Friday, August 18, 2017

Sweet Freedom in Christ

When I used to read Colossians, I always got nudged a little when I read two verses in Colossians, chapter 2. I love the book of Colossians in the New Testament because it teaches us about the completeness we have in Christ. It is about God saying to us "trust me, you're mine" and yet these two warnings are written right in the middle of the book!
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. Colossians 2:8
18 Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Colossians 2:18-19
People can be cheated out of the wonderful rewards and blessings of knowing the truth by well-meaning people religious or otherwise. We can't stop thinking when it comes to God, ever! Religion is designed by man as a way to worship God.  Religion can be right and religion can be wrong! The 'voluntary humility' stuff can be very deceiving. Sometimes the false philosophy of political correctness or should I say, religious correctness, tries to reign in people from saying anything to the contrary of religious tradition. We should not tolerate being pushed by those who go about establishing their own 'isms'. We don't have to be mean about it, but in fact, if we don't speak up about truth, that is the ultimate of meanness! There is so much to be said about ' increasing with the increase of God. We must 'hold the head', the doctrine of Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. He truly does save!

Throughout several years, I had been inundated by what seemed like a huge theological and ecumenical miasma and I wanted to scream at the pressure the confusion caused. Have you ever felt blocked in and pushed down? Praying works better than screaming. I didn't have to wait long because God knows our need and sends in the troops of precise, appropriate and ongoing relief! Yes, there were some things each of us needs to confront with the word as it is light that dispels darkness, but God makes it easy. God showers multiple blessings to clear out the disorder and open doors of opportunity to love truthfully! It is that simple! God is real and he designed the whole Lordship of Christ thing. That is real too! We don't need to muster up voluntary humility or allow fleshy wisdom to permeate and control our space. No one can take over the Lordship of Jesus Christ in each of our lives. We are free. We can breathe and help others to breathe the sweet air of freedom in Christ when we lean into him.
 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Evangelism

Recently, as I was reading Romans chapter 10, I was awed by the wonderful love that is expressed in its verses. The first word of the chapter is the word 'brethren' so we know it is addressed to people who understood who Christ is/was. However, the chapter is about more than the believer. It is about evangelism or the 'good news' about Jesus Christ and what that news can mean to all people both Judean and Gentile.

Too often we think of evangelism as a call to the altar, or reciting a prayer that brings us into submission to Christ by confessing how awful we've been. Maybe some of that happens, but the real understanding is in Romans 10:9-10:
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine  that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the  man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10
This is not formulaic, it is gorgeously gracious! The word 'confess' is the greek word 'homologia'. One doesn't have to be a Greek scholar to see the two sub-words: homo (same type) and logos (the word). It means to say the same word. It involves believing to be able to say the same thing.  To treat it formulaically is a disservice and often a deterrent.  It is not in confessing sin. Anyone can confess sin. People even brag about sin. Making Jesus Christ Lord is something else. To make Jesus Lord in your life involves understanding why and who he is and committing to follow him. It is not something someone decides emotionally or on the spur of the moment. Faith (trust) is built by listening to the reports about God. (Romans 10:17).  How does God get the attention of people to hear attentively? The answer is simple: by love.

In Romans, Israel and the Gentiles are both referred to. To the Judeans, God had written:
10 Brethren, my 's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (delivered those things that harm). Romans 10:1
To the Gentiles God had Paul write:
12 For there is no difference between the Jew(Judean) and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:12-13
To call on God in the name of the Lord indicates a trust (faith). We love God because he first loved us (1John 4:19). How does that trust develop?  To really understand and substantiate the depth of that love we need to look at the Word of God.
16 For God so lved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
The focus on sin that is perpetrated by many religious people is the wrong focus.  Sin consciousness pulls people in into the darker reaches rather than toward God. The whole idea of repentance (metanoia) is to change one's mind about God. Isn't that what 'reconciliation' is about? Many religious people define it as 'turning from sin' but that is not the primary meaning of the word. Guilt and shame are not part of the definition. It is about being invited into a dynamic, loving relationship.

In John 8, there is a record of a woman taken by the pharisees and scribes and they wanted to stone her and catch Jesus as to how he would handle it. Would he stone her, have an altar call and have her confess her sins? The pharisees, as with many religious pontificators, were going for the sin jugular. Jesus handled the whole scene beautifully (read it! John 8:1-11). To the woman he simply said to go and sin no more. The choice was hers.

True evangelism is bringing the 'good news' to people. because that is what God is all about. I've met many people who are afraid of God because they have been taught inaccurately about God, his word, his son and the gift of holy spirit. Sin is missing the the boat. You can't enjoy the sail if you are not onboard.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Holy Spirit?

