Saturday, November 11, 2017

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me that it was important to respect people's beliefs. I had to think about that for a moment. In my own mind, I think it is important to respect others as people but not necessarily to respect their beliefs. We respect people's right to choose what they believe as long as it doesn't violate the welfare and freedom of another person.

The word 'respect' is composed of two sub-words 're' and 'spect' or 'to look back on'. 'Giving consideration' can be another shade of meaning. In relationships and in our conversations, we are never alone or ever without effect on one another. Wonderful loving conversations are thoughtful and respectful and hopefully not selfish.  We are all too human at times,   but that doesn't mean that that we never stand up for what we believe in and speak truthfully and openly. Often that can be the most loving (love is the key) thing to do for another person. Words have power and we should use them wisely.

The Corinthian culture at the time of the New Testament had a lot of similarities to our culture today especially in philosophy of life and social issues. Paul, in writing to them about the beautiful concept of grace, was clear in enlightening his readers on the love of God and true freedom.
12 All things are lawful (allowed, permitted) unto me, but all things are not expedient (beneficial, profitable): all things are lawful for me, but (emphatic 'but') I will not be brought under the power of any. 1 Corinthians 6:12
We can become slaves to the culture and the philosophies of the day.  We can even be enslaved by our own appetites, emotions and thinking.  The point Paul is making is that God's heart is that we are free from things unprofitable and that do not benefit us if we so choose. He cannot control those things that are set in our path to enslave us. He does however gives us a lot of resources to help us and then he leaves the choice up to us.












Sunday, October 29, 2017

Strong in The Grace

Grace is not such a difficult concept when one looks at how it is used in the Gospels, Acts and the New Testament. In Luke 1:30, it is translated as 'favor' in regards to Mary when an angel tells her to 'fear not' about the task God was asking of her in bringing forth and raising his son. Having a normal child involves much work and is sometimes tough, but this was the son of God! I'm sure she was blessed to know God had her back. How else could any human handle that!

Fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 12 men were sitting in the temple when the gift of holy spirit was given first to the apostles. Peter rose up and shared what had happened. He encouraged the community of believers that were  there also to receive the gift. 
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.Acts 2:38
Three thousand people standing by received the gift. As they all celebrated this great event of God's divine favor, they were:
47 Praising God, and having (sharing) favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:47
They all shared in the grace. God had their backs too. In the epistles, that is written to these believers and 'all that were afar off', the apostle Paul further further illuminated about the gift of holy spirit. This is for us today! The grace of God is available to all who choose to believe and our reception of favor from God is dependent on our humility towards God and in utilization of what he has given us. (James 4:6).

In II Timothy 2:1-2 the understanding of what we are to do with this grace is spelled out to Timothy:
2 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
Timothy was a worker for Jesus Christ and God encouraged him be strong in the favor of the risen Christ as the receipt of salvation and to teach 'others' so that they can teach 'others'.  Those 'others' will teach 'others', and those 'others' will teach 'others'.............

Friday, October 27, 2017

The 12 Uses of Grace in Ephesians


Uses of Grace in Ephesians:

1.  Ephesians 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

2.  Ephesians 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

3.  Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

4.  Ephesians 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ , (by grace ye are saved ;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

5-6 Ephesians 2:7-8
 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

7.   Ephesians 3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation (administration) of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

8-9 Ephesians 3:7-8
 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given , that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

10.  Ephesians 4:7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

11.  Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers

12. Ephesians 6:24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen

Friday, October 20, 2017

Jesus Christ and The Gift of Holy Spirit

Jesus Christ was/is an amazing man.  He was/is the son of God. In I John 3:8b, the Word of God says:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
As recorded in Genesis, evil got a foothold in this world and grew, influenced and expanded into people's lives. God's original creation suffered for its intrusion. The devil has influenced where ever he could get a foothold. The manifestations of his handiwork are everywhere. He moves with ideas, thinking, confusion and chaos. Often evil is very obvious, but in order for it to really succeed, it must mask itself and hide behind facades that will deceive unwary targets.

Specifically, the adversary nips away at the word of God in people's lives. Religion is one of evil's greatest disguises. The devil knows God's word and he knows how to misuse it.  That is how people get turned off to the truth. The truth gets twisted and people get confused. Then they blame God. If they don't blame God, they sometimes water down the truth to make it palatable with today's trends. The beauty of the word is that it is relevant throughout time.

Other disguises and twists center on marriage and family, finances and economy, government, idols in our culture, health and nutrition and many more categories. God-inspired people have contributed immensely to our culture in godly ways. Evil inspiration does just the opposite.

It was God's plan in his son that was to save those that are affected by the tentacles of darkness. Jesus Christ came and his purpose was/is to expose light on the dreadful works of the adversary. Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of the living church. He is alive and well. He directs and guides to build up the church in the right direction.

