Friday, June 23, 2017

YOUR LIFE SONG


Is it any wonder that all of us like music. For every person there is some genre, style, or classification that fits the bill. Whether the draw is the beat, the melody, the harmonies, the lyrics, the choice instruments and so forth - the influence is still profound. Music can communicate thoughts or feelings we have not been able to do justice expressing. Music is a freedom that allows us to celebrate our creativity or just share in the joy of it as we sing/play along with a song. 

That is what I believe music was in the very beginning - a joyous expression of everything wonderful as a praise offering to Father God who supplies every good and perfect gift. Before The Fall there was nothing bad to sing about. And the leader of the heavenly worship was very likely Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:13 says, "The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created." The very body of this heavenly, angelic being was made-up of musical instruments used to worship God. 

I am sure most of us have a favorite song. Heck! I would venture to say the majority of us probably have a good handful or two of favorites. I hope most, if not all, of your songs are positive, uplifting songs. My witness is that the more I surround myself and engage myself with the will of Christ Jesus, the more I find myself hearing and singing my true Life Song - songs about Jesus, for Jesus and to Jesus.

Life does not stop after accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of your life. No, this decision should be the beginning of a new lifestyle because of the price that you just recognized Jesus has paid for your eternal being. As an example, since I became a Christian many years ago I have, with the Lord's help, become a singer, author, blogger, teacher, and mentor. All these things I cherish because every time I operate in them, I do them in honor of Christ Jesus. 

I am human. I have challenges in my thought life, my speech and my actions. However, when I confess those wrongs to God, He is faithful to forgive, His favor returns and I become a more influential singer, author, blogger, teacher, mentor, etc. 

Finding places to plug in and show Christ once again how much you love Him is another way of setting a spiritual barometer so that we know we are living, moving and having our being in Him or not. It is vital to keep your focus on Him and not allow a multitude of opportunities on your plate to overwhelm you. Better to have a handful of ministries you do really well than a plethora of ones that you do average to poorly. 

Jesus said let me find you busy when I return. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions." (Matthew 24:45-47) My encouragement again is - if you are not already - be balanced in your involvement, but to the point that you can truly say, feel and know..."in Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) For once you align yourself into His life, His movements and His presence - you will truly hear, play and sing Your Life Song.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

PROPHET, PRIEST AND KING


In the days before Christ, the nation of Israel had separate individuals filling the role of Prophet of the land, Priest of the people and King of Israel. Then when Christ Jesus arrived on the scene, He fulfilled every one of these roles in Himself. He still fulfills them for Israel today and for the rest of the world as well.

Being a Prophet not only concerns the future but the office pertains to wisdom. Christ is Wisdom. This part of the Messiah's ministry is connected with the Mind. Within the mind we ponder, worry and process our information. Here is where we desperately need Jesus in and on our minds to aide with what concerns us and Him; to help in revealing what is to come. "Do not conform 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 12:1-2)

Being a Priest means that someone is the Shepherd, the Watcher and Minster of someone's Soul. Jesus is called the Savior of our Soul. To me this means Christ Jesus paid the ultimate price, His life, to have the office of Priest over our souls - at our acceptance of His sacrifice. Our soul - the emotions, the will and personality of a person - is in no better care than when we entrust it to the One who knows all our troubles. "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) 

Being a King means dealing with what is; handling the issues of today - now. This ministry of Jesus pertains to our Body. Our shell is in the here and now and is something we must surrender to Christ as King. "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Jesus is The Prophet. Jesus is The Priest. Jesus is The King. If you have not already, I encourage you - allow Him to govern your life as Master or Lord of all three offices in your mind, soul and body. Allow Him to be your Prophet, Priest And King.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

THE RAILWAY OF LIFE


A train. A set of tracks. A Rail-line that they all belong to. I write today symbolically referring to our lives as such - a train on The Railway Of Life.

I know each of us may at times in life feel like the caboose - last and having backward vision. Some may feel like one of the box cars - along for the ride and having a passer-by vision. Some individuals may view themselves as riders on the train with a limited view of the inside and a blurred perspective of the outside. However, for those who partner themselves with The Conductor in the front of the train - vision becomes a little more clear.

