Thursday, January 31, 2013

READ IT IN CONTEXT

Ever heard or seen this verse?  - "Behold , I stand at the door, and knock : if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (King James Version)

The New International Version states it like this - "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

The Biblical address is Revelation 3:20.  I have seen this verse on paintings and used in teaching/preachings as invitations to unbelievers. If you read carefully before and after this verse - in other words, read this verse in context - you will observe this was spoken to Believers.  Thus, this is my main challenge to you in this writing today - when reading the Scriptures Consider the Context!

Allow me to demonstrate my meaning.  Let us take a look at Revelation 3:20 and it's surrounding verses.

To the Church in Laodicea
14 "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. 21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

This verse falls in a section of verses from 14-22 that deals with The Church of Laodicea.  The Lord is addressing Believers, The Church, at Laodicea.  The Lord does not concern His remarks with Salvation because these people are already "saved".

Jesus begins with these Believers by saying, "I know your deeds,".  Their disgusting service ("deeds") for God  ("neither hot nor cold") and their dependence on their wealth were such terrible faults that Jesus labeled them "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked".  He also says, in the body of this address - "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.  So be earnest, and repent." (v.19) Again, these are verses that support these people, and possibly in particular the leadership of the church ("To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:"), having already received the Good News of Jesus Christ into their lives, they just need to turn their actions around 180 degrees toward God ("repent").

The imagery of Jesus at the door knocking and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me - is an image meant to place Jesus back where He belongs, Off Of The Front Porch And In Your House/Temple!  The Believers of Laodicea had replaced their reliance on God with "lukewarm" deeds and dependence on self-wealth.  This puts Jesus out in the cold.  Therefore, you have a loving, rebuking, disciplining Savior who now stands at the door to your life and knocks for re-entry.  Not necessarily re-entry as a re-dedication of your heart concerning salvation, remember you and these people are Believers, but a re-dedication of your priorities and services for The King - your deeds.  Context.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

There are some important questions that I hope and pray every individual eventually encounters in their faith walk of life.

The first question is - "Are you ready to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?"
This question is important because one's answer to this determines the continuing status of one's relationship to God.  An answer of "No, I am not ready." - keeps anyone in a broken relationship.  An answer of "Yes, I am ready." - and praying a sincere prayer of faith in Christ Jesus as your personal Savior redeems any one's relationship with God.

The second question someone might be asked is (after one has decided to follow Jesus) - "Why did you decided to become a Christian?"
For someone who is considering to follow Christ, this is a good question to ask yourself in advance.  "Why am I considering Christianity?  Is it just to have a religion in the religion boxes of applications?  Is it peer pressure?  Is it for socialism?  Is it for a deeper, meaningful relationship with the God who loved me first?  What are my reason(s) for wanting to join Team Jesus?"  However, if you are a Believer in Christ I encourage you through the Scriptures - "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15).

The third question a Believer might be asked is - "So what now?  What do you do with Jesus now that you have Him?"
Answer:  You give Him away - again and again and again.  He is inexhaustible. You get excited about the provision Jesus made through answering "yes" to question #1 which leads to you sharing Jesus "with gentleness and respect" at the right opportunities by having a heart-lead, spirit-lead, and mind-lead reasoning "for the hope that you have"!
Answer 2:  As you are looking for opportunities to share Jesus with others, find ways to serve within the Kingdom or Body of Christ or local church.

So, take the appropriate question(s) and apply.  Jesus Christ left no doubts about following Him, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6).  It is the right decision to make, but each one of us has to have a personal revelation of Christ's Salvation to (1) help us commit to following Jesus, (2) develop a response to the hope that we have in Christ, and (3) serve The Lord by spreading His Great News and fulfilling our Call in life.  However, it takes current Believers to Love God by Loving People and Serve God by Serving People (my churches goal).  So, no matter where you are as a Believer, try to follow what Jesus said, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  (John 13:34-35) - and see if you can get some of these Important Questions answered.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A TALL ORDER

My friend, brother, and worship pastor - Kerry Crespo - brought a great teaching to the choir during practice last night and his delivery style was spot-on also.  The message struck such a chord (choir pun intended) with me that I needed to journal, blog, write, share again with possibly those that are not in our wonderful choir.  So, be encouraged, be challenged, and be blessed.

