Taking Away Reproach

Luke 1:24-25
 
Have you ever been accused of something? It Feels horrible doesn’t it? If you did something wrong that is bad enough but if you are innocent it is so much worse.
 
Luke 1:24-25 tells us after a child was conceived in Elizabeth she went off by herself for five months to relish her pregnancy. That is a little different, why would she do this? Because she had lived her life under so much reproach (an expression of disapproval or disappointment). She even says in vs. 25 “The Lord has dealt kindly with me, He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace from among people”
 
In Elizabeth’s culture, when a woman was unable to have a child, it was seen to be a sign of judgment from God. A person must be living in such a way that God was displeased, so people than looked on you with disappointment. Elizabeth had lived her life under the judgment of others. In her case, accused of something she didn’t do. So not only was she overjoyed that she would be having a son, but she had to be amazingly relieved that God was clearing her name, freeing her from the undeserved judgment and shame of others.
 
Did you get that? Freedom from judgment, freedom from guilt or shame, this is what Elizabeth felt and this would be the purpose of her son John– prepare hearts to meet the Messiah. The purpose of Messiah is to set us free from reproach, our deserved judgment and guilt, and to set us free from sins power. Elizabeth is part of the Christmas story to help us understand what the Christmas story is all about freedom from judgment. Thank God we no longer have to live in reproach!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Surprise! (Luke 1:8-23)

Sometimes surprises are good. And sometimes they are not so good. When your boss tells you you’re getting a raise—good surprise. When your professor announces you’re having a pop quiz– not so good.
 
The key of understanding behind a surprise is it is nothing more than being caught unprepared. When reading the Bible you sure get the impression that God loves surprises. Isn’t every miracle a surprise? When we read the Bible we also come to know God loves preparation. In scripture we see how both are woven into the Christmas story.
 
In Luke 1:8-23, we see Zechariah going about his priestly duties when God chose to surprise him. Zechariah met and angel who had an important announcement (surprise): Zechariah and Elizabeth would be parents to a special child in their old age. Not just any child, but John the Baptist.
 
What is interesting about this surprise is it is a prophecy about their son’s special ministry— to get people prepared for messiah’s coming. Did you get that, surprise you’re having a son whose job is to prepare people so they won’t be surprised when God comes to them. There is a powerful truth for us in this story.
 
In our current society we make Christmas all about surprises, and we even get prepared to be surprised with gifts (usually temporal meaningless gifts). How ever we don’t prepare our hearts to meet Jesus the Messiah and in turn we forfeit all the wonderful gifts/ surprises God can bring to our existence bot here and eternally! We sure are good at missing the point.
 
God knew that preparation was important for 1st century people and it should come as no surprise it is still just as important for people today! Get prepared and help others get prepared to meet Jesus this Christmas– who knows what surprises might lie ahead!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


The Importance of Showing God Gratitude.

(Read 1 Peter 1:3-9)
 
We must learn to approach God with a thankful heart. We should reflect and praise Him for His faithfulness. When we do praise Him in thankfulness it immediately helps dispel all manner of fear and replenishes the heart with His peace.
 
We must learn to be thankful in every circumstance, even in hardship. This is vital truth to grasp. Only when we can find reason for thanking Him in our trials can we fully understand how He is working in the midst of them. He desires us not to look at our current circumstances. Instead like Peter, He says fix our gaze on God. God is calling out to you in the midst of the storm, and He will make possible the impossible. This will glorify God, because we are demonstrating a heart of faith while reflecting on His faithfulness.
 
God’s hand is always operating around us. He is an invisible force, so His work is not readily seen. We must be intentional about this. We must consider what He may be doing in our life and then learn to just walk in sync with His steps believing wherever He leads.
 
Thankfulness will help us in this process. Not only will it guide our heart with the right attitude, but it will also open our eyes to His workmanship. In the midst of our trial, we will see how He is already hard at work behind the scenes, working everything together for good –even if we are not yet experiencing that good.
 
Let’s learn how to show our faith or trust in His ability by being grateful even when we’ve yet to see the results. By this we also testify to the world that we have a living hope.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Repent of any sin and call on the Lord to restore your Joy– there is nothing like it.

“Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (Psalm 32)
Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. (Psalm 51:8)
 
After David sinned, he lost his communion with God. He discovered what many of us do: the pleasure of sin is short lived and deceiving, it brings a flood of emotion for the moment but leaves us empty and sick at heart. When the initial excitement wears off, we often feel isolated and numb.
 
After David faced the truth of his sin, he no doubt fell into despair. As we all do, he faced negative thought like; “After what I did, how can I ever face my family again? How can I lead other people when I can’t be trusted with myself? God, I don’t deserve your love, grace, or blessing.” Many of us can identify with his anguish. David was broken but he believed God could restore him. So what does he ask God for? Joy– Why?
 
