Wednesday, July 25, 2012

His Grace Alone

John 1:17 - For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

(I may get back to the Psalms one day!) But for now it's whatever comes my way...

I pray scales would fall off eyes and that tunnel vision would become more peripherally possible, deaf ears would be open to hear, hearts would be softened to receive and selves would be humbled, in Jesus' name.

I was delving into Ephesians. Sometimes you want to just read the whole book but the Lord has other plans and keeps you focused on smaller parts. Ahhhh. I was in chapter 1; couldn't get past it.

I've written about this before but it's worth writing again. Long before the beginning of time God had us on His mind. He knew and knows just who will hear His truth and allow themselves to respond and be set free from the hands of the enemy. Someone needs to know/hear this. It's a message from old and one for today...and tomorrow...but best for now! Oh, the promises, if....

He chose us...before the foundation of the world...predestined become holy...according to the good pleasure of His His grace...His acceptance...enabling our redemption...forgiving of sins...obtaining an inheritance...sealed of Him because of our us wisdom and prudence...allowing us to know the mystery of His will...according to His good become in Him.

This is for those who are called saints, those who believe Jesus Christ is Lord over all. This will not be for all people. It's offered to all, but not all will receive. These are not some arrogant words. They are part of the narrow truth that Jesus preaches. Hard words? Yes. Jesus, as I've said over and over, did not always preach easy words. That's why He was so despised...and it continues today.

These words are for those who have truly received Christ, whose lives are filled with His Word and meditated on daily and whose thoughts are on Him frequently...or more! Not all people believe this. Not all people will consider this. Some will think it's taking it a bit too far. But it's what's required...

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8) was the scripture that stood out on April 18, 1999, when by God's grace alone, by His will, I became one of the saints mentioned in Ephesians, verse 1.

Micah earlier states that it is not our offerings that will please the Lord. No works, just His grace. The definition of grace according to Webster is unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. Unmerited, yet making us righteous saints. We don't deserve it for the sinful people we are. However, when we come to the end of ourselves, acknowledge there is One greater than man and self and admit we need a Savior, then we are so welcomed into the Kingdom of God. We are, getting back to Ephesians, blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly Christ.

To only know who Jesus is just doesn't cut it. It's all about knowing in our spirits...having true faith in God...attaining the spirit of wisdom and revelation...having the eyes of our understanding enlightened...that we might know the real hope of His calling...knowing what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance and exceeding greatness of His power (the anointing I wrote about yesterday!)

All this comes through Jesus Christ. It does not come until we allow ourselves the full knowledge of Him. Don't turn away from these words. If they can be imparted to me, they can be yours also. You only need to believe on the One whose words these are, who has spoken them, who wants to share them with all people. Let the eyes of your understanding be open to receive and not be turned away by what could be considered arrogance.

Jesus was not arrogant. He was humble. He was a servant to all, fully man yet fully God. He lowered Himself...took Himself off the throne in Heaven to live among us that we might see Him and get to know Him. How can we look arrogantly or pridefully into His face and say we don't need Him? 

This earthly life has nothing lasting to give us. It has treasures and riches that can be lost in an instant. Look around today. Is there absolute confidence or protection? Absolute peace? Good is being replaced in greater amounts by evil. It is believed we might be seeing the last days, that we are living in the last days. We need to know we are safe from all the hatred and evil in this world. We need to know that we know that Jesus has given us every opportunity to be counted among the saints in heaven and blessed with every spiritual blessing...not earthly but spiritual. And the hope only He brings.

A friend of mine and I comment regularly about what we see happening in the world, how it sure looks like what the Bible tells us the last days will be like. And yet we still go through our days enjoying what we have, not fretting about what we see. We can have moments of anxiety about what we will be faced with, what we might have to go addition to the daily things that bring impatience, frustration, sadness, anger...but there is always a deep-seated sense of peace because we know Jesus has us covered! All things are under His feet, which puts us right up there with Him, protected under His wings, if we choose to do receive Him.

Matthew 16:26 tells it like it is: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world (money, prestige, fancy home, best clothes, expensive car...all that money can buy), and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Remember, we cannot bring anything but our own selves to Him so His grace alone can save us. It is shaking off our pride and self-determination or self anything that gets us where He wants us. He humbled Himself and died for our sakes; let us humble our selves and in the process die to our own selves for His sake.

At the end of the first chapter of Ephesians we are encouraged in our true knowledge of who Jesus is for those who are called by His name: all things are under His feet (He is utterly and thankfully in complete control)...He is the head of all things...He fills all in all. He is all we need. Our provision. When we have Him, the most important need is met...eternal life.

Matthew 16:25 - For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Anointing

Luke 4:18-19 - The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

The thought we are not to compare ourselves came to the forefront of my mind again: I think I knew what I had heard, yet it seemed all so much clearer. Or maybe it was the way it was spoken. It seemed I had never been told as though this thing was for me. I'd read the scriptures and yet somehow missed something. I knew the facts, but one little fact became so powerfully evident this past Sunday morning. How did I miss this? Or had I? One huge fact boosted my confidence. This one fact has kept me thinking. Thank you, Pastor Rory!

