Monthly Archives: August 2013

Worthy of Salvation?

For most of my Christian life I struggled to be “good enough.” It didn’t matter that I knew salvation was by grace alone. There was just something in me that felt the need to somehow show God that I was really trying.

Then one day reality sat in and I realized that no matter how good I became, no matter how much I served Him, no matter how long I fasted, prayed, studied His Word, I would never be more than I am – a sinner saved by grace. Maybe you already understand your dependency on Christ, but do you grasp the enormity of what He has done.

1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

In other words, without Jesus, there is no way you can understand the things of God because they are discerned with your spirit. If you have not been born again, your spirit is blind and unable to know the things of God. Strike one!

Then we have 2 Corinthians 4:3,4 which says, “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

So here I am, lost and without hope. I can’t understand the things of the Spirit of God since they must be discerned with my spirit which is totally corrupt because of my sinful nature and to top it off even if I try, the god of this age has blinded me so that I cannot believe. Strike two!

So what chance do I have? How can I believe in Jesus if the deck is stacked against me? It is by the simple wooing of His Holy Spirit. I don’t understand the things of God. I can’t understand the things of God, but He draws me anyway and says, “All you need is just a little faith, and you know what? I will give you that too.” What an awesome God!

So here I stand, a child of the King, the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus, and still totally helpless to do anything that would be constituted as worthy of all He has done.

I have been reconciled back to God all because of Him. I can’t earn it, I certainly don’t deserve it, and there is nothing I can add to make what He has done any greater. It is all because of Jesus.

Now that’s freedom!

Have you found Him yet? if not, email us at info@fruitbearers.com. We would love to introduce you.

Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry

Got Joy?

The dictionary tells us that joy is “a vivid emotion of pleasure; extreme gladness; a thing that causes joy.” If we try to understand joy from a worldly perspective, we might characterize it as a transient and fleeting emotion that waxes and wanes as we pass from one experience to another. The worldly view of joy then is one based on how we feel. So when God commands us to be full of Joy is He telling us we need to be happy all the time?

What a challenge that would be. If joy were an emotion that comes and goes based upon our circumstances then that command would seem rather harsh and unrealistic. On the other hand, we know that God often commands us to do things we could never do on our own. For example, 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” That has to be near the top of the list of things we are unable to do on our own and yet God commands us to be holy.

Obviously God commands us to do things that we can only do in and through Him. Holiness, joy, and so on, can only be realized in Him. So joy is both an outcome of our relationship with Him and our source of strength for obedience to Him.

God has certainly done His part. 1 John 1:4 tells us, “He has given us his Word. These things we write to you that your joy may be full.”

In Psalm 16:11 David says of God, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

But how do you reconcile what God tells us about Joy and what we actually experience in our day-to-day lives? Let’s face it, when the car won’t start and the kids are late for school, joy is not readily bubbling to the surface. But even in those times we can have joy.

James 1:2-8 (NCV) says, “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need. But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind. Such doubters are thinking two different things at the same time, and they cannot decide about anything they do. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.”

Wow! What a mouthful! James says trials will come and when they do they will try our patience, but the good news is as we develop patience (the result of trials and troubles) we will be complete, having everything we need? Now that’s something to be joyful about!

Still unsure how you can have joy in the midst of the everyday circumstances of life? Let me give you an example from the prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk was a prophet during a very difficult time in Israel’s history. Their legal system had collapsed, the poor were being oppressed by the government, the countries surrounding them were at war, and Habakkuk was totally overwhelmed by the circumstances he saw around him.

Remember, Habakkuk was God’s man. He had pleaded with God and sought direction for the nation and yet it seemed as if nothing was going right. Habakkuk ultimately decided that God must have withdrawn Himself from the people.

But God had not abandoned His people. God tells Habakkuk that He has a plan and that His plan will soon be revealed.

Here was Habakkuk’s response to God’s promise in Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT):

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.”

The lesson here is simple. The difference between the person who is defeated and the person who is victorious is one of attitude.

If Habakkuk were here today he might say something like this. “Though there is no food in the refrigerator, and there is no money in the checking account, though the sickness gets worse, and the pain persist, though my children are on drugs, and my spouse does not appreciate me, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

What Habakkuk is saying to us is that regardless of your circumstances, you can have joy!

Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that, “… the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

There’s no question about it. Life comes at us a hundred miles an hour, but in the midst of it all we can have joy. Joy has nothing to do with whether or not we are happy with our circumstances. Joy has everything to do with our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Him is the basis for joy whether we feel happy or not, whether circumstances are good or bad, whether we are on our way up the mountain or tumbling down. Regardless of what is happening in our life we can have joy.