Sure it is good to slow the train down to appreciate your surroundings and relationships on a regular basis. Sure there will be Depots that must be stopped at and life issues dealt with for a time. Passengers will come and go. But the one thing that must happen is to just keep chugging on - moving forward. Paul presented this idea to the believers in Philippi when he wrote them and said, "Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:13-14

After we have accepted Christ Jesus as our Lord and Savior, consider your Rail-line. Paul teaches and encourages the believers in Corinth this time, saying, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - (2 Corinthians 5:17) Think about one of the rails on the track as Father God, the other rail on the track is Christ Jesus, The Conductor within The Train is The Holy Spirit and The Rail-line is Yahweh Rail-line! 

Although there are many Rail-lines in the world, there is only One that leads through life to God's immediate presence - Christ Jesus Railway (if you will). Jesus leaves no doubt about this matter as He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Christ encourages us that His Holy Spirit will always be there to guide us in the Truth of all matters (Hebrews 13:5 and John 16:13).  

So, if you have been discouraged lately and your vision has fallen to either the rear, the sides or at yourself - spend a little time with The Conductor (Holy Spirit). After some quality time with The One who knows where you are going, your vision will become much clearer on The Railway Of Life.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

GOING HOME


In my Dad's house I see his fingerprints or touch everywhere. I smell his scent. I can physically feel the things he has made or fixed for the inside of the house. I can even hear the echo of his voice in the halls sometimes when he is not visibly there. So it is with my Heavenly Father also, except His house is much bigger and engulfs the earth - in fact - all of creation.

The major difference to be mentioned here is that I can see my Dad anytime I desire. With my Heavenly Father, I still must rely on the large tells inside His House for His manifestations. However, it was not always like that, nor will it continue to be like this.

Many moons ago, Father God sent the perfect representation of Himself into this world - His Word made flesh, Christ Jesus. When speaking to Phillip, Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." (John 14:9) He did and does everything in union with The Father because they are one and the same. Paul declares, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Colossians 1:15) Wow! At the honor and privilege of those that had the opportunity to see Christ or to even walk with Him, talk with Him and touch Him. 

Those who are followers of Christ, who are children of the Most High God, are in a waiting period to see Christ and therefore see our true Father. Christ said, " And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:3) In fact, His glory will not be hidden from us. His oneness with The Father will be doubtless. John says, "But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

I see my Heavenly Father's touch everywhere in the creation of all the many galaxies, laws, cycles and order of things. I smell His scent whenever a person, plant or thing behaves as His Word says it should. I can feel the things He has made by going camping or horseback riding or the like. And I can hear the echo of His voice in the halls of my mind as I stay in His Word and continue to say, "Teach me, Holy Spirit." each day. These signs and manifestation of what The Father looks like are what will have to suffice for me until one day you see me Going Home.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WHAT REALLY MATTERS


Recently the Holy Spirit led me to read the book of 1 John. My take is that God was and is trying to communicate Christ is the ultimate example of brotherly love that we should be practicing daily. In addition, the significance of loving your brothers and sisters in Christ and reaching out to the world is eternal. 

John warns the believer that the world system is a bunch of trappings meant to keep us slave to the temporal. God says through John - 
  • "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
Yet, the people of the world are who Christians are called to reach out to. Remember, every Christian was slave to the world and it's trappings before accepting Christ's victory over the world (John 16:33). Another reason Jesus came was to provide us life and life to the full (John 10:10). Jesus, in His prayer to Father God, declares about believers that we are not of this world as He is not, even though we are in it (John 17:16). This begs the question - How do we (Christians) reach the world when we are not of it anymore? 

How do you reach out to someone who does not quite grasp your changed language? John proclaims this dilemma - 
  • "They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them. We are from God and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." (1 John 4:5-6)
The Christian still has to speak to get the witnessing ball rolling. However, the words we choose should be seasoned with love and tenderness. Peter has one of my all-time favorite verses in the Bible and it pertains to this - 
  • "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Did you notice the two ingredients that must be mixed in to our speech, especially our Testimony? Gentleness and Respect. If you keep these two ingredients consistent in your speech, those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ will be ashamed of their slander.

Behavior, which is also mentioned alongside speech in reaching the world (your good behavior in Christ), is the action part of the equation. I can speak life-transforming truths to the world until I am blue in the face, but until it is accompanied and/or supported by actions, I am just providing good information that could easily be forgotten. 

Just as faith and actions must work together to justify the faith of a believer (James 2:14-26), so our language and behavior should be aligned also. They both must agree with our decision to follow Christ Jesus and His ways. Plus, they must compliment each other. Have you heard of the phrase "actions speak louder than words"? "Sources say that this expression dates back as far as 1628. It was first used in its current form in the USA by Abraham Lincoln in 1856: 'Actions speak louder than words' is the maxim; and, if true, the South now distinctly says to the North, 'Give us the measures, you take the men.' [Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Volume II"(https://www.bookbrowse.com/expressions/detail/index.cfm/expression_number/151/actions-speak-louder-than-words)
Actions may speak louder than words, but they must agree with what was spoken in the beginning. If this fails, the authenticity of the person falters and we question if they knew What Really Matters.