When Jesus Christ walked this earth with the 12 apostles, he gave them power and authority to use that power:
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. Luke 9:1
He then did the same to seventy others as recorded in Luke 10:17. On the day of Pentecost, the power of God was poured out to an even larger group composed of some 3000 souls ( Acts 2:38-41) as promised by Jesus Christ just before he ascended:
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the holy spirit not many days hence. Acts 1:4-5
If you continue to read the book of Acts, more people, including the Gentiles, were brought into access to the power of God. This is spelled out to us in the Romans through Thessalonians so that we too may walk in the same power.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grace* is the Power of God!

'Grace' is a much talked about word in the Bible.  This is a big concept and I dare say no one will ever know all there is to know about it, it is that big!

Honestly, I'm not sure that many people who are talking about grace really understand it. I have to admit that I haven't completely understood what it fully means. At times I get confused when I read articles about grace. We hear a lot of words about hyper-grace, forgiveness grace, grace myths, grace truth, grace vs law, grace vs works and so many others. What people say before they eat is called 'grace'. When I look at how God uses the word, things start to clear up. When you get grace straight, peace in your heart follows!

Paul encouraged Timothy:
1Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.
2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. II Timothy 2:1-2
What does it mean to be strong in grace that is in Christ Jesus? I could look at the Greek words and try to come up with some idea of what it is saying. If you just look at what it says simply, Timothy was encouraged to be strong in the whole concept of a risen Messiah. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, In that one event, the opposition to God took a huge blow. That is how salvation is promised in Romans 10:9-10.

On the day of Pentecost, as recorded in the Book of Acts, 3000 people received the gift of holy spirit which empowered them with strength and their response was:
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour (grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47
These 3000 believers were sharing grace and they were praising God.  As they received the gift and the spiritual abilities the gift bestowed, they were changed. Timothy was encouraged to teach faithful men who could teach others. Paul, in the church epistles, taught more about what they had received. The whole idea was to spread the word, thus enabling others to have the same power.

God gives grace.  It is evidence of how he loves. He wants to empower those he loves.  In Ephesians, the word 'grace is used 12 times. Check it out. It is all about God's salvation and wholeness in our lives.
* Grace rules: Eph 1:2,6,7;  2:5,7,8;  3:2,7,8;  4:7,29; 6:24

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fulness of God -Not a Distant God


Jesus Christ contained the complete filling of the Godhead.  'Godhead' was used interchangeably with the word 'Godhood' (Some theologians say it is a Middle English variant and some say it is a synonym). The '-hood' suffix as found in manhood, childhood or neighborhood, and personhood, is a word that describes the qualities or state of being (essence) of the entity it is describing. It is about the 'what' rather than 'who'. (Check out Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9)
For in (Jesus Christ) him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete (Greek = pleroo) in him, which is the head of all principality and power: Colossians 2:9-10
The fulness (pleroma) of the qualities of God flourished in Jesus Christ. He was filled to the brim with God's goodness and as as result we are complete (pleroo related to the word 'pleroma') in him. In Ephesians this same fulness and completeness is described:
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Ephesians3:19
Verse 19 a pretty interesting statement.  How are we filled with all the fulness of God? God is spirit and we are filled with is His spirit through Jesus Christ. God is not a distant God, He is relational and this is how He set it up.  Jesus Christ was raised and now sits at the right hand of God. God as a spirit (John 4:24) doesn't have a right hand.  This is an example of a figure of speech that paints a picture to show the authority of Christ. Christ today is alive and active and building the true church. He communicates through the spirit. The spirit is not a person but an essence that does the filling.

What does all this mean? It seems like a really important concept to understand. God is powerful, just and good and desires the best for his kids but he doesn't violate free-will. It is our choice to to recognize, love and trust God and all that he provides. Our ultimate blessing results in power, love and an inherent soundness that rejects fear.
 


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Romans 1: God's Natural Design

God is everywhere.  His Word is everywhere in everything he created! Look at the functional design of a leaf as it exists on the branches of a tree, or the beauty of  the night stars as they twinkle at us. I love to sit on a beach and look out to where the horizon meets the sky.  It is majestic! Everything God has created in nature is to bless us. We are blessed with sunrises, sunsets, flowers, magnificent birds and animals all intended to remind us of God's love:
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Romans 1:20
The human body is remarkably designed. It is one of God's greatest works. Its ability to grow, develop, reproduce, repair and heal is unsurpassed by anything man has attempted to design. The human mind has the ability to think and choose; again, another reminder of the love of God.

One of the greatest treats that you can do for yourself is to go out and take a walk through the woods, or stroll on the beach and look at all that has been provided for us. The closer you look at the details of God's creation, the more perfect it becomes. The opposite is true of man's work unless it is inspired by God.

