Monday, March 25, 2013

YOUR DAILY CROSS

Jesus said to His disciples - "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." - Luke 9:23

There is a formula that Christ outlines here -

Answer = A + B + C

"Come after me" = Deny yourself (disown/abstain) + take up your cross daily (self-dying, calling, commission) + Follow Christ (not be a "fan", not have Jesus follow you)

If anyone would come after me is the answer to the equation.  The rest of the arrangement is how one gets to that point.  We are encouraged to deny ourselves.  In the original Greek that meant disowning one's self or abstaining from selfish desires.  We all have to take care of daily needs, but when it comes to time and energies correctly spent - Christ gets first dibs, then others, finally yourself.

We are also encouraged as part of the equation to take up our cross daily.  Think about the audience Jesus was speaking to - His disciples.  Taking up a cross AND on a daily basis did not appeal to anyone, especially observing Roman crucifixions all over the countryside as a normal control factor for the Empire.  It is strong imagery meant for a strong message.  From the time Jesus arrived as a little baby onward, He was always working on His calling - to die for the sins of the world - His Cross.  So we see in this verse that Jesus requests His would-be Believers that their burden or calling for God be picked up daily, even if it somehow means death!  Something that is going to cost you and me because He required of us to be "living sacrifices" (Romans 12:1) - walking around in service to God and others in some form or fashion.  This is the kind of payment it cost Him and He is not going to ask more than He was willing to give.

The personal qualifier for taking up your cross comes in verse 24 - "whoever loses his life for me will save it".  I believe this verse can mean both who literally loses his life and who humbles his life.  You don't see many new Christian converts going around killing themselves.  However, one is expected to accept that risk along life's journey as we humble ourselves in the meantime.

Finally, we are encouraged to follow Christ.  We have denied ourselves, taken up our cross, and now it is time to actually follow Jesus.  The original Greek word for "follow" here is akoloutheĊ.  This means properly to be in the same way with, that is, to accompany (specifically as a disciple).  Let us get something straight right away - you can't follow someone if you are in the lead.  We need to follow Him daily, He does not follow us around and adhere to our agenda.  That is not a follower.  Also, someone who talks a great talk about the faith but does not show anything - those individuals are called fans.  They may have good intentions, can cheer for others, but never have any inclination of getting involved.  This is not a follower.  In Christianity there are many fans.  Jesus did not call the Disciples to come be a fan of Himself.  No.  Jesus said, "Come, and follow me..." (Matthew 4:19)

Are you considering becoming a Christian or going after Christ with more passion as a Believer?  Then first read all that Christ Jesus did for you in Scripture and then you can disown yourself, take up your calling, and discover what it means to follow Him.  He died for me, I'll live for Him.

Take Up Your Cross by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (Turn up your speakers and hit play)


Monday, March 18, 2013

A PLACE I WANT TO BE

One of my favorite events of The Bible describes a place of maturity in my Christian walk that I desire to acquire.  The passage is Daniel 3.  The account is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace.

Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar called a meeting of all his "big-wig" officials.  Before this meeting, the King had a statue built in his likeness and a decree transcribed to convey that anyone who did not worship King Nebuchadnezzar or his image at the sound of music would be killed by being tossed into a fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - who were really Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Daniel 1:6-7) - were three Jewish administrators appointed by the King at the request of Daniel over the province of Babylon (Daniel 2:49).  They heard the decree but were not going to bow the knee.  Then some "astrologers" (interesting category of palace people) came forward and called-out these three Jews on their disobedience to King Neb.  

When the three Jews were summoned before Nebuchadnezzar, the King seemed to want to give them another chance and make sure he was clear to them on the consequences (Daniel 3:14-15).  The Jewish response is where I want my maturity level to be with all my major mental, physical, and spiritual challenges in life.

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." - Daniel 3:16-18

There are times in life when we may think we are not given a choice in a matter.  With the Jewish Three they knew where they stood with their God going into the situation.  They had a Holy Confidence about them that placed their trust and decision-making totally in the hands of their God.  It is so important to know who you are as a Believer in Christ!  There are so many additional benefits to being called a Child of God through faith in Christ Jesus!  What impresses me so much is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not have Jesus walking with them as the Disciples did years later.  These men had a faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob via a faithful track record to rely on as their foundation.

Now-a-days, Believers in Christ have the power of the Holy Spirit available to them in their daily lives.  His power, strength, confidence and inexhaustible benefits are ours to be tapped into.  Too many times when challenges come my way I get easily flustered and distracted by the details of the problem or issue and forget that I can go into any situation just like The Jewish Three did - boldly, knowing who they were in God and leaving the decision (all the way to death) in God's hands.