What in the world am I talking about?? This goes right along with my thoughts on the mysteries of God imparted through our knowledge of Christ. Nothing happens without first knowing Christ and being in relationship with Him. Nothing. We are in a time of "rediscovering" on Sunday mornings. Rediscovering those things that may have become commonplace in our lives. We've taken them for granted, perhaps. Or we've forgotten, maybe misunderstood. I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead.

Let me share. It always starts at the very beginning, with creation and who was there to create!

In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was with God and the Word WAS God. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. The Spirit of the LORD (God) shall rest upon Him (Jesus), the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. And I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Therefore, ...repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Abide in Me (Jesus), and I (will) in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (And when you do) the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, (and) He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (And) you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (And) the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you...but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God. If I depart, I will send (the Holy Spirit) to you.  ...When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 

(John 1:1, Isaiah 53:11, Isaiah 11:2, Joel 2:32,28, Romans 10:9, Acts 2:38, John 15:4,5,7, Romans 8:11, 1John 2:20,27, 2Corinthians 1:21, John 16:7,13)

Maybe this was a lot of scripture but it shows a progression...Jesus' hand in creation, His knowledge which comes from the Father, the Spirit that would come upon Him to anoint Him...and the truth of this fact that when we come into relationship with God He gives us an anointing through the power of the Holy Spirit. The same anointing that was given to Jesus when He began His ministry. And if we are in Him, we have that very same Spirit in us. But it has to start with believing in Him, then repenting of our sins, being baptized, not as an infant but as an adult, as one who absolutely knows what this relationship with Jesus means. 

We're talking about God's anointing here! His Spirit is now alive in me because I have received Him. And I have the very same anointing. There is no one greater than another in Christ. There might be various degrees and we might go about our "ministry" differently than another, according to how God has made us, but we all have that same anointing. 

Something happened years ago that caused me to believe that I did not have what it takes to be anointed of God. No one ever said I had this same anointing. Or maybe it just didn't click. Maybe I just missed the point. And the thought we are not to compare ourselves came to the forefront again yesterday.

I knew these things, but Sunday I really knew it. I'm almost embarrassed to say this! How could I have not gotten it? It's like reading the Bible and although you've read a scripture many times, something new pops out. An anointing is the authority and power of God's Spirit. Although I had read these scriptures and thought I understood them, the way Pastor Rory had given his message opened my eyes even more. I'm not the only one, either! 

The purpose of this anointing according to Pastor is to: keep us in the truth of God; identify us as believers; inspire and empower us to do good; cause healing to happen in our lives, including reconciliation; give us victory over sin and death caused by satan. 

John 16:13 - However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Trip Up the Devil. Praise God!

Psalm 34:3 - Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together

I will never, I'm convinced, stop being amazed at God. Will I ever get over how one thought zips through my mind and causes me to think...and when the thought's been established, even blogged, there is confirmation of what I've thought/written? I've been on the praising God thought process. I can't shake it.

God is amazing because it's all about how He shares His wisdom. It's about how He speaks to those who listen. Here's a framed comment I have hanging on a wall in our house:

So this morning I decided to have a cup of coffee and turn on Jentezen Franklin on one of the Christian networks. His topic was on praise! The title of his message was A Throne for a King. Our praises should be lifted up to Him continually, despite whatever is happening or whatever we feel. When they are He inhabits them. He inhabits them.

Briefly, Franklin was discussing 2Samuel 19-22 where David had been hiding for fear of his life from his son Absalom who wanted to kill his father and take over his throne. Well, Absalom is now dead and David is free to return to his throne over Israel. Franklin showed how this is like us, with fear, doubt, sin, unforgiveness, illness, anything that keeps us from praising God also keeps Him from his rightful throne in our hearts.

Franklin quoted Mike Murdock: Gratitude is the seed for God to do more in our lives. Oh, how I believe that. We should always be grateful for what Jesus has done for us...not cling to what is occurring right now in our lives. Praise Him. The more praise, the closer He is to us. This praise is to be shown at all times. When we are on our own in our own daily lives...and when we are gathered together...corporate praise and worship.

Psalm 100:4 - Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Psalm 107:32 - Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders. 
Psalm 109:30 - I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
Psalm 150:1 - Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament! 

2Samuel 19 describes how David was free to return but the tribe of Judah was the only tribe not ready for his return. The name Judah means I will praise the LORD. Judah was not praising right now! And because of this David hesitated to return. He sent a message to the priests: "Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his are my brothers, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king."

