Monday, November 30, 2009

Behold, the Days are Coming

Jeremiah 30:2-3 - "Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: "Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, "that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the LORD. "And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it."'

In a way I look at this blog and others' blogs on spiritual subjects similar to what God was telling the prophet Jeremiah. I'm not a prophet by any means. I write what I believe God, through His Holy Spirit, is speaking to me. I am considered a disciple of Christ and a disciple is one who follows Christ's teachings and shares these teachings with others. My blog, even though it's not always perfect, can, in God's timing, spark something in someone sometime. I would like God's Word to enter the hearts of others.

We all live or have lived in captivity in the world but the powerful Word of God, Jesus, takes us into a better life--one of freedom in Christ. We will continue to be disciplined by the Lord but this is for our own good, to cause us to become more like Christ.

We can see signs in this world that things are not as good as we used to know them. If we know the Word of God, know Christ as our Living Word and Savior, God takes us out of that captivity, a captivity many are not even aware they are in. 

The land in that scripture, to me, is a type of relationship with the Lord where we are safe and secure--no matter what we might endure on earth. Whatever happens--persecution, famine, destruction, death--if we are God's children we know our future is secure in Him. Life won't be without trouble, but our Hope is Jesus Christ. A day will come when we will be taken out of this land, this world, and live and reign with Christ in the Father's Kingdom. 

Jeremiah goes on to talk about "the time of Jacob's trouble." That phrase is talking about a time that has yet come. It's speaking of our future and what is known in the Bible as the Great Tribulation. It's a time when satan is allowed by God to bring more disaster than we can imagine on earth. It is his final attempt to rule the world. To think that Jeremiah was warning us about it in about 585 BC! 

The enemy's stronghold on earth will be broken. We are not to fear. We need to be in right relationship with God to have this security. We who are of Christ are already saved because He is with us and will be then. Jesus will come to fight the enemy and reign on earth, and those in Christ will be part of His army to take on the devil! That could be exciting.

We must be aware of these times we are living in and also understand God's promises. Here are some of them just in Jeremiah 31: God will build and adorn us, we will go forth in dancing, sing with gladness, give praise, walk by rivers of water and a straight way without stumbling, gather and keep, redeem, ransom, turn mourning to joy, satiate our souls, be satisfied with His goodness, have hope for our future.  Our Hope is Jesus Christ.

His love is always available to those who seek it. He is always reaching out and calling. Open your heart to hear and respond. Seek Him while He can be found (Isaiah 55:6). He pleads not only for a first time relationship but a return to those who have strayed. Those who respond will understand when He says:

 "Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you." "You shall be My people, and I will be your God."' - Jeremiah 31:3b, Jeremiah 30:22 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Continue in Thankfulness

Ezekiel 3:1-3 - Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, "Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you." So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.

What a strange thing for God to tell Ezekiel, another major prophet. "Eat this scroll."

Now that our bellies are full of turkey, dressing and all the other Thanksgiving goodies, we can go back to our normal eating habits. Hope your Thanksgiving was, well, filled with gratitude. 

I find it interesting that references to food and eating is so abundant in the Bible. It's no different today. They gathered for feasts, banquets and festive meals (like the Jewish customs of Passover, Tabernacles and Pentecost) just like we do. Jesus fed a multitude twice with only a few loaves of bread and a small number of fish; there was the Last Supper; and He prepared a meal for His disciples after His resurrection. It's a time of gathering and fellowship. Today we gather for coffee, brunch, lunch, celebrations and holiday meals. Food and feasting. Even in the Book of Esther which we have completed the reference to food and feasts was big. In Chapter 9 there is a reference to a day of rest after the Jews were saved from annihilation--a feast with presents given. The Hebrew word for present in this verse is translated "portion" which refers to something eaten!

We are told to feast on the Word of God (Matthew 4:4). We are also told that God is our Portion (Psalm 73:26). I love how intertwined and interrelated the words of God are. Feasting is always a good thing. Taking in nourishment, albeit too much sometimes! But one can never feast too much on the one good thing--God's Word. In Jeremiah we are told, Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart...(Jeremiah 15:16). A hearty Amen to that. 

