Thursday, May 17, 2018

OTHERS WILL PRAISE GOD FOR YOU


In is second letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul encouraged and taught all in one verse some key identity characteristics of a Christian and who to hear praise from about them. Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:13 said,

  • "Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else."
Another way for Paul to have said this is - "I have noticed your generosity in sharing and obedience to God which has been displayed in your service to Him. I realize that it was started because of your confession of the gospel of Christ. And if I notice it, you know others will and will praise God for you." I say it like this because even thought Paul places an emphasis on the proven service record of the believer(s), the next phrase is the as-the-result-of phrase ("others will praise God for..."). However, the first things should not be disguarded. The foundation of confessing of the gospel of Christ is what led to obedience and a lifestyle of generosity which got the believer to the proved service.

The identity of a Christian then according to this passage is one of service, obedience to God, carrier of The Gospel, and a generous person. However, another aspect of this verse and of the identity of a Christian should be humility. Notice that close to the beginning of this verse Paul said, "others will praise God for...". This idea of allowing others to applaud you and not tooting-your-own-horn all the time is not new. Proverbs 27:2 says, "Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips."

This is hard sometimes when you feel as if your long and devout service is not getting noticed and appreciated. The most important thing to remember is that God sees everything. He takes note of the improvements to be made in our lives and takes note of the long, great career of service to Him. I encourage you today - your service has not gone unnoticed and neither has that which makes you Christian. So, man and woman of God, pursue this and "fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:12) - then Others Will Praise God For You.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

CONFESSION


1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." For a Christian, under Salvation, this confession is an admittance of wrong and apology wrapped in one. The rest of the verse is the pointing to The Cross to re-assure the believer that every sin - past, present and future - has been paid for by Christ and will accept our apology. An example prayer based on this verse could go like this, "Lord, I confess I have done you and others wrong recently. Please accept my apology. I believe you have forgiven me at The Cross and even now. I thank you for your forgiveness in Jesus' Name, Amen."

Solomon said in Proverbs 28:13, "Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy." Notice the status of child of God or believer of God is not revoked because one sinned or concealed their sin. Instead, God's blessings and favor are withheld - "does not prosper". However, on the flip side - "the one who confesses and renounces them [mistakes against God and others] finds mercy". Favor, blessing and mercy remain with the one who recognizes, admits and corrects the wrong they have done God and others in their life.

To aide in this effort, James 5:16 says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Accountability to brothers and sisters in Christ is a powerful tool to keep Christians on the Straight-and-Narrow. James not only says to confess our wrongs or mistakes one to another, but we are too pray for each other SO THAT healing might come to that situation. Then James adds to the prayer suggestion - "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." There is the consulting God part, even as a duo or group confessing their mistake.

This is not a directive to sway or teach someone to be more conscience of their sins (sin conscience). It is a Notice to the believer in Christ that when you feel that prick in your spirit or gut that something is not right about your own behavior, words or thoughts - pause and consult The Lord. If you find you need help, consider developing a close relationship of trust with someone you can call your Accountability Partner. But know that after recognizing there is an issue, there is the cleansing of the soul; the great sigh of relief; the part of Confession.

Monday, May 14, 2018

CONSULT THE MANUAL


Some people base their lives on superstition, chance, luck or the alignment of the stars. I am so glad that there is an option not to live by such an uncertain thing as luck or chance and such an impersonal thing as superstition or astrology. I would hate to walk through life walking on eggshells. However, that is exactly what someone is doing when you depend upon each egg being chance, luck, superstition or the stars as your governing force. I choose to lean on God's Providence, Plan and His help with my effort in living life.

You see, I view The Word of God (Bible) as Life's Manual. My walk of life can always be metered and adjusted by what God's Word says is proper and Holy about any situation in my life. However, a great first step off the blocks in this race of life is advice from Paul to the believers in Rome. Paul said, 

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10)

So, I encourage you today and every day to live this lifestyle. Love God first, others next and your own life will be blessed. In the meantime, when you go through any kind of spot of your life that causes you to pause and question what to do, whether it be a challenging situation or not, consult God's Word, Consult The Manual. 