Is this what we do when we fail to praise the Lord? Does He want to return to the throne of our hearts when we refuse to praise Him? Does this happen in our daily lives? Does this happen when we are in worship in church? Is there something that prevents us from entering into worship? Later in chapter 19 it is said that the men of Judah gathered at Gilgal before meeting the king (David) to bring him back. Franklin explained Gilgal was a place of circumcision. What needs to be circumcised in our hearts if we fail to praise God? We are to let go of the things that prevent us from praising...again, fear, doubt, unforgiveness, attitudes, illness. David as king was forgiving and ordered no one to be put to death for their actions. Jesus as King will do the same when we gather first at our spiritual Gilgal.

When we fail to praise God, even for a time, the throne is empty. Praising creates a throne (or even an altar) and God comes down to regain access to it. He again inhabits the throne. Continuous praise allows God continuous access to our hearts. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will inhabit our praises.

I believe this goes for worship on Sunday mornings too. Sometimes we don't like the worship. It might make it difficult to praise God. Are we to not praise Him, though? Aren't we, like anything else we encounter in life, to praise Him? Aren't we to go through the circumstance and instead of grousing, complaining or whining, or being stubborn, praise God? Is He in the throne of one's heart when we do this? Where is our focus at that time? Aren't we to always look up to the Lord, past the circumstances? We cannot deny God the praise due Him, even if the music doesn't suit us. We have turned our backs on Him. Franklin said this: When you don't praise the Lord properly, the King does not take His throne. Why do we allow a momentary disagreement cause division and an empty throne?

This goes for our personal lives too. Praise Him for what we already have. If we do that we can be assured that He will continue to give. He will continue to fight the enemy on our behalf, take away the fear and doubt, strengthen bodies and minds when we need it most, bring peace to weary souls. Maybe, just maybe, our problems linger because we have stopped praising God and He is no longer on the throne of our heart.

He will be King over any problem, King over disease...if we praise Him. But we must first receive Him into our lives and hearts, allowing Him to work in us. If He is the answer to our needs, as some know, there should be a throne in our hearts for Him. Perhaps even for this nation...He is no longer King of this nation. The enemy has settled in. We can praise Him for what we've had and what He's given us. If we bring Him back to His rightful place in our country, perhaps things will turn around again.

We must all circumcise our hearts, remove all thoughts and actions that prevent the King in our lives and in our churches. Yield to the King, ignore man. Focus on Him and worship Him; ignore man. It's between me (and you) and God. Man is the distraction...what the enemy wants. Look up; focus on Him. We have to shed our attitudes to get in the presence of God. It isn't always going to be just the way we want it. Get over whatever "it" is and praise God. If Paul could praise God in a dirty, miserable prison cell, we can let our personal feelings go at home or in the church.

When we praise God with all our hearts, the issues of life or present circumstances will banish. Why? Because He has come back to His throne. It's impossible to harbor anything bad when we are praising Him. It's not about our feelings; it's about God. It's our sacrifice... It's about our heart attitude and where we are focused. It's our choice...God on the throne of our hearts or not. Ignore the feelings and praise God.

Franklin pointed this out: 1Samuel 22:5 - But the prophet Gad said to David, "Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah." So David left and went to the forest of Hereth. Is that a word for us? Don't remain in the stronghold that we have made of whatever circumstance? Get out of there. Go into the land of Judah...and begin to praise the Lord, a place where God will reign. A commentary on verse five says that we are not to stay in this stronghold (which was literally in a foreign land). Go to a land to be among friends. The forest of Hereth was normally a desert land, but the Lord made it well watered and fruitful. Our enemy wants us in the stronghold. Let's get out of the stronghold and into our land of praise where the King will be back on His throne. Trip up the devil! Praise God. 

2Samuel 22:25 - The LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight. [A praise from King David.]

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Psalm 147:1 - Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and  praise is beautiful. 

We generally have praise reports as part of the weekly prayer requests. Some seem like small praise reports while others are miraculous ones. Sight being restored, lives being spared, healing taking place, jobs found.

It doesn't matter how great or small our praise report is. It's still praise to our God. If we are totally dependent upon Him for all things, every day should be filled with praises. It's part of our worship of Him.

We can get caught up in daily life, grateful for God's goodness, but forget to thank Him for even the mundane. Was Jesus' death a mundane thing? Maybe to the Romans it was when He was crucified. Picture roads into towns dotted with crosses with thieves and murderers as reminders to others passing by of what would happen to any who disobey their laws. It might have become commonplace.

So, is our Lord's death a commonplace thing in our hearts? Or do we thank Him for what He's done? Do we give thanks for the life in Christ He has given us? Do we give thanks for all things for which He has provided us? Do we praise Him for who He is?

Praise is due for even those little things we see day by day. The more we praise the better. There is one elderly woman in our church socked with health issues. She prays for others first, then herself and her husband...and then every week as a sort of PS, she thanks God for all He has been to them despite their troubles. She loves Him in spite of it all...and that's the spite of it all. She is an inspiration.

