Featured

My Vocation

My vocation has become clearer as the years go by: to study the unchanging God without something else to do, some pragmatic reason or result. This is what I feel most called to do: simply enjoy the study of God – not write about it, not view it in relation to its political residue or imagine that my opinions will have some visible  social effect. The joy of inquiry into God is a sufficient end in itself, not only as a means to some practical consequence.

Thomas C. Oden, The Rebirth of Orthodoxy, p. 95

(Photo by Ben White on Unsplash)

Shining as Lights

TEXT: Philippians 2:12-18

“… that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (verse 15)

INTRODUCTION

Jesus Christ is the original light. But if his light is in us because we are saved by grace through faith in him, then that light should shine in and through us so that people may be led out of darkness and to Christ. How?

  1. WE WORK OUT (NOT FOR) OUR SALVATION (Eph. 2:10; Matt. 5:16; Jas. 2:18).
  2. WE DEPEND ON GOD (John 15:4-5).
  3. WE DON’T GRUMBLE; INSTEAD WE GIVE THANKS (Jude 1:16; 1 Thess. 5:18).
  4. WE CLING TO GOD’S WORD (Ps. 119:105).

Don’t let go of God’s Word. Let its reality be seen in your life by your obedience to it because it’s the light which drives away the world’s darkness. It’s the food that souls need. It’s the standard by which we distinguish right from wrong.

  1. WE REJOICE WITH AND IN ONE ANOTHER (1 Thess. 2:19-20).

APPLICATION:

  1. In what specific way can I let my light shine?

PRAYER

Lord, help me to shine as a light in this world. Help me to contribute my share in driving out this world’s darkness. Amen.

(Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash)

Hunger and Thirst

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6)

INTRODUCTION:

Our basic desires demand satisfaction. If we hunger and thirst and do not receive satisfaction, we will die. If we don’t desire what is good for us – if we don’t eat and drink – or if we desire the wrong things – like junk food instead of real nutrition – we will still die. This applies to the spiritual realm, as well. “Man shall not live by bread alone.” (Matt. 4:4)

Continue reading “Hunger and Thirst”

Faith in Times of Pandemic

Habakkuk 3:16-19 ESV

[16] I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us. [17] Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, [18] yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. [19] GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.

INTRODUCTION

The theme here is: From Fear to Faith especially in times of great crisis. Habakkuk was complaining about God’s indifference to the wickedness of God’s covenant people (1:2-4) only to be shocked that God was not indifferent at all, but was in fact preparing the Chaldeans to punish his people (1:12) This led him to complain again. He questions God’s justice in using instruments of judgment more wicked than the people God intends to punish (1:13). God bluntly tells Habakkuk to trust him (2:4) and he reveals that after he has used the Chaldeans or Babylonians to punish his people, he will in turn punish them too (2:16). Although he trembles with fear over the coming judgment, Habakkuk rejoices in God, trusting that God will not only deal justly but will work out salvation in the end.

I. RECOGNIZE GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY (1:12)

God is not the author of sin (James 1:13) but he is its governor. Nothing can happen without his permission.

Isaiah 45:7 ESV

[7] I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Believe it or not, this is actually an encouraging truth and much to be preferred over the idea that calamities are random events that God neither foresees nor controls. If God is in control, even if we don’t understand why he allows such things to happen, we trust that his wisdom and love will never allow these things to happen in the first place unless some great good were to come out of all this.

Thus, even this pandemic was at least allowed by him for wise and holy reasons.

Habakkuk 3:5 ESV

[5] Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels.

II. REVERE GOD’S HOLINESS

Habakkuk not only complained about what he thought was God’s indifference, he also questioned God’s justice or holiness. When bad things happen, our tendency is to ask Why, O Lord (1:3, 13)? We question God’s justice. God explained to Habakkuk the righteousness of his ways: he would punish his people, he would also punish the Babylonians. But at the outset, he simply told Habakkuk to trust him (2:4). Often the proper response to the incomprehensible tragedies of life is simply to be still and know that God is God.

Habakkuk 2:20 ESV

[20] But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”

God knows what he is doing even if we don’t.

