Friday, September 30, 2016

HIGH PRIEST, SACRIFICE AND PERSONAL


I have really been captivated by a passage of Scripture lately. The Holy Spirit, through Hebrews 4:14-16, has been impressing upon me the uniqueness of my Savior. No other belief system can declare what this passage claims. Here is what Hebrews 4:14-16 says - 
  • "since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
The whole passage, all three sentences are pure encouragement and the reassurance seems to build throughout. 

In the first sentence believers are encouraged to "hold firmly to the faith we profess". Why? Because "we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God". Last time I checked there is no other who has the role of High Priest of God, took His own life back to ascend into Heaven and sits at the right hand of Father God. This supports Christ's statement in flying colors, "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

The next sentence gets better. It used to be that High Priests would simply take your animal sacrifice representing your sin for that year and offer it on the altar before God for forgiveness. There was not much interaction with the populace except for matters concerning judgement, cleansing and forgiveness. This is why the second sentence starts off describing Jesus - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,". The really remarkable catcher in this sentence comes next - but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Somehow and sometime in Christ's life on earth, He miraculously experienced every situation humanity would go through, But He Responded Correctly Every Time! He was the perfect person that nobody could or ever will be.

The beginning of the last sentence starts off with three key words - "Let us then". This phrase means - because of all that was just previously stated, the following should be capitalized on. So, how should we benefit from Christ being our Personal High Priest and Sacrifice? "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  You see there will certainly be times of need, but because of Christ's sacrifice and victory, believers can confidently come before God's throne to receive mercy (compassion) and grace (favor). 

"There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus. 
No, not one. No, not one. 
None else can heal all our souls, diseases. 
No, not one. No, not one. 
Jesus knows all about our struggles. 
He will guide till the day is done. 
There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus. 
No, not one. No, not one." 
(Hymn - There's not a friend like the lowly Jesus)

He is the believer's High Priest, Sacrifice and He is Personal.

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TAKE HEART


Having parents that disciplined you as a child is great. Scripture admonishes mother and father - "Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them." (Proverbs 13:24) However, having parents that discipline you in love would be wonderful. Somewhere in the corrective process, this next level of discipline would include a re-examination of why there was discipline in the first place. Something to the tune of the parents saying, "Chad, you know why we are taking the keys away from you for this weekend? Because......(disobedience, lied, etc...)" - would be a wonderful part of disciplining kids.

In the same kind of vein, Christ Jesus says to us every day - "Trust me, inquire of me, I have been there, done that, have the t-shirt and conquered it all for you to have the victory also!" This is my Pritchard Paraphrase of John 16:33“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” This is not discipline per se, but it is Godly Counsel that could keep us away from Godly Discipline, especially with the wiring to do things our way involved.

Wrapped up in this verse are many take-aways, so let me begin. Jesus desires us to know that He is our source of "peace" - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." This is important because the next sentence does not say we might have trouble, it says "you will have trouble" - "In this world you will have trouble." Do you sometimes feel pressured into making decisions? Like you are surrounded and the choice is being forced in one direction? That is the mental picture I want to portray to you when you read the word "trouble" in this verse. The original Greek word used here for trouble is thlipsis, meaning pressure (literally or figuratively) - afflicted (-tion), anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulationHowever, trouble is the one surrounded! On the otherside of trouble is overcoming or in some translations victory. When all your eggs are in Christ's basket, trouble doesn't stand a chance. You have peace going into every situation with Christ and you have the victory because He has been there.

The original Greek word for "world" in this verse is kosmos. My e-sword source defines this word as an orderly arrangement, that is, decoration; by implication the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitants, literally or figuratively [morally]) - adorning. So, not only has Christ overcome all the systems and cycles of the universe (of nature, of man, etc...), He has also conquered all of the people and their Trappings! All the snares that can be found in every category of life, we can find victory through Christ's perfect experience of life, His sacrifice on The Cross and His Resurrection from death, Hell and the grave.

I love it when my parents have counseled with me. Instead of giving me a ton of "Do's and Don'ts" (appropriate at certain times), they encouraged me with their own testimony. They told of when they were in close to possibly the same situation and how they handled it and how they wished they had handled it. With Jesus, He handled every situation perfectly. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) This is why we can trust Him and lean on Him. This is why we can call Him our Peace. This is why He is our Overcomer, our Victor in life. This why we should Take Heart.
  • "...for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." - 1 John 5:4-5

Friday, September 23, 2016

THE TEST IN LIFE


There are periods when we are tested. There are times when we are the tester. One of the characteristics of life is the power of choice. Whether or not that choice is a test is situational. Not every choice is a test. Some choices are mere decisions with consequences. A test implies a tester. The tester might be our education. We acquire great amounts of knowledge to test what we have learned in class. The tester might be ourselves. As youngsters and adults, we are always testing the boundaries of different things (i.e. authority, technology, imagination) to see how far we can go. 

