Tuesday, July 10, 2018

BE FAITHFUL


From the story of Jonah in Scripture we find out that Jonah was a Hebrew - a follower of Yahweh or Almighty Creator God. Before Jonah's story unfolded and God spoke to him about Nineveh, God knew the beginning, middle and end of this adventure. Jonah did not have any foreknowledge of his coming days and so he and we are dealt a lesson in Trusting in God's Faithfulness. 

In Jonah's experience - there were the lessons of (1) should've obeyed the Lord from the word "Go" and (2) who are you to be angry at me for being a God of Second Chances? However, God's Faithfulness keeps resurfacing throughout the story, touching many different elements to the account.

God was faithful to sending His own Word to the city of Nineveh. God was faithful to the sailors alongside Jonah who begged for mercy as they threw Jonah overboard and received calm waters from the Lord in return. God was faithful to Jonah in that he spared his life from drowning and gave him a second chance by thinking things over in the belly of a Great Fish for three days.

Even after Jonah delivers God's message, the entire city of Nineveh repents and God's faithfulness to His character is seen as He relinquishes His anger - Jonah disapproves of the verdict. "He prayed to the Lord, 'Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.'” (Jonah 4:2-3) Jonah wanted the city of Nineveh to receive wrath and not get a second chance so bad that he was willing to die for that cause.

However, God showed his faithfulness to Jonah for the last time in this story. He taught him the lesson of second chances with the provision of shade and the taking away of that shade by growing a plant next to him and then having a worm eat it the next day during the heat of the day.

What was Jonah's part? He knew God. He heard God. He literally and figuratively ran from God's instruction by boarding a ship whose destination was a long way off and hid in the bottom of the ship. Lesson #1 - Obey. He didn't and instead God knew where he was and the result was almost the lives of those around him. But Jonah was humbled in the belly of a great fish enough to finish the mission.

However, you have to align yourself with God's desired result if you want to be on the same page as God and receive favor. Jonah did not and Lesson #2 was - who are you to be angry at me for being a God of Second Chances?

I want to magnify God's Faithfulness to you today. God never gave up on His Mercy, His Message, or His Messenger. He never gave up with Jonah and He never gave up with us. For Jesus as God's Mercy, Message and Messenger said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here." (Matthew 12:40-42) 

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:9 - "God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Yes, God will be faithful to the blood spilled and life given by Christ for your relationship, your fellowship with Him. That is too high a price not to be faithful.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." (Hebrews 3:5-6) "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

"What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?" (Romans 3:3) "...if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." (2 Timothy 2:13) "The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful." (1 Corinthians 4:1) "
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, ..." (Galatians 5:22) "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown." (Revelation 2:10) "But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

So, just as it is written in Leviticus and 1 Peter about being Holy for the Lord is Holy, I encourage us concerning God's Faithfulness - Be Faithful, For The Lord Thy God Is Faithful.

Monday, July 9, 2018

THE PRESCRIPTION FOR POTENTIAL UNBELIEF


I tell you what - lately prayer for myself and others has been a challenging thing. If God does not answer in the positive and soon, doubt is waiting to take over.

There are a list of items I believe I am praying God's will over. I pray the Scripture back to The Lord and remind Him, myself and the individuals that need prayer of His promises. And I know His ways are higher than ours. I am aware His timing is not necessarily our schedule. But the natural remedy to some of my requests are not going to wait around for long.

I saw a question on Twitter that was re-asked by Christine Caine. The original question was posed by Chris Hodges and was - "If God answered all your prayers, would it change the world or just change you?" I would hope and pray the answered prayer would change both me and the world. I would earnestly desire that the answer would so influence me that I would move to witness to the world about my awesome God.

Christine added an antidote that I agree with - she said, "I truly felt convicted by this — it’s time for me to pray bolder prayers, believe for greater things, and to expect the second half of my life to be more fruitful than the first!" (Christine Caine‏Verified account @ChristineCaine Jul 8)

I feel so much like the father of the boy with an impure spirit. That dad's encounter with Jesus was as follows - 

"'But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.'

‘If you can’?' said Jesus. 'Everything is possible for one who believes.'

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” (Mark 9:22-24)

It is amazing the proof I keep asking of God for my faith to grow in Him. After He had sustained me through the night, shoot, sustained the whole universe throughout the night and ever since creation; after all the benchmarks of blessings and miracles in my life - I find myself praying for more and expecting more. Am I a greedy little son or is my God just that great of a Father with unlimited resources and provisions? Definitely the later, but the former is probably part of this also.

