Friday, December 20, 2013

THE THING IS.......

The thing is I do not want anybody to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (die), or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (1 Thessalonias 4:13) Many people are living as if there is no Heaven or Hell.  People are living like there is no eternity with God or an eternity without God.  A lie has been believed here - hook-line-and-sinker.  Some people are living like they know Heaven and Hell exists, but choose the torture of eternal solitude in Hell (a very big place with a very broad road to it), over eternity with their Creator.  The heart has been calloused by people, environment, and the enemy of our soul here.

In both cases there is no hope.  Without hope for an eternity WITH God, there is only this earthly life - the here and now.  So, many are living "Good lives" with no hope of eternity with God.  That does not get you anywhere either. With life being but a vapor compared to eternity, it is who you know, love and serve, while here, that will echo throughout eternity.

There is a Heaven and Hell and a reason for them.  Originally, Heaven was the only place that existed and in a perfect condition.  Heaven, angels, and the spiritual realm were created first.

  • "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4-7)  

Then Hell was created sometime after the fall of Lucifer and a third of the angels of Heaven (Revelation 12:4) for the banishment of the fallen angels.

  • "God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment." (2 Peter 2:4, 9)

The thing is God desires humanity, who He made in His image (Genesis 1:26), to spend eternity WITH HIM in Heaven.  However, He hates sin and kicked it out of the privileged presence of God, also known as the Third Heaven.  He Will Not allow sin/pride/rebellion back into His Heaven.

  • The Son of Man will send out his angels,and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:41-43)  

So, God made the provision for us because He loves all of humanity - past, present, and future - that much. God gave up the one thing that means everything to Him - His Word.  He allowed His Word-made-flesh - Jesus - to be mistreated, misunderstood, beaten, ridiculed, and killed for our sake and display of His love. Afterward, God raised His Word-in-flesh back to life.  His Word conquered death, Hell, and the grave.  There is victory here.

The thing is Christ's victory over death, Hell, and the grave gives hope. Those who place their sole/soul trust in Christ have an anxious expectation about a better place (Heaven), a better existence (renewed body), and a better relationship with God (redeemed).  This better hope (Hebrews 7:19) is such a hope (2 Corinthians 3:12) that it purifies us when we hope (1 John 3:3). The writer of Hebrews calls hope an "anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19). Not only is this hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7) something we are to be joyful in (Romans 12:12), but Colossians 1:15 given to you via the Pritchard Paraphrase says, Hope in heaven is a springboard for faith and love that you have already heard about in The Gospel. And why not hold on to hope (Hebrews 10:23)? Our hope is in the LIVING GOD (1 Timothy 4:10), not in the riches or wealth of this world (1 Timothy 6:17). So, it is my prayer "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe." (Ephesians 1:18-19)


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

ATTACHMENTS

It is interesting what we humans get attached too. When I share the Good News with the simply seeking or the spiritually desperate, I want them not to believe in me, but in my God who gives us every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  I want them to attach to the God of the message as well as the Good News itself. I desire those I'm speaking with to understand the reason for the hope that I have. Doing this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against my good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:15) You can believe in me for my expertise at something. For example, you can believe I can come through for you on the job. You can believe in me for my talent at something. For example, you can believe I can really communicate a feeling in song or score in a sport. However, as I share the Gospel, I don't want anyone to believe in me or attach to me to the point of distraction from God's message for them.

For many, it is easy to get enthralled or distracted in the persona of a speaker, teacher, or even a local pastor of many years. True, we need great effective speakers, teachers, and pastors to communicate the Word of God to us on a corporate scale. However, when it comes to either the unbeliever believing in the Salvation message for the first time OR the seasoned Christian receiving spiritual nourishment from a lesson at the pulpit - detachment from the speaker and attachment to God is paramount.

One of the ways Christians can attach to God more, meaning - receive a timely word from Him, enjoy His immediate presence, worship Him in spirit and in truth - is to take care of our spiritual relationship outside of Sunday Service. What we do as individuals during the week prepares our hearts, minds, and spirits for how we will experience God in the corporate setting - The Church.  Just like a singer needs to work on his/her part (bass, tenor, alto, soprano) for a song before joining the choir in rehearsal or performance. Just like a ball player needs to work on his body and individual skills before coming to "team practice" or the actual game. It would help the Christian tremendously if he/she would take care of the Temple of God (mind, body, and spirit-1 Corinthians 6:19) during the week and not wait around for Sunday Fuelings/Feedings.  For the unbeliever, it would be helpful to do research on Christ.  Throw out all rumors and hearsay and investigate Him yourself.  A good start is to read His book, The Bible, from cover to cover.

In the dealings with the Hebrew people, God revealed Himself in different ways but after each exposure the people would find some way to reject God and latch onto something else. It is perplexing...God revealed Himself through miraculous natural wonders (pillar of cloud/fire) only to see His people attach themselves to idols (Exodus 32:1-4). God revealed Himself through His heroes and servants the prophets only to see His people revert back to their old ways or the ways of the surrounding culture (Judges 8:33-35).  God revealed Himself through angelic ministries only to witness John fall at the feet of an angel and begin to worship it (Revelation 19:10). God would send His very Word in flesh, His only Son, Jesus, to show His people The Way but deathly rejection is what it cost Him.  God has reached to us throughout history in order to give us the most appropriate person to attach to - Himself - but we keep finding new attachments to satisfy what only He can.

It is not about me.  Life, faith, the journey, and meaning is not about me.  The Choice to make is to believe in, latch onto, or attach yourself to Jesus Christ and not His Christians.  For the unbeliever, I encourage you to become a new creature/creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), filled with the Holy Spirit so that you will begin to know the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Don't become a believer in Jesus to join the Church Club that sadly many of our local expressions have become.  Come for Christ and not the Club and God will honor and bless you. For the Christian, I challenge you to (1) make everyday a personal Sunday between you and God, (2) sit under good teaching, (3) glorify God, The Holy Spirit, as the teacher, and (4) stay appropriately attached, testing the spirits as you listen (1 John 4:1).

Monday, December 16, 2013

FOR WHAT EARTHLY REASON....

"You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." - John 18:37

For to this end Christ died and lived [again], that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. - Romans 14:9

For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. - Hebrews 2:17

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. - Hebrews 9:15

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. - 1 John 3:8

For What Earthly Reason
Dottie Rambo. New Kingdom Music/ASCAP

Vs 1
For what earthly reason would the Heavenly Father send down His Son
To suffer rejection and pay for crimes He had not done
For what earthly reason would the Father let Him hang on a tree
I wept with the answer, that one earthly reason was me

Chorus
I was the reason, that one earthly reason
I was the guilty, He was the sacrifice
I was the taker, He was the giver
Dying while I go free, that one earthly reason was me

Vs 2
The fairest of angels were not summoned from the throne up in the sky
To purchase my pardon, not even the angels could die
The only provision for my freedom was destined to be
The sweet Lamb of Glory and His only reason was me

Tag
That one earthly reason, His only reason was me

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

YOUR ETERNAL ATTIRE

My Worship Pastor observed recently, "The doors to eternity are constantly in motion, we just need to understand and be prepared for what is through those doors (in light of reaching out to others for Christ)." (Paraphrase of Kerry Crespo)

Immediately I imagined a pair of needless Western Saloon style doors swinging furiously as hundreds of thousands of people that have died every minute from a variety of things pass through those doors to their eternal home.

