Thursday, April 19, 2018

A RELIABLE FRIEND


Proverbs 18:24 says, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." I do not want to "come to ruin". One of the most frustrating and aggravating experiences to go through is a relationship with someone who proves them-self unreliable. Whatever the situation might be - punctuality to events, faithfulness to commitments or empty promises to help - the lack of dependability in a friend not only is insulting but is a total waste of your time and energy.

In my previous post or writing I encouraged all of us to be very selective in choosing our friends. I would like to revisit that again for a moment, because "The righteous choose their friends carefully..." (Prov. 12:26)When you are blessed enough to have a friend who is dependable, there are some other qualities that Scripture mentions that aide in the selection process and that you can be glad you have in your eventual friend. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Friends are great sounding-boards for each other. Friends are great for studying The Word of God and growing together. In the same thought Proverbs 27:9 states, "Ointments and perfume encourage the heart; in a similar way, a friend’s advice is sweet to the soul." For friends that might be a few years older and have gone through similar experiences, their advice is truly sweet because it can save a lot of headaches. If you have a true friend, honesty prevails at all times. Proverbs 27:6 says, "You can trust what your friend says, even when it hurts. But your enemies want to hurt you, even when they act nice." Loyalty to the relationship is important also (Prov. 17:17). Then John reminds us we can have no better Friend than one that would sacrifice His life for yours or mine. He says it like this - "No one has greater love than this—that one lays down his life for his friends." - John 15:13 

This leads nicely to the second part of Proverbs 18:24 - "there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Wow! Closer than a brother? A brother is blood; a brother is kin - this verse is saying that there is a PARTICULAR FRIEND that is closer than family. To help explain this the second half of Proverbs 17:17 says about the brother - "a brother is born to help in time of need." So, while the brother seems to be only noticeable in time of need - The Closer Friend trumps the brother by being around all the time and therefore dependable in all things. Talk about your Johnny-On-The-Spot type of person. There is no better person to personify this than God's Holy Spirit. 

Christ Jesus paid the life-price to eventually send The Holy Spirit or Closer Friend after His resurrection and ascension. Because of our faith in Him, believers have the best of both worlds - we are part of His Family and He is our Friend. Matthew records Jesus saying, "...whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:50). Then about Friendship John remembers Jesus saying, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." This brings a whole new freshness to the lyrics - "What a friend we have in Jesus..." and reassures me as it should every believer in Christ that we have A Reliable Friend.

Monday, April 16, 2018

THOSE YOU LIVE AND DIE WITH


One of the top stories and/or movies I could hear or see over and over again is A Christmas Carol (The Scrooge). In fact, I have it on DVD and every Christmas pull it out and watch the Patrick Stewart version to my utter delight.

Why do I like it so much? The many lessons it teaches. It speaks to reflection, consideration of others, the proper place of money in our lives, second chances, transformations, supernatural intervention, and a changed perspective. 

The story starts off with a man who totally does not get life anymore, but had a distant history of an appreciation of it. Now that the root of many evils - money - is ruler of his every breath, there is no space for any other kind of relationship. 

This is what I desire to bring to the table today - what will you live with and what will you die with? Hopefully it will be relationships. Put another way - who will you live with and who will you die with? Because life is all about relationships.

The Scrooge had gotten to the point where he burned all his "bridges" or relationships. All he had in life were associations. Ebenezer had no relationships of real depth, weight or value - besides that which brought him coin. Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21). For Ebenezer Scrooge his treasure and heart were "Grinch-like" - always concerned about himself and his greed. Notice what this did to both Scrooge and the Grinch - it alienated them; made them hermits; created them as people who lived alone.

We are here on this earth for such a short time. Humanity's lifespan is but a blink and then we are either in the direct presence of The Savior or a place of judgment and pain. James says it this way - "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (James 4:14) 

So, my encouragement to you today is to surround yourself with people who care, are considerate and value your relationship with them. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, "Two people are better than one because together they have a good reward for their hard work. If one falls, the other can help his friend get up. But how tragic it is for the one who is all alone when he falls. There is no one to help him get up."

