Only Jesus Sanctifies

Lesson 3 – Only Jesus Sanctifies

“He must increase, but I must decrease”
John 3:30

“In life you’re either moving forward or backwards, towards something or away from it, growing stronger or becoming weaker.”
– Michael Irwin

John chapter three might be the most famous passage in the not only the New Testament but the entire Bible. It begins with a conversation Jesus has in the middle of the night with a very educated and wealthy ruler named Nicodemus.

The second part closes with a conversation between John the Baptist and some of his disciples as he lays to rest their fears that Jesus is overtaking his ministry and encourages them to follow Jesus, not himself.

This chapter of John opens the Christians eyes to the meaning of the word “sanctification”. Sanctification means “to set a person or a thing apart for the use intended by its designer.” In a spiritual sense things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends; or practically a human being is sanctified when he or she lives according to God’s design or purpose.

You and I are either living or dying, we’re either believing or we’re perishing, we’re increasing or we’re decreasing. There is no standing still.

 

 

It All Begins at Birth (John 3:1-21)

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”
John 3:3

John 3 opens up revealing the beautiful picture of salvation is the first step of sanctification.

Nicodemus, a religious ruler of the day, most likely sent to Jesus by the Sanhedrin (religious government body) to enquire about his recent “cleansing” of the temple and to learn more about his ministry.

  • Vs 1-7 – Nicodemus must be made aware of who he is; a member of the race of fallen man and with it comes the curse of sin, death, and hell. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:22)
  • Vs 9-15 – Nicodemus asks the most pivotal question ever human being must ask “How can this be?” Jesus never leaves us without an answer, he responds in a way Nicodemus can understand from the Numbers 21:9 (vs 14,15) The whole world is dying from a terrible curse, the only cure for the curse of sin will be Jesus Christ perfect sacrifice on the cross for the whole world.
  • Vs 16 – 22 – The verse that is the climax of the Bible, everything before it has led up to and foretold of it, and everything following will be an outcome of its eternal promise. It promises the believer
  • We are loved by God the Father (vs.16)
  • We are saved by God the Son (vs. 16)
  • We have access to His gift of salvation (vs. 17)
  • We are not nor ever will be condemned because “God so loved, He gave” (vs.18)
  • We can now live out the truth and walk in the light of God (vs. 21)

It promises the unbeliever

  • They will perish (destruction) (vs.15,16)
  • They are condemned (under judgement) (vs. 17,18)
  • They walk in the darkness of their evil deeds (vs 19,20)

Nicodemus had a choice to make, and that choice was repentance. Nicodemus along with the rest of the Pharisees would have seen no use for John’s baptism of repentance. Jesus tells Nicodemus not only does he and the whole world need to repent, they must also be “born of the Spirit.” The only way that would be possible would be through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

The first step to being set apart for God’s use is to agree with God that you are broken and not fit for His use. Now you can begin to take the next step and allow God to make you a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17)

Confessing your sin and receiving Christ as Savior is the “baby step” of the Christian life.

Grow Up (John 3:22-36)

“I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.”
John 3:28

John reminded his followers of something very important, he was not the Christ. Each of us needs to remind ourselves every day that we are no longer the Lord of our lives (and praise God for it).

John’s disciples were upset that Jesus was also baptizing and that men were coming to him rather than John (vs. 26)

John the Baptist response shows great maturity and spiritual growth. Are these evident in your Christian life?

  • 27 – Realize you have nothing of merit to offer, and every good gift, talent, comes from heaven.
  • 28 – Rejoice every time God’s name is glorified whether we receive credit or not. No one is offended at a wedding that the bride and bridegroom receive all the attention and they do not, instead they rejoice with them.
  • 29 – Decrease in your self-importance. A dead man cannot be offended (Gal 2:20) Crucify your pride, ambition, ego, hurt feelings, bitterness, malice, at the cross of Jesus. Let him be lifted up in your life. This is where the true meaning of (John 1:16) begins to take place. The fullness of Christ can only be known as you put your selfishness to death. His grace can only be experienced as you put away your worldly ambitions.
  • 30 – 34 – Speak words of life, that God is true. Tell others of the testimony you have received. Do you speak words of life in your home? In your relationships? In your workplace? In the church? “For whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God.” (Vs.34)
  • 35 – Love Jesus. Do you love Jesus? Do you desire to be with him by singing praise, reading and studying his word, or speaking to him in prayer?
  • 36 – Believe the Son. Belief begins at salvation, but it does not end there. Do you believe on the Son today to give you what you need to be victorious in the Christian life? Do you believe that he is able to bring you victory tomorrow? Will you live out your life in the belief that one day you will experience the fullness of the promise “everlasting life” and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”?