Remember Psalms 16:11? Where is Joy? It’s in His presence. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better place to be.

Have you lost your joy? Let us show you how to find it again. Email us at info@fruitbearers.com

Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry

Rejoice In Tribulations

As Christians we hardly ever use the word “tribulation” or “trials” to describe the issues we face in our daily life. Instead we say something like, “I’m dealing with some things right now.” Or we might say, “I’m just having a bad day.” Or it may even be a bad year.

In our Christian walk our first response should be to self-evaluate through Scripture to see if maybe we’ve missed something. We may seek counsel from our pastor or advise from church leadership. Our hope is that they can help us trace the problem or point us to Christ or His Word for a possible solution.

But what if there’s no particular reason that we can discern for our struggle? Shouldn’t the Christian life be free of trouble? Why are we faced with trials and tribulations? Better yet, how do we rejoice in them? This is what we would like to discuss this week.

In John 16:33 (AMP) Jesus encouraged his disciples with these words; “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]”

Tribulation in Scripture often denotes the troubles and distresses which proceed from persecution, but why are we persecuted? The answer is simple and written in the Bible to give us hope. In the Gospel of John we read the main reason why we are persecuted. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” John 15:18-21 (ESV)

Hate is a strong word. We need to remember that in the physical realm all of us were born in sin, separated from God until the Gospel was preached to our hearts. In other words we were once of this world and possible haters. However once saved we switched sides and now the spiritual realm of Ephesians 6:10-12 comes into play.

The very fact that we were chosen and sanctified by Christ makes us a target for the enemy (John 17:11-26). Jesus prayed for His disciples and all believers that will follow (verses 20-26). His prayer was not to take us out of this world but rather that we would be protected from the evil one.

Once we become a Christian we are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). We are not to be disconnected from this world. We are to function as a new creature in this world. In other words if a doctor gets saved the idea is to set him apart for God, transform him, then put him right back into the world he came from to be light in a place of darkness. Then the world gets to see a Christ-like life as a doctor, an engineer, a policeman, even a politician. What a difference it would make in this world we are living in today.

Jesus’ prayer is leading us to be one with the Father and with Him bringing us to complete unity so the world can know God’s love for us which he made known by sending Jesus to the Cross. This gives the enemy sufficient reason not to leave us alone. Jesus knew the enemy was not going to make it easy on anyone who speaks about the freedom found in Him; who spreads the good news that we are reconciled to our Father in heaven through Christ; that we are able to overcome trials, tribulations, and even strongholds in our lives by His shed blood and finished work at the Cross.

The attempt to strip us of the belief that we could overcome anything has been the enemy game plan since the Cross. If a person loses hope, what else is there to live for but to accept defeat for the condition they are in? However, what if rather than focusing on our trials and tribulations we become conscious of the fact that the One who defeated the enemy lives inside of us? Could that be the reason Jesus told us to take heart that He has overcome the world? What if we are constantly aware that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us? Could that be a reason to rejoice in tribulations?

The apostle Paul wrote this in Galatians 2:20 (NKJV). “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who 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.”

Did you get that? Just picture in your mind responding to issues in life the way Jesus did in Scripture because He lives in you. Powerful in prayer, loving people the way He did, quoting Scripture to the enemy while being tempted and exercising the spiritual authority He had, are all within our grasp. He gave us authority over all the power of the enemy as it is written in Luke 10:19. These are just a few of the promises He has given us. Does this make it easier to see why in Him we have peace? Does it make it easier to find the purpose of rejoicing in tribulations? We believe it does.

It may be difficult to find anyone who can actually say they love trials and tribulations in their lives. The truth is they are not going away solely because of the choice we made in Christ.

The apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians in chapter 11 speaks a little about some of the trials and tribulations he went through for the gospel sake. In 1 Peter chapter 4 the Word tells us not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on us to test us, as though something strange where happening to us. He continues by encouraging us to rejoice in as much as we participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

There are many reasons found in the Bible to rejoice in the midst of tribulation. Here is just one. “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:1-5 (NLT)

Only God can find a way to make everything work out for our good when we love Him.

Are you faced with trials and tribulations today? Email us and let us help. info@fruitbearers.com

Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry

Your Perception Determines Your Presence

We all have a presence. By that I mean an air about us or a bearing. Other people sense it. We may not even be aware of it, but it’s there. To a large extent our presence is a product of our experiences. Or put another way, our presence is a product of the way we choose to remember our past, or our perception of our past.

