Good morning family and friends! Ok let me see all the hands that just didn’t want to get up and work this Monday morning!!! Lol😀 I know me too. But we just have to put a little mind change on it, look at it from another angle so to speak! It is a great opportunity to connect with others and share the love of Jesus, into other people’s lives! Now that, brings me to the next thought! If I am feeling like I might be getting rude or if I am frustrated, or irritated, then that tells me I need to get into my prayer closet and spend time with my Father! Something super natural happens when you spend time with Him, you love on Him, and He loves on you, He feels your heart with more love for others! So if you’re not feeling peace, your love level is low! So be sure and spend your quality time with Jesus, so you can be filled! Love you guys! Have a Blessed day!💕
It’s amazing that we live in such a user-friendly, seeker-sensitive society. Don’t get me wrong, when I walk into a Best Buy (oh yeah, Best Buy) I want to find all kinds of new, sleek gadgets to make my life more efficient and more fulfilling (as much as tech can anyway). I also want those shiny new tech toys to be user-friendly and seeker-sensitive. I want companies like Apple and Microsoft to be sensitive to my wants and needs and to battle it out in the marketplace and compete for my business. This brings better stuff, lower prices, and a happier me and you, with big smiles to boot!!! I also want the local restaurant to be user-friendly and seeker-sensitive, as well as my current gym. But what happens when we apply this model to the kingdom of God? Unfortunately, we often get congregations that are watered down doctrinally, leadership that is concerned with money and butts in seats, and a world that is dying around us with no true light to pierce through the darkness. True, we get better music, shorter services, bigger big-screen presentations, flashier lighting, more flamboyant and dynamic preachers, and cozier facilities–iced mocha latte before service anyone? I wonder, though, if that’s how Jesus and the apostles would have run things? Let’s consider the following passage: So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. –Luke 3:7-8 I’m pretty sure there are better ways to convert people to become members of your church than to call them a bunch of snakes and then chastise them to prove they’ve repented. I mean, come on John, they said they repented, why push them more than that? The issue here is that John was calling them out for their blatant hypocrisy. But that was mean old John, surely Jesus would never have treated people that way… “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? –Matthew 23:33 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables –John 2:15 Jesus didn’t play around either, especially when it came to the religious elite… What’s the point? Well, it’s certainly not that Christians have some birthright to be sanctimonious, self-righteous, and judgmental jerks who push people away from Christ. Rather, our chief qualification has to be that of love. However, the picture of love, Jesus, is the one who fashioned the whip in John 2:15. Sometimes tough love is necessary. Part of coming to Christ is the element of conviction and repentance. We have to recognize our sin and our need for Christ to redeem us. We also must recognize our continual need for His blood to cleanse us and to walk in the spirit, avoiding the desires and ways of our sinful, fallen nature. Those kinds of things are going to make us uncomfortable at times, especially if we are unwilling to give them up… So, give me a seeker-sensitive Amazon so I can get my free 2-day shipping and great return policy, but keep it when it comes to my walk with Christ. I need to recognize my need for Christ, and I need to be shaken up at times. I need to hear some tough truths so I can live a better life for Christ. I need a body of Christ that will not leave me to wallow in my sin and tell me it’s all going to be okay, but that will love me back to relationship with Christ!!! In short, I need scriptural Christianity, not the Starbucks version…
In Mark 12:10 Jesus asks, Haven’t you read this scripture: The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes? True to form, after Jesus laid the spiritual smack-down on the religious leaders, they wanted to arrest Him. But why did Jesus speak this against them, what was the issue that made them reject him even though they were the “builders?” In Matthew 16:18 Jesus reveals that He will build the church, and in 1 Corinthians 3:11 Paul says that no one can lay another foundation than that which is already laid, namely, Jesus Christ…The problem with the Pharisees and Sadducees was that they were not building God’s kingdom, but their own. Granted, they believed they were doing God’s work, but through their blindness, and inability to change their ways to meet God’s revealed truth, they ended up the enemies of God. In order to truly partner with Christ in His kingdom, we must understand that He’s the one building His kingdom; we are simply here to assist in that endeavor. Whenever we begin building a kingdom unto ourselves, or doing a work on His behalf that He’s not commissioned us to do, we fall into the same trap as the blind religious leaders of scripture. We must strive to hear the voice of God and do His will, His work, and His purpose!!! Then we’ll hear Him say, “well done.”
In Luke 14, Jesus uses two different analogies to explain the cost of discipleship. First, he talks about the planning involved in a large building project. Next, he discusses the evaluation a nation goes through before determining whether to go to war. In each circumstance, He reiterates the need to evaluate the options and really consider the cost associated with the decision. This is exactly what we must do when determining whether to follow Jesus Christ as a disciple. Jesus tells us we must deny ourselves and take up our cross, we must be willing to forsake all others if necessary, we will face trouble and tribulation, and that we must give him all our heart, soul, mind and strength. No one should take following Jesus lightly or expect that it’s all going to be peaches and cream. Discipleship will not cost you something, it will cost you everything… That’s not to say there are no benefits or that the blessings of discipleship don’t outweigh the costs, but too many Christians only focus on what they’ll get out of a walk with Christ. Far to many of us are unwilling to put forth the necessary sacrifice, or are sometimes unaware that sacrifice is part of the package… Let’s look at David’s attitude: But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Sam 24:24) This is truly the attitude we should have; David was not about to give something to God that cost him nothing. Things that matter always cost something. Things like a good marriage, a strong family, good health, and a great career, all require sacrifice. These things take up resources like time, effort, and even money, so how much more our walk with Jesus Christ? Remember friends, discipleship is well worth the cost of admission, but to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ will always cost you something…
To round off our discussion from part 1 and part 2 of this series, I’d like to examine one final aspect of Mark 4:25. Jesus said, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them (Mark 4:25, NLT).” Jesus basically tells us that if we both listen and listen on an ongoing basis, we’ll continue to grow in Him and more understanding will be given. However, if we do not continue to listen, even what we do have will be taken away from us. Based on this promise and subsequent warning, we can see the vital importance of remaining current in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must not allow tradition and religion to force us into a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. We can’t rely on human methods to further the kingdom of God. We shouldn’t be distracted or discouraged by what we see and feel with our human senses, but should rely solely on following the voice of God. He’s in full control, and if we would just listen to what the Spirit is saying and then obey the instructions handed down from Him, we would see much greater growth and development in our lives!!!
A couple of weeks ago in a post entitled Hearing & Listening we discussed Jesus’ words in Mark 4:25. There we focused on the need for us to listen to what God is saying, as opposed to just hearing the words. Now let’s take some time to dive into this verse from another angle: Jesus said, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them (Mark 4:25, NLT).” Here we see the need for listening. If you remember from those dreadfully dull grammar lessons in grade school, that’s a present participle, and indicates continuous action. Believers must stay fresh in God, think new manna every day. One buzz word that floats around today is relevant. I believe the church’s greatest need for relevance is in listening and obeying the fresh Word of God. In Greek, the word is rhema, and without boring you to tears, just think of this as a word that’s relevant to a current situation. An example is Matthew 14 where Jesus told Peter to come out onto the water. That was a rhema word, and when Peter stepped out, he indeed walked on the water. However, if I’m out fishing, and most likely not catching anything, and happen to read this portion of scripture, I can’t just jump out of the boat “in faith” and expect the same results. Chances are I’m going to end up needing a change of clothes!!! Another example is with Abraham. Early in Genesis 22 God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Several verses later God stops him and provides a ram as a substitution. What if Abraham had held to the original word? If we were Abraham would we have killed our promised son because we didn’t realize that God had an updated, more current word? How often do we fail to obey God because we are not current with what He’s saying? Indeed, it’s possible to be obeying something we received previously, but because God has moved on with a fresh word, we are actually in current disobedience. We must understand that though God is infinite and eternal, not everything He works on falls into those categories. Sometimes He assigns us to specific tasks, people, situations, and locations, for only a season or just to accomplish a specific goal or purpose. It’s crucial that we remain current in our listening to God’s voice, and not miss the stops and turns that He may have planned. My friends, I encourage each of us to stay current, fresh, relevant; let’s develop that place of relationship and prayer and be in tune with the current, fresh Word of God!!!
This weekend we reflect upon the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Over the centuries, there have been great men and women who impacted the world around them. They lived, they worked, they died, and their memories are forever with us. But there was one man, a God-man, who not only lived and died, but he was resurrected by the power of God, and lives forevermore. This is not just some bedtime story or Disney’s adaptation of a new superhero flick, this is the account of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The resurrection is vital to Christian doctrine, but not so we can rally behind Jesus and say, “boy, wasn’t He awesome.” Rather, His victory over death, Hell, and the grave also purchased our resurrection as well. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Cor 15:22-23, NIV). Jesus Christ was the first of us to overcome death. Yes, there were others brought back to life prior to Jesus Christ, such as Lazarus, but they did not truly triumph over death. Eventually, they did succumb to it. Because Jesus rose and remains, we also have the opportunity, through His Spirit (Rom 8:11), to overcome death. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, all those who are in Christ, whether dead or alive, will overcome death in the end: For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God,and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. So we can firmly say, “because He lives, we live.” This weekend, during all the chocolate, bunnies, candy, eggs, and festivities, I hope all take time to remember that one day Jesus Christ will return in a glorious appearing, He will call us home, and we will also experience a true resurrection!!!
Have you ever noticed the vast difference between hearing and listening? Where I live, I can often hear both airplanes and trains passing by. For visitors, both of these phenomena are attention grabbers, but for someone who’s so used to hearing them, it’s easy to “hear” the sounds but be completely oblivious. I often joke with my wife that husbands have a switch that allows them to “hear” kids screaming or wives talking, but they don’t actually process the info…That sometimes gets me into trouble, but I’m glad she has a sense of humor… The same concept holds true in hearing the voice of God. Often He is speaking loud and clear, but we are not really “listening.” We “hear” the words through scripture, unctions in prayer, prophetic utterances, or teaching & preaching, but we don’t process and assimilate the information in any meaningful way. It’s just white noise, so to speak. Jesus said, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them (Mark 4:25, NLT).” Most of us are familiar with the parable of the wise and foolish builders, one built on the rock, one on the sand. When the storms came, the one who built on the rock stood firm while the other was destroyed. But did you realize that what made them wise and foolish was simply whether they “listened” to God’s words and put them into practice? (see Matthew 7:24-27) You and I need to consciously work on listening to God, not just hearing His words. Let’s work hard at putting His words into action and see what God will do!!!
Have you ever met people who are so caught up in “rules and regulations” they miss the underlying point? It reminds me of the old adage, “can’t see the forest for the trees.” All to often, we’re bogged down in details and fail to step back and look at the broader picture. That’s exactly what happened to the Pharisees in the account of Mark 2:24-28. They were so focused on obeying the Sabbath they forgot its true purpose was to provide rest for the people, a time to relax and commune with God. Instead of the beauty that God intended, they turned it into yet another religious ritual, devoid of any real meaning. Jesus responded by explaining that God is really more concerned with substance, rather than form. He gave the example where David ate the sacred bread (1 Sam 21). Another similar situation is where Hezekiah allows people who were “unclean” to partake in the Passover (2 Chr 30). This was a huge no-no, yet after he prayed, God graciously allowed it (yes, grace, even in the Old Testament.) So, what’s the deal here? Does God just play favorites and allowed David and Hezekiah a pass where others were punished severely for such acts? The answer is in Jesus’ response to the Pharisees in Mark 2. Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” As with David and Hezekiah, they may have been “breaking” an ordinance, but they understood that God values substance over form. David was not eating the shewbread out of irreverence, he simply needed to eat as he ran from Saul. Hezekiah was reestablishing the Passover out of reverence and love for God, so God granted a temporary “hall pass.” This is not a license to flagrantly disobey God’s Word, laws, and regulations, by no means!!! God values obedience very highly (1 Sam 15:22, Jn 14:15). Instead, this is a reminder that we must not get mired down in religious ritual. We must keep the main thing the main thing and understand that God values substance over form.