However, no matter where I am in my faith-walk; no matter the degree of my unbelief, like the father mentioned earlier - God is still faithful. Paul reminds Timothy and us of that in his second letter to Timothy, when he said, "if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." (2 Timothy 2:13). If God stopped being faithful, He would stop being God for His Name is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). 

So, the prescription for my potential unbelief is to pray bolder prayers, believe God for greater things and expect miracles to flow. This is trusting in the everyday mode of operation of God. This is trusting in God's faithfulness to me and to His Word.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

REST ASSURED


Have you ever worked on a project for an extremely long time? Perhaps you feel you have crossed every "T" and dotted every "i". You feel like every base is covered and the job was a thorough one that should stand the onslaught of scrutiny. Then the project is shot holes in so quick that you wonder how the project got off the ground to begin with and your spirit deflates at double the speed.

God knows how you feel. He would not be God if He did not know. God established a major project as done - in the beginning. Then He had prophets prophesy about the full manifestation of this project in the future. Then the project was initiated, ran its course and was finished. During this whole process there were always some naysayers trying to poke holes in God's Project - but they were always unsuccessful. It is one thing to break down yours or my project, but a totally other endeavor to challenge The Lord's Project.

In Hebrews 4, the main thought is trusting in the Finished Work or Project of Christ - our Salvation through His sacrifice. Trusting in Christ's complete work allows for believers to enter God's Rest.

God's rest was established when He rested from His work after the 6th day of creation. We find God's day of rest to be observed on the seventh day of the week, but needed to be practiced every breath we inhale. Even before the act of creation, God, The Great Planner said, "He [Christ] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." (1 Peter 1:20) Our rest in Christ's Redemptive Work was laid out in God's Divine Mind well before its manifestation.

His Rest - that which Christ accomplished for all who believe in His sacrifice - was something the Hebrew people could have entered into through obedience, but they disobeyed and God said, "So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'" (Psalm 95:11) But God's compassion through Christ is immense. The High Priest of God who is able to empathize with our weaknesses and tempted in every way - did not sin, even at the point of torture, shame and death upon The Cross. That is the definition of Christ's Finished Work. 

Now we must rest in His Completed Work or Project. Sure that takes care of our Redemption, but His Work is so mighty that it covers every situation, at any moment in time, of any life in the universe. His Grace keeps on giving and His Salvation keeps on Saving - Rest Assured.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

THEREFORE COMFORT ONE ANOTHER


A friend and co-worker of mine died yesterday. She worked at my establishment for some 30 years and I have worked alongside her 22 of those 30. Cancer finally wore her body down. She is a Christian and that is the sustaining comfort, strength and hope I have for myself and others even though I will still miss her in the meantime. 

There is a saying, Two things are for certain - death and taxes. For the Christian there is also Hope. Hope that Faith in Love personified, Christ Jesus, accomplished our secured position at The Table in His House in Heaven. By Faith in Christ's words "It is finished" and His manifested proof of victory over death, hell and the grave - an empty tomb - Christians have the best foundation for Hope.

The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to encourage the believers in Thessolonica and down through the ages of this Hope when he said, "But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." (1 Thess. 4:13) Grief is a powerful emotion that can lead to other entrapments or disorders if not checked or dealt with properly. This is why counselors encourage journaling, speaking to a trusted friend, creating or singing a song to express one's grief and overcome the loss. 

The rest of the 1 Thessolonian passage describes The Hope for Christians whether their bodies are dead and their spirits are with the Lord OR whether the Christian is alive serving The Lord on the earth. The passage reads -

"For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."

Notice the last sentence. Not only are we to comfort one another in the time of loss, but we are to comfort one another with this particular reminder; with this particular Hope - Therefore Comfort One Another.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

THE NEW SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM


I asked the Lord recently, "Lord, how come you said you prefer obedience over sacrifice, yet you laid down your own life as a sacrifice for the sacrificial system you set up for your people?"

As I talked this question out with my earthly Father, the Holy Spirit enlightened me. He lifted certain words or phrases for me off the page in the 1 Samuel 15:22 passage and made sense of them for me. The verse reads - 

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."

