Thursday, December 18, 2014

ACTING LIKE FAMILY


Ah, Famiglia or Family. Do you want to read a really strong statement about Family? If so then read this -

  • "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." - 1 Timothy 5:8
Wow! I did not know it got worse than being an unbeliever. However, Paul was stressing to Timothy the importance of family and there is plenty of Scriptural history to support family faithfulness.

Inside the family of the Old Testament I noticed lineage or heritage was vital to a healthy unit. As a family member, important duties were to serve God (Korahites were Tent Guards), daily chores, and extend the family name through trade, marriage, and offspring. An efficient run family always seemed to have their hierarchy in order and functioning properly. Several times I observed the heads of families going before Moses, Aaron, and God representing their family. Gideon questioned God how he could use the least of his family, himself, to do God's work (Judges 6:15).

When you were a part of a family in the O.T., you were connected, you did things as a unit (Judges 16:31; 1 Samuel 1:21). However, what happened to you, directly or indirectly, affected others in your family also (Judges 8:27; 1 Samuel 22:16). An "all for one and one for all" mentality prevailed, whether the other members of the family liked it or not. This was not healthy for some families because of certain bad apples that kings or officials targeted for death. The families then would also die as a result of this family member's mischievous actions (1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 10:17; 2 Kings 11:1).

Jumping to the New Testament, there were times when what happened to one-and-all was good. Luke documents for us in Acts 16:33-34 a jailer and his family's salvation - At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God--he and his whole family. This was for an unbeliever who heard the message and songs of the Gospel from Paul and Silas at the midnight hour, who themselves were in the bottom of a prison in stocks and chains. So, what about the believer in Christ and his/her family?

To come full circle, consider 1 Peter 4:17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? How we treat others starts with how we treat ourselves. This begins in the immediate family unit, ramping up to the bigger family scene (aunts, uncles, and cousins), but finally spreading into one's church family. If we don't care about the needs in our family and help when we know we can, then judgment is upon us and we cannot help others within the Church Family. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church? (1 Timothy 3:5) I know there are some family members out there that have not decided to follow Jesus, keep praying and planting those seeds. In addition, The Entire Family needs to hear testimony of Lord's goodness. Jesus said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." (Mark 5:19) One of the few times you will see Jesus not restrain somebody from telling what happened to them or telling who He is. Galatians 6:10 sums it up nicely - Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. We are family, it is high time we start Acting Like Family.






Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SOUND JUDGEMENT


Everybody makes decisions everyday. A decision on anything is a judgement rendered, so how people can say, "Don't judge" is beyond me. Everybody is making judgement-calls all the time. Everyone is judging. Everyone is a judge. Maybe what they should really say is - "Don't condemn me." or "Don't damn me." or "Don't pre-summarize me or my situation."

The passage many love to quote from The Bible when making a point about judging is Matthew 7:1-5. The original Greek word for judge in this Scripture is krinō (kree'-no) -
  • Properly to distinguish, that is, decide (mentally or judicially); by implication to try, condemn, punish: - avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think. [e-sword was my resource]
The catch in all this is that people withdraw what they need from this Scripture to attack or defend others and leave the rest as letters on a page.

Let's observe the passage -
  • "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Let's just examine the first sentence everyone is familiar with - Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Now read and hear what is not written. He said it is better not to judge but when you do judge expect the same in return. Why else would Christ even entertain the part after the coma - "or you too will be judged" - if in fact there was no possibility of us judging anyone to begin with.

Secondly, Jesus goes ahead and says we will judge in the next sentence - For in the same way you judge others... The rest of this passage details the return judgment one receives. The same manner and degree ("measure") we judge someone should be expected in like turn  - "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." A blatant expectation that we will judge is delivered here.

As the passage continues believers are encouraged to take care of our own large, glaring matter(s) many may know about in our life ("plank in your own eye"). First, if Jesus can see "the plank" and call you a "hypocrite", then chances are others can see it too, especially when you go to critically correct or condemn another.

Notice we will still be able to administer counseling after we take care of our own house first - "the plank" -  first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. So there is still a removing of the speck from your brother's eye, that has the potential of turning into a plank. However, first things first, your own speck that has turned into a plank needs tending.

So many times I see and hear people fly-off-the-handle or get out of control with their words and emotions over a judgement that was given. Sometimes that judgement was given with the best motives, but for whatever the reason many become defensive and pull out just the first verse of this passage for attack and defense purposes. Whenever a judgment is rendered toward you, consider the source, context, pray and go from there.

I still prefer to help someone knowing that they need it. If you have the answer to an issue that someone is struggling with and you can help them I would hope you at least try. James 4:17 admonishes us - Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. Your attempt to help may come across as judging their situation, and you are because you know and have something better, but at least you can say the answer was presented to them. If they reject you, your judgement, and solution then that is on them.

So, what I read and hear Jesus telling me and the rest of us, especially Christians, is - "Don't be so fast to pass sentence on someone. However, when you do judge another, cause you will do it, even if it is to help with a "speck", try to judge yourself in the same area of judgment first, making sure your own house is in order before casting your wisdom. Then when the same measure comes around in your direction, you will not be found lacking but will have delivered Sound Judgment." 

Monday, December 15, 2014

GOD'S APPLAUSE


Now and forever, I desire to be somebody God applauds. There are some people in The Bible that I wish to present to you as examples of People God Applauded. So, without further ado.....

Let me start with integrity. God applauded Noah for his right standing with Himself and integrity ("blameless"-ness). His reward - Noah "walked with God". (Genesis 6:9) Later on in Scripture we find integrity important again. Nehemiah said of Hananiah that he was a man of integrity, feared the LORD, and was put in charge of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 7:2).

Belief or trust in God brings an applause from Him so great that Abram experienced it as pure approval before an animal sacrifice had been requested or established and before the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus Christ, was sent to purchase our redemption with His life. God "credited it to him as righteousness" (right standing with God). What an approval! Abram's righteousness was given on credit and that because He believed. (Genesis 15:6)

Faithfulness was big in God's eyes concerning Moses. In front of Aaron and Miriam, Moses was commended by God as "faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD." (Numbers 12:4-8) Wow! Talk about somebody having your "back"! Plus, what an endorsement! Hmmm...what can faithfulness do for you?