In short, as the Tabernacle of Moses housed the presence of God in the Old Covenant, so does the Christian body house the presence of God in the New Covenant.  There are a lot more details to enrich that statement, but to ponder on this thought ends up being a great privilege and a great responsibility.

In the Old Covenant, God set aside a certain man (the High Priest) from a certain tribe (the Levites) from a certain nation (Hebrew people, later Israel) to hold the awesome responsibility of representing the people in God's presence.  God manifested His presence above the Ark of the Covenant in a private, secluded, curtained-off room called the "Holy of Holies".   It was here that the High Priest received instruction concerning the well-being of the entire nation from God.  It was also here that the High Priest brought the sacrifice for the mistakes or sins of the people once a year.  

Throughout the years, these High Priests were the Mediators for the people.  They were also the Ambassadors for their God to the rest of the world.  However, God had an awesome self-advertising scheme as He led the Hebrew people in the daytime by a Pillar of Cloud and in the nighttime by a Pillar of Fire.  Whenever God desired His people to move - He told them, led them, and protected them.  We no of no other god (little "g") that met with it's followers like this or displayed itself in the might and power like Yahweh or Jehovah-God.

Today in the New Covenant, Christians do not have a Pillar of Cloud by day and/or a Pillar of Fire by night that leads, guides, and directs them - they have the promised Holy Spirit within them to move with and by.  Before Christ, God manifested Himself in many forms.  God displayed Himself in a burning bush, as "The Angel of the Lord", the middle or third man to Abraham and Sarah, and the fourth man in the furnace (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).  Then the Word of God came and was with us as the Son of Man, Jesus.  His perfect life and perfect sacrifice and resurrection fulfilled, for any who believe in His gift, all the original requirements set up in the Old Covenant meant to show humanity our imperfection, fallen relationship with God, and need for a Savior.  His provision of salvation was once and for all -  "whosoever will believe will not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16)!

Jesus now sits at Father God's right hand, but has sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within Believers as the Comforter, the one who leads us into all truth, and the one who convinces us of our righteousness in Christ.  The Holy Spirit is our resource on a very personal and daily basis that Christians can rely upon for guidance and direction.  Forgiveness has been taken care of by Jesus, the Bible is our life's manual, the Holy Spirit is God's presence in us instructing us.  He always brings to mind The Word of God or points back to Jesus in one way or another.

With this in mind it is important to recognize that Believers need to be sensitive to being carriers of God's presence - the Holy Spirit.  We are now the priests on earth with our High Priest, Jesus, in heaven sitting on the throne having paid for all of our sins.  We are now the Ambassadors of Christ, taking that great news that Jesus was not murdered, but loved us so much that He laid His own life down and picked His own life up again SO THAT "whosoever" believes in Him will have a redeemed relationship with Him and dwell with Him for eternity!  It is an awesome message entrusted to Christians everywhere, especially with current world and national conditions.  But with the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwelling within each Believer we can meet this TALL ORDER!

Monday, January 21, 2013

GOOD NEWS

I have got good news for everyone - you and I are forgiven!

All the wrongs you and I have made past, present, and future were blotted out on the cross of Jesus Christ.  All anyone has to do is recognize their need for a Savior, then accept His FREE GIFT of salvation.  It is not hard.  It requires a confession or a heart-to-heart prayer to Father God, acknowledging your status without Jesus and your need and desire of Jesus in your life.  Then there is repentance - turning from your old ways, 180 degrees and becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus (living a Christian lifestyle).

Father God got a hold of my heart and life in 1979 (9 years old).  Since then I have been living the Christian life the best way I knew how, BUT more freedom came for me this past week.  From the beginning of my Christian walk I knew my sins were forgiven, but I would live my life with God accepting the past as forgiven and not the present or the future as forgiven.  There would be times after messing up with God, I would pray for forgiveness, thinking that I needed to get right with God again.  This cycle or method kept repeating itself in order for me to feel my relationship with God was not broken.  I don't know how I got that misconception, but I am free from it now.