It makes me wonder what they were wearing as they crossed over through those doors to eternity. I do not speak of their physical apparel as they were possibly presented before family and friends in a casket. What I am referring to is the Heavenly dress, vestment, garb, or clothes that must be worn to enter into Heaven and the immediate presence of God.

Good News! Because Salvation through Christ, Jesus has made my spiritual attire righteous or in right standing with Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 5:17, 4:24, 3:22). Isaiah 61:10 says it beautifully -
  • I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
As you live life and prepare for The Beyond, what is your spiritual attire and where is your focus?
  • "If my wedding date is on the calendar, and I'm thinking of the person I'm going to marry, I shouldn't be an easy target for seduction.  Likewise, when I've meditated on Heaven, sin is terribly unappealing. It's when my mind drifts from Heaven that sin seems attractive.  Thinking of Heaven leads  inevitably to pursuing holiness.  Our high tolerance for sin testifies of our failure to prepare for Heaven." (Heaven, Randy Alcorn, p.455
If you are not preparing for Heaven, Hell awaits or at least the lack of reward. don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4) If your friendship is with the God of Heaven through Christ His Son then you have the right attire for eternity. 

Eternity for every soul begins at conception, Eternal Life begins when you accept Christ as your personal Savior.
  • "As a Christian, the day I die will be the best day I've ever lived. But it won't be the best day I ever will live. Resurrection day will be far better. And the first day on the New Earth - that will be one big step for mankind, one giant leap for God's glory." (Heaven, Randy Alcorn, p.442)
For the True Believer in Christ an appropriate focus on Heaven will mean they will be never to Heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. That concentration and perspective will spur them on to help populate Heaven and depopulate Hell. Meanwhile, if death comes knocking consider what Calvin Miller penned, "And dying is but getting dressed for God, Our graves are merely doorways cut in sod."  As our body lies in it's best physical raiment or duds and we approach the doorway of life/death - what is our eternal attire?

Friday, December 6, 2013

A STORY RETOLD

There was a group of people called the Arameans who made war with Israel back in the day of Elisha.  The prophet Elisha was getting downloads from God as to the troop movements of the Aramean army against Israel.  Therefore the nation Israel was prepared at every advance of the enemy.  This perplexed, enraged, and frustrated the king of Aram so much that he thought he had a traitor within his own court that was telling the war secrets to Israel.  But one of King Aram's officers knew the truth - Elisha was in town and with him - God.

By the order of King Aram the target quickly changed from Israel to Elisha, known to be staying in a city surrounded by hills called Dothan.  By night, the Armanean army moved in and surround the city.  When Elisha's servant got up the next morning to take in the day, there was the army ready to greet Elisha and the city with death.  "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked. "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, "Strike these people with blindness." So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

Elisha proceeded to lead this blind army to the very doorstep of the capital of Israel at that time - Samaria. And even in these Old Testament times we see a story where the King of Israel did not destroy his enemy but fed them, took care of their needs, and sent them back to their home.  For a while they stopped raiding Israel's territory. (Source Event:  2 Kings 6:8-23)

Here the supernatural meets the natural and the seen meets the unseen.  Oh, to have that kind of unveiling! Can you imagine having spiritual eye-glasses that when put on allowed the user to see the kind of reality Elisha and his servant saw?!  I know half of me would desire that and the other half is scared stiff to even consider putting the supposed glasses on.  However, nothing is to fear when Elisha's Big Brother - God - shows Elisha and his servant the kind of troop power the Kingdom of God possesses.

The news just keeps getting better - my Big Brother is also the same as Elisha's and the same as Joshua's. Joshua was introduced to God as "commander of the army of the LORD".  This pre-incarnate visit of Christ was awesome!  Joshua receives the right perspective, right away.  Then Joshua obeys the Lord concerning instructions on the defeat of Jericho.  Here, faith in the who Joshua had seen, coupled with obedience to God's instructions equated to a flattened city and victory for God and His people. (Joshua 5:13-15---Joshua 6)

Paul delivers strength to believers in Christ when he says,

  • If God is for us who can be against us. (Romans 8:31)
  • in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28
There are many other Scriptures that describe the love, attention, care, and protection of God for His own. Just look at His many titles and you know His compassion never fails.  The Big Brother (albeit with a Divine Punch) aspect of God seems to be a shared characteristic in all of Christ's descriptive names.  The real kicker is that even though there are such special relationships as brothers/sisters (blood relatives and family of Christ relatives) - there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24) - and He signed His Covenant with His Own Blood.  Wow!  God as our Big Brother!  Wow!  God as the commander of the army of Heaven!  Wow!  God as a friend who sticks closer than a brother!  Wow!  God as Faithful to fulfill His own Covenant.  Whom shall I fear?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A RESPONSE

Dallas Berry recently said something that got me thinking (Dallas, if I miss quoted you hollar at me!).  He said, "Christian heritage will not get you into heaven.  Your parents name will not save you.  It is up to the individual's response to Christ whether or not that person spends eternity in Heaven with The Lord."

I agree with your statement.  However, I would like to add-on to it.

Dallas, your statement led me to a time of gratitude before God.  It is true, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)  However, my Christian Heritage cultivated me to the point of making that life decision.  Not to say that God does not work in non-Christian homes to draw individuals into His Kingdom.  No.  That has been done many times over, including our own head pastor.  But the Christian Heritage is an environment that I grew-up in and have come to be thankful for in this day and age.  The lifestyle that it brought did not shield me from everything, but shielded me enough to get my roots well established in The Sure Foundation - The Word of God.

Now, allow me to share my Christian Heritage.  Having a mother, father, and grandmother in the home that showed me Godly love, gave me Holy discipline (yes, even I was set apart unto my room a couple of times), and taught me by word and example Christ's lifestyle was just the beginning of my Christian Heritage.  Also going for me - my Grandfather was a preacher, I had uncles who were preachers, my dad would fill-in for these uncles from time-to-time, and now dad is officially ordained as a Pastor/Preacher at the church he attends.  In addition, my family has a rich, Christian, music history.

