Wednesday, April 30, 2014

INSPIRING WORDS

Recently I read a quote by Mother Teresa that a friend of mine, Gail Tiffany, posted on Facebook. I'll get to the actual quote later, but at this moment I would like to paraphrase and elaborate her words and then show Scripture that accompanies that thought to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to action.

First thought is this world is getting more and more irrational and inconsiderate. With the whole spectrum of people not thinking things through and not caring enough to even give their best - how are we to respond? Forgive. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. - Matthew 6:14-15

Secondly, many have the mind-set that everything positive that comes their way is just-to-good-to-be-true. These individuals have a nasty habit of reading-between-the-lines when there is nothing to read. They are conspiracy minded, not very trusting people who always see a bottom-line mentality for both parties no matter what the subject. These people need every ounce of kindness we can give them. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. - Colossians 3:12

Thirdly, we all know of people in the world who desire to get something for nothing and they target you as their prey for their something (i.e. money, information, property, etc..). These individuals are cheaters. Don't allow these individuals to pour water on your zeal for being honest. Continue to be honest in your life. We need to be honest but clever with our responses to these people. Jesus challenged His disciples in Matthew 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Fourth, when Christians really grasp an authentic and intimate relationship with Christ Jesus then they can't help but be happy. Jesus calls it "Blessed", but the word is translated "happy" from the original Greek, in His sermon on the mount, The Beatitudes. The world is jealous of this happiness and tries it's best to reproduce it in a zillion different ways, but with no success. Matthew 5:3-12
Blessed [or happy] are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
So, in the face of jealousy over your happiness in the Lord, continue to be happy and/or blessed!

Fifth, if I die before the Lord comes again, I probably will be forgotten fairly quickly. James 4:14 calls the duration of our life here on earth nothing but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. What remains behind will be the relationships I established and my long-lasting, meaningful accomplishments. To this end Mother Teresa encourages, as I do through Scripture, do good in the face of being forgotten.
  • But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  - Luke 6:35
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:21
  • Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Galatians 6:10
  • For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10
  • Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. - 1 Timothy 6:18
  • And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. - Hebrews 13:16
  • Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. - James 4:17
Sixth, there is a saying - "There is always a bigger fish". This can mean that the "bigger fish" was the pursuer in a situation or the hunted in a different scenario. Giving your best in any circumstance is commendable, but the world is going to say, "So what, who can do this better?"  - every time. This does not mean we stop putting our-best-foot-forward. No, the perspective in all of our doing is - The Who (and not the band). 

Who are you forgiving for? Who are you being kind for? Who are you being honest for? Who are you being happy for? Who are you doing good for? Who are you giving your best for? 

I think and believe the answer is a tandem answer - God and you. For a healthy and mature relationship with God and others, Christians need to be - among other things - forgiving, kind, honest, happy, productive, and sold out. All of this to God first and then themselves. If this is established within the Christian's relationship with God then all these things will have a natural outward flow. It all starts with you and God.

"People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway."
-Mother Teresa

Friday, April 25, 2014

THE RACE OF LIFE


Wow! I feel like now-a-days the speed of life is like being on a train going at the speed-of-light and the brake manual is in another language. I observe people around me executing this kind of break-neck-speed lifestyle all the time. It's not such a wonder to how individuals running this race of life - the sprint - ever have time for family, friends, themselves, or God.

Paul talks about this sprint lifestyle when he wrote the first time to the believers in Corinth. He said,
  • Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. - 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
The word "race" in this verse is the Greek word Stadeeon meaning stadium or a race within the stadium that was measured out to be 220 yards long. This would mean the race was a faster paced race than the one Paul talks to Timothy about at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:6-7.
  • For I am already being poured out like a drink offering,and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Here the word "race" is translated Dromos in the original Greek. This means a career or longer course spread out over time. This is the kind of race that goes hand-in-hand with all the other Scriptures that encourage us to persevere and endure. The kind of Scriptures like - 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;struck down, but not destroyed.

and

Romans 5:3-4
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Problems have a way of applying the brakes to life. They slow us down some, but we are always itching to get back-up to "light speed". Why not change our perspective on The Race Of Life? Make your outlook on the speed of life as the Dromos or career length view. Bring your life's speed down to where you can see and appreciate all the people and events around you, then proceed from there. Pace thyself! 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself ? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." -Luke 10:38-42

To Martha the preparations "HAD" to be made. The worker-bee in her has a good heart, however according to the Lord's response - 
(1) Martha was "worried and upset about many things", seemingly not just preparations for Jesus. 
(2) "only one thing is needed" - Jesus is the provider of all our needs. With all the miracles He had done and would do, I am sure Jesus could have provided a dinner-spread fit for a palace if both would have "chosen what is better"
(3) "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." - Don't fault Mary for choosing wisely. Notice Jesus did not say that making preparations was bad, He said the choice to sit at the Lord's feet and listen to what He said was "better" and her reward is she gets to stay and hear my words!

