Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A HEART CONDITION

1 John 2:15
"Do not love the world or the things of the world, if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him". 

The Apostle John states clearly who his audience is in verses 20-22 -
  • But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
So, he is writing to those who "know the truth" - believers in Christ. To the believers in 1 John 2:15 John writes instruction with a warning.

Let us begin with the warning first - if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Notice the verse does not say that the Father does not love him/her.  The verse says "the love of the Father" is not found in the person. The "love of the Father" can be viewed as God's mind, heart, or will and the extension thereof through the believer to the rest of the world. In the original Greek, the word "love" in this phrase ("the love of the Father") is the word Agape, meaning to cherish, devote, respect, esteem, and concern. This kind of love, this agape, this "love of the Father" is stated throughout chapter 2 of 1 John as how true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should act toward God and toward others.

The condition of loving the world and/or the things of the word prevents "the love of the Father" residing within the believer so that it may flow out to God's glory. Any believer can have the Father's mind, heart, and will - the second decision is what to do with it.  As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26) The first decision is to have the proper perspective of the distractions of the world - not loved. The word for "love" that John is directed to use by the Holy Spirit in the instruction and the first section of the warning - "Do not love the world or the things of the world, if anyone loves the world, - is Agapao, meaning to accept. So, God through John is saying "Do not [accept] the world or the things of the world".

The instruction, then, becomes simple and James helps John by saying, 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 4:4) Then Matthew contributes, but gets specific calling out the world financial system as a huge culprit of division - "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

For the followers of Christ, John lists a few examples of how the world or the rest of society will know you are different, follow Jesus, and most importantly - have "the love of the Father" within you.

  • We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.(v.3)
  • This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (vv.5-6)
  • Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.(v.10)
So, combining what we know about the Father's love that we should be exhibiting and the worldly love that we should be rejecting, the translation could read -

Do not accept the world or the things of the world, if anyone accepts the world, the concerns of the Father (the Father's heart) are not in him. [Pritchard Paraphrase]

Prayer:
Dear Father God,
Change my heart, make it ever new.  Change my heart my Lord to be just like yours.  Make your concerns to be my concerns. Make what touches your heart and what is on your mind to influence my decisions. Allow me to be a powerful instrument of your love.  In your name Jesus I pray...Amen.



Thursday, January 23, 2014

AN ANSWER TO OLD QUESTION

I have an answer to - "Is the glass half empty or half full?"

It is half empty.  The answer has nothing to do with me being a negative person or how I see the world or any of that nonsense.  The truth of the matter is that someone poured the glass full at one point, Not Half Full (why would anyone fill a glass half full).  THEN the glass was emptied to the point of half.

So, the owner of the glass at this point can either exhaust or empty the remaining contents OR request a refill of what he/she is missing, but either way the owner is lacking the first half - half empty is the answer.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

THE WORD IN THE PIT?

In conjunction with his message on Sunday, Pastor Dial read out-loud one of his favorite verses in a certain way that made my light bulb go on in my head and burn brightly! He quoted, 

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

However, when he said this verse, Pastor Dial paused right after the word "him" and right before the phrase "and he will make your paths straight" and that's all it took.  The light bulb came on.  I was especially locked onto every word he was saying after that and Got It!

It is a Spiritual Law.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a Holy Equation that cannot be falsified.  It is an IF...THEN statement without the "If" and "Then".  
(1) Trust in the LORD with all your heart (+2) lean not on your own understanding (+3) in all your ways acknowledge HIM (=) and He will make your paths straight."

Scripture will always confirm Scripture. The other Word that immediately came to my mind and spirit when I heard it spoken this way and heard it explained was Matthew 6:33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. This verse, like Proverbs 3:5-6, is a formula verse.  When I read this verse I immediately went into re-verse mode.  I asked, "So, what are all these things that will be given to you as well."?  Answer:  Food, drink, and clothing - noticed from the previous two verses. So 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. (Matt. 6:31-32)