 

You can never make yourself better. Only Jesus can do that. Repent. Obey. Repeat.

 

“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:14

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Only Jesus Satisfies

Lesson 2 – Only Jesus Satisfies

“This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.”
John 2:11

Every person that has ever walked the earth has experienced an appetite. Defined as “a strong desire or liking for something”, this is a craving, longing, yearning, hankering, hunger, thirst, or passion for something or someone.

The Gospel Record of John brings us deeper and deeper into understanding the opening words of chapter one and verse sixteen, “of his fullness (Jesus) have all we received, and grace for grace.” At salvation each of us have tasted his grace, and as we continue through the gospel the apostle John sheds light on the fact that our natural earthly appetites for relationships, good times and celebration, religious activity, and the praise of people will never satisfy.

Only Jesus satisfies.

Only Jesus Can Make Your Marriage Satisfy (vs 1,2)

“And both Jesus was called, and his disciples to the marriage”
John 1:2

God has created humanity with a natural desire for relationships. He created man, and woman for each other. (Genesis 2:22)

Pew research study found that 44% of teenagers consider themselves to be in a romantic or dating relationship. The desire for romantic relationships begins at a young age. This is a natural appetite that God has placed in his creation, however it can quickly spiral out of control.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics tells us that every 20 minutes people are victims of domestic violence. The American Psychological association reports more than 45% of marriages end in divorce. Though there are many factors that bring these causes about, at its core remains the relationship no longer satisfies.

So John chapter two begins with this admonition, invite Jesus into your marriage. It implies that just as you wouldn’t invite a complete stranger to your wedding, rather a trusted friend or family member, so should you know Jesus just the same before entering into a marriage relationship. Invite him into your

  • Family devotional life
  • Your family prayer life
  • Your daily conversation

Only Jesus can bring satisfaction to your marriage, it’s all a picture of him anyways. (Eph 5:21-31)

Only Jesus Can Make Your Celebrations Satisfy (vs  4-11)

“but thou hast kept the good wine until now.”
John 2:10

The word used here is oinos the only word used for wine in the New Testament. In the symbolism of the New Testament wine speaks of joy and exuberance. This is where the real meaning of the passage takes light.

We all desire for a good time, unfortunately the appetite for good times can spiral out of control. These desires can cause us to make terrible life altering decisions. Each of us has the beast of lust in us (1 John 2:16) that craves more and more of what this world has to offer. Alcoholism, substance abuse, gambling, prostitution, pornography are all results of insatiable cravings for more “good times.” Look at John 2:4-11 and see what Jesus can do with these desires.

  • 3 – They partygoers ran out of wine. What this world has to offer will always run out. (Prov 14:2)
  • 6 – Jesus had the servants use dirty water pots. No matter how many times the partygoers washed, the water in these pots would never keep them clean. (John 4:14)
  • 9 – The governor of the feast had sampled a great deal of wine in his lifetime, but never had he experienced anything quite like this. Vs. 10 “good wine”

“What Jesus did as Creator was short-cut the whole process – with a difference. This was good wine. Not just better than inferior wine, but good wine. A man could have drunk gallons of it and never have had a bad reaction. The new wine symbolized a new creation, “full of joy unspeakable” rich and full of glory.” This miracle was designed to display the Lord’s glory and convince his disciples that he was all he was and all he claimed to be.” –John Phillips

Only Jesus could have taken something that has the potential to destroy lives and used it to create life. Only Jesus could take something that has the ability to capture the minds and wills of humanity and use it to capture their minds and wills for His glory (Eph 5:18,19). Only Jesus could take something that quickly poisons the body and brings sickness and turn it into something that can be experienced forever and never loses its awe. (Rev 5:12)

Only Jesus Can Make Your Religion Satisfy

“make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise”
John 2:16

Passover was the pinnacle celebration of a nation brought out of Egyptian slavery. A time of celebrating was Jehovah God had done as each family traveled to the temple to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving to God.