Allow me to suggest some tools for slowing down to a point where you can get a handle on your pace of life. Meditate on God's Word and His creation. Drop the focus of you in this crazy rat race of life and pursue God's Word for your life. Also, seek a beautiful venue to visit and appreciate for a while. "Get out of Dodge" and "Stop-and-Smell-the-Roses" somewhere special. And if you are really adventurous try combining the two - meditate on God's Word in a remote, scenic location (i.e. mtns., beach, gardens, park, etc...).

Life does fly-by too fast for us NOT to try pacing ourselves at an appropriate speed to appreciate everything in The Race Of Life.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

THE ARID HOUSE

Recently an image and it's description prompted a study of a particular Scripture verse and passage. Here is the image and description.

The medieval village of Craco is part of an incredible region with undulating shapes and vast farmland. Since the sudden abandonment of the village, rumor has it that the ruins have become inhabited by ghosts.
[http://news.distractify.com/culture/rather-unknown-but-really-special-places-on-earth/]

With the setting of the village residing in an arid landscape and the mention of the habitation of spirits, The Holy Spirit dropped Matthew 12:43-45 into my mind and spirit.
  • "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
This section of Scripture is found in the context of Jesus replying to the Pharisees and teachers of the law about the request for a miraculous sign. He gives none, but speaks about the Sign of Jonah and how "the men of Nineveh" and the "Queen of the South" will witness at the judgment how this generation missed IT, missed HIM, missed Jesus. In addition, Jesus says the condition of this generation will get worse. Generation could mean a set number of years, but the original word in the Greek here ghenehah meaning age or period of time seems to include the upcoming years ahead for the Pharisees and the distant years to come.

When reading on in the passage I get a glimpse of how bad things are to get from the time Jesus utters these words forward. The key for me to understand this is to get a grasp on what it means for the evil spirit to return to the house it left and find the house "unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order".  In other translations, the versions interpret the spirit as returning to the same man's body it left.  But how can an evil spirit return to a body that is "swept clean"?  How can it influence a body that is "put in order"? Maybe an evil spirit can re-possess a spiritually or mentally "unoccupied" body, but that is just one out of three.

When researching the original Greek for each of these words they mean what they say and seem to apply more to a structure than the body of a person.  "Empty" (KJV), skholadzo, means to be vacant of a house; to take a holiday or vacation.  "Swept" (KJV), saroo, means to sweep.  "Garnished" (KJV), means to put into order, decorate or adorn.  I'll leave room for someone to spiritualize or allegorize these words and this image, BUT my take is that this is a literal house which an evil spirit is returning to that is empty (unoccupied), swept (swept clean), and garnished (put in order).

Next, toward the end, Jesus says - "And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." Why is his condition worsened? Because after the evil spirit arrived and found the house unoccupied, swept, and in order, it needed seven other spirits more wicked than itself to go in and live there with it. A body is not needed for the condition to be worse. This guys house now has eight evil spirits residing within - that is bad enough! 

With "empty" meaning to leave as in going on a vacation, the implication is that the owner will return to his house. The bad news in this situation is that he may have been previously delivered bodily from an evil spirit, but now an evil spirit awaits with seven other worse house guests.

Whether you take the meaning of "the house" to be the man's body or a literal structure of dwelling, both need Christ's lordship. Don't wait like Hezekiah upon his deathbed hearing the Lord, through Isaiah say, "get your house or affairs in order" (2 kings 20:1). Right now the atmosphere of everyone's house or home, especially the Believer in Christ, needs to be saturated in the love and care of The Holy Spirit, notably in these unloving and uncaring times. The body of the Believer - mind, body, and spirit - also needs to have the dynamite power of The Holy Spirit living within, So That in the trying years ahead he/she will be lead, directed, and guided into all truth. Protect yourself from having and being The Arid House.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

DECISION UNDER PRESSURE

Can you think of times in your own life when your walk with Jesus put you in an unpopular position with your peers? What did you do when you realized your commitment to the Lord was going to jeopardize your job or your status with your friends? Did you sacrifice your friendship and your status, or did you sacrifice your commitment to the Lord?

