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Raised With Christ!

by Phil Courson

Have you ever read a compelling book where the plot builds, leading to a critical point, with seemingly no way out.  Or,  you anticipate something and then, at the last minute, the piece to the puzzle that puts it all together shows up creating a happy ending. My friend, Dan Walsh has written “Remembering Christmas”, and it has a “gotcha” moment that puts the book in this category.

When it comes to the resurrection, the Bible is like this as well. We see the story of sin entering the world, with no hope – until the Son comes.  He lives a sinless life, is beaten by those who hated him, hung on a cross and experienced the wrath of God, and died a horrific death.  BUT (here is the gotcha moment) He was raised from the dead and then ascended to heaven.

The resurrection is that moment in the story that changes everything and puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Both the cross and the resurrection of Jesus are central to Paul. Paul’s gospel hinges on the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

“There is obviously a direct link between death and resurrection. Without Jesus’ death, there could not have been a resurrection, but equally without the resurrection even the death of Jesus would have been a meaningless tragedy. In order for Jesus’ death to be of any benefit to us, he had to emerge from the grave alive, and as we have seen, Paul repeatedly confirms that fact for us.”                                      Adrian Warnock

The Christian faith is of no value or significance if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:14 – “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”

We have eyewitness accounts, transformed disciples, ease of disproof, survival of Christianity, and the continuing of Christ’s presence. The resurrection has changed everything! It changed the cross from a tragedy to a triumph!

Because of the attacks on the cross of Christ, the resurrection has been neglected in the life of a Christian.

Again quoting Mr. Warnock:
“At the cross we learn true humility, our hopeless sinfulness, and our need of God. At the empty tomb we fully appreciate what Christ has achieved for us and receive power to live for him. A deeper, fuller insight into the trust of Jesus’ resurrection will cause our lives to be radically transformed.”

I want to live a ‘radically transformed’ life!  I want to live like I am ‘raised with Christ!”   How about you?!

Noah, Man of Faith

by Phil Courson

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Hebrews 11:7

In less than two weeks, Hollywood will release a movie concerning Noah and the flood. I’m sure there will be MUCH ‘creative license’ because that is the way producers do things. On Sunday, March 30th, I will preach at AGCC on what the Bible says about Noah and the flood, to equip our people to share the biblical version of this amazing story! There are going to be opportunities to share the gospel with unbelievers because of this movie, especially since Russell Crowe is playing Noah.

The story of Noah and the flood, like every story in the Bible, is about God! Noah didn’t think up the idea of the ark himself. The ark was clearly God’s idea and He revealed it to Noah. This story is about God’s judgment and God’s grace.

God’s judgment – because ‘the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).” But it is also about God’s grace – “But Noah found favor (grace) in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8).”

The ark is God’s provision for Noah and his family to escape the judgment of God. God had provided a warning to the people of the coming judgment for 120 years as Noah was building the ark, but they continually rejected and mocked those warnings. The flood was God’s judgment and the ark was God’s salvation. But when GOD closed the door of the ark (Genesis 7:16) the time of judgment had begun.

But what about today, how does this story relate to us? Well we know that God is holy, He still hates sin and He is slow to judge. He warns us and tells us that the sins of men will not go on forever. Judgment will come! Acts 17:30 says, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

But God’s grace is available today as well. It is through the person and work of Jesus Christ. We can be pardoned from God’s judgment, as Noah was, if we live by faith and put our trust in Jesus. This is the ONLY means of escape provided by God! There is only ONE door, just like in the ark, through which we can come to God, escaping His judgment. No amount of Hollywood theatrics will change that truth.

The question is – have you gotten onboard? I have, how about you?

ReThink Lent!

by Phil Courson

 

What do you think of when you hear the word Lent? Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday or “What are you giving up for Lent?” What vice, luxury or sin are you giving up for the next 40 days (but you can do it for the next 325 days of the year?) Those are my thoughts about Lent! But maybe it is time for me to ReThink Lent!

In tradition, Lent is a 40-day period over 46 days (Sundays are not included) beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday.

What is the purpose of 40 days? Does the number 40 have significance in the Bible? Yes! – 40 is a significant number in the Bible – it speaks of waiting, preparation or testing and ends with a period of restoration, revival or renewal. Noah and his family were shut up in the ark, enduring the rain for 40 days and nights (Gen 7:17). Moses spent 40 days and nights on a mountaintop, neither eating nor drinking as he experienced the presence of God (Ex. 34:28); the Lord,  hearing the grumbling of the Israelites, condemned them to 40 years of wandering in the desert (Num.14:33); Elijah spent forty days and nights walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); Jonah gave 40 days in his prophecy of judgment to the city of Nineveh in which to repent or be destroyed (Jonah 3:4).

The New Testament shows Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness, fasting, and being tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12), and Jesus was seen by his disciples for 40 days after His crucifixion (Acts 1:3).

