Introduction Here He Comes!

Introduction to Here He Comes

Here He Comes!

By

Ronald Christian

Advent Messages To Prepare For Christ's Coming In New Ways To Our Hearts and Lives

Introduction

If you wanted to communicate with someone of a different language, how would you try to communicate, if you could not use the vehicle of a common language? You probably would use a lot of so-called 'body language'. You might smile at the other person, or make a gentle bow to him, or use your hands to produce certain shapes or to point in certain directions. Perhaps you might, amidst your frustration, try to communicate through lip movements.

How does the infinite God communicate to finite man? The Bible says that God's ways and thoughts are higher than man's ways and thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth! So, how could God possibly communicate to puny creatures like man?

If God could not speak verbally to mankind, how would God communicate to mankind? What kind of so-called 'body language' do you think God might use in an attempt to get His message across to mankind?

God could try to communicate to mankind through Nature. Indeed, God does communicate to mankind through Nature. Listen to the Psalmist: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of His craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world." (Psalms 19:1-3, Living Bible)

God could try to communicate to mankind through man's conscience. God communicates a sense of 'right and wrong' even to those who are so-called heathen or pagan people. Romans 2:12 and following says, "He (God) will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God's written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God's laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them." (Living Bible)

Another way that God sought to communicate to mankind was through the Mosaic Law, written on tables of stone (Ten Commandments) when Moses was on top of Mount Sinai.

God further sought to communicate His ways and will through the God-inspired words and personalities of the Old Testament Prophets. No one can deny that God's communication to mankind through the great prophets was most wonderful. The ethical and moral teachings of he prophets are relevant to every age.

But as good and as helpful as God's methods of communication are through the wonders of Nature, through the dictates of conscience, through the commands of the Old Testament Laws, and through the ethical teachings of the Old Testament prophets, we must

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acknowledge that all of these forms of divine communication are less than adequate. These forms of communication are rather like the communication of 'body language' between two persons of different races, neither of whom understands the verbal language of the other person! 'Body language' is helpful, but 'body language' without verbal communication is inadequate and sometimes misleading!

How could God communicate best to mankind? If God could come to earth and use mankind's verbal language! A daring idea! How could God possibly 'speak' man's language? Only if God could become a real human and learn to speak real human language! And that is what God did! "Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets (in visions, dreams, and even face to face), telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does mark him as God." (Hebrews 1:1-3, Living Bible)

"Christ is the exact likeness of the unseen God." (Colossians 1:15 a, Living Bible) Just as a verbal word gives expression to a person's thought, so Jesus is God's thoughts and purposes and plans and will. Jesus is God's clearest communication to mankind, for Jesus is God's very Word! God no longer has to communicate through so-called 'body language' – i.e., through Nature and through Conscience and through the Law and through the Prophets. Jesus has come, and Jesus is God's direct communication to mankind!

Not only did Jesus – God's direct communication to mankind – make clear to a sinful race that God loves them in spite of their sin, but Jesus made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God! "For God wanted all of himself to be in his Son. It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood." (Colossians 1:19-20, Living Bible)

"Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory – the glory of the Son of the Heavenly Father." (John 1:14, Living Bible) Notes E. Stanley Jones, "This verse the 'Word became flesh" – is the Great Divide. In all other religions it is Word became word – a philosophy, a moralism, a system, a technique, but for all time and all men everywhere, 'the Word became flesh' – the Idea became Fact.. .. The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (The Word Became Flesh; E. Stanley Jones; page 5,8)

John proclaimed that "the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. .. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father." (John 1:9, John1:14)

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God created all things good, but man marred the perfect design of God. Through his willful disobedience, man plunged himself into the abyss of sin, corruption, and misery. Man became alienated from his Creator. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6: 5)

The story is told of a naturalist who viewed a procession of ants carrying pebbles to build an ant hill. To the naturalist, the ants seemed to be moving to and fro in great confusion, with little organization. With keen interest the observer watched and wished that he could communicate to the ants so that they would know how to move in an organized method to carry their pebbles. Wishing that he could alleviate them of their confusion, the naturalist suddenly realized that he could communicate to the ants only if he himself would become an ant.

God looked down and viewed man's rebellion, moral depravity, confusion, and ignorance, and realized that He could only save mankind if He became a man!

The Incarnate Word was fully God. Paul declared, "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2: 9) Jesus' disciples, who knew Him most intimately in various circumstances, declared Christ as sinless. Peter wrote that Jesus "Did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." (1 Peter 2: 22) John declared that "in him is no sin." (1 John 3:5) It is very significant for a Jew to declare a man as sinless. Basic to Jewish thought and theology is the doctrine of the universality of sin. Jesus stood the test of the critical Jewish eye, and was declared as uniquely sinless.

The Incarnate Word was fully man. Paul wrote that Jesus "took upon Him the form a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:7)

The writer of the Hebrews vividly described the purpose of the Incarnation. "Forasmuch then as the children (humans) are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." (Hebrews 2: 14-18)

"You know how full of love and kindness our Lord was: though He was so very rich, yet to help you, he became so very poor, so that by being poor He could make you rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9, Living Bible)

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Jesus came out of the ivory palaces into a world of woe – all because of His great love for a fallen race of people! He who was invested with the full powers of divinity, He who was co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Spirit – this powerful, eternal Christ became a lowly human!

Says Bishop Sheen about Jesus' humility and earthly poverty, as compared to his eternal glory: "In the filthiest place in the world, purity was born. He who later was to be slaughtered by men, acting like beasts, was born among beasts. He who would call himself the living bread, descended from heaven, was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat … There was no room in the inn, but there was room in the stable … The stable was the last place that the world would have looked for Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it. No worldly mind would have suspected that He who makes the sun warm the earth, would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm him with their breath. That he, who, in the language of Scriptures, could stop the turning about of our tourists, would have his birth place dictated by an imperial census. That he who clothed the fields with grass, would himself be naked. That he, from whose hands came planets and worlds, would one day have tiny arms that would not be long enough to touch the heads of the cattle. That the feet that trod the everlasting hills, would be too weak to walk. That the Eternal Word would be dumb. That omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes. That salvation would lie in a manager. That the bird which built the nest, would be hatched therein. No one would have ever suspected that God coming to this earth would be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss him."

It is tragic that so many people "miss the Christ"! Even at Christmas Time, when everyone should be especially conscious of the coming of God to planet Earth, so many are preoccupied with the temporary and shallow concerns of "Holiday Celebrations" – filled with material pursuits and self-seeking pleasures.

This is a book on the Advent of Christ – God becoming a Man in order to seek and to save a fallen race of people. These messages were first delivered to the precious parishioners of the First Free Methodist Church in Fort Collins, Colorado – sometimes more than once- during the more than 25 years that I served as pastor of this one local church (1967 – 1994). Because the book is divided into thirteen chapters, the layout of the book is designed in such a way that it can easily be used for an adult Sunday School course. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could also well serve as material for small midweek study groups within a local Church. There are thought – provoking questions listed at the end of each chapter, to provide class participants an opportunity to review and to discuss the main content of each chapter. Teens, as well as adults, could well profit from the study of these Advent messages – for these messages have ever relevant and contemporary applications in the lives of teens as well as in the lives of adults. After all, because Jesus was fully Human as well as fully Divine (the God-Man), Jesus went through the normal stages of human development – infancy, childhood, adolescence, manhood. No one understands the challenges and pressures and temptations and changes which human beings go through like Jesus of Nazareth.