When man attempts to redefine life on his own terms, and twists God's word or even dismisses God entirely, he thumbs his nose at God.  There are other people who have pushed to go beyond God's word in terms of laws, traditions and requirements.  They seem energetic but are actually presumptuous in the thinking that God can be improved. If a person thinks he can improve upon God, he just hasn't really seen God. It is through this type of unbelief that people get cheated out of a life free and abundant. We should never consent or go along with the pressure of the world to conform or accept and condone those things that are opposite to what God has provided. When we do it isn't that God turns his back on us, we turn our backs on God and are not able to see his love clearly.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Love Among Believers-Romans 1

The more I truly and accurately understand the identity of Jesus Christ and his role in our lives, the simpler the Word of God becomes.  I once thought Romans was an extremely difficult book to understand, but that was because of confusing theology and man-made interpretations of God's Word. Once the layers of PhD crust are peeled off the solid  beauty and symmetry of God's undeniable love, the light of truth just absolutely shines through.

Romans Chapter 1 is jammed-packed with  crystal clear truth. The apostle Paul, who recorded Romans, was a unique individual: He had everything in life that people strive for: success, respect, a mission, influence and power. Right in the middle of his success he changed horses or rather fell off his high horse when he met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Things changed drastically after that. In the heart of his heart he became who he really wanted to be. He was quite a humble man and as an apostle, he brought forth the light of the New Testament grace administration into view. He is a great example of a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The love of God was shed abroad in his heart and he shared that love:
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:11-12
Paul loved fellow believers; he longed to see them. The word 'see' is more than just a visual seeing, it involves an experience.  Paul want to give what he had; he wanted to share what he spiritually had to strengthen them and be blessed by them in their mutual faith together. The word comfort (sumparakaleo) is a togetherness of encouragement. They shared the same faith and rejoiced with each other over it. This is an example of the truly satisfying relationships that can develop between believers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thoughts on Leadership



Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. Matt 20:28


The greatest joy comes in believing you can help someone else as God inspires.  Two things happen a a result.

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. II Corinthians 3:6

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:11

1. God is working in your heart and you know it.  2. The results show fruit.

Jesus Christ did not worry about his leadership ability,  whether he was a minister or not, whether he spoke what was right or not in people's eyes or whether he was great or not. He knew God was working in him. The results show fruit.
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
No law against this list!



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Structure of Galatians 2:16

Structure in the Word is the intrinsic beautiful divine markings. (See previous post first)

Galatians 2:16 (From E W Bullinger who did extensive research in this area)

A/  Knowing that a man is not justified
   
      B/  by the works of the law,
         
            C/  but by the faith of Jesus Christ
         
            C/  even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified
                  by the faith of Jesus Christ,

      B/  and not by works of the law: for by the works of the law

A/  shall no flesh be justified.
     


Monday, September 11, 2017

Faith of Jesus Christ

The book of Romans is an epistle addressed to the believers of today who live in the time after the earthly presence of Jesus Christ. We can become familiar with the life of Jesus Christ through the gospels, but it is the church epistles (Romans - Thessalonians) that informs us as to what his life means to us.

We can believe in Christ, and acknowledge that he lived, and did great things. It is quite another thing to understand how the 'faith of Jesus Christ' affects us.

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16 (Romans 3:22)
The Judean belief system at the time of Christ had a strong emphasis on the law in worshipping God. It was a culture that had gone above and beyond in establishing rules for living a godly life. The emphasis for salvation had been put on the 'works of the law' for salvation. It was all wrapped up in performance and external worship.

As Jesus Christ lived among them and taught, a new era was ushered in. His life, death, resurrection, and ascension ultimately brought in the 'faith of Jesus Christ' (a genitive construction which can be re-stated as 'Jesus Christ's faith').  It is his faith that justifies us today, not our works.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate (set aside, nullify) the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:19-21
This understood is our access to God.  It is our righteousness (rightness) to God's heart. Our responsibility is not only to believe in  Jesus Christ but to believe we have access to the faith of Jesus Christ internally and rest in that knowledge. This may seem arrogant to some, but actually it is true confidence in God's provision on which we can have genuine trust.

Our outward works flow from this trust, not the other way around. We sometime feel so happy when we perceive we have done something good but that feeling comes and goes. The 'faith of Jesus Christ' living in our hearts continues to enrich us as we nourish it and continue to grow in the truth of God's word.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The #1 Thing You Have to Learn About God

If there is any place to start in thinking about God, it is that God loves each and everyone of us (John 3:16). We can readily observe his love everywhere around us in beautiful gifts he has given us through his creation. The bottom line is that God loves you and he loves me. God wants us to really believe it.  He wants us 'rooted and grounded'  (Ephesians 3:17-19) in that love.