Friday, June 2, 2017

"IT IS WRITTEN..." (Reprise and Revised)


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 in 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.  The Word of God, which was Himself in the flesh, now physically responded to each temptation by declaring the truth of the matter. The answer always was and is the same - "It is written...."

"It is written..." must be the Christian's war cry also. Our foundation, our source, our sustaining force must be The Belt of Truth that holds everything together and upon which all the weapons of warfare hang. Christ Jesus is the way, The Truth and the life. All power to destroy the enemy's attacks, temptations or otherwise, is found in God's Word and thwarted by verbalizing "It is written...".

It is a good thing to sure-up the areas in our life we know are weak and guard, with God's help, against temptation. However, I encourage all of us - 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 - in God's Word, research it, read it, and recite it. Whatever "it" is, the start of resisting the devil and seeing him flee is declaring "It Is Written...".

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ENEMY - YES, EQUAL - NO


To be someone's Rival is to be their Equal. Each one's power, strength, speed and wisdom - to name just a few - must be on the same playing-field to be considered Rivals or Equals. One cannot have much of a competition or challenge if one party is less in any area. With weakness exposed, the one with the more developed area of expertise will prevail. This view of the competitive drive or King of the Mountain success that drives our society touches businesses, sports, politics and personal lives, but the idea does not pertain to God.

God has No Equal, No Rival. The notion that there must be a balance, a yin and yang, between good and evil for the universe to exist is a lie from the Devil himself. God was doing just fine before the material universe and the spiritual realm were created by God Himself. He created both realms with - every law, creature, being and place in them and sustains them to this second. John and Paul assist, under the power of the Holy Spirit, when they wrote the following -
  • In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.(John 1:1-5)
  • The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
When God created the spirit realm and the angelic host thereof, Lucifer was one of the beings created. Scripture depicts him as the next glorious being down from God - "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty." (Ezekiel 28:12) Eventually, the created developed pride and believed wholeheartedly he could usurp The Creator. Notice the attempted overthrow came as Lucifer said in his heart the following - he did not even get an opportunity for action or perhaps even vocalization of his desire.  

"You said in your heart,
I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

Then THUMP! Judge, Jury and Executioner all in God played out over the course of human history. You can read in Ezekiel 28:12-19 and Isaiah 14:3-20 about the ultimate demotion and eventual elimination of an Enemy - Yes, Equal - No. 

Jesus did not come to defeat Satan. The devil was already defeated when he said in his heart - "I will...". 1 John 3:8 spells it out for us.
  • "The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work."
The word "work" ascribed to the devil here is the original word ergon. This word means effort, labor or occupation. Therefore, the interpretation is all the schemes, plans and actual job/occupation of Satan is what Jesus destroyed in His first visit through The Cross and Resurrection. 

One way to display Christ's work through us over the enemy is our speech. Christians still dole out credit to the devil way too much. We say things like - 
  • "Allow me to play the devil's advocate."
  • "Speak of the devil."
  • "The devil is in the details."

One might say that the above is just a cultural language group of sayings that have no real bearing spiritually. I disagree. In everything, as much as possible, leave the devil out and alone. Shun him, rebuke him and cast him aside as Christ has done. Allow wholesome, Godly, positive, uplifting speech to be your cultural language (Philippians 4:8). We need to be purposefully good in the words we select, which means - think before speaking. 

Even moreso than our speech, Christians need to grasp the mindset, the reality of the Holy Spirit in us - the dynamite power of God able to do more than we can imagine. 

Ephesians 2:6 says, 

  • "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,". 

Romans 8:10-11 says, 

  • "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 because of his Spirit who lives in you." 

1 John 4:17 says, 

  • "This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus." 

1 John 4:4 says, 

  • "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." 

When we, as Christians, get a hold of these truths as a whole - look out world! The influence upon us and the world is all because of Christ Jesus and His empowering Holy Spirit! So, do we have an Enemy - Yes, Equal - No!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

APPRECIATE, BUT ACTIVATE

Any time any of us come across a product that helps our life become better in any way, are we not inclined to share this help with those that have the same challenge(s)? This is how I feel about my relationship with Christ Jesus. I know He made me better and keeps making me better thus I share my transforming relationship with others to pass along Him as their help too.