As Christians, our faith is tested to mature us as believers and give another opportunity for God to showcase His love and faithfulness. Pastor Rick Renner said this best when he commented in a newsletter - "You will never know what God can do unless you do something that gives Him the opportunity to show you!" That is the willingness to put your faith to the test and allow God to show you who He already is. 

Testing is found throughout Scripture. We have Jesus teaching us about times of testing in Luke 8:13. Then later in Hebrews 8:13 a specific time of testing is mentioned as an example. Our "fidelity to Christ" might be tested, among other things, as seen in Romans 16:10. We are encouraged to test all prophecies in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, test our faith in James 1:3, test the spirits in 1 John 4:1 and test those who are about to become deacons in 1 Timothy 3:10.

We are warned that our life will experience suffering for Christ but not to be surprised, even if the ordeal or testing is "fiery" (1 Peter 4:12) - your life will go on in one form or another. In addition, we are encouraged, as we continue, to keep the prize in sight. Not only do we receive Jesus as our ultimate reward, but 1 Corinthians 3:13 reminds the believer our deeds/work will be tested and rewarded -  their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s workAnd for those who persevere under hardship, who endure the test, a Crown of Life awaits (James 1:12).

Is life a test? No. We were never meant for reincarnation - to keep coming back as something else until we perfect life or "get it right". Jesus came and paid the ultimate redeeming, ransom price for all of Creation. His life for everything will not be repeated! This love-gift was a one and done deal. Humans were made in God's image with relationship in mind. Sin or disobedience ushered in testing. If there were no tendencies to rebel against God's plan for our lives then there would be no need for Him to mold us through testing. Why was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden and available in the first place? Because sin had already been formed by the decision of Lucifer to rebel against God. Now, that opportunity was present for God's own likeness, not a robot. So with The Fall of humanity there came a rebellious nature toward God that everybody is born with, therefore we have testing throughout our lives. 

Life is a decision-making journey with seasons of testing. Thought of that myself, you like it? Sometimes life does seem like one large test. However, I think the all-inclusive mindset and emotion haunts me when I get a glimpse of life without Christ. Sure we have testings throughout our Christian walk in order to grow/mature in Christ, but to say the entirety of life is a test would put me back on eggshells or The Law of Moses. This lifestyle would be akin to God making sure every i was dotted, every t was crossed and grading me on it too. Now that Christ has come and fulfilled every letter of The Law, I live under the Spirit of Grace. The most important test you will ever face in life then is who you know. What you know helps, but who you know is the most important decision in life.

Talk about a test you don't want to get wrong. The ramifications are eternal. However, fear not, God has made it easy. The one He sent, Christ Jesus, said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) The test is this - Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth to you? "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 good moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on a 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 moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (C.S. Lewis) 

True life and a different kind of testing all start with knowing God personally through Christ Jesus, also known as The Good Teacher (Mark 10:17). He not only gives the test but supplies help/guidance in the problem-solving. One example of God testing His kids that I remember is Abraham offering Isaac as a sacrifice. Hebrews 11:17 says, "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice." This was a foreshadow of what God was willing to give, once-and-for-all, for the separation between God and humanity. IF you have answered the test question - Who is Jesus Christ of Nazareth to you? - by declaring His Lordship and Saving Grace over your life, THEN you have passed The Test In Life and have Him as your Good Teacher for the tests in life.

ISAIAH 59....Sounds Like Today

Isaiah 59
New International Version (NIV)
Sin, Confession and Redemption
(Sounds like something we could say about today)

1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.

2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things.

4 No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil.

5 They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched.

6 Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make.
Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands.

7 Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways.

8 The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.

9 So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.

11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for deliverance, but it is far away.

12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities:

13 rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived.

14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.

15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 

16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.

17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

18 According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due.

19 From the west, people will fear the name of the Lord, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the Lord drives along.

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord.

21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit,who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

REPENT


It is no wonder to me now-a-days that Paul encouraged his fellow believers in Ephesus to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes." (Ephesians 6:11) The original Greek word for "schemes" here means mind games. The enemy has been around since our creation so he knows our tendencies, behaviors, attitudes, desires and mindsets. Therefore, it is easy for him to manipulate a weak mind or develop mind games/schemes against us.