The only way we can learn about God is to sit at His feet, read His Word and take in all that He has written about Himself...and then spread the word...or Word. Gobble (no pun intended) it up and share what you have with others. Ezekiel tasted and saw that the Word was good (Psalm 34:8); it even tasted like honey.

How do we learn about someone? We sit with them and talk with them...maybe over coffee or lunch, or even online. Without communication of some sort you never really know someone. And that line of communication needs to remain open or something dies. If we are not in the Word we lose something also. Interaction through God's Word is life. Each time He speaks to us...or reminds us of something He spoke into our lives once before...or reprimands us...or comforts us...or promises us...and shows His love and/or judgment.

God has a Book of Life that all believers' names are entered into. But the Bible is our Book of Life. It's our instruction manual for life issues, personal growth, confidence, strength, encouragement. It shows us God's nature and character and hopefully teaches how to take on the same nature and character.

It also shows us our sins. But God--through all the examples in His Word it shows our need for a Savior. It shows us the vulnerability of people just like us. It shows all sorts of weakness and temptations of man. And God--has provided a Way through His Son, Jesus, to overcome all sorts of sins. John 14:16 tells us Jesus said ... "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Even though Thanksgiving is over, thanks to God for His Son and His Word should not end. He is the true Source of all we have. We owe all to our Creator and special thanks are due Him. I hope with every bite of turkey, cranberry relish and pumpkin pie, we all remembered where it all originally came from--and with every bite of leftovers, do the same.

Matthew 4:4 - Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Material Inheritance vs. Spiritual Inheritance

Ephesians 1:17-18 - ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints...

There was a debate being waged on Facebook about material inheritance vs. spiritual inheritance. It all started with a comment about being thankful that we can know where our eternal destiny will be, with or without the proposed healthcare plan, because of our relationship with Christ. One responder who I don't believe trusts entirely in riches or wealth, may not fully understand the spiritual inheritance issue.

She referred to Proverbs 13:22 - A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous, asking why, then, was this in the Bible and is it a part of the Word that we choose not to read? She did mention the importance of wisdom. 

Yes, it is important and God ordained that we handle our money wisely. If we have children we then have something to give to them as an inheritance. But there's more to that and as I got to thinking about this, the thought came to me that it all starts with wisdom...not just about how to handle money, but to know Jesus Christ.  

Solomon was asked by God what he desired most. The first thing was not wealth or riches. It was wisdom. With proper wisdom most everything should fall into place quite nicely. God liked Solomon's request and proceeded to give him not only wisdom but riches beyond belief. Of course, Solomon eventually failed even with all his wisdom, but that's another story.

I looked up scriptures with the words wisdom, riches and inheritance.  I've come to the conclusion, as I first replied on Facebook that I thought our relationship with Jesus Christ was the most important thing. By the time I had a few lines written someone else had responded with the same thoughts so I let it be. I couldn't have said it any better.

Religion vs. Faith 

Religion according to Webster is a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; I also read a definition where it stated it was the outward act of...believing. An act, or action. It takes a the sacrifices and laws that were kept. Faith on the other hand is defined as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof; complete trust. It comes from a root word to bide. And bide is to wait upon. Wait upon the Lord...

Do we do religion or faith? The Old Testament was mentioned as just as important as the New. There is no doubt this is true.  The Old points us to the New, it shows how sins were never permanently atoned for through all the religious sacrifices, but in the New we have Jesus who died once for all and through our faith in Him, our relationship with Him, not our sacrifices, not our works, we have an eternal spiritual inheritance worth far more than a material inheritance. In the Old Testament their land (Israel) was to be their material inheritance, but God was to be their spiritual inheritance, their portion. Psalm 16:5 says O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. 

I love how the Old Testament shows us bits and pieces of who Jesus will become in the New. I love how it shows us that God has always loved and chastened His people, even in the midst of wilderness wandering. They just didn't always realize that He was supplying their every need and all He wanted was for them to be dependent upon Him in difficult times. In the New Testament, it's the same. Jesus just wants us to be in right relationship with Him because He is all things to all people and we need to place our faith and trust in Him alone. 