In light of eternity and world events, the salvation that Christ offers, not only at The Cross but every day, spurs me to take advantage of every opportunity to share God's goodness in my life and what He could possibly do in the life I am witnessing to.

So, what are some things Christians can do once we recognize the incredible relationship we have with God and the zeal for Him?

  1. Spread the Gospel
  2. Share your Testimony
  3. Speak a Rhema Word
  4. Show Loving Kindness
To me, it is no surprise that the #1 thing to do is tell others about the person, place or thing that has made an impact on me. In this case, it is Christ Jesus and the Good News that He has redeemed our fallen relationship with Father God through His death, resurrection and promise of return for us. Therefore, it is not a hard thing to - "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15)

If this was not enough, Jesus just keeps on giving in my life - showing His abundant, unfailing love. His continued displays of care and affection provide for me a Testimony for others to gain strength, peace or whatever is needed. He has me go through things sometimes to reach common ground with others. Through these events the Holy Spirit through John calls me an overcomer. I triumph over the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

When common ground is not an option I must keep relying on God. To speak a kind word to someone who is struggling with something is great, but the next level is to be so in tune with The Holy Spirit and God's Word that I deliver a personal Holy Spirit given word for that individual. This is what is meant to do battle with The Sword of The Spirit in Ephesians 6:17. The original Greek word for the phrase "word of God" which describes "the Sword of the Spirit" is NOT Logos (written/verbal) it is Rhema - Revealed, based on the written. Therefore, be aware and discerning of opportunities you have to minister to others with the revealed word from the Holy Spirit.

Last, but by no means least, is Loving Kindness. In these days love, kindness and consideration are hard to find, especially the unconditional variety. Jesus said that loving one another would be a distinguishable mark from all other followings -"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) However, we find David and Titus speaking of Loving Kindness. David speaks of it in Psalm 63:3 and Titus in Titus 3:4-6. The emphasis is on God's example of giving unconditional love. Christ exemplified this loving-kindness before The Cross, at The Cross and afterward - we should too.

We can sit back and admire something, some place or someone until the cows come home. We can say we are grateful and be dormant until the end. "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." - James 2:14-17 - Appreciate, But Activate.

Friday, May 19, 2017

CHASING THE RIGHT WIND


When you read the book of Ecclesiastes you will see a repetitive phrase - "a chasing after the wind". The phrase is meant to emphasize the meaninglessness of the previous thing described. Such things as "toil", "envy" and "roving of the appetite" are worldly or life rabbit holes that need not be explored. 

With this wind or winds we are not meant to pursue, Christ says Christians should be able to identify the moving of the Holy Spirit, also described as a wind, from the moving of the wind of the world, enemy or any other winds.
  • "And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is." - Luke 12:55 
It helps to be baptized in His Spirit so one can be led by His Spirit. That is what the Day of Pentecost was all about - the empowering.
  • "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." - Acts 2:1-3
However, Paul declares from experience that it will take growing in the faith together and maturing from glory to glory to appreciate the victory we have, through Jesus, over the winds of life.
  • "...until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." - Ephesians 4:13-15
Have you ever been in an open field with not a lot of people near and with hardly any wind at your elevation and out of the blue you hear voices? The wind has carried voices from people on the far edge of the field on a different current than where you are and made it audible enough for you to ask - where is that coming from and where is it going? This is what is meant when Jesus said,
  • "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” - John 3:8
Christians should be on a different current than the world, but within earshot of them. A current of love, a voice with the Good News that they are intrigued with to the point of discussion. 

James paints a great picture of how we are to sail through life. He portrays people as ships. He says,
  • "Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go." - James 3:4
Especially for the Christian, James goes on to speak of the rudder as our tongue and the power thereof. However, nobody gets anywhere fast without the aide of the wind - The Holy Spirit. This means our rudder must be aligned with The Wind. Don't fight The Wind with your rudder, it is a losing battle every time. Our speech must be lined-up with The Holy Spirit or God's Word and His Will for our lives. This practice will keep our ship steered in the right direction and Chasing The Right Wind.

Main Point(s) Summary
  1. Choose the right Wind
  2. Be filled with the Holy Spirit/The Wind
  3. Grow/mature together to know The Wind's movements
  4. Be of The Wind while in the world
  5. Use your rudder properly with The Wind

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

HOW MUCH DO YOU VALUE HIS RELATIONSHIP?