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One dare not sentimentalize the birth of Jesus – saying endearing words about "the sweet little Jesus" in the manger of Bethlehem. For Jesus was born to live sacrificially, and to die a substitutionary death. Jesus was born to die, therefore the Birth of Jesus dare not be isolated as a sentimental event. His sacrificial life and His substitutionary death must always be looked at, along with His miraculous and heart-warming birth if we are ever to understand the true significance of Jesus' total identification with the fallen human race.

Jesus was God; therefore we know that God cares for us when we sorrow. In fact, God shares our sorrows. God knows what it is to suffer loss.

An embittered father whose son had died, asked a minister, "Where was God when my son died?" Replied the minister, "The same place He was when His own son died." God suffered the loss of His own Son, so he can share the heartache of every person who loses a loved one.

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song; 
As the burdens press, and the cares distress 
And the way grows weary and long? 
Does Jesus care when my way is dark 
With a nameless dread and fear? 
As the daylight fades into deep night shades 
Does He care enough to be near? 
Does Jesus care when I've said 'good-bye' 
To the dearest on earth to me, 
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks 
Is it aught to Him? Does He see? 
Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares, 
His heart is touched with my grief: 
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, 
I know my Saviour cares.

Of Christ, it is written, "Surely he hath borne our grief's, and carried our sorrows." (Isaiah 53:3, Isaiah 53:4 a)

The sorrow and sufferings of life are many and varied, but Jesus' life shows us that God is involved in all of them. Take a look at Jesus' involvement with suffering humanity. "The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it. The leper, the innocent, once joyful life struck down by that slow, dreadful living death – Christ could not bear it. 'I will: be thou clean.' The great mass of attractive, lovable men and women caught in the toils of sins that spoilt their lives, and temptations they could not break, and wild regrets that were a misery – Christ could not bear it. And so He died to

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free them. And so we can say today, in those most moving words of our hymn, 'Jesus, Thou art all compassion'.

'Jesus, Thou art all compassion, 
Pure, unbounded love Thou art; 
Visit us with Thy salvation, 
Enter every trembling heart.' 

"But the greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God." (The Gates of New Life, Stewart; page 197)

There is never a sorrow that He doth not share, nor a woe that He does not feel. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

Picture Jesus as He made His way into the desert to contemplate, following the beheading of His cousin John. Follow Him to the grave side of His dear friend Lazarus, and listen to His deep moans and sobbing in the midst of Lazarus' broken-hearted sisters, Mary and Martha. God is not only identified with us in our sorrows, but He is also identified with us in our sins.

An artist once created a most unusual painting of Jesus on the cross. The body stood out in sharp relief against a darkened background. But as one gazed at the painting, a second figure seemed to appear among the shadows. It was as if God could be seen behind the figures of Jesus. The nails that went through the hands of Jesus went into the hands of God. The nail that fastened the feet of Jesus held fast the feet of God. The crown of thorns was somehow on God's head, too. The artist had made clear his conception that it is through the experience of Calvary that we look into the eternal heart of God. What we see during those hours of torture is a picture of God's suffering, outgoing love.

It is not only Jesus but God himself who forever identifies with us. There is an infinite concern at the center of the universe for man, whether he be in joy or in pain. It enables one to say, "If I ascend to heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, thou art there." (Psalms 139: 8)

Jesus was called a 'Friend of Sinners' . Think of the people whom Jesus befriended: the despised Woman of Samaria, Zacchaeus the Thief, Mary Magdalene the woman of ill fame, the demon possessed man called Legion, the woman caught in adultery, the tax collector Matthew who became one of Jesus' disciples and writer of one of the Gospels.

Of Jesus it is said, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

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One Solitary Life …

He was born in an obscure village. 
He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. 
He then became an itinerant preacher. 
He never held an office. 
He never had a family or owned a house. 
He didn't go to college. 
He had no credentials but himself .. 
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today, 
He is the central figure of the human race. 
All the armies that ever marched, 
and all the navies that ever sailed, 
all the parliaments that ever sat, 
and all the kings that ever reigned have not affected 
the life of man on this earth as much as that ... 

One Solitary Life.

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REIGN OF CHRIST

All glory to God in the sky 
And peace upon earth to be restored; 
Jesus, exalted on high 
Appear our omnipotent Lord! 
Who, meanly in Bethlehem born, 
Didst stoop to redeem a lost race 
Once more to thy creatures return 
And reign in thy kingdom of grace! 
When thou in our flesh didst appear, 
All nature acknowledged thy birth; 
Arose the acceptable year 
And heaven was opened on earth; 
Receiving its Lord from above, 
The world was united to bless 
The Giver of concord and love, 
The Prince and Author of peace. 
would'st thou again be made known, 
Again in thy Spirit descend, 
And set up, in each of thine own, 
A kingdom that never shall end! 
Thou only art able to bless, 
And make the glad nations obey, 
And bid the dire enmity cease, 
And bow the whole world to thy sway. 
Come then to thy servants again, 
Who long thy appearing to know: 
Thy quiet and peaceable reign 
In mercy establish below; 
All sorrow before thee shall fly, 
And anger and hatred be 0'er; 
And envy and malice shall die 
And discord afflict us no more 

by Charles Wesley

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Introduction How Firm a Foundation

Introduction to How Firm A Foundation

How Firm A Foundation

by

Ronald G. Christian

Indepth Devotional Study of The Basic Truths of Christianity

TO

Helen Irene Christian

Devout Believer
and
Godly Mother
who taught me from my 
youngest childhood 
(2 Timothy 3:15) 
to build my life upon Christ - 
"The Firm Foundation"

Introduction

One of the great hymns of the Church is entitled "How Firm A Foundation". The title of this devotional book is named after this hymn. Notice the words of this hymn's first verse:

"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, 
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! 
What more can He say than to you He hath said, 
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?"

The Christian has a firm foundation upon which he may build his faith. It is no less than the foundation of God's Holy Word–the Bible. In an age in which people are building their lives upon the crumbling foundations of the world's false philosophies, ideologies, and religious systems, it is encouraging to know that the Bible is a sure foundation. The heavens above and the earth beneath may pass away, but God's Word will never pass away.

In an age of confusion and chaos, both in the changing circumstances of life and in the hazy thinking of modern man, it it important to recapture the basic teachings of the Bible. As sincere persons who wish to live lives of integrity, we must "stoutly defend the truth which God gave, once for all, to his people to keep without change through the years." (Jude 3, Living Bible)

We are "no longer to be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different, or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth". (Ephesians 4:14, Living Bible)

He who builds his life upon Christ (the Living Word), as He is revealed in the Bible (the Written Word), is the one whose life is built upon a 'firm foundation'. Said Jesus, "All who listen to my instructions and follow them are wise, like a man who builds his house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents, and the floods rise and the storm winds beat against his house, it won't collapse, for it is built on rock", (Matthew 7:24-25, Living Bible)

This devotional book is intended to be a guide to 'Basic Christianity'. Because many devotional books are written primarily for 'dedicated' Christians, I have instead chosen to write a devotional book which is not only suited for the more mature believer, but one that is also designed to help the sincere nonbeliever, whose mind is open to investigate the claims of 'Basic Christianity'. I have sought to cover all the 'fronts' of 'Basic Christianity', from the most elemental stage of investigating the case for believing in God's existence, to the more advanced stages of fundamental Christian teachings–the Fall of Man, the personal Incarnation of God, the meaning of the life and death of Christ, the bodily Resurrection of our Lord, the reign of Christ and the Kingdom of God.