I say all this not to boast over any one person or group of people.  I say this after reflecting on your words Dallas and coming to a place of gratitude and thankfulness.  Family is where it all starts.  And whether every individual in the world recognizes it or not - everyone starts off with God too!  My environment was more conducive to an acceptance of the Salvation message.  However, I did not accept Christ as my personal Savior until I was 9 (1979).  There was no forcing my hand to make The Decision.  The Holy Spirit in my home and in the lives of my parents along with the always-present Love was enough to convince me - Jesus and His Kingdom are where I want to spend eternity. My whole life reminds me of a good-ole Southern Gospel song that I hope I get to sing one day with three other men in a quartet for I truly am...So Blessed.

http://www.rhapsody.com/artist/greater-vision/album/my-favorite-place/track/we-are-so-blessed

We Are So Blessed (by Bill Gaither, 1982)

Verse 1
We are so blessed
By the gifts from Your hand
I just can't understand
Why You've loved us so much
We are so blessed
We just can't find a way
Or the words that can say
Thank You Lord for Your touch

Chorus
When we're empty
You fill us 'til we overflow
When we're hungry
You feed us and cause us to know
We are so blessed
Take what we have to bring
Take it all ev'rything
Lord we love You so much

Verse 2
We are so blessed
By the things You have done
The vict'ries we've won
And what You've brought us through
We are so blessed
Take what we have to bring
Take it all ev'rything
Lord we bring it to You

Chorus




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

I want you to appreciate this verse now and in the future when it is quoted for a blog like mine, a message from the pulpit or simply as a favorite verse - so let us take a closer look.

I will be starting by working the verse backwards.  Take the second half of the verse/sentence (after the comma) and read it - "and all these things will be given to you as well".  The "things" that are spoken of that "will be given you as well" are found in previous verses - Matthew 6:25-32. The main thought is that your life, your body, your clothing, and daily food should not be worried about.  They will be supplied. This is a great challenge with the American society and it's advertising agencies convincing us that we are inadequate and offering us just the thing for our lack.  We should attend to these matters. However, a mature, balanced, and moderated manner is the approach. Your life, body, clothing and food should not be something that becomes your focus.  Anxiety should not set in concerning these things. If this verse is fulfilled properly the things "given to you as well" will be things in addition to a blessed condition you should have already pursued. 

Now that we know what "will be given to you as well" (i.e. life, body, clothing, food), what is it that we must do at first?  Answer:  "seek his kingdom and his righteousness".  Now I will show you what is in front of the comma.  So, what is "his kingdom" and what is "his righteousness" that we must seek? 

Kingdom in this verse, basileia, is cross-referenced to Matthew 3:2 where the phrase Kingdom of Heaven is used. Matthew is the only Gospel writer that gravitates to this phrase.  The other Gospel writers lean on the phrase basileia tou Theou (The Kingdom of God).  This Kingdom/Kingdom of Heaven term that Matthew uses here signifies God's rule within believers while on this earth (other supporting verses Mt. 13:41, 47; 20:1).  

Kingdom to me is a catch-all word for God/King, Believers/citizens, and all it's governing precepts.  A Kingdom requires a King.  A King rules by His laws and governs as He sees fit.  The Kingdom of Heaven and/or The Kingdom of God lives within the Christian believer.  When Christians are told to "seek first His kingdom", we are being told to consult the Laws of Grace and Mercy that now govern us through Christ Jesus.  Believers are being told to support and encourage one another because the Kingdom will keep getting stronger if we do.

God's righteousness is most certainly within His Kingdom. So, to see "His righteousness" listed alongside God's kingdom or in addition to God's kingdom tells me that it needs emphasizing in my life - "seek first his kingdom AND his righteousness."  The original Greek word for "righteousness" in this verse is Dikaiosyne (from dikaios) meaning upright, just, honest, integrity and someone who stands against lawlessness.  We can see it used when Joseph, the earthly parent of Jesus, was spoken of in Matthew 1:19.  The Hebrew counterpart to Dikaiosyne is Saddiyq. Noah is an example of this righteousness (Genesis 6:9). 

Believers can know that "all these things will be given to you as well" - a blessed life, healthy body, clothed body, and filled stomach.  Christians can know what to seek - God's ways, His people, and upright living. You and I can know these things and can still miss the message.  We have missed the point if we do not "seek first His...".  Ending up receiving counsel in the middle of a situation is not His way.  It does not mean He will not give His counsel to you.  It means there was a much better - approved way.  Even in the blindsided circumstances of life we can begin correctly by getting with God immediately and seeking Him first.

You see, it is all a matter of prioritizing.  God says He is a jealous God in Exodus 34:14Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.  And like Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2), I have a godly jealousy for God to be first in your life.  Seeking God first also means to me - do not consider anything before God.  Screen/filter everything through the Holy Spirit.  So, my paraphrase of Matthew 6:33 would read/sound something like this - 

Consult God's system of operation and integrity first in life, then all the things you normally worry about, like your body, your food, your clothing and life itself will be blessed even more than they are already. (Pritchard Paraphrase - Matthew 6:33)


Monday, November 25, 2013

ONCE UPON GOD'S TIME...A VEGITARIAN?

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. - Genesis 9:1-3

Working backwards in the emboldened sentences, the phrase - "I now give you everything" - implies that some things were withheld from the beginning into Noah's days.  We see what WAS PROVIDED by observing what is said in the same sentence before the comma - "Just as I gave you the green plants,".  God created us as vegetarians.  Or maybe God created us capable of eating - "everything that lives and moves" as well as "green plants" and God just chose the time for the next phase of the human diet to be initiated. 

I am finding that God's timing for things can be seen everywhere, if I would just pay closer attention to Scripture and even His workings in my life.  Once again with this passage, if you read and observe the verse in italics the condition that God describes is future-present.  This means it is getting ready to happen - "The fear and dread of you WILL FALL upon all the beasts of the earth...".  We do not hear of this happening prior to this declaration by God.  So, once again, this implies that at one time there was NO FEAR OF US upon "all the beasts of the earth....".  It is all about God's timing again.

In previous studies concerning this passage I was passionate about it's meaning pertaining to the fact that we were all vegetarians at one time.  This looks like a correct observation, but when the Holy Spirit led me back to it again this time He said - "do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Yep.  These were the words I heard in my Spirit.  Look familiar?  They should.  They are straight from Matthew 6:31-34.  Do you notice what these words in Matthew are about?  God's timing. From Old Testament to New Testament, God confirms there is a Holy Timetable and that I should trust in that.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A CERTAIN KIND OF LOVE

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness - Jeremiah 31:3

Those words were penned before Christ came.  Now, many, especially Christians, can say we have experienced God's "everlasting love" and been "drawn with loving-kindness" through Jesus Christ, God's Son, to Himself since His first visit.

Thy loving kindness is better than life,
Thy loving kindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise Thee
Thus will I bless Thee 

I will lift-up my hands in Thy Name

I will lift-up my hands in Thy Name
I will lift-up my hands in Thy Name
My lips shall praise Thee
Thus will I bless Thee
I will lift-up my hands in Thy Name

As if God's perfect love was not enough, He adds His kindness.  As if God's perfect kindness was not enough, He adds His love.  And not just any type of loving-kindness.  The original Hebrew word for loving-kindness in this verse - hesed - means unfailing love, loyal love, devoted love.  Wow!  What a God!  
O What A Savior.....