Material inheritance is an okay thing. But more important is our spiritual inheritance. I think about not having a spiritual inheritance and I get this ache in the pit of my stomach. To rely on something other than God will not get us to Heaven. No works of sacrifice like the Old Testament, but the one work of Jesus Christ at the Cross. It's all about the saving grace of Jesus Christ--the free gift--that we have our best inheritance, not the material wealth we've stored up through our own efforts. 

Ephesians 11:11-12 - In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trust God in ALL Things

Philippians 4:6 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

I continue to think about what has been happening at church with the resignation of our pastor. Some desire that the truth come out. I have mentioned that I'm not sure that would be the best thing. It might bring on the wrong attitudes for "both sides" of the issue.  Fingers will be pointed and angers will rise to the surface. Our flesh will take over, not our spirit.

One of our pastors said we might not ever get all the answers and we just need to trust God. That's the whole point of this life is to trust God in ALL things...and with thankfulness.

I was so thankful for Oswald Chambers' words from yesterday that I happened to read today about tempers and vindication. He talked about the "Distraction of Antipathy." I have to admit I had to look up antipathy. I knew it wasn't a positive word. It means a strong, deep-rooted dislike or an object of such dislike. Ouch.

He described how we can become so easily distracted from God because of our mindset. "There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules." 

If we knew all the circumstances of our pastor's leaving we would not be trusting in God anymore. If we desire the truth, is it solely to satisfy our own curiosity, to settle in our hearts what we believed to be right...or wrong? Our human nature, our anger or bitterness would rise and distort the issue. Fingers would be pointed, thoughts about how wrong so and so was would be right out there. Our attitudes would not be good. It is the rising of our flesh and not our spirit. I have thought and voiced my opinion on this myself and know I'm doing what I should not.

He continues to explain that we are not to worry about the cares of this world. This isn't just some small care, this is an incident that affects the lives of all the congregation, the staff and the pastor and his entire family and accuser(s) and even our church's district supervisor. We're told we need to trust God and move on. But some will never be able to move on. Where's the trust in God in that? There is always a good plan in the future for today's trouble. God's will will be done.

We are not called to point fingers. We are called to pray about God's intervention in all this. He alone is the one who knows the circumstances and knows where conviction, repentance, forgiveness and healing needs to take place. It is up to us to separate ourselves from the distraction of condemnation and trust God. When we harp on this and unrighteously judge it's like grumbling in God's ears. He chastised Israel when they grumbled. Only He in His perfection is able to judge, in love.

Chambers goes on to talk about the "lust of vindication." He calls it a lust, which is sin. "That temper of mind destroys the soul's faith in God. 'I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.' Our Lord never explained anything. He left mistakes to correct themselves." I've heard people say pastor never spoke up. He just left. Perhaps he has opted not to vindicate himself, which is quite admirable. Yes, it also could mean he is guilty. "Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves." I realize that there are times when truth needs to come out. If that's the case, God will allow it. It will be revealed, the mistakes will correct themselves.

I think the truth, like I said yesterday, is knowing that God is in control. What we should concern ourselves with is that He will deal with everyone in this circumstance.

Chambers ended by saying "God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede." Knowing the truth could bring criticism. Without full knowledge of circumstances might it be that we can't criticize because we just don't know for sure? That may be why God does things the way He does because He knows how we would respond. Maybe I'm way off base on all this. I'm just going to trust God to settle the matter.

Hebrews 13:20-21 - May the God of peace ... equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Check That Attitude

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

A couple weeks ago Pastor Cliff Cameron spoke about God's peace through storms. As a church we have been through least three during my time at Victory International. Last week Pastor Andy Horn spoke about pursuing the presence of God. And yesterday Pastor Cliff talked about being led by the Spirit.

We have recently seen our lead pastor resign and because I just don't know the absolute truth, it's futile to surmise. I can tell you this--I've heard both sides of the story and either way, it hurts. In my heart and mind I'm constantly asking why this happened--again in our church? 