I can hear Paul's words in his second letter to Timothy now.....For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7  
Now I need to remember to act on that!  Amen.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

THE WALKING FORGIVEN

After I became a Christian and committed my first sin as a Believer, I believed that particular sin and any others that I didn't catch that became past sins were covered by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross.  From then on, anything I knew was a sin or felt badly about I asked for forgiveness.  Now-a-days, I am finally getting the message - all my sins are covered, taken care of, paid for.  Jesus Has Not come back and offered to die for each individual sin as they have happened over the years.  Neither has Jesus come back time-after-time to die for my sins that I would commit.  He has died once and for them all (past, present, and future).  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. - 1 Peter 3:18

This does not give me a license to go out and sin simply because Christ has flipped the bill for my eternal soul.  No.  Instead of giving me a "freedom to sin", I now have AND desire to live in the freedom Christ secured for me.  I have a freedom to totally trust in Him and His plan for my life.  I have the freedom to serve Him by the plethora of ways that are available to me.  I have the freedom to simply love Him and others as I should, because He first loved me and now dwells within me by the power of His Holy Spirit.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. - Galatians 5:1 

I write this idea with cheap words - flipped the bill - because it is exactly opposite to me.  To others Christ's payment is just a heavenly ticket punched.  However, I try my best to acknowledge in my mind and heart the sacrifice Father God made in sending His Word for me.  The Word of God and Father God had never been separated in eternal past.  When Jesus was on The Cross, Holy Father God could not look upon all of sin as it was cloaked on the body of Jesus.  So, when Father God turned His head He was allowing the wage/payment of sin, which is death, to overtake Christ's body.  Then Jesus said those lonely words, ""Eloi, Eloi," "lama" "sabachthani?""--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" - Matthew 27:46

The Price was to high for this payment to be re-occurring.  All the world's sins - past, present, and future - (mind blowing) have been paid for in full at one time.  Everyone is walking around forgiven - Believers and Unbelievers alike.  True, we all come into this world as a Fallen Being.  Our relationship with God needs restoration and redemption.  We are sinners far from Grace, in need of a Savior, and fallen far from the glory of God.  However, Christ has already come and redeemed ALL, restored ALL, and saved ALL.  The Believer just needs to walk in the freedom that is provided through Christ's forgiveness.  The "unbelieving" world need only accept wholeheartedly the gift Jesus provided as The Answer from a personal level to a global level and they will become a new creature in Christ, living out life following Him.  Christ has done His part and now awaits the Unbelieving, yet Forgiven world's decision to Come.  I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2

Thursday, March 7, 2013

THE BEST LINE OF CLOTHING RIGHT HERE!

The first clothing humanity put on their bodies was either a sheered animal or the first animal sacrifice.  Genesis 3:21 says,

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

So, the fact that the Lord God made the garments out of skin makes me select the latter - animal sacrifice - because an animal needs it's skin to survive.  Joseph Prince agrees with this by stating, 

"The Bible says that after Adam and Eve sinned by partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God 'made tunics of skin, and clothed them.'  The first time an animal was sacrificed to cover man's sins happened right there in the garden of Eden.  All the animal sacrifices in the Old Testament are shadows of Jesus Christ, who is the substance." (Destined To Reign, pp.219-220)

Since Father God sent His Word in flesh, Jesus, to visit humanity and redeem our relationship with Him, Believers in Christ can find three better outfits provided by our Lord.

  • Believers are clothed in His salvation because of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave.  
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. - Isaiah 61:10

  • Believers are clothed with power from on high because of the need to execute God's will for our lives.  
I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." - Luke 24:49

  • Believers will be clothed with a perfected body for heavenly and earthly dwelling because John 14:3 promises - And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." - 1 Corinthians 15:54 
AND 
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.  For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. - 2 Corinthians 5:2-4

For the Believer, what awesome digs to serve the King in.  First, the garment of salvation which is woven together with forgiveness, mercy, and grace - to name a few - covers us.  Second, our relationship with God through Christ allows us to draw from His covering of power on a daily basis in order to mature in our lives and help others in the strength and might of the Holy Spirit.  Finally,  God has a third clothing line for us to eagerly await - our sinless and sick-less bodies - Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. - 1 Corinthians 15:51-52  

All Believers are clothed in a line of clothing immeasurably better than the first garments given to humanity.  In fact, this line of clothing is the best you could ever possess!  Now wear it well!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ONCE UPON A TIME.......DISAPPOINTMENT

Once upon a time I thought I had a friend, but all those good memories we shared still did not make up for the amount of maturity he needed to achieve by this stage in life and he could not take some friendly, constructive advice from me and terminated our relationship.

Once upon a time family that I always visited, worshiped with, ate with, and created special memories with just stopped it's communication.

Once upon a time I had a vision of what my family and future would look like, but it didn't exactly work out.