There are a lot of things in my past I wish I had not done. From unwise decisions to flat out sin, my life is filled with “stuff” I wish I could change. Unfortunately I can’t. I can however choose how I remember those things, and that choice will affect my presence in the here and now.

Many of us are allowing circumstances and events in our life control us. We may prefer to look at it as something beyond our control, but regardless of how we choose to address it, it’s a choice.

Whenever I think of past failures and their effect on me today, I think of the Apostle Paul. Before Paul met Jesus he was relentless in his persecution of Christians. He hunted them down, arrested them, and had them thrown into prison. There is even evidence that suggests he participated in their execution. Then he met Jesus and his life was completely turned around. Paul became the most zealous missionary for Christ the world has ever known. In Philippians 3:13, 14 he tells us how he chose to remember his past.

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I have to ask myself, how did Paul do this? How could he choose to put his past behind him. It was simple, really. Paul had an intimate relationship with Jesus which gave him hope that the prize was already his.

So this week I want to talk about hope. We all have choices to make and in the darkest times; in the midst of all of our helplessness, we need to understand that there is hope.

Let’s begin with the dictionary’s definition of hope. Hope is the feeling that something good will happen; the feeling that what is wanted can be had or events will turn out for the best.

I hope I get a raise. I hope our bonuses come in. I hope I’m not late for work. I hope my wife remembers to record that movie I wanted to watch… and the list goes on.

But what if those things don’t happen? If hope is based on our feelings, which these examples are, then how do we feel when what we hoped for doesn’t come about?

We may become fearful, frustrated, disillusioned, defeated, angry… We might as well just say hope is wishful thinking.

But there is another kind of hope. There is the hope we have in Christ. To a believer, hope is based on God’s unchanging Word. It is an optimistic assurance that something will be fulfilled. In other words, we could say hope is the assurance that God will do what He said He would do whether we feel like it or not.

But just knowing that this hope is available doesn’t make it so. We need to activate our hope and according to Hebrews 11:1 we do that by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Hope is tied to faith. More accurately, hope is activated by faith. So then how do we get faith? Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Remember, hope has nothing to do with feelings. In the same way, faith is not found in feelings. In fact feelings are perhaps the greatest hindrance to faith, but when we allow the Word of God to penetrate our doubts and unbelief, faith rises within us and with it hope.

What does God’s Word say? “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20). That’s hope.

Joshua 21:45 tells us that, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

Paul then tells us in Romans 15:4 that, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Are you beginning to grasp that you actually can have hope? It doesn’t change your past, but it does give you something to hold onto in the present.

Still, it’s up to you to choose how you remember your past. Will you choose to let your past keep you bound to the things you cannot change or will you choose to let it go and press on as Paul did in the hope that God has a better future?

Let me share a couple of examples from Scripture that I think will help. Moses was a Hebrew, raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, an Egyptian. He wanted for nothing and was one of the most powerful men in all of Egypt. And then one day God called him to deliver his Hebrew people. Moses boldly stepped into his calling and in the process killed an Egyptian who was abusing one of his Hebrew brothers. Moses was quickly discovered and escaped into the desert where he remained in hiding for the next forty years. When Moses finally returned He came as the true deliverer God had called him to be and you know the rest. Moses led the people out of Egypt by way of the Red Sea and Pharaoh and all of his armies were destroyed.

But what if Moses had chosen to remember his past failure. Would he have fulfilled the call of God on his life? We will never know because Moses chose to let go of the past rather than to allow the things he could not change control him.

And what of Jeremiah? God chose Jeremiah when he was just a boy to be His prophetic voice to the children of Israel. His message was a call to repentance. For forty years he pleaded with his countrymen and warned of impending judgment as God had instructed him, but rather than repent and heed his warnings, the people despised and hated Jeremiah. He was considered a trader to his own country and was treated as an outcast and yet Jeremiah placed his hope in God.

Listen to the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-26 (NLT)

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.

I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!”

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.

So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.

And what was God’s response to Jeremiah’s obedience?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah stood on the Word of God. His hope was not in what he felt, but rather in the optimistic assurance that God would do what He said He would do.

Where is your hope? What is it that you have chosen to remember that is creating a presence that God never intended for you to carry? I would challenge you to begin today to draw from the well of God’s Word and allow faith to rise within you so that hope may come. Then choose to let go of that which is keeping you from experiencing the freedom that Jesus has already provided. You can change your perception and the presence you have created if you will simply choose to rest in the Hope that is yours in Christ.

Let us help you. Email us today at info@fruitbearers.com.

Fruitbearers Outreach Ministry