Most, if not all of the basic teachings cited in the ancient 'Apostles Creed' are discussed in some detail in this devotional book:

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord; that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin mary, that for our sakes he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died,

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and was buried; that he arose again on the third day, that he ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from which place he will come again, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the fellowship of the church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and everlasting life after death."

The book can be used in several ways. It can be used as a daily devotional guidebook, with the reader reading one page each day for approximately five months. Each page includes, along with the practically-oriented devotional reading, an appropriate Scriptural reference, a written Prayer for the Day, and a written Affirmation for the Day. Because the book is divided into twelve chapters, the layout of the book is designed in such a way that it can easily be used for an adult Sunday School Course. The individual chapters contain enough content, and yet are short enough in length, that they could also well serve as material for small midweek study groups within a local church. Because there is a developing theme throughout the book, it can also be used and read like any other 'regular' book.

Peter, the great apostle of Christ, wrote in his epistle, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence". (1 Peter 3:15)

An intellectual understanding of Christianity is vital, for Jesus commanded us to love God with all our minds as well as with all our hearts. As one said, "My heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects".

An unexamined faith is not a faith worth having–and is indeed dangerous. One must know that his beliefs are based on objective truth, for it is the object of belief that determines the value of belief. To accept anything in an unthinking way is possibly to accept error. Also, to accept truth on the basis of dogmatic authority, without thinking it through yourself, is to accept a secondhand faith. A secondhand faith is a dying faith.

Often, if not always, the writing of a book is the result of the author's own intellectual or spiritual struggles. This book is no exception. My life has not been lived without the challenges of doubts, but I have learned to see that even doubting can be an ally rather than an enemy of my Christian faith. I am learning to work out my salvation with the aid of honest doubts which will lead me to the outcome of honest beliefs.

Once you have staked your entire life on God and His will and His revealed nature, then, using this commitment as your stable center, you can go as far afield in honest doubt as you need to in seeking a satisfying intellectual and soul answer to your questions. Develop a reasoned faith. Struggle to understand. Ask any honest question. Do not fear to probe. Develop a thorough inquiring mind. Only as you question will the answers be forthcoming. God encourages this process: "Come, let us reason together", saith the Lord. (Isaiah 1:18)

It is important for one to keep his mind alive and inquisitive. Honest doubts are compatible with an honest commitment to Christ, and in fact the degree of commitment to Christ will be reflected in the degree of serious thinking one does in finding a satisfying answer to the difficult questions of life. One will not find all the answers to life's questions, but not to find the answers is no sin. However, never to ask the questions is a sin against one's God-given intelligence, and is evidence of spiritual as well as intellectual sloth! One cannot fully live until he learns to accept the challenge of hard thinking.

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Ask God for a tender heart and a tough mind–a heart tender in response to God's love and a mind tough to grapple with life's mysteries. We are not meant to understand all of God's ways or all of life's perplexities, but we would understand many more of them if we but had the courage to think and to ponder! Those mysteries that will never be unraveled by the reasoning process must be accepted by the tender heart of faith and receptivity.

All the mysteries and perplexities of life are not solved–even within the teachings of Christianity. However, there is no more satisfying system of thought than that of Christianity. But Christianity is more than a system of thought. Christianity is embodied in a Person–the Person of Jesus Christ. The purpose in writing this book therefore is not simply to present an intellectual defense of 'Basic Christianity', but to help persons to know the Living Christ!. Tough thinking regarding the truths of Christianity will hopefully lead one to loving fellowship with the Christ of Christianity!

It is my prayer that the positive Christ who has been altogether precious to me since my personal conversion on March 12, 1956, will use this earnest, but feeble effort of mine to help hundreds of people to place their feet on the solid foundation–Christ! "How Firm a Foundation!"

Ronald G. Christian

Fort Collins, Colorado

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The Majesty of a Reigning Christ

The Majesty Of a Reigning Christ

Chapter Twelve

The Majesty Of a Reigning Christ
King Of The Ages 145 "The Truth Shall Make You Free" 151
Are You Looking At Life From The Right Angle? 146 None Can Remain Neutral To Christ! 152
Jesus Is The Lord Of History! 147 Saviour Today – Judge Tomorrow 153
Jesus Is The King Of The Stones! 148 Discussion Questions 154
Jesus' Way Is The Way To Live! 149 Discussion Questions (Continued) 155
"My Kingdom Is Not Of This World" 150    

Philippians 2:5-11

King Of The Ages

We have been looking intently at the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have looked at the costliness of His lowly identification with sinful humanity (Incarnation). We have gazed at the cross and sought to understand the meaning and significance of the cross to our personal lives. We have studied the resurrection from three viewpoints–devotionally, historically, and philosophically. It is now time to turn our attention to the nature and character of Christ's kingship.

The lowly Jesus, dying on a cross, has become the exalted Christ, reigning in power with the Father. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11 NASB)

Wrote Paul, "Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the King of the ages, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God, and full of wisdom. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17 Living Bible) As King of the ages, it was Jesus' purpose to save humanity. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Timothy 1:9 Living Bible)

"Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault–we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" (Ephesians 1:4-5 Living Bible)

From everlasting to everlasting, Jesus has been king, and the central purpose of His kingship has been to redeem many subjects unto Himself, and to love those subjects as a part of His eternal kingdom. "In him we were chosen. Moreover, because of what Christ has done we have become gifts to God that he delights in, for as part of God's sovereign plan we were chosen from the beginning to be his, and all things happen just as he decided long ago." (Ephesians 1:11 Living Bible)

"O God, how amazing is your plan of salvation! Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, and kingly reign–all are for me! How can I reject such love? I will bow my knees and confess with my lips that you are Lord of lords!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What Christ purposed for me in eternity, I will allow Him to do for me in time–save me!

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Ephesians 1:19-23

Are You Looking At Life From The Right Angle?

From all eternity, Jesus has been 'King of the ages.' In time, Jesus remains as the king. But earth is filled with earthly sovereigns. How does Jesus compare with earth's powerful kings? His position may be challenged by the evil tyrants of earth, but Jesus continues to reign.

Jesus is rightly called "King of Kings.' This title acknowledges His eternal and continuing sovereignty in the midst of earthly kings. As King of kings, Jesus' power is incredibly great, and all other rulers, whether they acknowledge it or not, are totally subordinate to Christ. Writes Paul, "I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven, far, far above any other king or ruler or dictator or leader. Yes, his honor is far more glorious than that of anyone else either in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under his feet and made him the supreme head of the church–which is his body, filled with himself, the author and giver of everything everywhere." (Ephesians 1:19-23 Living Bible)

When my youngest daughter was only four years old, one day she said to me: "God has a whole bunch of power. He has so many people to take care of." Yes, God is so big that He can rule the universe, and yet so loving that He can care infinitely for every person!

God is sovereign over the entire world–even the world of evil men. The modern-day poster motto expresses faith in a faithful God who still rules in a world seemingly out of control: 'God Has Everything Under Control.'

"This is my Father's world, 
And to my listening ears, 
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father's world; 
The battle is not done; 
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and heaven be one." 

Have you ever observed that kind of special picture which has two pictures within one frame? Looking from one angle the picture reveals Christ on the cross, suffering for lost humanity, an apparent defeat. But move a short distance and look at the picture from another angle and the picture is no longer the crucified Christ, but rather the picture now reveals the resurrected, ascended Lord, accompanied by two angels, going up into glory with all the power of heaven and earth at His disposal. From which angle are you looking at life? Do you see only suffering, or do you see victory over suffering and sin, as you view the resurrected Lord from the proper angle? Are you looking at life from the right angle?