Thursday, November 21, 2013

EMULATE THE EXAMPLE

The word Emulate means imitate with effort to the degree of equal. The word Example means a pattern or model pertaining to something to be imitated. Examples are given for us to Emulate. Christ was our ultimate example. Christ SAID So That we can SAY. Jesus DID So That we can DO.

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."  (John 13:15, 17)

"...if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 'He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.' When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:20-23)
The Messiah died so that we would die with Him.  The Lord rose from the dead so that we would rise also.

"Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." - Romans 6:8

"He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him." - 1 Thessalonians 5:10
The charge comes once again - imitate Christ and His ways - "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:15-16)  

In the Old Testament, Holy to many, means unapproachable.  One factor, if not the prime, contributing to this idea is found in Exodus 33:20 - "God continued, 'But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.'"  For all, except Moses and the Levitical priesthood, God's Holy Presence was unapproachable.  God made His Presence known among His people with signs like the pillar of fire by night and pillar of cloud by day.  And God showed His Presence among His people with wonders like parting the Red Sea, providing manna from Heaven, and many other miracles.  God was among His people, but was still set apart or Holy and accessible to only a few - directly.

Then Father God sent the perfect representation of Himself clothed in human flesh - Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  "Christ 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 2:5-8)  Peter even recognized the Holy character in Jesus just from the miraculous provision of a large sum of fish for his boats.  "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, 'Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'" (Luke 5:8)

So, God was among His people once again, in the flesh, as Jesus.  Earlier God had displayed His power and presence with miracles and wonders.  Earlier God had set many laws that none could fulfill in totality, therefore a yearly blood sacrifice had to be made to atone for all that could not be fulfilled.  Now, Jesus is sent to atone or pay for all of humanity's sin (past, present, and future) once and for all.  In the meantime, during His earthly ministry Jesus was being our example. He was set apart yet in the world.  He was Holy, yet made His company with cultural scum like tax collectors and sinners.  The life of Jesus and His teachings were tender or compassionate toward the physically, mentally, and spiritually sick.  Those that were the religious doctors of the day, the Pharisees and Saducees, are the individuals who Christ had stern words for - "you brood of vipers" (Matt. 3:7; 12:34; 23:33)

1 Peter 2:12 says, Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  Father God was in the world, but not of the world.  Jesus was in the world, but not of the world.  Because Christ ascended to the right hand of Father God and sent His Holy Spirit to empower the Believer - the Christian is to be in this world, but not of the world.

"but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)  

"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8)

Emulate The Example -

  1. because "He who called you is holy"
  2. "so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us."
  3.  "you will be blessed if you do"
  4. "this is commendable before God".  


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I'M SICK OF IT

Here is an understatement for you - I imagine if there is anybody that is sick of betrayal it is God.  He has had angels, in particular an angel named Lucifer, betray Him.  He made man and woman in His own image and their disobedience was their form of betrayal as they forsook their trust in God, believed a lie, and placed their trust in themselves.  He had a beloved nation, specifically the Hebrew people who would later be known as Israel, develop a vicious, habitual, sinful cycle of betrayal unto Him.  He had a disciple, Judas who heard, saw, and lived with Jesus for three years and still betrayed Him.  I am sure there are other individuals who have decided to go their own way even after experiencing God's presence in their lives.  In addition, they try to stick a knife in God's back while leaving.  I encourage you today, Don't you be another betrayal story.

Here are some Warning Signs of Betrayal - Pride, Complacency, and Agenda Replacement.

Pride
Lucifer started it all by playing King of the Mountain with God!  Lucifer tried to take the place of God and it did not work out for him.  It does not work for anybody, anytime.  He and a third of the angelic host were immediately judged/damned and lost their lofty place in heaven's hieracrchy (Rev. 12:4).  He then polluted humanity with the idea of us being the one to call the shots, which was his mistake. Mistrust and disobedience are the offspring of Pride.  The enemy used them both to inject humans with what he had - Pride.  And we all know - Pride goes before The Fall. So thick is the cloud of our sinful nature that it totally blinds us to the Holiness and Perfection of God and His Throne. Left alone to our own devices, it doesn't take long before we find or invent someone or something else to devote our affections and attention. However, humanity was not left without any hope. The very Word of God Himself came in human form - Jesus - and paid for the sins that had entered the world through Lucifer's temptation and humanity's betrayal of trust.

Complacency
Israel's history had a vicious cycle of betrayal.  Their symptoms were - spiritual staleness, a reasoning away of their condition, and looking for love in all the wrong places (the gods of near-by nations).  These gods were usually ones that pleasured the physical senses.  Their festivals were more about them than their gods. Yahweh did not like Israel's betrayal and would send some kind of punishment to get their attention.  A natural disaster or prophesied national invasion was fulfilled. Israel would cry out for help.  God would send a deliverer/champion.  Israel would return to God's ways, BUT eventually fall back into their old lifestyle - as the usual procedure.  Nothing really took hold with Israel, because they liked their muck.  Their condition worsened to the point where God scattered His people from their homeland to the four corners of the earth. But God was, is, and always will be faithful to His People.  His love endures forever (Psalm 136).  It has always been about God and Him showing humanity that He is the only perfect one.  He is the only faithful one.  He is the only Covenant Keeping one.  God has brought His people back into their land (albeit contested by the surrounding nations) and is going to deal with them even more directly in a future seven year time frame called The Tribulation (Daniel 9:24).  God still loves His people.

Agenda Replacement (Placing Your Agenda In Place Of God's)
Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Christ who heard, saw, and lived with Jesus for the three years of His ministry betrayed the Son of God.  Why?  Judas did not want to die and that is what he heard from Jesus awaited them in Jerusalem.  The Jewish Messiah was to be a militant Savior - a man who would gather the masses naturally and supernaturally and defeat the Roman Empire and it's hold on Israel. Then The Messiah would set up His Reign upon David's throne and rule forever. This is more like how the Second Coming of Christ is laid out, Not Christ's first visitation.  Christ's first visit was about servanthood and being ready to die for Him. That's where we have Jesus speaking about going to Jerusalem very soon to die and Judas wanted no part of that.  Funny how the "And after three days I will rise again." was blocked out of the Disciples minds. Judas was even possessed by the Father of Lies himself in order to carry out the betrayal (John 13:21-27). After betraying Jesus to the Jewish "authorities" for thirty pieces of silver, guilt and shame overwhelmed Judas and he hanged himself.  Judas had another agenda on his mind for Jesus to fulfill. Even though Judas' agenda may have been established out of self-preservation and knowledge of prophetic Scripture, that does not give him or us the right to project or force our plan on God.  God's plan for us is infinitely better than we can hope for or imagine.

After The Church was birthed others tried on Christianity, as if to wear a comfortable piece of clothing to suit their agenda - Phygelus, Hermogenes and Demas.  People such as these are not real believers of anything. They have a void that can only be filled by Jesus Christ, but rejected Him.  So, when it comes to traveling down the narrow road of Christianity (John 14:6) they needed to follow some good advice from my friend Yoda - "Try not. Do. Or do not!! There is no try." (Yoda, "Empire Strikes Back").