Father God knew Satan's strategy also. So, He had John the Baptist and Jesus emphasize starting with the mind when concerning major decisions, especially about one's faith. This beginning with the mind or way we think surrounds the word "Repent". Many Christians know the call to Repent - Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. - to be most associated with John the Baptist. However, Jesus also proclaimed it - "From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.'" (Matthew 4:17)

The word that Jesus was using for Repent, as He walked the roads of Israel so many years ago, is metanoeo (met-an-o-eh-o), meaning you think differently, you reconsider. But more than that it is a compound word (two words forming one). The first word is meta meaning hereafter. The second word is noieo meaning think differently. So, when you combine the two you have Hereafter Think Differently - Metanoeo.

I have heard it said that to repent is to turn 180 degrees in a given situation. However, who is to say that the direction you would be returning in is the correct one. The adjusted direction might be better but not the best because of one key ingredient. One of my fellow bloggers, Bobby Sparks, described repentance really well, he said,

"Repentance is giving up our thoughts, and opinions, and replacing them with God's thoughts, and his truth." 


So, the differing mindset cannot be just any ole 180 degree turn. I can completely turn around on a given matter and leave God utterly out of the picture. No, true repentance hands over all ideas, thinking processes, dreams, imaginations, sub-conscience and conscience thoughts to God. For the non-Christian it means changing your perspective from a worldview to how Christ sees you - forgiven through His sacrifice and victory. For the Christian it means you filter your thoughts through The Holy Spirit first. It all starts in the mind.

The Book of Acts tackles the order that God set up. Acts 2:38 speaks to how you should think differently, then be baptized. Acts 3:19 talks about considering Jesus and a lifestyle with Him then turning to God so that your sins will be wiped out. Acts 11:18 says, "even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life." Observe how a changing of our minds must happen first - "repentance" before that "leads to life" or a decision for Christ. A few chapters later this idea is confirmed - "I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus." (Acts 20:21) First, you think differently about God, then you come to Him in faith, accepting Him as your personal Lord and Savior. Acts 3:19 does a beautiful job of saying this -

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," 

For the word Repent we have the original word mentioned above, metanoeo. However, for the phrase "turn to God" or in the KJV "be converted", the original word, epistrephō, means come. This reminds me of the songs "Come, Now Is The Time To Worship" and "Just As I Am". Once we go through thinking things through and considering Christ and His lifestyle, He bids us come. Repent and Forgiveness are not the same thing, BUT they travel hand-in-hand wherever they go. First there is a consideration in the mind of change, then there is assent of the decision in the mind by coming to God and accepting His gift of Salvation. Remember what Christ said about considering first?

"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? (Luke 14:28) Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?" (Luke 14:31)

The decision to follow Christ is one kind of Repentance that will influence the rest of your life. That repentance should carry with it the display of a Christlike lifestyle. However, this does not mean we stop repenting or thinking differently. Christians are still imperfect. After receiving Christ as our personal Savior we are not sinless, but we should be recreated to sin-less.

As Christians, think of your whole body, especially your mind and heart, as God's Court where His Throne is located, where He is located on His Throne. God is not going to desire any unwholesome thing to enter His Court. You and I are the caretakers of our temple (body), especially our mind. We must endeavor on a daily basis to filter or prohibit any unwanted thoughts, ideas or mindsets into God's Court - our mind.

Within our Christian lifestyle there will be many opportunities to change your mindset about matters. What you may have thought about a given situation will be approached differently because like the original word that Jesus used - metanoeo (met-an-o-eh-o), you think differently, you reconsider, you filter your thoughts through The Holy Spirit first, you Repent.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NOT DONE YET

Thank God that He is not done with me yet and probably never will be. He is not done with you and the world either. If this is not the best example of Long-suffering, I don't know what is.

Have you ever seen someone exasperated? Have you ever seen someone exasperated, but with The Patience of Job (as the saying goes)? There is a sigh or blowing of air out of the nose, a sinking of the shoulders, a rolling of the eyes - then a granting of grace to the offender because you or The Lord in this case has long-suffering.

