Tuesday, February 28, 2017

EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN


Psalm 139:16
"...all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be."


I am sure glad that God is not locked in to just one kind of speech. He knows what to say and how to say that right thing at the right time to the right person - every time. In Paul's second letter to Timothy, he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," (2 Tim. 3:16). This means even our beloved poet David, as he waxes on so eloquently in many Psalms, breathed or penned the Truth.

Here in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible we find one of the most ginormous books you will ever hear mentioned. This book contains everyone's birth through death dates next to their names, much like you see on a tombstone - "all the days ordained for me were written in your book". It gets even more interesting. My life was not stamped at birth, nor thought about as I went along living, nor at the end - my days, everyone's days "were written in [His] book before one of them came to be."

The idea is what we do with time in between start and finish on this earth matters. Not everyone assigns meaning to this life and this is sad. I believe we are in a preparation phase that reaps eternal rewards and benefits. This entire Psalm (Psalm 139) is about the inability to escape God's presence in our lives, therefore the necessity to surrender to His will, plan and governing of it at the end of the Psalm (verses 23-24). Since our days are numbered and our life has bookends why not entrust to God - Everything In Between.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

AH YES, HOW GOOD IS A TIMELY WORD

Proverbs 15:23 says, "A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!" This verse resonates within me. When I am sought out for advice I really desire to reward that person's confidence in me with an appropriate assessment and possible resolution according to God's Word. I also want to have my physical and spiritual ears attuned to whatever I am to learn in any given situation by the Holy Spirit. How I do that or how anyone does that is to stay in God's Word; to continue reading the Bible.

In God's daily suit of armor for us, the "timely word" I am speaking of given by the Holy Spirit is called Rhema. This word means a quickened word meant for that specific situation. An example from our Lord would be when He was in the wilderness being tempted. At every temptation, Father God quickened to Jesus the response for Him to speak aloud and the devil fled. 

This revealed word is portrayed as a weapon in Ephesians 6:17. The verse reads, "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." You see Christians are not always to be on the defensive. For defense we have - the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth and shield of faith (shoes of peace can be offensive, spikes on the bottom, different lesson). Then we get to the sword of the spirit. The word "sword" in this verse is the Greek word machaira, which is a close combat dagger weapon, sometimes up to nineteen inches long, razor sharp on both sides of the blade and at times even twisted like a cork screw at the end.

I bring this to your attention because our enemy gets close and personal and so can we with God's Sword or God's Machaira - His Revealed Word. The understanding here though is that if you desire a Rhema or Revealed Word for yourself or others you first have to have your Sword sheathed in The Belt of Truth or Logos or Written Word of God. You and I have to know God's Word before God can quicken it to us. Before we can know God's Word we have to be in it. Once we are in this groove we can be able to say more frequently, "Ah yes, how good is a timely word".

Monday, February 13, 2017

BETTER REFLECTIONS OF GOD


I recently watched a program on Netflix called "The Crown". A good reenactment of England's current Queen Elizabeth's life. Something that the Holy Spirit kept teaching me through this, especially the next-to-the-last episode, was the importance of the Christian's reflection on The King in everything he or she does everyday.

There were many people that were associated with Queen Elizabeth. She had friends. She had acquaintances. She had employees. She had fellow leaders of the country (Parliament). All these people attempted to not only represent England and The Queen respectfully wherever they went, they also tried to reflect the character and values of the Monarchy at all times. However, the individuals that seemed to have the most challenging time with this was the group closest to The Queen - her family.

The impression I received from the Holy Spirit was that Christians are more than Ambassadors. Yes, we do represent Christ through our speech and actions via the Holy Spirit. Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 5:20 - "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us." However, Jesus paid too high a price for us to just have a title and a few privileges. Because of the power in Christ's blood, when we accept His sacrifice and victory into our lives as the governing force - we become family. Scripture in John 1:12 says,  "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—" and 1 Peter 2:9 continues in this thought stating - "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

So, being associated with The King of all kings is good. Representing Him as best we can in a professional manner is always a good plan. However, what is icing on the cake and my encouragement for all my brothers and sisters in Christ today - reflect God's character and values into the world around you, especially if you call yourself a child of God, through Christ Jesus.

Think of yourself as A Mirror and God's Word (The Bible) as who is looking at you, using you to reflect His image, thoughts, dignity, integrity and better way of living. Just as a diamond can show many facets or sides to it's beauty, so can God use all the different people in The Church as His facets to express His love and beauty.  If we, His own family, are trying to do something contrary to His Word and plan for our lives, then our mirror is filthy, we reflect poorly and mis-represent Him to those around us. 

Even though we carry the presence of the Holy Spirit with us everywhere we go, I believe The King desires to have more and more one-on-one time with us every day. This intimate session with us as His mirrors allows for Him to burn His image into us so that hopefully one day all that people will see will be an awesome reflection of our Savior. Let us endeavor to dwell with Him daily, behold His glorious Word for our lives and allow that Word to burn His image into us as we strive to be Better Reflections of God.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

THE DAY IN BETWEEN


On a hill far away, two thousand plus years ago, Jesus Christ finished the plan of humanity's redemption by surrendering His life on The Cross. At that moment victory and freedom were paid for but not manifest - yet. The sheer weight of power and authority that Jesus' sacrifice had at that moment could not keep nature and the dead from reacting. Here is what Scripture recalls.


