Thursday, December 13, 2018

GUILD OF FISHERMEN: CRACKED POTS AND ALL


     The Disciples had occupations ranging from Fishermen, to Businessman, to Tax Collector, to Zealot or Political Revolutionalist and to Treasurer. The most common profession found among the majority of them was Fishermen. Andrew, Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee worked as fishermen according to Matthew 4:18-22. Thomas, Nathaniel and Philip were found fishing after Jesus’ resurrection when He appeared to them, so they also may be fishermen. (John 21:2-8) They at least knew how to fish. That is 7 out of 12 belonging to the Guild of Fishermen.

     God calls us to be fishers of men and women just as we are – cracked pots and all. Notice Jesus did not go and call a Pharisee, Saducee or religious leader to be fishers of men? Perhaps that is a reason why they were Sad-U-See (insert groaning here). Jesus summoned those that knew they were imperfect. Paul mentions a quality that Jesus loves to capitalize on – weakness. In Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth, he says, “But He [Jesus] said to me,
‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’"(2 Cor. 12:9) And Matthew records Jesus teaching that – “Blessed are the meek (or humble), for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)

     Jesus did not desire to pass along His Fisher of Men Technique to the big wheeler and dealers of the day. The only one that was a perfect fisher of humanity taught the likes of Blue Collar job workers how to reach out in love to others. Why would Jesus do that? Perhaps the Fishermen Motif fits perfectly. You do not see a farmer or planter as a profession listed amongst the Disciples resumes. Yet, the farmer illustration is used as how believers should go and witness - planting a seed, allowing others to water and the Holy Spirit to grow the seed. So, the Guild of Fishermen, made up of Cracked Pots, is what Jesus was going for as a strong statement of Lifestyle Analogy or analogous lifestyle.


     Remember the Lord’s calling of Simon and Andrew in Matthew 4:18-20?
  • “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
     
     Notice two things – (1) Jesus changed their mode of operation - fishing for people now, in addition to the scaly things - and (2) they made the decision to follow Jesus immediately. It all hinged on the going and following Him. Jesus of Nazareth made an awesome impression because these and the rest of the Disciples were captivated by His call to join Him.

     If you are a believer in Christ, do you remember when you decided to give your life to Him and start following in the lifestyle of Jesus? Do you recall the draw, the transformation from what kind of person you were before to the person you were after you started walking with The Lord? It is always healthy to revisit this memory. It brings appreciation, thankfulness and praise to God.

     However, whatever drew us to Him should drive us to share with others. We have got to find a way to fish more men and women for the Lord with our lives. Now that we have Christ in our lives and we are allowing Him to lead us, His heart has always been for the next person that does not know Him in an intimate fashion.

     
     Similar to the motif of the Planter, Waterer, and Reaper - some can carry the fishing pole. Some can carry the bait. Some can bait the hook. Some can cast the line into the waters. Some can scoop up the fish in the net. But we all have a role to play in being in the Guild of Fishermen: Cracked Pots And All.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

ATTITUDE OF APPRECIATION

I believe appreciation of all your blessings keeps the right attitude. This focus on the affirmative is contagious as it forms a positive cloud around you. The challenge in this world is entering and sustaining that atmosphere of appreciation. Some steps that have helped me and perhaps they will help others are -

(1) Enter into prayer with God by thanking Him first for your many blessings, then move into a time of praising Him for who He is in your life. (Psalm 100:4)

(2) Sow what you desire to reap. If you want the attitude of appreciation then appreciate someone in person who has blessed your life. (Matthew 13)

(3) And hang out with those individuals who are also positive, realistic and appreciative. (Proverbs 13:20)

So, practice this attitude with God, sow it with others to reap it in your own life and in the meantime surround yourself with those that already have an Attitude of Appreciation.

GOD'S WORD IN FLESH - THE CHRISTMAS STORY

Jesus has always existed. Humankind knew Him as Jesus when He was born. That is the name Mary was instructed by the angel Gabriel to give her supernatural baby. However, He has always been and forever will be The Word of God.

