Wednesday, October 31, 2012

THE GREAT SHEPHERD

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. - Psalm 23

"The LORD is my shepherd"
To me this means Believers in Christ Jesus are His sheep.  In addition, The LORD is called the Believer's "great shepherd" in Hebrews 13:20 probably in reference to this Psalm.

"I shall not be in want"
This condition is because if you have a relationship with the "Great Shepherd" you have everything.  However, within His fold, flock, and/or Kingdom there are many additional Benefits - 

1.  "He makes me lie down in green pastures"
The Great Shepherd treats His sheep to "green pastures", representing the opportunity for the sheep to graze and rest.  So, applying that to the Believer - "He makes me lie down in [His provision, His daily bread and comfort/rest]"  

2.  "He leads me beside quiet waters" 
As a sheep, "quiet waters" would nourish the inside with nice, cool, refreshing water and calm the outside by being a pleasant sound to hear.  It would also not drown out any potential predatory threats like raging waters or rapids would.  For the Believer another verse helps out here - "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth , give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled , neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)  Concerning "quiet waters" that anyone would want to dwell beside or drink from - "Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water [water from a human well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)  The Words of Jesus are indeed The Bread of Life and The Living Water of the soul and the "quiet waters" is a great place for meditation and nourishment from the River of Life Himself - Jesus.

3.  "He restores my soul" 
As a shepherd might console or comfort a sheep that is agitated about something so does the Believer's Great Shepherd with His flock.  Jesus is also known as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and through the power of the Holy Spirit He ministers to the Believer, restoring their souls when needed.  However, the ultimate restoration comes for the "whosoever will believe" (John 3:16).  Jesus has taken the condition of everyone's soul - Broken - and restored it for eternity.

4.  "He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." 
A regular human shepherd would guide a sheep along the right path.  The Great Shepherd of the Believer in Christ not only leads us along the right path, but the path we traverse is of "righteousness" or right doing and it is "for his name's sake" or for the Glory of God that we do.  Notice too that sheep may bear a mark of their shepherd.  The Believer has the responsibility of carrying and representing the name of Jesus Christ - Christian.  The Lord guides the true Believer along the journey of life in doing the right thing so that other people might say, "Hey, He/She must be a Christian because that lines up with what the Bible and I have believed a Christian should do."  We bear His name, use it wisely and not in vain!

5.  "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;"  
Wow!  There is the "shadow of death" and then there is "the valley of the shadow of death"!  And even though Believers may reach a point in their lives where they are facing their mortality and possibly see evil itself - there is no need for any kind of fear, including the fear of evil because The Great Shepherd is with us (the Believers).  In fact, The Great Shepherd has hand-held devices that help this cause.

6.  "your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
A shepherd would use a "rod", a straight club, to defend his sheep.  His staff, the hooked rod or inverted "J" that we commonly see shepherds pictured with are used to guide sheep or pull them back from danger. So it is with the Great Shepherd of the Believers in Christ.  He does the same mentally, physically, and spiritually for His flock.

7.  "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." 
As a sheep I am elated I am not on the menu!  I am so happy the table has not been prepared for me to be the main course for someone!  No!  On the contrary!  The table is prepared before my enemies so they can see that I have "tasted of the Lord and He is good!" (Psalm 34:8)  They will see that I and many other Believers have partook of the Lord's Table, believing in The Sacrificial Lamb - Jesus, that we have taken into our lives as our Savior, The Lamb of God (John 1:29).

8.  "You anoint my head with oil"
This is a special sheep for sure, if you keep that theme here.  From a sheep to a priest!  In the Old Testament whenever a Priest or King was ordained, someone anointed him.  Revelation 20:6 views the Believer as Priests, anointed to rule and reign with Christ during the Millennial Reign of Christ on earth - "Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years." 

