Friday, February 15, 2019

SLAVERY

Slavery to me is forced servant-hood. It is a stronger will imposing itself over another for the benefit of the imposer. Anytime I hear the word slave or slavery - I have no good images associated with it. But then I read Scripture and I hear those words used as a passionate way to communicate Servant-hood, especially being a bonded servant to Christ.

Even though the words used by Paul in his letter to the believers in Rome were interpreted "servants", the meaning of servants was bond-servant by voluntary or involuntary means. The original Greek word he used was Doulos. But Paul comes to the word and term of slavery and flips the negativity of it for me. Listen as he describes this new look in Romans 6:16-18 -

"Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."

Wow! What a switch in perspective. Because of my faith in Christ's sacrifice and victory for me ("been set free from sin") - I have chosen a life of bonded service to my Savior who is worthy of this passionate attachment ("have become slaves to righteousness"). Praise God, the entire Slave Market of Sin has been bought by Christ's very own life and faith in Christ Jesus as The Redeemer sets anyone free. There is no one else in the universe that deserves this bond.

Therefore, since He has died once for us and rose again in victory, let us die daily in Him - placing our thoughts, actions and words in submission and screening of His Holy Spirit. Not that we should consider being Saved every day, but that our Behavior would line-up with God's Word for our benefit and the benefit of others. Paul said it like this -

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:8-14)

Fear is a liar, it will try to keep you in the negative encampment of whatever bondage you find yourself. But  then we see slavery as a negative connotation re-worked. Jesus changes everything. One might ask - What is the benefit of being a slave in one camp to a slave in the other camp? The answer is - The Master. The Master, Christ Jesus, has set you free, designated you as being set apart for Him and graced you with eternal life, not eternal death. Paul said it like this - 

"I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Romans 6:19-22)

Well, Paul when you say it like that, to be a slave, especially a bond-servant of Christ who loved me first - the idea doesn't sound so bad.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A COMMANDING PRESENCE (REVISED and REVISITED)

I long to be that somebody who can control a room simply by entering it. I desire the pervasive, penetrating presence without a conceited or pompous "air" about me. My hope, prayer and now practice is that the way I carry myself would exude a stronger example of Christ's Presence in my life, but even more-so on my personage. 

2 Corinthians 2:16 says, that believers in Christ Jesus should have a "Heavenly Scent" about them that is so pleasing that it draws all people to them. 
  • "To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?" 
I also believe, as Matthew 5:15 says, that believers should be a light to the world and especially within their own household. 
  •  "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." 
However, I desire to radiate more of God's Presence in my life SO THAT others may take notice of the difference, inquire and consider a change themselves.

In Scripture, there are those like Moses who is known for his faithfulness (Nu. 12:4-8). There is Solomon who is known for requesting wisdom to rule God's people (1 Kings 3). We read about Hezekiah as a great kingly model in 2 Kings 18:3-8. These are all wonderful men who each had their own respected air about them, brought on them by the position they held in the community.

However, what about Daniel, Peter and Paul. Daniel was noted by the angel Gabriel as being "esteemed". Daniel was regarded this way not only on earth, but Gabriel tells him three times - 9:23; 10:11, 19 - that Heaven deems him esteemed. I believe this notoriety was due to his time abiding with God in prayer and having a policy of no compromise.

Peter was seen as "highly regarded by people" in Acts 5:13-15. God's healing power was displayed even in Peter's shadow as a great way to showcase The Commanding Presence of God in Peter's life and person. Here again, this ministry of power comes from a close relationship that Peter had with Jesus. 

We receive a heavy dose of God's Presence exemplified in Paul's life and person as we read his letter to the believers in Rome. Romans 8:38-39 says, 
  • "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Paul went through much hardship in his adult years. His suffering for Christ's sake was even foretold to Ananias by The Lord (Acts 9:15-16). However, it is not just Paul's spoken words that I am sure gave people inspiration. It is not just his and The Holy Spirit's written words that brought many direction and enlightenment. But when I observe Paul's life and hear him say - "I am convinced" - I know that life is the instrument and God is the Teacher of what I am to be convinced.