It's during difficult times like this that we need God's peace. I believe the true attitudes of people come out. I've heard things that make my stomach ache and which I'm sure grieves the Spirit. No matter which "side" a person is on we still have to maintain a Christ-like attitude. We need to just let our judgment go and ask the Lord to do His work. This can be hard. We are told we are allowed to judge righteously, but is that what we do? Do we truly have the strength to do that without some attitude of our own creeping in?

As Pastor Cliff said yesterday: God knows every thought we have. That might be good or bad, probably both. We might think, "oh good" but I know there are times in each person's life when "ouch" is probably a better comment to make. He will judge us some day on those thoughts. But as a child of God, He still loves us and if we confess those sinful thoughts, He will forgive us. Our sins are forgiven as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  How far is that? Try to picture it! You can't. It's an infinite distance. Then picture Jesus' outstretched arms upon the cross. That's the true picture of forgiveness. 

Yesterday's sermon on being led by the Spirit was yet another reminder of how we should live our lives...and our thoughts. The scripture above was based on the peace that Christ left with us through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Faced with the resignation of our pastor we all have questions. We have been told we may never have all the answers but we are to trust God just the same. Whatever the reason, God's plan will be accomplished in this church, our own lives and the pastor's life. That should be our main focus. God does not give to us like the world does. He gives in ways we have yet to fully understand. 

I personally don't think we need to have all the answers. Maybe I'm wrong but if we are given the truth, how many of us would not be able to say or think, no matter which side we're on, "I thought so!" And then the attitude comes into play. Right or wrong our feelings need to be controlled. If we were on the "I was right" side, we might gloat. If we were on the wrong side, there could be an indignant attitude. It's all about our attitudes. And that it must be on the good things during a storm of life.

That's where we need to be led by the power of the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts, to think on the good things of God.  We have to remember that everything in life is all about God. We hear it over and over that we are to have the mind of Christ. What attitude will we have and what will people remember about our reaction if we find out what the truth is...or which side we are on? I think the attitude we are to take on is one of standing in the gap for both sides and allowing the Spirit to work in hearts.

Whether Pastor was wronged or was wrong, we need to have forgiveness in our own hearts. God knows who's right and wrong in this. He knows what caused all that has transpired. I just pray through this new storm that each one of us would come away with something personal from God. That heart attitudes would be changed, trust in God would arise, even the ability to let go of things we cannot control and know that God will do what we cannot.

Sadly, people have left our church...again...for both sides' reasons. I'm so confused by all that has happened. God is not the author of confusion, so we need to draw on His peace in this storm of life. We need to pursue God's presence and His peace. And we need to allow the Holy Spirit to guide is into all truth. I think the main truth in all this is that God is still on the throne, He still reigns, He is still in control...and that's all we need to know.  He will heal, He will chasten, He will forgive each one of us personally, no matter which "side" we're on

The truth, I believe, will come to each of us. I think the truth isn't about knowing what happened, but knowing that God has a plan. He doesn't always let us see what work He is doing in us or in others but He's at work. His presence is always there, whether we feel it or not (like in the Book of Esther we just studied). It's all about God, trusting in Him and letting Him do the work necessary in each of us during this time. And keeping a proper attitude.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jesus Loves Me

John 15:9 - "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love."

I had the heartwarming privilege of hearing the song Jesus Loves Me sung yesterday. It brought tears to my eyes. It was sung by an older member of our church, John. He played his accordion as he sang several delightful older Christian songs. But this song, in its simplicity and in the aging voice of a long-time believer whose family has undergone a year of tragedy through deaths, spoke volumes to my heart.

Here are the words to the song, just to jog your memory:

Jesus loves me! 
This I know, 
For the Bible tells me so. 
Little ones to Him belong; 
They are weak but He is strong. 

Jesus loves me! 
Loves me still, 
Tho I'm very weak and ill, 
That I might from sin be free, 
Bled and died upon the tree. 