9.  "my cup overflows"
 
The Great Shepherd has done everything for the sheep or Believer in this Psalm.  There are times in our lives when we need to not only stop and smell the roses, but we need to pause and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  However, there are other instances where action on our part is required first.  "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it." (Malachi 3:10)  "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  (Luke 6:38) 
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,"
With good attention and merciful behavior from any regular shepherd the sheep are sure to flourish.  How much more so the flock under the care of the "goodness and mercy" of The Great Shepherd!  And not just this....

"and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
And His house is to die for!  ;)

Friday, October 26, 2012

HUSBANDS AND WIVES: Both [Pt. 3 of 3]

Wives and Husbands
1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

In an effort to better myself and my marriage there is an area I wish to share with you now that is challenging for me - consistent husband and wife (team) prayer.  My heart was pricked by the Holy Spirit the other day when someone in the family needed prayer and another family member asked me and Tanya to please pray for that other member.  After hanging up the phone I immediately sat down with Tanya, took her hand in mine, and prayed for that need and others.  While praying the Holy Spirit whispered to my own spirit - "Why does it take emergencies to get the two of you to pray together?"  Point taken.

Even though the phrase above in verse seven says "your prayers" - referring back to "Husbands" who are challenged to be "considerate" toward their wives and "treat them with respect and as heirs" - I believe "so that nothing will hinder your prayers" can also be applied to the married couple as well.  "When a husband and wife treat each other as equal and valued partners in life, they become a powerful team.  On the other hand, if a marital relationship is out of order and one or both of the spouses do not value or appreciate each other, First Peter 3:7 says that this out-of-sync condition will "hinder" them when they pray together.  The word "hinder" is the word egkopto, a word used in Greek times to portray the moment when a runner comes alongside another runner and literally elbows him out of the race.  Although the runner was previously running a good race, the aggression of a competitor literally breaks in on his race and destroys his effectiveness.  When a married couple see themselves as a unified team, their prayer life becomes powerful and effective.  Therefore, husband, adjust your thinking to see your wife as your co-partner, co-inheritor, and co-ruler in life.  If you are married, you are no longer just one; you have now become inseparably joined to your wife."  (Renner, p.765, Sparkling Gems From The Greek)  I would add to Mr. Renner's comments - because I know my memory wanes at times, wives, please support such an endeavor that would remind the both of you on a daily basis to get alone together for prayer - a counseling session with The Counselor.

I truly believe that if I and the rest of Christ believing married pairs will schedule a couples prayer time on a consistent basis we will all see "misunderstandings through miscommunications" begin to diminish.  "Misunderstanding through miscommunication is the door the devil likes to use to get in between spouses and divide them.  But if a husband and wife will commit themselves to keeping the door shut to misunderstanding and miscommunication, this one factor alone can keep the devil from finding access into their relationship." (Renner, p.767)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

HUSBANDS AND WIVES: Wives [Pt. 2 of 3]

Here is the main reference Scripture (1 Peter 3:1-7) again.

Wives and Husbands1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Let us turn our attention to the wives and what they can contribute to a wonderful marriage - according to Scripture.

1 Peter 3:1 in the King James Version says, "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands;"

Now before husbands and wives alike get "bent-all-out-of-shape" about the word "subjection" in this verse - a timeout desperately needs to be called.  The original Greek word for "subjection" here is hupotasso.  It is a combination of two words - hupo, meaning under and tasso, meaning to place something in the proper order.  God is the one who created the order of everything seen and unseen, man then woman, and the order of authority in the home.  Many times within the relationship the husband distorts the God-given authority of the marriage and dismantles the order and destroys the relationship by abusing this right.  "...it's important to understand that when Peter commands a woman to be in subjection to her own husband, he is not recommending that she become a 'doormat' whom the husband takes advantage of.  Rather, Peter is urging each wife to take her place as her husband's chief supporter and helper." (Renner, p. 741, Sparkling Gems From The Greek)

At other times the wife has the issue.  She is nagging, micro-managing everything, and critical, therefore forcing her husband to retreat and build walls around himself (emotionally speaking) or causing him to bite back at every instance of negativity.  "..it is very interesting to note that nowhere in the New Testament are women directly commanded to love their husbands.  Instead, wives are told to be 'in subjection' to their husbands.  Why is this?  Because a husband perceives his wife's love when he senses her support.  
Nothing communicates a wife's love to her husband better than a supportive attitude." (Renner, p.741)  Wives are you getting the point?  We need your support within the order given by God for the authority of the home.  And we can tell when you are faking it!  There are two paths wives seem to take here:  they submit outwardly but rebel inwardly or they wholeheartedly understand and exude the proper relationship and supportive attitude.