I would bet that most of us can start out with this phrase "Once upon a time" and tell a different ending than happy.  I have had my share of disappointments so far just like anybody else.  And it is interesting to note that those disappointments come mainly from people closest to me.  Considering there is always somebody that has it worse off than me I am thankful for just a small taste of disappointment.

Life is going to deal it's disappointments.  They are guaranteed.  I used to not expect them at all.  I certainly don't look for them, that's a waste of my life and anybody else's. Who wants to live a life looking around every corner for the next sting, let down, or all out broadside?  Not me.

You and I can acknowledge their existence, not look for them in our daily lives, and attempt to shield ourselves when they come, but what will really begin to shape us is how we respond to those discouragements or disappointments in life.

For example, I have found with myself that with some things, if I do not listen carefully enough, I have a quick "knee-jerk" reaction to situations and I have disappointed myself with my responses.  I am praying the Lord will work on this with me.  I don't need to complicate the issue by having the wrong kind of reaction (i.e. blowing it out of proportion, not getting enough information, not allowing things to play out, etc).

The example above is because of me and with a little more discipline can be avoided.  However, there are some situations we just can't avoid.  In this case, we are going to either see disappointments and not be able to change them or we will just be blind-sided.  Again the key is how we respond and not react like my bad habit of the "knee-jerk reaction" described above.  To me reacting is a spur-of-the-moment answer to stimuli.  Responding, on the other hand, incorporates thinking through next steps.

Hopefully, when we choose to Respond, a helpful thing to keep in mind, especially for Believers in Christ, is what The Word of God says about this topic.  The first Scripture that comes to mind is the one that promises  everyone, especially the Christians, that we are NOT exempt from experiencing discouragements, disappointments, or "troubles".

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Thank the Lord for the last part of that verse - (1) Take heart.  (2)  Jesus has overcome the world.  Hallelujah!

Another verse to hold onto laughs in the face of trouble as something that would get in the way of our relationship with God through Christ Jesus our Savior.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? - Romans 8:35

So, when disappointments come our way just remind yourself there is no trouble that can keep God from loving us.  He showed us how much He loved us in that while we were still sinners God sent His Word in flesh, Jesus, to purchase our redemption with His life (Romans 5:8).  BUT He keeps on loving us in a myriad different ways.  I know, I have experienced it!

There is a new world coming where everything is going to be different.  Until that time, we are guaranteed trouble, but told it shall not touch the Believer's relationship with Christ.  So, what are the troubles for?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Troubles, disappointments, and discouragements are all opportunities.  They are opportunities for The Comforter to Comfort.  They are opportunities for us to mature in Christ.  They are opportunities for us to share the burdens and answers from God with others in this life possibly in the same situation.  We cannot walk this life alone.  It is all about relationship.  It is hard for us, for me, to see the opportunities in the disappointments when they arrive, BUT with God's help I, we, can develop a mature, keen attitude and perspective about these situations when they come.  Then we will be able to claim James 1:2-4.......

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Amen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD

My dad recently delivered the Sunday morning message to his church.  He gets this blog going by stating the following about Ephesians 6:17-20 - 

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains.Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

"What is it about our salvation that makes it such a critical piece of armor?  We need to have the full knowledge of our salvation and have the helmet firmly in place because if you try to enter the battle without it, guaranteed you’ll lose your head." (Dad/Tim Pritchard in purple)


Paul says in Eph. 6: 11 that we are to put on the whole armor of God, so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  The meaning of “wiles” is “method” or a road, or one avenue. Where does that road lead? To your mind. He only knows one way. He attacks your mind. The devices Paul mentions in Corinthians [2 Cor.2:11] are the deceptive mind games Satan plays with us.

“The moment someone begins to accept Satan’s lies as truth is the very moment those wicked thoughts and mind games begin to produce the devil’s reality in his life”. (Renner, “Dressed” pg 200) And he will tell you lies!

In fact Scripture has this to say about Satan - 

"...for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44

Satan intends to use these tools to break us down and get us in a state of vulnerability where he can fill our minds with doubt and make us ineffective in our spiritual walk.

He especially likes to attack the sufficiency of the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus. Too often we allow Satan to get us to add to the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Now, you can spend time trying to find things that His sacrifice did not take care of if you want to. But I’m telling you, it is a waste of time: JESUS TOOK CARE OF IT ALL!!

We must know the benefits that come with the salvation that Jesus purchased for us on the cross!