Joy is more than being happy again. Happiness is based on our surrounding circumstances. Joy is more than feeling optimistic about life. Joy goes much deeper it is a spiritual emotion, it is that deep sense of delight and satisfaction that comes from knowing and being in right relationship with God. (it can’t be experienced any other way)
 
It is the solid place where we know God is in control, that He is good, and that He is close/present.
 
David knew that his life was not complete without God this is why he spoke of Joy 70 times in the Psalms. What about you? Repent of any sin and call on the Lord to restore your Joy– there is nothing like it.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


When hard times come!

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1 Pet. 1:6-7)
 
God knows when we face tough times. He hears our cries. We know this but even the most faithful of us sometimes feel despair and hopelessness.
 
Many times God allows us to face these circumstances to strengthen our faith; it forces us to seek after God to find strength and refreshment. He knows our emotions, our needs and our desires. He also knows exactly what it will take to get you into an intimate relationship with Him. Remember this is God’s great goal for us to be in an intimate relationship with Him, if this is what we desire as well He will use all means to bring us to that place of intimacy—even hardship or trial.
 
The early church faced great trial and God used Peter to address them in their time of hardship. Peter explained that they could rejoice even in times of trial because of Jesus Christ, the living hope within them- their risen Savior and Lord (1 Pet. 1:3). Jesus protects them by the power of God (v.5). With Jesus no situation is hopeless.
 
Even if you find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation, know that God has an entirely different view of the details. He can take your life, no matter how broken and make it beautiful. This is what hope is all about, beauty for ashes, gladness instead of sorrow, and a coat of praise instead of fainting (Isa. 61:1-3). This is the ongoing ministry of Christ in our afflictions. So take him your sorrows, and He will restore your hope.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Samuel 12:13

Veteran police detectives are so good at getting people to confess to crimes because they know a simple truth: the human heart wants to confess. The human heart needs to confess. The old saying “Confession is good for the soul” is accurate. Confession frees the heart of the enormous burden of guilt. It lifts the weight of shame off our consciences and allows us to start fresh with the truth.
 
Nathan pinned David down with the truth when he surprised the king with the words, “You are that man” (2 Samuel 12:7). David heard the voice of God in those words, and he realized that his sin was found out. The king did what we all must learn to do: He confessed and took responsibility for his actions. He opened his heart to the power of the Holy Spirit and fully understood that he had killed Uriah and hurt Bathsheba. And in the process, a baby also died. David had created victims.
 
He had sinned against them. But more important, after Nathan confronted him, David recognized that he had sinned against God. David’s sin against God was open rebellion against the way God ordered him to live. When we sin, we also create victims. But we also sin against God. We rebel against His guidelines and go our own way.
 
When we confess our sin, we are agreeing with God that our sin is rebellion against Him. Our confession keeps us from rationalizing and explaining away our actions. It allows us to begin to repair our relationship with God so that we can walk in relationship with Him. Let us take account of our sins, confess them, and be restored to right relationship. Don’t make God come looking for you.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is the fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed. (2 Sam. 11:14-15)

Wow! That was so harsh of David. It was so deliberate, calculated, and premeditated. We need to understand the significance of premeditated sin and apply some truth to our lives.
 
We understand that premeditated means planned or thought out. It is not a crime of passion that just happens. It is thought out, designed, and carried out. That’s why the punishment for premeditated murder is greater than the sentence for manslaughter.
 
Premeditated sin is more harmful to our spiritual life and is a huge deal to God. Intentional sin reveals a heart that is in open rebellion against God! Rebellion denies our relationship with God and rejects His position of supremacy in our lives. We are taking the place of God at that moment.
 
When we intentionally sin against God, we are moving in the opposite direction at that point. No longer abiding with God but running away in relationship to Him. The further we willingly run in the wrong directions the longer and rougher our return will be. It’s like running fast down hill and trying to stop your momentum and turn around, the farther and faster you are moving the harder it is to stop.
 
Willful, calculated sin reveals our hearts have become calloused toward sin. The real problem then is the next time we sin it makes it much easier. Calloused hearts don’t feel the remorse and regret that soft hearts feel.
 
We must always try to avoid all sin at all cost. However we must be vigilante against deliberate and willful sin. Confess every sin and repent. Confess it not only to God but a Christian brother or sister who will hold you accountable. Let us do everything not to travel on the road that leads away from our relationship with God.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. . . . But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1

Remember one serious lesson in life: small seeds of sin lead to big sins. From the life of David we can see how his sin started and grew.
 
David was a successful king. From His position he brought God glory, and he provided security, power, and prosperity to the people of Israel. But he was human and he got tired. For fifteen years he had fought Israel’s enemies. Before that, he killed Goliath and went on the run from Saul for years. Living and sleeping in camps and caves took its toll on David.
 