Sometimes, however, we can get confused when we look at the giant storms of life that rise up and counter punch the original idyllic design of God.  Unfortunately, there was a 'sneaky snake' that crept into the garden and wanted worship, acceptance and most of all, power over man. To do that, he lied, questioned and introduced doubt to Eve.

Evil power works the same way today. The adversary wants to make us all the scapegoat loaded with blame, guilt, inadequacy, insecurity and doubt. God does the exact opposite. He wants each us to be his golden child and shower us all with all he has to give. He can and will give us assurance, security, adequacy and love. We just have to ask.

We should never underestimate what the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as the messiah means for our lives today. When he was here on earth, he became the scapegoat for us to stand up to the power of evil.  When God raised him, we were raised with him, up and out of darkness and into a loving relationship with God. The apostle Paul wrote some magnificent  explanations of this relationship in his church epistles:
3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.
This is not about setting up a religion; it is about full joy in real life living.  In books like Ephesians and Romans 8, we can read about the unlimited joys of God as a Father. Human fathers are wonderful or maybe not so wonderful depending on individual situations; but that does not have to limit your understanding of the ideal parent, God. God can help with that. God is the ultimate father to us all. He is the perfect father willing to show us how much he loves us in the details of life as well as in the big picture. We just have to climb into his lap and tell him what is on our heart.
6 Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
This is the only way to live in our day-to-day walk through this world.






Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Greek To Me


I enjoy looking at common biblical Greek words and draw diagrams as to the prepositional prefix attached to them.  'Redemption' conjures up a broad spectrum of images in our minds.  The word in Greek that is used for 'redemption' commonly is 'apolutrosis'. It is two words combined: 'apo'  meaning away from, and 'lutrosis' meaning ransom or redemption. Put together the word has the sense of being redeemed away from. It hints of rescue or release. Reading through its uses, it is the idea of price paid for, released, redeemed and taken away from.

Apolutrosis is used 10 times in the New Testament. (Luke 21:28, Romans 3:24, 8:23, I Corinthians 1:30, the three references in Ephesians listed below, Colossians 1:14, Hebrews 9:15, 11;35.
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Ephesians 1:6-7

13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
The holy spirit is the gift from God that resides in our hearts. It is our power connection to Jesus Christ and God. We are not to grieve, quench or resist this spiritual enablement that has sealed us and is the earnest (token) of our position in the body of Christ for redemption from the powers of darkness.
12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: Colossians 1:12-15
Old Testament believers didn't have the seal or earnest of the inheritance as shown in the Hebrews 9:15 and 11:35 records. We should be so thankful for all that has been given to us in the New Covenant and learn as much as we can about effectively operating the gift in helping ourselves and others.

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. 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 Noah 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 









Sunday, July 9, 2017

Loving Father -Two Sons

In Luke 15:11-32, there is a popular story about a father who had two sons. Most people have heard it at some point in their lives.  I have read it several times and have understood it's basic lesson about the forgiveness of the father towards the wayward son who went out and spent all his worth in wild, rebellious living. There is a tendency to regard the older son as a  judgmental, self-righteous sort.

In actuality, both sons were loved. The younger son was foolish and self-centered. However, when he indulged his own self-interests, he learned a hard lesson about his fortune and his father. He meekly returned home realizing that his father had provided so much he hadn't recognized in his immature state.

The older son reacted to his return in self-righteous anger. He couldn't understand why all the hoopla and celebration was focused on his younger brother. This older brother also had a lesson to learn and at the root of it was the love of the father towards him. It wasn't his doing everything right that endeared him to the father; it was his sonship.
31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Luke 11:32
Both sons had focused on themselves, both eventually learned how much their father loved them.  All of us, at different times in our lives, have lived out life similar to both sons. All of us can probably relate to both sons. We may swing to one side of the pendulum and then to the other. The point of this story is the incredible love of the father toward his sons.

The father couldn't do much but pray for the younger son while he was out there in crazy land. When that son came to his realize the grass was not greener out in 'lala' land, the father's heart just burst with thanksgiving upon his return home.

The father could do much more for the son that stayed, but that son hadn't realized it and therefore he too had some maturing to do in recognizing the grace in his life.

Sometimes at junctures in our lives we need to ask ourselves, which son looks like me? I can relate to both sons as I look back through the years. The greatest lesson of all about God is to realize and recognize the love that the Father has toward each of us.  The greatest problems involve not seeing the love. Looking at the life of Jesus Christ grounds us in the recognition of God's love and true righteousness.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Freedom

This morning I was awakened very early, maybe by a firecracker, or maybe just the first light of dawn. Some prophetic verses in the Old Testament had been on my mind and one in particular, actually one word in that verse was dangling in my consciousness. It was just like an itch, I just had to itch! 😊 . Watching the Son rise in my mind literally was enlightening and it was one of those occasions where I would have loved to shout what I found on the roof tops. Somehow the word smashes walls and barriers and lifts you up and makes you feel like you can fly.