"God, I gladly acknowledge what you have declared: The crown of thorns has been replaced by the crown of glory! Jesus reigns; I will serve!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is Ruler yet!"

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Revelations 11:15-19

Jesus Is The Lord Of History!

As King of kings, Jesus has sovereign control over all the kings of the earth. "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." (Proverbs 21:1 NASB)

Concerning Jesus, Isaiah wrote: "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:7)

"When the renowned artist, Dannecker, was requested by Napoleon to make a painting of Venus for the Louvre, he declined even though an enormous sum was offered. The emperor's anger was stirred and he demanded an explanation. The painter answered simply: 'I have painted Christ, and I can never lower my brush to paint an inferior subject.'" (Shoe-Leather Faith; Merv Rosell; No. 27)

Jesus is the God of all gods. He alone is worthy to reign. He stands as King of kings. E. Stanley Jones, that great veteran missionary, went around the world introducing the sign of Jesus' Lordship; namely, three fingers pointing upward, which stands for 'Jesus is Lord.'

The Bible says that all men will someday bow the knees to Jesus and confess with the tongue that 'Jesus is Lord.' All men will either voluntarily or involuntarily give to Jesus His rightful place which is His inherently–Sovereign Lord!

Said Napoleon, the great military victor: "If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honor. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him."

It is Jesus who divides all of history in BC and AD. Jesus stands at the center of time and gives meaning to the whole. Pagan religions make no sense out of history, but believe history endlessly and regularly repeats itself in eternal cycles. To them, history is going nowhere. But Jesus gives meaning to history, for Jesus is the lord of history. History is going somewhere. History has a purpose and a plan and a destiny. History was divided into BC and AD because of Jesus' first coming. History will find its fulfillment and consummation when Jesus comes the second time!

"Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it would all come out.'… The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries; pg. 20; Donald Demaray)

"God, help me gladly give to Jesus the same place in my life which He inherently possesses in the universe–Lordship!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus is not one 'great' in a class of "greats"; Jesus is the incomparable one!

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Luke 19:28-40

Jesus Is The King Of The Stones!

Jesus is 'King of the Ages' eternally. Jesus is 'Lord of History' in time. Jesus is also 'King of Life'–physical life and human life.

On Palm Sunday, the disciples were praising and worshipping Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. "And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke 19:39,40)

Jesus is King of the stones! The very stones are subject to Jesus and are made to praise Jesus as King of earth and creation! Because Jesus is king of nature, "the Christian way is written into the very structure of the universe." (The Divine Yes; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 48)

All of nature is created by God and for God. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein… Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." (Psalms 24:1,10)

As one poet wrote, "Earth's crammed with Heaven; and every common Bush afire with God."

The Universe belongs to God and will be redeemed by God from the effects which sin has had upon it. The universe is at the command of God. It is subject to Christ, the King. The universe is the friend of God, and is constantly singing praises to God. Barclay notes that if a man sins against God there is a sense in which the whole universe becomes his enemy.

Christ is not only king of physical life, but He is also King of human life. Both physical life and human life are made by God and for God.

Christ is king of human life for Christ's way "is written into living tissues–nerves, arteries, organs, cells." (Ibid; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 48) Christ is king, for He has His claim upon every human being in the very constitution of the physical body! Therefore, going against God is going against oneself! To go against God is to go against the very grain of human make-up! "A pastor's brilliant son, a personal man in a great corporation, told his father: 'I'm trying hard to be an atheist, but I'm having a time of it!'" (Conversion; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 20) It is hard to go against God, for when one goes against God he is going against himself. Man is made by God and for God, and to go against God is to go against the very purpose of one's existence!

"O God, you have your stamp of ownership on me–in my mind, in my body, in my spirit! To reject you is to reject myself! To accept you is to find myself! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To sin against Christ is to sin against myself. To bow to Christ's Lordship is to stand tall before everything else!

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Acts 9:1-6; Acts 26;9-18

Jesus' Way Is The Way To Live!

If you won't live for God, you can't live with yourself! Man is restless until he rests in God. Just as the lungs are made for the air, the stomach for food, and the eyes for beauty, so your soul is made for God. There is within you a God-shaped vacuum which can only be satisfied when filled with God. The soul that is in God is the soul that feels 'at home' with himself. Christ is your native land!

"A little boy was found weeping. They asked him what was the matter. He said 'I've been playing hookey all day from school, and I just found out this is Saturday!' So when playing hookey against the Way of the Kingdom you play hookey against yourself." (The Divine Yes; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 49)

"The whole idea that the Christian Way is the hard way is totally wrong. It is the other way that is the hard way. A man came to Sam Jones, the evangelist, and said, 'I only know one verse of Scripture, and I know the one verse is true. It is, "The way of the transgressor is hard. II I know this is true!' Yes, the idea that the Christian way is hard is all wrong. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, for his yoke is your yearning and his burden is your blessing. When you find him, you find yourself. The laws of your being are the laws of the Way. The Kingdom of Heaven, the Way, is within you and is the thing for which you are made, and therefore, when you find him, you find yourself. There is more joy to the square inch in being his than there is to the square mile in the outside world of rebellion." (Ibid; pg. 50)

"A surgeon said: 'I have discovered the Kingdom of God at the end of my scalpel. It is in the tissues. The right thing morally is always the healthy thing physically.'" (Ibid; pg. 50)

"If you are a Christian, a real one, you are a wise man. And if you are not, you are a fool, fooling yourself by sinning against your own being, against your own happiness." (Ibid; pg. 52)

You are made for God. Your destiny is stamped upon you by God. The way of the transgressor is hard! Running from God, you are running from yourself. Rebelling against God, you are rebelling against yourself. Estranged from God, you are estranged from yourself. Unwillingness to live for God is inability to live with yourself. To come to God is to come to yourself. To surrender yourself to Christ is to find yourself.

"God, I am now realizing that the Christian Way is the way to live! It is hard to 'kick against the pricks.' It is hard 'to spit into the wind.' Surrendering to You, I surrender to Life!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I am 'out of sorts' with God, then I am 'out of sorts' with myself!

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John 18:33-37; Matthew 26:52

"My Kingdom Is Not Of This World"

At His trial, Jesus was asked by Pilate, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36 NASB)

To understand the character of Jesus' kingdom, one must understand something about the popular Jewish expectations regarding the coming Messiah, which Jesus encountered when He came into the world. At the time Christ came into the world, the Jews were a subject people under the dominion of the Romans. The popular talk among the Jews was conversation concerning the coming of the messiah.

The formulation of the Messianic concept was brought about through the wistful longings of the Israelite people during the dark days of their nation's decline, many centuries before the time of Christ. The Jews wistfully longed for a king who would reign like King David. David was Israel's greatest king and it was David who reigned during the Golden Age of Israel's history. David was idolized as the ideal king who gave Israel military, political, material, and spiritual success. Ever after the time of David, the Jews looked back upon his age as the ideal age, and upon David as the ideal king.

At the time of Christ, the Jews expected God to send a Messiah whose power would be in the sword, whose genius would be in military organization, and whose glory would be in the destruction of the Roman army. The Jews expected the Messiah to establish his kingdom on the earth, with Jerusalem as his headquarters. The Messiah would be David incarnate. The borders of Israel would be expanded more than ever before, and all nations would bow in servitude to Israel. The Messiah would usher in an age of unprecedented power and prosperity for Israel.