Because of this, Christians from many church traditions have marked the occasion of Jesus’ death and resurrection by a similar period of fasting known as Lent. But as I “ReThink Lent”, I want more than just giving up a vice or luxury, I want more of Jesus. Here are a couple of things Lent means to me as I ReThink it!

Lent is a time of preparation—a time of confession, prayer, and repentance.

Lent is a time of reflecting – reflecting on our shared experience of the suffering, death and glorious resurrection of Christ, the very center of our faith.

Lent is a time of self-examination – a time that should lead us to the end of our self-sufficiency and to full dependence on Jesus.

Lent is a time of intimacy with Jesus – Intimacy will be the natural result of times of preparation, times of reflecting, and times of self-examination. Intimacy comes through our engaging with God.

As I “ReThink Lent”, I don’t want it to last just 40 days, but pray that these things will continue to grow in my life everyday! I want more of Jesus everyday, how about you?

 

 


Cultivating Love

by Phil Courson

 1 John 4:19 – “We love because he first love us.”

Have you ever found the command to love both inspiring and challenging? I have! But I realize that in and of myself I cannot love God, and that means I will do a poor job loving my neighbor. The Gospel tells me that Christ has changed my heart and now I have the Holy Spirit inside me to empower me to love God and my neighbor. What hope that is for me…and my neighbor (i.e. my wife, children, family, friends and workmates)!

“We love because he first loved us.” This passage doesn’t tell me “I love God” because he first loved me. No, it tells me that “I just love” because he first loved me! Because he first loved me, I can love God and people! We cannot help it!

Love begets love! When I think of love I cannot help to think of God! Because love is who God is.

“Where love is, God is. They who abide in love abide in Christ. God is love. Therefore, love. Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love.” Henry Drummond

Love is not something that can be created, but it is something to be learned. We have the greatest example of love in the person of Jesus Christ. If we want and desire to cultivate love, then we must contemplate the love of Christ and then we will love!

My prayer is that the love of Christ would be seen in and through me first in my love for my Savior, and then in my love for my neighbor!  How about you?

Amazing Grace!

by Phil Courson

Amazing Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8

Have you ever noticed in your life that sometimes the simplest things need to be pounded into our brain! I know it has happened to me!

Well, certainly that is the case with this Scripture. It is a very familiar verse, probably quoted many times, but yet its significance must be pounded into our brain. So many times the tendency is to think our ‘good works’ will save us or they will give us greater love or greater blessing because of them.

But Paul is perfectly clear, our salvation, our holiness and our redemption is by grace alone through Christ alone. We deserved punishment and received grace instead. We were spiritually bankrupt and poor, but now through Christ we have become spiritually rich and blessed.

Read the quote below and then find a moment to express gratefulness to God for what he has done for us:

“The grace of God is love freely shown toward guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity and had no reason to expect anything but severity. We have seen why the thought of grace means so little sot some church people – namely because they do not share the beliefs about God and man which it presupposes. Now we have to ask, why should this thought means so much to others? The answer is not far to seek; indeed, it is evident from what has already been said. It is surely clear that, once a person is convinced that his state and need are as described, the New Testament gospel of grace cannot but sweep him off his feet with wonder and joy. For it tells how our Judge has become our Savior!” JI Packer

Think on this, grace tells us how our Judge has become our Savior! That is why we say and sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ It reminds us that salvation really isn’t about me but what GOD has done for me!

And that needs to be pounded into my brain! How about you?

Joy in Every Circumstance

by Phil Courson

“The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 14:17

The Apostle Paul writes to the Christians in Rome and as he is ending his letter begins to tell them what the kingdom of God is like. Some of the Christians there were struggling with other Christians about what they ate or drank. We are not going to focus on that but on what Paul says the kingdom of God is like.

Paul says the kingdom of God is ‘righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Does that third word seem strange or out of place to you? I can see righteousness and peace, but joy? Really?

I am challenged everyday to be joyful. I know that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:20), yet sometimes there are stumbling blocks that rob me of my joy. It could be sin in my life, it could be me trusting in myself or things instead of God or experiencing trials in my life that rob me of joy. No matter what the stumbling blocks are through the gospel of Jesus Christ I am able to find joy as I repent of my sins, trust Jesus instead of me or things and know that these trials are working for God’s glory and my good.

As we begin 2014 let us make a conscience decision to become more joyful Christians. Listen to Jerry Bridges:

“We can be joyless Christians, or we can be joyful Christians. We can go through life bored, glum, and complaining, or we can rejoice in the Lord, in our names being written in heaven, in the hope of an eternal inheritance. It is both our privilege and our duty to be joyful. To be joyless is to dishonor God and to deny His love and His control over our lives. It is practical atheism. To be joyful is to experience the power of the Holy Spirit within us and to say to a watching world, “Our God reigns.”

