Wednesday, August 31, 2011

THE JOY OF THE LORD

You know that saying - "Nobody is happy when mama is NOT happy"?  I believe we can take that one to another level, the highest level.  Things are just not right and there is no happiness or joy around when your relationship with God is either not in existence or going through some "bumps" or challenges.  If you have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ His Son and you are reading His Word on a daily basis, speaking to the Holy Spirit everyday (including Him in on everything) and allowing Him to lead, guide, and direct you...then it is very possible you have experienced The Joy of the Lord. 

When believers are in God's will, when we are in sync with His plan for our lives - His joy can be a physically manifested experience (I know, I've been there).  To me it is the kind of happiness and joyful emotion that comes when my own earthly Father or Mother tells me - "I'm proud of you son.  You are doing really well.  However, we will always love and support you, no matter what."  I receive this kind of spiritual and emotional jolt/charge when I hear the Lord say through Nehemiah - "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) 

The context of this verse shows the Israelites desiring to get back into God's Word and hear and see what it says, especially concerning their relationship with Yahweh.  Israel's past was not a good picture and they recognized that and grieved.  However, the Lord also saw that Israel was back studying The Word and coming back to Him and it seems He was pleased to the point where He had "joy" over Israel returning to the Word and told them "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength."  This "joy" and further studying of the Word turned into Feasts that were once forgotten.  Then national revival seemed to hit Israel as a result of this return to the Word and this outbreak of God's joy for His provisions and His Word. 

"All the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded for Israel.  So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.  He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.  
They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.  Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.  Nehemiah said, "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 8-10)

When I cross-referenced Nehemiah 8:10, two other verses appeared that spoke to the "joy of the Lord" or rejoicing in the Lord - Deut. 12:18 and 16:11.

Deuteronomy 12:18 says, "and you are to rejoice before the LORD your God in everything you put your hand to."  This becomes easier and easier as we keep the blessings and promises of the Lord in the forefront of our minds and spirits.  This is also easily accomplished the more believers are in His Word and can see, read, and quote out loud the Lord's blessings and promises to ourselves.

Deuteronomy 16:11 says, "And rejoice before the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name".  The place He chose as His dwelling for His name at this point was a physical, man made temple of wood and other supplies.  God's temple, in this day, is the believer's body (heart, mind, spirit).  How much more should we be able to receive the Lord's joy knowing He lives within us, by the power of His Holy Spirit, than back in the days of a wood and stone temple the Israelites built and worshiped at.

It seems the key in opening the door for more joy in the Lord is reading God's Word.  If you are not presently reading - start.  If you have paused, resume.  If you are reading, stay engaged.  Then watch His joy, His support, His "that a boy/girl!" - attitude, watch His unity with you make you laugh and cry at the same time, watch as because you have a relationship with God and are in sync with Him - The Joy of the Lord flows.    




Monday, August 29, 2011

MESSAGE WORTH REPEATING

Scripture References:  James 1:2-4 and 1 Samuel 17 (especially vv.34-36).

Pastor Richard Dial, my pastor, of Cary Church of God, has been teaching a series on Faith.  It has been awesome!  The following is what I received from the Holy Spirit and him as he taught on Sunday, August 29, 2011.

The James 1:2-4 verses tells us to "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds...".  There is more to that verse but we will get to that in a moment.  First, I noticed when Pastor Dial spoke this verse (from another translation other than the NIV) in the service, the second half came first - "whenever you face trials...".  That was a quick lesson unto itself for me.  You will face trials.  Just because anyone chooses to follow Christ does NOT exempt them from the trials and tribulations of life.  In fact, you are promised persecution because Jesus too was persecuted.   "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," - 2 Timothy 3:12  "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." - John 15:20.  So, the real insight comes when all of us take the time to step back from any problem we are dealing with and observe how we are reacting to it and handling it.

Now, the first part of that verse - "Consider it pure joy...".  What a challenge!  I can count on one hand the number of times I have actually had this verse come to mind during an issue and I have stopped and said, "I'm counting it all joy!"  But, there it is, in black and white ink.  However, there is a second half to that.  As Paul Harvey says, "And now, the rest of the story."

The rest of the story is "you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete."  I desire to be mature and complete.  Not only do I desire this for myself but to help others that may put their confidence in me and my relationship with the Lord.  Pastor Dial pointed us to a great example of how we can have our faith tested and perseverance developed and consider it all joy whenever trials come... in the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17).