Samuel hints at the answer in the question itself. He uses the phrase "as much as" to lead our thinking that the second thing mentioned - "obeying the Lord" - is the preferred action. I thought this interesting because the Holy Spirit impressed the idea upon Samuel during the initiation of The Old Testament Sacrificial System. The verse's next phrase, "better than", is the confirming thought

Whenever I have read this verse, I have always interpreted, for whatever reason, "better than" as to replace "sacrifice". The Holy Spirit pricked my heart and said, "That is not what is said." I understood then that sacrifice was not eliminated in this verse, sacrifice has been improved upon. Plus, we have another sacrificial system established after the resurrection of Christ.

Christ Jesus was perfect in obedience and the perfect, spotless, sinless sacrifice for humanity's fallen relationship with God. Christ obeyed Father God's plan for salvation, by sacrificing Himself in His own blood-demanding system of redemption. And now because of Christ's redeeming sacrifice the next sacrificial system for believers has taken its place - praise and a living sacrifice.

There is a song that goes - We bring the sacrifice of praise, into the house of the Lord, we bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord, and we offer up to you the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and we offer up to you the sacrifices of joy. As with many Christian hymns and modern songs, this song comes from Scripture - Hebrews 13:15. This verse reads - 

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name."

The other kind of sacrifice I have listed, other than praise, is the sacrifice of your body as you live daily for Christ - "a living sacrifice". Romans 12:1 says it best -  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."

So, does God delight in our sacrifices? Absolutely! He inhabits the praises of His people as they sacrificially worship Him whenever and wherever they are in the day. And He takes note of the way we present ourselves (our bodies) to Him and for Him daily. We must remember we are "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." (1 Peter 2:9) 

But Wait there is more - obeying God is better than just sacrificing alone. Remember, obedience is an improved add-on that should have been there in the first place. Heeding or obeying His Word will always bring you back around to living a servant or sacrificial life AND delivering a sacrifice of praise to The King. And thus you have The New Sacrificial System.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

SHINE A LIGHT ON YOUR PERSPECTIVE


I have had quite a number of people honk their horn at me because they think I can go on, BUT I cannot because of the slower traffic in front of me. Perhaps they are honking at them, but it comes across as a message to me - to pick up the pace - when I can't due to traffic conditions. Some individuals cannot or choose not to recognize what is further down the road and only focus on what is in front of them. Many call this nearsightedness. God helps with this.

There are people who are in the other category too. These individuals are great planners and thrive on looking ahead either as part of their job or just the way they feel they are wired. This exclusive view of - just the future - does not appreciate the now and in between time. Many-a-relationship has suffered because of this perspective. I have heard this called farsightedness. God helps with this also.

Both visions in balance are what God calls for in our lives. However, in order to have this balance, we must accept and walk out with His help - His awesome plan for our lives. Once we accept His plan and own it with a passion, keeping our focus on Christ - He will reveal both the near-seen-things and the far-seen-things in His timing. Both of these revelations, views or visions - near and future - can be found in one place - from Him; His Word. 

"Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105)


Do you need a refresh to who/what God has called you to be? Do you need direction, revelation and/or perspective for the short term or in the distant future? If God's Word was the agent that brought light into existence so many years ago, surely His Word can and will Shine A Light On Your Perspective.

Friday, June 8, 2018

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Many Christians have a list of people in their lives that they would love to see have a personal relationship with Christ and get plugged in to a well-grounded body of believers. A lot of these individuals are prayed for every day. Jude 1:22 encourages us to have that go get'em, don't give up, passionate attitude about their eternal souls, especially the backslidden. The verse reads - "And of some have compassion, making a difference." 

That phrase "and of some" identifies a specific group of targeted people that should be receiving your direct attention. The phrase "have compassion" covers the gambit of loving a person all the way back through the restoration process - until they are spiritually and mentally stable once again. The phrase "making a difference" tells us what we have accomplished. We have accomplished...

  1. for Christ - because He instructed us to love like Him, 
  2. for the individual - because they needed help/restoration and now he/she is back on track,
  3. for us - because the outcome is rewarding in-and-of-itself.
The Holy Spirit re-emphasized this same notion when Paul stated in Galatians 6:10 - "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." You see there is a calling to attention of doing good "especially...to the family of believers". We have to take care of our own, otherwise why else would others, the "all people" in this verse be interested in joining this kingdom; this family. The challenge, as stated in Jude 1:22 above is for God's family members to continue having compassion, Making A Difference.