I encourage you not to be a betrayal story.  Stay away from Pride and all it's negative offspring.  Instead, remain humble before God and He will lift you up. Don't allow complacency to set into your life.  Do everything in your power to keep your passion for God alive and kicking everyday.  Finally, don't play God. Trust His all-knowingness and His Plan for your life - Wholeheartedly!  Where concerning my family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances I don't want God saying - "I'm Sick Of It!"




Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DON'T GO THERE

The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant [The Manager] whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  Luke 12:42-44

Manager 1
suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. - Luke 12:45

Consequence 1
The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. - Luke 12:46

Manager 2
That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants - Luke 12:47

Consequence 2
will be beaten with many blows. - Luke 12:47

Manager 3
the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment - Luke 12:48

Consequence 3
will be beaten with few blows - Luke 12:48

the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. - 2 Peter 2:9

If you are in Management, be it fatherhood, motherhood, work-related, or spiritually - Manage Well.
"With great power comes great responsibility." (Ben Parker - Spiderman)  As you can observe from above, the consequences of managing badly is a place you don't want to go.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A LITTLE TASTE OF HEAVEN


What Heaven Will Be Like
By Paul Kusiak

"Joy is the business of heaven." -C.S. Lewis

....while it's true we don't know the [full] details about heaven, the Bible does give us a general idea. What we discover is absolutely mind- blowing!

WHAT WE WILL BE LIKE

"Dear friends, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him." (1 John 3:2)

When we enter heaven will be changed physically and spiritually. John tells us we will be like Jesus. What will that be like? Here are a few things the Bible tells us:

1) WE WILL NO LONGER SIN

"He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil 1:6) In heaven Jesus will remove our sinful nature and complete making us new creations. Imagine you have a computer program that has problems (Ha! Not too hard to imagine that, is it). But then the new version comes out and everything that is good about the program is left in but everything bad is fixed -- and not only that, but many great new features are added. That's what we will be like in heaven.

2) WE WILL NOT BE SUBJECT TO THE LAWS OF PHYSICS

In John 20:19,26 we find Jesus walking through walls and locked doors to reach the disciples. Elsewhere in the Bible we read about angels that appear and disappear. We will be able to travel anywhere instantly.

3) WE WILL STILL EAT AND TOUCH

We will be able to walk through solid objects and still be able to touch and eat like Jesus did in John 20:27 and John 21:10-15. Paul tells us that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven" (1 Cor. 15:50), so eating will be done for pleasure and not necessity And Revelation 22:2 tells us that in heaven there will be a tree of life that bears twelve different kinds of fruit each month. Some think that there may be a feast each month when this tree blooms and a time of great fellowship as we gather around to share a meal together.

4) WE WILL NEVER BE SICK AGAIN

We currently live in a fallen, imperfect world. People get sick, suffer and die. In heaven that won't be true. God tells us in heaven there will "no longer be any curse" (Rev. 22:3). And Revelation 21:4 tells us: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Heaven will be a world where, "the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. And the lame will leap like a deer, and the mute tongue will shout for joy" (Isaiah 35:5- 6). There will be no more suffering in heaven.

5) WE WILL RECOGNIZE ONE ANOTHER

You can read Matthew 17:3 for a little insight here. Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. Peter recognizes both of them even though they both lived many years before him. In heaven, we will know not only our loved ones but everyone else that is there!

6) WE WILL HAVE DEEPER RELATIONSHIPS

There will be no marriage in heaven (Matthew 22:30). The reason is that relationships will be much deeper than anything on earth. Remember that we'll be free from sin. Relationships will be pure and free of doubt, jealousy and gossip.

Love, joy and peace -- in heaven we will experience these things the way they were meant to be. We can only experience them in part now. While it's true we love and have joy and peace on earth, we don't fully experience them because we also know what it is to hate, grieve, and have trouble. In heaven, when these things are removed, we will love and rejoice and be at peace completely.

WHAT HEAVEN WILL BE LIKE

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the Throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the Throne said, 'I am making everything new!'" - Revelation 21:1-4

1) WE WILL LIVE IN NEW JERUSALEM

Revelation 21:2-3 tells us we will have a new home called "New Jerusalem". Jerusalem means, "city of peace". This New Jerusalem is massive! It will be about 1,500 miles wide, 1,500 miles long, and 1,500 miles high. (Revelation 21:15-16). That would make this huge city roughly the size of the moon. The city will have 12 gates with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them. The foundation will be twelve layers to it with the names of the twelve apostles written on them. (Revelation 21:12-17)

And the entire city will be made of gold and jewels.

The walls will be made of pure diamond and the city of pure gold - clear as glass (Revelation 21:18). The foundation will be filled with precious stones (Revelation 21:19-21). As God dwells in this city, the light from His glory will shine through these stones producing a brilliant rainbow of colors! Can you imagine such a sight?

2) WE WILL BE WITH CHRIST

More important than anything else is the fact that we will be with our Lord forever. From His throne flows the River of Life. It will be perfect, clear as crystal. And we will see Him face to face (Revelation 22:4). We shall worship Him and be His people and He will be our God.

When we see Christ face to face His presence will dominate heaven the same way the sun dominates the hot summer sky. If heaven had streets of gold, precious gems, and angels singing overhead but no Jesus then we wouldn't even notice those other things. Because just as the sun illuminates the summer sky, so the glory of Christ illuminates all of heaven.

We will be able to talk to Him, ask Him questions, and listen to Him speak. Imagine hearing His voice - the Bible says it will be "like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder (Revelation 14:2). Imagine the stories He'll tell, the lessons He'll teach, the love He'll share.

Jesus gives us the best description of heaven in Revelation 21 and 22. What's so wonderful about it is Jesus' excitement. You can sense that He longs to share heaven with us. When you get to heaven He will smile, put His arms around you, and say, "All this I have prepared for you because I love you. Enjoy my fellowship!"

Then we will live happily ever after forever and ever with our God, Savior and Friend.

"When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun."


HOW TO GET TO HEAVEN...

Heaven is God's home. God is perfect and so heaven is perfect. Nothing imperfect can ever enter heaven (Revelation 22:14-15).

Romans 3:23 says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

But God has provided a way to bridge the gap between us and Him...

John 3:16 tells us this, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, Jesus Christ, whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Jesus died on the cross for your sins and mine. He took your punishment for sinning. He died for your sins so you wouldn't have to. Now He offers forgiveness to you. All you have to do is acknowledge you are a sinner, and that Jesus, the Son of God, died in your place, and accept Him as your Savior. You can accept Jesus as Savior by praying this prayer:

Lord, I realize that I am a sinner. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior now. Please show me your will and help me become the person you want me to be. Amen.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

LIVING FEARLESS, FEARLESS LIVING

I come to the keyboard today with a grateful heart.  I imagine I do not have an attitude of gratitude as much as I should.  However, I take time out today to share my heart-felt appreciation with you about the one person you know means everything to me - my best friend, Savior, Lord, and King - Yeshua or Jesus.