Zealousness for God is something the LORD likes to recognize. God praised and rewarded Aaron's grandson, Phinehas, for being zealous for God when nobody else would. Phinehas turned God's anger away from the Israelites and received a covenant of peace and a covenant of a "lasting priesthood". (Numbers 25:6-13) I am zealous for God's Name. Are you zealous for God?

Many times a project that is done with half the care can be noticed "a mile away" as just that - done poorly and with half the care needed. Caleb and Joshua were hailed for their "wholeheartedness" in Numbers 32:11-12. Joshiah had this awesome quality also (2 Kings 23:25). If you desire to be a leader or are already a leader, this is a great quality because Joshua, Caleb and Joshiah were great leaders who had this great quality.

Ahithophel's advice was acclaimed to be "like that of one who inquires of God" (2 Samuel 16:23). What a wonderful characteristic to have available. Sounds like God blessed him to be able to live out Proverbs 15:23A man finds joy in giving an apt reply-- and how good is a timely word! Spend time with The Word and you will always have A Word. The next step is knowing when to administer it - timing.

Honest and upright living is important to God. It was important to a handful of kings also. Asa, Jehosophat, Joash, Amaziah, Azariah, and Jotham were all kings that "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord" but they did not tear down the High Places (places filled with idols). (1 Kings 15:11, 22:43; 2 Kings 12:2, 14:3, 15:3, 15:34) In order to get the full applause and not just a golf-clap, make sure your life is clean of idols.

God values and praises men who are heads of their families, men who are consistently selected to work for Him on special tasks, brave warriors (spiritual and physical), and outstanding leaders. The "men of Asher" were such men (1 Chronicles 7:30-40). Wow! Men in touch with their masculinity. Hurah! Knowing your position and filling it - God applauds this.

The LORD actually "sought out" the man that would be after His own heart and "appointed him leader of His people". - David (1 Samuel 13:14). God is still seeking these types of individuals - unified with Him in body, mind, spirit, and heart. I reckon there is not a whole lot of things that are better than being on the same page with God about His Plan for my life. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:24My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

Dedication. Mordecai was a man dedicated to preserving his people, the Jews, under King Xerxes. His determination and loyalty was rewarded by God as the second in command to King Xerxes, preeminence among the Jews, and high esteem. (Esther 10:3) Want your dedication to be rewarded? Submit your desires and plans to God first. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3Trust 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)

Ezekiel's obedience garnished him Holy support in difficult times with difficult people. God said to Ezekiel of him - "they will know that a prophet has been among them". (Ezekiel 2:5-6) When you need support from God with and/or through a challenging situation, follow-through on obedience to His Word. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:10)

Wanted: Availability. Before God sent Gabriel with His message to Mary about her conception, God knew she would have a willing heart and say such a thing as "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38) This is why Gabriel greets her with his words - "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:28) A willing, flexible, obedient heart will always receive God's favor and presence! And in Mary's case High Favor!
_____________________________________________________________________

Above the line are great examples of God listing and applauding, praising, and/or encouraging those individuals in their strengths. They are also great illustrations for us to follow. The next few individuals I want to share with you are what I feel are especially profound examples of God's Applause.

Probably one of the biggest examples of God applauding someone is when Solomon asked God for wisdom to govern His people and not long life, wealth, or the death of his enemies. The Scripture records God's response this way - The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.(1 Kings 3:10) In fact, God was so pleased that He granted Solomon his request and what he did not ask for, so that in Solomon's lifetime he had no equal among kings. (1 Kings 3:7-14) What you request of God has the opportunity to summon heavenly applause. Take the time to align your requests with His purposes.

Hezekiah is an old testament figure I would like to sit down with when I get to Heaven. This king did what was right, was modeled after David, removed the High Places, trusted in God, held fast, followed God, and kept the commands of the LORD. His reward - the presence of The LORD, success in whatever he did, and the defeat of his enemies. He would be like no other king before or after. (2 Kings 18:3-8) A great king to model.

There was an example of faith that received applause or praise from Jesus that was superior to everyone else. A certain Centurion soldier had a sick servant that he asked Jesus to heal. He recognized Christ's authority to speak healing anywhere and anytime and requested Jesus not bother with the travel. The Bible records, "When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matthew 8:10) Wow! A Centurion got it! Not a disciple. authority recognized Authority. What authority do you recognize as governing your life?

Perhaps one of the most grand applause statements that I found was Jesus speaking about His cousin, John the Baptist. I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11) I got to this verse and all the other people I studied seemed to diminish as Christ named Himself greatest, then John the Baptist second.

Probably the ultimate applause or praise from God was made not just once, but twice, verbally about His own Son, Jesus. The first time the approval is heard is Christ's Baptism - "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) The second time it is recorded is at The Mount of Transfiguration and God adds a little something of importance at the end - While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matthew 17:5) It is now that the Body of Christ, the Church, with Christ as the Head needs to proclaim even stronger The Good News to the world. And the world desperately needs to "Listen to Him!"

These people I present and these certain individuals I magnify are to encourage you and me in the same way as they were applauded. I pray that believers everywhere will practice all the great strengths and positive characteristics that God praised concerning these members of the Kingdom. Our Christian life, our Christ-like journey should not and does not stop with our salvation. I YEARN to hear God say, "'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'" (Matthew 25:23) I have a craving for God's Applause.



Thursday, December 11, 2014

JUST A MIST


We are fragile human beings that cannot begin to comprehend the delicacy of our existence. James describes life as a mist. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14) The phrase - "Here today, gone tomorrow" - comes to mind.