Here we find moneychangers; evil men who were prostituting the temple and turning the worship of God into a business transaction. So is religious exercise without Jesus. Each of us would describe sexual intimacy with someone we do not know as prostitution; nothing more than a business transaction. The same could be said of religious ritual without worship is nothing more than a business transaction.

  • 14-16 – How often believers turn the awe-inspiring corporate worship of God into nothing more than a business transaction. We’ve done our duty, dropped our change in the plate, sang a hymn, and listened to a sermon, but never expected to meet with God.
  • 17 – reminds us that the OT prophesied of Jesus, and even more importantly Jesus was “zealous” for the house of God. So should we be as his followers.
  • Vs 18-22 – Reminds Christians what we are celebrating. We do not celebrate or worship a building; instead we worship the Christ of vs 22 “was risen from the dead…which Jesus had said.”

Only What Jesus Thinks of You Can Satisfy

“and needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man”
John 2:25

John chapter two ends in the most unusual way. Throughout this portion of scripture, miraculous things are happening, Jesus earthly ministry is beginning and people are beginning to get interested in Him. You could almost say he was becoming “famous”.

  • Vs 23 – Many saw his miracles and believed on his name
  • Vs 24 – Jesus didn’t commit himself to them; he didn’t become captivated by their interest in him.

Jesus as Creator knows man, and what is in the heart of man. (Jer 17:9)

Don’t become enslaved by others flattering words. Don’t bind your actions and behaviors by what others think of you, or how others will react. Do what is right, because Jesus already knows you. (vs.24 “because he knew all men”)

Your responsibility as a follower of Jesus Christ never needs to be based on whether other people are going to “testify” of it. (vs 25) Only what Jesus knows about you to be true is what can satisfy. You are a child of God, justified, sanctified, and counted righteous, not by your works but by the unending grace, and mercy of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Live each day with Jesus as the hub of your life, and the spokes of your relationships, your joy, your religion, and your worth all revolve around him. Only Jesus satisfies.

Jesus Is Calling

 

“He saith unto them, Come and see.”
John 1:39

The opening of the gospel record of the apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” begins much like the book of Genesis. It doesn’t waste time arguing who Jesus is, it simply declares beyond a shadow of a doubt what the apostle knows to be true.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John1:1

The Ministry of the Word

Who is the Word John is speaking of? And what is the Words ministry in the world?

  • The Word is revealed to us as Jesus Christ the Son of God in John 1:29,36 “behold the Lamb of God” vs.34 “this is the Son of God.”
  • The ministry of Word is to bring life where life has not existed (vs 3,4) and to shine the light into the darkness (5).

John 1:1-5 open our eyes to the overwhelming fact the God wants us to know Him and to know about Him. Jesus Christ “the Word” is God “robed in flesh” and declares that by seeing Him and knowing Him we have also “seen the Father” (John 14:9).

John 1:1-5 connects the dots to John 3:16 that He loved the world so much He couldn’t bear to leave it in its sin-stricken state, but rather “he gave”. The Word came to earth and gave Himself as a sacrifice so that we could have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

 

The Messenger of the Word

“There was a man sent from God…to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”
John 1:6a7b

Here we see John the Baptist (not be confused with John the apostle) the cousin of Jesus. He comes with a message of “Light” (knowing the truth) and a message of “life” (living out the truth). Here is his message (John 1:6-18)

  • Jesus is the true Light (vs. 6-9)
  • Jesus would confront unbelief and confirm true believers (vs. 10-13)
  • Jesus is all God and all man, all grace and all truth. (vs. 14-16)
  • Jesus is accessible and gives us access to God. His fullness is available to every person and with it comes wave after wave of grace. (vs. 15-18)

What compels the Christian to become a messenger of the Word?