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

PARTING WORDS


Many times I have seen the wisdom of someone's last words given the utmost attention and consideration. Within our culture, whether it be due to movies, television or other influences - the words of people departing are valued highly. Whether the person is leaving for a short while, an extended period of time or on their deathbed - Parting Words hold a lot of weight. This got me thinking about Christ's Parting Words to His Disciples.

Luke says right off the bat in the first chapter of Acts that "After his suffering, he [Christ] presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3) In fact, the last day before Jesus ascended to the right hand of Father God, according to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus spoke to His Disciples about disbelief, his mission as fulfilled prophecy and the sending of The Promise - The Holy Spirit (Luke 24:36-53).

Again, Luke in Acts 1:4-5 attests to the Lord speaking about the sending of Father God's Promise - The Holy Spirit. However, here Luke records a little more detail. He said, to their question of “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” - “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Lord answers their question and adds to it. The Disciples where told the dates and times were not for them to know. However, instruction for right now and for the immediate future is to receive the power of the Holy Spirit I am sending you and be my witnesses locally, regionally and nationally. He answered their question and gave them something to do in the meantime or until further notice.

Even after this awesome Commission, Jesus still had some Parting Words. These words, however, were not recorded. In the Gospel of Luke the account is rendered -  "When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51) A fitting example of how we should leave the presence of another even if it is for a short time. Paul encourages us in Ephesians 4:26 that if we are at odds or angry with someone - make it right with them quickly, even before the ending of that day. Paul says, it like this - “'In your anger do not sin' : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,..." So, take your example from Jesus as He left His Disciples and left this earth - season with love; fill with blessings - your Parting Words.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I CAN'T WAIT


Revelation 19:11-16
"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:  King of kings and Lord of lords."

2 Thessalonians 2:6-8
"And now you know what [The Holy Spirit] is holding him [The Antichrist] back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back [The Holy Spirit living in the body of believers/church] will continue to do so till he [Believers and Withholding Ministry of Holy Spirit] is taken out of the way [Raptured]. And then the lawless one [The Antichrist] will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming."

Many people try to play - Pin The Tail On The Antichrist. Truth is - if you know for sure who The Man of Lawlessness is then you probably have not been included in the catching away of the saints of God or believers in God through Christ. Sure, it might be an entertaining venture to pursue here and there, but his identity should not be a major focus. The Good News of humanity's salvation and Christ's promise of a return to retrieve us should be priority. However, this is not to say that the teaching of Eschatology and its details are not to be mentioned first. I have seen, heard and used End Time topics to open a door for the Salvation Message of Christ. 

Believers have a limited time to expose generation after generation to The Gospel of Jesus Christ. And from when Christ sent His Holy Spirit (Pentecost) until the Rapture occurs the Great Commission is activated in every believer's life. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 makes it clear that the with-straining power of the Holy Spirit on this world of evil is going to be removed one day via The Rapture of Christians worldwide. Once this occurs, then The Antichrist will be revealed.

However, what impresses me the most in all of this and what I am looking forward too the most is the awesome display of Christ's authority - "the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.". With just the power of His Words, Christ will subdue The Antichrist and The False Prophet. With just His physical, immediate presence their power will be no more. Their end is so bad that these two are not killed but given a worse judgement - Go Directly To Jail or in this case The Lake of Fire - alive.

Revelation 19:19-21
"Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh." 

I know I have to, but - I Can't Wait!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

GUARD


The word Guard and its forms like - guards, guarded, and guardian - are used many times in Scripture. You can see the word being used in the very beginning as a Cherub protects the way back to The Tree of Life by guarding it with a flaming sword (Gen 3:24). Many Psalms and Proverbs speak to guardianship over something in our lives. Some of these are prayers to guard our life (Ps. 25:20;86:2) and a few are for our language or word choice (Ps.141:3; Prov. 13:3; 21:23).