On this day, we celebrate the 4th of July. It is a celebration of the freedom we have in America thanks to the believing and love of some very wise men that founded this country on a set principles whose original source is the creator. They weren't perfect men but they rested their beliefs humbly in something much bigger than themselves.

God is so much bigger than our minds truly can grasp, but His word can open our hearts to make more space in our narrow minds beyond what we can even describe!

True freedom comes from God and it rests in the knowledge of his Son and what was done for us through him and what he is to us today. Jesus Christ spoke God's word. He was/and/is the son speaking for and showing the Father.

Back in the time that he specifically lived on earth he said to those who followed him:
31 Then said Jesus to those Judeans which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31-32
These are beautiful words! They continue to speak throughout history and continue to speak to us today.

What is real freedom? People talk about it, they define it and they value it! But do we humans settled for our own perceived notion of freedom? Honestly, our own notions of freedom probably limit us. My perceptions of freedom have continued to grow as I continue to seek its real definition. Each stage of growth is another stepping stone to not settling for a worldly mundane existence. Once you have seen another level of freedom, there is no turning back.

So today as I celebrate the founding of this country, I am thankful to God and to his son, Jesus Christ despite the hoopla going on in the world. I pray for this country, its leaders, our families and friends, that they may understand true freedom and not settle for a narrow, limited vision. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Power Struggles and What's Right

Gilead was the region on the east side of the Jordan River. Two and one half tribes (Gad, Reuben and Manasseh) of Israel decided to settle there when the Israelites were about to cross over into the promised land located on the west side of the river.  The Israelites had been careful to go around the regions of Moab and Ammon (descendants of Lot) as God had directed. At that time the Amorites attacked them and Israel defeated them and obtained the land which then became Gilead.

A couple of hundred years later, these tribes had trouble with the Ammonites who attacked them so as to occupy their land. In Judges 11, is a record of Jephthah who arose as a deliverer against the Ammonites.  His life story is interesting.

Jephthah's father had relations with a harlot and Jephthah was the result. His father had other sons and they rejected Jephthah as an illegitimate heir to their father's land. Jephthah left home and became a valiant, mighty warrior. When the Gileadites were attacked by the Ammonites later, they asked Jephthah to come back and lead the cause.

 Jephthah first reasoned with the Ammonites reminding them of the history of their settlement in Gilead:
12 And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? 13 And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably.
14 And Jephthah sent messengers again unto the king of the children of Ammon: 15 And said unto him, Thus saith Jephthah, Israel took not away the land of Moab, nor the land of the children of Ammon:16 But when Israel came up from Egypt, and walked through the wilderness unto the Red sea, and came to Kadesh; 17 Then Israel sent messengers unto the king of Edom, saying, Let me, I pray thee, pass through thy land: but the king of Edom would not hearken thereto. And in like manner they sent unto the king of Moab: but he would not consent: and Israel abode in Kadesh.
18 Then they went along through the wilderness, and compassed (went around) the land of Edom, and the land of Moab, and came by the east side of the land of Moab, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, but came not within the border of Moab: for Arnon was the border of Moab.
Jephthah set the record straight on how it all had happened. He also set the record straight on how the Amorites got defeated:
19 And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon; and Israel said unto him, Let us pass, we pray thee, through thy land into my place.20 But Sihon trusted not Israel to pass through his coast: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and pitched in Jahaz, and fought against Israel. (Sihon attacked Israel)
21 And the Lord God of Israel delivered Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they smote them: so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 And they possessed all the coasts of the Amorites, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and from the wilderness even unto Jordan.
23 So now the Lord God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?
Jephthah, a valiant warrior reasoned with the Amorites,and stood up for Israel, but the king of the Ammonites did not buy it and tried to take what was not their to take:
27 Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the Lord the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon. 28 Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him.
The Ammonites ended up defeated. Jephthah had a right to defend his people against attack and God was with him.

Light dispels darkness.  There is a great benefit in exposing truth in a loving direct manner. Gossip, projection, power plays, lying and false judgements spread darkness. Truth only has the potential to dispel hurt and misunderstandings and spread love. The Ammonites did not respond positively to Jephthah's logic and thus ended up where darkness always end up - defeated because of their own actions.




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Peaceful Path

This morning was just one of those mornings when I couldn't find some things and started fretting and stewing about where they were at. The first thing was a shoe box that I just had to find.  I ran around everywhere looking and as each moment went by my anxiety elevated. I tried alleviating my angst by asking my husband if he knew where it was and he looked around but it seemed to have vanished in thin air. So I just sat down and got quiet and bingo I knew where it was! The second thing was a folder with cable and computer passwords on it. I went through the same exact routine (you would think I had learned 😉). Again when I settled down it popped into my head where it might be and there it was.