“And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.”
John 1:16

All who have repented of sin, and received the gift of salvation have tasted of grace, defined as “the free and unmerited favor of God.” Salvation was simply the very beginning of this journey into grace. The Christian life is a perpetual ocean of grace, as each wave subsides a new one rolls onto the shore.

This is the theme of the gospel record of John, to fall deeper and deeper into the fullness of Christ, experiencing grace upon grace. If the first wave of grace is to taste the salvation of the Lord, the second wave is to become a messenger of that grace “that all men through him might believe.”

What’s the first step to become a messenger?

The ministry of John the Baptist was a baptism of water. It was a picture of what was to come. He would baptize Jesus, but this baptism would be different than any one before it.

The Holy Spirit of God would descend on him and it would signify the beginning of his earthly ministry and the pleasure of God the Father “in whom I am well pleased.”

His baptism would provide a picture to all of his followers to participate in and to publically identify with his message. Baptism is the second wave of grace.

I’m saved and baptized, where do I go from here?

From John 1:37-51 we see Jesus is actively engaged in calling others to follow him.

  • Two disciples heard him speak and followed him (vs.37) – Our Savior is not a distant one, but one who cares so much he seeks us out to speak with us.
  • These disciples wanted to spend time with Jesus (vs.38,39) and he invited them in “Come and see.” Do you still desire to spend time with Jesus? Daily? To know more of the fullness of his grace than you did yesterday?
  • He begins to call the apostles, Andrew (vs. 40), Simon Peter (vs 41,42), Philip (vs. 43), Nathaniel (vs.45-51)

Where do we go from here? From our calling to daily fellowship with the Word by prayer and reading of the written word.

 

Nathaniel – Your First Steps

  • Nathaniel was suspicious “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (vs. 46)
  • Nathaniel was overwhelmed that Jesus knew him (vs. 48)
  • Nathaniel’s eyes were opened to see that Jesus was the Son of God and the King of Israel. (vs. 49)
  • Jesus promises Nathaniel that he will show him greater things than what he has already seen. (vs 50)

Where are you right now? Are you still suspicious of Jesus? Are you overwhelmed that he knows you? Have your eyes been opened up to his majesty and are you worshipping him? Have you settled for grace you’ve experienced in the past or are you actively asking God to show you “greater things” and to experience the “heavens open” (vs 51) and see Christ for who he is today?

Jesus is calling, he speaks words that we would follow him, the come and see the place where he dwells, and desires to show us greater things than we can ever imagine. Do you need a fresh wave of his grace to roll over your life today?

 

The Ministers of God: #WhyLivesMatter

In the aftermath of recent events I feel compelled to share some remarks I gave at a recent memorial for fallen officers. My prayer is that they will bring peace and comfort to the hurting, and solid ground to those whose minds can only find shifting sand.

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“I do not think that I could be more honored to have my two little boys in company of so many honorable men and woman who serve this great community with no thought for themselves, only for the people they serve. I pray they look up to, revere, respect and pray for every law enforcement officer who honorably performs their duty and does whatever they can to protect and serve.

As I pondered on what words I could bring this evening my mind kept going back to the question “why did these brave souls do what they did?” To put your life on the line day after day? It certainly could not be for pay, or awards, or any other merit; it must be something more. The conclusion I came to is being an officer is not what they did, it is who they were; just as every man and woman in uniform here today. You joined for essentially the same reason. There is something about you that made you think you could help, that you should serve, that you had a duty.

As a preacher of the gospel I am certain of that reason. The apostle Paul writes to the New Testament church in Rome concerning these ones who have been given the responsibility of enforcing the law. He writes in Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” There are many agencies represented here this evening. Each law enforcement officer having their own commission; by a municipality, by a county, by the state. But I am here to tell you that your greatest commission is by God. The reason you do what you every day; though you may not realize it; is that God has called you to this work.

What has he called you to do? He has called you to minister. In other words, he has called you to help and assist without any thought to personal consequence or reward.