1 Peter 1:7 – That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Did you know the elements required to make a rainbow are always readily available during the day? The beautiful colors we see are a result of light, generally sunlight. So, why don’t we see rainbows all the time? Science shows when light passes through a prism or other similar object, it’s “bent” and the color spectrum becomes visible. Recall the old ROYGBIV acronym from your science tests? As it turns out, light is reflected (bent) by rain, thus creating the rainbows we see. So, in essence, it’s not until it rains that we’re able to see the beauty of the rainbow. This is similar to the way things work in the kingdom of God. When we study the Word, we see most people really “shined” when they faced adversity. Just look at Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, and you’ll find a veritable “Who’s Who” of the Bible. When did the faith they possessed really get activated? It was when rain began to fall in their lives… James 1:3-4 – 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. So, when trials come your way, or if it’s currently raining in your life, remember that your faith is really being given a chance to shine, and through the adversity God will work patience and perfection in your life…
I love the fact that nothing is impossible with God. He could heal, deliver, and save the whole world and not be diminished one bit; not an inkling of His power would need “recharged.” But on a more personal scale, it blows my mind that a God so powerful He spoke the universe into existence cares about each of us on an individual level. It’s truly mind boggling… 1 Pet 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. We can give all our cares, fears, and anxieties to Him, because He truly does care about us, not just to get us saved, though that is His primary focus. Yet, in addition to salvation, He loves and cares for us. Acts 8:5 – Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Here we see the grandeur of God, the extreme majesty and power of the gospel message. A whole city was turned upside down (or right-side up depending on your vantage point) through the power of the gospel. Philip had an awesome kingdom experience and saw miracles, signs, and wonders, and the people obeyed the gospel (1 Cor 15:1, Acts 2:38) and were saved… But then we come to this passage… Acts 8:26 – And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. WOW!!! In the middle of a great outpouring the Spirit leads Philip into the middle of the desert!!! Yet, there was an Ethiopian there who needed to hear the gospel… Because of God’s great love for us, He’s willing to stretch the limits, go the distance, and save a whole city, or an individual in the middle of nowhere. What an awesome God we serve!!! He cares enough to reach the masses, and He cares enough to reach down and touch you and me right where we’re living!!!
When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, ” It shall be done to you according to your faith.” [Matt 9:28-29, NASU] WOW!!! Whenever I read scriptures like this, it really helps me to understand that one of the greatest factors that hinders or helps us experience the power of God in our lives is our very own faith. There are numerous examples in scripture where people received, or didn’t receive for that matter, based solely on their level of faith.Obviously all answered prayers are within the context of God’s will. It doesn’t matter how much faith you have that God’s able to rain down a billion dollars on your house, the chances are it’ll never happen. Why? I thought God wanted me to drive a Bentley so I went to the dealership and prayed over the latest model. That’s ludicrous, and unfortunately a lot of faith teaching has caused Christians to become materialistic. If you need a car, God will provide through faith, but He’s not necessarily going to set you up with a private jet because you think it’s a good idea. That’s why we need a consistent relationship with Him through prayer, so we can know His will. When we pray His will, in faith, mighty things happen!!! The basic meaning of the Greek word Pistis, which is translated as faith, is “persuasion” or “moral conviction.” It’s simply a belief or assurance, and when used in context of scripture, it’s generally belief in God and the things of God. Such a simple concept, yet so mighty when we apply it… Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive it out?” 20 And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 ” But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” [Mat 17:19-21, NASU] Just look at the Biblical principles illustrated in these few verses. The first thing most people probably see here is that even a minuscule amount of faith can move mountains. That’s incredible!!! But let’s back up. The disciples were unable to cast out a demon due to their unbelief (lack of faith). So without faith, even invoking the name of Jesus won’t have an effect. Just ask the seven sons of Sceva how that turned out for them [See Acts 19:14-16]. There were whole towns where Jesus Himself couldn’t do many miracles due to their lack of faith [Mat 13:58]. The good news is we can play a hand in increasing our faith. First, everyone is given at least a measure of faith, according to Romans 12:3. Then we see that 2 Thessalonians 1:3 shows us it’s possible to increase or enlarge our faith. This is wonderful news, but how can we do such a thing? Well, if we go back to our passage in Matthew 17, we see that Jesus said “this kind” only goes out by prayer and fasting. Some people try to say this is a certain level or type of demonic influence, but that’s not what the passage says. Remember, He told them the reason they couldn’t expel the demon was because of unbelief, not because of a lack of prayer and fasting. So, “this kind” is referring to their unbelief. So, if unbelief is the hindrance or obstacle of faith, and we can overcome unbelief through prayer and fasting, then we can pray and fast our way into greater levels of faith!!! Let’s dedicate ourselves to growing in faith and reducing unbelief through a continual prayer life, mixed with a regular schedule of fasting and the Word. This will help us remain balanced, and pray prayers within the will of God. That’s when we’ll see mountains move in our lives!!!
Does anyone else find it unbelievable that the children of Israel could see and experience all the incredible things on their sojourn out of Egypt, yet constantly question, complain, and disobey God? One prime example is when He miraculously provided them manna in the wilderness. They were told that fresh manna must be gathered every morning (except on the sabbath). Still, people tried to take the easy way out and get more than necessary so they wouldn’t have to go through the trouble of collecting more the next day. Well, they found out the hard way that if you’re going to disobey God, you might as well, as one person put it, “go eat some worms.” [See Exodus 16:15-20] Really, though, that’s the way many Christians treat their walk with God. Jesus said He is the bread of heaven in John 6:33. He also showed us that we are supposed to gather our “daily bread” in His model of prayer [Matthew 6:11]. We understand through scripture that bread is the symbol of the Word of God, so we see that we should daily seek the face of Jesus Christ in order to receive fresh Word (bread) from Him. What He provided yesterday may not work for us today. Just look at the various kingdoms that Israel conquered on their journey west of Jordan, thirty-three kings to be exact, two on the East of Jordan and thirty-one on the west. If someone mentions Jericho, most people who’ve been to Sunday school can tell you exactly how that city was conquered. They shouted the walls of Jericho down!!! [Joshua 6:20]. But how were the other thirty-two victories won? Well, from studying scripture we see they were not all won by shouting and praising the walls down, rather, God gave the victory however He chose to do so. What if Israel tried defeating Ai (the next city after Jericho) the same way, through praise and shouting? I’ll tell you, they would have been defeated. Why? Didn’t that work just one city ago? The answer is, yes, it worked, but only because that’s how God commanded them to gain the victory. When it came to the next battle, God gave them different instructions. If Joshua wasn’t plugged in to God, he may have missed God’s fresh word (daily bread) and tried to apply an old word to a new situation. Sometimes, that can get us into a lot of trouble. Other times, we simply delay our answer and frustrate ourselves while Jesus sits back and says, “I’ve got a fresh word for this new situation, but I guess I’ll wait until you’re ready to come get it.” We simply have too many Christians who are too lazy to hear from God, and they’d rather apply a cookie-cutter solution to every situation, a one-size-fits-all method of obtaining victory. But that doesn’t work. Victory is only obtained through obedience to God. The only reason shouting and praise worked at Jericho is because God decided that’s how He wanted the victory to be obtained. It’s all about relationship with Jesus. When we seek Him daily, that’s right, every single day, we can receive those fresh words of life for the new day. We don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder why something worked before but not in this situation. Rather, we can get our “marching orders” fresh every day and walk from victory to victory, just as Israel did when they crossed the Jordan. Jesus, help us to get a fresh word from you!!!
1 Timothy 3:15 tells us, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”In part 1, we learned about our living God, who established His church. In part 2, we discussed what the church really is. In this final installment, let’s discuss what it means to be part of God’s church, part of the Christ’s body here in the earth… 1 Cor 12:12-14 – For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. Typically, when we think about 1 Corinthians 12 we think about the discussion of the nine gifts of the Spirit. However, as the chapter progresses, we see in verses 12 through 31 a wonderful discussion of how each of the members of the body of Christ (the church) fit together in a harmonious relationship that maximizes the potential for ministry. Paul says all the members of the body are significantly important: In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. (Verse 22) So, we see that just because you’re not a teacher, pastor, or someone mightily used in the gifts of the Spirit, you still have talents and gifts from God; you are not only expected to use these to minister in His kingdom, but you are vitally important to the body!!! 1 Cor 12:25-26 – This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. We are in this together, and we need each other for ministry. I’ve heard people say they were reluctant to pray for others, say a powerful visiting evangelist, because they felt they were lower down in the chain of spiritual power. That’s nonsense!!! I really believe it’s also a trick of the enemy to keep us from ministering to one another. In fact, at the end of several epistles, after the apostles just finished expounding the word to the saints, they ask for prayer from the saints!!! Here’s one example: 1 Thess 5:25 – Brethren, pray for us. (See also, Rom 15:30, Eph 6:19-20, 2 Thess 3:1, Heb 13:18) Ministry is simply service, and the Bible is very clear that there is a virtually limitless number of ministries. A couple of unheralded ones are spoken of in our passage from 1 Corinthians: the gifts of helps (helping others) and governments (leadership). We don’t typically think of these as gifts from God, but Paul lists them right alongside apostles, miracles, and diversities of tongues in 1 Cor 12:28. If you desire gifts that you don’t already have, Romans 2:11 tells us there’s no respect of persons with God, so seek God for what you want, and if it’s His will, He’ll give you what you need to work effectively in His kingdom. So, never minimize the gifts God has given you. Use them to the fullest, unlocking their full potential through prayer and fasting, and take your rightful place in the body of Christ. You have power when you pray, fast, and study the Word. The church needs you!!!
1 Timothy 3:15 tells us, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” In our previous installment, we discussed how we serve a living God, who established his church in the earth. But what is “the church?” Let’s be honest, when most of us think of church we think of a place of worship where people gather on Sundays. Perhaps there are other days of gathering such as a mid-week Bible study or prayer meeting, but the basic concept is the same: the church is a place of worship. For instance, in the picture below, if I asked where is the church, most people would say it’s the outline of the building around the people. In modern thinking they’d be correct, but after examining scripture, we see they’re actually wrong. First, let’s look at the word “church.” WARNING: this portion of the study includes references to Greek and/or Hebrew and may cause drowsiness; please do not attempt to read while driving or operating any kind of heavy machinery. The word church is derived from the Greek word “ekklesia” (pronounced ek-klay-see’-ah). The core meaning is simply “a calling out.” Another very typical way to translate the word would be “assembly.” Now, when we think of “assembly”, rather than “church,” it makes much more sense. An assembly requires that something or someone be assembled together, otherwise it’s not an assembly. Now, those that are called out should be obvious, it’s the ones called out by God into His kingdom (see John 3:3-5 and 1 Peter 2:9). This shows us that the church isn’t a physical location, but rather, wherever God’s people are assembled together. This is why if a group of saints rents out a night club on Sundays, the building is a night club every other day, but becomes a church on Sundays. Why? Because the people of God are gathered there. We can also see why the Bible refers to the homes of believers as churches (Acts 8:3, Rom 16:5, 1 Co 16:19, Col 4:15, Philem 2). Anywhere believers gather together to worship God and refresh one another in fellowship and ministry is a gathering of the church. Before we go further, let’s look at Hebrews 10:25, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Here we are warned not to forsake (which means to stop) assembling together. Now, it may be technically true that you are the church while sitting at home on your couch in your moo moo with a Bible in one hand and a cup of hot chocolate in the other, but we have scripture (and not just Hebrews 10:25) that clearly indicates that we are supposed to assemble together with other believers in order to exhort, admonish, and edify each other. The last evidence I want to examine is Colossians 1:18, And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Here we see that the church is the body of Christ. Again, Christ’s body is not made up of brick and mortar, but rather of people. When we are born again, we become part of the body of Christ in the earth (Rom 12:4, 1 Cor 12:12-13, Eph 4:4, Col 3:15). It’s hard for a member of the body to survive without being connected to other members, and so it’s vitally important that we connect (assemble together) in order to minister to one another and worship our great Savior in spirit and truth… So, to recapitulate, we’ll return to our initial example. Remember the picture of the people inside the church? Actually, it’s a drawing, not of people inside a church, but rather of the church inside a building… In the next portion of this study, we’ll examine what it means to be part of the body and how every member of the church is an important, integral part, necessary for ministry and reaching our world…
1 Timothy 3:15 tells us, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” It’s amazing that so many religions are built upon extraordinary individuals who lived and impacted the world around them, then died; their followers continue in their footsteps, establishing whole “religions” devoted to carrying on the teachings of the founder. Men like Buddha, Confucius, and Mohammad, all had a tremendous affect on those around them, and still we see the aftereffects of there lives. Yet, each of them lived and died, and in reality, that was that. Not so with another important historical figure, a man whose teachings have filled the whole world as prophesied in Daniel chapter two, a man born of a virgin in a little town called Bethlehem, a man who lived, died, and was buried. He, and only He, rose again the third day by the power of the Father and lives today to oversee His glorious work. The cross is EMPTY, the tomb is EMPTY, and Jesus Christ reigns on the throne as the true and living God, the head of the church, which is His body in the earth!!! What a price God paid to robe himself in flesh, taking on the form of man, Creator becoming as one of His creations, to redeem us from the stain and sting of sin and death. He lived out the gospel for us to follow after and established his kingdom here in this world. That’s what Jesus meant when He said “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). Truly, we serve a living God, and now, as His body in the earth, it’s our job to live His kingdom. We need to be kingdom-minded (Mt 6:33), focused on impacting the world around us through good works, love, light, and truth… So what is this thing that He established? What is this church of the living God spoken about in our opening scripture? Let’s explore this in greater detail during this series, “The Church of the Living God”….