I am finally starting to grasp the saying, True Love Casts Out All Fear.  The New International Version of the Bible says 1 John 4:18 like this -
  • There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.
I have found that the phrase No Matter has popped up a lot in my relationship with God lately.  No Matter that I don't understand God right now.  No Matter that there is a lot of change swirling around me.  No Matter that there are healings and salvations pending His attention.  No Matter to all that may seem dire and/or pressing - God has been and is Faithful in His Love toward me.  All I have to do is look back at the Altars in my walk with God to see His consistent presence.

However, it is hard to wait around.  I can take a positive answer, I can take a negative answer, but if there is one thing in life I Hate it is Not Knowing.  Even when I believe I know the answer, God may have a different timing in mind and for whatever reason there have been times when this information was withheld from my mind and spirit.  It does not have to be timing that is the missing information.  Whatever is the key ingredient that I need to throw into the mix of my life - making it more productive, I need it.  Even here, in this totally frustrating period of time, God says to me - "No Matter I got your back (and front and sides and above and below)."

This No Matter could be translated into the Scripture's words - "Fear Not".  And as long as I keep God's Faithfulness in the forefront of my mind and spirit I will not and cannot operate out of fear, but out of His "perfect love" toward me.  Knowing and trusting in His love for me and His sovereignty in all matters - drives out all fear.

God is Love.  And God keeps displaying His Love, through Grace, to me.  This unmerited favor places the burden of proof (of who He is in my relationship) on His shoulders.  Originally - 'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.  But Grace did not stop at my conversion, He keeps on showing me Favor in "perfect love", "driving out all fear".

Prayer:
Thank you Lord Jesus for your Faithful Love you grant me especially in the midst of my non-understanding times and down right disrespectful times.  Thank you for your Grace.  The non-deserving favor I received and still receive from you continues to be amazing.  May my heart always remain humble in the sight of the price you paid to do away with the punishment I Did Deserve, but that you Drove Out With Your Love!
In your name Jesus I pray, Amen. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NEW CREATURES IN CHRIST

Salvation does not Save the Christian from sinning. Salvation Saves the Christian from The Judgement to come.  Therefore, Christians sin too, we just should not be sin focused.  This Great Salvation should motivate the Christian to live out the true meaning to being a New Creature/Creation in Christ.

Jesus did pay every sin-debt of every individual in history (past, present, and future) at one time (Hebrews 7:27), but the redemption seems to come in two phases -
  1. Jesus conquered death, hell, the grave and bore our sickness and rebellion SO THAT the Wrath or Judgement of Father God would be lifted.  This - Is Finished! (John 3:36)
  2. Jesus will grant us glorified bodies that are like His glorified body (no imperfections) one day in a transformation that is still awaiting fulfillment but which I personally feel is very near (Philippians 3:21).
The Scripture says that after I accept Christ as my Lord and Savior that I am a new creation in Christ, the old is gone the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). The challenge is visualizing ourselves as that New Creation and walking out our faith in respect and trembling (Philippians 2:12). However, Christians still sin. The reasons why Christians still struggle with sin is that they are still living in imperfect bodies (Romans 8:23) and have the temptations of the old pleasures/life trying to regain our attention and affection daily (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Life does not become easier because one becomes a Christian.  Even as a Christian, the enemy - Satan - is not going to ease-up. NO!  Life becomes especially challenging because someone has now chosen Christ as their Lord and Savior. Before accepting Christ, the devil is content many times to leave people alone because he/she is no threat to him. However, after accepting Christ and His lifestyle the attacks increase.  In fact, the Holy Spirit promised through Paul's second letter to Timothy - everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12).     

Thankfully we have a Loving, Faithful, continually Gracious God that understands us better than ourselves and works with us to shape us more into Christ's image (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Believers must journey with a God that asks us to trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  Followers, not fans of Christ, must know and serve a God that places emphasis on keeping pure and holy by maintaining a healthy relationship with God and uniting with other trustworthy brothers and sisters in Christ to share our lives with each other (confessing our sins one with another - James 5:16).

I, by no means, am promoting Christians to gather together and focus on the recent mistakes they have made against God for the sheer meeting and the fulfillment of confessing your sins one to another charge.  This would attack the Graceful lifestyle that God has provided through Jesus' sacrifice and wants us to live under. I do, however, desire Christians to recognize that even though the Wrath or Judgement of Sin is abolished, the manifestation of the nature of sin (i.e. habits, decay, sickness, etc..) are things the Christian still has to work through, as a New Creation in Christ, with the help of God and other trustworthy brothers/sisters in Christ.  We cannot be a body-part, of the Body of Christ, alone.

Together Christians must realize we will make mistakes, but not to focus on them - learn from them.  Dean Smith has said something along these lines - "What do you do with a mistake?  Recognize it.  Admit it. Learn from it.  Forget it."  I would add - and trust in God's all sufficient Grace. "...he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)  As a New Creation in Christ, here is where Christians need to operate out of more - His Grace.

So, Christians, realize your eternal condition is secure.  What you do in the meantime as a New Creation in Christ is the question.  Which tendencies will you feed - the old self that will be tempting you to return soon or the New Creation God has called you to be more of?  I encourage you to work it out with God and others you trust because Christ came So That through choosing Him as our Savior, He gives us life and life more abundantly! (John 10:10)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

CHRISTIANS SHOULD WANT TO SAY SO

Slavery was a much more commonplace and culturally accepted part of society back in the days of Paul. Something that amazes me is the instruction Paul writes in a letter to Titus concerning the witnessing power of slaves.  I mean who would listen or pay attention to one's slave - if you were a slave owner or of higher standing?  Yet Paul says the following to Titus.....
  • Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. - Titus 2:9-10
Paul was saying there is a way for even the slave to make good on his/her new found faith - show it.  Paul mentions for Titus to teach the slaves to "try to please them" [their masters], "not talk back", and "not steal from them". Doing all of this will show they "can be fully trusted" and "in every way they make the teaching [what they have learned and believed about Christ] about God our Savior attractive."

So, here is the message of being a great witness again.  Being salt and light to the world.  However, I hear the Holy Spirit saying through Paul loud and clear it does not matter what station in life you hold - slaves included - if Christ is your Savior make His salvation and the Christian lifestyle - "attractive" - The Redeemed Of The Lord Should Want To Say So

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WHAT DID YOU SAY?

There is a line from the movie Rush Hour that says, "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?"  In this movie there was a slight language barrier that made this line/quote funny.  However, a serious tone is struck when we hear and understand that God has been saying this to believers as well as unbelievers in Christ for a very long time now.

Let us visit the Old Testament for a moment.  Proverbs 18 has the art of listening or the lack thereof sprinkled throughout the chapter.