Wives, are you preaching and teaching so much to your husband that your "preachiness" not only is pushing your husband away, but does not allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity for a one-on-one with him?  Although the following Scripture is referring to a unbelieving husband, believing husbands can be ministered by this method also.  The Scripture instructs wives to win over their husbands by the quality of their lives.  Concerning this, verses 1 and 2 say, "...if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."  The word "won" in the first verse is the Greek word kerdeo, which means to act cleverly or play the game correctly.  The song by Kenny Rogers comes to mind - The Gambler - "You got to know when to hold'em, know when to fold'em, know when to walk away and know when to run..."  And that is the mentality here - playing your cards right without saying a word.  The King James Version of this verse is rendered - "...if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;".  The "conversation" mentioned here is NOT what we think of or at least I think of right off the bat - talking between people.  The original Greek word for "conversation" is anastrophe, which speaks to how a person behaves on a daily basis in every circumstance.  Ladies I humbly and gently encourage you - if you are a wife that is in this category (preachy) please consider letting your actions speak louder than words.

 One of the titles of Rick Renner's Gems is "Is God Against Cosmetics?"  The part of the passage above he was referring to is verses 3 and 4 - 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  Here it is a matter of worth and in whose eyes or perspective you view.  In God's sight the greater worth is the "inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit".  To me the words bridled and calm replace "gentle" and "quiet". In the KJV it is "meek" and "quiet". "...when Peter writes about a "meek and quiet spirit," he is paying the highest compliment to wives who fit this description.  These wives are so strong in spirit that they are able to refrain from outbursts of anger and thus are able to become a calming force in a variety of difficult situations. Considering the many opportunities wives have to get shaken or upset by the affairs of life, it is very commendable when a wife is so strong, so consistent, and so stable in the home that she consistently 'steadies the ship' and helps keep peace in every situation." (Renner, p. 754)
So, is God against cosmetics - no.  However, it should not be your identity or focus in life.  There is a saying, If the barn (face) needs painting then paint it.  I would add, but don't make it a "Golden Calf" (idol) in your life.  "In essence, he was saying, 'Ladies, it's all right to do what you can to look outwardly beautiful.  However, don't forget that the most important emphasis and the place to invest most of your time should be in the beautifying of the hidden man of the heart." (p.748, Renner)
"God isn't against your desire to work on your outward appearance; however, he wants you to spend at least an equal amount of time developing and beautifying your spirit." (p.749, Renner)

Lastly, this passage holds up Sarah, Abraham's wife, as a model to examine.  She was considered a holy woman who put her hope in God to make her beautiful, was submissive to her husband, obeyed Abraham, and called him "Master" (husbands I don't suggest you request this one from your wife).  She was a wife of integrity and did not live a fearful life.  Wives, I encourage you to be who God called you to be with a little dash of Sarah thrown in.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

HUSBANDS AND WIVES: Husbands [Part 1 of 3]

Marriage - many people have had a lot to say on this topic throughout time.  More specifically requirements or at least strong suggestions on what each party, the husband and the wife, should bring to the table have been discussed ad nauseam.  One of those contributors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that I would like to highlight in this blog is Peter.  There are many places in Scripture one could go to study the topic of marriage, the husband's responsibilities, and the wife's responsibilities but for this examination I would like us to consider 1 Peter 3:1-7.