1 Corinthians 13:12 gives a great analogy to just how close the spirit world is to our material, tactile existence. The verse reads - Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. When the shepherds heard the Good News of Christ's birth from the single angel that visited out of the night sky, Scripture adds - Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, (Luke 2:13-15). Our next chapter of existence, should we pass before The Rapture, seems but a breath away behind a veiled, one-way mirror of the spirit world.

Although we should not live in fear of the next breath being our last, we should value every one we have and make them count. Tim Robbins character in "Shawshank Redemption", Andy Dufresne, suggests a great plan - "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'."

It is all about who you know. The one who has mastered this chapter and the next, the physical and the spiritual, gets my trust, my faith, and my life. To my knowledge, there is only one that fits this description; one that conquered life, death, hell, and the grave - all for you and me. Other options have you work toward your supposed salvation. The one I know, bids only you come as you are and accept His sacrifice as the finished work of salvation over your life. His name is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Reader, I express this extreme vulnerability that we all face in case you are at a crossroads or decision-making point in your life. The eternal truth is That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9) With life being so fragile and short, don't miss out on "life more abundantly" (John 10:10) now. Choose Christ Jesus as your Hero, your Savior, Lord, and Friend because life is Just A Mist.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

OUT FROM UNDER THE SHADOW


The wrath of God is like a huge, over-sized boulder in the form of God's hand hanging over you every second of your life.

When you are born, the size of the boulder and fury of His wrath is the same for all.
whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18)

For God could take His hand-like boulder and crush the universe if He pleased.

You are so blessed that God does not relax and release the great boulder of a fist that hangs above you even now.

Jesus was God's "gentle answer" that "quiets anger"(Proverbs 15:1). The boulder-like fist of Father God's wrath came crashing down in full on Christ starting on that night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Christ's eternal, unconditional love and unmerited favor bore the full weight of everyone's fallen condition.
For those who would believe, Jesus stayed Father God's anger and intolerance with sin and it's associations by taking the wrath/the punishment all upon Himself.

Underneath the shadow of God's boulder, God's fist, God's wrath - Christ went for us - He was crushed for our iniquities. (Isaiah 53:5)

Out From Under The Shadow we can come - whosoever believeth in him should not perish , but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. - Romans 8:1-2




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FROM MOUNTAIN TO MOLE HILL


A newly arrived soul in Heaven was met by St. Peter. St. Peter and the soul took the A-tour around Heaven. They walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with angels. St. Peter stopped in front of the first section and said, "This is the Receiving Section. Here, all petitions to God said in prayer are received." The soul looked at the section, and it was terribly busy with many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.

They continued on until they reached the second section. St. Peter told the soul, "This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them." The soul noted again how busy it was. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally at the farthest corner of the room, the soul stopped at a very small station. To the surprise of the soul, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. "This is the Acknowledgment Section," St. Peter told the soul.

"How is it that? There's no work here?" 

"So sad," St. Peter sighed. "After people receive the blessings they asked for, very few send acknowledgments."

"How does one acknowledge God's blessings? 

"Simple," St. Peter answered. "Just say, "'Thank you, Lord'."

"What blessings should they acknowledge?"

"If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep .... you are richer than 75% of this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish ... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy. And if you get this on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who has that opportunity."

Also........

"If you woke up this morning with more health than illness ... you are more blessed than the millions who will not even survive this week. If you have never experienced the fear in battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation ... you are ahead of 700 million people in the world. If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death ... you are envied by, and more blessed than, three billion people in the world. If your parents are still alive and still married, you are very rare. If you can hold your head up and smile, you are not the norm, you are unique to all those in doubt and despair." [source of story:  email from a friend]

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks in the midst of trials, not because of them. Honor God by acknowledging Him as the Mountain Mover in your life and give Him thanks that He promised He would never leave you or forsake you. Do this IN ALL your circumstances, then you and God can tackle the mole hill. It all starts with Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN


"Revelation 19:8 reminds us that every believer will be present at the wedding feast dressed in the finest white linen, which the Bible says represents the righteous deeds we have done. These good deeds are not so we can enter heaven. God has already invited us and made the way. However, what we will wear to the wedding feast will be the garment we sew ourselves. I once heard a Bible teacher say, 'Has it ever occurred to you that at the marriage of the bride to the Lamb, each of us will be wearing the wedding garment of our own making?' How we are dressed on that day will depend on the life we have lived for Christ. Make sure that you will be beautifully dressed on that day by living for Christ today. The marriage of the Lamb is an event that is certain to happen. Someday the Bridegroom will come to take His bride to His Father's house. Make sure you are living a pure life for your loving Bridegroom."

[pages 229-230, THE END, Mark Hitchcock]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

YOUR EVALUATION


So you are "Saved", "Born Again", a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.....a Christian. Now what? "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." (Romans 6:22) "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23) But Wait There's More!

Scripture portrays God not only as a judge but as a rewarder. "...anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) For all Believers in Christ since Pentecost, there is coming a time when we will stand before the Bema Seat or Judgement Seat of Christ - "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is a review of and reward for "the things done while in the body, whether good or bad". As I stated in the beginning, you are saved and the work of Christ is a Finished work. There is no judgement concerning our salvation - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:1-2)

"Second Corinthians 5:10 says every believer must face judgment 'according to what he has done, whether good or bad.' But what does Paul mean by 'good or bad'? What are these 'bad' works? The word bad is the Greek word phaulos, which refers to 'bad' in the sense of worthless, or inferior in quality, not in the sense of evil. They are what we might call bad good works. What makes these things bad or worthless? They are done with the wrong motive (1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13). They are good things in themselves, but done for selfish reasons. Such motives are not worthy of reward, despite the good that results from them. (They are probably parallel to the'wood, hay, or straw' in 1 Corinthians 3:12)." [p.209, THE END, by Mark Hitchcock]

This is a challenging word for living a quality life now and seeing a great reward from Christ Jesus later. Someone who builds his/her character with eternal values, manages life with faithfulness, and displays discipline, focus, and dedication - will certainly not lose their great reward. To imagine 1 Corinthians 4:5 is mind-blowing - "At that time each will receive his praise from God." Among other rewards Jesus might have for us, Scripture mentions Five Crowns.
  1. The Incorruptible Crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) - to the self-disciplined and self-controlled
  2. The Crown of Righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8) - to those looking and living for His coming
  3. The Crown of Life (James 1:2; Revelation 2:10) - to those who suffer and faithfully endure for Christ
  4. The Crown of Rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19) - soul winners crown
  5. The Crown of Glory (1 Peter 5:1-4) - those who oversee God's people (pastors, elders, teachers, etc)
Of course all these Crowns will be laid back down at the feet of Jesus (Revelation 4:10-11). It is because of Christ that I have been made into His likeness and changed from glory to glory. It is totally deserving for all the glory to return to Him.