Be very selective in the choosing process of your friends. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 - "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" And Paul even goes on to warn us about the false believers - "Now, what I meant was that you should not associate with people who call themselves brothers or sisters in the Christian faith but live in sexual sin, are greedy, worship false gods, use abusive language, get drunk, or are dishonest. Don’t eat with such people." (1 Cor. 5:11) And before Paul, Solomon in his Proverbs stated - "Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper, and never keep company with a hothead, or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself." (Prov. 22:24-25)

As Red says in "Shawshank Redemption" - "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'." - I hope you choose living and living with a great host of friends and family. Remember, family does not always have to be blood-related. I sincerely hope the core support group in your life is a positive anchor for now and when you face your last hours on this earth. If you don't already have this security and comfort like Ebenezer and the Grinch eventually did, I hope in a short while you will have by your side Those You Live And Die With.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

YOU HAVE TO OPEN THE FRONT DOOR


In The Bible, there are Keys that God has or have been delegated to individuals that are very important. In 1 Chronicles 9:26-27 it speaks about men from the tribe of Levi who have been given the responsibility as gatekeepers of the house of God. As part of their duties, they had to guard the four entrances to the house (north, east, south and west) and possessed the key for entry.

In Isaiah 22:22, God gave Eliakim son of Hiliah special authority over Jerusalem. When Jerusalem was without a father-figure and leader, God raised Eliakim up for the task. God's words were heavy and profound because they would be heard again from God about His Christ -  "I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." As promised, you fast-forward to John on the Isle of Patmos and the Holy Spirit conveyed to John a communication about who now this key holder is - Christ Jesus - "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open."

In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus is speaking with Peter, however He is also speaking to all believers in Christ down through the ages who confess Him as Lord of their lives. Jesus said, "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." There is only One Rock (stable, immovable force) in the universe and He is Christ Jesus. He has the Keys of Heaven and because of our confession of faith in Him as Savior and Lord - He says to Peter, as well as to us, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

In Revelation 9:1 and 20:1 an angel has been granted The Key to The Abyss. The 9:1 passage is about opening The Abyss for creatures to come out. The 20:1 passage is about opening The Abyss for Satan to be locked in for a thousand years. Very important key. But one of the most crucial keys that The Lord Jesus Christ purchased for humanity with His death, burial and resurrection was The Keys of Death and Hades. Jesus says in Revelation 1:18, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades." No more fear of death or Hades.

However, of all the Keys the Lord Jesus possesses, the one that seems the most important - He does not forcefully use. Jesus paid for The Key to Our Heart with His life, but He elects not to use it for the front door. He awaits acceptance of His invitation as you hear His knock on the door of your heart and hear His voice calling to your spirit. Jesus said, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." - Revelation 3:20 

God holds all the keys. He even has The Master Key for all the doors of your heart/life. He will unlock many a room inside your heart; He will open many a door in your life - but first You Have To Open The Front Door.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

WHAT IS IN HIS NAME?


Of all the key figures of the all the faiths in the world - why do some Christians and many non-believers take the name of The Lord in vain? When someone gets frustrated or angry and proclaims loudly their dislike - why is it not "Buddha!" or "Muhammad!" or "Confucius!"? Why do I hear the disrespectful Exclamation - "Jesus Christ!" yelled? Because they do not regard Christ Jesus as Holy and thus His Name as Holy - set apart from all others WITH Sacred Care.

I actually get physically nauseated when someone misuses The Lord's name. I have taken the opportunity to witness to people during those moments. I am part of the Body of Christ on this earth. I am a Kid of the Most High God. I am an Ambassador for Christ Jesus. I cannot and will not stand by and get slapped in the spirit or contaminated by someone who defiles and disrespects The Savior. He is their potential Savior also and His Name must be seen as Holy therefore respectful. Whether or not they receive this message is a matter of tact, word choice and prayer as you politely inform them of the grievance they are committing in your company.

Do you consider Christ Jesus - Holy? There are many references throughout Scripture to the Holiness of God and His Name as Holy (1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 8:1; 20:7; 30:4; 102:15; 103:1; 113:1-3; 115:1; 124:8; 145:21; 148:5, 13; Isaiah 24:15; 26:8). So, how are you going to treat His Name? The Hebrews profaned the Name of the LORD many times throughout their history and God called them out on it.