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?” 2 Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied.(Ex 4:2) Don’t you just love this exchange? Here God is telling Moses he’s been chosen to go and deliver the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and Moses asks, “what if they don’t believe me?” What did he expect? Did he think God was going to scratch His head and say, “Shucks, I guess I didn’t think of that?” This is God asking you to do it Moses, He’s obviously going to make sure you’re able… Or is He? It’s kind of easy for us to have faith in this situation because we know the outcome, but the magnitude of what God was asking was completely astounding. Imagine God asking you to barge into the White House, point your finger at the president, and tell him it’s time to put God first in this country again, or else. Actually, that’s a bad analogy because the worse that would happen would probably be some jail time and being labeled a crackpot. Moses would risk being killed by Pharaoh, so the stakes were a little higher. “What’s in your hand,” was God’s response to Moses’s concerns, and that’s really where I want to focus. God calls us to work for the kingdom, but sometimes we wait around for some miraculous sign or until we feel we’re as good as someone else, but God wants us to just go out and use what we have. Remember the feeding of the five thousand? The disciples found a boy with five loaves and two fish and Jesus not only fed all the people but they took up twelve baskets of fragments (see John 6:9-13). Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, and Luke 12 shows us that the servants who arewatching and doing are the ones who will be blessed. There are definitely times when God will give us new jobs to do, but we should never sit around waiting for some special call or commission before we get active in the kingdom. Do what you know to do now…There was as staff in Moses’s hand, something very familiar, and that’s what God told him to use. In the parable of the talents (Mat 25), each servant is given a different sum, but each was expected to go out and use what they were given to grow what the master already had. So, it’s incumbent upon us to do the same. Do you like to sing? Perhaps you should use that for the kingdom. Do you enjoy fellowship? Use it for the kingdom. Are you knowledgeable in the Word of God? Use that to reach people and bring them into the kingdom of God. The list could go on forever, because each of us has different talents, abilities, likes, and dislikes. Nevertheless, we should all do our part to impact the world around us. Don’t worry about the things you don’t have or can’t do, that’s why we have brothers and sisters in the kingdom. Just like God provided Aaron to be Moses’s mouthpiece (Ex 4:14), we can leverage off of each other’s talents to work together. The thing God wants you to do is step out and begin using what He’s already given you for the benefit of His kingdom…
he Bible teaches us that whatever we sow we will also reap (Galatians 6:7). This series of posts will focus on that concept in general, and focus in on several areas in our lives where we can sow the right seed, and reap a harvest of rewards and benefits from God… The concept of sowing and reaping is as old as, well, literally as old as dirt. What we put into the ground is what we get out. We can’t plant apple seeds and expect a banana tree to grow in its place. That thinking is completely absurd in the natural world, but somehow people tend to lose site of it when it comes to spiritual matters. Let’s examine the principle as laid out in Galatians: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9, NIV) This seems pretty simple doesn’t it? So why do so many people seem oblivious to the principle? The end result of sowing is reaping, and no matter what we sow, we will reap in the end. When we sow things in our secular lives, we shouldn’t be surprised to reap accordingly. Likewise, if we spend time sowing into our spirit, we will receive the benefits of our labour. To often we see lop-sided men and women of God who think that sowing seed bountifully in one area will cause them to reap a diverse harvest full of variety and plenty. Again, if I plant ten thousand apple trees, I should expect to get several hundred orange trees out of the effort. Let’s get a little more specific. A man who’s devoted to providing for his family spends time working to earn money so their needs are met. This is completely Biblical. However, if I spend 120 hours a week working to make money, but rarely spend time with my family, what will my harvest be? Think, a family with plenty of stuff who has very little relationship with their father/husband, and possibly kids who barely know my name… A woman who’s dedicated to making sure her children are intelligent and educated, thoroughly equipped to succeed in the world is a good thing. But if that drive turns into neglecting their emotional and spiritual needs, she may end up with successful kids who don’t love God and don’t care one iota about their fellow man. We could go on and on with this but I think you see the point: the Bible teaches balance in life, and that means if we want to reap good things in all areas of our life, we must sow seed in those areas. In our next few installments of this series, we’ll talk about sowing seed in several different areas (spirit, family, and finances) of life in order to reap a harvest of our maximum potential…
The Bible teaches us that whatever we sow we will also reap (Galatians 6:7). This series of posts will focus on that concept in general, and focus in on several areas in our lives where we can sow the right seed, and reap a harvest of rewards and benefits from God… I find it interesting sometimes to sit and listen to people talk about the benefits of living in God’s kingdom. At times, you’d think coming to Christ and living for Him was tantamount to winning the megabucks lotto. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer that walking in God’s ways is the best life to live, and as David said in Psalm 16:11, in God’s presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand pleasures forevermore. David also said not to forget all the benefits of God in Psalm 103:2. But this same David also spoke of putting himself in the position of blessing in 2 Samuel 22:20-28. Let’s examine a few portions of this passage: The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. (v 21) I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight. (vv 24 & 25) To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble,but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. (vv 26 & 27) What was David doing? He was sowing seeds of righteousness, obedience, and faithfulness. That’s why he reaped a harvest of blessing from God. Out of curiosity, where would people get the understanding that we come to Christ and it’s smooth sailing after that, regardless of how we conduct our lives? Some people think we can commit ourselves to God in prayer one time and then live any old way we please, but these verses sharply contrast that idea. David is clear that God rewards according to behavior. Good parents will love their children no matter what, but shouldn’t (and good parents don’t) reward bad behavior with candy, toys, and privileges. Instead, they train their children by establishing a system of rewards and punishments based on a meritorious system of behavior… It’s the same with God, and this is consistent throughout scripture. Hebrews 11:6 tells us God is a rewarder of those that “diligently seek Him,” while James 4:8 says to draw close to God and He will draw close to us. Again and again the scripture tells us that in order to live in the zone of blessings and rewards, we need to make a conscious effort to be there. It doesn’t happen simply because we got saved way back when. It’s entirely possible to be saved and make it all the way to Heaven, but live a life that’s far below our potential because we fail to live in that blessing zone. For instance, the Bible teaches us to work hard and provide for ourselves and our family (2 Thess 3:10-12, 1 Tim 5:8). Well, if we choose rather to be lazy and rely on charity of others or the government dole, we might well be saved, but not be able to make our mortgage payment. If we want God to bless us, we need to give him something to work with. If we want blessings and rewards in our family, we should follow the Bible’s prescription for raising a family, if we desire spiritual blessings and gifts, we should see what God requires to step into that zone. The list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. We need to do our part, and God will do His. Again, I end with a scripture already mentioned, James 4:8: Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. (NLT) As we progress further in this serious, we’ll explore various areas where we can sow into our lives, and reap a harvest of rewards and benefits in God. It’s all about getting into that heavenly reward zone!!!
To often, we Christians become so focused on things around us, noise and distractions, that we can’t focus on what’s truly important. The Bible gives us the prescription for where our attention should be: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV) Our problem, most of the time, is that we’re so easily distracted by the cares of this life. Don’t get me wrong, no one is immune to this tendency, and even as I write this blog, I know I’m as guilty as anyone. However, the parable of the sower tells us that the fruit of God’s word (the seed) can be choked out by the cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches (the thorns) <See Mark 4: 1-23> Take heart, even Peter struggled with this issue. Remember Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water and Peter asks to join him? Everything was going fine until Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and on his circumstances and surroundings (see Matt 14:30). The same holds true for the rich young ruler who looked Jesus in the eyes and then turned away because Jesus asked him to give up his riches (Luke 18:22). We need to focus on Jesus Christ. He warns us that trials and tribulations will come. He never promised a bed of roses for those who follow him. His word also teaches us that we are obligated to provide for our family (I Tim 5:8), seek to please our loved ones (I Cor 7:33), and live productive lives in this world (Ecc 10:18). But those things should not distract us from the primary focus, our relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In Luke 10:39-42 we see that Martha was busy serving (which we’re commanded to do by the way) but Jesus told her that Mary had chosen that “good part.” Mary had been sitting at Jesus’ feet. Martha was right to serve and be focused on those things, but not to the point of neglecting her relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s regroup, refocus, and redouble our efforts to be in true relationship with Jesus Christ. When we’re walking with Him like we should, so many other things in life truly fall into place…
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where theLord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David. (2 Chronicles 3:1, NIV) I noticed something interesting in reading this passage, something I’d never seen before. The location of the temple construction was a very specific place, the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite… Now, anyone who studies the building of the temple knows nothing was done haphazardly or willy-nilly. Rather, specific instruction was given to every detail, right down to the most miniscule component of the temple. So, it’s very interesting to see that this location was chosen. Let’s get a little background here: In the later years of his life, David angered the Lord by taking an unauthorized census of the people. As a result, he was given 3 choices for punishment. David asked that he fall into God’s hands rather than the hands of man, so God sent a plague up on the people. The angel of the Lord struck down 70,000 people. David repented and the angel stayed his hand. Then David purchased the land and built an altar at the place the angel stopped, that place was the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (see 2 Sam 24). Now we return to the building of the temple and see that it was constructed at this place of separation, with the plague on one hand and the mercy of God on the other… This is a beautiful picture of the church. We, the church, are the temple of God in the world today (1 Cor 3:16). On the outside is the judgment of God and the unchecked battering that comes from this world of sin. On the inside is the grace, mercy, and peace of God, and the fellowship of the beloved. Jesus Christ is the dividing line that creates a wall of protection for the church… Just look at the children of Israel in Egypt. The night before the exodus they put blood on the door posts and the angel passed over them when it saw the blood and could not enter to kill the firstborn. However, where there was no blood, the angel was able to take vengeance. The blood of Christ covers his saints; it’s applied in baptism for all the weary souls hear the beckoning call of the Savior, those who come out of the world and cross the threshold of the church. It’s so wonderful to see how Jesus provides protection and safety for his own. There’s no greater place to be than in the church, the kingdom of the living God!!!
One very interesting thing about David’s response to Saul when questioned about his ability to defeat Goliath was that he went straight back to the past victories. He recalled the lion and bear that had threatened his flock and how he defeated them, then he extrapolated or projected those victories to the current situation by telling Saul the Philistine would be just like the lion and bear (see I Samuel 17:34-36). All too often we forget what God’s done for us, or at least we fail to transfer the help, comfort, and miracles of the past into the present situation. Why? I think it’s because we human beings tend to focus on our present situation. I know when I am going through some trial or tribulation, be it financial, social, etc…, it could be big or small, it doesn’t matter, at that moment even the most trivial thing can be the end of the world. Often we’ll even sacrifice things of the past and future by damaging long-lasting relationships, making foolish financial decisions, destroying our health, or possibly even ruining future generations’ hopes for a better life, simply because we fail to take into consideration things outside the present… But David was able to focus and say within himself, “God’s helped me before, and He’ll do it again.” Sure, the giant was bigger and meaner than the other trials, but he knew God was unchanged, and would see him through just like before. God healed a headache, He can take care of this cancer. He mended a friendship, He can put a marriage back together. He provided $20 to fill the tank up with gas, and now He’ll help when payments are 3 months behind on the mortgage… Never forget the prelude to one of our most important and wonderful scriptures, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) This is a powerful scripture, full of promise and comfort, but take some time to read what the author wrote just prior. He was in torment and anguish; pain, doubt, and fear were taking a hold on him, but he was able to lift his eyes and speak from what he knew, that God had always been faithful and true… Remember these scriptures the next time you’re going through something terrible. If you’re in a trial now, just remember that we can cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us (I Pet 5:7). That has always been true, and always will!!!!