Father God's Word has always been with Him. 
  • "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning." (John 1:1-2)
The Father, Word, and Spirit of God all live in harmony within the mind and heart of Father God. Anytime Father God speaks, God's Word performs Father God's thoughts perfectly as He, The Word, is uttered from Father God's lips.
  • "'Let there be light' and there was light..." - Genesis 1:3
  • "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." (John 1:3).
The first question I come to is - Why God? Why create this grand story to begin with? The only answer I keep coming back to is His display of Love. John tells us, 
  • "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever would believe in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
The second question I arrive at is - God, when did you consider The Plan? And God answers in His Word - Before the creation of the Cosmos.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 - "He [Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world,..."
  • Revelation 13:8 - "...the lamb that was slain from the creation of the world."
  • Ephesians 1:4 - "For he [Father God] chose us in him [Christ Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
______________________________________________________

Two-thousand plus years ago, Christ Jesus is a physical miracle of Father God; the manifestation of Father God's Word in flesh for us. Jesus is God With Us - Emanuel. The apostle Paul wrote about it in Philippians 2:6 and 7, where he said, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

JESUS HAS ETERNALLY EXISTED

"The word “being” is a translation of the Greek word huparcho, a compound of the words hupo and arche. In this case, the word hupo means from, and the word arche means the firstoriginal, or ancient. When it becomes the word huparcho, it depicts something that has always existed.

By using this key word that means to eternally exist, Paul declares that Jesus has always existed. Philippians 2:6 could be translated, “Who, eternally existing in the form of God.…”In other words, Jesus’ human birth in Bethlehem was not His beginning, but merely His physical manifestation to man, which was actually a very brief appearance in the scope of His eternal existence.

Paul tells us that Jesus always existed in the “form” of God. The word “form” is the Greek word morphe, a word that describes an outward form. This means that in Jesus’ preexistence, He looked just like God. He was not just a component of God, nor a symbol of God. In reality, He was God. And Jesus possessed the very shape and outward appearance of God — a form that includes great splendor, glory, power, and a Presence so strong that no flesh can endure it.

THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTMAS

God existed in glory more wonderful than the human mind can comprehend and more powerful than human flesh can endure. Yet He desired to come to earth to purchase redemption for man. Therefore, God had no choice but to re-clothe Himself in a manner that could be tolerated by man. This is why He “…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” This is the true story of Christmas!

The phrase “made himself of no reputation” comes from the Greek word kenos, which means to make empty, to evacuate, to vacate, to deprive, to divest, or to relinquish. Because it was impossible for God to appear to man as God, He had to change His outward form.

The only way Jesus could make this appearance as a man was to deliberately and temporarily let go of all the attributes we usually think of when we consider the characteristics of God. For 33 years on this earth, God divested Himself of His heavenly glory and “…took upon him the form of a servant.…”

The phrase “took upon him” perfectly describes that marvelous moment when God reached out to lay hold of human flesh and take it upon Himself so that He might appear on the earth as a man. The words “took upon him” are from the Greek word lambano, which means to take, to seize, to catch, to latch on to, to clutch, or to grasp. This word lets us know that God reached out from His eternal existence, reached into the material world He had created, and took human flesh upon Himself in “the form of a servant.”

The word “form” in this phrase is exactly the same word that describes Jesus in the form of God. It is the Greek word morphe. This means that just as Jesus in His pre-existent form had all the outward appearance of God, now Jesus existed in the exact form of a man — appearing and living on this earth in exactly the same way as any other man. For a brief time in His eternal existence, Jesus emptied Himself of His divinity and literally became a man.

Then Jesus took upon Himself the form of a “servant.” This is the Greek word doulos, which refers to a slave. Paul used this word to picture the vast difference between Jesus’ pre-existent state and His earthly life. Paul went on to say that Jesus “…was made in the likeness of men.” The phrase “was made” is the Greek word ginomai, which in this context means to become, indicating that this was not Jesus’ original form, but it became His new form. This clearly describes the miracle that occurred when God became a man. Jesus had always existed in the form of God, not the form of man. But taking upon Himself human flesh, He was formed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and became a man.

Paul also declared that God took upon Himself the “likeness” of a man. The word “likeness” is the Greek word homoioma, which refers to a form or resemblance. This refers not only to Jesus’ being made in the visible likeness of men, but also in the human likeness of men. In other words, when Jesus appeared on this earth, He came in the actual form of a man and was just like man.

JESUS COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDS US

Jesus was so completely made in the “likeness” of men that Hebrews 4:15 declares He was even tempted in every way that men are tempted. It says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

So we see that Jesus left His heavenly home and took upon Himself human flesh. And because of this great exchange, He has stood in our place; He has felt what we feel; He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; and He intercedes for us with great compassion as our High Priest. Because He walked where we walk and lived where we live, He completely understands us.

At this time of the year, we are prone to think of Jesus as a little baby in a manger in a Bethlehem stable. Certainly this was true, but we should never forget that Bethlehem was not Jesus’ beginning. His coming to the earth as a human being was merely a brief appearance in His eternal existence.

Out of His deep love for you and me, Jesus was willing to leave His majestic realms of glory to enter the realm of humanity. Shedding all His visible attributes that were too much for man’s flesh to endure, He dressed Himself in the clothing of a human being and was manifested in the flesh. That little baby in Bethlehem was the eternal, ever-existent God Almighty, who dressed Himself in human flesh so that He could dwell among men and purchase our salvation.