The next time you are in an evaluation, remember there is a Heavenly one coming that will place all of our actions, words, and attitudes into God's Holy Furnace of purification. Christ warns us in Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16 - "that if we serve God to receive praise and notoriety from others, we had better enjoy whatever accolades we receive, because that is all we will ever get. Remember Jesus' words in Matthew 20:16: 'Those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.' Jesus judges our motives. He sees it all." [p.210, THE END, Mark Hitchcock] What we do now counts toward an eternal reward that we get personally praised for by Christ, but that we immediately place back at His feet because He re-created us for His purposes. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17) The ultimate evaluation will happen one day....are you ready? Will Jesus be able to say to you, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" ?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ENOUGH

The Sin Nature at it's core says, "That is not Enough. What you have and who you are is not Enough. Has God really limited you?" ("Did God really say...?" - Genesis 3:1) The notions - do it yourself, you are all that matters, take matters into your own hands - contests God and His word by saying to God's face "You are not Enough" and eating of "the forbidden fruit". Rebellion feeds rebellion.

The nature of sin keeps the void in man's heart, mind, and spirit empty or unfulfilled. One's lifestyle in sin then is consumed with not Enough. It wasn't Enough for Lucifer to stay in his lofty, blessed position. He totally believed The Lie he told himself - "I will...." usurp God's throne, power, and authority (Isaiah 14:13-14). His fall was so fast, furious and finite that he would attempt to infect God's image with his same sickness. The Lie he told Adam and Eve was "You will not die", but you you will be like God knowing Good and Evil (Genesis 3:4-5). He even comes across as portraying God as threatened by this act of self-ambition - "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:5) I can almost hear Satan saying, "Oh my! What will God do then?" Misery loves company and Lucifer's misery started the moment he became proud in his heart on account of his beauty and corrupted his wisdom because of his splendor (Ezekiel 28:17). What he had and who he was - was not Enough and to his last breath he will attempt to drag all of humanity and creation down with him (John 10:10).

Life for humanity was like this UNTIL Jesus paid the sacrifice with His life and displayed His victory through His resurrection - this was Enough! Whatever the want, whatever the need - provision was paid in full at The Cross and conquered through The Resurrection. Philip asked what all knew to be a dangerous proposition, but was willing to take the risk none-the-less....... Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." (John 14:8) Jesus was disappointed in this statement. After all the time he had spent with them - sharing great teachings, displaying miracles, and proving His divinity they did not get that Jesus was acting and speaking directly on God the Father's behalf. In the very next chapter, Jesus makes sure they know His link with their lives and ours - "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) No notion that a man is an island unto himself. No idea that by your own strength you can be all you can be. No inference for us to take matters into our own hands. Our total success depends on our joining and continued link with Jesus Christ, The Son of God, Lord of lords and King of kings who is........Enough.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"THERE'S ALWAYS TWO".......AND SOMETIMES MORE


Batman and Robin, Obi-wan and Luke, Han and Chewbacca, Abbot and Costello, Sunny and Share, Bo and Luke Duke, Simon and Simon, Donny and Marie Osmond, The Wonder Twins, or you and your best friend.....make a great pair or dynamic duo. These are just a taste of life teaching us that when it comes to living, relationship(s) not "solo-ism" is the better choice.

Scripture supports this decision to have a close friend or friends in which you share life and maybe even your work. People like God and Adam, Adam and Eve, Moses and Aaron, Moses and Joshua, Mordecai and Esther, David and Johnathan, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Silas, and Priscilla and Aquila - were Biblical examples of dynamic pairs. There are pieces from each relationship/partnership that I hope I have and will attain in close relationships of my own.

Sometimes there were more than two! Daniel had his friends...Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The Disciples had each other. When the local churches started, they too had each other and shared a lot with each other, including their finances. There is strength in numbers. A small or large group of friends can be a great support group and takes some degree of pressure off the best friend relationship or mentor relationship one might have in addition to the group friendship.

I am blessed enough to have both kinds of relationships - a couple of close paired relationships and a group of friends - to share life. I don't know how anyone could be a hermit and live alone. Maybe it is just the way I am wired. But what life and Scripture teaches us about relationship, I believe we are all wired to experience and keep relationships and the "hermits" of the world are just the introverts of the relationships. So, be encouraged. If you feel lonely, know that you are never alone and that if you seek, you will find There Is Always Two.....And Sometimes More.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ONE DAY CLOSER


I had a physical challenge recently that put me in the hospital. At this writing I am still tending to my needs and throughout my experience I kept coming back to a single thought - I am one day closer to full recovery.

My wife, Tanya, commented - "That's a good attitude and perspective to take on this, keep it up." So, I am. My slogan is filled with Hope. It also reminds me of Romans 8:23-24we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. For in the saving of our souls for eternity at The Cross, our bodies were saved for redemption also. The manifestation of this redemption of our bodies is still future - "For in this hope we were saved". The next two verses follow-up nicely - "But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently."

Believers in Christ are one day closer to the return of Jesus. What a hope! Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 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." 