As a Believer in Christ Jesus, if you have had this issue also, I now encourage you in love - stop and consider this Good News.  Every time you make a mistake with God you may apologize, but there is no need to ask for forgiveness, YOU CAN NOW KNOW YOU ARE FORGIVEN AND ARE WALKING OUT YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE IN FORGIVENESS.  This spans your whole life and should spur you to live a Godly life.

Joseph Prince said it really well in his book Destined To Reign -
"Listen carefully:  We don't have to confess our sins in order to be forgiven.  We confess our sins because we are already forgiven.  When I say 'confess our sins', I'm talking about being open with God.  I don't go before Him begging for forgiveness.  No, I talk to Him because I know that I have already been forgiven.  I know that I can come to Him freely - He is my God, my Daddy God.  Forgiveness is not dependent on what I do, but what Jesus has done.  So confession in the new covenant is just being honest about your failures and your humanity.  It is the result of being forgiven and not something you do in order to be forgiven." (p.104)

John 8:10-11
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?'  She said, 'No one, Lord.'  And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'

"Now, pay close attention to this:  Jesus gave her the gift of 'no condemnation' before He told her to go and sin no more.  Yet, the church today says, 'Go and sin no more first, and only then will we not condemn you.' That's the reason people are shying away from churches.  It is not because they are rebelling against Jesus.  It is because they have not been introduced to the Jesus who gives the guilty sinner the gift of no condemnation!" (Destined To Reign, Joseph Prince, p.164)

"Jesus' method of countering sin is completely different.  When you sin, He says to you, 'Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.'  When you receive the gift of no condemnation from Him, you will know beyond any doubt that fellowship with God is never broken because the blood of Jesus continually cleanses you.  Believing that you are the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus and simply receiving the gift of no condemnation gives you the power to go and sin no more."  (Destined To Reign, Joseph Prince, p.166)

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

"Notice that for us, believers who 'walk in the light', it is not our confessions that cleanse us from all sin, but the blood of Jesus!  Notice also that this verse says 'walk in the light' and not 'walk according to the light'.  Walking in the light means walking in the realm of light which Christ's death has already translated us into.  Christians often misconstrue this to mean walking according to the light, thinking that darkness will decrease and light will increase if we try to stay in the light.  But that is not what this verse is talking about!  It is talking about us already being translated out of the realm of darkness into the realm of light.  One little word makes all the difference!  When we understand this verse, we realize that even when we sin, we sin in the realm of light!  So, if we sin in the light, we are cleansed in the light, and we are kept in the light.  This idea of us going into darkness when we sin is not from the Bible.

The Bible is so rich and full of treasures!  Did you know that even the word 'cleanses' in 1 John 1:7 is really beautiful?  In the Greek, the tense for the word 'cleanse' denotes a present and continuous action, which means that from the moment you receive Christ, the blood of Jesus keeps on cleansing you.  It is as if you are under a waterfall of His forgiveness.  Even when you fail, this waterfall never stops.  It keeps on keeping on, cleansing you from ALL your sins and unrighteousness.   
Beloved, confessing your sins all the time will only make you more sin-conscious.  But knowing that you are under Jesus' waterfall of forgiveness will keep you forgiveness-conscious.  And knowing that you are forgiven of all your sins will give you the power to reign over every destructive habit and live a life of victory!" (Destined To Reign, Joseph Prince, pp. 108-109)

So, in my life whenever I asked for forgiveness from God after screwing up, in a sense I was asking The Lord to pay for that sin again.  Now, I can change my wording and behavior and say something like - "Dear Lord, I am sorry for ______.  I recognize it was something you deem sinful and with your help I head in the other direction from that ordeal.  I praise you and thank you that you have already taken care of that mistake of mine on the cross and I don't have to cover this ground again!  In your name, Jesus, I pray, Amen."  