1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

This time let's take the husband's responsibilities toward a great marriage - first.  Verse 7 starts off saying, "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, ..."  Notice the second segment of this verse - "be considerate as you live with your wives,...".  This "as you live with your wives" speaks to a pre-existing condition, a condition of dwelling or living with your wife.  But here I am referring to more than just physically taking up space next to your wife.  "Living" or "dwelling" with another human being, especially your spouse, requires energy and effort that many husbands are not willing to invest by the end of their work day.  There is the challenge - invest the energy and effort.  Even if you (husbands) have had all the interaction you can handle in one day, the one person you do not want to shut out is your wife!  So, do not shut her out and do not shut down for the night.  Dwell/Live or share your day and life with your wife because before you know it the journey will end.

Husbands, treasure your wives and let them know it.  Display to her the value you hold in your heart and mind about her.  It is not enough you know you love her and cherish her forever, she needs to hear that and see that on a pretty regular basis.  There is a very bad misconception that needs clarification.  Within 1 Peter 3:7 it says - "...giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel" (KJV).  This "weaker vessel" does not communicate your spouse as less in rank or importance.  "This is the Greek word asthenes, which actually carries the idea of something that is fragile and of great value, like a priceless, beautiful, hand-painted porcelain vase that must be treated with supreme care.  Furthermore, the word "vessel" is from the Greek skeuos, which presents the idea of a vase or treasure so rare and valuable that it should be treasured, cherished, highly prized, and handled with special care." (Renner, p.760, Sparkling Gems From The Greek)

Husbands, here are some strong suggestions Mr. Rick Renner provides that I agree with and paraphrase in treating your wife with utmost care.
  1. Open doors for your wife for her to walk through first.
  2. Aid your wife up stairs, off the curb of the street, up from a seat with the appropriate touch.
  3. Set aside some money to surprise her with, knowing she has been eyeing a certain something. And remember that something to begin with.
  4. Tell your wife she is beautiful, often.
  5. When speaking about your wife in front of your friends or family - speak honorably.
  6. Take your lovely wife to dinner and allow her to talk, talk, talk (vent).
  7. While at work, call her and sing..."I just called to say, 'I love you'..." (Lionel Richie)
  8. If you have to, schedule time with her (a walk, game, movie, etc..)
  9. Write her your own version of a Hallmark Love Card/Note.
  10. Remember the time.....(special dates and events)
It all boils down to paying attention and being considerate at ALL times!  Appreciate her and love her.  "That's all I got to say about that." (nod to Forrest Gump)

Now a special word to my wife. (Everybody read this.)

Dear Tanya,

The more I spend time with you, the more I "see" who we really are.  These bodies are nothing but an imperfect shell that starts off healthy and "in shape", but later develops challenges and morphs into another body-type slightly different with the years.  However, what never changes is you - inside that shell.  Some say that the mind, will, and emotions make up a person.  If that is so then I truly have been married to the most Beautiful Person on Earth.  "Whatever is in the spirit is exactly what will be reproduced in a person's life and conduct.  ...what makes her most beautiful to me is not her hair, her face, her figure, or her clothing.  The most beautiful part of my wife is her heart.  The sweet fragrance of Jesus Christ emanates from her heart, through her attitudes, and into her words and actions, making her one of the loveliest people I've ever known." (borrowed words from Rick Renner, p.751)  I love you Tanya and hope and pray I live up to the charge - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

THERE IS AN EQUATION

The Church of Jesus Christ in America (or any nation)
Humility + 
Prayer + 
Seeking God's Face + 
Turning From Their Wicked Ways  = God's Response
                                                          1.  I will hear from heaven
                                                          2.  I will forgive their sin
                                                          3.  I will heal their land

2 Chronicles 7:14

EXAM TIME

I respectfully challenge all churches everywhere, including my own, to observe Communion next time with a heightened awareness toward being in right relationship with "the body and the blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27).

To me. being in right relationship with "the body" of the Lord means that the Believer believes correctly about Jesus' physical existence and is right with all the members of The Church, also known as the body of Christ on earth since His ascension.