Another thing to look forward to is the believer Not going through the "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again." (Matthew 24:21) The Holy Spirit, through Paul said Christ rescues the Believer "from the coming wrath" in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, not through it. Christ comes FOR His saints, IN THE AIR, before a time in history called The Tribulation Period -

  • For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
This is a different return that is described than the one we see in Zechariah 14:4, 1 Thessalonians 3:13, Jude 1:14, and Matthew 24:31. These passages speak of Christ's return TO earth, WITH His saints to judge the nations and set-up His Millennial Kingdom.

These two phases of Christ's return and Jacob's Time of Trouble in between (7 year Tribulation Period) The Rapture and Christ's Glorious Appearing justify the hope Believers have for their future. The salvation message was already known at this point. What Christ saved people from - the deserving eternal punishment - does not come into play as "the coming wrath". No, the wrath to come is just how Matthew recorded Jesus saying it will be.......there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22) I am saved from that. What a hope for my spirit, body, and future. What a God! My plans are to see Him at any moment and every day that passes is One Day Closer! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

PAUL'S CONVINCING


It is one thing to hear a great orator speak on any topic and be convinced or swayed on the idea presented. It is a similar thing to have a wonderful word-smith convince or prove his viewpoint(s) should be yours. But there is a totally different power behind a speaker or author who has experienced what they are convincing you about. I see Paul fitting into this last category as he says in Romans 8:38-39I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul went through much hardship in his adult years. His suffering for Christ's sake was even foretold from the get-go to Ananias by The Lord - But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16) However, it is not just his spoken words that I am sure gave people inspiration. It is not just his and The Holy Spirit's written words that brought many direction and enlightenment. But when I observe Paul's life and hear him say - "I am convinced" - I know that life is the instrument and God is the Teacher of what I am to be convinced.

I believe Paul's first encounter with The Lord was so powerful that the experience shook him to the core. The encounter was unforgettable. The extra is that God did not leave Paul with that awesome conversion experience to get through the rest of life. God promised sufferings for His name would come Paul's way and they did. But God.....saw Paul through each one, even the one calling him home to Heaven.

There have been several Convincings in my life to reflect on and He continues to assure me of His love and care. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Are you convinced or being convinced also? I desire greatly to arrive where Paul did and say with ALL of my mind, heart, soul, and strength......."I am convinced..."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HOW SELFISH ARE YOU?

The doctrine of imminency is a reality that changes how we live in the present age. This expectation certainly changed how the early church lived. The early church adopted a special password to identify themselves and to greet each other: Maranatha (1 Corinthians 16:22). It is an Aramaic word that only appears once in Scripture. It consists of three Aramaic words: Mar (Lord), ana (our), and tha (come). It's a kind of one-word prayer - 'our Lord, come.'

Maranatha only makes sense in light of the imminent view of the Rapture. As Renald Showers says, 'It's instructive that the early church coined this special greeting to reflect their hourly hope, eager expectation, and ardent anticipation of the Rapture. No doubt this expectation motivated them to pursue personal purity, devoted service, and evangelism. Think of how the church would change today if we were to adopt this greeting for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Think of how our lives would change if this simple greeting were always on the lips of an expectant people.' "
(p.172, The End, Mark Hitchcock)

Mr. Hitchcock addresses a motivation of The Rapture that should spur the Christian to action - evangelism. I am not a parent, but mine are still alive and I have many friends who are parents. To those who are parents or who have ever mentored or even babysat - "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

If you are a Christian, you are a parent of sorts. You are a parent over the unbelievers and hurting in this world. You have The Answer for their eternal souls and you can help their specific hurt by just reaching out into whatever the need. You can ask of the Father in heaven and Jesus said of His Father - "how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" With the Rapture and the benefits thereof inevitable the question for you and me, now and everyday is - How Selfish Are You?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CONTENTMENT

Where would we be if everybody, believer or non-believer, was content with their life? There would be no advancement, no promotion, no growth and/or maturity.

For the Believer in Christ, my belief is that Contentment in Scripture does not mean thinking you have arrived where you need to be for the rest of eternity once you accept Christ as your Savior. It does not call for the believer to sit on his/her butt or be inactive. I believe The Bema Seat Judgment will prove this out when believers will be rewarded for their deeds by a purifying, Holy fire - some escaping the flames with just their salvation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). So, if Contentment is not idleness what is it?

Contentment is not being anxious about anything, but trusting God in everything. The song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" applies here. But more than just being happy and waiting on God to move, many times he calls for believers to be proactive. Psalm 46:10 states "Be still and know that I am God." However, "Be still" in the original Hebrew (raphah) does not mean a compete halt to activity. The word means to slacken or continue your activity while waiting. Allow me to add - continue your PROACTIVE activity while you are waiting. Not that you would be guilty of jumping the gun like Abraham did with Hagar. Abraham flat out distrusted and disobeyed God about the promised child - Issac. If you keep obeying God and are proactive in seeking out His will for your life, while you are still and watching for God's move, then I believe you are in line with contentment.

If you lift Philippians 4:12 out of the Bible by itself and do not interpret it in context - Contentment will be misunderstood. Here is that verse alone - I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

Contentment or the lack thereof is often found alongside money and it's trappings throughout Scripture.Taken in context or looking at the surrounding verses and what Paul was saying and doing - we find that Paul was thanking the church at Philippi for their monetary gift of support. In his letter of thanks he mentions how he has seen rough times and great times of life, but he has learned The Secret of Contentment or non-anxious living - I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (v.13) The next word of the next verse - "Yet" - signifies that even though God had Paul's back, the church in Philippi did the right thing - they "shared in" Paul's "troubles". - Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.

It is not enough to be idle and it is not worth it to be anxious about anything. In fact, the rest of the Philippians 4:6 verse many of you are thinking of right now says, "but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." With a hotline to Heaven available to you at any second, anxiety should be a thing of the past. In the meantime, Christ uses His parable of The Ten Servants to communicate that Christians should Occupy until He comes back. Luke 19:13 - And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy tillI come. (KJV) Or in the New International version it is stated like this - So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.' No halting of ministry in that picture.