Just remember no matter what you’re going through that God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is always there, always triumphant, always loving, always watching, always guiding, and always available… Often we go through trying times, a death or sickness in the family, financial hardship, and the list goes on and on because, after all, this is life isn’t it? Many times we bring trouble and tribulation on ourselves (in times of honest, candid, lucidity we’ll admit this to ourselves), and in those times we need God’s help as well as a change in our own thinking or actions…However, sometimes trials and tribulation come from an outside source, maybe a co-worker who’s just got it out for us, or perhaps a friend who’s betrayed us, maybe even a spiritual leader or mentor who’s genuinely done us wrong…. No matter the circumstance, no matter the situation, the resounding scripture that rings true throughout ages is this, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:7). Coupled with Jesus’ promise to never leave nor forsake us (see Mt 28:30 and Heb 13:5) we understand that our hope and comfort has always and WILL ALWAYS be in Him alone… So when life has you down, when you’re weary with your fellow man (and remember you’re one too), when you are tired, afraid, alone, and in need……Remember, Jesus Christ, the lover of our souls, the beautiful one, the righteous one, our King and Saviour is only a prayer away…Lean on Him and He will bring you through!!! God bless you in Jesus Name….
So, the story goes something like this: children of Israel really tick God off (what else is new right?), He sends fiery serpents into the camp, Moses hears from God and makes a brass serpent, the serpent is risen in the camp, all who look on the serpent are healed, and everyone lives happily ever after. Right? Actually WRONG!!! Would you believe they ended up taking that brazen serpent and making a god out of it? Yeah, they offered incense to it and worshiped the thing (2 Kings 18:4). Now what exactly went through those people’s minds? It’s crazy, but then you really have to step back and think about it… We do the same thing all the time…Just look at the history of the progressive revelation of truth throughout the ages. First, Martin Luther came out of Catholicism and was able to return to more Biblical truth. But he didn’t continue on. Instead, he took the truth that was right and good and made a god out of it instead of letting it lead him into further and deeper understanding and revelation… It goes on throughout history. Men were led of God to a point, but then the buried their stakes in the ground and established a “structure” around the revelation given them instead of continuing to allow God to lead them further and further into fullness of truth. We MUST NOT allow ourselves to get bogged down in the traditions of men, but rather be thankful for everything we’ve been given and we’ve received of God, but at the same time we must always be ready for God to lead us into more and more understanding, knowledge and revelation of HIM…. Lead me on Jesus, lead me on…
Remember the good old days, running around the playground or house, not a care in the world, playing games and having a great time? There was always that kid who cheated when you played. He’d always be moving during Freeze Tag or peeking while folks hid when you played Hide and Seek…Well, the whole thing really gets me thinking…Jesus really gave us a way to “peek” when it comes to our lives and the salvation that He’s so graciously provided. Just look what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:3: But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: If the truth of God’s Word and the saving power of the death, burial, and resurrection is hidden from anyone, it’s from those that are lost…But through Jesus Christ, we can see the truth, after all, Jesus said it was His job “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) Now we’re able to understand we can’t be saved without obeying the gospel through repentance, baptism in Jesus name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost… But let’s look a little further… John 9:5 – Jesus said as long as He’s in the world, He’s the light of the world Matthew 5:14/Philippians 2:15 – Jesus and Paul both show the saints are the light of the world The man, Christ Jesus, in bodily form is no longer in the world, but He remains in the world through the church, filled with His Spirit (the Holy Ghost), so now it’s our job to be the light that finds people, shines the light of truth, and calls people out of darkness into His marvelous light!!!
Hebrews 13:9 warns, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” It’s crazy how even while the apostles were still alive so many false doctrines, false Christs, and false teachings were running rampant. Paul warned of people teaching “another Jesus” in2 Corinthians 11:4, as well as “another gospel” in the same verse and in Galatians 1. With so many religions and denominations to choose from out there, it almost feels like we’re in the buffet line at Morrison’s. So how do we know who’s right? After all, they vary in so many ways, it’s IMPOSSIBLE that everyone’s right… The important thing to remember is to stay in the Word of God. The Bible is our benchmark and according to Ephesians 2:20, we’re built on the foundation of the apostles, so their teachings are what should guide us. But even that can be difficult, right? Even old Satan quoted scripture when tempting Jesus (see Matthew 4:6). And since the truth is not in him, we understand fully that even the Bible can be a lie when taken out of context or used in the wrong manner…So what’s the answer? 2 Timothy 2:15 says to study while Ephesians 5:10 says to find out what pleases the Lord (NIV). Finally, Romans 10:14 asks how they can hear without a preacher… God has given us the Word of God and His Spirit to lead and guide us; He’s also provided godly men and women to help show us the way. The important thing is to never feel you’ve “arrived” and are unwilling to accept more of God. If the Bible says it, study it, look into it, and DO IT!!! This is the only way we can truly decipher the truth among the tantalizing schmorgesborg of strange doctrines…
Be fruitful and multiply; it’s the first thing God told man to do. It’s the first thing He gave living creatures the ability to do (bring forth after their kind). It’s the thing He expects every newborn babe in that enters the Kingdom of God to do… No, I’m not talking about fulfilling some quota for population growth, at least not naturally, but rather I’m talking about Jesus’ charge in Matthew 28:19(NIV), “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” Truly, God is all about multiplication… The job of EVERY saint of God is to reach out to this lost and dying world and give them what we have. In fact Jesus said two things that underscore this point emphatically: Hey said, “freely ye have received, freely give” in Matthew 10:8… He instructed that “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” in Luke 12:48. All throughout the scripture we see the apostles going into the world and making disciples, just look at the book of Acts, they were on fire!!! Look at the language Peter used in Acts 3:6 when the lame man was healed: …such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. First, we see it’s important to have something to give, but we’ll cover that at another time, but look what he did, he gave it away just as Jesus said in Matthew 10:8… So take some time today, tomorrow, next week, and at every opportunity (Galatians 6:10) to reach out to this world and give Jesus away in prayers, blessings, and encouragement. You never know who that next DISCIPLEmay be…
Okay, we all love sleep in some way, shape or form, but have you ever seen (or are you) the type of person who is a REAL sleeper, I’m talking the type that you need an air horn and ice water to wake up in the morning? I know one person who, while sleeping, had someone trip and fall on top of them and they still didn’t wake up…Crazy… But on the same token, there are so many people, good people who, in their own way love God, but they’ve slipped into a deep slumber…It’s not really all that difficult; it can happen to anyone. The cares of life, just the day-to-day activities of work, family, school, etc…, can creep in and lull us into spiritual sleep sometimes. Mix that with the spirit of error that’s enticed many people into very appealing, yet false doctrine, and viola!!! You have a bunch of sleepwalkers. But Ephesians 5:13-15 warns us: But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, The apostle warns us here to awake out of our sleep (which is really leading to spiritual death)…And then he says to walk not as fools but in wisdom… That’s really what it takes to live for God, walking in wisdom, soberly as I Peter 5:8 tells us…So stop hitting that spiritual snooze button, awake, arise, and let your soul LIVE!!!
We’ve all heard the phrase, “big things come in small packages,” and most of us are aware that sometimes it’s the little things that can really stack up, for better or worse, and end up having an enormous impact… Song of Solomon 2:15 states, Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. Now most of us have heard this scripture preached on and taught on, and we understand that for the most part, it’s those little things that go unnoticed that can bring us down. It’s kind of like the frog: throw him into boiling hot water and he’ll immediately jump out, but slowly turn it up while he’s already sitting in some lukewarm water and he’ll sit there until he’s cooked… Or maybe it’s like the great Sequoia’s of northern California; they can weather the fiercest of storms, but fall prey to the tiniest of foes–the termite… Still, the scripture in Solomon goes deeper. First, it says our vines have tender grapes. Truly, our lives and our souls are tender when you really think about it. There are so many things out there that can affect us, so we have to guard ourselves with fervor. Second, there’s no indication that the foxes would intentionally harm the vines. They’re just after some food, the grapes, but in there effort to just do what’s natural for them, they’d destroy the vine altogether… So we can see that we need to watch out for not only those things that would come against us to destroy us, but also against those things that might creep in unawares, with no intent to do damage, but that may end up causing our tender vines to become spoiled. Apply it in YOUR OWN situation. That relationship that’s keeping you from being where you need to be in God, that job that’s dragging you down, the entertainment that you thought you had under control, that attitude you know’s there but haven’t had time to tackle, that temptation, that weight, etc… God has given us power in the Holy Ghost to be overcomers!!! Let’s not slay the giant only to succumb to the flesh during our time of war. Let’s lay aside the sin and the weights and run this race all the way to the finish!!!
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith;” that’s how we are to run this race we’re in. However, at times there are those “issues” in life, be it financial, familial, medical, or otherwise, that intrude and distract. But Jesus Christ has given us a remedy, Himself. When Peter began to sink into the sea (Matthew 14:30), it was because He started to look at the evidence around him, telling him he was crazy for stepping out of the boat. The wind and the waves were matters of circumstance that distracted him from Jesus Christ. That’s when he started to fall. Could it be that we face the same test? When problems arise, it’s not that we should ignore them and pretend they’re not there, but we should NEVER lose our focus, we should never lose our relationship with Jesus Christ. Rather, we should cling to Him all the more and He will see us through the circumstances of life. The psalmist wrote, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3). Keep your eyes on Jesus, and ignore the circumstantial evidence, His witness is true and He will see you through!!!
John 9:4 says, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Jesus has put us in this world for a purpose, He saved us through the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection, but when we are saved through repentance, baptism in Jesus name, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost, we aren’t immediately translated to glory…Why not? Because we become Jesus’ hands and feet in this world. It’s up to us to accomplish His purpose, to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). But let’s be honest, sometimes life can get a hold on us, the day to day routine can sink in and we find ourselves losing focus or falling out of touch with our purpose… That’s why the Bible warns us, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9). Don’t quit, don’t give up, don’t give in. Not only does your soul depend on it, but there’s a lost, hurting, and dying world that’s depending on you too!!!
Ever been through a trying time? Ever walked through a valley that seemed to go down and down forever or been tested to the point where you thought you couldn’t handle it any more? Ever felt as though the weight of the world was on your shoulders like a rising tsunami about to crush you? Don’t give up hope or loose out with God during those dry, lonely times, it’s just test of the wilderness!!! You see, when Israel came out of Egypt, they were purged, tested, and tried in the wilderness for 40 years before moving into the land God promised. There was a lot of cleansing and fashioning that had to happen… Likewise, before Jesus was fully launched into His earthly ministry, He fasted 40 days in the wilderness, and was tried and tested by Satan himself!!! I Corinthians 10:11 says, Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. We have a scriptural example we can follow to understand what’s really happening when we find ourselves in the wilderness. During those difficult times, that’s the opportunity to weather the storm and see if you’re really built on the Rock (see Matthew 7:24-27), and when you pass through the test, you’ll come out as fine gold, tried by fire!!!
Pastor Jason Varnum preached a passionate message on Sunday morning and it really got me thinking. Have you ever talked to people that fish? Have you ever been fishing yourself? It’s amazing what people will do sometimes, just to “have a good time.” Get up at the crack of dawn, load up with tackle, bait, rods, etc…, get the equipment and boat out on the water, fish for hours at a time, and sometimes have nothing to show for it but a dirty boat, a stomach full of half-eaten snacks, and a sunburn… Yet, they’ll do it all over again the next day, the next week, the next month, over and over again because they know the fish are out there, but “maybe they just weren’t biting today.” What if we had the same attitude about souls? What if we would launch out into the deep (Luke 5:4) at God’s word, and not worry whether the outcome is everything we’d hoped? After all, our job isn’t to MAKE people come to church, involve themselves in a Bible study, or save a soul. No, no, no, our job is to bait the hook, toss the line, and fish for men… I think it’s time for more of us to take on the mentality of Jesus Christ–everything He did was to try and reach the lost. Whether He was healing someone of blindness, casting out a demon, or feeding thousands of people miraculously, His purpose was to win the lost… It’s time for more of us to be…………fisher’s of men!!!