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. I Corinthians 2:9-10
'But as it is written' at the beginning of verse 9 refers to Isaiah 64:4:
4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. Isaiah 64:4
This reference to Isaiah in the Old Testament  has an addition in the New Testament.  Under the New Testament, God has revealed things to us through the spirit. In the Old Testament, Christ had not come yet. Under the Old Covenant, things of God were revealed to certain men that led God's people. People depended on their leaders to hear from God.

The day of Pentecost back in Biblical times, just 50 days after Christ's ascension, was a turning point for everyone who loves God.  God is spirit and he communicates thru the spirit. The gift of holy spirit was poured out initially on that day and continues today. It is available to anyone who believes Jesus Christ is Lord and also believes that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Salvation is way more than a 'get out of hell free card', so much more. Salvation, or wholeness, is a very big category and involves wholeness in body, soul and spirit. Spirit is a big deal!

Why was the gift of holy spirit given? What does it mean for us? If you read I Corinthians 12:7-11 we can read about the utilization and profits of the gift we have within:
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one (referring to profit) is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally (personally) as he will. I Corinthians 12:7-11
In verse 7,  the word 'manifestation' is used, not 'gift'.  'Manifestation' (singular) refers what is evidenced as a result of utilization of the gift.  God's wisdom, God's knowledge, God's ability to discern between what's good and what's not good are just a few things someone with holy spirit has access to. These operational skills or abilities are given by God's grace for both individual and community profit. We can't see the gift, but we can see evidence of the gift in operation. The holy spirit in the individual lives of the believers is a radicle change!

There are other effects of the internal reality of holy spirit in a believer's life such as the fruit that is produced because of the spirit of God in our hearts. We grow as we recognize God working in our lives:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.Galatians 5:22-23
The spirit does not control, the spirit gives power to and blesses the individual.By utilizing the gift, people not only can do great things, but they can also grow in Christ-like qualities. As people grow they then have something to share with each other.  They share both the fruit and the power of the spirit. The end result is that people praise God, share the grace, and the glory of our great God shines brightly.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Grace Comes From Love and Love Comes From Grace

The Old Testament is vital to understanding the New Testament.  God's love and grace in spite of human weaknesses is vividly clear.  God has given man in the New Testament greater tools to work with.  What he accomplished through his son, gives us access to the Father and the gift of holy spirit that energizes and communicates God's desires to us.

In the book of Judges, especially in the last several chapters, life was difficult and the men that God had to work with struggled because of themselves as well as those around them. Samson had a lot of difficulties in what he did. Things seem to fade as the last chapter rolls in with the 'everyman was right in his own eyes' conundrum. To be 'right in one's own eyes' isn't necessarily bad if the standard by what one perceives is based in the love of God. However, perception that is involved in thinking can be skewed. Perception can be easily affected by personal thoughts, projections, and negative influences on a person.

Grace is always a part of God. Grace, or in other words, God's divine favor, has been given to every person that was ever born.
John 3:16
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life
.
Every person has the choice. During Noah's time man forgot all about God and things were evil and wild. No one cared about God except Noah:
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations (among his contemporaries), and Noah walked with God.
This is the first use of grace in the Bible. God's favor was with Noah because was a sound, humble man. He listened to God and built that ark! The word 'perfect' would have been better translated 'complete'.  Noah wasn't perfect, but because he believed and was humble to God he could hear from God, act on it and therefore all his needs were taken care of.

After the Book of Judges is the record of Ruth, a Moabitess, who chose God.  She was not of the tribes of Israel, she was a descendent of Lot.  She eventually married Boaz who was of the tribe of Judah and became part of the line that David came from and subsequently the Christ line.  Grace was poured into her life as she chose God.

We are saved by grace not works. There was grace in the Old Testament. There is grace in the New Testament. Grace surrounds us everywhere. Humbleness does not qualify you for grace, it makes you receptive to grace. Love makes it happen.

On the day of Pentecost people sitting in the temple received the gift of holy spirit. God's grace was received, they all were:
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
They were  excited about what God was doing and they were sharing grace as they received the spirit into their hearts. Reception takes a humble heart. Think of the 12 sitting there, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ receiving the power that could now be released. The temple leaders were not receptive to Christ, but these people were. They had gone through quite a bit, but they dealt with with it and they received.

It is not that different today. We live in challenging times. Many people have dismissed God and just like long ago are right in their own eyes in their perceptions of God. The New Testament, however, provides a better perception through the eyes of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is a living reality to this administration, not just a shadow of things to come.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Lesson of the Hummingbird

My husband and I recently put a hummingbird feeder on our front window.  It is a very simple feeder, shaped like a flower and is bright red. We poured a nectar-like liquid in and just left it alone. It was not too long after that a very small bird appeared at the feeder moving its wings so fast that we could hardly see them. The bird stuck its beak into the feeder and extracted the nectar quickly flew away.