In being in right relationship with "the blood of the Lord" I refer to another Scripture for support - Matthew 6:14-15 - "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  The blood of Christ shed for our sins on The Cross dealt with forgiveness - "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Hebrews 9:22).  With Jesus as The Example and Forgiveness as The Lesson, Believers should take the time to get right with God and other believers, especially BEFORE Communion!

Paul instructs the believers in Corinth that "many of you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep [died]" because "anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." (1 Cor. 11:29)  Earlier, in verse 27, Paul begins this warning by stating -  "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord."

So, how is "sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" and "judgment" avoided?  Paul says, "A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." (1 Cor. 11:28)  The original Greek word for "examine" in this verse is Dokimazo and it means to scrutinize, test, try, determine the genuineness or value of something through testing.

In the case at Corinth, Believers there were arriving at the gathering hungry and using the Communion elements as their food - without thought to their true representation and without regard to the whole number of people being present.  The passage reads - "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment." (1 Cor. 11:33-34)

Fast forwarding to the present, I do not believe we have the problem of someone eating the majority of the elements before Communion.  However, the other issues of non-forgiveness and incorrect belief are more dangerous in my humble opinion.  According to the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul - weakness, sickness, and death were a direct result of whatever falls under eating and drinking Communion "in an unworthy manner" (v.27)  So, once again, in order to obey the Holy Spirit, avoid the pitfalls listed, and just stay away from unforgiveness and incorrect belief - I encourage Christian churches everywhere to at least take a healthy few moments during their observance of Communion from now on for people to examine themselves SO THAT you are right with God and His Body as you remember His sacrifice properly.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ALL WE HAVE

"For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it." - 1 Timothy 6:7

The context of this verse was the reliance on money.  Paul was about to be martyred when he penned 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.  Paul was writing a letter of instructions to aid Timothy in running an effective church body for the Lord.  On the list was the love of money.  Paul mentions in verse 9 that people who have a desire to "get rich" are already primed for "the temptation", "the trap", and finally "ruin and destruction".  It reads - "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction."  Verse 10 and 11 elaborate nicely -  "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  Instead of this love of money Paul instructs that "godliness with contentment is great gain." (v.6) and "if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that." (v.8).  That truth is not hard to understand, especially with so many families in debt, especially with a nation (America) in debt.

However, it is 1 Timothy 6:7, stated alone that really got me thinking (look out!).

Life is all about relationships.  At birth we are naked and totally dependent on God and our parents.  At death, if Jesus Christ is your personal Lord and Savior, we are once more dependent on our relationship with God to trust we will be with Him (Paradise).  At the end, death does not allow for any "carry-ons" or "check-in bags"!  It allows for nothing materialistic to pass from this realm to the next.  Only relationships made or not made in this life will carry over to the next chapter of existence.  And the only relationship that matters for this side and the other side is the one you have with Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
"That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9

If you are reading this and you are already a Christian, then the rest of the time here on planet earth is all that more important.  Relationships will come and go, but when they come take the opportunity to share The Answer to Life with them before they possibly leave your radar for good.  If you are rejected, so be it - Jesus was rejected and you will be rejected too (John 15:20).  Plus, you have obeyed The Great Commission (Mark 16:15) and the seed has been planted - the rest is in God's perfectly capable hands.  Our lifespan is but a blink now-a-days.  I challenge all of us, me included, not to get caught up in the world and all of it's offerings, but to treasure and nurture our relationships, especially the one with Jesus.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from The Lord of the Ring series.  (Press play above to hear it.)

Frodo:  I wish the ring had never come to me.  I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf:  So do all who live to see such times.  But that is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW."

The encouragement in this teaching is to live a life led by the Holy Spirit.  A life being lived with just The Word of God (Bible) at your side and being read every day is a great foundation and a wonderful practice to keep all the days of one's life.  However, there is so much more that can be drawn from each reading with The Word and there is so much more that we as Believers can do by being empowered with the Holy Spirit and living the Spirit-led life.