There are things that God guards in our lives and there are things that we are to be a sentry for in our lives. God totally surrounds the believer in a bubble of His Presence. In fact, Luke said as he wrote Acts - "in him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)However, God desired us to know in particular that He's got our back. In Isaiah 52:12 and 58:8 - God as our rear guard is portrayed. An angel guards the way in Exodus 23:20. I am sure He could use and does use His angels to guard our way today.

There are things to be on guard about in our lives. Jesus taught His disciples to be on guard concerning the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Later He would explain the "yeast" to be teachings of those legalistic groups (Matt 16:6). Another thing to be on guard about is greed. In Luke 12:15, Jesus is recorded as saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” However, on a more positive note, described as an eminent event, believers are encouraged to be on our guard about The Rapture of the Church in Mark 13:33.

Believers in Christ are encouraged that our "course" is guarded (Prov. 2:8), that understanding guards us (Prov. 2:11), to guard God's teachings (Prov. 7:2) and guard instruction in our lives (Prove. 4:13). However, two Scriptures in particular struck me when I was studying the word and concept - Guard.

  1. Proverbs 4:23 - "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
  2. 1 Timothy 6:20 - "Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care."
In the Proverbs 4:23 verse I would like to call your attention to the phrase "Above all else" and the word "everything". The phrase "Above all else" carries with it the sense that we should drop all that we are doing, all of our preconceived ideas and notions and not only read the words that follow, but obey them. "Above all else" places the command or instruction that follows on the highest pedestal of regard. We receive the command - "guard your heart" - then we get the why.

"Everything" means just that - all that can be conceived. With this in mind, notice that every one of our actions stems from what is on the mind of our heart (if you will). The Zillion Dollar question is - What is your heart filled up on? What consumes your heart? Because whatever you choose to fill the chambers or rooms of your heart with - that is what will flow out. Your heart is going to rat-you-out on everything! So, it is not a wonder that God, through Solomon, instructs us "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

In the second verse we can see how much Timothy's friendship meant to Paul. Paul loved Timothy so much that, among the many things he encouraged, Paul addressed him by name here and delivered the challenge - A Steward of Godly Legacy. This is an awesome mantle, but that is exactly what Paul was communicating to Timothy to protect. Timothy's road of faith led him to shepherd the church in Ephesus. Paul knew the cultural, spiritual and political atmosphere of that city and ended up conveying this message twice to Timothy. In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he said, "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Tim. 1:14)

So, now the challenge comes to us. What has been "entrusted to your care" by God? What "good deposit" has God made in you? Talents? Skills? Insights? Abilities? With all that we do; with all that we say; with all that we think - especially in this day and age, God says, above all else - Guard.

Monday, April 30, 2018

GOD'S VOICE RECOGNITION PACKAGE


When really hard and difficult times come into our lives many believers may point their fingers at the devil as the cause. Some would be right, the remaining would have themselves, others or another worldly influence to correctly assess the cause. In other words, our challenges in life are not always from the devil. However, for those tests and attacks that can be discerned as coming from the devil, 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."

What? "Be alert and of sober mind" you have an enemy that prowls around.
Who? The Devil, also called The Serpent or Satan.
Why? Because he is looking "for someone to devour". His job description is to steal, kill and destroy.
When? Full-time. 
Where? "Around." He has a pride (lion reference).

Interesting that the word "prowl" means to rove or go about stealthily, as in search of prey, something to steal and so forth, yet the "lion" or devil makes himself known with his boisterous voice. 

The Holy Spirit has a Voice Recognition Package included when you accept His leadership of your life. I encourage you to always have this on and turned up to the maximum frequency. The devil might be saying the same kinds of things since the first day of The Fall of Creation, but Satan will always try to find a new and creative way to deceive you from the "weeds" or "bushes" where he is stalking you. 

Sometimes believers are equated with sheep, some of the dumbest animals on the planet. But fear not, we have The Great Shepherd and He says about this awareness of the right or wrong voice - "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27). I believe we are a special kind of sheep - God's Fold. And because believer's in Christ are in God's Flock they have God's Voice Recognition Package installed. So, "be alert and of sober mind" discerning the spirits (1 John 4:1-6).