And then there was the 92 year old woman who recently went home to be with her Jesus. She never complained. She walked through her outstanding life closely with the Lord. She waterskiied well into her 80's and up until this year she picked strawberries! She even tried her hand at sky diving! What a woman. She loved her Lord and although she was very quiet, I'm sure she praised Him for this long life she had. She certainly lived a life becoming of Jesus.

I think waking up and being able to praise that we are able to get up is a wonderful thing to do. I remember well before I knew the Lord, and looking back I know I was seeking "something." I quit my job, packed some bike bags and my bike, bought a round trip ticket to Luxembourg and set off for a seven week bike trip "to find myself." I believe I came a little closer to realizing there was a God, although that's not how I viewed it then. Whenever something "bad" happened to me, something good always followed...or at least something that caused me to know that my trouble wasn't as bad as it seemed to me. Someone always had it worse.

I learned to go with the flow and not take everything so seriously. Somehow I knew I would be taken care of, even if I didn't know the Who doing it. I may have occasionally felt defeated but I always bounced back. If nothing else, this time alone gave me a strength I didn't know I had. It was an experience God can use in me today when called on.

In my own way I was thankful for good overcoming bad. I may not have known it then but the Way was keeping my paths straight, until that day He would beckon me, Come!

If you look around you you will see all the earth praising Him. The dawning of a new day, a quiet sunset, a long needed (as we in the Midwest just experienced) rain, the birds chattering or singing away, critters scampering for food, flowers, trees, grasses shooting right straight up to the sun, focused on their Maker, the Son, the Light of the world. So if all the earth praises Him, so should we who have an actual voice.

I praise God for each new day. I praise Him for what He has done for those who love Him. I praise Him for who He is in me. I praise Him for the strength He gives. I praise Him for the wisdom He shares. I praise Him for transforming me into His likeness, although I rarely see what He has done. You can praise Him too. Just try it! Try it every day and see what a difference it makes.

Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens...Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; praise Him, all you stars of light! Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters above the heavens! ... Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word; mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars; beasts and all cattle; creeping things and flying fowl; kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth; both young men and maidens; old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 148:1-13, Psalm 150:6)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Riches in Glory

Colossians 1:27 - To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Praise You! Thank You that when we meet You, You instill within us the abundant truth of Your promises. It is Your will first to call us then to make known whatever You desire we know. You are our hope in glory.

You are a mystery, Lord, but it is a great and awesome mystery. You hold in Your hand some amazing things for those who choose to call on Your name. For those who are able to see beyond their circumstances, are able to realize the sinful nature that fills each of us...and are able to admit being a sinner and relinquish our lives to You that You might heal, reveal and sanctify.

You heal us of our sinful nature. You reveal us Your nature. You sanctify us to make us more like You, not that we would ever be perfect.

You reveal to us the riches of Your glory. You open the blind eyes to see, open the deaf ears to hear what is the real hope that lies ahead for those who choose a relationship with You.

Thank You that when we receive You we ARE encouraged by Your unfailing love toward us. Thank You for opening those eyes and ears that we know in our spirits the mysteries of life in Christ and the hope of a future in Christ, receiving the blessings and assurance of our future in You. Thank You for the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

The world only knows what they see right before them, the things of the world which are like eye candy. They lure into a false sense of contentment, which can never be attained. Things are more important. The world view sees the more things one has the better a person seems to be, the more profitable, successful...the standard of an earthly that others look for in determining one's worth.

Your standard of living which is the greatest success, however, comes in our relationship with You and the holiness You impart. It is knowing those mysteries of the true riches in life which are only found in You. We can let go of all we own and still be filled with You. You will never leave those who are determined to have You in their lives.

Who can understand all this? Thank You it just comes with Your territory! Praise You!

Colossians 2:2-3 - that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sacrifice, Death, Life

Genesis 22:1-3 - Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him."

Where do I start this morning? Oh, I suppose at the altar! This goes along with the blog the other day about Jesus having gone before us…to His own altar, to His cross. This is more about the cross, the meaning of it, the meaning of dying to self, of giving all to God and letting Him handle our situations, about trusting Him for all things. It's a very important topic.

Our pastor, Rory Grooters, preached this message: Altar Calls: God's Private Places of Testing and Trust. After hearing Pastor Dan's message last week, Come and Die, this message is even more of a reminder of what we are called to do as true believers of Christ.

Like Abraham who took his son, Isaac, to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice per God's request, God sacrificed His son, Jesus. Isaac's life was spared. It was a test for Abraham to see how much he trusted his God's commands. Jesus, although He died, arose to life. (As an aside, Mt. Moriah became the site of today's Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Uh, Jerusalem, Jesus. Isaac, Mt. Moriah. A sacred place to God.) 

The altar is a place of sacrifice. Sacrifice means death. But then death means life, in God's eyes. There are many who can't or will not make that sacrifice…the very first one being giving our lives to Christ. After that the sacrifices should be daily: Here I am, Lord. It is a new day. Take my life and do what you will with it. I am Yours. To die is to live and gain, according to Your plans.