I and we as Christians can live in victory and forgiveness every moment of every day!  Hallelujah!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A VERSE TO HOLD ON TO

I have been sick since New Years Day (it is now January 16th).  I have prayed for a quicker release from this crud on an annual basis, but every year I have to let this stuff run it's course.  This year it seems particularly lengthy.  I don't have the flu, just a nasty - throat, head, sinus cold that is keeping me from plans I had.  Again, I have prayed and my wife and parents have prayed for me, yet once again it looks as though this "bug" will not be stopped short of it's full course.  I don't understand God's healing strategy for me and for a whole host of others in this same "boat".

I rebuke the notion that I am not exercising enough faith.  That reeks of condemnation and God through Paul said in his letter to the Romans - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (8:1).

I have been believing in Isaiah 53:5, as many Christians do when sickness or a physical challenge presents itself.  "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."  But not only is God slow to anger (Ex.34:6), it seems He is slow in healing.

Last night I vented this to my earthly father.  At the end of our discussion he said, "I love you."  That was just what the doctor ordered!  It transferred in my spirit over to Father God's voice and I proceed to go to my room and have a heart-to-heart with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of Pastor Dial's last sermon - True Worship - and his bodily example on stage of being flat on our face, stretched out and surrendered before God.  So, I followed suite.  As I did, the Holy Spirit prompted me to just begin focusing on what Jesus has already accomplished for me in my life and praise Him.  So, I was there for a while.

Toward the end of my time with the Holy Spirit, The Holy Spirit dropped a verse for me to hold on to during this experience and I'm sure others to come.  Allow me to give you my paraphrase of the verse first.

There will be times when we experience small troubles compared to others (light) and troubles that we know that "this to shall pass" (momentary).  However, these troubles are working on our behalf (achieving for us) to store up some kind of heavenly reward that far exceeds the summation of our earthly troubles (an eternal glory that far outweighs them all).

I hinted at the verse in parenthesis, so here is the actual verse out of 2 Corinthians 4:17 -
"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

To all Believers who have or may be going through this or other kinds of difficult times...be encouraged.  And try worshiping in the midst of your "storm", I'm sure the Comforter (Holy Spirit) will Comfort.


Monday, January 7, 2013

IMHO (UNC BASKETBALL - Nov. 29th - Present)

It has been a while since In My Humble Opinion has come at ya with an opinion but there has not been too much to talk about concerning Carolina Basketball.....unfortunately.  Here is a synopsis of my observations since last time I reported.

I have been to the Dean E. Smith Center to take in four games so far this season.  Even in the wins I've seen in person or on t.v. UNC manages to look and play undisciplined.  Forget teams that have had or may have an inside presence.  When the Tarheels play against a team full of pure shooters, especially loaded with three point specialists, it is lights out for the Heels.  Their weakness, since it's inception, has always been the three point shot.  Now we get to add no defense for an inside game to the equation as well....wonderful (sarcasm included).

The young team, sprinkled with vets, is.......

  • making poor decisions on/off the ball
  • not communicating  (zigging when needing to zag)
  • heavy on the turnovers
  • scoring is tough against a mediocre - good defensive team
  • not capitalizing on opportunities
  • not relying on basketball fundamentals
The list could go on.

It does not help this team that there is NO FLOOR "GENERAL" - someone to direct the other four teammates to the proper places on the floor and be a motivator.  In addition, not only can Carolina not defend a big man inside, UNC itself does not have a go-to man in the post/paint this year.  And even with all the numbers of guards or guardplay players the Heels have, teams that can run like Carolina teams in the past will have an advantage also - I've seen it - Indiana.

Well, I guess one can't expect too much from the freshmen, just what you get.  Two players, Strickland and McDonald, are both coming back onto the court from sitting all last year with injuries.  MacAdoo was expected to really shine but he is showing that he was just an average player on a team of great ones.

ACC play for the Heels is already ugly with them dropping an "L" at VA.  Are the Heels even gonna make the NIT this year like they didn't some two or three years ago?  Hang on Tarheels fans it is gonna be rough, oh, wait it already is........go heels.