As long as Pontius Pilate thought he could stand with Jesus and keep his own position as well, he protected Jesus. But the moment Pilate realized that saving Jesus would mean he would have to sacrifice his own position in life, he quickly changed his tune and gave in to the demands of the unsaved mob who were screaming all around him.

Who was Barabbas? He was a notorious rabble-rouser who had been proven guilty of “sedition” in the city of Jerusalem. What is “sedition”? It comes from stasis, the old Greek word for treason, which refers to the deliberate attempt to overthrow the government or to kill a head of state.

It is interesting that treason was the very charge the Jewish leaders brought against Jesus when they accused Him of claiming to be king! However, in the case of Barabbas, the charge was real, for he had led a volatile insurrection against the government that resulted in a massacre. Nevertheless, Barabbas’ act of bravery, although illegal and murderous, made him a hero in the minds of the local population.

Luke informs us that this Barabbas was so dangerous that they “cast” him into prison. The word “cast” is the Greek word ballo, meaning to throw, which suggests the Roman authorities wasted no time in hurling this low-level bandit into jail for the role he played in this bloody uprising. The Roman authorities wanted him off the streets and locked up forever!

Pilate appealed to them again, “…Why, what evil hath he [Jesus] done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go” (Luke 23:22). Again the Roman governor hoped that a beating might satisfy the people’s bloody hunger, but “…they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed”(v. 23).

The words “they were instant” is the Greek word epikeima, a compound of the words epi and keimai. The word epi means upon, and the word keimai means to lay something down. When compounded together, this word meant that the people began to pile evidence on top of Pilate, nearly burying him in reasons why Jesus had to be crucified. To finish this quarrel, they threatened him, saying, “…If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar” (John 19:12). ["If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." - NIV]

Pilate was taken aback by the threat of treason these Jewish leaders were bringing against him. Once he heard these words, he knew they had him in a trap — and there was only one way legally for him to get out of the mess he was in. He had to make a choice: He could either set Jesus free and sacrifice his own political career, or he could deliver Jesus to be crucified and thus save himself.

When confronted with these two stark choices, Pilate decided to sacrifice Jesus and save himself.

Let’s make a decision today to never make the mistake of sacrificing our relationship with Jesus for other people or other things. Instead, let’s resolve to stand by Jesus regardless of the situation or the personal cost we may have to pay for staying faithful to Him.

Remember what Jesus said: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39 NIV). When we hang on to the wrong things, our wrong choices always costs us the most. On the other hand, when we let go of things we count dear and choose to give everything we have to Jesus, we always end up with more! So let’s be sure to stand by Jesus regardless of what we may have to temporarily lose or lay down!

Source:  http://www.renner.org/judgement/not-guilt/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-guilt

Monday, April 21, 2014

THE PLANNER...YOUR PLANNER

For those who say "life all works out how it's meant to" - what a cop-out on taking responsibility for anything. According to your view, everything has happened by chance - there has been no governing force. In that statement there is no belief in a god or a God, there is just "what will be will be". Where is the hope in that? There is none!

Allow for a better perspective, one that is filled with hope and a future.  The governing force I believe-in demands that I have faith and that without faith it is impossible to please and/or understand God (Hebrews 11:6). I don't have The Universe telling me what I should do next in my life by some event just happening to work out in some way, shape, or form. I do have the Creator of the universe as my God and friend - leading, guiding, and directing my footsteps and/or decision-making.

I am here to tell you, there is no life in living a "just let the chips fall where they may" kind of lifestyle. There is purpose in life and the most fruitful, the most hopeful, the most blessed, the most helpful, and the best outlook is a purpose driven one.  However, you must have a relationship with The Planner, Jesus Christ, before executing this lifestyle effectively.  Why do I label Him - "The Planner" - because Jeremiah 29:11 describes Him that way.
  • For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
I am here speaking with purpose to someone that is operating in this nonchalant lifestyle. I have The Answer for your now and your future.  I have your hope.  I can't keep it inside.  I have to share it with you then the decision is yours as to what you do with this information.