It is important to know that Jesus is Lord. Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life. No one goes to the Father except by Him. This world is in a downward spiral. There is deception by an enemy that we will not be able to run from and which is growing larger and stronger...a real enemy. But Jesus is our hope. 

I know internet, blogs, emails could very well be monitored for content. It seems unlikely that little, ole me would be spotted out, but you never know… I know that standing for the truth could be costly some could cost friends, family, lives. We know that there is an infiltration within our own government of this enemy. Our current president is bowing to it. There are factions within our government who, somewhere down the line have ties to terrorism, to control this nation, to control the world, to kill the infidels! And this particular infidel means anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.

But I know Who the Way, Truth and Life is. I trust that no matter what might happen to me, He will see me through. This trust only comes from laying my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my life down at God's altar, like Jesus did…not My will, but Yours, be done. Yes, not my will, Lord, but Yours.

What do I have to fear in this world? The physical world is governed by men. There is a spiritual world  governed by God. This spiritual world has greater importance. It is important to know the Ruler of this spiritual world. There is a bumper sticker: No peace, no God; Know Peace, Know God. There's more truth to that than you can imagine.

We were called to the altar in church yesterday to place whatever we needed to at the foot of the cross and offer it as a sacrifice. Give it to God and trust He will provide. As pastor told us: the altar calls take us from where we want to be to where God wants us to be. It's where we lay it all on the line. It's where we place our hope in God's hands. We trust God will provide, like He did for Abraham. Like He did for Jesus when He provided life out of death. 

We cannot have hope of any consequence without first knowing Jesus. He showed us what we are to do. He spent time with His Father privately; then went out publicly to do His Father's will. The most impressive and public moment of Jesus' life was after He went into the Garden of Gethsemane and gave Himself to the Father…then He carried His own cross and died…for us.

The altar means we die to self, carry our own cross…sacrifice our own hopes and dreams for God's. It's dying to live and knowing that when we do God will provide. We need to understand the very heart of the meaning of what Jesus did for us.

So, we must sacrifice our own lives, die to self and receive Christ. We must let go of the things that prevent us from knowing the absolute truth of who God is. We must let go of the pride and arrogance of being self-made people. Self must die. With this death, praise God, comes a new life, in Christ, and eternal life at that. We must decrease so God can increase (John 3:30).

Will we be asked to physically give our lives for Christ? We don't know for sure. Some will. Would we be willing to? Or would we deny Christ to save our mortal lives? This is where we need to lay it all at the foot of the cross…now. It's where God's will in our lives gives us the strength, peace and hope for our future…now.

We have an enemy. This enemy is gaining ground. What we see happening in the world today was written about thousands of years ago. If we don't see it, we are truly lost. The enemy did not start in the physical…he is spiritual and has taken root in the very souls of our enemy. If we don't understand this, we will not be prepared. There will be no government to save us. Government cannot save us: only Jesus Christ can.

Are you willing to lose your life for Christ that you might live? Or do you want to save your earthly life…and thus lose it?

Matthew 16:25 - For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. (Amplified version)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Second Chance

Ephesians 1:4-5 - For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will…

Words to a song by Todd Agnew from the song Reached Down: You knew you`d save me long before I called your name. I listened to this song on my way to meet a friend for the day. And the words flowed through my thought, then another, then another.

Long before time began God knew who will receive Him as Lord and Savior which means He knows which will reject Him. He has given us free will to make this choice. He has placed within each of us a part that is empty and needs to be filled. He would prefer we fill it with Him. What we fill it with is up to us. Fill it with the things of God and you can't go wrong. What causes us to maintain our distance from Him is pride, arrogance, inability to handle authority, selfishness...self being the big one!

He already knows. He already knows. Are you going to turn Him down or are you going to let Him do what He does best? Are you going let Him strip you of all the things you should not be and allow Him to make you into the truly great person you can be? We struggle, even those of us who have received Christ, with clinging to those things that bind us, make us captive. We are free in Christ but we haven't totally relinquished everything and that's the sad part and the thing He works on. He whittles away all our lives. 

We think we know who we are but we don't. Not until we are in Christ. Then we know because we ARE in Christ  and that's all that matters. He has new plans for us and, you know, if you aren't satisfied with your life the way it is now, you can change it. Jesus gives us that second chance. And even more chances if you need it...although it's best to take that second change now. Even if you do like the way your life is now, if you receive Him and allow Him to do what He knows is best, not that this is a bad thing as some might think, it's the better thing. He created us so He knows what He created us to be.

He wants everything we do to glorify Him. Some might not like this idea either, not being able to take credit for the things they do. That's where pride and self come in. If we aren't glorifying Him in all we do we are not in His will and we are not His. He will strip away all the yucky stuff in our lives, and this may take a lifetime. But it's not a bad thing. It's a better thing.