God’s great love for us drove Him to come down to our level to redeem us and later become an effective High Priest on our behalf. Think how wonderful it is that God loves us to such an extent!"
(https://renner.org/the-real-christmas-story/)
__________________________________

THE PLAN

"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." (From the book - The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe)


The story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe explain that victory in life comes from a "Deep Magic" not foreseen by the Witch. However, according to the Scriptures above (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8; Ephesians 1:4) there was a time before the creation of the "world" or in the Greek, Kosmos, (ordered systems, solar system, universe, society, governments, kingdoms, etc..) when Father God's thoughts turned to The Plan. A design, that when pictured in God's mind saw His Word becoming flesh, wounds appearing upon His body, nail-scars emerging on His hands and feet, grooves on His brow from the Crown of Thorns, and the divot of flesh from His pierced side.

Father God decided long before anything that all humanity is who He loved by sending His Word in flesh, Christ Jesus, to die for our fallen/broken relationship with Himself.
  • "he chose in Him [Christ Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight." (Ephesians 1:4) 
The Choice to accept Jesus as God's sacrificial gift of restoration was placed in our hands. However, Father God, The Word of God, and The Holy Spirit all viewed and considered the idea of Yeshua (Jesus) defeating Satan before there even was a Lucifer or at least a created world by the imagery of a slain lamb in the mind of God (Revelation 13:8).

Father God's thoughts of love and sacrifice became reality and manifested in the man Yeshua Messiah or translated for today - Jesus Christ.  The Old Testament Law (Law of Moses) was created to show the severity of our condition.  However, Christ came as that ultimate, perfect sacrifice which would usher all who believe in God's gift into a restored relationship by grace through faith.  
  • "For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." - Hebrews 9:24-26
Love is the made-up mind of The God from everlasting to everlasting (Nehemiah 9:5; Psalm 90:2; Habakkuk 1:12). In three places, (Revelation 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13) God refers to Himself as the Alpha and Omega, the one who is the beginning and who is the end. He is before all, through it all, at the end of it all, and beyond it all. However, before the creation of the world, God had The perfect sacrifice in mind to display His perfect love - The Logos, His Word.

You see Father God thought everything through - creation, salvation, eternity, everything. Jesus confesses to this by His teaching of the idea. 
  • "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:28:33  
This passage says Father God "sat down", considered the cost, and decided the plan to give up everything - His Word manifested as Jesus - to display the extent of His love, was worth it all. The last statement is where the rubber meets the road. Jesus says if you are not willing to "give up everything" as I have then that person "cannot be my disciple". With that kind of God - why not surrender everything to Him by believing in Christ and His free gift of salvation? The benefits are eternal and there are No Disadvantages to His Design - The Plan!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

OPERATING IN HIS LOVE


1 Corinthians 13

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (verses 1-3)

The effort or energy that we bring to all situations has to be motivated by compassion if life is to be meaningful. Not only is the lesson - what wolf do you feed within yourself, but does that wolf contribute to The Pack and beyond? What source do you operate from - Love, Hate or Indifference. Jesus does not like the middle-ground. Jesus said to the believers in Laodicea and those whom would take on lukewarmness, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

This first section of 1 Corinthians 13 is saying - How I "speak", how I "prophesy", how I "give", and how I "display my faith" is vitally important. For the attitude and the heart of the effort COMES WITH the words or things being submitted. Recipients are sensitive to the How It Is Delivered. So, all of us should be sensitive and considerate when displaying our skills, talents and helps toward others.

In addition, the Blesser, with the appropriate mindset and attitude, receives a blessing. Love is a two-way street. In Loving someone, chances are great that Love will be returned - if not by that person, then through another. Loving someone in anyway, even unconditionally, is its own reward. However, we must sincerely plant or display the seed of love.  

How do we do this? The next part of 1 Corinthians 13 tells us.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (verses 4-8)

Therefore, we must show patience, kindness, rid ourselves of envy, of boasting and show humility. We must drop slandering, seek out others, watch our temper and forgive as you have been forgiven. We must not indulge in sinful or rebellious behavior but get and keep excited about God's Truth. We must Always play the role of Protector, Truster of/in God, Creator of Hope and one who continually Endures.

When we look at the three words - "Love never fails." - we may get a little intimidated. I know, I could never love perfectly enough all the time that my love would never fail. This is why it is so important to consider - What source do you operate from? If you and I operate from God's unlimited and perfect-for-every-situation storehouse of love, then we have no worries. If we feed ourselves and operate only from our own reservoir of love, we empty fast and the love may not last because we do not have the best love displayed - Christ's Love. It is all a matter of Operating In His Love.

