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.