“But afterward you will surely listen to me and no longer profane my holy name with your gifts and idols.” Ezekiel 20:39

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.” Ezekiel 36:22

As for us, we should take heed and revere His name. Honor His presence in our lives by speaking His name in the awesome respect He deserves.

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." Exodus 20:7

" 'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:12


“They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God. Because they present the offerings made to the LORD…” Leviticus 21:6

“…anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.” Leviticus 24:16

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Deuteronomy 5:11

"If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name--the LORD your God-- the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.” Deuteronomy 28:58-59


As an ambassador for Christ I can no longer take the misuse of my Lord's Name! I am filled with zeal for His name! I am hearing believers profane His name in the workplace and loosely exclaim it at the end of sentences at church functions. If Christians are a new creature in Christ then how can they take the LORD thy God's name in vain?

If you are a Christian walking through life and taking God's name in vain - using His name improperly as an Exclamation in your speech - then your witness for the Kingdom is suffering. It is not a good example of how Christians should speak in the presence of other believers but especially non-believers. Using His Name incorrectly might have been a learned behavior, however this mindset and action needs adjusting quickly. 

Hearing Christians exclaiming - "Jesus Christ!" or any variation or addition thereof is simply unacceptable. Please, just stop it. If you can't do it for the honor of the Word of God and your relationship with Christ then please don't say those kinds of things when you are around me.

There is great power, Holiness and affiliation in the name of Jesus. And our actions and speech must reflect this at all times. It's high time we strive to be a Whole Christian and not just in part. In thoughts, in actions, in words - let us always bring honor and praise to His Name. What Is In His Name? Everything is in His name and He deserves every bit of this discipline of respect and reverence as Holy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

TIME


According to a Google search - In America from 1970, my birth year to this year (2018) the average life expectancy is in the range of 70-75 for men and a little higher for women at around 81-85. The world's oldest person alive today is Violet Brown, a 117-year-old Jamaican woman, according to the Gerontology Research Group. Jeanne Calment, a French woman, died at the age of 122 in 1977. These are the exceptions to the norm. But if you really want to go outside the norm, step back in time with me to the days before The Flood.

In Genesis 5 there is an account of Adam's family line from Adam to Noah. What is so amazing about this time-frame is that people were living very long lives. You think Jeanne Calment lived long, and she did for her time, however try a guy named Methuselah who lived not 100 years, not 200, not 300, not 400, not 500, not 600, not 700, not 800, but 969 years. Imagine living that long, in that time of history, without the benefits we now enjoy. It would take a miracle of God just to keep the skin on the bones and breath in the body.

I call your attention to the exceptions and the time-frame that is distant history in order to emphasize most people's time now-a-days here on this earth is short in comparison. We are born and the next thing you know our childhood has evaporated, our official schooling is complete and we are approaching retirement with or without grandchildren. We did not get the choice to be born. So, the question becomes - did we make a positive difference for those around us while enjoying the journey? A certain wizard once said, "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

I heard someone's father once said that if you want job security and you want to make a difference in this world seek careers in one of four areas - (1) birth, (2) healthcare, (3) education/teaching and (4) arrangements for the dead. I agree with this man's list. However, we know that there are more to add to this docket that fit the criteria of job security and making a difference. 

I encourage all of us - find some occupation to be loyal unto and to make a difference at, as well as enjoy, and make your effort wholeheartedly. Your mark on this world will be duly noted and highly esteemed to the point of following your example. Genesis 6:3 attests that we have limited days - "Then the Lord said, 'My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.'” So, I stress the point one last time, let us make the most of our Time.

