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!
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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