Friday, January 30, 2015

AIN'T THEY JUST A PAIR?


Male and female individuals have enough issues in this world. For many the excitement of the dating scene and/or the intoxication of love blinds us to the multiple challenges singles will face as a couple. When marriage does arrive, the smoke of infatuation clears and reality is revealed. Not that we stop loving our significant other, just that within the new relationship of marriage there are different dynamics. We might overcome the many challenges as a couple, but Scripture teaches we can learn from them and do much better with God in the picture.

There are a number of couples in The Bible to observe in this light of challenging marital dynamics. Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, plus Priscilla and Aquilla.

Adam and Eve enjoyed the perfect relationship with each other and with their Creator until they both chose to accept The Lie into their world. This totally changed their environment and outlook on things, but Hope was not totally lost. God promised a Restorer. 

Abraham and Sarah. They both learned the lesson of trust. God instructed Abram (name at that time) to leave country, people, and father's household (Genesis 12:1). They moved. Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the prospect of a pregnant Sarah. Abraham laughed first (Genesis 17:15-17) then Sarah had her laugh (Genesis 18:10-15). Trust had to play big when Abraham took their only son to be sacrificed. In every case of trusting God provided.

In the story of Ruth and Boaz, a great love connection almost does not happen because of legal rights. Yet Boaz is ready, willing and able to go to bat for Ruth, Naomi and all that come with them because of the honor and respect shown the family by Ruth. God honored a relationship that was meted out of honor and respect.

Zechariah and Elizabeth both had great spiritual heritage. Zechariah "belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron." In addition, the two of them were honest, trustworthy and walked with integrity according to Luke. "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly." Yet Zechariah allowed doubt to creep into their lives and it physically affected him. What is really interesting to me is that he was a priest of God who ministered before the Altar of Incense and heard a message from the Chief Angelic Messenger - Gabriel - and still said, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." No matter his position or his doubt, God's faithfulness to His Word, to His Plan was perfect - John the Baptist was born.

It really adds an interesting dynamic when the woman you are engaged to marry is found to be pregnant and not by you. Now you understand Joseph's dilemma with Mary. It is a great thing that God Almighty sent Gabriel to him as well as Mary, telling him the significance of this birth and that it would be alright in this case to wed a pregnant woman. Joseph had dreams of when and where to relocate his family. Mary and little baby Jesus complied. So we see that because of their obedience, not only was the Savior born but prophecies were fulfilled - 
  • And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." (Matthew 2:15)
  • Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Matthew 2:17-18)
  • So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." (Matthew 2:23)
Priscilla and Aquilla were a couple I could observe different markers in their development as Paul mentions them in his letters. In Acts 18:2, Paul meets the couple. Then in Acts 18:18 Paul is "accompanied by Priscilla and Aquilla" lending me to feel like (1) he enjoyed their company and (2) he was tutoring them. Acts 18:19 sees Paul confident enough to leave the couple. And we see the Godly pair receive their first counseling opportunity as a Jew named Apollos came to Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26). Then in Romans 16:3 Paul pays them a compliment by calling the pair - "my fellow workers in Christ Jesus." Paul, as he ends his first letter to the church in Corinth, includes Priscilla and Aquilla's greetings along with his. Finally, in Paul's second letter to Timothy, we see Paul making an effort to greet this couple in service to The Lord.

It is always good to have balance in a relationship. I know some of my weaknesses are Tanya's strengths and some of Tanya's weaknesses are my strengths. However, observing the pairs above, their combined strengths along with God is what helped them through. Priscilla and Aquilla were dedicated to service. Mary and Joseph were obedient to God's plan. Zechariah and Elizabeth yielded to an Ever Possible God in what seemed an impossible situation. God eventually honored the honor and respect that were found in the hearts of Ruth and Boaz before they met. Abraham and Sarah learned time and time again to trust God in their relationship. Adam and Eve went on with their life knowing they had the promise of The Restoration of all things through a future Redeemer.

Life is challenging and overpowering at times as a single person. Even as a couple issues will arise but two heads are better than one and you can help each other. But, when you enter God into the relational equation, three is a crowd becomes a misnomer and He makes all the difference in this world and any world to come. In Other Words....

"Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

WORK IT OUT WITH GOD


Soul searching is a distraction and deception. It steers one away from a life that could be best lead, directed, and guided by a supreme intelligence that cares. Soul searching convinces one that the answer is within yourself, when the something greater is outside yourself just waiting for your discovery and faith.

That conclusion spawned from a phrase I recently read - "Life isn't about finding yourself. It is about discovering who God created you to be." (A slogan on www.godsnotdead.com poster on Facebook.)

Many brands of vehicles have what is called Standard Features. This is what you can expect on or from the base model. Everything else is a Special Feature and therefore extra money. When an individual is spiritually re-created due to their faith in Christ Jesus, I think there are certain Standard Features that should be applied to our lives. These SFs expose us to the world as the brand of person we are or should be - Christian. 

A few of these SFs are faith, hope, and love. Paul says, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13) In addition, Jesus, in the book of John, adds a qualifying remark about our greatest Standard Feature - "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35) Some other SFs listed by God are as follows -
  • "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6)
  • "...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • "For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men." (1 Peter 2:15)
I believe that God not only wants a believer to acquire his/her Standard Features of the Faith, but all the Special Features as well. Listen to the heart of God The Father as He encourages the believer to live, move and have our being in Him by observing the fruits of The Spirit in our lives - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23) The better news - God will assist us with manifesting these fruits if we seek Him and them - "And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8:27)

The key to taking advantage of a car or yourself is knowledge. You can only look within the vehicle and within yourself for so long before considering The Manuel (The Bible) and/or The Technician (The Creator). If you are having a problem with a car, yourself, or simply considering becoming the brand of person known as - Christian - Scripture says change your thinking. 
  • 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. (Romans 12:2)
So, as a Christian we should always be checking back with God's plan for our life. His plan for us is infinitely better than the deepest soul search we could ever perform. Are the Standard Features (foundations of the Faith) working properly? Are the Special Features (powerful, life-giving Spirit) activated? Am I doing what I am designed to do? You can't work it out with just yourself, Work It Out With God.



Monday, January 26, 2015

ARE YOU TASTING YOUR FOOD?


Scripture says, Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8) 

Some food is good for you but tasteless. However, there is plenty of healthy, beneficial food to eat that is also pleasing to the taste buds. Have you ever been eating a meal and the food is doing it's job of re-energizing you, strengthening you, and providing nutrients to your body and mind - when all the sudden you chew a really great tasting bite of whatever you're having? This is the same with eating the Lord or tasting the Lord and seeing that He is good. 

In this Psalm, David encourages us to not only digest that the LORD is good ("see that the LORD is good") but he also challenges us to "taste". There is an "and" between "taste" and "see" that helps us observe this distinction. You sit down with His Word, start reading it, studying and researching it, knowing that it is doing you good and will do you good in the future - when all of the sudden you read and understand a passage in a new applicable way that excites you (the great tasting bite). This is tasting of the Lord. 

Jesus went one step further and said if you want life - physical life (Greek=zoe) and spiritual life/breath (Greek=psuche) you will daily eat of my flesh and drink of my blood (John 6:41-58). As Jesus was speaking to the crowd that followed Him they became confused at His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. At first take it sounded like Jesus was the leader of a cannibalistic cult. However, Christ said that "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." (John 6:53). Salvation was for all humanity, this eating was for the many believers that would accept Him as Lord and Savior through the years. Sitting down to this meal periodically provides true life. Jesus said, Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. (John 6:57) I believe salvation is assumed here and "feeds" implies an active, re-occurring event that exposes the believer to a tasting of His Word and seeing that He is good.

Tasting of God's Word and the enjoyment or excitement it brings comes in many different forms and at different times in our lives. Tasting or enjoying the Lord not only happens in quiet times with Him, but is also heard and sung from a song, spoken in a poem, interpreted in dance, skit, or drama. Just like there are several ways for us to receive, taste and enjoy our food - soft, liquid, mashed, crunchy, etc - the Word of God is for our tasting as well as for the nourishment of our bodies. Are You Tasting Your Food?