III. REJOICE IN GOD’S SALVATION

So even though Habakkuk didn’t understand how God could allow such a calamity to befall his people he simply put his trust in God. Thus, he was able to rejoice even in the midst of calamity (e.g., famine) because he knew God would produce salvation out of all this (Rom. 8:28).

Habakkuk 3:12-13 ESV

[12] You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. [13] You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah

I believe one reason why God allowed this pandemic is so that people all over the world will remember him and find salvation.

Habakkuk 2:14 ESV

[14] For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

During this time of pandemic, so many online bible studies via Zoom have sprouted all over the world. So many prayers and Bible verses are posted on FB as never before.

CONCLUSION

It is interesting that Paul makes use of Hab. 2:4 in relation to God’s righteousness in justifying sinners. God is just in justifying sinners who have put their faith in Jesus because Jesus satisfied God’s justice when he died for their sins. The great calamity which was the death of the Savior became the cause of great joy because of the salvation which his death produced, a salvation received by faith and not by works. That is why in times of pandemic let us overcome fear with faith. God is in control, he knows what he is doing. He is sovereign and holy. And he will produce salvation in the end. In wrath, he is actually remembering mercy. Trust him and rejoice!

(Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

Blessed are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

INTRODUCTION.

We’re studying the characteristics of those who belong to the King and to his kingdom.

At the outset, meekness is the by-product of self-emptying (poverty of spirit) and self-humiliation (mourning or sorrow over one’s sinfulness). When you realize that you are not only nothing without God, but are also a sinner deserving of eternal punishment, the result will be a broken and contrite heart which can no longer afford to boast before God or to be arrogant towards others. You therefore don’t mind being last instead of being first; being the servant of all instead of being the ruler of all. In other words, the gospel makes you meek.

The values of the Kingdom are the opposite of the world’s. The world says, “Be aggressive, fulfill yourself, look out for number one, and you will be successful.” Christ says, “Be meek, deny yourself, be the servant of all, and you will inherit the earth. The last shall be the first.

1. WHAT MEEKNESS ISN’T

(A) It isn’t weakness. It doesn’t mean you’ll simply be a doormat to be trampled upon by others. Jesus Christ was meek and lowly in heart, but he drove the moneychangers out of his Father’s house.

(B) It isn’t softness. It doesn’t mean you’ll just keep quiet and won’t stand up to wrongdoers. Jesus was meek but he wasn’t spineless. He had the moral backbone to stand up for truth and rebuke wrongdoers.

2. WHAT MEEKNESS IS.

(A) It is strength under control.

The Greek word for meek is used for animals that have been domesticated, e.g., a horse that has been broken (Prov. 16:32; Prov. 19:11; Prov. 16:32). So a meek person is strong but he knows how to submit to God’s control.

(B) It is submission to God’s will (James 1:19-21).

“The meek are those who humble themselves before God, because they acknowledge their utter dependence upon Him. In consequence, they are gentle in their dealings with others.” (R.V.G. Tasker)

(C) It is gentleness to others (Prov. 15:1; Gal. 6:1-2).

(D) Meekness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23)

3. EXAMPLES OF MEEKNESS

(A) Moses (Numbers 12:3). When Aaron and Miriam confronted him, instead of being angry he allowed the Lord to vindicate him.

(B) Jesus (Matt. 11:29; 1 Peter 2:23; Luke 22:42).

4. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO INHERIT THE EARTH.

(A) It means satisfaction and contentment with what we have at present (Ps. 37:11) (Ps. 22:26 KJV). You only truly possess what you are satisfied with. Because their spirits are subdued before God, they are contented with what they have (Heb. 13:5). They know that God will provide for all their needs (Phil. 4:19). And because they belong to God who owns everything, everything belongs to them. Therefore, they trust him to give them their portion in due time (Ps. 145:15, 16; 1 Cor 3:21-22; 2 Cor. 6:10).

(B) It means reigning in the world to come (Rev. 22:3-5; Matt. 19:28)

PRAYER

Lord, instead of always asserting myself, help me to be meek and lowly and self-denying like you because only then will I possess the things that truly matter: love, joy, peace, contentment in you! Amen.

Blessed are those who mourn (2)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

Who else are those who mourn?

Those who suffer for Jesus’ sake (John 16:20, 22, 33). For now we weep because in this world we will have tribulation (Rom. 8:36; 1 Pet. 4:12)

And what is their comfort?

