Category Archives: devotional

Our Blessed Hope

And now,little children,abide in him;that,when he shall appear,we may have confidence,and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore, the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that,when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
1Jo 2:28-3:3

If we look at the world around us, we can easily see that there is a shortage of hope. The morals of society are crumbling. War, poverty, disease and a host of other ills are rampant. This is nothing new, but it is certainly getting worse instead of better. 

When we think of hope, the thought often comes to mind of something that is nothing more than wishful thinking. A child eagerly anticipates the arrival of Christmas or a birthday, in hope of receiving a long list of presents. A sports fan goes to a ball game hoping to see their team emerge victorious. A nervous young man musters enough courage to ask that special girl out on a date. Often, these hopes are dashed by reality.

For Christians, however, hope is more than just wishing things were better. It is more than a pipe dream, but is an earnest expectation of Christ’s return as He promised.

These verses give us five characteristics of the blessed hope that resides in each believer.

  • It is strengthened by fellowship–I John 2:28.
  • It is demonstrated by righteousness–I John 2:29
  • It is grounded in love–I John 3:1
  • It yields expectation–I John 3:2
  • It produces purity–I John 3:3

Does the life we live reflect the hope that we have? To do so, we must be faithful in our fellowship with Christ. Others should see His righteousness on display through us. Consider the love of our Heavenly Father who has chosen to call us His sons. Rejoice in the expectation that one day we will be transformed into His likeness, and keep yourself pure after the pattern of Jesus.

The world desperately needs to see the hope that God so freely gives.

Advertisement

Welcome Aboard

Welcome to the new home of Heavenly Heartburn. For some time now I have been very dissatisfied with the technical inconsistency of Blogger. At the recommendations of some blogging friends I have decided to move to WordPress. (Thanks Steve and Tim).

Making this move will allow me to do several things that I have been wanting to do for some time now. It is my hope that visiting Heavenly Heartburn will enhance your walk with Christ. I want my blog to be a place where worship, missions and discipleship is promoted. For this purpose, I have added several pages that contain links to music, missions, books and resource sites. I hope that you will explore them and take advantage of them.

I also want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the purpose of Heavenly Heartburn. From time to time I get asked where did I come up with the name. It is based on the response of the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us as He expounded the Scripture?” I hope that as I share what God is teaching me on my journey it will cause the flame of your passion for Christ to be kindled to greater heights.

I want my blog to be a place that honors God. I hope that those who visit will find that it is a site where they can discuss, pray, share and laugh with others in a spirit of gracious Christian fellowship. I hope that iron will be sharpened here and that each of you will be encouraged to serve God more in His kingdom.

So come on in, make yourself at home, look around and check out all the new things. I always enjoy hearing from you so leave a comment and check out some of the links (more will be added soon).

 God bless.

Antidote for Antichrists

In I John 2:20-27, we find three things we can use to defend against the deception of antichrists.

Knowledge of the Truth
Every believer has received an anointing of the Spirit that enables us to understand the truth of God’s Word. No believer has “special access” over others into truth.

We must use this truth to identify the lies of the spirit of antichrist. This illustration may seem trite, but it is well-known that when bank tellers are trained to identify counterfeit money, they are thoroughly educated in what the genuine article looks like. Thus, if a bill doesn’t match up with what they know to be authentic, they reject it as being a deception.

The same principle should apply to believers when trying to discern doctrine. We should be so thoroughly familiar with who Christ is as revealed in Scripture, that when a false presentation of Jesus is brought before us, we are immediately aware that it is heresy.

Continuing in Doctrine
We cannot allow the basic doctrines of Christ to be forgotten. These are the very bedrock upon which our faith rests. Regardless of variations within our systems of theology, all true believers base their doctrine upon who Christ is.

I believe that this should cause us to frequently review the words of Christ. We should stay grounded in His teachings so that we will not falter in our doctrine. This will also enable us to recognize an “imposter” Christ. Without exception, every cult in existence has strayed from the truth concerning the person of Christ.

Take Personal Responsibility for Learning the Truth
The anointing of the Spirit remains in every believer. This is the “Spirit of truth” which was promised to us by Jesus, himself. This renders every believer capable of discerning truth. May I suggest that in this case capability equals responsibility? I believe that we are required by God to know the truth.

Too many Christians are content to learn the truth vicariously. They are perfectly willing to ignore their Bibles, instead relying upon their pastor, teacher, or the latest book to fill their minds with the doctrine of Christ. There is no substitute for a Spirit-led believer opening the Word of God and laboring over a text until the meaning is ingrained in their heart.

In short, the Antidote to Antichrists is TRUTH. Know it and you will be free.