This is the mental picture I want to portray to you. In the Old Testament the original Hebrew word for Long-suffering was a compound word (two words that form one) - Arekaph (aw-rake-af). Arek (aw-rake) means long, patient and slow. Aph (af) means nose or breathing passionately.  So, when you combine the two and get Arekaph or Longsuffering - the meaning becomes something like....long, patient, slow, passionate breathing that steers clear of anger. Ever heard of "taking a deep breath and backing away from a situation"? Here is Biblical, Godly support for doing just that! I kinda liken it to God's counting to 10 when I mess up. I'm sure my guardian angel has had just a few moments like these too.

So, the O.T. accounts for The Lord being described in this manner are Exodus 34:6, Numbers 14:18, and Jeremiah 5:15. When I switched over to the New Testament the Greek word is Makrothumia meaning patient or patience. The first two instances I came to were Romans 2:4 and 9:22 and both declared God as patient. After these passages, the occasions they occurred dealt with patience as.......a fruit of The Spirit (Gal.5:22), a charge toward one another (Eph. 4:2), something Paul prayed for with a group of believers (Col. 1:11), something to clothe ourselves with, especially being God's chosen people (Col. 3:12) and Christ Jesus as having "immense patience" with Paul, the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:16).

Looking back through Biblical history, I see a few times, at least, where God's Long-suffering engaged to save humanity. Noah and the flood. Moses and the rebellious Hebrew people. Jesus even got to a point where He responded to their lack of faith and said - “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" (Matthew 17:17) However, He persevered with His Father's Plan and again showed another example of God's long-suffering - His own death for us upon The Cross.

Not only did Jesus rise from death, hell and the grave three days later, He also continued His Program of Patience. His Long-suffering continued in the underworld, afterlife, and in particular a place where unbelievers were held - Sheol Hades (dry and barren spiritual world). Paul in his letter to the believers in Ephesus attests to this visit -“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.” (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Ephesians 4:8-10) What was He doing there? Being Just and/or Fair. Here were people that died since Adam who were trapped in their sin. Now Christ's visit is to declare who He is, what He has done and what He will now do for those who will believe. 1 Peter 3:19-20 supports this nicely - he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

And now Christ Jesus long-suffers as the believer's Intercessor. Isaiah 53:12 prophesied Jesus as this eventual Intercessor for us. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. The New Testament promise of Christ in this role is found in Romans 8:34Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Do you see? He is always Faithful; always the Intercessor; always Long-suffering and He is Not Done Yet!

Friday, September 16, 2016

STANDING FIRM


Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 

Since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. 

You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 
_________________________________________________________
1 Corinthians 16:13; Matthew 24:12-13; Isaiah 7:9; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Peter 5:9; Hebrews 3:14; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:19; James 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Peter 1:12  
 
* Arrangement of Scripture by the Holy Spirit and me. Encouraging you to be Standing Firm in the faith as these winds of the world blow around us and people look for stability and dependability.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

K.I.S.S. (KEEP IT SHORT and SIMPLE)


There is a time and place for corporate prayer. Plus, there is a difference between tarrying with The Lord and droning on. Tarrying involves disengaging your tongue and engaging your spiritual ears - something the Pharisees or "hypocrites" of Matthew 6:5-15 found hard to do. This verse is not speaking about corporate prayer, the verse is dealing with the individual's communication to God. Matthew 6:5-8 states - 
  • And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Have you ever known somebody who loved to hear themselves talk? I have. Good luck getting even a "yes", "no" or "I agree" into the monologue with these people. Even God cannot respond to people who attempt to communicate to Him like this in prayer. Jesus says this behavior is all-for-showfor they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. In addition, Jesus says these people have received their reward in full. - which to me means, if attention from the masses is all you want then that is all you will receive.

Notice that as Jesus was teaching His disciples, He left out any other companion or group of people that might pray with you by using the word - "you". He said, when you pray, ...
  1. go into your room,
  2. close the door
  3. pray to your Father
Now that you are in your special room, with the door closed and praying to Father God - even here The Lord has some advice - And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Jesus reiterates the incorrect behavior to avoid - long, drawn-out, wordy prayers that draw attention to yourself. 

Have you ever known what a friend, son, or daughter needed and about that moment they started asking you to fill this need? However, they just didn't ask you, for some reason they felt the need to wax eloquent in the asking so as to be persuasive for a favorable answer. I know I have done that as a youngster with my parents and an adult with God. Sometimes I knew that my parents knew what I needed and I still droned on, other times I did not feel they did. However, Jesus says, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  This does not mean we should not come before Him with our needs and desires. It means, from here on out, corporately and/or privately, when you pray to The Lord, give Him a K.I.S.S. - Keep It Short and Simple.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

WE JUST HAVE TO SHINE


Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Darkness does not have to do anything to achieve it's purpose. It's nature is dark, void of any desire to accomplish or allow light in it's realm to be successful. The Lord desires us to be like Light - associated with Him, therefore working for Him or displaying the "fruits" of our association with Him.