In short, David did NOT pray to be out of this situation for himself, his family, or his country.  David, a mere teenager, does the shocking to everybody else - he submits his resume for consideration of Giant Slayer! 
"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep.  When a lion or bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it , struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth.  When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.  Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, BECAUSE he has defied the armies of the living God."

I saw the Holy Spirit shooting a righteous indignation through this young boy and reminding him of his God-given skills and talents in this verse.  David brought this to the attention of King Saul and King Saul said, "You got the job!"  Trying on the armor the King provided, the outfit and it's operation did not work for David's skill-set, his training.  One of God's gifts back home on "the ranch", for David, was marksmanship with a sling and projectile.  So, this other way and it's gear did not work and David removed the confining protective wear and went out to meet the Giant with the amount of faith and skill supplied from God.

With God in his past experiences taking care of the problematic lions and bears, God was now with David ready to show Himself faithful to take David to the next level - Giant Slayer!  David picked up five smooth stones, exchanged a few words, then charged the giant and used only one stone to take down the mammoth man.

The challenge for me is NOT to necessarily knee jerk prayer my way out of a situation, but PAUSE, seek God and His wisdom, pray for His strength and prepare to walk with God through the situation - not under it, over it, or around it.  All the trusting, obedience, submitting, and other lessons that shape you into a better person are really molded by God at these times in our lives.  Like I am saying, I don't always think, "Hey, this could be for my benefit." - because it hurts too much or is confusing or whatever the case may be at the time.

Another thing I need to practice is to look back at the times when God and I have tackled some "bears" and "lions" and maybe some "tigers" (lions and tigers and bears, oh my).  It is in this time of reflection that I need to appreciate what God did for me and to me and use that as a confidence builder for the next time I encounter a major issue/"bear".  This will only prepare me more for the Giant(s) in life.

How does your resume look?  Are you experienced with life's problems?  Are you in a personal relationship with God through His only Son Jesus Christ?  You got to have the relationship first in order to have a resume of Him training you up in the way you should go.  Once you have that relationship and you start including God in your life and it's "curve balls", you are on your way to personal and spiritual maturity.  You're on your way to "perseverance".  You're on your way to more confidence in who you are in the Lord.  You're on your way to greater faith.  You are on your way to "pure joy" in the midst of it - whatever it is.  









Thursday, August 25, 2011

THE UNIVERSITY OF FARM LEAGUE ATHLETES

     My title says it all, but too elaborate - many, if not all, universities to some degree, have become Farm League Universities for athletes.  Academics?  What is that?  Learning a base or core set of topics to better prepare you for life, who would ever offer and take such classes?  And student athletes who actually do the studying of a specific area of skill/trade in order to fall back on should the Pro venture not pan out - who would consider that?  It makes too much sense.  Ah yes, they have put all their eggs in one basket - the athletic "ticket"/"ride".  Well, they are at the right place here at The University of Farm League Athletes.

Now, I know not every athlete falls in this category but this type of university has money to make and an image to uphold.  So, learn your sport, but please keep the team, school, and NCAA violations hush-hush.  Do not use the media or social media outlets to expose your personal violations or others.  Our motto here is "shut up and play".  Now, let's go win, so the Pro scouts will look your way and we can get the best new recruits!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

FAITH....... AND LOVE

We have been given a "measure of faith" (Romans 12:3).  All of us are at different levels of faith or levels of maturity in our faith (Romans 1:12).  The Bible tells us who we should have faith in, Jesus (John 14:12; Acts 20:21, 24:24).  The Word of God defines "faith" for us in Hebrews 11:1.  Scripture tells us how faith comes - "from listening to this message of good news -- the Good News about Christ" (Romans 10:17) and even states that it is impossible to please God without faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6).

As you can glean from above Faith is the key element in many phrases of Scripture.  One might also see the following phrases - "your faith has healed you" (Matthew 9:22), "your faith has saved you" (Luke 7:50), "justified through faith" (Romans 5:1), "the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17), "put their faith in him" (John 2:11), "O, you of little faith" (Matthew 6:30), "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed..." (Matthew 17:20), "by faith" (Galatians 2:20), and "in faith" (1 Timothy 2:15).

Just performing a word search of "faith" in a bible search engine resulted in 257 verses with the word "faith" used in it.  Do you think it might be important? 