What has God called you minister? He has called you to administer justice; Romans 13:4 continues “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain for he is the minister of God.” It requires a supernatural measure of bravery to confront evil and protect the innocent. While others are obeying the natural response to flee, these men did the only thing they could do; to serve. Because bringing justice is who God created them to be.

 

 

God has called you to minister peace. One of the greatest titles given to you is that of “peace officer”. We live in a tumultuous world; where up is down, in is out, wrong is right. Where those who should be given honor, respect, and praise are spat on, protested against, and shunned. Despite these facts, day in and day out your mission is to resolve conflict, to intervene in disputes, to cut down lawlessness and bring peace to our state, our county, our community, and our homes. Often times this requires sacrifice of your own homes, as John Milton said, “They also serve who stand and wait.” Wives, husbands, children; who willingly give up their loved ones day after day praying for their safe return, so that they could serve others while they stood and waited knowing that to bring peace is who God created them to be.

God has called you to minister love. Love has become too much of a maligned word in our current culture. What is true love? Romans 13:8 sheds light for us, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” As citizens of this world the apostle writes to us and tells us the greatest thing we can do for these ministers of God is love one another. For if you love, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not lie about another, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, all of this is summed up in saying; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Look around; the greatest human example of loving thy neighbor is suited up in uniforms this evening. When a call comes in of someone who is in their darkest hour, these men and women administer love in the purest of ways. These men we honor tonight and all the officers who have come to the end of watch administered love in the purest and truest of ways. Why?

Because administering love is who God created them to be.

There is a little known story that provides a great deal of insight on how the Lord created police officers. He was into his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?
A peace officer has to be able to run five miles through alleys in the dark, scale walls, enter homes the health inspector wouldn’t touch, and not wrinkle his uniform.
“He has to be able to sit in an undercover car all day on a stakeout, cover a homicide scene that night, canvass the neighborhood for witnesses, and testify in court the next day.
“He has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals. And he has to have six pairs of hands.”
The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way.”
“It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the three pairs of eyes an officer has to have.”
“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. One pair that sees through a bulge in a pocket before he asks, “May I see what’s in there, sir?” “Another pair here in the side of his head for his partners’ safety. And another pair of eyes here in front that can look reassuringly at a bleeding victim and say, ‘You’ll be all right ma’am, when he knows it isn’t so.”
“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.” “I can’t,” said the Lord, I’m almost finished “I already have a model that can talk a 250 pound drunk into a patrol car without incident and feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck.”
The angel circled the model of the peace officer very slowly, “Can it think?” she asked.
“You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of a hundred crimes; recite Miranda warnings in its sleep; detain, investigate, search, and arrest a gang member on the street in less time than it takes five learned judges to debate the legality of the stop… and still it keeps its sense of humor.
This officer also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with crime scenes painted in hell, coax a confession from a child abuser, comfort a murder victim’s family, and then read in the daily paper how law enforcement isn’t sensitive to the rights of criminal suspects.” Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the peace officer. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”
“That’s not a leak,” said the lord, “it’s a tear.”
“What’s the tear for?” asked the angel.
“It’s for bottled-up emotions, and for fallen comrades.

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.
With a somber look the Lord replied. “I didn’t put it there.”

This story reminds us that no human being is perfect. The word of God declares that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The only perfect one to walk this earth is Jesus Christ. He is our perfect example of being a minister. The apostle John writes in his gospel “He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”

Though we feel great pain and a sense of injustice when any peace officer is cut down in the line of duty, and rightfully so; the greatest injustice that has ever occurred is when Jesus Christ laid down his life for the sins of the whole world. He came to bring justice when none could be found, as the prince of Peace he came to bring peace between God and man, and he showed the greatest love when he gave the most precious gift he had. “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his brother.”

This is why we have such great respect and admiration for these ones; because they have showed the greatest of love. They reflect Jesus Christ to us and gain of the title of those “whom the world was not worthy.”

The word of God reminds us the nature of sin is what has brought us here this evening. Sin is what causes human beings to do terrible things to one another and to themselves. It is the reason for authority and rule of law. It is the reason for uniformed officers day after day to keep the peace.