Jesus loves me! 
He who died 
Heaven's gate to open wide; 
He will wash away my sin, 
Let His little child come in. 

Jesus loves me! 
He will stay 
Close beside me all the way. 
Thou hast bled and died for me; 
I will henceforth live for Thee. 

Yes, Jesus loves me! 
Yes, Jesus loves me! 
Yes, Jesus loves me! 
The Bible tells me so.

Yes, this is a children's song, but it simply confirms to us that we are God's children if we are in relationship with God the Father. We are to come to Him as little children. We are to drop the walls we have built around our hearts that keep us safe from the harshness of the world and enter into relationship with Jesus because He loves us. 

It is God who provides our strength in difficult times. You could see that strength in John. We might think we can handle things on our own, but some day we will find out otherwise. It is only through allowing God access to our hearts and souls that we truly find the proper strength. It is strength born out of love for us.

Jesus died on the cross for us. Even Jesus needed His Father's strength to endure. He loved us so much (John 3:16) that He was willing to do this despite all the sins of every man being upon Him as He hung there, bruised and battered. The pain He endured was so we could live in relationship with Him. We will have pain in our lives, like John and his family have gone through. But through it all, we can know in our hearts that He is seeing us through our difficult moments.

John also sang the senior version of the song. Here are just a few verses from it:

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.

Though I am no longer young,
I have much which He’s begun.
Let me serve Christ with a smile,
Go with others the extra mile.

When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
“Have no fear, for I am near.”

When my work on earth is done,
And life’s victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I’ll understand His love.

I saw the joy in John's eyes as he sang. Oh, the childlike simplicity. It was the joy of the Lord that has kept him strong through this difficult season. And I know he will continue to sing despite any other personal problems his life might bring.  He knows that Heaven's gate was opened wide for the family members he lost; he knows that the sins of these people were washed away by the blood of Christ. He has lived a life in the loving arms of Jesus and instilled the knowledge of Jesus into his family's lives. He knows a day will come when he will be with his family again in Heaven. That's why he sung with joy unspeakable this simple song. 

We can all experience this joy in the midst of sorrow. The first step is to turn to Jesus. Call on Him and ask Him to turn your heart toward Him. Allow Him to enter in and show you who He is. Let Him take away your sorrow and fear. John truly had turned his mourning into dancing. I believe without realizing it he was living out Psalm 30:

Psalm 30:11-12 - You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mercy and Grace, in That Order

Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

How good God is, even if it is a reprimand! I had a rough day one day in Puerto Rico with my mother in law. I was tired because I'd not slept well and maybe because a low pressure system had set in. I chose to hibernate, as it were, for the day upstairs where I'd "get away from it all." I needed a day to myself to recharge.

Upon arising the next morning with yet another rough night's sleep (sometimes the roosters in the neighborhood can be a little confused about the time or a stray cat causes all the dogs to begin showing their disdain for him), I spent some time with the Lord and checked my emails, reading two devotions that pricked my conscience and spoke to my heart.

One by David Wilkerson told of how Paul was in prison chained to the prisoners on either side of him. He had absolutely no privacy but instead of choosing to grouse (my word, not Wilkerson's!) he thought about how he could glorify God in all this. The day before I'd been reading about another similar thing--how to humble yourself and be a servant. Humble a sacrifice for God so He can be glorified through your actions. Only God knows  if I accomplished that! I believe my obedience was the key.

Paul couldn't change his circumstances. Neither could I. The lesson I learned, or more accurately was reminded of, was that I could change internally. My steps were (and always are) ordered by the Lord, therefore it was up to me to do as He would do--be thankful and praise Him in my circumstances. Instead of running, instead of looking forward to a new day, grasp the one I'm in and live it out. That's all anyone can do. I needed a change of heart, not scenery.

Oh, the day to recharge was probably a good thing just the same. Even Jesus got away but as He did He spent that time with His Father. And what did He do? He prayed. He drew near to the throne of grace. He listened as God spoke. He was refreshed.