Irony has a very special place in the realm of literature, poetry, and even in the realm of television and film-making, but nothing is quite so amazing as some of the incredible instances in the Bible, the ironic turnarounds that God orchestrates for His people…Over and over again, throughout historical accounts in the Word of God, the seemingly inevitable plight of the children of God had a way of turning into great victory (can anyone say, “Red Sea crossing?”). The story of Esther is no exception, in fact, it’s one of the most elaborate instances of a great comeback of all time. Haman couldn’t stand the fact that Mordecai wouldn’t bow to him and pay him homage, even though the entire rest of the kingdom did so. He got focused on the one “problem” and decided to do something about it. He planned not only to kill Mordecai himself, but also to annihilate all the Jews in the land. During the ordeal, Haman boasted greatly about three things in particular: his riches, his children, and is position in the kingdom (Esther 5:11). But it was all downhill from there. Over the next three chapters, Haman’s estate was given to Esther, his sons were all killed, and his position was given to Mordecai. To top it all off, Haman himself was hanged on a gallows that he had just built to hang Mordecai. Talk about a comeback!!! If God can work it out for Mordecai, Esther, and the Jews in this account, He can work it out for you. Hang in there and don’t lose your faith. Stay true to God’s Word and in love with Jesus and He’ll bring you through victorious!!!
It’s such a great feeling to know that as children of God, as ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:20), we are able to walk in freedom and liberty in this world. 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us where God’s Spirit is, there is liberty, and Romans 8:2 tells us we’re free from the law of sin and death. So, in effect, our ambassadorship gives us diplomatic immunity here in this world. When we walk in the Spirit, we don’t have to fulfill the desires of our human “rules of engagement,” according to Galatians 5:16. We’re free, traversing this land as pilgrims and strangers because, in the end, this place is not out home (1 Peter 2:11). So live for God strong, live in the freedom and liberty His Spirit provides, deny your flesh and human way of thinking, and claim your place as an ambassador for Jesus Christ!!!
Isn’t it funny, in a cynical, somber, not-so-funny-at-all kind of way, how we so often ask for God’s will or seek godly counsel, only to turn around and reject it for something else altogether? Well, the fact is sometimes it’s difficult for God to overcome the herculean strength of man’s will. Just look in Jeremiah 42:1 – 43:7… Here we find the account of Azariah, Johanan, and a remnant of Judah, left behind after king Nebuchadnezzar conquered them. They ask Jeremiah to seek the will of God to see whether they should stay in the land or go into Egypt. Jeremiah comes back and tells them God wants them to stay. They accuse Jeremiah of lying and subsequently go into Egypt anyway. Of course, Egypt is consistently a type or allegorical representation of the world. So often we pay lip-service to desiring God’s will, but really we want someone to confirm that the plans we have for ourselves are the way to go. When it doesn’t happen, we rationalize and justify our actions so that we can feel somewhat good, even though we know deep down we’re resisting God. Let’s challenge ourselves to pray and seek God objectively. Let’s seek to pray the prayer that Jesus prayed in the garden before He faced the cross: “not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). After all, when we examine the lives of the people of God during the time of Jeremiah, we clearly see that God’s plans for us are for good and not for evil, He loves us with undying love and will set us on the path that is best for us!!!
Pure silver, refined to it’s fullest, is a beautiful thing, not to mention valuable, and really the idea behind the process is quite basic: take silver and remove all the impurities. However, sometimes the silver refuses to “let go” of these impurities, no matter how hot the fire, so it becomes labeled as rejected silverand is tossed aside. We, as Christians are to be purified by God’s refining process (I Peter 1:7), but all too often, we refuse to let go of the impurities. Jeremiah 6:16-21 describes people in this wholly undesirable state, telling us that they rejected the direction of the Lord, refused to hearken to the watchmen placed in their lives, and turned away from God’s Word and laws. So, later in the chapter, the prophet states, “They are called rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.” (Jer 6:31, NIV). Even though these people still offered “sacrifices” to God, they were not what God truly wanted. He doesn’t desire sacrifice more than obedience to His Word (I Sam 15:22), and too often we want to give Him what we want to sacrifice rather than what He wants us to sacrifice, and that’s exactly what they were doing. Oh, what a tragedy for those who’ve allowed themselves to get to the place where God can’t speak to them through His Word…But it doesn’t have to be that way; He has given us hope: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (I Chr 7:14) Humbling ourselves in the sight of God (I Peter 5:6), and obeying His Word (John 14:5), will set us on the right track, on our way to being blessed by Him once again!!! I don’t want to be rejected silver, I want to be a vessel of honor (2 Tim 2:21), useful for His service!!!
Ever heard that old adage, “knowledge is power?” It just seems so cliché sometimes, right? But when you actually sit down and study scripture, it’s evident that knowledge truly is power. Yup, in fact God puts a high premium on knowledge… The opening of the book of Proverbs lists one of its purposes as “[to give]…to the young man knowledge and discretion.” God wants his people to be knowledgeable in His ways, wise to spiritual things. Just look at what Paul says: …I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil (Rom 16:19). So there are some things we should be “ignorant” of, but other things where God expects us to grow. In fact, according to the Bible, we can’t even begin gaining knowledge without a fear and respect of God (Prov 1:7). God even took it a step further and said that His people were destroyed and rejected because of their lack of knowledge (Hos 4:6). So the answer is to get our noses into the Word of God. Study, ready, consider, and apply God’s Word to our lives. Additionally, we MUST NOT discount the effect and need for good teachers and preachers in our lives who can assist us as we learn and grow in knowledge… Here are a few additional scriptures that may incite some to gain this valuable commodity: Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor 2:11) …but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. (Daniel 11:32)
Dear child and saint of the Most High, whether brand new to the things of God or a seasoned veteran in the Word and Spirit, hear this brief word of encouragement–keep your eyes on the prize!!! All too often we allow our circumstances and situation to predicate our spiritual condition. Not that it’s always because of negative conditions, rather, sometimes simple “life” can cause us to lose our focus. But we are warned in Proverbs 29:18 that without vision, the people perish. Likewise, Jesus warned adamantly against putting our hand to the plow and looking back (Luke 9:62) and Paul said we don’t focus our attention on the temporal but the eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). Yet, in living our lives each and every day it’s often difficult to keep our focus where it needs to be. The world and our natural, carnal mind have a way of “lulling us to sleep” as it were, and in so doing our eyes start to waiver, just like Peter’s did when he was walking on the water toward Jesus. What happened to him? He starting looking at his surroundings and lost sight of Jesus (see Matthew 14:25-31). So we need to keep our relationship with Jesus Christ fresh and vibrant. Anyone that tells you that task can not be daunting at times is doctrinally incorrect, and often in danger, because once that feeling comes on them, or once they go through a dry place, they may fall away. How do we keep it alive? How do we continue to look to Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews says (Hebrews 12:2)? The answer is through our relationship with Him. We must pray EVERY DAY, whether we FEEL like it or not. We must get ourselves in the Word of God EVERY DAY, whether we FEEL like it or not. We must get around the people of God (Bible study, church, fellowship, etc…) consistently, not hit and miss here and there. In doing so, we can keep our love for Him alive and fresh, thereby preserving our focus and keeping it in the right place and on the right things… Relationship with Jesus Christ is the ONLY thing that will truly keep us. Without it, the spiritual high and hype of a great Sunday service (which we need) will wear off, and eventually we’ll find ourselves cold and indifferent. But a true love relationship with our wonderful Savior will save us, keep us, and deliver us….Keep your eyes on the prize!!!
Long ago, at the foot of a tree, a man disobeyed God. Because of his choice, sin entered into the world and a great divide was formed, a schism separating mankind from the glorious presence of Almighty God… Adam and Eve learned, as we often do today, that the only thing necessary to reap the wages of sin is simple disobedience to God. The Bible tells us that because of one man’s disobedience we were made sinners (Rom 5:19). But that’s not the end of the story. Thank God for His mercy and grace. In His divine love, and infinite foreknowledge, He planned for a way to bridge that gulf created by the fall of man. He came to earth, robed in humanity (I Tim 3:16), and because of the obedience of that man (Rom 5:19 & Phil 2:8), the man Christ Jesus, we can now reunite with the lover of our souls and walk in relationship with Him. Jesus, stretched out on the cross, cried out, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30), and allowed for the construction of a bridge by which man and God could be reconciled and commune once again. Sin began at a tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but it was conquered at a tree as well, that tree was precious Calvary!!!
Have you ever tried to objectively referee an argument, and after you offer some advice or council somebody asks, “who’s side are you on?” Well, would you believe that unlike that situation, where you could be neutral, Jesus said there’s no such thing as neutral. Matthew 12:30 – He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. That’s pretty intense!!! This is literally telling us that if we’re not seeking after God and putting our shoulder to the plow for the kingdom, that Jesus considers you against Him… I don’t know about you, but I want to be with Jesus, not against Him. A closer look at the Word of God confirms that this has been God’s position all along. He’s never really seen a “neutral” position. Moses: Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. (Exodus 32:26) Joshua: …choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15) Paul: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Ephesians 2:3) So strictly speaking, “God just don’t play.” You’re either on His team or you’re working against Him. If you say, “well, I’m just gonna do my own thing” and think you’re not affecting or hurting anyone else, THINK AGAIN. The Bible says if you’re not with Jesus, you’re against Him. And don’t forget, even though the Bible speaks of multitudes in the valley of decision (Joel 3:14) remember that if we’ve not made the choice to be with Jesus, we’re against Him… Stop waiting!!! Get on the winning team (because we know the church is triumphant), dig in, plug in, go deep, and set this world on fire for the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ!!!
Have you ever wondered what went through Lot’s thick skull? What was his problem? He sat in the middle of the worst circumstances imaginable, dawdled and dilly-dallied until it took a literal act of God to get him moving, and because of his inaction, his family ended up wrecked beyond repair. Why? What exactly was he waiting for? You see, Lot didn’t have to end up that way. He walked with Abraham according to Genesis 12:4-5, but when it came time to make a choice for himself, he leaned toward Sodom and Gomorrah because it was like the land of Egypt (Gen 13:10). Without getting too abstruse or abstract, just remember that Egypt is a type of the world all throughout the Bible. So it’s safe to say that Lot decided to lean toward the world and worldliness rather than stay in the presence of God and his people. He made a decision to take his family away from the things of God. One thing that’s perplexing about Lot is found in 2 Peter 2:8: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) Honestly, this scripture lets us know that Lot KNEW the issues and problems of the choice he’d made and hated what was going on around him, yet he DID NOTHING ABOUT IT. What was he waiting for? You probably know the story; in the end, his wife ended up dead (turned into a pillar of salt), his daughters had incestuous relations with him, his family was completed destroyed, and Moab and Benammi (the boys born of the incidents with his daughters) ended up being a thorn in the side of the people of God. All this came about because Lot made a terrible decision to live in Sodom and Gomorrah, and then waited until it was too late to get out. What would have happened if he’d not made the choice to follow after the things of the world, or even still, while his daughters were still toddlers, what if he would have prayed through and got his family out before the mindset of the world had taken hold? Who knows. All we know is what did happen. So let’s ask ourselves today, “what are we waiting for?” Saint of God, you want more of Him, you want to be used, you want to impact your world. What are you waiting for? Backslider, you know Jesus is there, arms opened wide, ready to take you back into the fold. You know the church is praying and fasting and waiting for your return. What are you waiting for? You who don’t know God, or you don’t know Him in fullness of truth, but you feel that tug at your soul, you feel that there’s more to life than what you have right now. There’s an inexplicable emptiness deep down inside that gnaws at you in the night. What are you waiting for? Let’s learn from the account of Lot and his family. Let’s act before it’s too late. Let’s stop waiting and turn wholeheartedly to God. Forget about the unknown, forget about how comfortable it may be in your familiar surroundings, forget about the things of this world that pull at you. Let’s stop waiting and plug into God. Let’s launch into the deep and see how far He’ll take us!!!
Job, during his time of trial and hardship, sought for a mediator that could bring God and him together to reconcile what was happening (see Job 9:33 & 16:21). As it turns out, no such mediator came to deliver Job out of his plight. But we read in 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Jesus Christ stepped into the gap to fill the role as mediator for us. God robed himself in human flesh (1 Tim 3:16) just so He could become the middle man, taking upon Himself the sin of the entire world (Jn 1:29). Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not:” (Luke 22:32). Jesus Christ is ALWAYS there to step onto the scene and deliver us… When the Devil accuses us, Jesus is there – Rev 12:10 When the enemy rushes in, Jesus is there – Isa 59:19 When the world has had its way in us, Jesus is there – 1 Cor 6:11 When our own heart condemns us, Jesus is there – 1 Jn 3:20 Finally, we read in Ephesians 2:1-7 that though we were dead in trespasses and sins, following the world and our souls’ enemy to destruction, Jesus stepped on the scene yet again. By His rich and endless love He wedged Himself between us and the looming judgment set before us, bringing us to life again through grace and by His great salvation… Thanks you JESUS for being our mediator, thank you for being the Miraculous Middle Man!!!