It is the reason that each of us will experience the pain of death. But it does not have to end there, by putting your faith in Jesus Christ each of us can experience the promise of Revelation 21:4 “and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: Behold I make all things new.”

Until that day there will always be a need for the faithful ministers of God to administer justice, peace and love. My prayer for each of you echoes the words penned in memorial for fallen police officer Chris Jones of the Middletown Township Police Department, PA.

Lest We Forget”

I never dreamed it would be me,
My name for all eternity,
Recorded here at this hallowed place,
Alas, my name, no more my face.

“In the line of duty, I hear them say:
My family now the price to pay.
My folded flag stained with their tears;
We only had those few short years.

The badge no longer on my chest,
I sleep now in eternal rest,
My sword I pass to those behind,
And pray they keep this thought in mind.

I never dreamed it would be me,
And with heavy heart and bended knee,
I ask for all here; from the past
Dear God, let my name be the last.

 

We desire justice for every member of this community, we hope for peace for our children and grandchildren, and we pray the love of Christ to reside in ever heart. But until that day;

“Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.”

May God protect every police officer throughout this great nation, and keep them safe while they stand watch for us. God bless you all.”

Remarks for

Fallen Officer Memorial

Ashland County Sheriff’s Office

 

May 12, 2016 5:30PM

ACSO Chaplain Joshua Cehulik

10 Things You Can’t Learn in Bible College

As this year comes to a close, God has been putting something on my heart that I pray will encourage both those looking to enter the ministry as well as those who have recently begun the call of God on their life.

Looking back I can see how the years of preparation to follow God’s call has reaped wonderful rewards. However, like all things in life, some can only be experienced by on the job training. Here are a few of those examples as I close out my sixth year of full-time ministry.

  1. You will be called on to give council to someone who desires to end their own life
    • Sometimes it comes from a family member, close friend, law enforcement, or even the individual themselves. Take time to assess the situation and the individual, if a person is in imminent harm never handle the situation on your own. Develop a file of community resources and mental health professionals. Assist with personal and spiritual counseling and never be afraid to take classes on how to deal with this difficult situation. Remember, the most powerful tool you have is hope, the hope that can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  2. You will experience death first hand
    • You will be called to the bedside of a dying person, and in some cases will be there when they take their final breath in this world. Sometimes family will be present, sometimes not. You have two wonderful tools to take full advantage of; listening and prayer. You will not know what to say, and in most cases that is the right answer. It is the Holy Spirit of God that gives comfort in these seasons of life, pray with the dying, pray with the family, pray in the corner of the room as you listen to friends and family tell stories of the one they love. Pray, listen, Pray.
  3. You will walk into a hospital room as someone receives life-altering news.
    • It might be the word cancer, it might be something else. Realize God is in control and be honest that outcome may not be what we desire. Emphasize that the grace of God is sufficient to bring them through. Now it is time to sit and listen as the individual and family work through and process the information that they’ve been given. Then as stated above, pray, pray, pray.
  4. You will need to comfort a parent who has lost a child or whose child’s life is in danger
    • Whenever children are involved the difficulty of the situation increases one-hundred fold. Now that my wife and I are blessed with two little boys I see even more clearly the love a parent has for their children. The possibility of blaming circumstances on God becomes more likely as pain, bitterness, and anger can fester. Commit many hours of time and effort in the immediate but especially in the weeks and months to come. This could make all the difference.
  5. You will help a couple whose marriage is falling apart
    • These are often the most difficult situations to sort through. There is no doubt that God hates divorce because of the damage that is does to families. Be careful to listen to each person and their grievances. These things rarely happen quickly and are generally a failure over a long period of time to guard the most precious of relationships. It will take time, but the power of the gospel is the ability to restore when it seems impossible and to breath new life into something that has been dead for three days! A marriage that is restored in the power of the love of God is one of the most rewarding things any minister can be involved in.
  6. You will realize the reality of your calling
    • When each of the situations arise that I’ve outlined above, and many more I haven’t experienced; God will use these to solidify His call on your life. The visible ministry that many see pales in comparison to the rewarding work of ministering to those when no one sees.
  7. You will need to develop a close friendship
    • For me, this person is my wife. She is someone who I can always rely one, and will provide me honesty, accountability, and advice whenever I need it. She is understanding of the extra time it takes to minister in these situations, and is always praying for me as we work through it together. None of God’s work in my life could be done without her.DSC_0795
  8. You will need a role model to follow
    • I have been blessed to work alongside some of the finest pastors in the country. These men have had a profound influence on my life and have cultivated a love in me for the ministry. They provide me the room I need to grow, while providing the direction that is necessary to keep on the right track. None of us are a world unto ourselves, and the Christian life is not meant to be lived on an island. Learn from everyone, everything that you can.
  9. You will realize you know nothing.
    • Even as I type I am wondering, What gives you the authority to write this? It is only by the grace of God that I haven’t burned my own life to the ground, let alone minister to others. The gospel has completely changed my life and is the driving force of my passion to help others. Every day I realize I know less than I did the day before.
  10. You will realize that God is all-sufficient
    • This is something we all pay lip service to, but is fully realized in the immediacy of life. When tragedy strikes, and difficult decisions must be made it is only God who can bring us through. I do not have any of the answers, God does.