Yet, while faith is foundational to starting and keeping a relationship with God, faith is trumped by one, once you are on board.

Being able to speak many languages surely helps break down many barriers.  Being able to see the future and foretell events accurately would be considered a remarkable tool by some and a gift by others.  Being able to believe in God, myself, and others enough to see the right change happen - that is inspirational.  Being able to be generous to the needy and even be a hero on occasion (should the situation present itself) - I could log that as a "feather in my hat", a point to be proud about. [1 Corinthians 13:1-3 in my own words]

To be highly communicative, prophetic, strong in the faith, giving, and even sacrificial does not mean anything unless you have Love guiding your thoughts, actions, and words.

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged.  It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.  Love will last forever"

That is what 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says about "Love".

Then there is 1 John 4:8 - "God is Love."  So, we should be able to substitute the word "God" for "Love" or the subject of Love in the 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 verse above.

"God is patient and kind. (amen)  God is not jealous (the bad kind of jealous here, there is a healthy, Holy type) or boastful or proud (to the point where it is no good to anyone and even if He is, He's God) or rude.  God does not demand His own way (He gave us choice, He is the ultimate gentleman).  God is not irritable, and He keeps no record of when He has been wronged (forgiveness is available).  God is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth [Himself] wins out.  God never gives up, He never loses faith, He is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (for we have a High Priest in Jesus who went through everything we did but did not sin).  God will last forever."

Faith is good to have, to start and continue with all the benefits that faith contains.  But faith alone is empty.  "There are three things that will endure -- faith, hope, and love -- and the greatest of these is love." - 1 Corinthians 13:13  

There is a God.  He is Love.  There is great Faith to be had and even more Love to show.



Friday, August 5, 2011

A PROUD SON, A BLESSED SON

You've seen bumper stickers that read - "Proud Parents of....." - you fill in the rest of that phrase.  I have seen many variations of proud parents.  However, I am a Proud Son of My Parents.  I don't know too many children, kids, or even adults that have their parents still alive that are saying this now-a-days.  I am extremely blessed that God gave me my parents.  Dad - Tim and Mom - Paula.  I was also incredibly honored and blessed to have my father's mother live with us also - Pansy.

When I look around at my friends and family that have children right now I notice the absolute sacrifice that it demands - the life of the mom and dad.  They basically lay their lives down when they have a child.  There's not one moment in this life, on this planet, where those parents stop being parents and the children the children.  A great helper and teacher of life, that is what a parent should be and that is what I have in my parents.  And that goes across the board.

I have received great providers in my life.  All of which can be traced back to the ultimate Provider, my Lord and my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Provision covers a multitude of areas in life and my parents have done a wonderful job providing.  I am spoiled, but not with the riches of this world.  What I have always had in my parents is an abundance of Love, support, advice, direction, discipline, prayer cover, and Christian upbringing/heritage.

I can't count how many times in my life, even as a youth, I have observed other kids who do not have such a blessed family structure (to say it nicely).  Every time I have noticed these blessed circumstances I thanked my God that of all families in the world He placed me in this one.  I can't begin to imagine the sacrifices behind the scene while I was growing up to provide for me or just make me happy.  I look back now and see places/areas where I know they girded up their loins and made things work.  Thank you mom and dad.

They have always been there.  They are still here and providing (when appropriate) at this writing.  They are still married, which is rare in these days too.  Grandma is somewhere in Paradise sitting down with the Lord and getting her questions answered I'm sure, awaiting the rest of us to arrive so she can welcome us and give us a tour. 

I just wanted to take this opportunity and put it to writing - Thank You Lord for My Parents.  I love them very much and I know that you love them even more.  Please provide for them in every aspect of their lives.  And please allow me to always have a grateful heart toward the stewards you placed over my life.  In your name Jesus I pray, amen.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

JESUS: FROM 12 UNTIL 30 YEARS OLD

John 21:25 says, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." 

I imagine some of the things that would be written down about Jesus would be concerning the time frame Scripture is mostly silent about.  This period of time is between His twelfth year of life and His thirtieth year of life.  According to Scripture the twelfth year of Jesus' life sees Him at the Temple with His parents observing the Passover (Luke 2:41-52).  According to scholars and their calculations, Jesus was about 30 years old when He started His ministry.  Again, it is the in between years that we have not heard much about, but that I would like to address here with the limited knowledge we all have in Scripture.