Allow me to expose you to what Jesus, The Planner, said about Himself - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  He could have stopped after the first sentence - the declaration of who He is, but He continued.  The second sentence drives home the purpose of the first sentence - in case the reader did not get all the "the's" ("the way", "the truth", "the life"), Jesus says, "No one" approaches or has a relationship with Father God "except through me".

By accepting this relationship as the governing force in your life and discarding "life works out how it's meant to" thinking, you embrace purpose driven life. The Way, The Truth, and The Life - Jesus Christ - The Planner becomes Your Planner! (and there is none better!)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE POINT OF DEATH


Among the many things that Isaiah 53 prophesied about Christ's sacrifice for humanity, a few stand out -
  • "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering,...he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed."

If you have ever seen the movie The Green Mile, I imagine Christ's taking up and baring our pain and suffering much like how Michael Clarke Duncan's character John Coffey dealt with people's sins and struggles. The exception to my imagination would be - Jesus did not start to manifest all that He was absorbing until the night at the Garden.

The sorrow and anguish Jesus Christ started taking upon His mind, body, and spirit for the world in the Garden of Gethsemane was almost enough to bypass The Cross.  Matthew 26:38 says,
  • "Then He said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.' "
Jesus was in so much agony that He does not simply kneel and pray to His Father, He lies stretched out on His front-side with His face to the ground, passionately crying out for another way to accomplish His mission. Matthew 26:39 records this fervent cry -
  • "Going a little farther, He fell with His face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' "
Jesus not only does this once, but a total of three times. After the third plea, the Gospel of Luke records an angel is sent to strengthen Jesus. Why? Not only so that He could endure more, but that Scriptures may be fulfilled that He endured it all.
  • An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. - Luke 22:43-44
With the condition of fallen creation and fallen man bearing down on His redeeming shoulders, it is no wonder Jesus asked His Father three times for a pass on this one.

Even though the point of death came in the Garden of Gethsemane, I am truly thankful it was postponed until The Cross. The price was Paid In Full. Christ fulfilled His prophetic words about Himself. Jesus dotted every "i" of His Word, crossed every "t" of His Word as He fulfilled every letter of the law beyond The Point Of Death in the Garden to dying upon The Cross.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

A TRUE GIVER

Luke 6:38, starts off with the first two words - "Give and...".  For my teaching purposes today I want to stop right there and really emphasize what many miss to begin with - "Give".

This word in the original Greek is the word Didomi, meaning to commit or minister.  Committing and ministering involves the prolonging of giving.  This calls for a serious, considerate, and moved heart/mind. To change from a mainly receiving mode of operation to now a giving mode of operation is going to take acceptance of a certain mind-set, lifestyle and spiritual law.

It is a mind-set in that we first have to acknowledge this kind of giving is needed. Then we acknowledge our own need to operate in this manner.  Then we should purpose to change and watch for opportunities to give with longevity.

The lifestyle of giving is not just a dedication to a charity for life.  The lifestyle is not just years of service in a choir.  These are valid displays of a giving life, but the lifestyle needs to incorporate giving into all aspects of our lives.  Time, energy, money - whatever we can give that is needed or feel lead to give is promised to return to us.

The spiritual law of Sowing and Reaping is the promise in the next part of this verse - "and it will be given to you."  However, Jesus goes four steps further. He continues, "A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap."

  • So, step one "a good measure" is measured out.  
  • Step two, is "pressed down" and step three "shaken together" to make room for more.  
  • Step four, is "running over" - what you have given will come back as if it were being spilled all over your lap. 
Paul confirms this when he writes his second letter to the church in Corinth -

  • Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. - 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 

The last part of this verse is just as important as making your mind up to give in the first place.  "For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  Said another way, For with the degree or portion of the kind of giving you use, that is what will be used to measure out what is coming to you.  What kind of giver are you?  My God is a just God.  If you sow a committed lifestyle of hate, bitterness, jealousy, pride, and so forth, then not only will you reap this, but you will receive "a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, ... poured into your lap" of that negative lifestyle.

A True Giver accepts and operates in the cycle of the giver.  First, God calls us to start being committed to a giving lifestyle. Then we enter into a giving lifestyle and notice invaluable blessings returning.  Lastly, we thank God and He sends more opportunities for us to give.  Paul says it like this in 2 Corinthians 9:11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Luke 6:38
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 

Once again, what kind of giver are you?  A temporary, every now and then giver or a giver where the blesser is the blessed because he/she is A True Giver.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHAT DO YOU CELEBRATE....EVERY SUNDAY?