Matthew 27:50-54

"And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, 'Surely he was the Son of God!'"


I think it an interesting observation that those many holy people who were dead and were now raised to life, knew somehow to physically remain in their tombs until Jesus rose again fulfilling Colossians 1:18 - "...he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead...". However, just because Christ's Finished Mission was done and there were outward signs to prove it, He did not stop working.

Paul, in his letter to the believers in Ephesus, quotes Psalm 68:18 in describing where Jesus was and what He did in The Day In Between His death and resurrection.

Ephesians 4:8-10

This is why it says:  “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? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

If ever we get our picture of Hades being located somewhere deep in the bowels of the earth - it is here. Looking up the original Greek for "lower, earthly regions", katoteros is the word used for "lower" and means inferior (locally, of Hades). The "earthly regions" part tell us this is an actual place beneath our feet. What was Jesus doing there? Taking captivity captive or setting the captives free. 1 Peter 3:18-20 actually gives us a mental picture of how Christ did this.

1 Peter 3:18-20

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, 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.

Here we have a little more detail. Those who died at least from the days of Noah until Christ's days are the ones mentioned here as being proclaimed to. What did He proclaim? The power of His saving blood for the redemption of all humanity - past, present and future! I can hear an imprisoned spirit saying at that moment, "How are we going to see this salvation manifested?" Then Jesus might have replied, "You will ascend with me to Paradise after I take back my life from death and the grave." Paul and Timothy continue this in their letter to the believers in Colossae.

Colossians 2:13-15

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Because of Christ's powerful sacrifice on the cross, Jesus' triumph was at least as splendid. "The word 'triumph' is taken from the Greek word triambeuo, which is a technical word used to describe a general or an emperor returning home from a grand victory in the enemy's territory. Specifically, the word "triumph" was used to describe the emperor's triumphal parade when he returned home.

When a returning emperor or general came striding through the gates on his big, powerful, and beautiful horse, he was accompanied by his fellow victorious warriors, who also appeared glorious after their triumphant battle. As the parade followed, the weaponry and treasures seized from the enemy's territory were grandly displayed for all to see.

The grand finale to this triumphal procession was the foreign ruler himself. This ruler had been beaten and bound in chains and was now being forced to walk in disgrace, shame, dishonor, embarrassment and humiliation as crowds of people came to celebrate his defeat and to get a 'peek' at a once-powerful but now totally defeated opponent. 

So when Colossians 2:15 declares that Jesus triumphed over evil powers, it is explicitly declaring that Jesus took the enemy apart piece by piece as He thoroughly 'spoiled principalities and powers'." (p.75, Sparkling Gems from the Greek, Rick Renner)

John records Jesus said,  “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.” (John 16:33). However, not only did Christ overcome the world, He overcame the prince of this world, Satan, his minions, death and the grave! Our enemy is the walking dead or walking defeated. And a lot of this stemmed from The Day In Between.


Monday, February 6, 2017

SUCCESS IN YOUR NEW ENDEAVOR

In Deuteronomy 11, the Hebrew people were on the brink of crossing the Jordan River and settling in new territory. However, there was a major caveat that The Lord informed His people about and I think this warning and instruction applies today. I will not quote all of Deuteronomy 11 here, but trust you will read it now and then continue with my assessment. 

Throughout the Old Testament the reader can easily observe God delivering "If...Then" statements to His people. This is one of those instances. God had promised them a better land and was ready to capitalize on His promise, then proceeded to warn them what the consequences of disobedience would be. God also mentioned the better side of the equation. If His people observed His commands, the results were to be strength, long life, rains in due seasons and nations driven out by God Himself.

However, the warning of disobedience also came with what was waiting for them in the new area of conquest - temptations to serve other gods. God knew this was going to be a stumbling block for them, so He gave them the wisdom up-front. What was this wisdom? 

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth." (vv. 18-21)

The idea is The Word of God needs to saturate the home. Notice first that God's Word is fixed in hearts and minds. Whether that is memorization or experience, God desires His Word to get rooted in two places we really need to guard these days - our hearts and minds. Then we see God's Word written and found on the person, door frame and gate of your yard. This shorthand or "symbols" might manifest as a tatoo, a friendship bracelet with a verse on it, necklace or string on the finger today. I imagine back then, those that could write would attach a parchment with a symbol of a verse to their clothing or person to help them through the day.

The real kicker is hearing God's Word in the home. We can have it in our hearts, minds and all over our person and house, but there is power in speaking God's Word. This is especially true if you have a family. For those called as the spiritual leader of their family, this passage leaves no room in the day for hardly anything else than to speak God's promises and proclaim His goodness.  
  • Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
For those who have children or those that are mentoring, observe how much your kids are soaked in God's Word. Have you ever been around somebody that will not shut up about a certain athlete, movie star or restaurant? This is along the same lines except God's Word is spoken all day. Something glorious would have to happen when aligned with God that way.