He just wants the best for us. Without Him there is no best. There's mediocrity, failure, death and what do we want? In our earthly minds it's hard to imagine that what we have, even if good stuff, and a good life, is nothing in comparison to what He can give to us.

Our second chance is Jesus Christ. If we've messed up or we have a life of frustration or unhappiness or whatever the circumstance is that bogs us down, Jesus is the answer. There was a situation I couldn't change years ago. I went to church for the first time in years and the pastor that morning said that he knew there were people in church that morning who were in the middle of something that they couldn't change…but here was the truth…we would not be able to make that change, but he knew who could and His name is Jesus Christ. And all I needed to do was face that fact and give my life to Christ and allow Him to do the work necessary. I'll tell you, that was the answer I needed. Little did I realize that the work would start with me!! Hah! Not quite what I had in mind...but definitely for the better.

This is what He does. He gives you the strength and wisdom to be able to handle these things. We are called to carry our crosses daily and part of that is going through the hard times…and calling on His help...and praising Him through it all. The situation isn't always going to just change because you receive Christ, although a lot of people are miraculously delivered from addictions. But you make that commitment to Christ first and then things begin to happen. Scripture tells us to seek the Lord first and all the things we truly are in need of are given to us as well (Matthew 6:33). 

Receiving Christ really makes a difference. Not all is a bed of roses but what we face we face with a newfound outlook, strength and peace knowing we are not alone but that Christ is with us in the midst of battle. Even in the world today, which is not looking too good, because we know what God tells us the last days will be like, we know what's in store and yet there's a peace beneath it all that if we hold to the truth of God's word and continue in our walk and trust in the Lord, He will see us through it. It may be through death but when we get through to the other side of the terrible times, we will find we have entered a far greater place. We will be living with God.

Adam and Eve were created to commune with the Father. When they sinned He removed that relationship. So in time He sent Christ to bridge that gap…He made a way, He made the Way…He brought us Jesus on the cross as that bridge. I saw this in my mind's eye as I wrote that: There's the painting by Michaelangelo where God's arm is outstretched and His finger appears to be reaching another…that is Adam's creation. Think of Christ's arms outstretched, one hand reaching for the Father and the other to us in one selfless act of devotion to reconcile us once again with God, being the bridge. Like Adam upon his creation, his birth as it were, he saw God; upon our death, if in Christ, we too will see God face to face.

What's unfortunate, to draw this back to the beginning of this blog, is that there will be many who will reject any notion of this and they will be in their own torment for the rest of their lives and anybody who rejects this chance to receive the Lord…it doesn't matter what your religion says, it doesn't matter. If your church doesn't talk about being born again or promote it or promote the idea of receiving Christ and these words are not in your church language, you can do it outside of that. It's not wrong, not heresy, it's biblical. It's not about being born into one religion or another. It's about you and your personal relationship with God. Do you have that? It's between you and God. 

I do have to apologize…I have said in the past that Christ died for all...but even that comes with restrictions. Christ died for all who come to Him. Not for this denomination or that, not religion. He came for us to be in relationship with Him. With HIM. One on one. Not religion but relationship. His desire is that NONE should perish, but He also knows that not all will receive Him. He's known that since before time began.

The lyrics to that song again: You knew you`d save me long before I called your name. Can you say that for a fact? You can make that happen...and along with it come promises.

Isaiah 43:1-2,7 …thus says the LORD, who created you…and He who formed you…: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  Everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

He Goes Before Me

Luke 14:26-27 - "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple."

Our youth pastor, Dan Wenig, preached on Sunday. For being hired to be head of music ministry a few years ago, he has come a long way in a short time! His message was Come and Die, a message he also preached to his teens. A powerful message...and not just for teens! He said we all know about God's love, His grace, goodness, mercy, but what about what Luke 14 has to say about dropping everything NOW and following? Not on your terms but His. Not when you are ready but when He asks. Not when you feel you're comfortable but at any time. Not because of what the culture dictates but what God's Word says. And will it be all or nothing? Not all things that are easy to do; not all things people are willing to do. 

This fits with something I wrote a long while back about being on the fence. You either are for Jesus or against Him...there's no middle road. And it goes along with Jesus' telling us that following Him is the narrow way...which few travel. This sermon of Pastor Dan's was convicting. I spent the day thinking about it...with still many questions. How much am I doing? Is it enough? Am I in God's will or my own? And worse yet, do we ever really know...?

A song, At the Cross, was sung by our worship team at the end of the sermon and while at the altar I heard one verse out of all the others:
       You go before me
       You shield my way
       Your hand upholds me
       I know You love me

It was like He wanted me to be assured of this. Yes, He does. And we cannot lose sight of this! When we are determined to be His followers and He shows us where and when He wants us to move, He has already gone before us and been at work before us, in so many ways. This is what trusting in Him is all about. He's beside us, before us, behind us and IN us and never leaves our side when we are in His will. He will shield us. We do not need to be perfect; we just need to do. We will all make mistakes in our witness of Him. We overdo, underdo, misspeak, offend by accident, offend on purpose, speak too quickly or not quickly enough. But His hand will still uphold us.

