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