ASSURANCE OF VICTORY

ASSURANCE OF VICTORY

"No temptation (test) has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able but with the temptation (test) will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." 1Corinthians 10:13

You and I can win every day, but to do so, we must begin by agreeing with God’s definition of what victory as a Christian looks like.

First what it doesn’t look like. Winning does not mean having no troubles, struggles, or issues to deal with. Jesus said the wind and the waves will crash against every life (Matthew 7:24-27) and promised His disciples that they would have troubles in this world. (John 16:33) He even warned us ahead of time to not be offended by this. (John 16:1-2)

So what is victory, and how can I walk every day with assurance? Instead of delivering us from life’s troubles, God promises to walk with us through them. The same Greek word, "peirasmos," is translated temptation and test. Which is right? The same set of circumstances can easily be described as both a temptation and a test – Satan tempts to bring us down; God allows tests to purify and strengthen us. God won’t always prevent a temptation, but in His faithfulness He will limit them, so that we can walk through our troubles with Him.

Tests invite us to draw near, so we will know the way He has provided for our escape even though "escape" may mean strength to endure through instead of a deliverance from.

In school we need to pass tests to advance to the next grade and I think it’s the same in the kingdom. God’s beloved children don’t get an identity of failure when they give into temptation but will just keep retaking the same test until we pass it. We decide how long the process lasts. (Three weeks could end up being 40 years!)

He ultimately wants to build in each of us an assurance of victory that is able to say: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)

Have a great week,

Tom

Assurance of Forgiveness

Assurance of Forgiveness

"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1John 1:9

When we come to Jesus in simple faith and trust Him for our salvation we become "righteous," or right with God. The gospel isn’t about what I can do for God, but about what God did for me on the cross. "He who knew no sin (Jesus), became sin, in order that that we (I) might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2Corinthians 5:21)

Yet as Christians we are still broken in many ways and that leads to unplanned sins. God’s Presence and power are in us and as we walk with Him He is gradually healing us, but it is a process and not an immediate result. Until we’re completely healed (which actually won’t be until heaven!), we’re going to need many new beginnings. God knew this, so He promises to forgive us along the way.

His forgiveness is just in His eyes because Jesus already died for those sins. He doesn’t arbitrarily forgive sins just because He loves us; He forgives us when we’re in Christ because the full punishment for sin has already been paid. Because of Jesus, the only sin that can’t be forgiven is the one we are unwilling to confess. (See John 9:41)

Be honest and be humble. Keep short accounts with God and know that He is gradually healing you on the inside, so you won’t have to confess the same things over and over forever. As we’re healed in one area, however, He will start shining His light on another. All we have to do is keep walking in the light (John 1:7) which is another way of saying we simply need to walk with God.

Isn’t Jesus wonderful?

Have a great week,

Tom

Assurance of Guidance

ASSURANCE OF GUIDANCE

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

To be assured that God’s leading me, I must choose to do one thing and choose not to do something else.

I must trust God with all my heart. There is no “plan B”; I must be “all in” with God. The most famous poker game today is called “Texas Hold ’em.” Anyone at any time can go “all in” which forces everyone else to decide if their present hand is worth risking the entire game on.

To be assured of God’s guidance, we must be “all in” in every circumstance we face. Our lives are His to guide so we acknowledge Him in all our ways, not just in our religious ways. He is central in our work, our fun, our marriages, our families, our friendships, our vacations, and in our service.

Someone said guidance can be broken down this way: The “G” stands for God; the “ui” stand for you and I, and the “dance” stands for dance. You and I are to live dancing with God and letting Him lead.

But to walk in assurance, we must listen to the warning in the text above: “Do not lean on your own understanding.” Some have misinterpreted faith by declaring that God doesn’t want us to use our minds, but that’s false. God gave us minds and wants us to love Him with all our minds. Faith does not contradict our minds but it will transcend them, because God is bigger than our minds can conceive. He calls us beyond what makes “sense” to us.