 

The gospel ministry is a high calling, and is not be taken lightly. I can truly say it is the most special gift I have been given. If you had asked me ten years ago as I began bible college what the ministry would be like, I’d have given very different answers. Now that I look on it ten years later, I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Giving Praise in the Bad Time

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I’m not sure about you, but I can be a worrier. It’s easy to let the cares of this world overwhelm us and cloud our vision. As a Christian I shouldn’t be surprised by this; Jesus promised in John 16:33 that we would have trouble. I’m so glad he didn’t stop there, as he continued he said, “be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Be of good cheer? Even though I don’t feel like it? The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” You see it is not our circumstances we rejoice in, it is in our Savior. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever and promises never to “leave us or forsake us”.church-and-storm-1366989155Jjh

Consider Paul and Silas in Acts 16 sitting in a Philippians jail, bound and chained for doing the work God had called them to. If anyone deserved to be upset about their circumstances it was these two. However, they chose not to see their circumstances, but to pray and sing praises to God. Through this small act of praise, God brought an earthquake that loosed there bonds and broke open their prison doors. You may not find yourself in physical prison, but in a prison of your own mind, bound by the shackles of your failures. Realize your responsibility is not to praise God once he has broken through, but to praise God for who he is and see your entire view change as the burdens fall away.

An amazing thing happened at the end of the story in Acts 16, Paul and Silas’ praise resulted in the jailer and his entire family believing on Jesus Christ. You see, there is a world full of people out there who need us to take our eyes off of ourselves and show them that there is hope, joy, peace, and rest in Jesus Christ. Maybe you’re in a mess; either one you created or circumstances outside of your control; the only thing to do is look up and praise the Lord. Praise him because of who He is: our Father, our Creator, our Healer, our Sustainer, who is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, all-wise, holy, just, and good. As the hymn-writer put it;

Count your blessings,
Name them one by one,
And it will surprise you,
What the Lord has done.

Ps 100:4 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”

Perspective

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Psalm 17:3
Thou hast visited me in the night”

Psalm 17:15
I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness”

It is all to easy to become overwhelmed with the cares of this life; just as the waves of the ocean  erode the shoreline, sometimes the waves of life can erode our soul. Although this prayer of David is recorded for us in Psalm 17; the scripture don’t give us any historical insight as to what is going on in David’s life that prompts this prayer.

A valuable lesson can be learned from this; we never know what someone is going through at any given moment. Lately it has seemed that for me, any step forward has resulted in two steps backwards. Every time I’d gain a little traction it seemed like I’d lose my footing right before reaching the prize. I’ll spare you the details, but the things that were causing me so much concern are temporal and tangible.