Jesus shattered the popular Jewish Messianic expectations! Jesus' kingship or Messiahship was characterized not by hate but by love. Jesus' power as the Messiah would not be in terms of military power, but quite the contrary–it would be in terms of the power of love which would find its expression in the experience of suffering and sacrifice. Jesus came to show the true meaning of Messiahship. The Messiah must suffer, not seek revenge. The Messiah must love, not hate. The Messiah must save, not conquer. The Messiah must rule by love in the hearts of men, not rule by hate over the Jews' earthly enemies. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. It is eternal!

"God, you are shattering my false conceptions! You come, not with a sword, but with a cross. You rule, not with the coercion of force, but with the compulsion of love. You come, not to destroy your enemies, but to save your enemies! What a King! A King of Love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who 'takes the sword shall die by the sword.' He who lives by mercy shall receive mercy!

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John 8:31-36

"The Truth Shall Make You Free"

Jesus taught that the Messiah's kingdom would be established, not on the foundation of military force and arms, but on the foundation of suffering and sacrifice. When Jesus came into Jerusalem, the crowds cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!" Barclay notes that "Hosanna" means "Save Now!" and it was the cry for help which a people in distress addressed to their king or their god. (Daily Study Bible; Matthew; Vol. 2; pg. 264) The crowd on Palm Sunday addressed Jesus as the Son of David which was a Messianic title. The excitement of the Jews was great as they hailed the long-expected king. When they cried out, "Hosanna in the highest!" they must have meant, "Let even the angels in the highest heights of heaven cry unto God, Save Now!"

Modern man would quickly welcome Jesus today if He would only promise to change society and establish an era of peace and prosperity. Many Americans would doubtless follow Jesus today if He would destroy our enemies, eliminate our slums, fill our bank accounts, deal with our energy crisis, do away with our national debt, and destroy all diseases. Men today, who have such a shallow understanding of Christ's mission, are ready to cry "Hosanna!" – "Save Now!" People want to be saved from anything unpleasant or undesirable. However, when Christ offers suffering, sacrifice, a cross, and possible death, the popular cry of the crowd is no longer "Hosanna!" but "Crucify Him!"

Jesus came not to give political freedom to the Jews, but rather to give spiritual freedom to all mankind. Throughout Jesus' public ministry He refused to become an earthly revolutionary leader. The people attempted to make him a king, but Jesus refused. John records the following incident in Jesus' public ministry: "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself." (John 6:15)

Jesus well knew that it is possible for a man to be free physically and politically and yet to be a slave to self, to passion, to pride, and to falsehood. Jesus could point to the Romans who, while enjoying prosperity and politica1 freedom and power, were yet slaves to idolatry, hate, and suspicion. Jesus came to give spiritual freedom. Jesus said, "every man who loves truth recognizes my voice." (John 18:37) True freedom comes through the truth. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

"O Thou King of Love, rule over my heart! Release my spirit from the prison of sin. Give me real freedom–freedom from my guilts, fears, hates, and prejudice!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If the Son makes me free, I shall be free indeed! (John 8:36)

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John 18:28-32, John 18:38-40; John 19:1-15

None Can Remain Neutral To Christ!

Christ's kingship is powerful, but not militarily powerful. Christ is powerful as king because He calls every man to make a moral decision. None can remain neutral to Christ! All must either accept or reject His kingship!

Barclay notes various ways in which Pilate sought to avoid any personal decision regarding Christ.

Pilate first tried to put the responsibility for handling Jesus on someone else. Pilate said to the Jews when they brought Jesus to him, "Take ye him, and judge him according to your law." (John 18:31) But this didn't work. The Jews replied to Pilate, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." (John 18:31) No man can evade personal responsibility in dealing with Jesus! The question is asked each man, "What will ye do with Jesus?" Each man must answer that question for himself.

Pilate then tried to engineer Christ's release by appealing to the custom of releasing a prisoner. Pilate's attempt failed when the crowd asked for Barabbas' release instead of Jesus' release. This shows that no man can resort to the world or to a group to make his decision for him regarding Christ. The world is hostile to Christ and is still crying out, "Crucify Him!" Each person must decide for himself, either to accept or to reject the Saviour.

Pilate tried the way of compromise. Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus, and thought that the mob would surely be moved to pity if they saw Jesus scourged. But Pilate's attempt at compromise–seeking to satisfy the Jews by scourging Jesus instead of crucifying him–did not work. When Pilate brought Jesus before the Jews again, the Jews cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him." (John 19:6) Compromise won't work. Pilate had outrightly to decide either to crucify Jesus or to release Jesus. The decision was that explicit. As in the case of Pilate, each person today must also outrightly decide whether to accept Christ or to reject Christ.

Jesus is king. His kingship demands a moral verdict from every man. Jesus divides all men into one of two categories–those who accept Christ and those who reject Christ. Jesus said that anyone who was not for Him was against Him! Every man is either a child of the light or a child of the darkness. Every man must either respond to the truth or harden his heart to the truth. Every man must either choose Barabbas, who represents hate and violence, or Jesus, who represents love and peace. "Choose ye this day whom you will serve!"

"O Thou King of kings, I see that your kingdom is universal! By right of creation and by right of the cross, you have a claim on every person! Your claim comes in the form of a call of love. How can I reject love?"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's personal 'Love call' in my life is my opportunity to live by Love!

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John 19:12-22

Saviour Today – Judge Tomorrow

It is possible that the last action of Pilate in regards to Jesus is the most dramatic act and the act that is filled with the most irony. Pilate "brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement… it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, 'Behold your King!'" (John 19:13-14 NASB) This passage possibly "means that Pilate with one last mocking gesture brought Jesus out, clad in the terrible finery of the old purple robe and with His forehead girt with the crown of thorns and the drops of blood the thorns had wakened, and set Him in the judgment seat, and with a wave of his hand said: 'Am I to crucify your king?"… It may be said that Pilate jestingly caricatured Jesus as judge. If that is so, if Pilate really set Jesus in the judgment seat to make a fool of Jesus, what dramatic irony is there. That which was a mockery was the truth. And one day those who had mocked Jesus as judge would meet Him as judge–and would remember." (Daily Study Bible; John; Vol. 2; pg. 287; Barclay)

"When he was a young man, Judge Warren Candler practiced law. One of his clients was charged with murder, and the young lawyer made the utmost effort to clear his client of the charge. There were some extenuating circumstances and the lawyer made the most of them in his plea before the jury. Moreover, there were present in the court the aged father and mother of the man charged with murder; and the young lawyer worked on the sympathies and emotions of the jury by frequent references to the God-fearing parents. In due course, the jury retired for deliberation. When they had reached a verdict, they returned to the jury box. Their verdict read: 'We find the defendant not guilty.' The young lawyer, himself a Christian, had a serious talk with his cleared client. He warned him to steer clear of evil ways and to trust God's power to keep him straight. Years passed. Again the man was brought into court. Again the charge was murder. The lawyer who had defended him at his first trial was now the judge on the bench. At the conclusion' of the trial, the jury rendered its verdict as 'Guilty.' Ordering the condemned man to stand for sentencing, Judge Candler said, 'At your first trial, I was your lawyer , today I am your judge. The verdict of the jury makes it mandatory for me to sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.' Today Christ is our lawyer, our Saviour, willing to forgive and to cleanse and forget. However, there is coming a fearful day when He will be our judge." (World Aflame; pg. 244-245; Billy Graham)

God "hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained." (Acts 17:31)

"The question in time is: 'What shall I do with Jesus?' The question in eternity will be: 'What will God do with me?' Jesus, I do not ask for justice, but I plead for mercy. I do not want what I deserve–judgment– but I want what you offer–forgiveness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Who I follow in this life will determine where I go hereafter!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Majesty Of A Reigning Christ'

  1. What does Philippians 2:8-11 teach us regarding the relationship between Christ's humiliation and exaltation?

  2. As King of the Ages, what has always been Christ's central purpose of His kingship? (Note 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:4-5)

  3. How is the glory of Christ described in Ephesians 1:19-23, and how is that power described which made possible Christ's exaltant glory?