The interaction between Jesus and the rich young, man of Matthew 19:16-30 is once again the event I bring to your attention. However, the important point I desire you to draw from today's study is that wealth is not the only relationship killer out there. I know that statement is common sense to many, if not most people, but a relationship with Christ Jesus is in the balance where concerning eliminating certain strongholds from your life.

The man asked Jesus, "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" Instead of giving the man the entire Law of Moses, Jesus supplies the man with some important, heavy-hitters - "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself." I can see the young man making a mental checklist as Jesus names these off. The man then declares, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" I would say, first of all kudos for being upstanding enough to have these matters covered in your life young man. Second, to ask what you still lack is also a good move.

The only problem with the rich, young man's or anyone's good efforts is God always knows our motives and weaknesses. Not that we should not try, but God desires to be our motive in life and have our weaknesses surrendered to Him so He can display His power made perfect in our weakness(es) (2 Cor. 12:9).

Christ's answer to the man's question of "What do I still lack?" was three-fold - (1) sell your possessions, (2) give to the poor and (3) follow me.

  • “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Here comes the first pitch - "go, sell your possessions". The rich, young man is just that - rich. He is not about to part with the items that he has bought that declare his prominence in society. Strike One!

Here comes the 0-1 pitch - "give to the poor". Are you kidding?! If he is not parting with his wealth to sell his material acquisitions, he sure is not going to just give it to some stranger. Strike Two!

The young, rich man is down in the count. Can he come back and at least get a base hit? Here comes the 0-2 pitch - "come, follow me". Do you remember what following Jesus cost the Disciples? Their jobs, families, friends and familiar surroundings. I am sure this rich, young man knew this also and counted his wealth as more important than a relationship with the person he considered an expert on "good things"Yet, in recognizing Jesus as such - the rich, young man still clung to his personal accomplishment, maybe even hangup or trapping - wealth. 

When the dust seemingly settled from this encounter, Peter stepped up and addressed Jesus' engagement with the rich, young man. My Pritchard Paraphrased version of Peter's words go something like this - "Jesus, we have sold our possessions, given to the poor and chosen to follow you. We know what the young man chose, but what happens to us as we stay on with you?"

"Jesus said to them, 'Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.'"

For the Original Twelve Disciples, one of their rewards is a throne upon which they will sit administering judgment on the twelve tribes of Israel. Then Jesus turns His attention to everyone else who has declared their faith in Him and given up a great sacrifice. Their reward is two-fold, "a hundred times as much" and "eternal life". I don't know if the rich, young man knew the rewards for obeying the remaining instructions of Jesus. I am led to believe that would not have made a difference because of the stronghold of wealth in his life. The giving up of wealth for a relationship with Christ would have been an awesome sacrifice for the rich, young man. 

Even though Christians know Jesus as the expert on "good things", as the rich, young man did, I believe there are major obstacles in our lives which dominate our choice of relationship. So, it is time for each of us to step up to the spiritual Home Plate and answer - Can you give your whole life to Christ (sell all your possessions)? Can you love others as Christ loved you (give to the poor)? Will you align yourself with Jesus' ways (come, follow me)? Or will you hold on to the temporary fixation that has empty fulfillment? How Much Do You Value His Relationship?

Monday, May 15, 2017

IS CHRIST YOUR "GOOD TEACHER"?


People and situations are good instruments of teaching in this thing we call life, if we are willing to learn. You might have an academic teacher/professor, a parent, mentor, pastor or life challenge that has taught you many lessons. You might even have a favorite teacher or a situation you recall and use as a testimony to where you are now. However, there is only one that is called Good Teacher and for Good Reason. 

Here are a handful of Scriptural verses which describe God as Good.
  • "Good and upright is the Lord." (Ps. 25:8)
  • "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him." (Ps. 34:8)
  • "I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good." (Ps. 54:6)
  • "You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you." (Ps. 86:5)
  • "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (Ps. 100:5)
The Hebrew word used for "good" in each of these verses is tob (tobe). This word means good in its widest sense - precious, favored, well and prosperity. However, when you fast-forward to Christ's interaction with a particular young rich man in Matthew 19:16-18, there is another word for "good" which bears a slightly elevated meaning.

"Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?'

'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.'”


The other Gospel accounts record the rich, young man actually calling Jesus "Good Teacher". Here is Mark's reckoning - 

"As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?'