Why do we fret over stuff first? I ask myself that question all the time. I guess it is just a bad mind habit that we really need to actively let go of. This is a very real practical application of Matthew 6:33:
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Later on in the day we traveled home from our vacation spot. We unpacked and I went through our phone messages. I came across one that was on the surface pretty alarming. As soon as my fret level started registering in, I stopped and remembered my earlier experiences and decided  to let go, give it to God. I took care of the situation in a peaceful manner and it worked out perfectly!

There's a lot in this world to get our level of frustration elevated, most of it is needless. God's rest, peace and grace are available at a moment's notice when we allow him into the situation. In that moment the simplest solutions appear on the scene and we marvel at the outcome. God is always inviting us into peace, he never stops. We just have to acknowledge it and accept it.

The real enemies in our lives: guilt, frustration, fear, and anxiety cannot co-exist with God's presence unless we give them room by giving in to them. God's presence floods light on any situation when we
focus on him; everything else shrinks and shrivels away into nothingness. The word applies practically in everything we do. It is not just some high idealism  to shoot for, it is supposed to be reality.
11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.Psalm 27:11

Monday, June 12, 2017

Of Mountains and Mustard Seeds

Matthew 17:14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, 15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure (therapuo) him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse (diastrepho - twisting what is right) generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 

Mark 9:23-24 fits in here: 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief (apistia: littleness of  faith) for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Mustard seeds are pretty small and mountains are pretty big. Hebrews use hyperbolic (exaggeration) language to make a noteworthy point. The hyperbole is used throughout the Bible! It is a literary (not literal) form to draw your attention to the significance of what is being said. Another well-known example of this is: “And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out," Matthew 5:29. God loves us! Do you really think he'd want us to do this? The scripture used in this kind of a figure is to make us look at what is being said and how serious it is.

Clearly Jesus believed that his disciples should have been able to help this father. Why couldn't they?Their small believing held them back. Perhaps it was the situation, perhaps it was the culture, both religious and social.  The same thing is true of today.

This whole point with the mustard seed is such a loving encouragement from Jesus.We don't have to have faith the size of a watermelon to take care of a molehill either!  God's love is simple and his word is really simple (except when we try and twist it with perfecting our own performance). God's love has been proven over and over. We just need to start with honest prayer and talk any difficulty over with God and then let him answer (I guess that is the hard part).

This record is fascinating and has so much in it. The father of this child was humble and respected Jesus.  His statement "I believe, help thou mine unbelief" is revealing. We may have believing in some areas and not in other areas.  This man was asking for help in his believing. There is nothing wrong with that. In the church (God's people not buildings) of today, the called out  have been given holy spirit to have a connected relationship with the God through the faith of Jesus Christ. We have the right to ask for help in our believing as we continue to get to know how much God loves us. There 'ain't no mountain high enough' to stop God's love from reaching each of us.




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Skip to my 'Luo'

The Greek word 'luo' is an interesting word in the New Testament. Some of the words used to define it are: to break, destroy,  and loose.  The first record of Jesus Christ using 'luo' is in Matthew 5:19:
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:18-20
The context of the use of 'luo' is centered on the importance of the word as revealed in the word 'commandments'. It is important to know the word of God and to do it and then we can teach it. Anyone can just teach something, but with God's word which is full of life, there is an excitement to share it when you see it work in application. God wants the vitality of his word shared and used to help others help themselves.

The "do and teach' theme is brought up right away in the beginning of Acts:
1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Acts 1:1  
Jesus Christ certainly had a lot of things to share because he had a dynamic relationship with God and his word. The ultimate thing he did and taught about is in Act 2:24 where the word 'luo' is used as 'loosed'.
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. Acts 2:22-24
In I John 3:8b the word 'luo' is translated 'destroy':
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. I John 3:b
In reading through the Book of Judges, the difficulties people faced, but not the force behind it, are revealed. Problems came through people, forces of nature and pagan religion. The devil is behind anything contrary to God's heart. Jesus Christ came to expose all that and how to deal with it.

Jesus Christ"s purpose and life was and is to be our way to God. Ultimately we have eternal life, but in the meantime, our relationship to God and Jesus Christ is key to destroying the works of the adversary in this world in our own lives and in the lives of others. We can peacefully and patiently apply the word to untangle, unwind and untwist the knots, quirks and assaults on life as they arise.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Vowing a Vow

In the book of Judges, the concept of "vows" comes up in the record about Jephthah.  He made a vow to God that if God gave victory to him to defeat the Ammonites, he would offer a burnt offering of the first thing that came out his door upon returning home:
30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the Lord, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, 31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. Judges 11:30-31
As the record goes, his one and only daughter came through the door. He had just fought an enemy whose main god was appeased by child sacrifices. Many scholars believe that Jephthah's vow meant that his daughter would be dedicated to serve in the temple the rest of her life and there are some who believe she was an actual burnt offering. Irregardless, God did help to deliver the enemy into his hands, but I have issues with the 'vow' part. The way this reads sounds like an 'I will do this, if you will do this' proposition. Are we taught in God's word somewhere to pray this way????