  • A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (v.2)
  • A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. (v.6)
  • A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul. (v.7)
He who answers before listening-- that is his folly and his shame. (v.13)
  • From the fruit of his mouth a man's stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. (v.20)
  • The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (v.21)
Now, let us visit the New Testament and observe how the early, new testament church approached listening. The writer of Hebrews mentions twice in the third chapter - "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."  Once in verse eight and the other instance in verse fifteen.  The Church, or body of believers in Christ, in Acts consulted God and listened for His reply. Acts 4: 29-31 says -  
  • Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
All that is needed was one example, however, there are numerous other verses that encourage the Christian to - seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt. 6:33)
The catch is - if you are going to seek God first about anything, be prepared to WAIT for His response. Many Christians know the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar (Genesis 15 & 16).  However, as a recap - Abraham, heard from God that his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky.  He believed God for a time, but then allowed doubt and some bad advice to sway him to take matters into his own hands.  

Some people do this in everyday conversation.  People will ask a question, knowing the answer and interrupt you to give it.  Abraham asked his question, got his answer instantly and then interrupted God in the fulfilling of the answer with his own version of the answer.  The result - two sons, one of curse (Ishmael) and one of promise (Issac) that would birth two peoples who are at war with each other to this day in the Middle East. 

Christians have that same potential to affect the world in the positive or in the negative.  What are we going to do with the time between the question/request to God and answer from God is a big factor in which way the believer will sway (+/-).  In this possible lengthy interlude, many thoughts can creep in and distractions can set up to keep our Spiritual Ears from hearing and listening to God's answer.  This is why patience and perseverance in prayer is so important. 

In this day of ~ got-to-have-it-now-mentality ~ I know my patience needs improving drastically.  If the individual Christian or The Church desire to move forward as an effective member/body of believers, then we have got to be willing to in all our ways submit to him, and he will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). Let us consult Him first, wait and listen for His answer and not find ourselves saying - What Did You Say?  

ONE GOOD REASON (MY PERSONAL CHALLENGE)

I have a personal challenge I would like to share. Some good reasons for the challenge - people are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- they have a form of godliness but deny its power. Now-a-days this fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:2-5 is being seen in a greater degree of intensity and frequency.

Therefore my personal challenge is to...

Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.  Devote myself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect my gift,...Be diligent in these matters; give myself wholly to them, so that everyone may see my progress. Watch my life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if I do, I will save [avoid pitfalls] both myself and my hearers." - (Personalization of 1 Timothy 4:12-16)

Do my best to present myself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. - (Personalization of 2 Timothy 2:15)

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because I know they produce quarrels. - (Personalization of 2 Timothy 2:22-23)

Although there are many good reasons out there to motivate me and Christians everywhere to follow this lifestyle I thought I would share - One Good Reason.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

SALT

As a Christian you have probably heard the following two analogies of Salt to Christian living.

  1. Salt brings flavor to food so Christians should bring flavor not only to life, but to the Good News that we are sharing with the world about salvation and it's many benefits through Christ Jesus our Lord.
  2. Salt is used in the healing of wounds.  The application here should be that Christians take care of the Church (people - physically, mentally, and spiritually) as well as offer aid, in whatever form, to the hurting in the world.
There is a 3rd analogy that I received the other day concerning the Christian's saltiness.  Saltiness brings thirst to those who partake of it.  Salt also helps retain water.  The Christian analogy is that our Christian lifestyle should attract those outside a relationship with God to the Living Water within each Christian.

Once unbelievers receive a good dose of Living Water it is part of the Christian's responsibility to keep unbelievers thirsty. Therefore the interested unbeliever goes back to the Living Water until they get drenched, inside and out, with the Living Water themselves (salvation).  We are to be fishers of men and women - salt water fishin' - if you will.  ;)

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. - Matthew 5:13

Christians pray that we don't lose our saltiness.  Pray that we and the message we bring is flavorful to those around us.  Pray that Christians would use the salt within us (holiness, goodness, mercy, etc..) to heal those in need.  And pray to seek ways of keeping your friends, family, and co-workers thirsty for the Living Water.

Friday, November 1, 2013

CAVE OF LIFE

The darker the cave of life we enter (hard times, temptations, etc.), the more brilliant the speck of light (the light at the end of the tunnel or The Answer) is at the first glimpse of the exit. However, certain people have a promise that the darkness will not get more gloomier/overwhelming.   They may have to endure the treachery of the inside of the cave itself for a while (curve-balls of life preventing you from getting out of your situation), but they are promised the exit to their cave of life is definitely within reach.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Those certain people are Christians.  This verse places the degree of temptation and the provision of a solution solely on God – “And God is faithful; he will not….he will also provide a way out…” This is a matter of faith as a belief in God’s faithfulness to provide. Another way of saying - belief in God's Faithfulness - is Trust.  Believers should Trust in His faithful provision(s), especially when Scripture says a way will be provided for you "SO THAT you can stand up under it". Ah!  The joys (James 1:2-4) of being refined more and more into the image of Christ - from glory to glory - And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:18  

So, the next time you know you are in a dark Cave of Life...

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

OTHERS AND GOD

Don't allow others to rule your life, allow God to rule your life concerning others.  

Then Paul says to the church in Corinth - Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. - 1 Corinthians 10:24.  Well, that seemed to blow my encouragement to bits until I read this verse in the New Living Translation - Don't think only of your own good. Think of other Christians and what is best for them. Did you catch the key word?  "Only" is the key-word.  We all know that each one of us will devote time and energy to ourselves, here the translation encourages us not to think "only of your own good", but to "think of other Christians and what is best for them."  I like that translation better.  Also notice it says for us to think of other CHRISTIANS.  The world needs our attention, but sometimes some of the local Christian expressions give outreach so much attention that the Christians themselves are neglected. 

Similarly Paul wrote to the church in Philippi and encouraged this body of believers - Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. - Philippians 2:3  Then again in the very next verse he continues - Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. - Philippians 2:4  It is a mindset that leads to an attitude that leads to a lifestyle that Paul is promoting. 

The key is to minister to others while not getting caught up in what you think the perception of others is of you.  I know people like this.  They think to much of this perception of others when they should have the Eyeglasses of God on and looking at their own deeds, their own development, and others -  through those Godly lens.

So, what does God say in His Scripture about others?  I'm glad I asked for you.  Here is what my research found.