'Why do you call me good?' Jesus answered. 'No one is good—except God alone.'" (Mark 10:17-18)


In any case, the word for "good", whether it is pertaining to Christ's knowledge of what is good or Christ being a Good Teacher is agathos. This word that was used means better, honest, and/or worthy. This word acknowledges and proclaims the recipient as being supreme, Master of whatever He spoke about, especially that which was Good. So the man could be addressing Jesus as Better Teacher, Honest Teacher and/or Worthy Teacher.

"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) Jesus continues to teach, only the person of The Holy Spirit is now our immediate Good Teacher. He knows what I need and want. He knows what you need and want. Those of you who have trusted Christ with your Salvation, I encourage you to continue to keep all your eggs in His basket and learn from Him. He says in Matthew 11:28-30“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.” 

In these times of seeking answers, personally and nationally, make sure you are listening and studying under the One, True, Right and Good Teacher - Christ Jesus. True, The Holy Spirit may use a person or situation to teach a lesson or two, but be ever discerning and matching what you hear with God's Word. Is Christ Your Good Teacher?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

DO YOU STILL SURRENDER TO YOUR ALL-KNOWING SAVIOR? (Examining Psalm 139)


David opens up Psalm 139 with a declaration of what the rest of the chapter/Psalm is going to cover - that which God "searches" and "knows" about him and consequently - us. David portrays God throughout as a very personal being.

David says, "You have searched me, Lord, and you know me." Then he proceeds to describe how God searches and knows himself and the rest of us. The first stanza or block of verses deal with God's knowledge, omniscience or all-knowing. 
  • "You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain."(verses 2-6)
In the Second Stanza or block of verses, David uses the question and the conditional word "if" to describe the Omnipresence or Ever-presence of God.
  • "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." (verses 7-12)
I think it marvelous to have not only somebody around all the time, but God who knows me better than myself - through the struggling times as well as the good times. 

The Third Stanza magnifies God as the Personal, All-Powerful God. David showcases God's wondrous creativeness in making him and the sheer amount of good will, intentions and plans God has for his life in this segment.
  • "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you." (verses 13-18)
Three things stand out to me in this section. First, God not only created my physical body and all it's systems and functions, but He also created "my inmost being", my soul. What a Creator! Second, God is always thinking about me. The image created by David is just that - God's gracious thoughts toward him, therefore toward us are countless. Last, but not least, the phrase "when I awake, I am still with you" jumps off the page. It reminds me that God never takes His eyes off of me and I can never escape His presence - sleeping or awake - which is very comforting.

The Fourth Stanza foreshadows the switching of hating one's enemies to loving them. David says,
  • "If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies." (verses 19-22)
Jesus would later visit and point out a practice that could be improved upon. He said, 
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 5:43-48) 

Another interesting observation is that David sings/prays for the "bloodthirsty" to be away from him - "Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!" - yet he was not allowed to build the Temple in Jerusalem because he was a man of blood himself. Perhaps by this time in his life he had changed.

The concluding remarks bring David and the reader full circle.
  • "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (verses 23-24)
"Search me, God, and know....". Knowing God knows everything about him, is with him always, created even his inmost being and has great thoughts toward him - David surrenders. What does he surrender to God? David submits his "heart", mind/"thoughts" and actions/"way" for probing or evaluation and molding. David acknowledges there is not only a way, there is "the way everlasting" and our personal God is just The One who can "lead" us in it. My encouragement and challenge today is even though you might know God knows everything about you - do you still take David's example here? Do you still humble yourself before the Lord? Do You Still Surrender To Your All-Knowing Savior?

Monday, May 8, 2017

HIS PLAN...OUR CHOICE


I used to think, perhaps with many others, how could we have free choice with a God that says, Accept my Son or die and go to Hell? My perception was wrong. It was not that God was holding a spiritual gun to my head and making me "choose" the only answer. Instead, everyone was already doomed in their condition and heading to their rightful destination - Hell. Meanwhile God reached down to us all with Christ Jesus, changing our condition and destination.
  • "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." - Romans 5:6
  • "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8
Before anyone accepts Christ as their personal Savior, everyone is the Walking Dead and the Walking Saved. We have a damned spiritual nature and destination, but it has been Redeemed by Christ Jesus. All we have to do is recognize, accept and believe in Him.

Of all the belief systems in the world Christianity shows God gifting/sacrificing His only Son to change our condition and destination. All other faiths demand you work for your salvation, which would be impossible if that god were truly God. When anyone realizes there is no amount of deeds that can help attain holiness, oneness or Godliness and you allow God to be the Savior/Transformer of your life - you have Christ Jesus.