When the time came for another war campaign, at this point in his life David decided to stay home. Instead of being a “hands-on” king, he determined that he needed a break. Instead of leading his troops, he sent someone else to do it. He ducked his duty.
 
In David’s defense, being king was an enormous responsibility. He made the tough decisions, dealt with the military egos, comforted families of fallen warriors, and still functioned as king over the kingdom. Maybe David felt he was entitled to perks others wouldn’t understand.
 
In His mind he could justify it, he was king! He deserved a break! No one had a clue what a tough thing it was to be king! What we often overlook is the fact that it is these kinds of thoughts that set people up for sin.
 
Do we do the same thing? Justify. Get lacks. Taking a break. Hear this! Taking a break is fine, but shirking our duty is not. As Christians, kingdom workers, do we ever blow off a Sunday, feeling we’ve done enough for a while? We think everyone else gets a break, I’ve paid my dues, now it is my turn– I’m not teaching this year, or serving on that board or leading that group– I need time for me. Are we coupling self-pity with laziness? Sin is never an only child. Sins are twins. Small sins of our attitude lead to larger sins of action. A little bit of wrong sinful attitude plants the seed for greater sins to grow. It’s only a short hop from God’s will to self-will and sin.
 
Beware of small sins that lead to bigger ones. What are the little seeds of sin in your heart? What will you do to keep the devil from nurturing them into even bigger sins? Pray about it and take action before it’s to late.
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5:16-17)

God demands payment for sin, but He balances His justice with mercy to insure that all sinners including—you and I—wouldn’t be separated from Him forever. A little story will help explain, keeping in mind that God is fully aware of Jesus’ sacrifice and our position.
 
When a man is arrested, he either hires legal counsel or is assigned a public defender. Everyone needs legal assistance to guide them through the maze of legal rulings and filings. They need a helper—an advocate—who is familiar with the system.
 
Jesus is our advocate before God the creator/judge. He represents us in God’s courtroom, where God demands justice for sin. Jesus comes before God with a list of the sins we’ve committed. He states that we’re guilty, on all counts, of the sin for which we have been accused. But that’s not the end of our Advocate’s speech. Jesus reminds the Judge that He Himself has already paid for our sins through His death on the cross. Jesus already bore our death sentence for all our sins—current and future.
 
Jesus reminds the Judge that it isn’t fair to punish us for the sins for which He’s already paid. God accepts Jesus’ death on our behalf, and He declares us “not guilty.” Our record is expunged. When He looks at us and our sin, He sees His sinless Son and His sacrifice.
 
Because Jesus paid the debt for our sin, God pardons us. He sees us as righteous, blameless, honorable, and upright. We can do nothing to earn this pardon. It’s grace, a free gift Jesus gives us to pardon us from the death sentence brought on by our sin.
 
However that is not the end, our advocate then brings up another legal ma!er regarding the same client. He then states a ma!er of adoption that needs to be finalized. Our legal advocate states “My client has been offered adoption into your Honor’s own family and he would like to take you up on that offer. Starting today He wants to take on your family name committing His life to your care and leadership. What does your Honor have to say on this matter.” Standing up, the Judge, states that this ma!er has already been finalize, he then slams the gavel, leaves the bench, approaches the restored man saying “it is so good to have you back my son, there is so much I want us to do together”
 
Oh what a wonderful advocate we have in Christ– Thank God today and don’t waste the new relationship with your Father!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes


The Pull of Sin

I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. . . . Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?
Romans 7:18-19, 24
 
A foundation principle about sin is its power. Sin is a strong, dominant force working against our good intentions. Sometimes the driving urge for sex, gambling, drugs, or other rebellion pulls on us like a powerful riptide sucking us out to sea. We struggle in our minds and wrestle with the urges, but we are pulled under by the sheer force of sin (our natural desires).
 
Afterward, in shame and despair, we cry out to God, saying what the apostle Paul said in the verses above, feeling helpless and in despair over his sin.
 
Paul understood the power of sin. He was a well-educated man, yet his education did not free him from sin. Paul discovered that trying to battle sin with his own strength did not work. Knowledge alone about God and his ways do not keep us from sin.
 
That lesson speaks to us today. If we attempt to overcome sin through willpower and biblical knowledge alone, we will fail. If we try not to sin by believing we can do what is right in our own power, we will fail. Only the Spiritual power of the risen Christ in us, the Holy Spirit, has the power to declare victory over sin (see Ephesians 2:4-5). The hymn writer Charles Wesley summarized it well in his hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:
 
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
 
If Christ alone holds power over sin, then it is only by relying on His power in us that we may exercise power over sin. Christ alone avails over the power of sin. Acknowledge this truth today, surrender to His leading, and trust in His power– that you may have power over the sin that pull against your life! God bless you and empower you in your fight today!
 
In His Service,
Eric Barnes