Beware of Antichrists

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. I John 2:18-19

While the mission of Jesus is to seek and to save those who were lost, Satan’s greatest objective is to prevent this from happening. One tactic that he often uses is deceit, particularly about who Jesus is. If he can cause confusion about the identity of Jesus, he can cause people to doubt that Jesus is the Savior of the world.

The spirit of antichrist is very present in the world today. There are many who deny either the existence of or the truth about Jesus Christ. John took steps to both defend the truth of Jesus, and to refute the false teachings of the Gnostics who were plaguing the Ephesian church. There are basically six doctrines about Christ that are consistently attacked by the spirit of antichrist.

  1. The Reality of Christ–they deny His humanity, deity, and virgin birth.
  2. The Righteousness of Christ–some insinuate that Jesus was sinful.
  3. The Relevance of Christ–some try to confine His relevance to one era of history.
  4. The Redemption of Christ–some deny the sufficiency of His atonement by adding works to grace for salvation.
  5. The Resurrection of Christ–many would deny the fact of the resurrection which is the keystone of the doctrines of Christ.
  6. The Return of Christ–by denying His return, they ultimately deny His lordship.

These antichrists may often seek to be identified with believers, but they are not the same. Christians should use great care and exercise discernment concerning the usage of the “Christian” label. Obviously, not everyone who calls themselves Christian is actually a believer. This does not mean that we are to attempt to judge what is in a persons heart, but by evaluating their teachings, we can certainly know whether or not they know the truth.

Tomorrow we will look at the Antidote for Antichrists. Until then, God bless.

Overcoming the World–Part 3

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. I John 2:17

The third reason that believers should overcome the world is that it is only temporary. The world and all that is in it is already in the process of passing away. A believer who is enamored with the world will soon find that they are sailing on a sinking ship.

This world is full of the corruption of sin. There is not one thing produced by the world that does bear the stain of unrighteousness. There is not a person in the world who is to be held above all others in righteousness.

The things that we crave, obsess over and pursue will one day complete the process of decay and will be gone forever. I do not believe that they will even be remembered in eternity.

On the other hand, the person who does the will of God abides in continual fellowship with Him. This would tell us that the only way to perform the will of God is to eschew the world as much as possible. Our mind must be set on pleasing our heavenly Father. This would bring to mind the text of Romans 12:2, And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The wonderful thing that can be seen in all of this is that we CAN overcome the world. The corruption, moral decay, war, terrorism, persecution and all of the other ills of the world system should not dominate the life of God’s children. Praise be to God, we can be more than conquerors through the power of divine love.

Overcoming the World–Part 2

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. I John 2:15

In this verse, we see the second reason why believers should overcome the world. Love of the world conflicts with love of the Father. The Scripture draws a hard line here, it is impossible to divide our affection between the world and God.

While the love of God may be shared with other believers through koinonia, it cannot be shared with the world. As I stated in an earlier post in this series, it is both possible and desirable that Christians should maintain fellowship with unbelievers, (we will never reach them otherwise) we cannot enjoy the same level of fellowship with them that we do with God and the brethren.

The “world” here, of course, refers to the world system. It is descriptive of all that is produced and affected by the world. This would include materialism, secular culture, humanistic philosophy, religion and power. John was familiar with the pull of the world:

  1. As a commercial fisherman he was familiar with the temptation of prosperity.
  2. As a conquered Jew he was familiar with the temptation of political power.
  3. As a disciple of Christ he was familiar with the temptation of popularity vs persecution.
  4. As a bishop of Ephesus he was familiar with the temptation of worldly philosophy.

Loving the world produces negative consequences in the life of a Christian. It will cause them to forsake fellowship with Christ and other believers. It will cause them to become a respecter of persons, seeking the favor of men more than that of God. It will cause them to be overcome by their pursuit of pleasure and possessions. And it will prevent them from being able to please their heavenly Father.

This does not mean that we should not own or even enjoy the things that are in the world. It is impossible to live without the things of the world (some of them, anyway). We are not, however, to let them steal our affection away from God. He is to be the love of our life. With all that we are, we are to turn our hearts toward Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.

Look full in His wonderful face.

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.

Overcoming the World–Part 1

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I John 2:12-13

One of the three primary enemies of believers is the world. Carnality, or worldliness, is a topic that is repeatedly addressed throughout the N.T. God desires for His children to be overcomers against the world. These verses will give us some insight into why we should strive to be victorious over the world.

The first reason I would note is that overcoming the world is a mark of spiritual maturity.

In verse twelve, John addresses these remarks to all believers. His use of teknia (translated, “little children”) is a term of endearment. He is reminding us that all believers have the same relationship with God. Our sins are forgiven for the sake of the name of Jesus. This means that everyone of us has the same opportunity for fellowship with Christ.