Just take a look at the adult life of Jesus and you will see a reflection of His upbringing and youth.  Joseph and Mary did their part to "help" Jesus "grow in wisdom".  For one might think, how do you assist God-in-the-flesh with growing in wisdom?  However, [Jesus] "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)  I envision God the Father filled in any gaps left from a failed earthly parenting attempt.

Jesus was an obedient son.  Scripture says, "Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them." (Luke 2:51)  He must have been a great listener and applicator because the very next verse, Luke 2:52, says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."  I see Jesus as polite, courteous, friendly, helpful, compassionate, containing all the fruits of the Spirit.  There was a scholar side to Jesus too.  He could have been taught by God the Father and/or his earthly parents or both the words and terms of the times in which the scholars would use.  We see later in His ministry how effective He was with His teaching - using parables and not using parables.  We also can observe His skill at debate and sensing a trap enough to turn the tables on the trapper.  Jesus knew good, honest hard work.  He was a carpenter, a villager who knew poverty.  He had the lowliest of beginnings - a manger.  Now, as a boy, He must help out Joseph with the livelihood of the family - carpentry.  Just one way Jesus suffered, because the Bible speaks to Him being "familiar with suffering" (Isaiah 53:3).  For all his awesome personality and spiritual traits the Word of God does say, "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)  And "we esteemed him not".  I imagine that applies to His youth years as well as His adult years.

How can one say that Jesus had a life "like" our own?  I believe he experienced the same worries, the same troubles, challenges, and temptations, but He just handled them differently - He dealt with them perfectly.  "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)  And I believe this is what He was doing during these years - living.  Experiencing life, living it perfectly and loving people.

One thing is for sure, He was prepared for His ministry.  For God the Father to desire His Son to stay with Mary and Joseph for this length of time really emphasizes to me God's heart toward family.  All that happened from twelve years of age until thirty was for a purpose.  That purpose was to show God as Love and Jesus was the ultimate expression of that Love.  God, sending His Son as a human, now calls us Friend - for "greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  Love was the reason why!

This is not a definitive stand on the absent years of Christ, however, it is my educated and supported view of this time period with much room to grow.  It will be a great and wonderful time, someday in the future, when I will get to sit down with my Lord (along with many others I'm sure) and ask Him about those years.


Monday, August 1, 2011

TIMING THIS UP

Joel 2:28-31 says,
"And afterward,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 
Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."

I have heard many a pastor, preacher, teacher, scholar and understudy describe their belief on the timing of when God is going to pour out His Spirit on all people.  Now it is time for my observation(s) to be included for consideration.

Right off the bat in this verse you have the words "And afterward" followed by the key words "I will pour out my Spirit on all people".  Then later in this verse you have "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD".  So, Joel 2:28-31, the key verse, seems to be sandwiched in between two events.  The last one is given - "the great and dreadful day of the LORD".  This title or designation as well as "the great day of the LORD" is defined by many as the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation (a 7 year period of judgment by God of Israel, the earth, and unbelievers of Christ).  Now we need to find out what event was meant by - "And afterward".

Joel 2:18, 20 states, "Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.  I will drive the northern army far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land, with its front columns going into the eastern sea and those in the rear into the western sea.  And its stench will go up; its smell will rise."

There is speculation as to who the northern army is here and why they are attacking Israel.  However, for the sake of this blog and observing the time frame, I will assume that Joel 2:18, 20 is talking about the Gog/Magog Atttack (Ezekiel 38 and 39).  Other people have placed this Attack at different places on the time-line, but I position the Attack prior to the start of the Tribulation.

So, with "And afterward" being after the Gog/Magog Attack and "the great and dreadful day of the LORD" being the last 3.5 years of the Tribulation, I then place Joel 2:28-31 at least around the start of the Tribulation and possibly in to the first 3.5 years of the Tribulation.

It is important to note that the Restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit is the lacking element off the earth during the Tribulation.  The Holy Spirit will still convict people of their sins during the Tribulation and many will come to salvation in Christ during this time because we notice there will be martyrs for Christ who are beheaded (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:13-17).  But unhindered lawlessness will prevail for a period of time known as The Tribulation.  It is during the first part of this time frame that I believe God pours out His Spirit on all people.  His sons and daughters prophesy, His old men will dream dreams, His young men will see visions.  Both men and women will experience this.  During this time, God will also show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood.  And all this AFTER a "northern army" attacks and BEFORE the great and dreadful day of the LORD.