To start off Matthew 5:16, Matthew says, "In the same way..". He is referring back to what he was just speaking about - analogies of us being a light. Matthew 5:14-15 states - You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Notice that people back then, just like people today, built towns on hills. Why would you do that? Attention. And where there is attention there is the great possibility of investigation. Where there is investigation there is the increased possibility of a town to do business. The town is not hidden sitting on a hill.

Also notice that back then, just like today, when you enter a house the amount of light decreases. Back in the time of Jesus they had oil lamps. Entering a darkened room with a lit oil lamp, Jesus says - Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. The lamp was lit for a purpose - not to be extinguished, but to supply it's light for the room. In fact, the lamp was placed on a stand in the center of the house/room where it gives light to everyone in the house. So, the benefit was to everybody.

Now we have our main verse - In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Wherever God has placed you (work, home, travels, etc), because of your association with God through Christ Jesus - allow your light, which equates to What Would Jesus Do (good deeds) to shine. Why? that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. In addition, allow your light to have the opportunity to shine as brightly and publicly as it would for a city on a hill, as you would shine your light brightly for your family in your home.

Compliments and well-managed pats-on-the-back are one thing, but to hear someone say, "I thank God for you Brother/Sister__________." Or "Thank The Lord for the talent He has blessed you with." - - - - should be even better to hear. As the great Provider, God has provided The Association (Jesus), The Lamp (Us, our bodies) and The Light (good deeds by His strength) - We Just Have To Shine!

Monday, September 12, 2016

WORSHIP

For me, as a Christian, worshiping God is so easy in places like my North Carolina mountains, lakes, beaches, gardens, beautiful chapels all over the state and any natural area I did not cover, not to mention my own church. However, I have been to places that are extremely less fortunate in scenery, economic status and general upkeep - struggling there to worship.

I was convicted recently of this wrong mindset and attitude. It is right to worship The Lord in those incredible lovely places. However, no matter how dim the light might be in the other places of the world; no matter how tore-up the environment might be - God always deserves to be honored, glorified and praised. Whether I can see God in a run-down, forgotten, forsaken place or not - I should praise God anyway. To praise God, to worship God, especially in these challenged areas is to bring a whole new mindset, attitude and atmosphere into that environment. 

David in Psalm 34:1 sets a precedent, I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. Notice my act of extolling unto the Lord in not done just in the morning, nor just in the afternoon, nor just in the evening - but "at all times". The original Hebrew word, Barak (baw-rak), is a primitive root word meaning to kneel; by implication to bless God. I don't have the opportunity to kneel physically before God all the time, but I can show Him humility in my heart, mind and spirit throughout my day - every day. Also notice that there is a semi-colon after the word "times" indicating that the author is going to reword the preceding statement and David does, he says - his praise will always be on my lips. Again, the forever timeframe is mentioned with the word "always" as pertaining to how long I should praise my God.

And why wouldn't I desire to extol, praise or worship Christ my Savior at any and all times of the day? There is another Scripture that promises He will manifest His presence as we choose to do so; as we choose to praise Him. Another one of David's songs, Psalm 22:3 is that Scripture. Although it is speaking directly to Israel, believers in Christ being grafted into the promises of Israel can claim this benefit as well. David says, But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 

The original Hebrew word for inhabitest is Yashab (yaw-shab). It means to sit down, dwell and/or remain. Imagine that! As I praise or you praise The Lord, He sits down with us, He dwells in a special way with us or causes His presence to remain (tarry) with us in a manifested way. So, when we praise Him, special blessings and anointings are available in His manifest presence. One of the blessings through praise is victory unleashed by the shout. The Christian artist Carman said it best in his song Jericho - 

Now God was putting in operation, a principal of warSetting at our disposal weaponry that drops demons to the floor
Something with tremendous power that assassinates fear and doubt
It's the high praises of victory, unleashed by a shout

When David played his songs of praise, demons fled from Saul
As Paul and Silas worshiped God, the chains began to fall
It lifts us above the circumstance and lets God's power flow
The shout of victory binds the Devil with chains that won't let go


No matter where I am, no matter the circumstances, especially in the areas that need to hear praise unto God, I choose to give Christ all my Worship.