Friday, March 23, 2018

IMITATORS OF GOD


At the end of Ephesians 4 and through the beginning of Ephesians 5 - Paul instructs the believers in Ephesus on how to live as Children of The Light. Here are some Don'ts that Paul lists -
  1. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth
  2. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
  3. Do not sow bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander or malice.
Paul also delivers some Do's -
  1. Speak only what is helpful for building others up
  2. Be kind
  3. Be compassionate
  4. Be forgiving 
However, there is some strong language that Paul uses in Ephesians 5:3 that stands out from the rest of the Do Not's that I noticed. The verse reads, "But among you there must not be even a hint of....". Let me stop right there. Did you read and feel the forcefulness and toughness in the phrase "even a hint of"? The original Greek word for this phrase is onomazo, meaning anything you have to confess, designate or call categorically a name. The list that comes afterwards is as follows -
  1. Sexual immorality
  2. Any kind of impurity
  3. Any kind of greed
  4. Obscenity
  5. Foolish talk
  6. Coarse joking
So, if you take the strong language out of the equation, out of the reading - you have a normal encouragement to stay away from these things. However, the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to emphasize "there must not be even a hint of" the above characteristics in the believer or Christian community. He says, this ESPECIALLY, should not be an identifier of the Children of The Light because it is "improper for God's Holy people" (v. 3).

The substitution for all the possible negativity is Thanksgiving. Paul says, "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (v.4) Thanksgiving to God for anything and everything that comes to mind places our focus back where it should be - God.

Thanksgiving is a big part of making sure there is "not even a hint of..." the sinful in our midst. If you keep reading in Ephesians 5, Paul mentions an additional help. If you live as Children of The Light, as he has laid out, and "find out what pleases the Lord" (v.10), then you will have "fruit of the light". You have heard about The Fruit of the Spirit, now read about The Fruit of The Light. Paul says, "Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord." (verses 9-10).

Living this out may be a challenge, but understanding it is not. If you choose to - 
  1. live as Children of The Light, as a person and as a Church
  2. especially heed to what is said about what among you there must not be even a hint found
  3. Keep Thanksgiving and what pleases God out front
- then you will see manifested "the fruit of light", which is goodness, righteousness and truth. And all of us know we need more of each of those in our world today. For us to be better Children of The Light, for us to bear much fruit of The Light - it all boils down to being Imitators Of God (Ephesians 5:1).

Thursday, March 22, 2018

THE LIFE WE LIVE IN LIGHT OF OUR SALVATION


Let's pretend that we all are parents of not only blood-born children, but adopted kids as well. The adopted kids are paid for by us to have the right of ownership. The blood-born kids are continually bought through their life by provision until they realize this form of love and reciprocate. 

The kids are going to rebel, disobey and/or sin. Are you going to kick them out of the family and re-instate them after a probationary period? Of course not! Both blood-born and adopted kids are family - once and for all time. You are not going to go back and repay for the adopted or start over with your other children. So it is with God when we rebel, disobey or sin against Him.

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus said, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Jesus is teaching The Way we should live to His Disciples then and now. This part of Christ's Way of Living -  if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. - does not concern the believer's overall Salvation. Paul reminds us - "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:12) His Redemption restored our relationship with Him and secured our destination with Him also.

The word "sins" in this passage comes from the Greek word paraptoma, meaning trespass or transgression. And the Lord is using this word in a knowing-way. Knowing that we, as believer's in Christ, will still sin. So, He requires us to be the the example now and forgive SO THAT afterwards when we ask Him of forgiveness, we are in the proper spirit to receive His forgiveness. Another excellent story that Jesus tells about this living out forgiveness is The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:23-35. Forgiveness must be given before it can be granted. So, you are going to be forgiven, you just need to make sure you have forgiven all those who have grieved, transgressed and/or trespassed against you first.

Even though Christ has not died for them at this point in the narrative, He considers them part of His Family already. As their Rabbi, Lord and Most Senior Brother - Jesus re-emphasizes what was declared earlier in the Lord's Prayer, "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matt. 6:12) 

Notice something? We are still in His Family. He has not kicked us out for not forgiving others. Christ's forgiveness,  which is a blessing unto itself, is simply withheld. Other favors from His Hands might be withheld to move us in the direction of forgiving others SO THAT we will seek forgiveness in the right spirit. The forgiven know how to forgive and come humbly before their God for their forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 is about The Life We Live In Light Of Our Salvation.