. Forgetting those things which are behind— The believer in Christ, must refuse to rely upon past virtuous deeds and achievements in ministry or to dwell on sins and failures of our past. Neither of these is helpful, to be distracted by your past debilitates one’s efforts in the present. Satan’s strongholds as the accuser of the brethren, is to get us feeling all of the guilt and shame of our past failures and sins, Christ has forgiven us of all such deeds. But also, Satan would love to have us worry over our future and what lies ahead. These two places can be combatted daily when we present ourselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2). Live in the victory of forgiveness, and let your gentleness be made known to all man, God is for you. If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32) Praise the Lord! and Happy New Year!

May the Lord bless your walk thru out the New Year!


The Boy Jesus

His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in their company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.  Luke 2:41-52

Jesus as a boy at the age of 12 could not be perceived as already having the use of His Deity power by performing miracles, and supernatural exploits. But rather, His use of His quest for learning and desiring more and more knowledge from what resources that were around Him. During the time of Passover, the pilgrimage of thousands came into Jerusalem for the yearly feast. In our passage we see the only biblical insight into what Jesus was like as a boy. A typical Jewish boy, in a typical Jewish family. So as we have read that Jesus lingers behind, and was not known by His earthly parents, Joseph, and His mother. Note that Joseph is named, but Mary is known as His mother. This is the last mention of Joseph, other than the list of names in the genealogy of Christ through Mary (Luke 3:23). His lingering was neither mischievous nor disobedient, but of an awareness on His part that drew Him into the temple to see for Himself what these teachers of the Law knew about God. So through a days journey in the midst of a very large traveling party of friends and relatives returning to Nazareth, it’s not that unlikely that it was an honest mistake for parents to think that their children were all within this large group being watched by the other parent, being separated by distances in travel.

Now the Bible has many instances in the New Testament, where Jesus declares that obedience to God, and His commandments are the actions of those who love God the Father. Jesus, at the age of 12, was utterly respectful, taking the role of student, eager to learn what was being taught in the synagogue. Even at that age, He clearly distinguishes Himself through His response and questions He gave in return. These all clearly indicated His wisdom that put His earthly teachers in amazement. Here is an observation, Jesus, during His ministry gave us an insight on those who are raising children: Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16). Most if not all of these children were too young to exercise personal faith and trust in Christ. Jesus’ words imply that God graciously extends salvation to those too young or perhaps due to a mentally impaired person who could not come alone to Him. I find great comfort knowing that God cares more for our children then perhaps we do ourselves. For our window of time for us to influence our children for God while they’re are at that age of  being completely dependent, is not that long of a time. It is comforting to know that Jesus is that concerned for their eternal being as well as their earthly well being.

” Why have You done this to us?” Mary’s words contain a tone of exasperation and even rebuke, a very understandable response for any mother under such circumstances, but in this case, misplaced. Jesus was not hiding from anyone, nor was He defying their authority, in fact, He did what we would want any of our lost children to do, go to a public place in the presence of trusted officials where there would be safety, until His parents had found Him. While mentioning Joseph who was legally His father, Jesus makes a statement the first of many He would eventually make, that brings genuine amazement that they would not understand at first, Jesus here, even at the young age of 12 years old, has begun to realize what His true identity and mission in His earthly life: “I must be about My Father’s business.” His reply was not insolent but reveals a clear consciousness and awareness that His purpose for being here was already taking shape. And this I also find to be of comfort, His relationship with His heavenly Father did not override or nullify His duty to His earthly parents. His obedience to the fifth commandment “Honor your father and mother” was an essential part of the perfect legal obedience He rendered on our behalf and to fulfill all righteous requirements.