I can honestly say I am still working on this! But in this past week I have seen a couple things transpire where when it was done I stood amazed at what had happened! Because it was so easy, it had to be God. It had to be His Holy Spirit at work, forming the words, causing the conviction that made me think: I HAVE to tell this person what I believe, whether it's taken as something some wacko would say, or hopefully will cause the person to think on has to be said. The truth must be heard. But I am sadly in need of more ability to have ears and eyes being attuned to those things around me. Be more aware of prompting and acting on Pastor Dan said, NOW. Not thinking hours later, "I shoulda said...."

Like I said, his message caused me to think and converse with the Lord, even plead, that I would be counted as one who will carry my cross daily. Who will not allow the comforts of this life to interfere with what God has planned. Again, the question, how do I know I am doing this?

I know it has to do with reacting to the Spirit. Listening to Him speak, feeling His nudge. Are there things I need to let go of (I'm sure there are) in order for more of this to happen? What are they? Is there anything I can do or do I let God do it? Any answers to these questions would be greatly appreciated!

Pastor Dan said for some it is just a lack of commitment. In this earthly life we've had it too good. We're accustomed to creature comforts. There's a scripture that says Jesus had no place to call home. He wandered and relied on others' to board Him. He was always on the move. This is what we are to do...not that we sell our house and wander, although that's pretty much what people who are dedicated to missions work do. We are to give up the creature comforts of our daily lives and be about His business. Oh, it's always easy to "preach to the choir" but what about those who don't even attend church?!

We are told repeatedly we cannot do anything on our own to become saved...and followers of Christ. It's not about how good we are or the wonderful deeds we do. First come into relationship with the Lord, then the works we do will be recognized because they come from our hearts and done with the right glorify God. In Luke 13:24 Jesus told us, however, about one thing we can strive for: Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. There you have it. The narrow gate. The narrow path. The narrow way. Strive to enter that way.

Jesus is the narrow Way. And because of mindsets in this world He is not received as He should be. He is not followed as He should be. He is not taken as seriously as He should be. Is it too uncomfortable? Is it what today's culture believes in? Do we not think this is our time, but later, when we are ready? Will it be our terms or His? Will it be all or nothing? Lots to think about. And believe me, I'm still thinking.

I think we can get hung up with believing we are doing His will when we might not be. We can think we are committed Christians when we are not. We can rationalize...oh, how we can rationalize. 

Following Christ takes commitment. We must hate our father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and our own life also... We must forsake all. We must carry our cross daily. We must die to ourselves daily and as Pastor Dan posited: Sounds pretty final, huh? Jesus did. He left His family, His home. He forsook it all. Then He carried His own cross and died...for those of us who would dare make a commitment to Him. He was our example. How many are willing to do this for the One who did it all for us? 

It doesn't mean we all must leave our families, unless He makes it clear we must. But we must be willing to not stand with the beliefs of those who do not take the Lord seriously. We must be willing to put our foot down and say we cannot do that because it would not be in the best interest for me because the Bible clearly says no to that. That includes standing against abortion, homosexuality, sex before marriage, horoscopes and mediums, even yoga! It doesn't mean hating anyone who believes these, and other things; just not standing with them.

We are to love the Lord our God, Jesus, with all our hearts and all our souls (Luke 10:27). That means we have no other gods before Him (First Commandment). That's the gist of it all. Nothing should mean more than our love for Him. If we seek Him first, all other things will be given to us as well (Luke 12:31). A tall order to be sure. But there are great rewards if we follow these principles. There is a lost and dying world right before us. What commitment do we have to expound on the truth? Remember, He goes before us.
Matthew 10:37 - "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"In Touch With the Mystery"

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...

I have been praying lately that Ephesians 1:17-18 above would penetrate the lives of those who are out of touch(!) with God. I've been chewing on the following information for a couple days, trying to put it into a concept easy to understand. Sorry if it's not! 

I heard a snippet of an old interview between Bill O'Reilly and Deepak Chopra the other day. They were discussing belief in God...and the argument Bill had before about a Creator with Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist and self-proclaimed atheist. 

Before I go any further, I want to say that I am NOT a Chopra follower. When I saw O'Reilly interviewing him, there was a check in my spirit. I had to see just what were his religious beliefs. Here is a quote he made in an article: "I want to offer the possibility that Jesus was truly, as he proclaimed, a savior,” Chopra wrote. “Not the savior, not the one and only Son of God. Rather Jesus embodied the highest level of enlightenment." Chopra does not believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ. He does not claim to even be a Christian. 