Sitting in a church office on a daily basis can help give a little perspective (everyone should do it for at least a day). This morning as I’m preparing the worship music for this coming Sunday, setting schedules, and studying for my Bible lesson I overheard a conversation that completely changed my heart. A father who just 3 months before; as he drops of his monthly delivery, told us with excitement that he and his wife were expecting a child. This time around his countenance was visibly down as he shared with us the loss of this child that he and his wife were so joyfully expecting. Three things happened in that moment; conviction for my selfishness and the desire to minister to that man in his time of need. Most importantly, a renewed appreciation for the intangible things of life.2014-05-16 07.26.02-1

Psalm 17:14 tell us we may fill our bellies with all the treasures of this world; but at the end of this life we will leave all of our substance behind.

Sometimes money is tight, emergencies happen, contractors don’t keep there word or finish on time, people let you down, and just when you think you’ve got it all put together, the whole things falls apart. For me, the things that matter in life are the eternal, keeping my eyes focused on the central cause for satisfaction in this life. Jesus Christ.

I’ll go home today and hug my wife, and kiss my two little boys on the head and we’ll go play in the back yard. If the whole things comes crashing down tomorrow, that’s okay; because I have a new perspective.

A Young Man’s Request

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I ask in humility to the older and wiser among us,
Show us Christ,
Despite the differences that engulf us,
Show us Christ,
With the influence you’ve been given, Show us Christ,
Woven into every speaking, teaching, preaching,
Show us Christ,
Resist the urge to motivate by fear,
Show us Christ,
Rather than sell us your brand of Christianity,
Show us Christ,
Reveal the cross we each must carry, Show us Christ,
Let us see your pain and know you’re weary,
Show us Christ,
That we might take up the timeless mantle and heed the cry,
Show us Christ.

Joshua Cehulik

Following the Father’s Example

An encouraging devotional from “In Touch” ministries I hope will encourage you.

Do you have a strong relationship with your children?

The way we initially think about God has much to do with how we were parented – especially by our father. What image of the Lord are you portraying?

Many men struggle in their role as dads because their own fathers were either absent – physically or emotionally – or poor examples. But regardless of what a person experienced in the past, the best thing any parent can do is imitate God the Father. Yet how do we know who He really is?

We get our best glimpse of what the heavenly Father is like by looking at His Son. Speaking with the disciples, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by Me… He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:6,9). Not only is Christ our path to relationship with God; he is also the way we come to know the Father’s true character.

When we look at the Savior’s life, what do we see? He was merciful, patient, gentle, compassionate, kind, and full of goodness toward all people. Jesus healed the sick, provided for needs, and offered forgiveness – regardless of the offense (Matt. 14:14-21; Luke 23:34). But in love, He didn’t hesitate to discipline others when correction was required.

More than a solid education or material possessions, your child’s greatest need is for a role model of devotion to God through prayer, Bible reading, and holy living. If you make knowing and following the heavenly Father your first priority, you won’t have to worry about what kind of parent you will be.

Charles Stanley

The Old Man at Tim Hortons

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2

I was in my late teens finishing up high school about to begin college. Working third shift as a baker at my local donut and coffee shop in Tonawanda New York. As I began my shift around 10:00 pm a kind old man walked in and began to order.

I had gotten to know this man who always ordered a black coffee with a cake donut on china with a senior discount. Couldn’t have been more than two dollars at the time. He had a kind face accented by the red sweater he always wore. We would strike up a conversation about trivial things as he would patiently wait for his order.

One day while working my shift, I told the old man that as I was preparing to leave home and head off to school for ministry. He expressed the usual remarks of being sad to see me go and that he was encouraged to see a young man heading into ministry. It was what happened the next day that would touch me very deeply.

11485763673_07b7b66e1b_mHe came in, ordered his coffee and cake donut on china with a senior discount; handed me the two dollars and shook my hand. When I pulled back my hand there was a twenty dollar bill. I was taken back a little and politely refused; I couldn’t possibly receive this generous gift. He kindly and firmly restated that he would like to have a small part in what God would do in my life.

I don’t remember the mans name, but I’ve never forgotten his act of kindness. I would go back to work at the local donut shop in between semesters, but I never saw the old man again.

Life is made up of these small investments, people who’ve taken the time to influence in what might seem the most minuscule of ways. These are our angels, even if we are unaware of their presence.

Just like the old man at Tim Hortons.

Photo by Rudolf Vlček