Things digress in the book of Judges. Israel went from a God-only culture to a God plus gods of the surrounding culture to then to the stage of forsaking God and worshipping the idols of the culture around them:
6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the Lord, and served not him. Judges 10:6
Jephthah's 'vow' to God seems off to me. God does not do things because of bribes or manipulation. God delivered them because of his love, compassion and grace when they trusted and listened to him.

Jesus Christ talks about oaths in Matthew 5:33-37:
33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. 37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
James 5:12 says essentially the same thing:
12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Unity of the Spirit

There is one God over all. God is a spirit, not a man, who is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). There is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is Lord, appointed by God for that very purpose. The spirit is what God gives us through Jesus Christ when we choose to believe. This is the church! It is what the New Testament is all about!

The only way to keep unity in the church is through the spirit which has its ultimate source in God:
Ephesians 4:3-4 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body (not 24,000, God recognizes one body), and one spirit (it is genitive so it is the unity that proceeds from the spirit {spirit of God in Christ in a person}) 
Unity doesn't come from a particular denomination or non-denomination, unity comes from the spirit.There is so much disagreement in the world today. It is everywhere. In the religious culture, it is rampant. I run across blogs and podcasts and even though I may disagree on one point or another, I enjoy reading or listening to someone who discusses God's word. I know that there is no one that gets it all right.

In the Word of God, it is true there is a lot of doctrine, but there also is so much in its pages about practice of the doctrine.  The book of Acts is an example (The book of 'Praxis'). The first half of Romans is certainly doctrine, the second half is practice.  The first three chapters of Ephesians is about doctrine, chapters 4-6 is about practice. Practice is important without which life is nothing but lifelessness and error. God's word is exciting and vibrant. The word in conjunction with the holy spirit's in-working lights up the word and its energy motivates the practical walk.

God wants us all to know his heart. Listening to others often stimulates my interest spiritually in areas of the Word that I may have questions about. With God's assistance I enjoy digging into the Bible and over and over my expectations are rewarded with great treasure.

The Word of God is more than just words on a page. It is not a dust-covered lifeless book.   The Word of God can lift the heavy veil of darkness off of a person's heart. It is access to comfort, inspiration, excitement, joy, genuine peace and undeniable heart and life healing.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Father is King - Abimelech

In the last post, I wrote about Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons by a concubine that lived in Shechem. Gideon turned down the draft to be king after his great victories. The name 'Abimelech' means my 'father is king' and 'father of a king'. Somebody didn't get the memo! (Judges 8:23)
3 And his mother's brethren spake of him in the ears of all the men of Shechem all these words: and their hearts inclined to follow Abimelech; for they said, He is our brother.
4 And they gave him threescore and ten pieces of silver out of the house of Baalberith, wherewith Abimelech hired vain and light persons, which followed him.
5 And he went unto his father's house at Ophrah, and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubbaal, being threescore and ten persons, upon one stone: notwithstanding yet Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left; for he hid himself. Judges 9:3-5
Enter politics, follow the money! Abimelech was named king. 70 pieces of silver came from the house of Baalberith to support him. The house of Baalberith, the house the god of the covenant between the Hebrews and Canaanites, was something the true God warned against.

Three years into his reign, the Shechemites got tired of Abimelech and enlisted Gaal to go up against them. Zebul a ruler in Shechem helped Abimelech and Gaal was run out of town. Abimelech attacked the city and killed his opponent and even burned (remember the bramble bush?) down the tower that was their protection (Judges 9:49). As Abimelech went on and attacked the city of Thebez, he went after its tower and tried to burn it down, but a woman dropped a rock on his head from the tower. Oops!

The story of Gideon's son, Abimelech, has a lot to say about self-appointed leaders or even man-appointed leadership. It is God who chooses to enlist men and women to do his work. He does not call them to titles, grandiose posing, and crowns. True leadership is easily recognizable. The end result of God's work brings fruitful peace and not a miasma of ambition, dissatisfaction and unrest.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Polygamy and Such ~ Abimelech

Gideon's family was huge. From what was recorded in the book of Judges, it seems that he had 72 sons (Judges 8:30, 9:24). Obviously Gideon had more than one wife. He had many. Abimelech was one of his sons from a maidservant concubine. He was very ambitious and when Gideon died, he was determined in his mind to become king.  Gideon had refused the kingship because he believed that it was God that was their ultimate authority. Abimelech killed all of Gideon's sons except Jotham (Gideon's youngest) who escaped, in order to claim the title of king.