  4. What are two different angles from which a person can look at life, and what are the different conclusions one will draw, depending upon the angle from which he views life?

  5. What is the difference between a Christian philosophy of history and a pagan philosophy of history?

  6. Why did Stanley Jones say the awful events of history did not disturb him?

  7. Describe what is meant by the phrase: "Jesus is King of the stones!"

  8. Discuss what is meant by the statement: "If a man sins against God there is a sense in which the whole universe becomes his enemy."

  9. What evidence can you point to that demonstrates the fact that Christ is the King of the physical body and human life?

  10. Do you agree with the following statement? "If you won't live for God, you can't live with yourself!" (Why or why not?)

  11. What evidence is there (from personal experience or from personal observation) that the following scriptural statement is true: "The way of the transgressor is hard."

  12. Share your personal insights into E. Stanley Jones' statement: "The idea that the Christian way is hard is all wrong. His (Jesus') yoke is easy and his burden is light, for his yoke is your yearning and his burden is your blessing."

  13. From your personal observation and experience, can you share evidence to validate the truth of the following statement, made by a surgeon: "The right thing morally is always the healthy thing physically."

  14. What kind of 'Messiah' did the Jews of Jesus' time expect God to send to earth, and upon what primary ancient model did these Jews build their Messianic concepts?

  15. Describe the main features of Jesus' Messianic concepts, both as He taught them and as He personified them (in contrast to the popular Jewish Messianic concepts).

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Majesty Of A Reigning Christ' (Cont.)

  16. What was the meaning of the popular cry of the people on the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on 'Palm Sunday,' and how are the popular expectations of people in our modern day similar to the popular expectations of the people of Jesus' day who cried 'Hosanna'?

  17. What is the freedom which Christ (as King) promises to all who follow Him? What are some of the misconceptions which people have today regarding the benefits of accepting Jesus? Will following Christ always result in physical, financial, or political freedom?

  18. What is the essence of Christ's power, as King?

  19. Note several ways in which Pilate sought to avoid any personal decision regarding Christ. How do Pilate's reactions remind you of modern-day man's various indecisive reactions towards Jesus?

  20. Is there any grounds for moral neutrality in the light of Jesus' moral demands? Why or why not? What implications does the 'Lordship of Christ' have for you personally?

  21. If the role of Christ on earth during Time is 'Saviour,' what will be the role of Christ at the End of Time?

  22. Cite scriptural justification for the following strong statement: "He who spurns God's mercy on earth will surely reap God's fiery judgment in eternity!"

  23. Is it both logical and scriptural to say that every person determines his own eternal destiny? Discuss the validity of the following statement: "Who I follow in this life will determine where I go hereafter."

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Encompass ‘Dimension’ of Total Stewardship

Encompass ‘Dimensions’ Of Total Stewardship

Chapter Four

Encompass 'Dimensions' Of Total Stewardship
The Stewardship Of Time 59 Take Time For Leisure And Recreation! 67
The Stewardship Of Influence 61 Stewardship Of Your Body 69
How Powerful Is Your 'Influence'? 63 Benefits Of Physical Exercise 71
Influencing Others – Incense Or Insensitivity? 65 Questions 73

Ephesians 5:15-21

The Stewardship Of Time

A person has no control over the time in history in which he is born. God has a purpose for every age and for every person, and God gives each person a limited number of years to fulfill his distinctive mission in the unique age in which he lives. Because life is so short, you must make your life 'count' for God! Someone wisely said: "Only one life; it will soon be gone; only what we have done for Christ will last!" When you view time in the 'light of eternity', life takes on a new meaning and a great sense of urgency.

"I have only just a minute 
Just sixty seconds in it; 
Forced upon me - can't refuse it, 
Didn't seek it, didn't choose it, 
I must suffer if I lose it, 
Give account if I abuse it; 
Just a tiny little minute, 
But eternity is in it."

(Author Unknown)

Be diligent to make the most of your God-allotted time, to "use it with all economy". The Christian must always view time as the gift of God, and earthly life as the "dressing room for heaven". Time is brief: "We are but dust, and our days are few and brief, like grass, like flowers, blown by the wind and gone forever." (Psalm 103:14-16, Living Bible)

"When as a child, I laughed and wept, 
Time crept; 
When as a youth, I dreamed and talked, 
Time walked; 
When I became a full grown man, 
Time ran; 
When older still I daily grew, 
Time flew; 
Soon I shall find in traveling on 
Time gone."

(Author Unknown)

Time is one of the greatest gifts that man has received from God, and yet this gift is abused and misused perhaps more than any other gift. A disciplined Christian has firm convictions of how his time should be used, and he realizes that his times are in God's hands. He knows that whatever he does, or wherever he is, he must do all things to the

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glory of God. Someday he must give an accounting to God for the use of his time.

"Loving Father, 'my times are in Thy Hands whatever they may be, pleasing or painful, sad or glad, as best may seem to Thee.'"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Despite all the difficulties of these days, I desire to make the best use of my time! (Ephesians 5:16)

– Ron Christian –

NOTES:

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Romans 14:7-12

The Stewardship Of Influence

Influence is that intangible communication of an idea or personally trait from one person to another, with a result in a change of behavior or a change in a way of thinking. When you throw a large rock in the middle of a lake, the ripple from the impact of the rock sometimes reaches to the very edge of the lake. You never know how far reaching your influence may go in touching the lives of other people! You have a responsibility to use your influence for good and for God. The spread of Christianity depends largely upon how influential Christians are. If enough Christians can exert a strong enough influence for Christ, the world can be saved. Everyone is exerting an influence on someone. No one is an island to himself. One's words and actions are either 'building up' or 'tearing down' another person ! Jesus recognized the power of good influence when he said, "Ye (Christians) are the salt of the earth." In other words, the world has been preserved from total destruction because of the goodly influence of godly persons.

Words are important, but words that are not 'backed' by godly actions, lose their power to influence or to persuade. For instance, one who declares that he believes in racial equality and then goes out and discriminates against a member of a racial minority group, obviously will be wasting his words. There is a popular saying: "Your actions speak so loud that I cannot hear your words." In fact, at times the only effective way to influence another is through actions, not words. Wrote Peter to Christian wives who were married to non-Christian husbands: "Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives." (1 Peter 3:1) The influence which loving action has on an unsaved husband is more powerful than the influence which debate and persuasive tactics have on an unsaved husband. The parent who teaches by example, as well as by precept, is the most effective parent. Words are important and powerful to influence, but words must be coupled with loving actions. Children are probably shaped more by the silent attitudes of their parents, lived before them daily, than they are by the words of instruction which their parents give. Words and actions must be coupled together if either is to be truly effective.

As a steward of God you are responsible for the way you use your influence. Your influence may be one of the greatest powers you will ever possess. Will your words and actions lead others to fruitful living or to futile living? Will others be the better or the worse for having known and associated with you? Are you leading people to Christ or away from Christ?

'Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.' (Psalms 19:14) Then, as a result, my life will be magnanimous and winsome and, like filings that are drawn to a magnet, others will

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be drawn to me and eventually to You, O blessed Christ, whom I love and serve."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I want to help shape the lives of everyone around me, for good, by the words I speak and by the way I act and react.