Thursday, January 22, 2015

A RESURRECTED LIFE

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you." (Matthew 28:1-7)

On the third day, after the death of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to "look" at the tomb on the first day of the week. They would not be able to move the stone for it would be too heavy. Also, there were Roman guards posted.

Christ had risen before the stone was rolled away. There was an earthquake, no, there was a "violent earthquake" and I believe that Christ's Resurrection beforehand was so awesome and His victory so impactful that nature had to react. Also, this was the cue to the Angel of The Stone to roll it away. The Son of God did not need The Stone to be removed for Him to be raised. The Stone was rolled away for our access to the miracle of The Resurrection. Even the Roman soldiers were allowed to experience the earthquake and witness the angel descend from heaven, stroll over to the entrance of the tomb, and roll back the stone! an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:2-4)

I believe in a Savior who has not only conquered the grave (tomb), but has the keys to death and hell (Revelation 1:18). In order to have those "keys" and victories, you have to visit and experience them both. (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions ? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Ephesians 4:7-10)

Going through a dead time in your life right now? Are you staring defeat square in the face? No matter what you are going through Jesus has supernaturally experienced "it" All. Christ made a huge impact on death and in Hell too because "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men." (Ephesians 4:8) He has gone before us so that when we are "hard-pressed on every side" we are not "crushed"; when we are "perplexed", we are not in "despair"; when we are "persecuted", we are not "abandoned"; and when we are "struck down" we are not "destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). He got back up so that we could too!

Now all we have to do as believers is acknowledge and operate in His Resurrection power that lives within us by the Holy Spirit - And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11) Twice, once as a question and then as a declaration, the Spirit is mentioned as "living in you". Because He lives, I live also (John 14:19). The benefit we reap is life, an abundant life, A Resurrected Life.

Because He Lives
Gaither Vocal Band


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

ARE YOU ALL IN?


Have you every played a game of cards or watched a game that uses the betting phrase "I'm all in"? It is a gamble, a chance with all of one's money that you think you have the winning hand. There is a spiritual tie-in here, believe it or not. The only difference is that God said, "I'm All In" and He did not gamble or take any chances. God knew the cost and reward for redeeming humanity and He did it anyway. His "all in" was the sacrifice of His very words in human form, Jesus the Christ and His reward was a restored relationship with us.

God said to Joshua -
  •  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)
Then later in Scripture, Paul, speaking to the Jews about their need to be dependent on God, referred back to this verse in Hebrews 13:5 - 
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
If you have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior, within these two verses Jesus says to you, I will never remove my presence from your life, nor will I ever emotionally abandon you (re-worded perspective by T.D. Jakes).

God has Totally Invested Himself in us. Throughout history He has shared His thoughts through speaking His word and inspiring authors to write it down. He has shared His presence through manifesting the perfect representation of Himself - Jesus. He continues to show His presence today through the Holy Spirit and His giftings. God also shared His emotions with us through His singing (Psalm 68:6; Zephaniah 3:16-17), tears (John 11:35), holy anger (Matthew 21:12) and many instances of compassion. 

No other god of any other faith has even dreamed of investing as much as Yahweh. This is why I can say as Degarmo and Key sang in a song called "The Pledge" many years ago - "He died for me, I'll live for Him." Are You All In? 



Monday, January 19, 2015

ARE YOU STILL TALKING?


In my life I have encountered many instances where an individual either liked to hear himself/herself talk, thought they knew everything or Both! I don't know what drives these people to dominate a setting with an obvious need to either impress with knowledge or showcase their voice. Some social couth and further maturity are in order for these persons. So, what does The Word of God have to say about talking to much
  • When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19)
  • Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. (Proverbs 17:28)
  • Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; (James 1:19)
  • Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)
  • But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, (2 Timothy 2:16)
Kind of Talk To Avoid
As you can see from the verses above, it is a good thing not to speak, if you don't have anything to say. But taking it a step further there are verses that speak to the kind of talk we should avoid when we do open our mouths.