Knowing who you are and what you have in Christ Jesus at all times while continuing to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) is how I view Biblical Contentment.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SALT OR FRESH WATER SPRING?


What kind of water spring do you have flowing from your speech, flowing from your life? Are your words like salt to wounds and contain a sting or sarcasm that is hurtful? Is your life full of bitterness or a judgmental spirit that nobody enjoys keeping company with? Or when you speak do your words resemble fresh water, the kind that is encouraging, uplifting and supportive in it's nature? Is your life pouring out and drenching others with "pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, good, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17) actions? James 3:7-12 explains it like this.......

James 3:7-12

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Yes, Christians are called to be the Salt of the earth. However, these two phrases or conditions have their differences - salt of the earth and salt spring. The phrase salt of the earth refers to something Christians should be or apply themselves to be toward "earth" or humanity in order to improve the world. I believe the phrase salt spring refers to words and actions that should not reside within the believer because fresh water is made to appear in the verse above as comparable to the praise and goodness that should come out of our mouths.

I have known people and even dated a person whose every other comment had a critical, sarcastic, negative bite to it. I confess. I am not perfect either. At times, not often, I have done the same. My spring is a fresh water spring, but sometimes my salt water filter fails because I don't start the day off meeting the Man At The Well. In Other Words.......I have the potential to say and do the right things because of the Holy Spirit living within me, but I choose my words or actions because I did not start off the day proper by thanking Jesus (The Man At The Well) for the day and asking His guidance and blessing over my thoughts, words, and actions. So, which are you - a Salt Or Fresh Water Spring?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

THANKFULNESS...A LIFESTYLE TO DEVELOP

"Don't you want more? More horsepower. More gigabytes. More legroom. More testosterone. Nothing silences grumps [like me] like gratitude. To say thanks is to cross the tracks from have-not to have much,....
Gratitude is a dialysis of sorts. It flushes the self-pity out of our systems.

In Scripture the idea of giving thanks is not a suggestion or recommendation; it is a command.

  • 'Give thanks in everything.' (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Satan focused on the single fruit they [Adam and Eve] could not touch. 'Eat it, he hissed, and you will be like God.' (Genesis 3:5 NLT)  What if gratitude had won the day? Suppose an unbedazzled Adam and Eve had scoffed at the snake's suggestion. 'Are you kidding? Begrudge what we cannot eat? Have you seen this place? Strawberry patches. Melon field. Orange groves. Blueberry bushes. Let us take you on a tour, snake. We will show you what God has given to us.'

Had they chosen gratitude, would the world be different?

If you choose gratitude, will your world be different?

God's solution to any challenge is simply this: a grateful spirit. No mist is so thick that the sunlight of appreciation cannot burn it away.

How do we die with gratitude? We live with it. We thank God for the. . . ."

The next time Satan tempts me with not enough I plan to show him the altars, the banners, the miracles, the wonders, the thankfulness of my life. The next time I am in prayer to The Lord I plan to remember to enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart. (Psalm 100:4). Thanksgiving sets the proper perspective, tone, and attitude for God who is deserving of my gratitude through Christ Jesus my Lord. Thank you Lord!

(within quotes arranged by me from pp. 81-92, Chapter - Thank You, Before Amen, Max Lucado)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE POINT OF IT ALL


The point in God establishing The Law was for humanity to realize it can only be kept by a perfect person.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. - James 2:10 

God is love. The only way to break the cycle of the Jewish annual sacrifices and include the rest of the world in the plan of salvation was for (1) God's Word to become human, (2) live a perfect, sinless life, fulfilling The Law and (3) then die for everyone's broken, sinful condition upon a cross. Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." - Matthew 5:17

Our relationship with God from physical birth until acceptance of Jesus as Savior is damned. whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18) Praise God - "Mercy triumphs over judgment!" (James 2:13) First there is a changing of one's mind or thinking called repentance. "Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 2:38) Then there is believing, where one's thoughts about what Christ did for you sink deep into your heart. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Next the changed individual declares it aloud as a joyous proclamation - "if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:9-10) A last thing to consider is to be baptized. and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also--not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)

"...now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6) ...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

However, do not let your faith stand alone. "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (James 2:24) "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do." (James 2:17-18) Allow the amazing grace that founded your faith to now work through you and display it so that others will be attracted to it, The Faith, Jesus - The Point of It All.

Monday, October 13, 2014

AMERICA AND THE CHURCH


An individual, or in the case of this writing - a government/nation that operates with envy and selfish ambition, like America, will soon see the end of it's days. "if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:14-16)

Do we not find "disorder and every evil practice" even at the very top of the American government? Yes, we unfortunately do. Our nation's source of wisdom has shifted drastically over the years to ourselves. Now that God is dramatically fading from the national picture, the times where God is called upon is even with the wrong intentions. "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:1-4) The "weeds" of American government are choking the "good plants" of the American people growing next to them (Matthew 13:22-30). All the while our leaders source of wisdom is their own.  "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8) It is a condition called - the blind leading the blind.

However, Christians have The Answer for those who desire the other source of wisdom. "But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:17-18) I encourage every Christian to share in this heavenly wisdom. Be pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive to God, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial with The Gospel, sincere and a peacemaker. In addition, be their "salt" or "saltiness" that is so greatly needed. "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)


In the time of Jesus, salt was used as -  (1) a preservative, (2) for flavor, (3) as an antiseptic, (4) for protection from evil spirits, and (5) as fertilizer.

  1. Where there is death there is decay. Christians bring a preserving force of God's presence here on earth. 
  2. The world is going to have it's take on things and Christians should always be ready, willing and able to present God's Word as flavor to a stale world view. 
  3. Jesus is the Great Physician and we are His Healing Salts. We need to be open to how He wants to apply us to a world of moral decay. Be available to be used as a disinfectant, cleansing agent or a tool to stop the bleeding, the spread of infection or speed up the healing process. 
  4. Salt does not need to be placed around windows or doors anymore to ward off evil spirits. God has empowered the Believer with the Holy Spirit for effective living. We have the salt and the salty life that provides protection, safety, deliverance and freedom to an imprisioned world. 
  5. And Just as natural fertilizer helps plants grow, Christians should impact those around them to improve every area simply by spreading the salt - God's Spirit and Word - found within.
In which camp do you reside? Are you contributing to America's disorder and evil practices due to selfish ambition? Or are you influencing America and the world around you as the Salt that is desperately needed?


