Monday, May 30, 2016

Through The Cross AND The Tomb (Memorial Day)


Memorial Day is not a single day of remembrance for me. Every day The Sacrifice is upon the forefront of my mind. An event in time, which changed history and my life - that I relive over in my imagination daily.

Some of the descriptions of The Hero of that day baffle the mind’s eye – “his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—“ (Isaiah 52:14). This disfigurement came at the use of something called The Cat of Nine Tails. This is a whip with all manner of lacerations woven into the nine strips/tails in order to inflict more damage on the person. 40 lashes were ordered.

In addition to The Cat of Nine Tails, The Messiah, was slapped, punched, struck with a rod, spit upon and crowned with a ring of thorns upon His head.
Then there was the beam itself. The Word of God which spoke everything into existence, now in human form as Christ Jesus, bore The Tree He created. He would eventually have help to carry His old rugged cross-beam. Is it any wonder He had enough strength to carry it as far as He did – wonder-working power!

The wrist was considered part of the hand in those days. That is where I believe they placed the nails. Otherwise, if you place the nails in the palm of the hands, the weight from the body sagging would strip the bones and Scripture says not one bone was broken – Psalm 34:20 and John 19:36.

The religious leaders were seeking and executing the death sentence on the life of Jesus because of their positions being threatened. The popularity of Jesus due to what He taught, the miracles He performed and when He did these (the Sabbath) was enough for the Pharisees to deem Jesus of Nazareth a threat to their positions. So, a plan to kill Jesus was developed early on and the right moment was waited upon.

From the Divine Perspective- The Word of God came in human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth for this very purpose – to die for what separated humanity from God – sin. The Word of God knew He would come and fulfill this plan before the foundation of the world - “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:20)

For our sake Jesus cleansed us from all our mistakes – past, present and future – against The Trinity. “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) Christ would not have to come back and die over and over again for the sins of individuals. This was once AND the sacrifice was for all.

But my Hero did more than give His life for the redemption of my relationship to God, He secured victory upon victory for me by defeating Hades, conquering death and walking out of the grave! “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:18) 

His victory grants Believers life more abundantly. If Christ Jesus had just paid the price upon The Cross, we would have had a man with great influence, dying for a great cause and not fulfilling His promise to return in three days from the afterlife itself. Paul states it like this -  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

I love “But’s” in Scripture. They signify, as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story.” But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)


This Memorial Day I do remember the soldiers who devoted their lives to the security of mine. I do respect the commitment they give everyday to the safety of my country. However, there is One that I remember Today and Always that has secured my Freedom for Eternity – Jesus, my Hero, my Lord and Savior and Friend. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13) He did this Through The Cross And The Tomb.

Friday, May 20, 2016

MANAGING YOUR HOME

The Holy Spirit brought 1 Timothy 3:5 to my mind this morning. That verse says, If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church? I got to thinking about all the ministries there are in The Church or just my local body of believers. Personally, I am involved in Choir, Praise Team, Teaching, Drama, and Missions. And as I come in contact with the youth of the church I try to help them along also. But I cannot be a great and Holy influence in these areas if I don't first "manage" my "own family" well.

So, what does it mean to "manage" your family? The original Greek word here is Proistemi (pro-is'-tay-mee). This is a compound word, a joining of two words to form one. The two words are - Pro and Histemi (his-tay-mee)

Pro is a primary preposition meaning before, in front of, or above - as in a position.

Histemi means abide, appoint; stand-by, stand-forth, stand-still and stand-up

You combine the two and you have someone in the family, preferably the Father (though not always the case), as a steadfast and faithful fixture in the home that delegates, protects and knows when to simply chill (abide).

If this is your responsibility in your marriage; if this is your charge in your family AND you have been observed as doing a good job at it, THEN you may proceed in taking care of God's church. With this in mind, I feel The Church could use two things to help the other side of the coin  - (1) people honest about where they are as the Proper Leader of their home and (2) Watchers/Observers that tenderly note concerns to the proper people so that The Church may continue to have purity and unity in Spirit within it's ministries. The well-being of The Church has a direct correspondence to the proper management of the family.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A TWO-WAY ADOPTION

Adam and Eve were God's Family once upon a time. The Disfunctionalism (if you will) of God's Family came when Adam and Eve rebelled/disobeyed God. This rebellion or disobedience severed the family ties to God. Adam and Eve chose to belong to another Family whose head/leader is entitled The Father of Lies (John 8:44). Since that move to The Second Family, when humans are born they belong to this family and all of it's tendencies.