You can judge others, just be prepared to be judged in the same way.
  • For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. - Matthew 7:2
You can get preachy with others, just watch your attitude and practice what you preach.
  • No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. - 1 Corinthians 9:27
Instruct others.
  • But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. - 1 Corinthians 14:19
Be helpful to others.
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. - Ephesians 4:29
  • And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. - 1 Corinthians 12:28
Encourage others.
  • He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. - Titus 1:9
Be merciful and show others the way of Salvation.
  • Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-- - Jude 1:21-23
Prophesy to others, serve others, teach others, encourage others, and help with the needs of others.
  • We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;  if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; - Romans 12:6-8
There are a few others that Christians are not to emulate.  Those individuals are any who are lazy, out of control, uninformed and do not display a lifestyle that separates them from the rest of the world after declaring their allegiance to God through Christ Jesus.
  • So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. - 1 Thessalonians 5:6
  • Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure. - 1 Timothy 5:22
In summary, apply the Golden Rule - 
  • So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12
You and I can be all He wants us to be for fellow Christians and non-believers by following these words of instructions mentioned above.  The trap of life to avoid in the meantime is what others think about you - your clothes, your possessions, your social status, your financial status, and the list goes on.  This is exactly what commercials are designed for - to tell you how you need their latest and greatest product and make you feel belittled if you don't have it.  This is a tactic of the enemy as well to get your attention off of how God sees everything - especially you and others.  It is wonderful to have feedback from co-workers, friends, and family on things you need feedback on - just don't make their response, their perception your foundation that you walk upon, build upon, or live upon.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. - 1 Corinthians 3:11-15

This foundation, His foundation, should be our foundation and we should all receive our perspective from here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

THE ANSWER

Trying to reason that we all believe in the same God on this earth is ludicrous.  If a person would put forth half a brain-cell and some quality time to the study of the different beliefs in this world, he/she would find that Allah, Buddha, and Jesus are not the same.  This all is relative movement makes every individual's truth - the truth.  Truth is singular, not plural and non-negotiable!  Wonderful for all of us God made it incredibly easy and told us point-blank who and what was The Truth - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6  

"The gospel is NOT, in my personal view, one option among many other valid options about the way to redemption and salvation. Jesus Christ is not an option, He IS the only way.

...the REAL issue IS NOT belief systems at all. Or even about being offensive, as damaging and callous as that can often be. The issue is far greater than any of that.

The real issue is a matter of " Life or death!" It seems to me that in scripture mankind has been offered an either/or [“Yes” or “No” if you will!] choice of whether we will accept redemption and eternal life in Christ. A "yes"brings inclusion. The opposing choice of "no" is rejection of Him with the result of...you get the picture I'm sure. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” [I Jn. 5:12]."  (
http://vtmbottomline.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-charge-of-exclusivism-and-answer.html)

It is not that humanity is o.k. and we need to better ourselves by seeking a path to God.  It is not about doing enough good in this world to earn a ticket into whatever any of us might consider paradise or heaven.  The Apostle John says it nicely - God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. - John 3:17-18

We messed up through one man - Adam.  God supplied the only answer - Jesus Christ.  If you haven't, I encourage you to raise your hand in this classroom of humanity and accept and confess The Answer today!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

KING OF THE MOUNTAIN

Remember the game King of the Mountain?  Somewhere on top of a hill, log, couch, or something was a person that took a position of control or dominance while another person(s) attempted to knock that King from his position and therefore become the new King.

You know God favors mountains (http://pritchardsplace.blogspot.com/2011/02/mountains-in-scripture.html). However, He is the only King that will not be moved from His Holy Hill.
  • You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. - Isaiah 14:13
God is speaking to the Accuser of the Believers in Christ.  Lucifer's move to be King of the Mountain not only failed, but failed miserably.  His demise is detailed in Isaiah 14:8-20.  Read it when you get the chance and the next time the devil reminds you of your past mistakes, remind him of his future.

However, there is coming a time when all mountains will be eliminated - Save Christ's.
  • Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. - Isaiah 40:4
  • The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. - Revelation 6:14
Then during the Millennial Reign of Christ, His mountain will be raised supreme.
  • The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. - Zechariah 14:10
  • The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. 7 The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. 9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. - Isaiah 11:6-9
Now, here is an analogy that the Lord placed in my spirit about this - 

We all are mountains on the landmass of humanity.  However, there are some of us who make-up a mountain-range called The Church of Jesus Christ.  This range is comprised of many peaks that all have their individual characteristics but when viewed together create a beautiful vista.  Some mountains are higher than others.  Some mountains are more traversal than others.  Our Creator loves variety and our Creator's Mountain is the highest and most beautiful in the mountain-range.

So, I encourage us all to get a head-start on the physical supremacy of Christ's Mountain in the future Millennial Reign and allow Christ through His Holy Spirit to be King of our mountain(s) now.  If you have read or know the end of the story concerning the before-mentioned Scripture (Isaiah 14:8-20), then you know it is most beneficial to surrender Kingship of your mountain to Christ than play King Of The Mountain.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A CERTAIN KIND OF FAITH

Re-read this account for me please -

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side."  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"  They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" - Mark 4:35-41

"Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat."

  • Interesting that Mark makes a point to state the Disciples "took him [Jesus] along in the boat". However, it is even more interesting Mark says the disciples would take Jesus - "just as he was". Was there some kind of clothing or travel gear that Jesus was supposed to change into?  What did that phrase mean?  I hear the song "Just As I Am" playing in the background here.

"There were also other boats with him."

  • Interesting that what is about to happen did not involve any assistance from the rest of the boats. Maybe because they were fighting for their lives also, but they still were not mentioned in any way.

"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped."

  • The image you get of the kind of boats back then on a lake under these kinds of conditions makes you think this boat is half under water.  The interesting thing, NO, the Amazing thing is.....

"Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion."

  • Are you kidding me!  The tossing of a "squall" did not wake Him.  The coldness of water reaching over the boat's edge and drenching His body did not wake Him.  The wind from this storm did not wake Him. Look what woke Jesus!  


"The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

  • Try to place yourself in the shoes of the Disciples.  So, you are a miracle man!  So, you have compassion toward the people!  So, you have some sort of special mission from God and you are taking us along with you.  We are concerned for our lives here and how in the world you are doing it we don't know, but you are sleeping!?  You might not die out here but have you brought us this far with you to die in the middle of a lake?   
"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm."

  • First, Jesus shows His miracle working power in the situation despite what the Disciples are lacking. Jesus answered their call THEN molded them further.


He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

  • The key here is that Jesus was looking for a consistency of faith in His disciples.  Jesus' explanation, in the form of two questions, was not only that they did not have any faith in this situation, it was that they "still" had no faith and displayed this through being "afraid".  
I can hear Jesus elaborating to them and down through the ages I can hear Him elaborating to me - [Where was your faith at the last miracle you witnessed me give?  Where has been your faith through all the many miracles you have seen me do?  When you do find your faith in me, never let it go and always keep it fed with your own personal testimonies of my Faithfulness.  Remember, whenever your faith wavers in me I am always Faithful and have been Faithful and will be Faithful.]

Prayer:
Dear Lord,
Develop in me a consistent faith in you.  Let there be no more periods of doubt in my life.  Keep doubt and faithlessness at bay my Lord so that I may operate more effectively in the amount of faith you have given me. Please give me opportunities to exercise my faith so it will grow and mature into what you want it to look like.  In your name, Jesus, I pray - Amen.