So having read these two devotions, I came to a conclusion: I needed to do the same and ask for God's mercy and grace. The second devotion by Derek Prince explained '"According to your lovingkindness" is another way of saying 'Your covenant-keeping faithfulness.'" God has formed a covenant with us and will not, cannot, break it if we enter into it with Him, unlike how we can easily break covenant with Him. God is committed to forgiving us if we meet the necessary conditions and seek Him regarding it. Again, it is humbly seeking and meeting Him. Then letting Him speak to our hearts and turn our thinking around, letting His strength and His peace come forth in us.

Mercy and grace = mercy is for past, grace is for what lies ahead, asking for what we need (you do not have because you do not ask - James 4:2).

As I chose to look differently on the day(s) ahead my spirit and soul filled with peace and even expectation. I conquered, head on, the enemy (NOT my mother in law!) who wants nothing but to bring disruption and division. Praise God He is bigger! He is high and lifted up, the enemy is His footstool and under His feet.

The days continued smoothly. I asked for continued grace and received it. This is a great lesson for any situation we might be faced with. Go to the throne of grace and ask for forgiveness for how you're feeling. Realize it is the enemy of your soul attacking and thank God for His greatness in any situation and for His mercy.

Psalm 51:1-3 - Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness [Your covenant-keeping faithfulness]; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

By Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

Hebrews Chapter 11 is called the faith chapter. It lists one man or woman after another starting with Abel, Adam and Eve's son, to the falling of the walls of Jericho and the faith that Joshua had to carry out the sequence of events, ordered by God, to bring down those walls with no more than trumpets and shouts. It even names the faith of a prostitute turned believer.

Verses 32-35 of Hebrews tell us that the list could go on, but there would not be enough time to speak of all the others. I can't imagine how many would be on that list today! But verses 35b through 39 that are even more powerful.

Briefly it states that others were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, slain, were destitute, afflicted and tormented. They simple believed there was an all powerful God. Verses 39 and 40 are gripping: And all these, having obtained a good testimony  through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Did not receive the promise? What's that? I would probably have capitalized the word promise. These people were Old Testament individuals. They did not know about Christ other than they'd repeatedly been told there was a coming Messiah whom they did not see in their lifetimes. These Old Testament people had faith in God that there was something better because He promised it and they held to belief in something--better yet--Someone--who was yet unseen to them.  They had God's testimony that their lives were eternally secure. That was good enough. That was faith.

In the New Testament that Promise became reality. Some dared believe that He was the Messiah they'd heard about. Yet He was crucified, dead, buried and risen from the dead. They continued to believe. What must they have thought? And today? We have not seen Him like they did 2,000 years ago but the good testimony has been passed down.

There's a question that is asked frequently:  Why would the Disciples and Apostles and followers of Christ allow themselves to go through torture and/or death if Jesus was not who He said He was?? They all saw Him, walked with Him, talked with Him. Somehow they knew in their hearts and spirits He was all He claimed to be. And they were not willing to compromise their beliefs. That's faith, people. Would you intentionally go through persecution or death for someone you didn't believe in? Today our faith could even be considered more difficult. That's what He's calling us to do. He WILL return and we need to have faith in that. 

What will you believe? Will you deny Christ today to save your earthly life or do you desire eternal life in Christ? Will you believe the people who say the world will end in 2012? God tells us no one knows the day or time except Him (Matthew 24:36). If we do not know the day or time, shouldn't we be prepared now? Our day might be today or tomorrow or years from now. If you believe the end is 2012, what's the most important thing you would do? I've heard some say, "party, party, party, live it up now." 

Throughout the 2,000 years since Christ died, there has always been a remnant of people who pass on the truth of who Jesus was, is and will be. Some are scoffed, some are turned away, some are even killed for their faith. Having a relationship with God is knowing that you may be turned away and there will still be trials in this world. But Jesus has overcome all this. Asking Him into your life and knowing your eternal security through Him is the most important thing a person can do. 

Hebrews 12:1 - Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Remnant, Captivity, and the Fear of the Lord

Jeremiah 5:18 - "Nevertheless in those days," says the LORD, "I will not make a complete end of you."