Thank Father God for Christ Jesus - humanity's Adoption Papers! Jesus was and is the legal red (blood) tape provided for all to be adopted into His Family. Adam and Eve were the only ones that we know of who experienced perfect family life with God before the disconnect. Since then none of humanity has been God's family. The Hebrews are His People. Prophets and Kings were His Instruments. But the situation took His own Word in flesh as The Son of God to make the way for adoption into God's Family possible.

This did not catch God by surprise. It was all part of God's Love Plan - "he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—" (Eph. 1:5) This adoption Christians know in part now through Faith in Christ Jesus. However, there will come a day when the Full Benefits of the adoption into God's Family through Jesus will be realized or manifested - "...but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:23)

So, there is an adoption from Heaven by Father God through Christ Jesus of humanity into God's Family. We also have an adoption of God as our new Father, taking on His ways and gaining unlimited benefits therein. "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' " (Romans 8:15). Interesting Love Story with Jesus being The Paperwork for this Two-Way Adoption.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

INFLUENCES AND STANDARD

I saw a poster with a message written on it on Facebook that I want to respond to. Here is the message:

"The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great."

Here is my response:

I understand the underlying message of this quote - surround yourself with people who will challenge you, grow you as a person and mature you in every aspect of your life. It is good encouragement. You can hear a BUT coming can you not? But the following are my reservations.

Looking at this from another angle, the quote said, "The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards." Then you need a Constant Standard, that you will never acquire but that you can always strive toward - Christlikeness. 

The quote continues, "They either help us to become the best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends." Here the gear has shifted from the standard(s) used to measure our lives to the influences that help or hinder the process. Gravitating toward our friendships should be no surprise. The catch for all of us, especially Christians, is to discern our influences and allow Christ Jesus to be our Best Friend. Jesus says in John 15:15
  • "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." 
Look to people as an example, but not a standard. Paul was an example to the early believers. Look to Jesus Christ as the Ultimate Example and Standard. The Christian's Standard should be Christ and His Word, not the influence of those around us. The influences around us, such as our friends, may help us progress, but it should all line-up according to God's Plan and His Standard found in His Word. What people deem as their standards apart from Christ and His ways are shifting and unstable. God's Standard is Rock Solid and sure. This is why I pause and encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to remember and know your Influences And Standard.

Monday, May 16, 2016

IT'S ABOUT TIME


There are many different factors that are used in weighing Value or Worth. Some of these factors are the cost, personal preference and time. How much something costs us places value or worth on that object - the higher the cost, the higher the value/worth. Of course what we all see as being valuable is not All the same, we do have our own preferences as to what is valuable. I recognize there is some overlap of preferences (i.e. family, food, fun, fellowship). I don't know anybody who would say those are not worth having much of in our lives, but even these can be graded also. 

Concerning Time, let us define it first. Time - the passing of life/moments which has been divided up into centuries, decades, years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. You allow something or someone the right amount of time and value can be applied to it or them. Because every second that passes is one that is gone forever - time is already extremely valuable. However, you add to time other preferences of yours that you deem valuable, perhaps a relationship or two, plus a cost like a meal and suddenly time is Precious, Cherished, and Treasured.

Now, when God is involved in the determination of value, the Scales are set for Eternal worth. God chose this Value System, this Love Plan through His Word before creation. There would be nothing that we could do to merit His worth, value, love, grace, redemption or mercy. Everything had to be found and accepted through Christ.
  • For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. - Ephesians 1:4
  • He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. - 1 Peter 1:20
Like a builder who considers the cost before starting his project, so did God before Creation and encouraged us through Christ to do likewise.
  • “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ - Luke 14:28-30
This is another huge reason why Christ's words on The Cross resound so loud and strong then, today and forever - "It is Finished."(John 19:30) His Work for us was complete at these words and the sealing/justification of the work would be His Resurrection.