One might say that is still not much of a choice; that I am painting all other options as inferior and magnifying Christ. To this I would say it is simply a no-brainer that I see God trying to communicate He is the right choice down through the ages. I see it through His people in history. I observe it first in the Hebrews early on, then the nation of Israel, next the Church and finally Christians on an individual level with our own powerful testimonies.

Does God have a plan for us? Absolutely. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) However, this plan is activated at our choosing Him for leadership of our lives. Joshua put it to the people this way - But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) His Plan...Our Choice.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

WHAT I HEAR IN GOD'S VOICE


When Jesus came up from below the waters of the Jordan River, as He was being baptized, the voice of Father God announced - "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17)

Every-now-and-then when I visit my parents, as I hug my Mom and my Dad, my Dad will greet me with an affectionate - "Hello Son!" The greeting and the word "Son" has a tone to it that warms my spirit so fast that I can feel a physical reaction in my heart. I am happily identified as "Son" to these parents; to this family.

Then there are the benefits of being a "Son" of Mom and Dad, however the list would be lengthy and it all boils down to one thing in the end anyway - Love. My parents loved each other so much and decided to show that love for the rest of their lives in countless ways to me and my brother. They still do today.

Another encouraging thing I hear my Mom and Dad say is - "Chad, we are extremely proud of you, Son." These people and my wife are the next beings down from God in the universe that can say this and make me come completely undone. Besides being their Son and being loved by them, the fact that they think what I have done in life reflects well on them and the family - makes life that much more endurable.

Again, when Jesus came up from below the waters of the Jordan River, as He was being baptized, the voice of Father God announced - "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) Father God identified Jesus as His Son. Father God declared He loved His Son. Father God adds on top of Jesus being His Only Beloved Son - He is not just pleased with Him, He is "Well Pleased" - a Godly, Proud Parent indeed.

This relationship now extends to us who accept Christ Jesus as our Savior. Because of Jesus our identification as a Son or Daughter of God is solidified. Because of Jesus His Love does not just stop at the Cross or with the victory over death, Hell and the grave - His Love, in its many facets, is Eternal toward us. Because of Jesus we can find our daily confidence and look forward to hearing Him say one day - "‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.Come and share your master’s happiness!’" (Matthew 25:21) Because of Jesus I can declare His identification, His Love, and His pleasure. Because of Jesus I can proclaim without a shadow of a doubt What I Hear In God's Voice.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Monday, May 1, 2017

WHAT HAS MADE THE DIFFERENCE


I thank God for Jesus and the price He paid before and during the crucifixion. Hebrews 9:22 declares "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness". However, if there was no resurrection, then The Cross was just a good cause and we still have a dead, self-proclaimed messiah with empty promises. Paul in his first letter to the believers at Corinth said it like this -

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

Newsflash: The Tomb is Empty! Jesus has taken back His life! (John 10:18) He is Risen! The stone was rolled back for our benefit - that we may see and believe Christ took back His life and walked out of the tomb. Paul continues in this same chapter and states - "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Cor. 15:20-22) Hallelujah to the Risen Savior - Christ Jesus, The Lord!

This is what Christians celebrate every Sunday, not just Easter Sunday - The Risen Savior! Believers join with the saints that have gone before and rejoice that The Resurrection was not only witnessed by those closest to Jesus, but by many more. In the first part of this chapter, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, thought it important enough to mention a number that was exceeded in seeing Jesus alive - 

"he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep." (1 Cor. 15:4-6)

So, at least 512 people saw Christ after His resurrection. The original word for "appeared" is optanomai. It means to appear or show self. This revealing of His resurrected body and to so many people is an encouraging beginning to the period of Grace by Faith we currently enjoy. Were His appearing just to a handful, The Resurrection might have been pushed aside more easily. However, I would venture the majority of these 500+ gave their lives for the spreading of the Good News that Jesus of Nazareth had indeed died for everyone's mistakes and had conquered death, Hell and rose from the grave. 