I did a little research and found more about how the hummingbird feeds. It is the sweet nectar of flowers that attracts pollinators to plants. These birds and insects pickup and transport pollen to other plants for reproduction producing more flowers and fruit.

Scientists used to think that these birds got nectar out of flowers through capillary action (liquid rising through a tube), but with recent developments in high speed photography they were able to determine that it is actually the bird's tongue that captures and curls around the nectar and pulls it into the birds mouth through its beak. The hummingbird's beak protects the bird from the tougher parts of the plant and enables the bird to get to the nectar.

Hummingbirds don't stay very long at the feeder; it is hard to get a picture of them. It is difficult to see their wings as the are moving so fast as the hover around the bird feeder. They will keep coming back regularly as long as they can find their treasure.

The hummingbird is a unique bird among birds.  It is beautiful and has an amazingly energetic metabolism. I love the creativity of God and how everything he has created is significantly designed. There can be no question about the creator and his beautiful creation when one observes and studies this bird. It is 'loving geniusness'!

God's word is the nectar of the creator.  We benefit immensely when we dive into its riches. It supplies vitality and life to our whole being.  It is the fuel of our hearts and gives wings to our freedom.
I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil (treasure). Psalm 119:162
 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Judges 12

The news media in our culture today have lost their way and have redefined journalism simply as an exercise of arm-chair quarterbacking. Stirring up strife, contention and ego showmanship, they have changed the horizon of the future to a darkened shadow instead of an enlightened spotlight.

In Judges chapter 12, after Jephthah's victory over the Ammonites, instead of being thankful, the Ephraimites wanted to know why they weren't called to help defeat the Ammonites. The intent behind their demand reflected part of their character .The same thing happened with Gideon earlier. The Ephraimites put themselves at the center of internal strife within the tribes of Israel.

They threatened to burn down Jephthah's house with him in it. Whoa! It seems outrageous doesn't it? Where was their thankfulness? This exposes their exalted ego, devious nature and lack of commitment and integrity. If they had any kind of leadership qualities at all they would have known how to help and acted in good faith and not worry about who got the credit.

Complaining is a human sport. It enlists unthankfulness and a host of other negative qualities to support its message. It vies for leadership and the only action that results is friction action. It wallows in speculation and imaginings that do not foster well-being.

In such an environment, the ability to get things done is limited. So much for teamwork.  It is better to keep clear of the negative environment and stay focused. The distractions to the Hebrews became increasingly distracting.  It was harder for the individuals that God called to stay the course. The struggles got worse and worse as the record in the book of Judges continued.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. I Timothy 6:6
Godliness reflects a rich relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ.  Contentment is being self-sufficient (autarkeia) due to that relationship. For all who are at peace with what God has provided great benefits!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Mary

Recently I got to thinking about Mary and her role in God's plan. Mary was an outstanding believer. Just think about all that must have gone through her mind as she carried out God's instructions.  It was not easy.  Just the bare fact that she became pregnant before marriage to Joseph caused no end of gossip and pressure. If she had gotten pregnant after she married Joseph, then Jesus would have been regarded as Joseph's son, not the son of God. Mary had a distinct picture that something miraculous had happened and that probably encouraged her to carry it out with believing.  She simply believed.

Mary had to nurture, raise, discipline, and support God's only begotten son. She is someone to be respected and thankful for. She was never intended to be a savior or a mediator. That was delegated to God's son. It is significantly important to understand who she was and that she is now asleep and, as all dead are, awaiting the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the way to God, he makes intersession (Hebrews 7:25 'ever liveth' to make intercession for) for believers. Mary does not. I'm sure she prayed for people when she was alive just as we can all do, but she can't now in her present situation.

When people need help or answers to prayer, we have access to God through Jesus Christ. That is just simply how the God who made heaven and earth set it up. There is plenty of information about Mary written in God's word, but nothing about an ascension or that she was queen of heaven (that's not even logical - how does that work?: King Jesus and Queen Mary??) nor the mother of God (who was the father of God?).

The reason I am writing about this is not to put Mary down nor to be critical, but because it is the truth that sets people free. In thankfulness to God and in time of need, prayer to Mary is fruitless because, it is Jesus Christ who is Lord and savior.  He shows us the path to God and wholeness. The truth of about God's son is so vital to our well-being and peace that we need to know exactly who he is from God's point of view and not allow anything to detract from what he is meant to be.

No person or thing should take his place in our lives. No human being, aside from Jesus, is elevated to lordship over other men. That includes other humans like Mary, Moses, Isaiah, Peter, John, Paul, martyrs, heads of religious bodies, and even the equipping ministries of Ephesians 4:8,11.(1 Corinthians 1:25-2:5, I Timothy 2:1-5 study 'authority' Strong's #5247 and #5242 ~ a great study)
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; I Timothy 1:5