God's personal preference was to make us in His image and when we corrupted His image by disobeying Him, His personal preference was to guard the way to The Tree of Life, so that our condition may not become permanent. For if humanity somehow ate of The Tree of Life after The Fall, I believe that act would have sealed our damned fate (hince the Cherubim guarding the way back to it with a flaming sword - Genesis 3:24). God's preference still was to grant humanity, a chosen people in particular, Rules and Regulations to live by (The Law). When nobody could keep The Law, God's preference was to send someone who could and be the sacrifice for all (knowing all could not keep The Law) - Christ Jesus.

It is my belief that when God created beings that had His Breath of Life in them - Angels, Humans, and Animals - they would live forever. Objects that have no relationship to Him - Sun, Moon, Stars and Planets - will someday pass away. God is. He is called I AM for a reason. He has always been, always is, always will be. We place a label on this type of existence and call it Eternity - Past, Present and Future. 

The point in Eternity that we call The Big Bang (Creation - Genesis 1:1) to the point where some say the universe comes back on itself (The Great White Throne Judgement - Rev. 20:11), I picture God as viewing as a Ruler. He holds (sustains) the Ruler in His hand. He can view all the marks of time, history or the ages on the Ruler at a glance. With God already being in the Eternal State, He created what we deem as time. 

I believe the second a human is conceived in the womb, he/she is an eternal being. This man or woman has a destiny found in either one of two places - the solitary confinement,  yet populated place of the damned called The Lake of Fire for those who reject Jesus Christ as The Answer. Or Paradise, Eden, Heaven, New Jerusalem, the New Earth and Eternity with Christ for the beloved who call Christ their Lord, Savior and King.

It is with this in mind that I implore everyone to make the most of your time while you still draw breath. Yeah, "The sun will come up tomorrow...", but there is no promise that says you will be here to see it. Hebrews 9:27 says, "people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment". Every second is a breath granted by God. His air fills my lungs. Our time here should be valued more and more each passing moment of every fleeting day. 

I heard an analogy once concerning the value on time. If you were given $86, 400 a day (equal to the seconds in a day) and could not carry over any unspent money - how would you spend that money? The cost of something is very important in value. Jesus thought you and me worth the cost of torture and death - even death upon a Cross. Personal preference is a big factor in value. It was God's personal preference before, during and after His Son's first visit that Proved my worth/value. He came after humanity with arms open wide. Why did He deem us of such a cost and such a personal preference? Because of the amount of time He wanted to spend with us - eternity - It's About Time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

THIS CRUSTY OLE PIECE OF BREAD


Naturally and spiritually our lives begin like a fresh, great tasting, and sweet smelling piece of bread. Then the "oven of the world", or life, transpires and our edges get hardened. Some of us are blessed enough to have parents who watch the temperature gauge and can help "brown" us up just right through our lives. Others of us are not so blessed and find their life is "burnt" before they know it.

However, for these "burnt ones" who may have matured faster than wanted in life and in ways not desired by any of us - the burnt ole, crusty, dead pieces that seem to identify you can be scraped off. Flavoring like butter or jelly can be applied to your life also (better friends, better attitude, better perspective) to make you palpable again.

I recently felt like a piece of crusty ole dried-up bread. Then the Holy Spirit impressed upon me I am not the only one feeling this way. The Holy Spirit then revealed His Word and this is what He says - 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30

"Weary and burdened" translate for me here to Crusty Ole Bread. But notice what we must do to remedy the situation - 
  1. "Come" and 
  2. "Take [His] yoke upon you [us] and learn from [Him]".
Observe what Jesus says He will do for us, twice within three verses - "and I will give you rest......and you will find rest for your souls"

Why do we need to rest? So we can continue the journey.
Why do we need to learn from Christ? So we can emulate Jesus in our lives.
Why take-up His yoke/plan? It is easy, light, gentle and humble in heart.

I try so hard at times to please everybody. And it hurts me when not everybody is right with me. But I am learning this can bring more burnt flakes to this ole piece of bread if I allow it. Besides our bodies natural decay, there are other mental and spiritual challenges like this one that God encourages me to cast upon Him. This side of Heaven it is not only painful growing in the natural, it is painful growing in the Spiritual - but at least I am growing, right? 