When You Praise - Fred Hammond






Wednesday, September 7, 2016

THE TRANSFORMATION WE NEED


War! What is it good for? The song says, absolutely nothing. However, America has made money, jobs and supposedly kept world peace by going to war. What are humans going to do without war? It seems like our nature is to always be at odds with each other since the days of Cain and Able. Over the years our survivability as individuals, people and nations surfaces from within us and we develop positions of employment which prepare for both the offensive and defensive aspect of war.

So, now the question becomes - how will we ever handle true peace-time? This time of peace is prophesied to come, where... "He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4) This world status; this atmosphere; this global condition; people will have to undergo a great transformation.

The first part of The Transformation is accepting Christ Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. The full manifestation of that transformation happens at The Rapture, which I believe occurs before the wrath to come (Tribulation Period) - 1 Thessalonians 1:10. The transformation that happens sometime between now and then is described in 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The 1 Corinthians passage states -

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
__________________________________________

Notice both Scripture passages compliment each other. Both speak to those sleeping in death. Both mention a change. Both state that those who died in the Lord will be transformed and/or caught away first. Both claim there is a Trumpet Call involved. There is so much alike, I feel it is only reasonable to conclude Paul is referring to the same event - The Rapture.

This is how I believe that day will happen....

The Lord descends from the right hand of God the Father to mid air and proclaims something (1Thess. 4), perhaps the words He used with John in Revelation 4:1 - "Come up here!"

An Archangel will make an announcement (1 Thess. 4). 

The Trumpet will sound! Either simultaneously the believer's transformation happens or immediately after - We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—  in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. (1 Cor. 15) Notice the change happens to all believers, dead and alive, all at once. 

THEN the ones who were dead in Christ rise first to meet The Lord (1 Thess. 4). God joins their souls to their now glorified bodies in that flash of a change (God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. - 1 Thess. 4)

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess. 4)

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 


“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15)

Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4)

I cannot wait for this change! Oh the benefits thereof! It truly is The Transformation We Need.


Friday, September 2, 2016

DON'T JUMP SHIP (1 Corinthians 4:1)

Excerpts from Sparkling Gems From the Greek, by Rick Renner, p.636

"When you said yes to the will of God, you surrendered to Him, agreeing to pick up the 'oar' He has placed before you."

"If God has called you, don't jump ship! He needs you in the bottom of the boat in order to keep the Body of Christ moving forward toward maturity. You are very important!"

"You see, it's easy to start obeying God. Initiating a project is fun and exciting, and it's always the easiest part. The difficult part is sticking with that project and seeing it through all the way to the end. The real test comes when the excitement is gone and the reality of hard work and commitment begins to dawn on you. That's always the golden moment when the flesh is tempted to forget you ever heard from God and to start looking for a way out!"

"But the bottom line is this:  Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether or not those around us ever show us appreciation for what we do. If the boat is going to move, we must row the boat!"

"Just like these 'under-rowers' [on slave ships], if you stop rowing - if you stop doing your job - it could possibly jeopardize the destiny God has called you to fulfill. If the boat is going to move, you must row, whether or not you ever hear the words 'thank you' from anyone."

All Christians have been endowed with gifts, talents, ministries and a calling for their "Boat" - their local church. The key is thinking and caring about The Boat - Don't Jump Ship!

"This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed." - 1 Corinthians 4:1

FOR THE SAKE OF JESUS

From before we were born, The Plan has always been about God; about Him choosing us first (Ephesians 1:5); about Him loving us first (Romans 5:8). God loves us because He cannot contradict Himself - God is love (1 John 4:8). His love for us has never been about us earning it or receiving it as a reward. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) And God's grace, His gifts keep flowing for eternity after making Him your personal Lord and Savior. 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)

God's perfect earthly representation of His love was and is Jesus Christ. Our healing is for His glory. Our deliverance is to His credit. Our advantages in life are arranged by Him and we should praise Him for them. Christ paid such a high price not to receive All the honor, glory and praise. For Christ's sake Father God works on our behalf because we love Him and recognize He has a plan for our lives. I am sure you can hear Paul telling the Roman believers now - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) 

Notice this verse says, "in all things", not just a certain category of life that God works. Second, observe who "works...in all things" - "God". The verse does not name Paul, Matthew, Mark or any other disciple or well known Christian. God Himself will work "for the good" of those who love Him and whose direction is upon their lives - "called according to his purpose". His favor follows these people and not because of who they are or what they have done, but because of what Christ has done and who He is - For The Sake Of Jesus.