I would venture to say that the Commanding Presence I seek and Authority that comes with it is derived from God-given experience or opportunities. Those experiences are excellent times to Practice His Presence, His Posture and His Perspective. When we use our verbal and non-verbal skills, we need to take care these are screened through His Holy Spirit, through His Presence. We take Christ everywhere as His Ambassadors. As often as we can, we need to remind ourselves of the position or Posture we have because of Christ and through Christ Jesus. We are seated together with Him in heavenly places. What a privilege and responsibility. We also must always do our best to keep His Perspective as our own - loving the world into His Kingdom.

Looking at Jesus as our ultimate authoritative example, authority was no stranger to Him - 
  • "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matthew 7:28-29)
The Good News here is that His authority did not stop with Him, He shares it with those who believe in Him as their personal Lord and Savior - 
  • "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..." (Ephesians 2:6). 
Also, Romans 8:37 assures believers - "in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." So, when I walk into a room I want people to "smell a Heavenly scent", "see a Heavenly light" and hear the Godly authority I have in Him.

If you too desire this, A Commanding Presence begins by abiding in Christ, the True Vine (John 15:5). It is not enough to be "religious". My life must reflect my beliefs, teachings and songs I sing. It is one thing to hear a great orator speak on any topic and be convinced or swayed on the idea presented simply because he/she is an excellent word-smith. But there is a totally different power behind a speaker or author who has experienced what they are convincing you about. This is the authority Christians have with their Testimony. This is the Power Christians have because of Christ's blood. This is the Presence that Christians have continually available to their lives. 

Walking into any room, my desire is to introduce you to Jesus Christ without any words if possible. If you had "spiritual glasses" on - I would want you to see Jesus walk-in with me and speak through me in whatever atmosphere is given. I would want you to know and experience me as a Heavenly scent and light in your midst. I believe the more I find ways to keep close to Christ and abide in His Word daily - He will grant me A Commanding Presence.

Friday, February 8, 2019

GOOD TEACHER


"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'

'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’'

'Teacher,' he declared, 'all these I have kept since I was a boy.'
Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'
 
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!'" - Mark 10:17-23
____________________________

Notice that the man who ran up and fell on his knees before Jesus called Him - "Good Teacher". Then after Jesus addressed him, the man simply called Jesus - "teacher". The man replied, 'Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.' Just in the absence of the title "Good" and declaration of keeping all the laws Jesus listed since youth, you could tell the man's view of Jesus and answer he sought to begin with was dwindling fast because something else was required.

Almost as if to see if the man knew the answer to his own question, Jesus asked - "Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone." After Jesus told the man of the commandments, the rich, young ruler could have said something like - I have followed those, but now I choose to believe in you as our Messiah, as my Savior - Good TeacherJesus gave the man the perfect opportunity to not only say something like that, but to show it also. I love how Mark remembers this and records it - "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Jesus did not leave the man hanging, He told him what must be done but in a direct and loving way. In this manner Christ said, "'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" 

Interesting that Jesus seems to give the man a lot of steps, but does not name the "one thing" he lacks until the last sentence - "Then come, follow me." Some followed Jesus as a Prophet, some as a Priest and some as potential King. Then there were others who believed Him to be The Messiah, the Son of the living God, the Good Shepherd and The Good Teacher.

The man reminds me of Ebeneezer Scrooge - putting his dependency in his wealth and material possessions. Unfortunately, the man could not get past these. "At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth." The man did not have faith. There was no faith in Jehovah Jireh, The God, his Provider. And Christ's response teaches us this - "Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, 'How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!'

In this passage (Mark 10:17-23), the original Greek word for "Good" is agathos, meaning beneficial in anything. This word is also used to describe the kind of gift that comes from Father God in James 1:17 - "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Jesus, our Redemption is the ultimate "good and perfect gift". Paul said to the believers in Rome - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

No one is Beneficial for Anything except God alone. He sent His - Beneficial for Anything Gift, Christ Jesus, as our Redemptive Sacrifice. Is Jesus Christ just another teacher to you? Or - is Christ Jesus your Savior, your Life Coach, your Beneficial for Anything, your Good Teacher?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

IMITATE AND EMULATE


Even as distinct individuals, we all tend to imitate someone in our lives, whether conscientiously or not. However, when we Emulate someone else, we put forth effort in taking on and sharing some or all of their characteristics. Who is it you imitate? Who is it you Emulate?

Friday, February 1, 2019

THE TORN CURTAIN


For entry into relationship with God and entry into God's Heaven, Christ has been pictured in a few ways - The Gate and The Narrow Door. However, did you know Jesus is also The Curtain? 