Prayer:  Lord, scrape me, "This Cursty Ole Piece Of Bread", and spread on me your jellies and jam or anoint me Lord with what would make me more flavorable to you and others. I allow you to do this work in me, seated here in your presence - taking your yoke, learning from you and resting in you. In Jesus Christ's name I pray, Amen.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

NO MATH, JUST CONSULT AND BE CAREFUL


I encourage myself, plus my brothers and sisters in Christ - do not add or subtract from The Word of God (The Bible), just cross reference, consult the Holy Spirit in prayer and take care how you present His Word.

Let's look at His Word concerning this subject. God calls His Word - The Truth and His Laws something that will last forever - "All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal." - Psalm 119:160 With that foundation, is it any wonder that God would declare......?
  • “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it” - Deuteronomy 4:2
  • "Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar." - Proverbs 30:6
  • "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." - Revelation 22:18-19
Those like myself, and a plethora of others in the Kingdom that teach God's Word, have taken a heavy responsibility upon themselves. James 3:1 says, Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. However, even with this knowledge, I cannot be quiet. So, the key becomes knowing His Word. The only way to know it is to read it, study it and pray over it. There is a dire warning however - presenting anything outside of God's Good News is wrong and will fall under God's wrath - 
  • "As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!" - Galatians 1:9
So when it comes time to interpret Scripture - turn to the Scripture for the answer (cross reference). There will be other verses, stories and events that explain what you are trying to understand, just stick with it. Do not try to add or subtract from a passage to make sense for you. Ask The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, and He will lead you into all Truth (John 16:13). Finally, going forward, be careful. In interpreting always follow the Golden Rule of Interpretation -
  • When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
And in speaking, choose your words wisely for they have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). As a Christian, you don't have to be a Teacher for your words to have a heavy influence. Before you even draw breath to witness to someone about Christ - pray quickly about what should be said. However, in this instance I felt compelled to especially address The Teachers of The Kingdom and remind all - No Math, Just Consult (The Holy Spirit) And Be Careful. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

THE CATCH-ALL TABLE


Do you have a catch-all table in your house? I do. Mine resides front-and-center as you walk into my home. It is a medium-sized table with adjustable wings, should I desire to place even more stuff on it. Yes, that is what a catch-all table is - a place for your weekly, daily or sometimes monthly stuff.

In a typical day you would see me come through the front door, place my work backpack down beside the catch-all table, proceed to unload my pockets of their contents and take off any jewelry and place it on the table. The only catch to this table is that I have to come back to it periodically and clean it up or it will overflow with trash. There is stuff I pick up daily that I need (wallet, keys, glasses, watch, phone, etc...). However, the trick is leaving the stuff you don't need on the table (whatever that might be for you).

I have a Hero who is not only the catch-all of my entire life mistakes against God, but I have a Hero who is the catch-all for everybody's life mistakes against God. My Hero, my catch-all is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Not only were all my mistakes/sins placed on This Catch-All Table (Christ), but the punishment for them was swallowed up on The Table (Christ) as The Table was destroyed (The Cross of Calvary).

I also have an anytime Catch-All Altar that is available to me. Sometimes that altar materializes in the form of my office at home. Sometimes it manifests as the steps of the stage (altar) at the church. Sometimes in various places (work, car, or on a walk) I find that my Catch-All Table, my Hero, my Altar, my Jesus is ready to receive more; ready to intercede more on my behalf. 

  • Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7
  • Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. - Psalm 55:22
  • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
I encourage you - wherever you are in your life today - consult The Counselor for what you need daily. I hear Jesus saying to me and perhaps some of ya'll - "Don't pick that back up, I have paid for it dearly and we have already dealt with that subject." Israel had a bad habit of this, but that does not mean we have to repeat their mistake. Allow Jesus to hear it all from you! Bare your heart, mind and soul to Christ and He will do likewise. Team-up with the Holy Spirit about being selective in what you remove from the table. However, trust in the bigness and faithfulness of your God by placing everything on The Catch-All Table.