– Ron Christian –

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Philippians 2:12-26

How Powerful Is Your 'Influence'?

By your words and by your actions you can powerfully influence others to 'consider the claims of Christ', leading eventually to their salvation!! This is also true regarding your prayers for the 'lost ones'. Frank Laubach believed that prayer is the most powerful influence in the world! He said, "If you pray for a man a thousand miles away, his unconscious mind may at that very moment be attuned outward toward you. If so, he will get your prayer and that may start in him a desire for God. Desire is what tunes men into God. If you thus help turn a man toward God, you perform the service of a telephone operator, you connect the man with God. That helps God to speak to him directly." How powerful is your influence for God, through your 'life of prayer'?

It is most exciting to realize that your influence for God can live on, long after you have died! Of Abel (in the Old Testament) it is recorded, "though he died, by faith he is still speaking." (Hebrews 11:4 b) Doubtless, all of us are being influenced in our decision making and personal behavior by someone who has already died! My grandmother (a godly lady) died in 1971 at the age of 89. I was 27 years old at the time of her death. I spent much time with her when I was a child and youth. She still 'lives on' because of her influence in my life. Her quiet trust in God, her faithfulness in church attendance, her good humor in the face of her many adversities have influenced me in my outlook on life. She being dead, yet speaketh – to me. Remember, what you do today may influence your great-grandchildren!

"An old man traveling a lone highway, 
Came at the evening cold and gray, 
To a chasm vast and deep and wide. 
The old man crossed in the twilight dim, 
For the sullen stream had no fear for him, 
But he turned when safe on the other side 
And builded a bridge to span the tide. 
"Old Man", cried a fellow pilgrim near, 
"You're wasting your time in building here. 
Your journey will end with the closing day. 
You never again will pass this way. 
You have crossed the chasm deep and wide, 
Why build you this bridge at eventide?" 
The builder lifted his old gray head: 
"Good friend, in the path I have come", he said 
There followeth after me today 
A youth whose feet must pass this way, 
This stream which has been as naught to me,

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To that fair-haired youth may pitfall be. 
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim; 
Good friend, I am building that bridge for him." 
(Will Dromboole)

– Ron Christian –

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2 Corinthians 2:14-17

Influencing Others – Incense Or Insensitivity?

And through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him (2 Corinthians 2:14,NIV)

There is scarcely a moment in our lives that we are not influencing others. Blaise Pascal said, "The least movement is of important to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble." Just so, in the ocean of life, our influence moves on as it is picked up, spreading from person to person and from generation to generation. Preacher John Donne said it tersely: "No man is an island."

Our daily lives exude fragrance much like a vase of lilacs on the dining-room table discharges an aura through the entire house. When I was employed eight-to-five, entering my home after work could greatly affect my tired body and mind, either adversely or delightfully. What a pick-up it was, on those days the cleaning lady had come and done her magic! I'd stop and inhale the fresh, clean smell of toilet bowl cleanser, furniture polish, and just plain soap and water. It infused my whole weary being with hope and pleasure. Just so, the influence of our lives.

Walking down crowded grocery store aisles, my olfactory equipment is assaulted by an assortment of wafting aromas – and I don't mean the heady smell of fresh coffee. The aggressive attack of alcohol, tobacco breath, and other secondhand aromas punctuate the air as certain people pass. I skip what I want from that aisle and hurry away.

The next aisle draws me close to the unpleasant odor of unattended human anatomy. The smell may not be as malicious as it seems, but the message it sends is a lack of consideration for others. I feel violated by this exposure that is emphasized by scanty attire.

In the next aisle I chance to meet an acquaintance who has taken the time and care to be clean, pleasant smelling, and properly clothed. I stop to chat, for his spirit conveys the same pleasant aura.

Our lives send forth waves of influence that are picked up much like the aromas that attack our noses. The "fragrance" will attract others to join our victorious procession, or will repel them.

We who are made clean through the blood of Jesus Christ, renewed by His Spirit, may go forth and spread the sweet fragrance of His triumphal grace to a hurting world. This requires a holy sincerity. Anything less – selfish motives, wrong attitudes – will be picked up by those around us.

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On the other hand, those who are repelled by the aroma of Christ that emanates from truly holy lives, have a spiritual cold in the head that distorts the fragrance, making it unpleasant to them ("To the one we are the smell of death, to the other, the fragrance of life". 2 Corinthians 2:16) To God the emanation is sweet incense ascending from clean, Spirit-filled vessels.

"Lord Jesus, make the essence of my life that which will draw others to you, revealing your goodness, your holiness, your love. Because there is nothing good in me, renew the aroma of yourself in me as I am faithful in daily prayer, devotion, and worship of you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will imitate him who "gave himself up, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." (From Ephesians 5:1-2)

– Nina E. Beegle –

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Mark 6:31-32; Mark 10:13-16

Take Time For Leisure And Recreation!

It is almost certainly only a legend, but it has truth in it to ponder. The story is told of a man who came upon the Apostle John (the disciple whom Jesus deeply loved) and found this beloved follower of the Lord playing with a 'bow and arrow'. "What!" said the man to John, "you are spending your time playing rather than meditating on the Scriptures and serving humanity!" Said John to the man, "What would happen to the strength and the power of the bow string if it were always stretched and tense and were never released?" "Well," said the man to John, "I suppose the bow string would lose some of its power and its ability to send the arrow." "Yes," said John, "and all study and all service without periods of play, causes one to lose strength and effectiveness in that study and service. The bow string must sometimes be released."

Someone wisely said, "A strained piety is a dangerous piety." Holiness and joy are not contradictory but compatible. 'All work and no play' makes a Christian strained and stressful.

It is important that one guard against 'workaholism'. Yes, laziness and indolence must be avoided like the 'plague' but so must 'workaholism'. As in so many areas of life, there must be a 'balance' between work and play in life. Be sure to take time aside for play. Bear cubs and tiger kittens play. Children play. Healthy adults play too – whether 'touch football' or table games. Play should be to the Christian life what dessert is to a good meal. Every family should play together – for this draws the whole family together. It is true that the family that prays together and the family that plays together is the family that will likely 'stay together'. One caution: Don't get too involved in 'spectator sports'; rather, get involved in play together as a family.

Laughter is 'therapeutic'. The Bible says: "A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) Says E. Stanley Jones: "There are three levels of laughter: the lowest level, the one who laughs only at his own jokes; a little higher, the one who laughs at the jokes of others; third, the one who can laugh at himself. I would add as the highest, the one who laughs at the rhythm of things – a constitutionally happy laugh." Someone asked the sainted Rufus Moseley, "Did Jesus ever laugh?" And Rufus replied, "Well, I don't know, but he certainly fixed me up so I could laugh." When Jesus took up the children in his arms to 'bless' them (Mark 20:13-16), I think He surely must have spent a little time laughing and playing with them. Jesus was serious-minded, but He was not somber and sour. In some of Jesus' parables, one can discern a 'sense of humor' (how could the crowd not laugh when Jesus talked about the Pharisees 'straining at nats and swallowing camels'?). And remember, even Jesus needed at times to leave the crowds to be alone with his dearest friends (Mark 6:31-32). Everyone needs time for re-creation!