Peter can’t walk on water, but Jesus calls him out of the boat – will he trust God or his own common sense? David can’t kill Goliath and shouldn’t even face him without Saul’s armor, but God is speaking something else – which voice is true? The people of God can’t take the promised land because they’re outmatched physically and the cities are well fortified, but God’s telling them to advance anyway – which should they do?

Most people in America, even religious people, are leading their lives by common sense. Living in the “real world” has come to mean making decisions without the possibility of supernatural help. Yet to be assured of God’s guidance, we should not be surprised if He calls us to step out beyond what is comfortable for us.
Dance with God. Don’t tell Him where it’s reasonable and comfortable for you to go – enjoy His leadership and follow!

Have a great week,

Tom

THE SEVENTIETH “SEVEN”

THE SEVENTIETH "SEVEN"

"He (a coming prince) will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven,’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." Daniel 9:27

After the Messiah is put to death, Gabriel says "The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary and its end will come like a flood." (Daniel 9:26) The next verse, quoted above, is a description of this event that will happen during the seventieth"’seven." (Last week was on the first 69 sevens)

Jesus said that this "abomination of desolation," spoken by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15) would be fulfilled in the generation that He lived in. "Truly I say to you; this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." (Mark 13:30)

Many commentators don’t believe the seventieth "seven" occurred in Jesus’ generation so they put it off until the generation before the Lord’s return. They treat the fall of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of the events that will happen again before the coming of the Lord which is why so many are certain the Jewish temple has to be rebuilt. (I used to be one of these people so I’m not throwing stones!)

But all this is conjecture and not in the text. In Mark’s gospel only one question is asked and it’s about the destruction of the temple (not about His coming or about the end times) and the sign they should look for: "the abomination of desolation." (Mark 13:14)

So what happened in that generation? In 66 AD the Jews rebelled against Rome, so Nero sent his general Vespasian to subdue them using any means. After destroying cities in Galilee many of the Galilean Jews made a treaty with him guaranteeing their protection (Josephus, The Jewish War, Preface 8), but most of the Jews continued in their rebellion.

In 69 AD Vespasian became emperor but continued the war on the Jews through his son, Titus. In April of 70 AD, during Passover, Titus laid a siege around Jerusalem. By August the Jewish army had retreated to inside the temple walls, so Titus burned the temple. Every stone was turned over to get all the gold that had melted in the fire. (Mark 13:2)

Titus and the Romans then sacrificed to the Roman ensign as was their custom after winning a battle (Jewish Wars 6:6:1, Josephus). The ensign was a flag with an eagle on it and an image of the Divine Caesar (Vespasian) underneath. To sacrifice to another god in the temple was an abomination to the Jews.

But Vespasian’s war did not end here. Titus chased the Jews for another three and a half years until he laid another siege on the stronghold of Masada. When he broke through about 1,000 Jews had already committed suicide and that brought an end to the war in 73 AD.

Now let’s look at the fulfillment of Daniel’s seventieth "seven" in light of this history: "And he (Vespasian) will make a firm covenant with many (Galilean Jews) for one ‘seven.’ (The war went from 66-73 AD) In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. (The temple was destroyed at the three and a half year mark, so sacrifices could no longer be made.) And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation (the Roman ensign was sacrificed to where the temple had been), until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."

Daniel’s seventieth "seven" was fulfilled in the first century, just like Jesus said it would be.

Have a great week,

Tom

THE FIRST SIXTY-NINE SEVENS

THE FIRST SIXTY-NINE SEVENS

"Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city…Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’…After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing." Daniel 9:24-26

One of the most remarkable prophecies of the Old Testament is found in Daniel 9:24-27. The seventy years of captivity in Babylon are finished, so Daniel is praying for the deliverance from their exile when the angel Gabriel appears to him and gives the message above.