I am grateful for The Cross.  However, anyone back then could have died in this manner.  The difference is our faith in the person and their life that is hanging on the cross.  Therefore, my faith in the person, life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is validated in The Resurrection.

I am thankful for the torture and death by crucifixion that Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, took upon Himself in my place. "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." - Hebrews 9:22  

However, "...if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead." - 1 Corinthians 15:14-15  

"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:20-22

Even more-so His resurrection declares He is the Son of God.  "...regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 1:3-4

You see, I can't be like the Sadducees, "the Sadducess say there is no resurrection" - Acts 23:8.  That's why they are Sadd - u - cee (Sad you see). According to Luke 20:36 I am a "child of the resurrection".  Romans 6:5 supports this by saying, "If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection."  

It is pretty hard for me not to believe in Jesus when He says about Himself, "I am the resurrection and the Life..." (John 11:25), proceeds to raise Lazarus from a four-day stay in the grips of death and the grave, then walks out of His own tomb three days removed from the worst death you could imagine.

Allow me to tinker with my Favorite quote of all time, [my words in the brackets]

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said [and performed the kind of miracles He performed] would not be [just] a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg [because He did equate Himself with God] — or else he would be the Devil of Hell [the ultimate deceiver]. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God [I vote for this one, the proof is all there], or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God [I call Him Lord and God], but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being [just] a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

At my church, every Sunday we celebrate the fact that the tomb is empty!  Christ Jesus has defeated death, hell, and the grave!  Because He lives I live also (and can face tomorrow).  He is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed! What Do You Celebrate Every Sunday?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NEW NAMES


Names - they are given and they are changed; they are kept and they are rejected; they are embodied and they are not. Usually parents are the ones responsible for identifying us with the combination of names we will be known by for the rest of our lives.

Then there are those like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who had their names changed by a king. You might remember the last three as - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel's name was changed by the king to Belteshazzar, to reflect belief in the king's god. (Daniel 1:7)

For those who believe in Jesus Christ - The King of Kings - there will come a day when The King will be delivering and inscribing new names. Allow your imagination to be structured by Christ's words as He promises to those "who overcome" -
  • He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it. - Revelation 2:17
What an extremely intimate/personal gift the Lord will give to each of us! God only knows what the criteria is for this new name. But I am not to concerned about the criteria because I know - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17) 
The new name given to each of us is in written-form on a white stone. To me this suggests a new, personal, written, spoken Holy language that is shared only between you and God.  That would be amazing!

Next, God takes His writing utensil and applies it - not to another stone, paper or wood, but - to the "overcomer's" body.
  • Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. - Revelation 3:12
A lot of identification going on here. First, we have written on our bodies the name of Father God. Second, we have written on our bodies God's city - New Jerusalem.  Lastly, believers have Christ's new name written on their bodies. I guess this should come as no surprise because my Lord and Savior returns to earth with us and has a tattoo of His own-
  • "On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written:  King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:16)
Although I have never had a tattoo, I envision these names as glorious, beautifully written tattoo names that claim ownership, declare citizenship and reveal relationship.  Three stamps of new names, bought at the highest price, each shouting - "You are mine! You are mine! You are mine!"


Monday, April 7, 2014

THE STORY

There is a King who rules over all that was, is, or ever will be.  His servants, which He deems as swift as the wind and as passionate as fire, saw He and His Son build everything.  And once everything was built the servants shout for joy.  The Kingdom experienced the best of times for countless number of years.

Then one day the King's Chief Servant reasoned he could usurp the King and His Throne.  But The King would have none of it.  The King made a special place of discomfort for those who rebelled with no hope of appeal or parole.  The one-third of servants that the Chief Servant had recruited for his cause were demoted, exiled, and damned to that place.  The Chief Servant now was a wanderer, still allowed to come before The King, but stripped of all previous titles and privileges.

Many years passed and The King decided He desired like-company.  So, His Word went forth, in a certain part of His kingdom, and a man came to His court offering his service and friendship.  The King accepted the man's offering and named him Head Steward over His garden and livestock.  Years passed and The King observed that it would be good to have help for this man that is of his kind.  So, The King's Word went forth again and a woman appeared before the court offering her service and friendship which The King immediately took and told her to help The Steward.