Jeremiah was a prophet, appointed by God. Most all prophets were sent to confront Israel for idol worship, turning away from God and warning them of disasters that would occur if they did not, like God allowing enemies to overcome Israel and subsequent captivity. In the above scripture He was telling Jeremiah that despite what they go through, there will be a remnant. Today that remnant are true followers of Christ.

Christians are or can be like the nation of Israel. They believed in God, the One who physically took them out of the Egyptian captivity. He was their pillar of fire by night and cloud by day as He led them through the wilderness. He kept them miraculously clothed and fed. 

So when we become Christians, when we truly obey the call to believe in Christ, He takes us out of our worldly captivity, our Egypt, and leads us in the right direction. He becomes our protection (fire and shade). He feeds us (His living Word). And one day we will be clothed in righteousness. Yes, we occasionally wander and He allows us our own wilderness experiences; however, He continues to love us and will draw us back to Him. Not all Christians will continue in their trust in the Lord. Some will fall away and God will allow them their rebellion...and their return to captivity.

What is captivity? It's the world view. It's what seems to be running rampant in greater measure today. Before I gave my life to Christ, I used to believe that hell was what we lived on earth and nothing could be worse. This happened because of an unhappy childhood...insecurity and mistrust based on a form of parental neglect and dysfunction. Oh, they loved me the best they knew how, I realize now, but in their own lives they had their own problems.

There is a real hell and it will be worse than anything we can imagine. God will not exempt anyone from that just because they do not partake in the "major sins" of the world or they go to church on Sundays. It's our commitment to Christ that counts, on a daily basis.

2Timothy 3:1-6 tells us what the world will look like in the last days before Christ returns:

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

No one wants to hear this. No one wants to believe they do any of these things. I'm not totally beyond some of these myself. But God continues to work in us! We can look at that list and recognize ourselves somewhere, as much as we don't want to admit it. We must fear God (reverently), as part of our trust in Him. He must be number one in our lives, not our spouses, not our jobs, not our things.

In Christ, trusting Him, following Him, listening to His Word, desiring to know all the Truth that He is, devouring His Word and wisdom, He gives us the power to be godly (2Timothy 3:5) but we sometimes, maybe even often, do deny this power. How often I've heard a friend say her pastor keeps telling their congregation they just don't know the power we are given through Christ. He has told us, "You will do greater things than these," referring to all He had done on earth. 

The world around us has a strange way of squelching, I believe. We don't want to offend because we see what happens when the name of Jesus is brought up. People will turn their backs on us just as they did in the days of Jesus. It's almost like our own persecution. A tough skin is necessary. Thankfully, God has provided a Way. Thankfully, there will always be a remnant to carry on the name of Jesus, who will not deny Him and who will remain with Him to the end.

This is what God is telling us even today:

Jeremiah 5:21-22a, 23-24a - "Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not: Do you not fear Me?' says the LORD. "Will you not tremble at My presence...But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; they have revolted and departed. They do not say in their heart, "Let us now fear the LORD our God..."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Who I Am in Christ

All right, so I stole this from the Freedom in Christ website! I found it lurking in my documents the other day and since I've been writing about what a child of God looks like, I'd add these to the list. I might even have written something similar earlier this year. But this is a great reminder, so bear with me.

Who I am in Christ! There was a time when I could have cared less about this. I thought because I had been raised in a Lutheran home, attended church and was not Jewish I was Christian. I believed that God was good and would never turn anyone away from heaven. I didn't even believe there was a hell. I believed that I was a child of God because I got sprinkled with water as a baby. Coming to Christ is easy but there's a depth to it just the same. There are things you just gotta know.

I've mentioned before when you truly allow Christ into your life you change. You don't see Him through the same eyes. It's like you awaken to a whole new world. It's exciting, challenging and the best part is it never ends. Just when He's taught you something new and you bask in this knowledge, He teaches you something else. The excitement in discovery is never ending. God has so much knowledge to impart to those who want to learn. It's nothing like you see on the History, National Geographic or Discovery channels. Those stations are interesting and you might learn something but they sometimes lean a little to the left on some topics. You can't believe everything you hear...or watch. But you can believe everything God tells you.