As it turns out, there’s no mystical, magical method to becoming or being a man or woman of God. Anyone who wants to enter the kingdom of God can do so, according to scriptures like John 3:16 and Romans 10:13. Unfortunately, many people miss the point of these verses and use them to try and explain HOW to be saved rather than WHO can be saved. However, through these passages it’s clear that salvation is to everyone. But beyond salvation, the Bible lets us know there is no partiality or respect of persons with God (see Romans 2:11). This means anyone and everyone can be mightily used of God. In fact, Paul, in I Corinthians 12:31, tells us to “covet earnestly the best gifts” during his discourse on the various gifts of the spirit. God uses ordinary men and women who are willing to step up to the plate, sacrifice, consecrate, and do His will… Let’s look at one example: a prophet named Elijah. James 5:17-18 – Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. This scripture is telling us that the great prophet Elijah was just like you and me. He had desires, doubts, troubles, questions, issues, etc… Yet, he was incredibly used of God. Just look at one time in his life when he was feeling particularly low: 1 Kings 19:4,14 – …he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers…I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. Elijah’s attitude changed after he got into the presence of the Lord, much the same way David’s did when he said, “my steps had well nigh slipped” in Psalm 73. But when he got into God’s presence, he understood and his heart and thinking were cleansed… If you desire to be used of God, don’t wait until you get all your “ducks in a row.” Chances are there will always be some excuse why you can’t be used of God. Rather, start praying, studying God’s Word, fasting, plugging into fellowship, church, worship, and Bible studies. Begin to let yourself be used as God sees fit. God uses ordinary men and women to accomplish His purpose in this World. We, the church, are the body, according to Colossians 1:18, so let’s get mobilized!!!
To truly be effective as Christians, we’ve got to get everything out of the way and put Jesus Christ first in our lives… I Samuel 5:3-4 – And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the LORD. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. 4And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. A very interesting account indeed. Look at the power that this idol had when put into proximity with God–absolutely none. In fact, first the idol fell down, and, get this now, they had to pick their own “god” up and set it back where it had fallen from. Next, the power of God destroyed the idol by cutting off its head and its hands, leaving it without authority or power. Now, we may not have idols made of wood, stone, gold, or silver propped up on the fireplace of our homes next to our kids’ graduation pictures or on the mantle by those Christmas picture-cards we get every year, but we often do prop up idols in our hearts and minds. Idolatry is simply putting anything before God in our lives. That doesn’t have to be some figurine we bow down to, but can be something innocuous such as a job, a relationship, etc…In fact, the greatest form of idolatry is self-worship, putting ourselves before God. That, unfortunately isn’t all that difficult to do… But as with Dagon, the answer lies in the power of God. Through His Spirit and our own determination and effort, we can break down the idols in our lives, just as Gideon tore down the idol of Baal in Judges 6:25-31. Those things we put into God’s position as first in our lives can be taken away, but it takes effort on our part. II Corinthians 10:4-5 – (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; Take this as a challenge. Look at the thing that is most difficult to give to God and start telling that thing “no.” Maybe it’s hard to be faithful to the house of God, maybe you know you should be attending that fellowship group or Bible study group, perhaps your job is taking a little too much focus or there may be some friends whom you know you should pull away from in order to get close to God. Whatever the case, start giving that thing to God, start tearing down those things and watch them take a nosedive from their high place in your life. Then, put Jesus Christ in that place of high authority in your life and watch the incredible results that ensue!!!
Many people get confused when it comes to the Sabbath Day. The primary question is rather simple: “Do we still have to honor the Sabbath Day?” The answer is not so simple: “no, but yes”. That is to say we do not have to observe the literal day any longer, but the principle of sabbath (or rest) is still something we must obey. Now, there are about 60 instances in the New Testament where the word sabbath is used. However, there is NEVER a command given, either directly or implicitly, to continue in the Old Testament tradition of observing the Sabbath Day. For those who don’t know, the Sabbath is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. It was intended as a day of rest (Exodus 31:15), and was instituted for the benefit of man. Jesus came to fulfill the old law, and in so doing, let the Pharisees and Sadducees know that He was Lord of the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mt 12:8, Mk 2:27-28, Lk 6:5). Jesus gave us a more excellent rest through the Holy Ghost. The Sabbath was intended as a rest for the people of God, and Hebrews 4:1-11 lets us know that the rest we now have is no longer relegated to a specific day, but rather, is a place we can enter into. Isaiah 28:11-12records the prophecy of the Holy Ghost and makes reference to it in two ways: “this is the rest” and “with stammering lips and another tongue.” So, this stammering lips and another tongue is the rest and refreshing promised, according to Isaiah. Then we see in Mk 16:16-17, Jesus (Lord of the Sabbath) tells us that believers will speak with new tongues. Acts 2:4, 10:46, and 19:6 all record people speaking with new tongues when they received the Holy Ghost. So, Hebrews lets us know it is not simply a particular day, Isaiah prophesied that the rest would be stammering lips and another tongue, Jesus said those new tongues would be a sign of the believers, and the evidence of the Holy Ghost is speaking with other tongues. You do the math. Our rest is no longer a specific day, but rather, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, something we can experience all the time!!! Some Q&A: Question: But wait, wasn’t the sabbath part of the Ten Commandments? Answer: Yes, it was part of the Mosaic law, but as mentioned earlier, Jesus came to fulfill and make perfect that old law. Each of the Ten Commandments was reestablished in the New Testament, save one: the keeping of the Sabbath Day. Question: Did the early church keep the Sabbath? Answer: There were times the apostles and even Jesus met on the Sabbath. Of course they would. If you were trying to convert and save a bunch of Jews, what better time than on the Sabbath in the synagogue where there were many gathered together. But the early church gathered together on the FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK (I Cor 16:1-2). Some try to say that the first day was really the Sabbath, but that’s a misconception. Look at Acts 20:7-11. Paul intended to leave on the following day (verse 7). Then in verse 11, it says he left at daybreak. So, the NEW DAY was brought about by daylight, not sunset. This lets us know that Luke was writing Acts according to the Roman calendar which uses midnight to midnight as each new day rather than the Jewish calender’s sunset to sunset. Thus, the first day of the week was Sunday, not Saturday. Question: Is keeping of the Sabbath mentioned anywhere in the Epistles? Answer: Yes, in Colossians 2:16-17 it says not to let people judge in keeping of sabbaths, or any other holy day for that matter. This word sabbath is the exact same as those elsewhere in the New Testament, so it’s not differentiating it as some special sabbath or feast. Also, Galatians 4:8-11 warns against those who desire to serve the old law and keep special days, months, & years. Finally, Romans 14:5-6 says that people can either choose to observe special days or choose not to, but that they both do it to the Lord. Where the Sabbath is mentioned in the Epistles, it generally warns against those who taught it must still be observed as a special day. Summary In short, we do have to keep the Sabbath in a spiritual sense, as the infilling of the Holy Ghost is that rest we now have in God, and it is essential for salvation. The keeping of the Old Testament Sabbath Day is not a salvation issue. If people wish to keep it, there’s nothing wrong with doing so, but it’s no longer a command from God.
God’s grace and mercy are so incredible! Here we are, we come to God with what? Troubles and addictions? Broken homes, lives, and dreams? Maybe we’re fortunate enough to “have it all together” when we come to God or perhaps we were raised in a Christian or church atmosphere. No matter where we start out in life, we really don’t have much to offer God. After all, He’s the Creator (and Owner) of all that’s known and unknown. Yet we see how God looks at his blessings and what He gives us in exchange for what we can offer Him: Isaiah 1:18—Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Wow! We bring Him our sin and he washes us in salvation…So why would anyone turn from God? Or better asked by Jesus Himself: “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (see Matthew 16:26). Actually, there are very, very few people who would actually sell their soul to some ghostly figure who offered them whatever they wanted in exchange, even if they were offered the entirety of the world. Most would gladly stand firm and say, “No”. But rather, in our everyday decisions, many, many people “sell” out their salvation for much less. Friends and family pressure us just a little too much. We don’t want to “give up” some vice or habit or pleasure. Maybe we’re comfortable feeling some Holy Ghost goose bumps every now and then, but in the end we don’t know how to truly commit to God. So what’s the price for you? What’s the price for me? Would we exchange our souls because we just didn’t have time to fit church, prayer, Bible study, and a relationship with Jesus into our busy schedule? Will we trade our relationship with God and our salvation for the “freedom” to go out with friends we shouldn’t be hanging with, doing things we know we shouldn’t be involved in? Shall we barter for the almighty dollar or because our family doesn’t understand why we’d want to change our lives so drastically? I say NO! I say no matter the opportunity that affords itself, we need to hold on to Jesus Christ. Paul said he counted the cost and everything added up amounted to a pile of dung compared to knowing Christ (Phil 3:8). Was he mad or using Enron-onomics? I think not. I believe he understood that knowing and having a relationship with Jesus is worth it all…We have a treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7) and nothing, NOTHING, is worth trading for that treasure… Take this whole world but give me Jesus! Is that your attitude?
Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? The hare, a much faster and somewhat cocky character, is challenged to a race by the tortoise. In the end, the winner is the tortoise. Though the hare was much faster and had the tools one would think necessary to win, he neglected to keep focused on what he was doing, he started out in a blaze of glory and ended with nothing but a puff of smoke. There are just too many people who’s walk with God is little more than a flash in the pan. You see, we really are in a race: I Corinthians 9:24-25—Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. The race for the souls of men is not a sprint, but a marathon, it’s a long distance test of endurance and stamina. The real kicker is that only the finish counts. We can all obtain a crown for our race, but we must finish. Jesus said that only those who endure to the end will be saved (Mark 13:13). There are a lot of shooting stars starting out in God’s kingdom, but shooting stars, though they’re flashy and awe-inspiring, are generally inconsistent, unstable, short-term. In fact, they’re really just falling stars, spinning out of control until they burn up or crash. There are a lot of cheetahs starting out in God’s kingdom, but cheetahs, though they’re sleek and fast, generally have a tough time adapting to new environments, are only able to handle short bursts of speed, and often need to rest. Typically, they’ll give up on a chase if they don’t catch the prey in about a minute or so. Nobody starts out in God intending to be a shooting star or cheetah. No one says, “I think I’ll start gloriously and then fizzle out after about a month or a year.” Yet, many people do just that. Let me encourage anyone and everyone to push for endurance and stamina. We need to plug in and have a slow and steady walk with God. We need to “run with patience” (Heb 12:1) this great race for the salvation of our souls. Let’s get a hold on God like never before. Let’s develop some tenacity and get a little never-give-up in our spirits. A good start won’t suffice; we must finish strong. According to Hebrews 12:2 Jesus is both the Author and Finisher of our faith!
There is so much confusion today over the alleged conflict between faith and works. Too many Christians see them as mutually exclusive concepts and divide into schools of adherence: those that believe in works as a means to salvation, and those who believe it’s all in God alone without any effort on the part of man (or woman, of course). The fallacy is in trying to separate faith and works. They work together, in stride, in unity. The Bible says we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), and without faith, we can’t please God (Hebrews 11:6). So one may jump to a conclusion and say, “Aha, faith is all we need since salvation is a God thing anyway.” But not so fast, in the same Bible we’re told to save ourselves (Acts 2:40) and work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12). And just in case the “works crowd” gets too excited, please reread the previous paragraph. Jesus and John the Baptist both advocated works. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and John said to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented” (Matthew 3:8 NLT). This is how we prove ourselves to God, how we show God our love, through our actions, deeds, WORKS…After all, didn’t God so love the world that he GAVE (as in action or works) according to John 3:16? So we see that in salvation, both faith and works are present. We repent of our sins (works/man) and God forgives us (faith/God), we get baptized in Jesus name (works/man) and God washes us in His wonderful blood, cleansing us from our sin (faith/God), finally we seek after the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues when filled (works/man) while it’s God who actually fills us with His Spirit and gives us the utterance to speak in tongues (faith/God). Three times in James chapter two we’re told that faith without works is dead (see James 2:17, 20, 26). So put your money where your mouth is, step up to the plate and show God your faith through the works that you do. Faith and works must operate in unison to have the effect that God intended in our lives!