Raising 2 or 3 kids is a challenge. I can imagine 72+ (I'm sure there were some girls born too) children with several wives incurred tremendous pressure and problems.  Polygamous marriages started with Lamech, one of Cain's sons. (Genesis 4:19). It became common. Even some great men like Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon had multiple wives which became problematic for all of them.

I read somewhere that God looked past polygamy in the Old Testament so that the world would be populated.  The definition of marriage was set from the beginning! God heart for marriage is recorded in Genesis 2:24:
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24 
It is pretty clear and simple.  God is love and there is no dark side to him at all. He wants the best for his people and he designed life in the richest and fullest way so that problems would be minimal. He also gave mankind free-will choice. Man can accept or reject God's abundance. It is a choice.

When man goes his own way, it is not God's fault; it is man's problem. When things don't work out well, no one can blame God.  He has provided. It is man that walks away from abundance when he thumbs his nose at the gifts and blessings of God.

God is not some old crank control-freak. If somehow that idea has creeped into your thinking it is important to get to know God the way he really is. You can't love and trust someone that you don't know. The Word of God is the best way to do that.  It is great to just read through the various records and ask God to show you what you need to know to build a relationship with the Father and his son. We can get robbed of the relationship privilege, if we constantly lean on others to keep us in the loop.

The book of Judges is full of human drama and the Hebrews were constantly going through up and down cycles between belief and unbelief. Human nature is in full view in it's records. It is much like human nature today. It is a daily, hourly, minute by minute walk. God responded when they came back to him. He helped them get out of the situations they got into when they honestly humbled themselves and asked for help. God still does the same today!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Resurrection Every Morning

The sun is rising and starting to spread its rays, through the trees, bouncing off the water and back up into the incredibly blue sky.  It is a majestic morning full of expectation. God created the dawn and it is a beautiful imagery of his faithfulness and love.



I was reading this morning about the trek of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary made to the grave where they put Jesus after his crucifixion. Unbeknownst to her at the time, it was the scene of the resurrection. What a magnificent dawn that was for her!
28 In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen,... Matthew 28:1-6a
Mary Magdalene and the women went to tell the others that he was gone from the grave and they all ran back to the grave to see for themselves. After they left, Mary stayed behind weeping that he was gone.  As she was leaving, she saw someone whom she assumed was a gardener until he said: "Mary". It was Jesus!

Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Jesus. Jesus had delivered her from a whole lot of darkness when he first met her. Now he was presenting her with a new dawn. He told her to relay a message to the others;
..... go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. John 20:17b
That day was a dawning for each of us as well. As Isaiah said long ago about God: "he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned."(Isaiah 50:4) The resurrection of God's son paved the way to open the door for us to have an intimate relationship with God every morning. The beauty of the rising sun reminds us of that every day.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Allegory in Judges 9:7-15

In Judges 9:7-15, there is a beautiful tree allegory. It is a story told by Jotham, Gideon's son. Gideon had 70 children, 69 who were killed by Abimelech after Gideon died. Abimelech was a son of Gideon by a concubine in Shechem. Abimelech wanted to be king.  In the previous chapter we read that Gideon had declined to become a king insisting that God was their ruler. Jotham was the lone survivor of Abimelech's malicious devilish ambition.
7 And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you. 
8 The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. 9 But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
10 And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.
11 But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? 
12 Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.
13 And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
14 Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.
15 And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. Judges 9:7-15

Each plant is a comparison (by implication and representation) and illustrates God's blessing on his people. The olive tree was a valued tree in that area. It had many uses such as oil for lamps, cooking, medical uses, food and cosmetic.  The wood was used in furniture.  It was a symbol of peace and plenty to the Hebrews.

The fig tree was the most fruitful tree. It's fruit was sweet. It was a symbol of fruitfulness.  Jesus Christ used the fig tree in Mark 11:112,13,20,21 to teach.

The third reference is to the vine which produced grapes. It was also considered a valuable plant. Jesus Christ is the true vine in John 15:1. God is the farmer. The vine represents spiritual blessings.

All three of these plants turned down the request to rule over the other trees because they were more useful functioning as they were meant to function. They delighted in serving in their own unique ways.

The fourth plant, the bramble was a dangerous plant due to thorns and its ability to burn. It wasn't very useful but readily delighted in the opportunity to be over the other trees. It was low to the ground so the promise of being able to trust in its shadow was vain.

Leaders like Abimelech are dangerous, thorny and cruel. They always grow over boundaries they have no right to mess with. They are not ministering and not to be trusted.
Proverbs 25:19: Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.
Jesus Christ was a wonderful example of a 'Lord'. He was and is a representative of God's love. It is through his life people can utilize their usefulness to others to the fullest. He is the true vine and the one who is alive today and he building God's church.


R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend and we got to talking about respect and the current culture. He made a statement to me t...