A great Biblical life exemplifying the above condition is Peter.  He had The Word of God, Jesus, with him for three years wherever he traveled.  Peter heard the teachings and saw the miracles of Jesus.  Peter was even the one to hail Jesus as the Son of the Living God, the Messiah.  But then Peter turns right around and is used by our spiritual enemy in an attempt to thwart God's plan of salvation by saying, "Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!"  (Matthew 16:13-23)  Then there was another time in Peter's life, the trial of Jesus, that Peter not only abandoned his teacher, mentor, and friend, but he betrayed his association with Jesus to the locals (Matthew 26:69-75).  Now, besides fulfilling prophecy (Matthew 26:31-34), why would Peter and the rest of the disciples scatter and leave Jesus all alone?

One huge reason is that they did not want whatever was coming to Jesus to fall on their necks too.  Those words of how they would go to the death for him (Jesus) before anything bad happens was all just a lot of hot air.  Many times when faced with death a great cause takes back seat to self preservation.  This instance seems no different.  However, all the disciples lacked one thing during their three years with Jesus that might have painted a different picture - the indwelling of The Holy Spirit.

Father God had it all planned out.  The vessel had to be restored and cleaned before a pure substance could be poured into it, so that it could be poured out again.  Salvation through Jesus had to take place first.  Then be believed by the Disciples, evidenced by the resurrection.  And all this before the Holy Spirit could come on the Disciples in power in the upper room.  Interesting note that Jesus "breathed" on the Disciples in the upper room after His resurrection, before He ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father and before the Acts 2:1-4 Pentecost indwelling.  "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you!  As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.'  And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'" (John 20:21-23)

I personally believe the key between the two events is in the words "receive" and "be filled".  I believe in the John 20:21-23 reference that Jesus was saying - Accept ("Receive") the Holy Spirit.  Accept Him as your guide, teacher, mentor and friend (For Jesus was preparing to ascend to The Father).  Later, observing the Disciples had accepted The Holy Spirit and the Spirit-led life (John 20:21-23), they waited for the indwelling or to "be filled" or empowered (Acts 2:1-4).

Scripture says there are two mind-sets:  1) the mind controlled by the sinful nature and 2) the mind that is Holy Spirit-led.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires;but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. - Romans 8:5-8

Let us observe the mind, body, and spirit led by the sinful nature first.  The obvious sins or hurtful actions against God are many but the ones listed in Galatians 5:19-21 give us a running start - 

"...sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like."

There are other behaviors to not engage in - "being conceited, provoking, and envying each other".  These are spoken of in verse 26.  This list is not only a hitlist of potential pitfalls to a spirit-led life but Scripture promises that the people who constantly observe these behaviors/sins "will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21).

Now, if you live a spirt-led life which means you allow The Holy Spirit to permeate every decision, every action, and every word then the kind of fruit you and others will see is - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."  FOR "AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW." (Galatians 5:22-23)  There is no rule against love.  There is no regulation against joy.  There is no stipulation concerning peace.  There are no boundaries for kindness and goodness.  There are no parameters for faithfulness and gentleness.  We can never have enough self-control.

The Spirit-led life is like someone who always keeps his/her candle light or oil light burning bright, even in daylight.  There is no-telling when that person will travel to a shady place and need to illuminate the area with his/her light.  In the same manner, if the Spirit is fed and kept alive in us, like the fire of the candle or oil lamp, then the Spirit can spotlight the bad to stay clear of and spotlight the good to acquire more of in our lives.

"So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Gal. 5:24)

"The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs - " (Romans 8:16-17)  "...those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God...you received the Spirit of sonship." (Romans 8:14-15)  And for the ladies - daughtership.  ;)

If the "fire" is not lit for you, pray that God strikes the Holy Spirit "match" (baptism of the Holy Spirit).  Those that have His fire, Keep The Fire Burning!  Meanwhile, I will be observing you for those things against which there is no law!