I believe that fellowship and maturity are closely related. The more one fellowships with the Savior, the more they will grow in knowledge of Him. This, of course, leads to greater levels of strength and spiritual maturity.

John was writing to the third-generation church. The “fathers” to whom he was speaking were of the same generation as Christ. Given the dispersion of the early church due to persecution, it was possible that he was writing to some who had actually seen or known Jesus. Thus he says, “You have known him that is from the beginning.” They have experienced an ongoing learning process in the doctrine of Christ.

The young men were the strong ones. They were old enough to remember the persecution. They had seen their parents pay the price for identifying with Christ. This had inspired them to take a stand for Jesus as well. They had continued in the doctrines of Christ as taught to them by the “fathers”, thus they were growing stronger and had actually experienced victory over the world.

The little children, (here it is translated from paidia, literally a “small child”) had a knowledge of the heavenly Father. John would desire for them to continue to grow in strength, knowledge and grace so that they would become “young men” and eventually “fathers” themselves.

We can only overcome the world when we are growing in our fellowship with Christ. Tomorrow we will see how the world pulls against us as believers, but may we be encouraged to draw closer to Christ, walk and talk with Him, and let His word dwell in us and cause to grow strong in the faith.

All We Need

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is that of Moses and the burning bush. I love the idea of God doing the unusual to pull us out of the rut of day-to-day living into which we so often slip.

God calls Moses aside and begins to unfold His great plan to deliver Israel from the bondage of Egypt. He tells an 80 year-old shepherd that he is to assume the command of over 2 1/2 million freed slaves and lead them through the wilderness to the land of promise. First, he has to stand before the most powerful man in the world and demand their release upon the command of an unseen God.

Moses immediately begins to make excuses: They won’t listen to me, God. I am not a great speaker, etc.

God replies with a simple question, “Moses, what is that in your hand?”

Moses happened to be holding a big stick, which is irrelevant. This was not a magic wand. It could have been a pencil, a hammer, a stethoscope or knitting needle. The point God was teaching Moses was that He was able to take the ordinary and use it in miraculous ways. God turned that stick into a snake, then back into a stick again.

Moses learned a valuable lesson that day, when God is all you have, He is all you need.

So often in the journey of faith, we are confronted with tasks or obstacles that exceed our abilities and resources. We must learn to completely rely upon the power of God to provide what we need to go where He leads. We should not depend upon our abilities, possessions, friends or family to do what God has called us to do by His power. We should continue in faith to follow the plan that He has given us.

When God is all we have, He is all we need.

Do You Know The Shepherd?

The following story was often told by gospel singer, J.D. Sumner. I am unsure of its origin, perhaps he wrote it, but it has often blessed me and I wanted to share it with you.

The banquet hall was filled. To speak for the occasion, a renowned orator had been brought in. After a wonderful meal, he mesmerized the crowd with his voice as he recited poetry and famous selections of speeches.

Near the end of the program, he asked if anyone had a favorite selection that they would like for him to recite. From the back of the room, an old man stood up and kindly asked if he would mind reciting the 23rd Psalm. The speaker said that he would be glad to do it if, when he was finished, the old man would recite it as well. The old gentleman nodded his head and sat back down.

In a beautifully trained voice that resonated throughout the great room, the speaker began, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” When he was finished, there was thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

He then looked at the old man and said, “Alright sir, it is your turn now.”

In a trembling voice that was cracked by time, the old man began to recite, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” It is said that when he was finished, there was no applause, but neither was there a dry eye in the building.

After the event, someone asked the famous speaker what he thought produced the different responses in the crowd. The speaker paused, thought for a moment and said, “I know the 23rd Psalm, but that man knows the shepherd. That makes all the difference.”

Do you know the shepherd?

The Old is New

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. I John 2:7-8

The “old commandment” here, is of course the Great Commandment found in Deuteronomy 6:5, and was later quoted by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-39. We are commanded to “love the Lord, thy God, will all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy might”.

We are not being given a brand-new commandment, but rather a new expansion of the old. Christ perfectly fulfilled the old commandment, something that was impossible for us to do in the strength of our flesh. God knew this and that is why the law is described in Galatians as a “schoolmaster” to bring us to grace. Isn’t it interesting that the first fruit of the Spirit is love? Our love for God is a response to the grace and love of God.

Jesus completely fulfilled this law in His life and work. John saw this demonstration of divine love and realized that via fellowship with Christ, we now have the ability to fulfill this commandment to a degree that is acceptable to God.

This commandment was not new in its substance, but in the expectation and manner of its fulfillment. The bottom line is that love of the brethren is not optional for Christians, it is both feasible and expected.

We demonstrate our love for God in our love for the brethren. How much of God’s love is seen in your life?