After telling about the first 69 sevens, he describes the 70th seven but makes it clear that there will be a gap – Messiah will be "put to death and have nothing" after the 69 sevens but before the 70th seven. The seven sevens and the sixty-two sevens are consecutive and are only split up so Daniel will know how long it will take to restore and rebuild the Jerusalem – 49 years (seven sevens). The 62 sevens or 434 years immediately follow the 49 after which Messiah will be put to death and have nothing. Forty-nine and 434 equals 483 years – not solar years which we use today, but the 360 day lunar years they used then.

We find the decree Gabriel references in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the Persian king Artaxerxes’ cupbearer and he is sad because "the city, the place of my father’s tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire." (2:3) So in Artaxerxes 20th year, in the month of Nisan (April), a decree is made to rebuild the city. (2:1-9)

Artaxerxes began his reign in 465 BC (Encyclopedia Britannica), so his 20th year would be 445 BC according to our calendar (444 BC if you use accessional dating to count his reign). To convert from lunar to solar we begin by figuring out how many days there are in 483 lunar years: 483 times 360 equals 173,880 days. Then we divide 173,880 by 365.242 (the days in a solar year) to determine the number of solar years so we can get a date that corresponds to our dates in history – it comes to 476 solar years. So when we start the prophetic clock in 445 BC and begin with the first 445 years we come to 1 AD because there is no year "0". (The year after 1 BC is 1 AD) That leaves 31 (476 minus 445 equals 31) years which when added to 1 AD brings us to 32 AD. The Messiah would die after the 69 sevens – the time most scholars give for Jesus’ death is Passover of 33 AD.

Amazing!

Have a great week,

Tom

Weekly Devotional by Pastor Dave

When I was young, we would ride our bicycles everywhere.

One day I got pulled over for going through a stop sign. I had to go to "bicycle court" to have a mini trial. I was convicted of my first crime! In order to get out of the penalty, I needed to write 100 words on a paper describing my crime, why it was wrong, and how I would not repeat it.

My dad took me to bicycle court, which was was above the police station in our town. To my surprise, the courthouse was filled with people who were convicted of various crimes. Although I felt some camaraderie in my fellow law violators, I could not wait to get out of that place.

"Why would the police pull over a bicycle? Don’t they have anything better to do?
I’m just a kid; what possible danger could I cause on a bike?"

That police officer knew that someday I would be driving a car, perhaps through that same intersection. He wanted me to know early on in my journey the importance of stopping at stop signs, and the risks involved if I chose not to.

One day as Jesus was walking along the beach, he approached two fisherman, and one of them was named Simon. Fishing was their life. Not like the t-shirts that some of us in Wisconsin wear that say "fishing is life." Fishing was their livelihood. They earned their living by catching fish and selling fish. Fish mattered to them. A lot. Fish provided their wages, and for many, fish gave men their identity. Now it seems like Simon had heard about Jesus, but I don’t believe he had ever met him before now. Jesus looked at them and said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

"Who is this guy, a newcomer to the beach, somebody walking into our break room, barging into our business, telling us what to do? I don’t think so."

That’s what I might have said. But what happens next? Simon lets down his fishing net, gets out of the boat, and begins to follow Jesus. Really? What was it about the presence of Jesus that made him so attractive to these committed, blue-collar, hard-working, rough-talking fishermen?

Astounding.

I find it additionally intriguing that not only did Jesus ask them to follow him, but he TOLD them to follow him. It’s like he knew what was best for them, and they trusted him. And not only did he tell them to drop their nets and follow him, he spoke into their FUTURE and told them that he had plans for them if they would indeed follow him. He wanted to change their life. He wanted to give them new purpose, a bigger purpose, a divine purpose.

The immediate response of Simon was typical of his inclination to react passionately to just about any situation he found himself in. He would see a better way and he jumped at it. He noticed something wrong and he called it out. If something got in his way, he would do anything in his power in that moment to remove the obstacle. Simon Peter was a passionate man and his life, as he knew it, was about to change forever.