In John's recording of The Gospel, Christ referred to Himself as The Gate.  

"Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:7-8

As The Gate, Jesus either allows or denies entry to the dwelling of the sheep pen and thus His care as The Shepherd. Anybody that chooses any other way besides The Gate for entry is a thief (John 10:1).

In this same imagery, Luke 13:23-25 depicts Christ Jesus as The Narrow Door. 

"Someone asked him, 'Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?' He said to them, 'Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’" 

Again, entry is the idea and only through Christ Jesus as The Narrow Door is entry possible. As a little extra view of this same idea in Luke, consider Noah and The Ark. One Door for all the land animals and his family to enter and eventually exit through. Plus, Genesis 7:16 records that it was God that personally closed the door of the ark - "Then the Lord shut him in." Can't you just imagine The Lord as guardian at the door of the ark? Acting as Door Keeper, He would manage and protect who and what goes in and then seal the deal by shutting the door Himself. 

In this last analogy, the body of Jesus is our Broken Barrier - "the curtain, that is, His body,". Jesus was The Curtain. Hebrews 10:19-22 says - 

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."

What an incredible symbol - The Curtain that was ripped in two! Christ as our Curtain was beaten beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14), mocked, tortured, unjustly tried, crowned with thorns, stripped naked and crucified upon a tree. This was the price required for direct access to The Throne of Grace. 

Look at Matthew 27:50-52 and observe the power and significance of the very moment when Christ declared His mission complete by proclaiming - "It is finished."

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life."
 


Jesus described Himself as The Gate. Jesus also portrayed Himself as The Narrow Door. Paul depicted Christ as The Curtain. All of these communicate only one entry point for Heaven, only one possibility for peace with God - Christ Jesus. If these representations are not enough, hopefully the last and probably most infamous quote on this subject from Jesus I will give you will be enough. His statement is found in John 14:6

Jesus answered "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Notice that there is an article before the subject that defines singularity in Jesus' point. The words "way", "truth" and "life" are all preceded by the article "the". This denotes one, only and solitaire ownership of the following word - "the way, the truth and the life". Jesus left no doubt about this matter. There were no ifs, ands, buts, perhaps or any other conditional words.  There is only one Gate we can enter through for relationship with God and citizenship in His Heaven - Jesus Christ. There is only one Door we can consider and approach that holds Salvation, a blessed eternity and God's presence for now - behind it - Christ Jesus. And The Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, no longer limits access to the Holy of Holies to just the High Priest once a year - for Christ became for us The Torn Curtain.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

KEEPING HIS PREVIEWED PROMISES BEFORE YOU


Nobody, including the Christian, is exempt from problems, issues or challenges in life. However, sometimes those difficult situations can become not just moments, days, weeks or months of hardship, but a lengthy season of struggle. 

Many believers refer to this period of life as being in the wilderness. The wilderness may be a season of our own making. The wilderness may have come about by outside influences or circumstances. The wilderness might be a direct attack from the enemy or the wilderness could be the direct result of our non-alignment with God's Word for our life. The wilderness is not only limited to individuals, but can also be applied to a family or a local church. In any one of these cases, if we are in the wilderness, the Lord has allowed for us to be there. But He has not meant for us to stay.

Abraham was instructed by God to take up camp and move across the wilderness into a foreign land that was promised to be his and his descendants. Abraham obeyed but found the wilderness not only dry, barren and hot - it also contained enemies, The Cannanites, and there was a famine in the land.

Moses was instructed and empowered to lead God's people out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the promised land. Moses obeyed but found Egyptian armies pursuing him, a massive sea barricading him in, doubters on this side of the bank and on the other side when God miraculously provided for them. Where the enemy was in the land for Abraham, the enemy was within the camp already for Moses as a grumbling, lover of the status quo - spirit.

Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into The Wilderness. "In the narrative where Satan tempted Christ, we read, 'Then the tempter came to Him and said to Him...' (Luke 4:3). The tempter is 'the devil' or Satan (Luke 4:8, 10). The question is: Was this temptation in the form of mental thoughts that Satan shot in the form of fiery darts (Eph. 6:16), or did Satan himself appear visibly to Christ and speak audibly to Him? The narrative implies that the test was personally conducted by Satan face-to-face, and Christ heard the voice of His archenemy, as when the test concluded we read, 'the devil departed from Him and the angels came and ministered to Him' (Luke 4:11)." [p.111, This Season of Angels, Perry Stone]

The question for these three men and eventually us is - How do we get out of the wilderness? In the first two accounts - Abraham and Moses had a preview of land promised to them by God. Our hope of exiting the wilderness is first of all keeping our eyes fixed on the promise that was declared or goal that was set in the beginning. Life is a God-tethered journey of a movie that The Lord knows the end from the beginning. But sometimes we unhook that tether and that is when we find ourselves in a season of hardship and possible temptations.