We know the Apostles laid down their lives for this mission. Josh and Sean McDowell support this by stating - "It would be hard to find a group of men anywhere in history who would die for a lie if they knew it was a lie." (Chapter 7, More Than A Carpenter)  The McDowells go on to quote Michael Green, principal of St. John's College in Nottingham, that the resurrection - "was the belief that turned heart-broken followers of a crucified rabbi into courageous witnesses and martyrs of the early church. . . You could imprison them, flog them, kill them, but you could not make them deny their conviction that on the third day he rose again.‟”

Romans 5:7 says,  "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die." Jesus is always righteous or in right standing with Father God. (Prov. 21:12; Isa. 24:16; Acts 3:14, 7:52, 22:14). Jesus is the ultimate good person (Mk. 10:18; Luke 18:19). While Jesus was here nobody took a blade for Him, nobody jumped in front of a spear for Him -- so-to-speak. He was healing diseases, rebuking demons, raising the dead, feeding 5,000 people, walking on water and calming the weather - what more do you need displayed to make the whole sacrifice for The Messiah?

The verses that sandwich the above verse - Romans 5:6 and 5:8 emphatically state that God's perfect timing of love shown through Christ was displayed while all humanity was locked in their fallen nature, not while we were at any point good. Romans 5:6 states - "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:8 re-emphasizes this by saying - "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And in the middle - a verse about recognizing righteousness and goodness in your midst to the point of dying for it or him or her. Christ would unveil everything, including His person, after His resurrection and His resurrection and revelation unto many is What Has Made The Difference.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

NOOK AND CRANNY


Ever been uncomfortable sitting on the couch or lying in bed for a while, then you find that Nook or Cranny that makes you not want to move from that spot? That new position gave you a new appreciation for the struggle you had to get there.

Moses had this same experience. In Exodus 32 we read of The Lord's people impatiently focusing their worship on their handmade Golden Calf. The Lord was not happy and dealt with them severely. Afterward, in Exodus 33, The Lord told Moses it was time to move on; time to aim for the Promised Land. The only catch was that The Lord said, "But I will not go with you because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way." (33:3)

Meanwhile, before the Great Trek to the land flowing with milk and honey - people with an inquiry of The Lord came to the Tent of Meeting that Moses set up outside the camp. Moses would come out of the tent, hear their request, go back into the tent, the Pillar of Cloud would descend at the entrance of the tent and the pre-incarnate Christ would meet face-to-face with him about the inquiry. (33:7-11)

Can you imagine having to inquire on behalf of a million plus people? The line would be never-ending. It is no wonder that Moses said what he said next - Lord if you are not with me or us, then what is the point? (Pritchard Paraphrase) Moses actually said,

"You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” (33:12-13)

Moses does a crafty but effective strategy with The Lord. Moses calls to God's remembrance (1) you were the one who charged me to lead these people, (2) you know me personally, and (3) these are your people. Why remind The Lord of these things? Because of the needs that would follow to fulfill The Lord's plan for his life. Moses said he needed someone sent with him, that someone preferably being The Lord Himself because his next request was to be taught The Lord's ways by The Lord. A clever request, because it worked. The Lord said, "My presence will go with you and I will give you rest." (33:14)

Then, I believe, just to reiterate, Moses makes one of the best, if not the best plea for The Lord's Presence in his life and the life of the people.

"Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?'” (33:15-16)

What was the answer to the persistence of Moses? "And the Lord said to Moses, 'I will do the very thing you have asked because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.'” (33:17) However, the experience is taken up a level when Moses boldly asks for The Lord to show him - His Glory.

Evidently, The Lord's Glory is displayed in His face. His splendor and majesty are so great that no human can endure it and live. The Lord said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." (33:20) This means to me that The Lord must have toned-down His Glory, for the lack of a better phrase, in order for Moses to meet with Him face-to-face earlier. Here, instead of the full weight of His Glory upon Moses, The Lord showed Moses His goodness, mercy, compassion and proclaimed His own name - Y'hovah (Jehovah) - I Am, the self-existent or Eternal One.

"And the Lord said, 'I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 'But, he said, 'you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.'” (33:19-20)

Then there came the time where The Lord actually showed Moses this. However, Moses had to be placed in the cleft of some rocks; between a rock and a hard place; in his nook and cranny. It was here that total focus on God's revelation could occur. Nothing could be seen to the left. Nothing could be seen to the right. Then The Lord appeared.

"Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.'” (33:21-23)

Moses was held and hid in his own cleft of the rock, his own nook and/or cranny to witness The Lord's revelation. However, he had to come to a place of total reliance on The Lord as the Leader and himself as The Lord's voice for The Lord's people. That place usually does not come until we can get some kind of assurance from God that He will go with us - like Moses searched for. For believers, since Christ's ascension, the deposit of The Holy Spirit is this assurance (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). Now all that remains is for God to unveil His many wondrous facets as He hides you in your Nook And Cranny.