As Pastor Dial continued his message series on "Making a Comeback", using the story of Joseph and incorporating Proverbs 3:5-6, I couldn't help but imagine the Lord speaking both the Proverbs verse and the Matthew verse to Joseph while he was in the pit.  In the pit, Joseph's perspective and attitude completely changed. For us not to see a record of Joseph not complaining anymore I believe he totally grasped his part and God's part in their relationship. Before the pit the focus was all on Joseph, a very selfish lifestyle.  After the pit we see Joseph directing his focus and reasoning toward God.
  • My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9)
  • "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." (Genesis 40:8)
  • Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it." "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." (Genesis 41:15-16)
After The Pit, Joseph was a man that needed direction, perspective, instruction, and the right attitude desperately. He immediately was in a slave caravan that sold him into servant-hood to Potiphar.  Then because of the lie of Potiphar's wife ended up in prison.  All of these stops in his life (caravan, Potiphar, and prison) were years taken up before he reached the palace. Some estimate Joseph was in his thirties when he finally reached the palace. All that time we don't hear Joseph complaining. All that time God's favor rested on Joseph. Why? Because he trusted in the LORD with all his heart, he leaned not on his own understanding, he acknowledged God....and the LORD then made his paths straight or made known to Joseph the direction in which to go.  He sought first the kingdom of God and everything else - clothes, drink, food and favor - was added to him.  Maybe, to Joseph, that was God's Word In The Pit. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DON'T FEAR THE PIT

I heard a teaching one time that was entitled "God Still Uses Cracked Pots".  The message referred to all the different lives in Scripture that had been challenged, weathered, and broken but still usable to the glory of God.  Lives with spotty track records, but a humble and trusting heart, which God redeemed for His glory and the redemption of other souls in the same or similar situation.

Lives like David, Peter, and Paul are examples of these "Cracked Pots".  David killed the husband of Bathsheba to marry her, but ended up being called a man after God's own heart. Peter a rough, prideful fisherman said he would never leave Jesus, but disowned Christ three times, yet the Holy Spirit was instrumental in his life in miracles, teachings, and the winning of souls. Paul, once known as Saul, hunted Christians to kill them, but later had an encounter with Christ so powerful it called for a name change.  These are just a few, but I never would have thought of Joseph's life, the son of Jacob, like this until I heard Pastor Richard Dial present it to the congregation in that light.

The account of Joseph's life can be found in Genesis 37-50.  However, for the "cracked pot" part of his story, as for many of us, just look at the beginning.

  1. He was a teenager (37:2). 
  2. Joseph was a tattletale  (37:2) 
  3. He is favored by Jacob. (37:3-4)
  4. He is cocky. (37:6-7)  
  5. Possibly dense in the head and took advantage of his father's favor (protection) or both. (37:9-11)
  6. Father's little spy? (37:14) 
Being a teenager in many cases gets you points deducted for lack of smart decision-making.  For Joseph it was no different.  He did not help matters by squealing on his brothers - was tending the flocks with his brothers, ...and he brought their father a bad report about them.  But his dad did not help out either. Even though we are not suppose to have or play favorites as parents, Jacob held Joseph as his favorite son. What is worse is that Jacob physically demonstrated this favoritism by making Joseph a coat of many colors. This just added to that hatred of Joseph within his brotherhood.  Add to this Joseph's swollen-headed attitude and possibly a family spy and you get a recipe for disaster.  Or is it?

Joseph's arrogance directs him to share a dream he might have wanted to keep to himself. "Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it."  I say he might have wanted to keep this to himself because of the brother's reaction and what Joseph does afterward - And they [the brothers] hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.  But what does Joseph do?  He has another dream and tells everybody about it once again.  This time the dream is more grand and involves not only his brothers bowing down to him but his parents as well. "Listen," he said, "I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me." When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. 

The next time we see Joseph and his brothers it looks as if the brothers are finally going to get a break from that little arrogant-blabbermouth-daddy's-boy (37:12). Ah!  We think to soon. Jacob sends Joseph to go check on them. "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." (37:14) Now he will probably be labeled as Father's Spy by his brothers. The brothers finally had enough of Joseph, as he approached their location, and decided to kill him. If it were not for God's Spirit on brothers Reuben and Judah to suggest an alternate plan, Joseph would be a dead-man.  Little did Joseph know that as he was walking down the path toward his brothers he was also walking down the path to his self-made pit.