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"Joyful Christ, give me a 'holy hilarity' that is most contagious."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My countenance will 'give away' the joy I feel in my heart!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 6:14-20; Romans 6:11-18

Stewardship Of Your Body

Wrote Paul, "Sexual sin is never right: our bodies were not made for that, but for the Lord, and the Lord wants to fill your bodies with Himself… Don 't you realize that your bodies are actually parts and members of Christ?… Haven't you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that He lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God, because he owns it." (Portions of 1 Corinthians 6, Living Bible)

Suppose someone gave you a beautiful car to USE. It is not your's to abuse, but it is your responsibility to take good care of it – to use it appropriately. God gave you the body that you call your own. It is a gift, on 'loan' to you. To abuse your body with sexual immorality is a great sin! Wrote Paul, "Run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against your own body." (1 Corinthians 6:18)

If your body is created by God to be used for God, then allow God to use your body for His glory. If you have surrendered your body to Jesus Christ, then you will endeavor to take-care of your body. You will honor God by keeping your body physically strong, healthy, and pure. You will not use your body as an instrument or tool of wickedness, but you will use your body as a tool of righteousness (Romans 6:11-18). You will not destroy your own body (suicide), and you will have no part in destroying the bodies of other people (murder, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia). You will not abuse your body with harmful drugs, alcohol, tobacco. You will not engage in illicit sex. You will rest properly and eat nutritious foods. You will actively exercise the body's muscles including the heart and the lungs. You will see your body as a tool in God's hands to use throughout your lifetime for God's honor. You will build your body's resistance against disease, and avoid 'junk foods' that tear down your body's ability to endure.

Notes one author about the importance of keeping physically fit: "Your physical condition directly affects how you feel mentally. By achieving physical fitness an individual can engage in a lifestyle that produces health and happiness. Being physically fit gives us the qualities important for living the good life. It generates creative energy. Willpower. And personal discipline… Scientific evidence has shown a strong similarity between the changes normally associated with aging and those caused by inactivity… Chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes) have a direct correlation with out lifestyle." (Vibrant Life; pg. 17)

"Father, I thank you that I am 'fearfully and wonderfully made'. Help me to be a 'fit vessel' for the sacred indwelling of your blessed Holy Spirit."

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I don't 'keep in touch' with my body (through proper health-practices), then eventually my body will get 'in touch' with me (through physical illness and disease)!

– Ron Christian –

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1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Timothy 4:8

Benefits Of Physical Exercise

Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D. is one of the world's leading experts on physical health and fitness. This best-selling Christian author made 'Aerobics' a household word. Several years ago, he founded a medical facility that offers comprehensive physical evaluation, counseling, and recommendations for attaining and maintaining healthy lifestyles. Nearly 30 million copies of his several books have been distributed throughout the world, motivating many to begin a disciplined regime of daily exercise. Through research, he has shown that physical fitness helps overcome multiple diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Vigorous (fast) walking for at least one-half hour each day will greatly increase one's chances that he/she will live longer, feel better (increased energy level), and look better (weight control).

In his journal, John Wesley reveals his 'secret formula' for his long and healthy life. He believed it was because of several things: (1) "The power of God, fitting me for the work to which I am called"; (2) "The prayers of His children"; (3) "To my constant exercise and change of air… to my never having lost a night's sleep… to my having constantly, for about sixty years, risen at four in the morning… to my constant preaching at five in the morning, for above fifty years… to my having had so little pain in my life, and so little sorrow, or anxious care."

If you wish to be physically fit, you must eat properly, sleep well, manage stress effectively (through prayer and by trusting God in all things), and regularly exercise. My older brother has been a 'good example' for me in many areas, not the least of which is in the area of physical exercise. Even though he suffered great pain (in his feet particularly) for many years, as a result of being inflicted with polio when he was only eight years old, he has nevertheless overcome his physical disabilities and has become an active mountain climber. Among the many mountains he has climbed (many of them over 14,000 feet) is Long's Peak (in Rocky Mountain National Park). Just this last summer, he climbed it for the eighth time (when he was 61 years old)! Ironically, it was my brother who encouraged me (many years ago) to increase my distance in running from one mile to four miles! My son-in-law, who never enjoyed running when he was a teenager, now runs at least 40 miles each week (and he lost over 50 pounds as a result of proper eating and disciplined running)! He has greatly increased his 'speed', and is a 'strong competitor' in many races! Amazing results! For many years, I have run 4 miles most mornings. Benefits to me? Relieves my stress, builds my muscles, enables me to breathe mare deeply, increases my energy level, improves the quality of my sleep, improves my mental sharpness, provides opportunity for me to pray and to plan and to worship my Lord while enjoying the beauty of nature.

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"Father, renew me daily in my mind, body, and spirit. Help me to do 'my part' in this 'renewal process'. The I shall be a 'fit vessel' for the indwelling Holy Spirit!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will "add life to my years" as well as "add years to my life" – by vigorous physical exercise!

– Ron Christian –

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Questions

  1. Why should a Christian view his earthly life as the "dressing room for heaven"?

  2. What does Psalm 103:14-16 teach regarding time and man's earthly life?

  3. According to Ephesians 5:16, what should the Christian's attitude be regarding his God-allotted time on earth?

  4. Is there any way that you can measure the extent and degree of your personal influence on other persons?

  5. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "One who declares that he believes in racial equality and then goes out and discriminates against a member of a racial minority group, obviously will be wasting his words."

  6. What advice does Peter give to Christian women who are married to a non- Christian husband, according to 1 Peter 3:1?

  7. Have you seriously considered using the words of Psalms 19:14 as your 'daily prayer' (as many 'great Christians' have done throughout the centuries of the Christian Church)?

  8. Do you personally believe that earnest and believing (Christ-centered) praying is the most powerful influence in the world?

  9. Are you personally and presently being influenced in your decision-making and personal behavior by someone who has already died? (Remember, what you do today may influence your great-grandchildren someday!)

  10. According to 2 Corinthians 2:15-16, what are the two different responses of people who become aware of the 'fragrance' of your life as a follower of Christ?

  11. Tell with what degree of conviction you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "All study and all service without periods of play and recreation, causes one to lose strength and effectiveness in that study and service." Give your interpretation (and application) of the following statement: "A strained piety is a dangerous piety."

  12. Share from your own personal experience how you have learned to 'strike a balance' between work and play in your Christian life. When do you regularly (daily or weekly) take time 'to play'? Share the kind of 'play' which genuinely

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    re-creates and rejuvenates you, such that you are more effective in your Christian service as a result of your 'play'. Share your comments (i.e., explanation) of the following statement: "Play should be to the Christian life what dessert is to a good meal."

  13. Tell why you agree (or disagree) with the following statement: "The family that prays together and the family that plays together, is the family that will likely 'stay together'."

  14. Is it possible for a Christian to be serious-minded and, at the same time, joy-filled and good-humored (instead of somber and sour in his attitudes and words and countenance)? According to Proverbs 17:22, what are the benefits of having a 'cheerful heart'?

  15. According to 1 Corinthians 6:18, why is sexual immorality considered to be such a serious sin?

  16. Practically-speaking, how does a Christian, who believes in the 'stewardship of the body', treat his body? (Note 1 Corinthians 6:14-20; Romans 6:11-18)

  17. Share your personal response (or reaction) to the following statements: "Scientific evidence has shown a strong similarity between the changes normally associated with aging and those caused by inactivity. Chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, diabetes) have a direct correlation with our lifestyle."

  18. Tell how the following statement has changed (or will change) your personal lifestyle (in terms of 'physical fitness'): "Scientific research has shown that vigorous (fast) walking for at least one-half hour each day will greatly increase one's chances that he/she will live longer, feel better (increased energy level), and look better (weight control)."

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