Now back to that police officer who pulled me over.

He saw PAST my crime and into my future. He saw the future of these roads that would be driven on by me in a car that I would eventually own. His responsibility was to ensure that all drivers, and yes even bicycle riders, were prepared for life on the road, as it would not only affect their safety, but would impact the safety and well-being of others.

I’ll tell you what. To this day, when I drive, I come to a complete stop at stop signs. I mean, for real. My vehicle comes to a complete stop, rocks back, and then I am able to proceed with my turn or whatever. I don’t even realize that I do this until I’ve had people nearly run in to me from behind, assuming that I would just roll through the stop sign. Occasionally I will have someone in my passenger seat comment, "Well THAT was a complete stop, now wasn’t it?"

That police officer saw things that were not even on my radar. He saw into my future and the potential lives of those who might be on the same road as "future me". He was doing his job and fulfilling his responsibility when he called me out. When he pulled me over to inform me of my dangerous ways, he probably had no idea how this single encounter would alter the trajectory of my course, and my future driving habits!

Similarly, Jesus saw something in Simon the fisherman that wasn’t anywhere on his radar. Jesus saw Simon Peter’s future, and the lives of those whom Peter would influence. That day on that beach, He called out Simon and spoke into his destiny. Jesus changed his name to Peter and he changed his life for the better.

Jesus was communicating to Simon Peter: Not only do I want to save your soul from hell, but I want to change the world for good . . . And I want to use YOU to do this!

God’s not waiting for some "future version" of us to come to him once we get all cleaned up. He invites us to come as we are and let HIM develop our lives into the destiny that he sees. Our mistakes don’t surprise him, and our sin doesn’t overwhelm him. God has big plans and he wants to partner with us to accomplish them.

This is one adventure I do not want to miss out on.

Have a blessed day,

Dave

HAVING GODLY SEX

HAVING GODLY SEX

"Drink water from your own well – share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. Let your fountain be blessed. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be exhilarated by her love." Proverbs 5:15-18

As a young husband filled with sexual desire I felt like my sexuality was in opposition to my relationship with God. I often thought that if I was neutered I would be able to serve God better.

Then one day I read Proverbs 5:18 and my thinking began to change. Not only did God know I had a fountain, He wanted it to be blessed. This passage is about exciting, passionate sex with no reference to having children. I worshipped Him that day. God is so good He even wants me to have an exhilarating sex life!

How do we have godly sex? First we have to wash our minds of all the ways the enemy has perverted sex and damaged the human race through its abuse. For many "godly sex" is an oxymoron. God allows sex because He wants us to procreate but He probably looks the other way when we’re engaged in it because it’s beneath Him.

Wrong! God created sexuality and sex, just like He created taste buds. He wanted us to look forward to meals and have our hearts filled with thanksgiving at the pleasure of eating when we are hungry. He is the Author of pleasure.

He created sexuality and sex because He wanted there to be regular celebrations of the intimacy we have in marriage. Intimacy comes by the lifelong commitment of "leaving father and mother" to be joined to one another. It’s not easy for two broken, sinful people to be committed for a lifetime to love one another, so God placed a hidden pleasure in the union. Godly sex strengthens the union and makes faithfulness more than our duty, He wants it to be our delight.

The fact that sexual abuse and unfaithfulness has been used by the enemy to destroy so many lives should give us an indication of its power. Dynamite can destroy a building or make a way to build a road through a mountain. Because it’s powerful, it’s dangerous.

Sex and sexuality are the same way. God knows about our culture and about how central our sexuality is to our identity so it’s all the more pleasing to Him when we exercise self-control. Give Him your sexuality. Ask for His forgiveness for any way that you have sinned sexually, and receive a new beginning. Thank Him for His goodness, and His desire for you to be blessed even in this area of your life, and be careful with your dynamite!

Have a great week,

Tom