Joseph was not left in the pit, but it was in the pit that personal transformation occurred.  The Pit was the pivotal point in Joseph's life. Down in that pit whatever adjustments God helped Joseph make (probably attitude) you can see this maturity right away in the next environment he is placed and situation that faces him. Immediately we see God's favor resting on Joseph as he serves in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh.
  • So he [Potiphar] left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (39:6-10)
Sometime later Joseph would find himself wrongfully in prison because of false claims of seduction against Joseph by Potiphar's wife. But still the favor of the Lord rested on him, even to the point where the warden no longer concerned himself with the prison. In addition, while imprisoned he interpreted the dreams of others. Although Joseph had to spend an extra two years in the prison, but in an elevated position, that gift of interpretation of dreams helped him gain an audience before Pharaoh and eventually secure a place in the palace.

From the Pit to the Palace, God knows all the details. Joseph, like the rest of us, just had to walk it out. Early on in many of our lives is where the rough edges occur. However, this does not mean God is not there. Joseph's dreams as a teenager were highly symbolic for a 17 year-old.  But he saw them fulfilled. He even saw the dreams of others that God interpreted through him come to past. The two dreams early on in Joseph's life were dreams planted by God and fulfilled by God with Scripture making it clear that God's favor rested on Joseph (39:2; 39:20-23; 41:38-40).  And why did God's favor rest on Joseph? Because he allowed the experience of The Pit to change him.

Before the pit Joseph MAY have taken advantage of the favor given him and ended up with even more issues to deal with than the hatred of his brothers.  Post Pit - Joseph matured and found some integrity somewhere in the dark recesses of a desert cistern and the slave caravan of the Ishmaelites that he was sold into by his family. He had ample chances to display bitter behavior going from the pit to the slave caravan to house servant to prison.  However, after The Pit, instead of being high and mighty, full of himself, and self-driven Joseph is humble, pliable, and favored.

So, don't fear The Pit in your life. In The Pit, believers in Christ, if they allow it, are transformed more into God's image. Christians are adjusted for more effective service in His kingdom. This equates to believers being improved as useful extensions of God's provision and love. Joseph allowed the change and witnessed God's favor and fulfillment of God's plan for his life as a result.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

A HEAVENLY SCENT

There is so much truth within the phrase - stop and smell the roses.  Even in the natural the phrase has profound effect, if you allow it.

The attraction of a rose is purely visual at first impression and usually from the bottom of the pedals up. Who wants to gaze longingly at the thorns on the stalk that makes up the majority of the plant.  Then there is the matter of their scent.

You probably can remember to a good degree of accuracy what a rose smells like. Even now, as you read these words, the sweet aroma that only a rose can produce is being recalled in your memory-senses.  They say that the sense of smell is the sense most closely associated with memory.  Want to remember where you have been, what happened at that event, and so forth?  Try to remember the scents in a given memory.

So, scent is powerful.  Especially right near the rose.  The question then becomes - are you going to stop?Stopping or even pausing now-a-days means your priorities are being challenged.  "Oh, I can't stop now I might miss this or miss that."   The reverse is also true - you will miss out if you do not stop. But many only see the beauty of the rose and move on.

To stop and smell a rose takes time, energy, and the decision to invest those - and for what?  Haven't you smelled a rose before?  So, why would one stop and smell the roses, especially if already having known what a rose smells like?  How about - appreciation?  Love for the smell?  Just to know it is still fragrant?  This last consideration is important to many, including me.  So, symbolically, if you are stopping and smelling me - taking me in - appreciating me - or investigating me for the first time, I hope I am pleasant and worth your stop.

Said another way - society creates chemicals to put on our bodies so we will hopefully stand out more to the sniffer and keep fragrant. Many of us do not know how much to apply to be pleasantly attractive to those around us.  Some just put deodorant on their bodies.  Others do not put anything on their bodies. What kind of fragrance are we producing today?

The Fragrant Incense of Scripture that was kept lit on the altar, spoken of in Exodus 30:7-10, was offered on a regular basis in memory of the generations to come.  This is a symbolic ritual that foreshadowed what Christ did for all generations at once on the Cross (Ephesians 5:2).  

2 Corinthians 2:16 speaks about our fragrance to certain audiences - To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. If you were to spend enough time around a rose or in a rose shop/garden you are likely to come away smelling like a rose. One of the titles of Christ is Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1). So, I encourage you to stop and smell the roses, especially The Rose of Sharon and you will likely come away smelling heavenly.