Course Talk:  
  • Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. (Proverbs 4:24)
  • 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. (Ephesians 4:29)
  • Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)
The Smooth Talker:  
  • With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. (Proverbs 7:21)
Words Are Cheap:  
  • All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23)
What Goes Around Comes Around:
  • An evil man is trapped by his sinful talk, but a righteous man escapes trouble. (Proverbs 12:13)
  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21)
You Get What's Coming To You:
  • A fool's talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them. (Proverbs 14:3)
I think you reveal your character by what you say and seal that image by what you do. Many times actions speak louder than words - For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20) For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:15). In the meantime, if all of us can slow down and process what we are about to say before speaking, I believe a lot of confusion, hurt, misunderstanding and bitterness can be avoided. It helps tremendously to have The Spirit of Truth guiding you in all truth (John 16:13) from within your mind, body, and spirit.

Kind of Talk To Seek
So what are the kind of words that should be preceding out of our mouths? Guarded words, few words and The LORD's Words.
  • Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalm 141:3)
  • Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (Eccl. 5:2)
  • These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Make it your effort to get straight to the point in your prayers and pray to have the Lord "set a guard over your mouth". And when you do talk make it wholesome, encouraging, and full of God's Word. Temperate your knowledge and display thereof by allowing others to interject during a pause or where appropriate. Develop some social graces in this area with plenty of Holy Spirit poured in and you will not hear me or anybody else saying - Are You Still Talking?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

YOUR SHIELD OF FAITH


Paul, in Ephesians 6 gives the picture of a Roman soldier in full attire by dissecting the "whole armor of God" and encouraging us to pray for - the helmet of salvation, breast-plate of righteousness, belt of truth, shoes of peace, shield of faith, and sword of the Spirit. The part I wish to magnify to you in this writing is The Shield of Faith.

Ephesians 6:16 says, "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." Before this verse, Paul has just listed the parts of the belt of truth, breast-plate of righteousness, and shoes of peace so when he gets to the next piece, in the next verse, the phrase "In addition to all this" takes on an extra meaning. The phrase not only means here is another piece of armor or here is the next one to pray for, but the phrase means - in considering what has been mentioned pay attention to this next piece of armor.

Notice in the next segment, take up the shield of faith, the part of the armor is named, but before it is named we are told that it is portable. The soldier must take it wherever he goes in case of attack and to show his army's strength to defend. Likewise, the Christian must "take up the shield of faith". Why? So he/she can "extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

The word "shield", spoken of by Paul in Ephesians 6:16, in the original Greek is thureos - meaning a large, door shaped shield. There are many different shields for many different combat situations, but this shield is the one the Holy Spirit impressed upon Paul to encourage believers to pray for. A total front covering shield.

A shield can be used as an offensive weapon at times. However, it is mainly used as a defensive weapon. When we apply the shield to our faith and call on faith to defend what we believe in - what does this mean? The original Greek word for "faith" in this verse is - pistis - "persuasion, that is, credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation". Therefore, not only is there faith according to the Roman Road (confessing with your mouth "Jesus is Lord", believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and therefore being saved) but faith is also a personal persuasion, a blessed assurance of God seen throughout the hallmarks of one's life. Apologetics on a personal level.

The Shield of Faith becomes experiences in your life that you can draw from to combat a present threat by the enemy of your soul. For example if you and God have had a victorious experience over the spirit of depression and it decides to return - recall the victory and any details and your Shield of Faith will begin to "extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." 

Now the challenge becomes to keep our Shield of Faith well maintained. In Paul's days, the Roman soldiers oiled their shield every morning whether in peace or at war. Because of the materials used back then the oil helped in keeping the shield more difficult to penetrate. A non-oiled shield dried up and could be broken easily with a sword or powerful arrow shot. Spiritually, believers need to keep the oil (The Word of God) applied to their lives and beliefs (Shield of Faith). If we do not do this we are easy, vulnerable targets for the evil spirits of our enemy - the devil. 

So, yes there is a shield of faith to pray for, use, and maintain, but do not forget it is Your Shield Of Faith! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A FOLLOWING LEADER


Great leaders are and remain servants. Ever had somebody wash your feet in a foot washing basin? I have. To be the one washed brought on me feelings of not wanting to expose my dirtiness/stinkyness to the washer. Why did I feel this way? Because I have been the washer of feet as well.