Most people know that God has our best interest at heart. Just look at what He said through the prophet Jeremiah: Jeremiah 29:11—For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. When we resist God and His will for our lives, we literally turn our back on a more fruitful life, not to mention life eternal. Yet, even when we do turn away, God is always right there, waiting for our return. Remember the parable of the lost son in Luke 15? What about this scripture: Revelation 3:20—Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. God wishes nothing but the best for our lives, so why resist Him? On the other hand the Bible tells us to resist the devil: James 4:7—Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. We must fight four our souls with everything we have, but again, our resistance to the devil is futile if we don’t first submit to God. Without God’s help, strength, and direction, we don’t have the capacity to truly resist the wiles of the devil. Why? Because our flesh naturally veers toward the things of sin, the things the devil would entice us with… Don’t resist God in your life. As He calls, draw nearer and nearer, then you’ll have what it takes to make your resistance to the devil effective…
There are many instances in the Bible that speak to the perfection of the saints. Let’s look at just a few: Matthew 5:48—Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Ephesians 4:11-12—And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: II Timothy 3:16-17—All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Obviously, God does not intend for us to be perfect in the absolute sense of the word, Mt 5:48 says to be perfect even as God is perfect. To take that literally would cause frustration because none of us can be as perfect as God. So what’s the deal? Perfection, in the sense that we can attain it, pertains to completion or maturity. Those things we can obtain. First, we are complete in Christ, according to Colossians 2:10, and perfection can come through study of scripture and through the teaching, instruction and guidance offered to us by elders, leaders, and ministers within the body of Christ. In I Corinthians 9:24-26, Paul talks about striving for the mastery. That’s what being “perfect” in God is all about. Through study, prayer, relationship with Jesus, guidance from those leaders in our lives, and perseverance, we can continue on the pathway of perfection to obtain a completeness and maturity in God. So keep it up, hang in there, be diligent in God and He’ll lead you into Biblical perfection. Establish a daily prayer life, a regular time of study and meditation of God’s word, and be faithful to those gatherings of believers (church, fellowship, Bible study, etc…) where you can both impact and be impacted by others. Remember, perfect is as perfect does!
What is Breadbreakers? Why does it exist? Who can get involved? How can people get in touch? Where are the meetings? When should people come? There are a lot of questions surrounding the ministry called Breadbreakers, a small group ministry of Souls’ Harbor FPC, so this blog posting is meant to answer… First, let’s list what Breadbreakers IS NOT: Breadbreakers is not a ministry for ONLY new converts Breadbreakers is not a Bible study ONLY Breadbreakers is not the ministry of a single person Now, let’s see what Breadbreakers IS: Breadbreakers is for anyone and everyone Breadbreakers is seeing the infilling of the Holy Ghost, healings, & miracles at the meetings Breadbreakers includes youth, adults, new converts, seasoned saints, couples, & singles Breadbreakers is a ministry of Souls’ Harbor FPC that has been thriving for over 3 years Breadbreakers is a group for Bible study, fellowship, prayer, outreach, & ministry Breadbreakers is meeting on Wed nights at 7:30pm in various locations Breadbreakers is meeting on Fri nights at 7:30pm at my house for fellowship, prayer, & Bible study Breadbreakers is available online at www.breadbreakers.com where you can watch & interact online. We have a phenomenal group of people with dynamic fellowship, sweeping works & moves of the Spirit, incredible discussion/study of God’s Word, and a place for all, whether new to the Lord or those who’ve served him for years… And what do we need? We need more people to catch onto our Bishop’s and Pastor’s vision for the future for our church and get involved!
Many Christians forget that we are the light of the world, according to Matthew 5:14. This world, our families, our fellow believers, they all look to us as an example. We DO NOT live in a box or a vacuum, so we need to make sure our lives exhibit the life of Christ so that we are good example to follow. I Corinthians 11:1—Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. I Peter 2:9—But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; This scripture says it all: we are to show forth. Be the Book of Acts example that you’re supposed to be. That means we need to have the fruit of the spirit flourishing in our lives. We are Jesus Christ’s hands and feet in this world, like it or not, so we have to pray, study, and live close to Him. Why? Because somebody is watching you. You may not like it, but they are watching. The “do as I say, not as I do” mentality doesn’t cut it. We have to be the Book of Acts church, not only when we’re at church, but while were at home, at school, at work, etc… Be the church, fellow believers, and we’ll impact this world like never before. Be the leaders that you need to be. Remember, someone is watching you…
We know the Bible says the Father makes it rain on the just & the unjust (Matthew 5:45) and in the parable of the wise man who built his house on the rock, the storm battered both homes (Matthew 7:24-27). Yet, so often we look to those who are prosperous, though they may be of the world, and wonder how it is that God allows blessing to flow their way when so many of His people are suffering. The psalmist had this same issue in Psalm 73: “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.” (Psalms 73:2). This is a very popular passage of scripture, and yet many people don’t know the reason why he was having so much trouble: Psalms 73:3—For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. This very next verse shows us that the issue was looking around and seeing the prosperity of the wicked. He goes so far as to say “I have cleansed my hands in vain” in verse 13. He was having serious doubts trying to reconcile how the wicked could flourish. However, the key to overcoming this battle of the mind is in verse 17: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Getting into the presence of God, maintaining our relationship with Jesus Christ is the antidote for a mindset that veers away from keeping the main thing the main thing. Good and bad times come to us all, but as Christians we have that “Rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2) and that “refuge from the storm” (Isaiah 25:4). Let’s keep our focus on Jesus Christ—His mind, His passion, His will—in both the good and bad times. Let’s put our trust in Him…
Far too often we allow our plans, our desires, our will to get in the way of what God wants to do in our lives. Just ask Jonah what the consequences can be if we decide to run from His plan for our lives, or inquire of Jacob what the results may be if we try to accomplish God’s plan by doing it our way and on our timetable. I think you’ll find they would agree, we need to write down our plans in pencil, but allow God to write them in ink. Jeremiah 29:11-12—”For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. “(NIV) Luke 22:42 —”…not my will, but thine, be done.” James 4:14-15—”Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” We don’t need to sit around on our bums just hoping that God’s will is done, rather we need to make prayerful decisions for our lives: what career will I choose, who will I marry, what will be my place in the kingdom? However, these plans need to written not in ink, not as a permanent, uncompromising position, but rather they should be written in pencil. Set, but ready to be erased and changed as God sees fit. We need to hand over the pen of our lives to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ, and let His will be done in our lives…
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13) Many people are under the mistaken impression that either all truth becomes evident immediately when the Holy Ghost is received or that somehow the Holy Ghost will always speak and tell or reveal things they need to know. Both of these belief systems are appealing, but dangerously misleading. They each fail to recognize that the Holy Ghost leads us to truth; it doesn’t always just tell us. There’s a leading and guiding involved, but we have to accept it, no matter whether truth comes from a person God sends our way, the Word of God revealing truth to us, or some other means. Let’s put on our thinking caps for a bit and look at this logically. If the Spirit of God just revealed everything to us that we need to know to please God and walk with Him, why in the world do we need the epistles? The epistles make up 21 of the 27 books of the New Testament. These are letters written to saved people to tell them how to live and act in order to please God, take care of the body of Christ (the church), and endure in the world. Why exactly would these folks need this if the Holy Ghost just revealed all truth to everyone who received it? Answer, the Holy Ghost guides people to truth. When Paul, or Peter, or John wrote to a church and said “do this” or “don’t do that”, the Holy Ghost inside those people was saying, “There, I put you into contact with them so they could tell you what you’re supposed to do to be pleasing to God.” Now before any righteous indignation flames up, let me say that the Holy Ghost does sometimes completely reveal truth to people. I know people who knew certain things were displeasing to God long before they read it in scripture, and I’m not talking rape and murder here, I’m referring to things that most people don’t even realize displease God. How is that possible? Because the Holy Ghost can speak to us and reveal things to us, but generally, it guides us into truth rather than openly reveals truth.
In the very beginning, God established the principle that light is greater than darkness. Genesis 1:16 says, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:” Here we see that light, is given the preeminence. Darkness, by very nature, is secondary to light. Think about it. In the blackest of midnights, all you need to do is light a simple candle and it will push back the darkness, illuminating outward, and can be seen from a great distance… Ecclesiastes 2:13—Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness Isaiah 9:2—The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. We are the light, the people of light, those who walk in God’s light. Just read scriptures like I Peter 2:9, Ephesians 5:8, and I Thessalonians 5:5. We should never be afraid to do as Jesus said and let our light shine in this dark world (Matthew 5:16). When light steps on the scene, darkness has to give way, rollback, and submit to its power. As long as that light shines, the darkness can’t overcome it. Remember, greater is He that lives in us than he that is in the world (I John 4:4). So get out there and let your light shine in this dark world. They need to see the light!
In a world so saturated with icons, stars, and idols, Christians must make every effort to portray the right picture to others and follow after men and women of God who exhibit solid Biblical principles and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. In our walk with God we should strive to both emulate those who have gone before us and be an example for those who would follow us. Both of these concepts are set forth in scripture. God wants us to follow the right example: John 13:15—For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. I Corinthians 11:1—Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. I Peter 2:21—For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: God wants us to be a good example to others: I Timothy 4:12—Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. I Peter 5:3—Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. God expects us to learn from others—both the good and bad: I Corinthians 10:11—Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. James 5:10—Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Jude 1:7—Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Let’s be the light we need to be for this lost and desperate generation. We need to follow after those who are doing the right things, emulating excellence and walking in the Spirit to impact our world with apostolic revival!
Why does Colossians 3:17 tell us that no matter what we do in word or in deed we should do ALL in the name of Jesus? Why is the Bible so cristocentric, or Jesus-only, as some people say? Have you ever wondered what’s so special about that name? The Bible teaches us that all power in Heaven and Earth was given to Jesus Christ (Mat 28:18), so invoking the name of Jesus Christ calls upon all the authority vested in the name. Acts 4:12 teaches us that Jesus is theonly saving name, and Philippians 2:10-11 shows that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess at the name of Jesus. Finally, Mark 16:17-18 speaks of the mighty works that believers will do in Jesus name. But why this persistent focus on Jesus? What about the Father? What about the Holy Ghost? It seems they get pushed to the shadows and Jesus gets to soak up all the limelight doesn’t it? Actually, the confusion comes because people don’t realize who Jesus truly is. Let’s look at what He said about Himself: 1) I and my Father are one. (Jn 10:30) 2) …he that hath seen me hath seen the Father… (Jn 14:9) 3) I am come in my Father’s name… (Jn 5:43; see also Heb 1:4) 4) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (Jn 14:18) 5) the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name… (Jn 14:26) The list truly goes on and on……..and on……..and on…..But the focus here is on the words that Jesus specifically used when describing His relationship within the Godhead (Father, Son, & Holy Ghost) and the attachment of His name to the Godhead. Notice that Jesus is the name of the Father (Jn 5:43) as well as the Son (do we really need to go there). Additionally, Jn 14:26 emphasizes that the Holy Ghost is sent in the name of Jesus… So the reason to be so focused on Jesus name is because when you call that name, you are actually calling on the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; they are one and the same, and thus, all have the one and selfsame name!!!
All too often, we allow little things to creep into our lives that hinder or even prevent us from getting all that we need from God and being all we need to be for the Kingdom. Hebrews 12:1 challenges us to lay aside the sin and the weights that hinder us. Likewise, Galatians 5:9 let’s us know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. For those who don’t know what leaven is, here’s the basic Wikipedia breakdown: Leaven or leavening agents such as yeast are often used in baking/cooking. The chemical compound of such agents creates gas, usually carbon dioxide that gets trapped as bubbles in the dough, causing the dough to “rise.” Generally, very little of such agents is necessary to permeate throughout a batch of dough to affect the entirety. What this translates into for us, is that we need to watch out and guard ourselves from not only those big nasty sins that might tempt us, but also from those little things that inhibit our prayer lives, personal devotion, Biblical study, and general relationship building with Jesus Christ. Why? Because those “little” things can be difficult to spot and sometimes even appear harmless when and if we are able to identify them. However, the Bible lets us know that the little things can cause us to stumble and fall just as much as the big things. If it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15) then we need to pay close attention to those seemingly insignificant habits, activities, etc…that may be preventing us from being all we need to be in God. The tricky part about it is that what may be a hindrance for me may have no affect on you and vice versa. So it’s up to us to search ourselves and weed out those things that might be the “leaven” in our lives so we can impact this world with red hot REVIVAL!