After a while, The Wanderer showed up in this part of the kingdom.  He figured if I can't beat The King, I'm gonna hurt Him.  So, he executed a plan that involved the The Steward and The Helper falling into disobedience with The King.  The King being the just and loving King, disciplined all involved and promised a permanent solution to the disease His Kingdom had now been infected with - disobedience or rebellion.

People came and went.  Nations rose and fell.  Throughout it all, The King of it all tried to get their attention to a better lifestyle.  Great men and woman who knew the ways of The King came and went.  Prophets of The King came and went.  The kings of a special group of people by The King came and went - with no true influence for lasting change concerning rebellion toward The King.

The Disease got so bad that when The King's Nephew, The Son's Cousin, came announcing that The Answer was not far behind him, The Doctors who desired to keep their job as true or false physicians probably had a hand in having The Nephew beheaded.

The result was even worse when The King sent His only Son to provide The Answer - He was betrayed, given a bogus trial, tortured, and killed.  Man buried The Son, but you can't keep The Son of The King who rules over all that was, is, and is to come in the very place that The King built for His servants who rebelled. It is impossible to keep The Good Man, The Son of The King, The Son of Man, The Son of God - down. He has risen!  He has risen, indeed! And He sits with The King, in the court of the Kingdom of all that is, at His right hand.

Both The King and The Son knew beforehand that The Disease would worsen so bad that not only would The Son have The Answer, The Son would be The Answer.  Faith because of the Grace of The King and The Son now rules The Kingdom and will manifest itself fully in the near future when The Son comes to destroy The Wanderer and all who side with him!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

BEYOND LAST PLACE

Good people finish last.  This is a familiar saying. However, these same people will not even start their good living until it is dedicated to God's purpose and utilizing His potential (Romans 8:11).  And if they don't ever really start their good lives they will end up one day - Beyond Last Place. There are many people throughout history whose life overall was a good life. Their contribution to humanity was positive and they made a great influence on the lives of others. However, these alone - being good and good works - accounts for nothing when staring in the face of living eternally with God and in His Heaven.

There is no amount of good anyone can do, for a truly all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God, to fulfill the requirements for obtaining perfection and/or the right to enter Heaven. Nobody can live a perfect life except if God came in human form and lived out life according to His rules - perfectly.  All of the Old Testament commandments, rules, and regulations were intended to show Jews and everyone else the impossibility of anyone but the Savior of the world following and fulfilling every law.   Jesus followed them to the "T".

So, why did Father God send Jesus to follow and fulfill every letter of The Law for all humanity?  Answer:  Because Love knew we could not do either (follow/fulfill) -  "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." (John 3:16)

Jesus loved me so much that He provided for my imperfection which included my lack of supreme goodness. - my lack of being good in essence and in deeds. This undeserved favor, this grace, is only attainable through faith.  Because, without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)  Your eternal future is determined by how you address - So, what do you believe about Jesus Christ of Nazareth?

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

If you were to die today and stand before God and He were to ask you - "Why should I allow you into my Heaven?" - what would you say?

I encourage you - don't JUST be a good human being.  Don't JUST do good for human-kind.  Aim for higher purposes to your life - God's purposes - and for a time span of eternity, instead of the temporal. You do this by accepting Father God's love-gift and sacrifice, Christ Jesus, His Son into your mind and heart as your personal Master and Savior.  Father God has made He who was First, Last. Later all creation will see that Father God has made also the Last, First.  "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16)  Surrender your life to Christ and you will not come in Beyond Last Place!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

THE GOOD SHEPHERD & THE GATE AS ONE


"I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:7-10)

When a shepherd needed to stop for a while, the Hebrew people would set-up a stone pen with an opening at one end.  One way in, one way out and a shepherd as the gate.  The sheep would be accounted for by not being able to pass the shepherd unaware and predators would have to go through the shepherd first to get to the flock.


He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)  

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-15)

"...the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10:2-5)

When a shepherd calls to his sheep in his sheep-pen to go out and find grazing pasture, they know his voice. With his company the sheep have heard him speaking with others, yelling at predators, singing a heart-felt melody, or naming the new sheep on the block - they know his voice.  So, when the shepherd orders for them to rise and go out to pasture, they go.  Should the shepherd's sheep be mixed in the pasture with other sheep and it is time to travel on, even then when the shepherd calls the sheep, they will follow out of the mix because they know his voice.  Beware the "hired hand" - the "hired hand" is NOT da man!

Jesus Christ is not only The Shepherd (our Shepherd, the Believer's Shepherd), He is The Good Shepherd and The Gate!