Friday, October 10, 2014

TRY REMEMBERING


There is a gripe I have that I wondered if God shared with me. I feel strongly and practice to the best of my ability - Remembering. What did you say? Exactly my point! Sarcasm included. There are important dates, times, and events that I share with family and friends who turn around and forget what I have shared with them. The forgetfulness can be on the scale of covering several weeks with me reminding them within those weeks to just forgetting five minutes ago. I forget things too. However, there seems to be a lot of forgetting with me and what I have been sharing with others lately.

I allow for people who have a busy schedule and know that the world does not revolve around me - I get that! However, when this happens repeatedly with the same people, I begin to wonder if they sincerely care. Doesn't it mean the world to you when you have shared personal information with someone you trust and they check up on that subject with you later on, especially when you least expect it? It shows they have paid attention to you in the first place and cared enough to commit it to memory FOR REGURGITATION later on.

In Scripture, the word remember is found throughout the Old and New Testaments. However, my study just drew from the New Testament. Here are some of my findings.
  • In Matthew 16:9, Jesus seems aggravated about forgetfulness. Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 
  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:5, Paul also exemplifies this air of aggravation. Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?
So, praise God I am not alone! Now that I know I am not Biblically alone, I know that with Jesus and Paul disturbed about followers remembering - this matters! So, what are some things we need to remember about remembering?
  • Use remembering as a future source of gaining direction. John records in his Gospel, 16:4, Jesus telling us that remembering is key for His Plan later on in our life. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.
  • Utilize your recall ability to retrieve the memories of people who have helped and supported you. This brings a great appreciation for the relationships God has blessed you with. Paul describes remembering as a pleasant enough experience to thank God for someone (Philippians 1:3). I thank my God every time I remember you.
  • Practice remembering as a mechanism to enter into prayer for someone. Paul describes remembering as a tool for prayer in Colossians 4:18I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.
  • There are even certain people to remember. Paul emphasizes remembering your Christian leaders and imitating their faith in Hebrews 13:7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
  • Then John touches on remembering in Revelation. He views remembering as a retro-spective measure to appreciate how much you have lost and gained. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:5)
  • John also uses remember as a first step that then spurs one on to action. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. (Revelation 3:3)
Wow! So, I encourage you - when engaged in dialogue with friends, Romans, Counrtymen (a little sidetracked there).....ANYBODY - do your best every time to make eye contact, pay attention, soak up what they are saying and Remember. Why? Because Remembering confirms to somebody they make a difference or influence in your life and in this world. It ministers to the heart deeply. In the effort of "Loving God, By Loving Others and Serving God, By Serving Others" (my church's mission statement).... Try Remembering.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

AN EFFECTIVE AMBASSADOR


Let me be honest with you, sometimes my words and actions are not very Christ-like. I am definitely a work in progress. However, there are times when I have wished for my words and/or actions back, realizing it did not represent who I want to be in Christ.

The Holy Spirit has given no leeway, no wiggle-room in living as an Ambassador for Him. God should not give the Believer any variance to the left or right because of the tremendous price He paid for our redemption - His own Son, Jesus Christ. But, praise God His mercies are new every morning. 

Indeed, He died for me, I'll live for Him should be our life's mission statement. Such a vow is strongly supported in 1 Peter and Colossians. 
  • Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 4:10-11
  • And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. - Colossians 3:17
  • Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, - Colossians 3:23
With phrases like "in all things" and "whatever you do", the ambiguity is non-existent. I need to be holding everything I do and say accountable to the very real presence of The Lord in my life. It is a different mentality to think of doing everything as if Christ was physically standing right there beside me. I know He said He would never leave me or forsake me and I am thankful for His faithfulness. He is by my side and has ever been by my side wanting to give me more of the best - Himself. But I am not inclined on a daily basis to think in this manner. As an Ambassador for Christ we carry a message from Him to the world every day AND should live a lifestyle that is so attractive, people pause to consider it for their own.

"The gospel is not habit, but history. The gospel is the declaration of something that actually happened. And since the gospel is the saving work of Jesus, it isn't something we can do, but it is something we must announce. We do live out its implications, but if we are to make the gospel known, we will do so through words." (Ed Stetzer) 

There are things I do and say that are in line with living solely for Christ, but whatever I do and in all things is still a daily challenge. One of the best quotes I have heard recently is again by Mr. Ed Stetzer. He says, "A Godly life should serve as a witness for the message we proclaim." In this vein, I repent or change my thinking and ask the Holy Spirit to help me be a Full-Time, Effective Ambassador for Christ.

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. - Ephesians 6:19-20

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

OZ MEETS SCRIPTURE


In "The Wizard of Oz" the Tin Man's journey led him to finding a heart. The Lion's journey found him courage. The Scarecrow's journey granted him smarts. Dorothy's adventure resulted in observing all these and that Love binds them all which for her was found at home.

In a similar way, the Christian's journey must take a path that develops one's integrity. The heart, courage (especially to witness), knowledge, and love that a Believer in Christ matures in is crucial for personal growth and a healthy appreciation of our true Home - New Jerusalem and New Earth.

Scripture deals with each one of these areas. Proverbs 4:23 mentions the importance of the heart - Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Wellspring in the original Hebrew, tôtsâ'âh  tôtsâ'âh
(to-tsaw-aw', to-tsaw-aw') means the outgoing issues. So, whatever issues you hold dear in your heart, guard those because they will find their way out to aid you in life.