I don’t know about you, but for me as I grow in godliness I want to grow in this fruit of the Spirit. I cannot do this on my own, but will trust the Spirit’s work in me to accomplish it. I want to say to a lost and watching world, “My God reigns” in every circumstance of my life! How about you?

Thirsting After God

by Phil Courson

It’s over! The Christmas season has come to a close and now we get ready to focus on a new year. It is hard to believe that it will be 2014! This time of year is great for us to do some ‘self-examination.’

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirst for God for the living God.” Psalm 42:1,2a

This is one question I ask of myself yearly…’Am I thirsting for God?’ I realize and understand that my soul is satisfied therefore I am thirsty for more. Listen to the words of Jonathan Edwards:

“Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fullness of it, that it may be satisfied. And the more he experiences, and the more he knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the more earnestly he will hunger and thirst for more.”

Oh how I have tasted of the Lord and seen that it is good! I long for more of Jesus because He has so filled me before. This new year that is approaching, let us all hunger and thirst for more of Christ. May our prayer be the prayer of A.W.Tozer:

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still.”

These desires are the marks of a growing Christian. We have the promise of Scripture to encourage us that as we are hungry and thirsty after God, we will be filled!

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”

Psalm 107:9

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6

I pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to initiate this thirsting in me and then satisfy it in me. How about you?

Christmas is About Worship!

by Phil Courson

 

Matthew 2:1-12 is about the wise men (Magi) seeking to find the Child whom the star had shown them. They came because they wanted to worship this King!  After searching for Him they finally found Him, and the Bible says that ‘they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy’ and ‘they fell down and worshipped Him.’

This is what Christmas is all about…WORSHIP! It is about the worship of our Savior Jesus Christ. The problem is that many people today tend to forget what Christmas is about and instead find joy and excitement in presents

This Christmas, let’s rethink what this season is all about and worship God who came to earth as a baby, grew to be a man and died a horrific death so that we could be reconciled to God our Father. Let us worship Immanuel – God with us – so that we never lose the wonder of the mercy of God to us!

This Christmas let’s spend time worshipping Jesus by giving Him our all. Just as the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, so let’s surrender afresh our lives to Jesus.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  Romans 12:1.

My prayer is that I would seek Jesus as wholeheartedly as did the wise men, and that I would worship Him with the same passion with which they worshipped Him. I am committed to ‘rejoice exceedingly with great joy’ and ‘bowing down to worship Him.’ Why? Easy…because He is GOD!

I pray the same for you!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Phil Courson


Thankfulness: An Attitude of the Heart

by Phil Courson

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6,7

Matthew Henry the famous scholar and commentary writer was once confronted by thieves and robbed.  In his diary he wrote: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

What a heart of thankfulness that Mr. Henry shows here. Even in a bad situation he finds reasons to be thankful. I really like his fourth point!

The Apostle Paul encourages us in this passage as Christians to continue to “walk in him (Christ).” This walk is in Christ Jesus and it is a walk of faith. It is not just a walk in thankfulness, but “abounding” thankfulness! The Greek word for abounding means to overflow or to be over and above.

As Christians, we ought to be people who are abounding in thankfulness. We are not to be people who complain more than are thankful. We know that because Jesus has changed our hearts by the gospel, we can be thankful people.

Thankfulness is a discipline of speech that begins in the heart! It is a wonderful gift to use to bring joy to someone’s life. Thankfulness produces in us a humble heart, a trusting heart and a joyful heart!

We have much to be thankful for in our lives. Take time over these next couple of days and weeks and spend time thanking God for sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for you. Then take time to thank the many people God has placed in your life!

Let us cultivate this discipline in our lives so that one day when something bad happens to us we can be like Matthew Henry and respond with thankfulness rather than the alternative!

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

Prayer Happens!

by Phil Courson

Prayer Happens!

 “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons–but they are helpless against our prayers.” J.S.Baxter

Oh man, don’t write about prayer! This topic can have a ‘letdown feeling’ when we think about how little we pray. Many times I feel like I fall short when it comes to prayer. I am grateful for my times of prayer, but feel many times that there is so much to pray for and so little time in my schedule.

But I have to remind myself that there is no greater thing I can do other than pray! The quote above reminds me of this. People are helpless against my prayers! The may spurn my appeals, reject my message, and oppose my arguments and they might not even like me, but they have no hope against my prayers. The same goes for you as well.

Jesus exemplified prayer in his life and people, demons, and even nature was helpless against him. When he taught his disciples to pray he taught them about a Father who ruled and reigned over all things. He taught them to be bold and confident when they pray because the Father loves to answer their prayers and give them what they need.

John Knox, the man of whom Queen Mary had said, “I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,” ministered through prayer until the moment of his death.

Are prayers are not powerless, but powerful because we pray to an omnipotent God! May that thought lead us to pray more!

Phil

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