In this final installment of Keep the Change, (Read Part I & Part II) we’ll be looking at the most difficult adversaries of our soul—the world and our flesh. With the devil, we can resist him and he’ll flee, but with the world, and to a greater extent our flesh, it’s not quite so easy to ward them off. However, through the power of the Holy Ghost we can tell even these formidable foes to keep the change! Telling the world to keep the change: I John 4:4 reads, “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Through scriptures like this one we understand that we have power over the temptations of this world through the power of the Holy Ghost. Just look at these verses: and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:29) There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13) This world throws a lot at us in the way of temptation. The spirit of the world would do anything and everything possible to get us to give up, throw in the towel, and change (for the worse). However, through the power of God and the blood of Jesus Christ we are able to tell this world to keep the change! Telling the flesh to keep the change: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16) This verse written by the apostle Paul is the key to overcoming our sinful nature. There is no shortcut to being able to deny our flesh; we must walk in the spirit through prayer, fasting, the Word, holiness, godly fellowship, and assembling together. Notice what Paul says in II Corinthians: let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1) We must cleanse ourselves. This is not saying that we do the cleansing per se; obviously it’s the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. However, we must nail ourselves down to the cross and deny ourselves when temptation arises. We must perfect holiness, as said in this verse… For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. (Romans 8:13) Our flesh doesn’t like to be denied. But by doing so, we mortify or kill those deeds through the Spirit. It’s not always an easy thing to do though, just read Paul’s discussion in Romans 7:18-25. Yet, when we submit to God and walk in the Spirit, the rewards are greater than anything we can imagine. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. (I John 2:25) Our flesh constantly tries to change us in ways that would be displeasing to God, but what better reward could there be to deny and crucify that flesh than abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world afterwards? What better reason to tell our flesh to keep the change?
In Keep the Change, Part I, we spoke of the necessity of cultivating, and keeping the initial change that God makes in our lives when He washes us and cleanses us through His blood and when He gives us power through the infilling of the Holy Ghost (see I Corinthians 6:11). In this second installment, the focus is on telling others to keep the change when they would try to distort, detract, or destroy what God has built up in us. The focus in Part II will be on keeping the change against the spiritual attacks in our lives. Isaiah 59:19 says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” We have no need to fear when our enemy, be it our flesh, opposition from humanity, or spiritual resistance swoops in to try and steal the things we received from God. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but that He (Jesus) came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Likewise, in Luke 22:31-32 Jesus warned Peter that the enemy desired to sift him as wheat, but Jesus said that He prayed for Peter. Such power in the fact that we have a covering in Jesus! The devil and his minions will no doubt try to attack us and try to get us to turn back from the change God worked in us. Indeed the Bible says in I Peter 5:7-8 that the devil goes around like a “roaring lion” seeking those he can devour. But this passage also says we can cast all our cares on Jesus because he cares for us. Remember, Jesus always gives us the opportunity for victory, no matter how dark the storm. Actually, we have much more power than the devil: Ephesians 4:27 says not to give place to the devil. Ephesians 6:11 says to put on the armour of God to stand against the devil’s whiles. James 4:7 says to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee. Isaiah 14:12-19 says those who see the devil in his true light will “narrowly” look at him and scoff at him. We have complete authority and dominion over the devil and all the forces of hell through the power of Jesus name! Listen to the awesome words of Jesus Christ: “…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). Gates are not designed or built to be an offensive weapon, they are defensive. Jesus is telling Peter and the apostles that the church will be on the front lines, attacking the gates of hell itself, and that hell…doesn’t stand a chance…
Matthew 25:1-13 gives us the parable of the ten virgins, five wise and five foolish. Here Jesus reveals to us the scenario where ten individuals start off with oil. We know from the scriptures that oil signifies the anointing, so these ten virgins all had a great starting point. However, only five of the ten actually made it all the way to the wedding. Five of the virgins, whom we refer to now as the foolish virgins, didn’t prepare and store up enough of the oil to last. Though they all ten started off with lamps burning, only five “endured ’til the end.” This treasure we have in earthen vessels (II Corinthians 4:7) must be nourished, cultivated, protected. We can’t allow the cares of this world (Mark 4:19) to choke out the precious change that God worked in us when we were saved and received His wonderful Spirit. We are new in Christ according to the following scriptures, having put off our old man, our former self, and put on the new man, the one that seeks God and follows the Spirit: II Corinthians 5:17 Ephesians 4:22-24 Colossians 3:9-10 The things of God and a walk with God truly come as a gradual process. Jesus asked, in what we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer,” for daily bread (or sustenance), and in II Corinthians 4:16 Paul said our inward man is renewed “day by day.” Finally, II Corinthians 3:18 says we are changed from glory to glory. Jesus said in Mark 13:13 that only they which endure until the end will be saved. Our initial change, out with the old and in with the new, must be kept. We must fight to keep the change that God has made in our lives…
There is awesome power in the name of Jesus Christ. Mark 16:17-18 lets us know that the believers can do many incredible things when they invoke the name of Jesus. The important thing to remember is that we must be people of the name and in order to truly do that, we must have a relationship with the original owner of the name. Both John 5:43 and Hebrews 1:4 make it clear that Jesus received His name by inheritance. When we read Ephesians 1:10-11 we understand that we also receive an inheritence through Christ. So be encouraged to walk in the name of Jesus, pray in the name of Jesus, believe in the name of Jesus. In fact, accordng to Colossians 3:17 we should do all in the name of Jesus. What are some examples of the power in that name? I’m glad you asked: Acts 3:6—healing Acts 4:12—salvation Acts 16:18—deliverance Philippians 2:10-11—dominion Philippians 4:19—financial blessing
I’ve heard it said that wherever the apostles went there was either revival or a riot, and it’s true. It’s amazing when you read through the book of Acts and see the kind of persecution the apostles suffered for the name of Jesus and for preaching the gospel. A closer look at several particular instances also reveals something quite interesting about the source of the opposition—they typically only resisted the new doctrine because of their own human shortcomings… Just look at Acts 16:16-19. Here’s where Paul is in Philippi and heals a girl by casting a demon out of her. Now, you’d think there would be rejoicing for such a miracle, but unfortunately, the human spirit got in the way in the form of greed. Instead of rejoicing, they through Paul and Silas into prison as it reads in verse 19: And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers A similar situation occurred in Ephesus in Acts 19:23-28. Here a man named Demetrius stirred up the crowds against Paul, again because of greed. 24For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 25Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. 26Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: 27So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. 28And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. It doesn’t seem they were too worried about the great Diana until they realized they’d lose money in their trade of selling idols because of Paul’s teaching… All throughout the book of Acts, we see this common theme—people attached the gospel and the messengers of the gospel because of pride, greed, jealousy, politics, and many other selfish reasons. Very rarely was the opposition sincere in their attacks, but typically had ulterior motives for not believing the gospel (i.e. they would lose their wealth, position, or status). So we shouldn’t be discouraged when people don’t seem to want to hear about the salvation message today. We should pray and seek God’s direction in finding those who are hungry and willing to accept the gospel, just as they did in the book of Acts. After all, in the midst of all the turmoil, they had some of the most incredible revivals on record. So let’s get out there and rock our world just like the apostles did, for even some of the naysayers recognized the power of the gospel in Acts 17:6 where they said, “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.”
II Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” I don’t think there’s anyone who can debate the fact that we are in troubling times. Recession, depression, economic downturn, or whatever other colorful phrase we’ve been hearing over the last couple of years, it really makes no difference. The point is this country needs to turn back to its roots, the Judeo-Christian principles on which it was founded. It’s been the blessing of God that has allowed our prosperity over our history, and the implementation of Biblical principles that has made our nation strong. Ideals like freedom, individual responsibility, a good work ethic, and people working together for the common good are not newfangled or contemporary concepts, but tried and proven pillars on which a society can be built. And no surprise, each of these basic values, and additional ones, can be found in the Bible. So what we need is a spiritual renaissance. As one of my former high school teachers used to say, “America needs a moral rebirth.” At the time, I thought it was a funny little saying he always mentioned in our morning devotion, but now I see the magnitude of the need. Indeed, America and Americans need to turn back to God… So who leads the charge? Should we look to our new President, Barack Obama, to start us down a path toward the revival across the land? Somehow I doubt it. What about our elected representatives in Congress? No, for some reason I believe they’re just as lacking. So who can lead this country onto the right path? The answer is the same as when the words were penned in II Chronicles. It’s the people of God who must take up the banner and lead this country on the right course. “If my people,” is what the Bible says. So we need to lead the way in prayer, in seeking after God, in humility, and in repentance. We can’t expect the world around us to jump out there and steer us to the healing of our land. Indeed, the policies and “stimuli” that this world offers are simply more of the same old useless ideas that got us here, and will exasperate the problem further. No, fellow people of the most High, those called by Jesus name and purchased by His precious blood. We must stand up and attend to the problem. We must begin to pray in humility. We must seek relationship with God and find His will. We must repent, for ourselves, our leaders, our nation. We must turn from our wicked ways (let’s say our lackadaisical, stagnant, mediocre, ways). It’s time to start praying, walking with God, and being on-fire, Apostolic (book of Acts) Christians… I think if we will start doing this en masse, along with doing the human things we know to do like voting, getting involved with our communities, etc…, we can watch God turn these hard times around….
As a follow up to Going Deep Part 1, let’s look at some folks who chose not to go deep and contrast them with those who chose to go deep… Mark 10:17-22 tells us that the rich young ruler had gone to a certain depth, after all, he said he had “observed [the commandments] from my youth up.” The Bible even says Jesus looked at him and loved him, but he also told him he needed to go deeper by selling his riches and following Jesus to have treasure in Heaven. The rest, as they say, is history. The young man chose to remain at that depth and go no further. II Timothy 4:10 speaks of Demas. An apparent traveler/companion of Paul, hence, there was a level of depth. However, this verse lets us know that Demas forsook Paul, “having loved this present world.” The digging, searching, growing stopped, and Demas turned back. Acts 24:25 tells us that Felix trembled (probably from feeling the power of the Holy Ghost as Paul spoke) when Paul testified to him, but told Paul to come back when it was convenient. Again, he came to a point where he said ‘I’m fine with this and I think I’ll just stay here.’ On the other hand there were many people that went deeper in God: Acts 13:22 speaks of David as “a man after mine [God’s] own heart.” James 2:23 says Abraham was “called the friend of God.” Acts 10:1-6, 44-48, 11:13-14 tells of Cornelius, a man that had apparently gone to some depth in God, but still needed to be saved. Acts 18:24-26 records a similar situation for Appollos. He was a mighty man of God, yet didn’t have the fullness of the truth. Acts 19:1-7 records the account of believers who’d been baptized, but still didn’t know about Jesus name baptism or the infilling of the Holy Ghost. Each situation shows us people who were just as human as you and me, yet when the call came for them to move deeper, to go further in God, they rose to the occasion. Let’s purpose in our hearts and minds that we aren’t going to be satisfied with a shallow walk with God. Let’s go deep, and when we arrive at the next level, let’s push to go to the next…
As Christians, it’s important that we continually grow and seek after more of God. It can be very dangerous to grow lackadaisical in our walk with God as this often leads to complacency and stagnation… Ezekiel 47:3-6 illustrates the point very nicely: 3 And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. 5 Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over. 6 And he said unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen this? Then he brought me, and caused me to return to the brink of the river. Here we see three different levels of depth-ankles, knees, loins, and waters to swim in. After the vision the prophet is taken back to the brink (the shore). Here we see that though the vision allowed him to see how deep he could go, he still had to be the one to walk it off. So it is with our walk with God. Even the initial revelation of the kingdom of God and salvation is something that must be sought after. Matthew 13:44 is where Jesus likens the kingdom to a treasure hid in a field. Also, if you read Isaiah 28:10-13 you see that God’s Word is line upon line, precept upon precept. So God doesn’t hand us a manual with a nice glossary and index, rather, He expects us to search the scriptures out for ourselves (as Jesus told the religious leaders to do in John 5:39). Isaiah 55:9 tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours and Romans 11:33 tells us his ways are past finding out. So how can we go deep and really know God? The beauty is that God allows us to know his mind, his Word, and His ways. I Corinthians 2:9-12 reads: 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. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. So through God’s Spirit, we can get to that deep place in God where He can reveal to us the things that were before unknowable and unattainable. THANK YOU JESUS! So the onus, the obligation, is on us to go deep. How do we go deep? Two of the greatest ways to go deeper in God are through prayer (see Romans 8:26 and Jude 1:20) and Bible reading (see Psalm 119:11 and II Timothy 2:15). Thank you wonderful Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, for the gift of your Spirit, for the opportunity to dig deep, find you, and know you…