Courage, especially in witnessing, can be silent, but with time running out fast speaking up and out by the Christian is desperately needed. The tongue or words we choose to say should be extremely pre-considered and screened through the Holy Spirit. I am so guilty of Not following through on both accounts in many of my daily interactions. Here is just a taste of what the Holy Spirit says through James - The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:6-8) When the moments to say what YOU really want to say come - STOP, ask the Holy Spirit what would make Him proud of you to say and for the words, then speak.

"Knowledge is power" (attributed to Sir Francis Bacon) is a true statement. Do you want to be able to test and approve what God's good, pleasing and perfect will is? Then shed or metamorphize from your highly world-influenced self into a Christ-minded/centered person by performing some serious mental and spiritual renovation. That was my paraphrase of Romans 12:2. Here is the actual verse - 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. The key here is to renovate your mind. Do some spring cleaning with the Holy Spirit about your thought life, identify what should not be there any more and replace it with what should.

Knowledge is power, but it is not everything. Courage to speak and act is extremely helpful, but it is not the all-in-all of a Christian's development. You could make a case for the Heart, especially with the words "Above all else" in front of it being everything. However, wherever you place Love, in the mind or heart or wherever - Love is everything. "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. ...13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 13) I believe we see everything, including Love, very poorly right now because of our fallen state. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:12) This makes me look forward to what Love will be like in the New Heaven and New Earth but makes me want to meet the need for Love more now than ever before.

So, your heart should be guarded and set apart for Christ. Your speech should be guarded and set apart for Christ. Your mind should be guarded, transformed, renovated and set apart for Christ. And your Love for God and others should be active with the excitement that your efforts will see you mature into a man or woman in Christ who is filled with integrity.

Monday, October 6, 2014

GOD SPEAK


Mom used to say, "If you don't have anything good to say, then don't say anything." Well, if you don't warn or notice the bad things then others may succumb to a deception or "pothole". However, there is some wisdom in that statement. Ephesians 4:29 admonishes the Christian - Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Paul continues a chapter later by stating - Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4) That is where I believe my mother was operating from - a clean speech policy - God Speak in the house and anywhere.

Isn't this "help" the sole reason Christians open up their mouths and share anyway? We have the best encouragement, hope, and answer for anyone. In his second letter to the church in Corinth Paul says, It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, (2 Corinthians 4:13) And to the Romans Paul gets a little more specific - I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done-- (Romans 15:18) Paul magnifies the point that his words and actions have been nothing but Christ focused. In fact, this Christ centered speech and activity have God's seal of approval. Paul says to the church in Thessalonica - we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)

It makes ALL the difference who you are speaking for and about. They [false prophets] are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. (1 John 4:5) With God's approval and entrusting of The Gospel, the perfect testing grounds for witnessing is simply talking about what God has done for you. Nobody can take that away. "We [Christians] have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:12-16)

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (Ephesians 4:25) Keep a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:16) Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord," (Ephesians 5:19

As long as Christ is reigning through Christians who have surrendered their tongue to be tamed by the Holy Spirit (James 3:1-12) then the world has the opportunity to hear God Speak.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ONE DAY.......


A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 

On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 

On that day there will be no light, no cold or frost. It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime--a day known to the LORD. When evening comes, there will be light. 

On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter. The LORD will be king over the whole earth. 

On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up and remain in its place, from the Benjamin Gate to the site of the First Gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the royal winepresses. It will be inhabited; never again will it be destroyed. Jerusalem will be secure. 

This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day men will be stricken by the LORD with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other. Judah too will fight at Jerusalem. The wealth of all the surrounding nations will be collected--great quantities of gold and silver and clothing. A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps. 

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. 

On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 14)

This is what the LORD says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain." (Zechariah 8:3)

"Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." (Zechariah 8: 4-5)

"I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God." (Zechariah 8: 7-8)

"The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. (Zechariah 8: 12)

As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong." (Zechariah 8: 13)

"Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, 'Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.' And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him. In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.' " (Zechariah 8:20-23)

Friday, September 26, 2014

QUALITY WAITING (For The Rains And Harvest)


The word "Autumn" appears a handful of times in Scripture. The NIV has it recorded in Deuteronomy 11:14; Psalm 84:6; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:3; James 5:7; and Jude 1:12. Most of these verses refer to seasonal rains - "the autumn and spring rains" - that God would provide for the harvest of that same season.

The one verse among these that the Holy Spirit magnified was the James 5:7 Scripture.
  • Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
Right off the bat the Lord spoke to my excitement of seeing Him soon in the first sentence by saying - "Be patient". Then the Lord called my attention to us as spiritual farmers and how some of us plant, some water, some harvest, but God makes people grow or mature toward Him and in Him (1 Corinthians 3:6). Notice also the land does not just yield a crop, it yields a "valuable crop". I call these people not just Decisions for Christ, but Disciples of Christ! Individuals who continue to develop as a Christian. 

Then James mentions that the farmer has the quality of patience by observing how he "waits" for the harvest. He is patient for seasonal rains that will bring a seasonal harvest. "In Jude 1:12, false teachers are compared to “autumn trees without fruit,” implying that autumn should be a fruitful season, the most abundant of the year." The Lord can and does move at any time on anyone He chooses. However, I felt impressed upon by the Holy Spirit that this Fall and Spring, God will send an amazing spiritual rain in the Autumn and Spring that the Church will harvest within the same seasons.

How can we take advantage of these upcoming seasons? Obey God, trust His foreknowledge, and be patient knowing He has a plan. "The world may fade, the stars may fall, the seasons may change, and winter may come. But the God who has been our help in ages past is our hope for years to come. In Him we have permanence, stability, joy unshakable, and life unending." In the midst of the changing seasons, one truth, one person never changes - Jesus. His nature is the same yesterday, today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8) For me who wants to rush everybody into the Kingdom and have God hurry and call us home, I hear the Lord saying loud and clear, "Not yet. You still have to exercise Quality Waiting."

(Source for Green Italic Quotes = http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/reflections-of-autumn-and-its-lone-appearance-in-the-bible-11559337.html#comments)