However, with the third example above, The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to experience temptations and possibly other trials on our behalf during His forty day fast. 

Temptation has at its core doubt in something or someone. The challenge to turn the stones into bread doubted God's Provision. The dare to jump from the top of the Temple doubted God's Protection. The invitation to worship Satan for all the earthly kingdoms doubted God's Promises in Christ. In addition, all of the tempting was targeted at two vulnerable points - (1) when Christ was alone and (2) at Christ's supposed weaknesses.

Now, Jesus physically responded to each temptation,  declaring the truth of the matter by speaking the answer. The answer always began the same - "It is written....". However, I also personally believe Jesus kept Father God's preview of the End Result in His mind's eye as He went through the wilderness experience. In Hebrews 12:2, Scripture says, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." 

Notice the preview Jesus had - "For the joy set before Him". Notice He was able to use the Preview of the End Result as fuel to push Him through the entire Salvation Experience - "He endured the cross, scorning its shame". Notice He has made it to His Promised Land - "and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" - and because He has, His believers also are ensured this Promised Land - Heaven.

In the midst of our wilderness or season of challenges - "It is written..." must be the Christian's war-cry also. Our foundation, our source, our sustaining force must be The Belt of Truth or Word of God that holds everything together and upon which all the weapons of warfare hang (Ephesians 6:14). Christ Jesus is the way, The Truth and the life (John 14:6). All power to destroy the enemy's attacks, temptations or otherwise, is found in God's Word and thwarted by verbalizing "It is written...".

It is a good thing, with God's help, to fortify the areas in our life we know are weak and prone to temptation. However, should we find ourselves in a wilderness season remember - God does not desire you to stay. Whatever the challenge is, if it is an attack of the enemy, the start of resisting the devil and seeing him flee is declaring "It Is Written...". The other half of the equation is Keeping His Previewed Promises Before You.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

STOP FLAPPING OUR WINGS


You probably have figured this out by now, but did you know that you cannot hear very well, if at all, what someone is saying if you are speaking at the same time? First of all it is rude. Allow the person talking to you to have "the floor", then wait for your turn to interject or just make your comment. Some people simply have no Social Graces. Secondly, if you need to hear instruction from the one speaking and you beginning talking in response to their comments, you could miss some important information. 

Well-balanced conversation is a listening and speaking skill that needs to be developed more fully for some. Hearing is one of the five senses that means meaningful sound is being received by our ear. Listening is the reception and comprehension of those sounds into meaningful ideas that may lead to a verbal or non-verbal response. 

Some individuals start listening then they stop and just engage their hearing while their mouth begins to answer to the already formulated response. I would like to encourage those types of people to try another tactic.

Read this account in Ezekiel of the mysterious creatures around God's Throne.

"Spread out above the heads of the living creatures was what looked something like a vault, sparkling like crystal, and awesome. Under the vault their wings were stretched out one toward the other, and each had two wings covering its body. When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings." (Ezekiel 1:22-24)

Notice that their wings, just like our mouths, are vocal. Their wings and our mouths also communicate. But are we communicating at the proper time. Here, the beings are at first moving their wings in such a way that it sounds "like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army". Then when appropriate, "they stood still, they lowered their wings". After standing still, the mechanism by which they had been communicating God's swiftness and power - their wings - were lowered. We also need to be still and allow our mechanism, our mouth - to shut.

This practice comes with a beautiful promise in the very next verse of this passage. Ezekiel 1:25 says, "Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads as they stood with lowered wings." Again, take notice - the word "then" is there for a reason. It is a follow-up word. Once the Holy Creatures were still "Then" The Lord spoke. Does this not agree with other Scripture? Psalm 46:10 states, "He [God] says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.'”

Whether it is God showing Himself to be exalted among the nations or personally in our own lives by knowing Him more intimately - we need to take a lesson from the creatures in Ezekiel and Stop Flapping Our Wings.