In Jesus' day the sandal was the common shoe worn by many travelers. This coated dirt and all kinds of debris quickly upon one's feet as any journey progressed, especially in the arid environment of the Middle East. A custom of hospitality during those times was to wash the feet of those entering a house. In the Scriptures I observed two times when feet washing were magnified - Luke 7:36-50 and John 13:1-17.

The Luke account was Christ's preparation for entering The Kingdom on our behalf. The John account was the Disciples preparation for entering The Kingdom. Both were quite the teaching moment for the kind of Christ-like attitude and practices believers should display as we live in this world.

The female who ministered to Jesus in Luke 7:36-50 got a base-hit every time she stepped to the plate. The Pharisee? Not so much. The host received three strikes and was out! Let's look at his problems.
  • You did not give me any water for my feet (v.44)
  • You did not give me a kiss (v.45)
  • You did not put oil on my head (v.46)
You're OUT!

Now let us observe the lady's actions.
  • she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. (v.44)
  • this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. (v.45)
  • she has poured perfume on my feet. (v.46)
A true servant's heart who grasped a glimpse of the gravity of freedom she would experience as a redeemed soul by the broken body of Jesus. 

As Jesus was speaking with Peter about the feet-washing, three major take-aways from John 13:1-17 appear.
  1. "Unless I wash you [your feet], you have no part with me." (v.8)
  2. "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean (v.10)
  3. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (vv.14-15, 17)
I believe Jesus was prophetically talking to Peter about His coming sacrifice upon The Cross - "and you are clean". The washing of the feet illustrates to me that just because Salvation comes our service should not cease. No, if anything the believer's desire to serve should increase. Jesus went as far as to encourage us to wash each others feet as a humble reminder to keep a servant's heart and lead that way. 

The Disciples of Jesus were mainly followers while they were with Him. From washing their feet forward I believe they became a hybrid of sorts - a leader who follows. Christ Himself said, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19) His prayer for His Disciples and future believers in John 17 was that they and we would be unified with Him as He is one with Father God in every aspect. So, if we are true Believers in Christ, following His attitudes and examples set before us, especially in servant-hood, we should further develop as A Following Leader. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

THE RIGHT EQUATION


Peace, love, and rock-n-roll is not an equation that works as well as Faith, Hope, and Love. The result of the second equation is the peace that probably alluded you in the first grouping. Among the other benefits to come from the second trinity are joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Allow me to briefly expose you to what Scripture says about Faith, Hope, and Love and leave it to you to "chew" on these verses in your mind and spirit.

Faith
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Hope
For in this hope we were saved. 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. (Romans 8:24-25)

And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." (Romans 15:12)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, (1 Timothy 1:1)

Love
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

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. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
_____________________________________________________________

My Faith is wrapped up in a person. My Hope is consumed by a person. My Love is eternally secure through a person. My Faith, my Hope, my Love is all absorbed into one person - The Word of God made flesh, my Savior and Friend, Christ Jesus.

Friday, January 9, 2015

IT ALL STARTS IN THE MIND


"It" is all a State of Mind. Our faith, joy, peace and so many other wonderful gifts from God are acknowledged and kept by the strength and state of our mind. Paul, in his second letter to the believers in Corinth emphasized the enemy's first target -The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Paul's concern continues as he says, But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3).
So, Paul reverts back to the teaching about this subject and has the believers in Ephesus recall it and review it. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
Thoughts and actions are strongly linked and Paul makes this clear when he writes the church in Colossae.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Colossians 1:21) It is quite a simple matter of natures. Rebellious nature, rebellious desires. Christ-like nature, Christ-like desires. 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. (Romans 8:5)

Now comes the challenging instructions to this lifestyle.

  1. 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. (Romans 12:2)
  2. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:2)
  3. ...take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Want to have Peace of Mind? First, "rejoice in the Lord always". Second, "let your gentleness be evident to all". Third, "do not be anxious about anything". And fourthly, "pray about everything with thanksgiving". Do this "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

There is a time coming when God's thoughts on matters will be engraved in Israel's and Christians alike.
  • This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:10-13)
Until that time, Christ declares to the churches - I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23)

Is it any wonder that a piece of spiritual armor Paul lists in Ephesians 6:17 is a Helmet (of salvation)? This head-piece is not only to protect our thoughts, but it is to always keep our thoughts on our great Salvation!
Paul encourages - Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. (Ephesians 6:11) "Schemes" in the original Greek here translates as mind games. Be sure to pray for the Helmet of Salvation, but do not neglect the remaining parts that aide you in withstanding the mind-games of the devil. It All Starts In The Mind.