You are special in His eyes and in His heart. You were specially created and gifted by Him. How you treat those gifts is your choice. If you use them wisely, He's pleased. If not, He grieves. 

Whether you are content with who you are or not, if you choose to accept Christ, you can add to who you are and certainly believe these:

I am accepted...
John 1:12 I am God's child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified.
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ's body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I am secure...
Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I am significant...
John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God's temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God's workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

I'm thankful for Philippians 1:6, that although I'm not perfect, He's working in me and He will finish that work! He will do this for all of us if we give Him a chance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Do the Children of God Look Like?

John 1:12-13 - But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God

I've made mention on occasion about things happening in the spiritual realm that we don't even know about. There is a spiritual realm and not only is there a good one, there's an evil one.  There are battles taking place all around us daily between good and evil but we cannot comprehend it.

Again, Beth Moore in her study on Esther, points out something I just have to share. It continues a bit on Monday's discussion of reversal of destiny. What happens after we have chosen to reverse our destiny in Christ???

She suggests we try to imagine "the divine activities behind the scene. If we could only see what is happening around us in the unseen realm, our eyes would nearly pop out of socket. Don't you wonder what transpires in the unseen realm when someone accepts Jesus as personal Savior? Luke 15:7 tells us heaven rejoices over a solitary sinner who repents. Think about it. Angels party over human repentance! 

"So much that would thrill us lies beyond our sight. Covenant children of God are marked--even dressed--in ways obvious to both heaven and hell but invisible to man. I'm not at all sure we don't bear an inscription on our foreheads somewhat like the one prescribed by God for the plate of the priest's turban. The engraving "holy to the Lord" was the first thing people saw when they looked in the face of a priest."

I admit I had already written this blog before I wrote Wednesday's. Wednesday's was like a P.S. to this one. It was the sum of my emotions over being a covenant child of God, with that incredible inscription on my forehead and being engraved in the palm of the hand of an Almighty God. Incredible...amazing...

We've heard for every action there is a reaction. Well, for every good thing God does for His children, Satan reacts in like manner with something evil. Just as God is all truth, Satan is a counterfeit, he is all lies. His lies, however, may be temptations to our senses, things made to look good only to be considered bad.  Example: alcohol...seems like a good thing if it makes you feel good, gives you a courage you normally don't have, but too much of it and it's bad. Abortion might seem the thing to do for an unwanted child or to save face but not in the eyes of a loving, creating God. That child is God's and was knit together by Him in his mother's womb.

Beth went on to say just like we are marked as God's children, the devil does the same.  In the Bible it's called the mark of the beast: Revelation 13:16 - He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. (Just give some thought to the idea of RFID chips...seems like a good, harmless idea, doesn't it? Could this be the mark referred to in this scripture?) In Revelation 14:9-10 we are told "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God..."

But let's just imagine what the children of God look like. Let your mind wander to a place beyond your wildest imagination. When one accepts Jesus into their lives and becomes a child of God, he becomes a joint heir with Jesus Christ. Our sinful nature is now clothed in righteousness. We have put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). We are born spiritually into the family...we are born again (John 3:3). We have inherited a place in heaven. In Esther Chapter 8  we see where Mordecai, after the victory over the death of the Jews, is given Haman's home and his title and he leaves the king's presence wearing "royal apparel of blue and white, with a great crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple."  These are the clothes that the priests of the Old Testament wore. We also see in Revelation those saints who have followed the Lord will also be given garments of white linen and a crown.  When we become one with the Lord, our great High Priest, we become priests and kings with Him. 

Too much to imagine? I find it hard myself. I don't see anything special about me but I'm aware of others who definitely take on the character of Jesus in the things they do and how they speak. It all comes little by little as we walk with Jesus and allow Him to chip away at the flaws in our character. I can be satisfied now knowing that God sees beyond what we appear to look like. When we become one of His children, He only sees us as who we have become, minus the lifelong clean up process! 

Matthew 3:16-17 - When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."