The promises of Christ (John 16:20, 22, 33; Heb. 13:5, 6).

The presence of the peace-giving Spirit (John 14:26, 27).

The participation of the brethren (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

The parousia (Second Coming) of Christ (Rev. 21:4).

Let us not be overwhelmed by sorrow because we not only have spiritual comforts now, we have eternal comfort ahead of us.

(1 Thess. 4:13-18)

Audio Link: https://youtu.be/n4yRjYMw7Uo

Blessed are those who mourn (part 1)

“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

INTRODUCTION

We continue to study the characteristics of those people who belong to the kingdom, one of which is their spiritual mourning, because they are a people whose hearts have been broken by a recognition of their sinfulness before God and have therefore become contrite (humble, repentant). It is comforting to know that God takes account of our tears (Psalm 56:8).

  1. WHO ARE THESE WHO MOURN?

They are those who sorrow over their sins and who suffer for Jesus’ sake. For now, we take up only the first one.

A) They realize how much they’ve grieved God by their sins (Psalm 51:4).

B) They feel the pain they’ve inflicted upon themselves (and others) as a result of their sins (Psalm 32:3-4; Jeremiah 2:19).

C) They also weep tears of conviction because of God’s love for them in Christ in spite of their sins. It was my sins that nailed Christ to the cross and I grieve at the sight of him on the cross, but at the same time I rejoice that he loves me so much so as to die for the forgiveness of my sins (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 5:8).

  1. HOW ARE THEY COMFORTED?

They are comforted by a sense of God’s grace and forgiveness (Psalm 30:5, 11; Psalm 32:1, 5; Luke 15:7, 10).

PRAYER: Lord, we are sorry for our many sins. Thank you for your forgiveness which you’ve given us in Christ Jesus. In him we have the comfort of complete pardon and eternal life. Amen.

Arson

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness . . . set on fire by hell.” (James 3:5-6)

The wicked tongue of a stranger
pierces my unprotected heart.
His senseless vain remarks
are set aflame by hell.

Today the world can see and hear
what used to be so private.
Bold and brash they are because
they are anonymous.

They’re like the arsonist who sets
the sleepy town ablaze.
The fire is there for all to see,
but not the enemy.

And that’s the state our world is in;
the very air’s unsafe.
The fires are burning all around
while demons run amok.

Copyright 2020 | Dennis M. Cortes | All rights reserved.

Photo by Dawn Armfield on Unsplash

What Does Humility Look Like?

Philippians 2:5-11

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Continue reading “What Does Humility Look Like?”

Christian Unity

Philippians 2:1–4

[1] So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. [3] Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (ESV)

INTRODUCTION:

If we really want to advance the gospel, we must be united (Phil. 1:5). Division harms the body of Christ and hinders the gospel (1 Cor. 3:3). However, unity cannot be imposed from the outside; it must come from within. That is why Paul appeals to the heart.

1. MOTIVES TO UNITY

A) Consolation in Christ (John 17:21)
B) Comfort of love (John 13:34-35)
C) Fellowship of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13)
D) Affection and Mercy (Luke 6:36)
E) The joy of our ministers

2. MEANS TO UNITY

A) We have to renew our minds. Unity of mind, purpose, and love. (Rom. 12:2; Amos 3:3) Renewal of the mind leads to transformation of life. We all have to become spiritually minded if we are to be united in love and purpose (1 Cor. 2:14-3:3).

B) We have to avoid selfish ambition. Jesus Christ himself did not hang on to his privileges as God, but humbled himself. He was born in a manger, he worked as a humble carpenter, he ministered as an itinerant preacher who was dependent on others for support (Luke 8:1-3), and he died on a cross intended for criminals.

C) We have to consider others better than ourselves. Jesus himself – the Master! – washed his disciples’ feet.

D) We have to be interested in other people’s concerns. Such was Jesus. He was interested in all kinds of people.

APPLICATION

  1. In what ways have I been selfish recently?
  2. What steps should I take in order to become more interested in others rather than just in myself?

PRAYER

Lord, please forgive me for the many times I’ve been selfish and divisive. Help me to love people, especially my fellow Christians, and to be interested in them. Amen

(Photo by Wylly Suhendra on Unsplash)