Just in case you may be looking at tackling a new area in your life, like the Hebrew people were, I ask you to pause and consider God's sovereignty in your life. Acknowledging His control and His plan over yours every day keeps the correct perspective fresh. There will be other "gods" in your new area of life that tempt you with other affections. However, I encourage all of us today to drench each other, inside our families. Immerse each other in God's Promises, encouragements, mercies and goodness. This means we are going to need to be submerged in The Word of God ourselves. "It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak," (2 Cor. 4:13) So, follow God's plan, live in obedience to Him in your new area of life and keep yourself and family speaking life, then you will encounter Success In Your New Endeavor.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)



Saturday, February 4, 2017

CONVINCED OF AMBASSADORSHIP


Ever make a really great decision about something in your life? Let us assume you said, "Yes". Did you then tell a few people about your experience in detail? Voila! You are now an ambassador.

In Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul explained the meaning of ambassador in relation to Christ. 

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all,...

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 19-20)

There is a wonderful song that goes - "Oh, how I love, Jesus. Oh, how I love Jesus. Oh, how I love, Jesus. Because He first loved me." This song trumpets the word "convinced" in the passage above - "For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all,"

If you are in that group that is convinced by the compelling love of Christ Jesus, then you should no longer live for yourself, but for Him who died for you AND you should be an excellent steward of the message of reconciliation He has committed to us.

As God's children and especially His Ambassadors, God says His grace is sufficient for us, His power is made perfect in our weakness and His abundance is a promised benefit of His Salvation Package (2 Cor. 12:9; 2 Cor. 9:8; John 10:10). 

With The Lord and His Kingdom, representing Christ "as though God were making his appeal through us" is an awesome responsibility. However, we have help through the Holy Spirit. So, don't stress over appearance or saying the right words at the right time for every situation. The Lord has brought you this far, He will orchestrate and anoint your divine encounters. Scripture helps our efforts out by instructing - "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," (1 Peter 3:15)So, live your life as a light to others, showing, Biblically, what a "light-filled" life looks like and illuminating the way for others to be Convinced Of Ambassadorship. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

MY NEW HOME

Remembering the Christian's final destination really helps in this marathon we call life. My true home is an untainted relationship with God, through His only Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord, Savior and Friend. This grace-filled, mercy-filled, hope-filled, faith-filled and love-filled relationship will manifest face-to-face one day. Then at the appointed time, believers will be introduced and ushered in to a physical, glorified city. It is this city, New Jerusalem, My New Home, that I wanted to expose you to today.

Why did God bless us with a creative side, an imagination if we were not suppose to use it according to His will? Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." Philippians 4:8 even gets specific on what kinds of things to set your mind on - "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." But just in case you want to pull out 1 Corinthians 2:9 on me, you better read the rest of the sentence or the next verse. The most quoted part is the first half - "However, as it is written: 'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived'— the things God has prepared for those who love him—" It is the next verse that contains the forgotten promise -  "these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit."

From Biblical scholars I respect and from my own digging into future matters with the help of The Holy Spirit, the following is a 35,000 foot topical order of events still to occur.

Order of Things
  1. Rapture
  2. The Tribulation Period
  3. Glorious Appearing
  4. Millennial Reign
  5. Satan's Demise
  6. Great White Throne Judgment (old earth/heaven flee)
  7. New Heaven and New Earth and New Jerusalem Introduced
This last event, number 7, is what happens right before we enter, for the lack of a better title, The Eternal Estate. New Jerusalem is what we have plenty of detail about. Therefore, we have ammunition for our imagination.

At the Great White Throne Judgment, the old heaven and earth disappear. We are left with God, His books of deeds, The Book of Life and all who were not raised during the First Resurrection before the Millennial Reign of Christ. Judgment is passed on these people, Hades and Death itself, then thrown into The Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

Then comes the New Heaven, New Earth and New City. The first part of Revelation 21 reminds us that the old heaven and earth have passed away and remarks that this New Earth does not have a sea on it. "Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." Now, here is the rest of the description.

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

With death, Hades, sickness and pain gone - these things in and of themselves call for a major shift in reality. However, I think the passing away of the "old order of things" might even include all the natural cycles and laws that God set up for earth, humankind and the universe.

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

Above is a picture of Jasper, but it is not as clear as crystal. Guess what? You will have to use your God-given imagination.

12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.










15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.

The size of my new home, New Jerusalem, according to Scripture is 12,000 stadia high, wide and long - A Cube! So how big is this cubed city? 
  • 1 Stadia = 607 feet
  • 5,280 feet = 1 mile
  • 8.69 stadia in 1 mile
  • 12,000 stadia divided by 8.69 stadia in a mile = 1, 380 miles!

19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.


22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.


Revelation 22 continues the marvelous description of my real home, but new-to-me, awesome dwelling place.

"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever."


What a description! And John had his limitations within the describing. How do you describe the glories John saw? Language would be a tough challenge; which word to choose to accurately picture what I am seeing. Also, if a comparison was needed, what to compare it to of his day? He had help though. The Holy Spirit who escorted him there and the angel(s) that showed and told him all about - My New Home.