Monday, November 19, 2018

YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE


We are sometimes thrust into situations in life where we convince ourselves that we are the only ones that are going through a particular predicament. This is a bad trick we play on ourselves and a lie. First, there are too many people on the face of the earth for the odds of someone, not having gone through the exact or at least similar issue. Second, if you consider all of human history, then our complaining of the “only one” really gets ridiculous.

I don’t mean to discount the feeling itself. I have had this feeling, but it is not based on truth. The feeling is a self-pitty cloud, if you will, that blinds us to what is really happening around us. And if we buy into the lie of exclusivity in a problem, then feelings, NOT based on fact, can arise to complicate matters. Feelings of shame, depression, bitterness and so forth enter into the picture.

The key is to recognize our feelings as our emotional response to what we are experiencing and let them run their course, but Do Not allow them to run us or our decisions about the situation at hand. I know, I can hear many of you saying, “Easier said than done.” While this is true, we have help.

Life is about relationships. We need to learn to lean on those relationships when our emotions may be directing us into making a decision that should have some reasoning included. Balance is needed in the way we think and operate. If the left-side of life gets weighty, we will be pulled off track in that direction. Same for the right-side of life. If the weight of life is in the top of us we are top heavy and will eventually crash and fall. And if the load of life is in the bottom of our daily journey, we can get stagnant and unproductive.

True, we need God with every breath we take. However, He made relationship(s) so that we would trust and rely on one another. We need each other for hearing out our thoughts. We need each other for listening to our heart or emotions. We need each other for the balancing of the two. We need each other to remind us – You Are Not The Only One.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

PERSPECTIVE SHIFT


I am who you say I am God. It is time I believe and proclaim over my life what your Word says about who I am. I am free, I am a child of God, I belong in His Family. I am chosen, not forsaken, you are for me, not against me – I am who you say I am. Help me Lord to keep your perspective of me in mind, on my lips and displayed in my behavior.

Lord, help me not to measure who I am or what I can do by comparing myself with others. I recall what you told Paul to share with the believers in Corinth - "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Cor. 10:12) I realize that this takes the specialness of my offering away. Plus, I don't want to be a copy-cat anymore, I want to be me before you Lord.

Thank you Lord, that in the challenge of Colossians 3:12 to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient - you also tell us what you think about us - "chosen", "holy" and "dearly loved". "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." I like how Mr. Renner says it Lord - "He has personally chosen you; He has separated you from your sin; He respects you as the dwelling place of His Spirit; and He loves you so much that His thoughts are continually turned toward you, causing awe, admiration and wonder to be drawn from His heart. That is what God thinks about you!" (Sparkling Gems From the Greek 2, p.429)

In your Name, Lord Jesus and by your Holy Spirit so let it be written, so let it be done.

-me

Monday, November 12, 2018

FOUNDATION OF HOPE


As the hymn states - "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ, my Righteousness." Christ Jesus is my Right Standing with Father God. All of my expectations, desires and needs are found in the confidence I have in my Savior.

A person needs an event in their life to spark hope, to establish a different perspective worth holding onto. Jesus did that for all humanity, I have just chosen to accept and believe in His compassionate gift of grace. Father God has loved the world so much that He gave His only Son - Jesus Christ - that whosoever would believe in Him would be saved. (John 3:16) 

However, Jesus did not just live an exemplary life for us and die a martyr's death. If He had done only this we would be living for just a good cause and not The Good Shepherd. The Good News is not complete without sharing Christ Jesus rose from death and the grave after the third day from purchasing everyone's relationship gap with Father God through His death on The Cross.

Jesus promised He would return for those who believe in Him as their Savior. In the meantime, Christ delivered on the promised Holy Spirit by sending Him to indwell each new believer. There is a lot of hope here. As believers in Christ we have faith in the completed work of Christ's redemptive actions. But because of His love poured out like this - we have hope in every category of our lives. 

Christ's love and forgiveness is not just glorified at Calvary some 2,000 plus years ago. History and the believer's heritage will always remember those precious days. But Jesus continues to love and forgive us daily in spite of our imperfection. Some hopes we cling to as believers are - sin being demolished, our bodies being perfected, and our relationship with God, each other and nature being the way they should be.

In the Old Testament, time and time again there were events and foreshadows that pointed to The Hope humanity has in the salvation Christ Jesus provides. When Jesus was here, He left no doubt that He was the One to place ALL your hope in - "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6) Now and in the future, due to the Holy Spirit's indwelling, believers should share this Hope, especially in our deteriorating world. Christians will always have The Cross, The Resurrection - Jesus - to refer back to their Foundation Of Hope. 

  • "To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)