When we are saved we become a partner to a covenant signed by the precious blood of Jesus.  Because of my salvation: 
  • I am God’s child. 
  • I am Christ’s friend. 
  • I have been justified, redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. 
  • I am united with the Lord and am one with Him in Spirit. 
  • I am a member of Christ’s body.  
  • I have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.  
  • I am complete in Christ. 
  • His Grace is sufficient for all my needs. 
  • I am free from condemnation. 
  • I am assured that all things work together for good for me. 
  • I cannot be separated from the love of God. 
  • I have been established, anointed, and sealed by God. 
  • I am confident that the good work that God has begun in me will be perfected. 
  • I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind. 
  • I can find grace and mercy in time of need.
All of these promises are in Him, “yes and amen”. But we must keep our helmet on at all times. Once you put it on, DO NOT TAKE IT OFF.

This is not speaking to the loss of salvation, but to the forgetting of who Believers are in Christ and the many benefits thereof.  Understand and appreciate your Salvation through Christ at ALL Times, SO THAT YOU WILL....

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


Monday, March 4, 2013

CONVICTED BELIEVERS?

I have heard the Holy Spirit convicts everyone of sin.  Those that still need Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior definitely receive some form of conviction because they still need to make a decision to repent and follow the ways of Christ Jesus instead of continuing on a path of destruction.

Are Believers convicted in any way?  Does the Holy Spirit convict Christians?  I immediately think of Romans 8:1"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,".  However, for "those who are in Christ Jesus", the "no condemnation" refers to judgment.  This judgment from God is eternal death for your sin past, present, and future, which has been taken care of by Christ on the Cross at Calvary.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

With that being truth what about another Scripture from James that says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other" (5:16)?  James says to "confess your sins".  How can one confess a sin unless his heart, mind, and soul has been notified or convicted of it?  But wait we are Believers, we are not suppose to be convicted anymore are we?

I have a question for you - As a Believer are you perfect in your body on this earth?  No.  So, Christians still need the help of the Holy Spirit in prompting them when they have done wrong or are heading in the wrong direction, but be encouraged, the mistake you just made that the Holy Spirit prompted you about has been covered by the COMPLETE WORK of GRACE and FORGIVENESS on The Cross of Calvary.

God is NOT holding any sins against you or keeping a record of your wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5; Hebrews 10:17-18) - His Son Jesus, the perfect expression of love, bore all of your and my mistakes on His body while on the Cross!  Hallelujah!  When you slip up and sin, God is not waiting to clobber you over the head with guilt or condemnation. Guess who does that? - Satan.  When we make a mistake against God, Father God is going to point you to His Son and say, "Paid In Full".  That is Grace.  That is Mercy.  That is Forgiveness.  That is the Complete Work of Christ for us.  That is the God I love and serve!

The idea (spurred on by Brother Kerry Crespo) is that the Believer's mind, body, and spirit has been redeemed or paid for, in blood, by Jesus Christ.  Upon acceptance of Christ's salvation, (1) our spirit is reborn (John 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17) , (2) our mind has been renewed (Romans 12:2), but (3) our body has not yet manifested the restored aspect that was paid for by Christ (Romans 8:23; Matthew 26:41; Romans 8:10).

Reborn Spirit

  • Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. - John 3:5-6
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! - 2 Corinthians 5:17
Renewed Mind

  • Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2
Restored Body (eventually)

  • we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. - Romans 8:23
  • if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. - Romans 8:10
  • "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." - Matthew 26:41

We, as Believers in Christ, world-wide today, need so badly to walk in The Righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9)!  Put another way, we need to truly believe, speak, and live the Forgiveness and Grace that Jesus paid for with His life's blood.  Too many Christians seem to be living as if they have to somehow pay for their present mistakes.  They accept His purchase of their past sins, but have a "sin-block" on the present and possibly future shortcomings.  They also feel like Christ did not cover the particular circumstance they are going through.  There are a whole host of reasons our minds can conceive to explain away Christ's Complete Work of Salvation, but listen - Christ does not need to and will not die again and again for each of your sins.

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.  Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool,  because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. - Hebrews 10:12-14

Then he adds: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. - Hebrews 10:17-18

Notice our standing with God is in Jesus.  Our right standing or righteousness is in Christ and that is how Father God sees the Redeemed - in right standing through and because of His Son.  Our holiness or our life separated unto God, is a work in progress.  Our thoughts, actions, words, and character are all being shaped to fulfill the command of 1 Peter 1:16 and many other supporting Scripture - "for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (others - Eph. 1:4; 1 Thess. 3:13; 1 Thess. 4:17; Heb. 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15)

Therefore, the Believers part is to (1) recognize the wrongdoing, (2) submit a sincere apology to God, (3) request help not to do that again, and  (4) offer up a statement of thanks for Christ's forgiveness of that mistake many years ago.  If you want true freedom and want to walk in it daily, get a hold of this truth about His Grace and Forgiveness.

Christ has paid for it all!  Christ has paid for it in full!  I want to and will walk in His Grace and Forgiveness.  I want and will live for Him because of it!  Hallelujah!