Thursday, January 8, 2015

THE LAWMAN


In the movie "Judge Dredd", Dredd (Sylvester Stallone) has a well-known line - "I am the law!" Funny how movies, even bad ones can make you think about spiritual parallels. God, in providing all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament was saying to His people and future believers - "I am the law! No one can fulfill the law except a perfect person." That perfect person was the very Word(s) of God that came from Father God's mouth, spoke everything into existence, and holds all things together (Colossians 1:16-17). That perfect person was the very Words that spoke the law to follow in the first place. That perfect human who followed every commandment flawlessly, fulfilled The Law in Himself and was killed as an innocent sacrifice for freedom from the punishment of The Law is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

When I was a kid there used to be a healthy respect for police officers. If a police officer visited my elementary school, no matter if it was an innocent visit like Career Day, you could hear comments like - "Here comes a policeman, you better watch out...you better be good...he's coming for you." All of these statements were born out of a fear or deep respect for the law and it's enforcer - the policeman.

Maybe that fear is also birthed from a terrible habit that develops early. That habit is cutting corners, bending the law a little, and/or seeing how much we can get away with before The Authority appears again. It is certainly not a matter of not knowing what the law is because we are breaking it and consciously looking out for The Lawman. The concern is we want what we want, how we want it, when we want it....and not get caught!

Mr. Policeman is not everywhere at all times (omni-present). However, with the threat of police car traps on the road, undercover police in shops and security cameras one would think that this would slow people down a little. Maybe for some. Others it makes the dare more challenging. However, where Mr. Policeman can only be around at limited times and places to monitor our behavior, those who put their trust in God through Christ have an ever-present policeman. "God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) Also Christ said, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." But God is a special law enforcement officer.

God is a Judge, Jury, and Lawman that deals severe outcomes to law breakers. However, The Law Enforcer Himself, who manifested as The Angel of The Lord in the Old Testament, became human, Jesus, and fulfilled The Law, taking the wrath away from us - the punishment that brought us peace was upon him (Isaiah 53:5). His role increased and to those who are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, He became our Advocate, our Mediator. Jesus the Merciful, Compassionate, Forgiving and Faithful.

He is always around. Whether you are behaving as you should or misbehaving, you can never escape the long arm of the Lord. His policing of Christians now is all through the promises we find in Him. All the ways of living in and through the Spirit are now the standard. Learning the lessons He has for you within His plan for your life will grant you - mercy, compassion, forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, etc.

For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"IT IS WRITTEN..."


As we  get this new year rolling, I felt a stirring in my spirit in the form of a warning. Christians know that their enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) That "The Thief", another name for our enemy, comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. (John 10:10) A good example of how Satan tries to do this is found in the account of the Temptation of Christ - Matthew 4:1-11.

Temptation has at it's core doubt in something or someone. The challenge to turn the stones into bread doubted God's Provision. The dare to jump from the top of the Temple doubted God's Protection. The invitation to worship Satan for all the earthly kingdoms doubted God's Promises about the Christ. In addition, all of the tempting was targeted at two vulnerable points - (1) when Christ was alone and (2) at Christ's supposed weaknesses.

The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to experience these temptations, and possibly other trials during His forty day fast, on our behalf. However, the answer always was the same - "It is written....". The Word of God, which was Himself in the flesh, now physically responds to each temptation by declaring the truth of the matter.

It is a good thing to sure-up the areas in our life we know are weak and guard to the best of our ability, with God's help, against temptation. However, I encourage you and me this year, should we find ourselves alone and our weak points being targeted with temptations by the enemy - the answer is always the same and always available - research it, read it, and recite it. Whatever "it" is, the start of resisting the devil and seeing him flee is - "It Is Written...".