Beloved friend, Jesus increased—Jesus, did not cease being God or divest Himself of divine attributes in order to became man. Rather, He took on a human nature an addition, not a subtraction, and submitted the use of His divine attributes to the will of the Father (Philippians 2:5-8). So through out the course of His life on earth, there would be times when His omniscience was on display (Matthew 17:2), and other times when it was veiled by His humanity in accordance to the Father’s will (Mark 13:32). If you are a Christian today, what can we learn from today’s passage? We indeed need to celebrate the angels proclamation that indeed, Christ the Savior was born. But look at how our world has turned it all into superficial and artificial celebratory influences of expense and material gifts, and with out the real joy and peace that it was meant to bring us! The truly wise know that it is time to slowdown from all of the hustle this season can cause, and know that true satisfaction and fulfillment can only come from spiritual things. We must seek to have a proper balance between material and spiritual aspects of life, which is only possible when Christ is at the center of your life. Parents wanting their children to sit with Santa Claus, should even more want their children to sit with Jesus as well in worship and song. The Lord cares about every aspect of our lives, when were young, or teenage, young adults, middle aged, or in the senior years of life. God cares so much for everyone’s need of knowing Him, and His great love for us. These spiritual matters are discovered when we take on Jesus examples for growth and development through the reading and studying of His Word. Utilizing His strength and power to obey His Word. When you taste and see His life is good, your life will be rich and fruitful, and witnessing to our world the joy of our salvation.

May the Lord bless your walk with Him!

The Love of God Poured Out

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:5

God’s love for us has been lavishly poured out to the point of overflowing within our hearts. What does this mean? For me, anyway it has significant meaning. When circumstances arise where there is great sadness, the loss of a loved one for example, it is God’s love for me, that I have found so trustworthy. Let me explain. My last post was on November 20th, I was preparing for the next one around the 25th 0r 26th of November with Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, I thought this was a good time to write about our praise and giving of thanks to the Lord. My mother, who was diagnosed with liver disease earlier this year, had taken a turn for worse, so exactly a week before Thanksgiving, we had to put her in a convalescent care facility, where she was in need of more urgent 24 hour care. My step-father asked if I could be there to help her understand that he cannot do this by himself anymore. A husband’s toughest proclamation in my estimation is his confession to his wife, that after more than 42 years, he can’t care for her anymore in the way she needed. His exact words were, “Remember how we used to walk together? We can’t do that anymore.” I witnessed a husband’s love for his wife.

On my way home from work, I work 24 hour shifts being a firefighter, I received a phone call, My mom had passed away at 6:05am on November 26th two days before Thanksgiving. I could remember how insignificant and how unimportant everything I had to do that day felt compared to this. My mother who had taught me so much about love, was gone. My deepest solace was knowing where she was now. In the presence of Christ. Over all the recent past visits earlier this year, my pressing need became more and more aware to me, of how I made God’s love for her more apparent. By reading the Scriptures to her, by talking about heaven, about what it would be like to be in the presence of God for all eternity became frequent conversations between her and I. Yes, her memory being effected by her dreaded liver disease, made it even more simplified. “Jesus loves you mom!” Her ways of showing love to her family and to everyone who knew her became the repeated theme of all those who came forward to eulogize her life’s impact on their own lives. The Lord begins in someone’s life a relationship with them who often then pours that same love and Christ-like character into another life. I know that is what being a parent is all about, but as I spoke at my mom’s memorial service, it dawned on me, that what I had seen firsthand, and experienced all through my childhood and into adulthood, that not everyone had the same experience with their own parent. I remember saying how easily I could take all of what I experienced for granted, as if everyone received the same type of love in their own lives.

Paul told Timothy, When I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:5-7). The significance of a godly mother is what Paul was referring to when he reminded Timothy, who at such a young age had received Christ, and was now being groomed for ministry through his relationship to Paul. It begins somewhere, and usually it comes from a godly home. God has implanted within our hearts evidence that we belong to Him in that we love the One who first loved us: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested towards us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11). God’s sending His Son gives Christians not only salvation privilege, but obligation to follow this pattern of sacrificial love. Christian love must be self-sacrificing like God’s love. And often seen in a mother’s love.

Beloved friend, The love from parents can shape the life of your children in such a significant way. My father went to be with the Lord on Christmas day in 2010. It is not how we start out in this life that’s important, but  how we finish. Both of my parents finished well, the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1-2). My mother’s passing will also have the same impact on my life, where as I have been given such a privilege of sharing the Love of Christ with my own family first, but also with others as well. I thank God for my heritage and for the legacy my parents have left me to further on what God hath started: being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6) our reward for following Christ still awaits us, but as we have been given godly examples to follow, so let us remain steadfast for those who will follow us and let them see the love of Christ in us.

May the Lord bless your walk with Him !

Dedicated to the memory of  Christine M. Sanchez : 7/24/35 — 11/26/13