However…   But I heard Chopra use the phrase "in touch with the mystery." And having blogged about the mysteries of God and this scripture above this stood out. Chopra said this to O'Reilly: You have to understand the great prophets, Jesus, whoever...they transcended a level where they were in touch with the mysteries. Aha, they were in touch with the mysteries. Bill asked (a couple times) if he believed there is an active Deity who intervenes with the world? There is an active source that is omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and we have a connection to that, Chopra said. He did not say God was that source.

So I ask, okay, how does that connection occur? Is it initiated by us or God? If you listen or read more on Chopra, you will hear him say we can. Yes, there is something within us that desires to know God, but it is initiated by God. It's all about God first, not self. Remember, He is the One who created us and put a desire to know Him within us; we really are not "self-made" men/women. Chopra's beliefs come with terms like self-help, self-growth, self-realization...self-centered concepts. Scripture says we (self) are nothing without God. He chooses us, we respond to this call, we come into relationship with Him and we are reconciled once again with Him. It's a subtle difference, but a difference just the same. He calls, we respond. We do not search ourselves and find the god that is within.... 

Having God within only comes to us through the infilling of the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ…and no other way. (So we need to believe Jesus is the Son of God, one with the Father.) One cannot obtain these mysteries without that relationship with God. It has nothing to do with meditating and going to a "higher" place of enlightenment within one's self. It has everything to do with allowing Jesus into one's heart and soul. We seek God first and we are given revelation of the mysteries (Ephesians 3:3). Only then are eyes are opened to the deep things of God. There is a difference between being in touch and being filled with

     (I understand this difference because I came from a time of seeking self and seeking the power within myself...and psychics, aura reading, numerology, healing stones, Reiki... But for some reason none of this stuff seemed to work for me! It was more frustrating than gratifying. I do believe God had his hand on me knowing that shortly after all this, I would know the truth! For that I praise Him today! Ephesians 5:11 says: And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.)

When we are given, by God, the revelation to these mysteries we are shown how truly fragile this life is and how important it is that we have our eyes fixed on One who will graciously hold us in the palm of His hand and be our eternal, not fleeting, protection, if we truly seek Him. We do not hold our destiny in our own hands. Our Creator does.

This world has nothing as great to give us eternally as Jesus does. Although having this knowledge is amazing, it also is sobering. All we think is great and wonderful in this physical world, and who we really think we are in it, can be removed in the blink of God's eye.  Here's what we are without Him: lost, dead though alive, blind, deceived, disobedient, sinners, enemies of God. We are nothing without Him.

If one does not see the world through God's eyes, this has not happened. If one cannot believe that we are in the midst of some troubling times and can't see what the Bible predicts the future to be like, that power and knowledge is not in them. A hard word for sure. Not meant to condemn but to cause one to ponder.

Seek Jesus. Look up to Him, not within yourself and certainly not to what the world views as important, trustworthy, safe, good. Our life in this world will end. Then what? If one knows Christ the answers (mysteries) are clear. He is willing to save if we are willing to admit our sins and faults and give them over to Him. With a heartfelt confession of sins and faith that He will forgive brings the Holy Spirit of power and knowledge. To know the mysteries one must ask Jesus into his life.

Romans 10:8-11 - But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Great Misconception...Or If, Then

Ephesians 2:8-9 - For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Heavenly Father, open hearts and minds to receive and understand these words. Remove all pride and take blinders off that the message may be received graciously. You were a gentle Man, Jesus, with hard words. Penetrate hard, stubborn and rebellious hearts and minds. In Your name I pray, Jesus. Amen.

There is a misconception that IF we know with our minds that there is a God and that Jesus is His Son and that we only acknowledge Him in this way, we are Christians. I was among those with this understanding. No one was going to tell me that I needed more than that belief. I had gone to church as a child and young adult but it was not doing much for me. Besides, I knew who Jesus was and what He did for me; what more did I need?

Yes, this is a repeat of past blogs on this subject. I'm hoping each time I write it a new thought will make it's way through my fingers and more importantly, into hearts and minds. 

The idea that if we know there is a God and know who Jesus is and that's all we need hinders His true intent. We are not true Christians until we have made a heart attitude change toward Him. Sound like a narrow view? It is. 

Jesus said Himself that the gate is small and the road narrow that leads to life...and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14) Look at that statement and where it comes from...first book of the New Testament, seventh chapter...mighty close to the beginning. It didn't take long to show us what is required, did it? We need to shed the misconceptions and listen to His words more clearly.

He also said that there will be those who think they are followers of Christ. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21) There could be, and very will be, even members of the clergy who will think they've done a great work for God only to be turned away. If that can happen to them, what about us? Gives one pause...

The Bible is filled with "if" statements regarding who we truly are in Christ and who He actually calls His children. "If" may be a small word but one whose meaning is powerful. It means the difference between the small gate and narrow road which few find and the wide gate and wide road that lead to destruction. It means the difference between being saved or not, going to heaven or not. I'm not making this up. 

Jesus is not a game. He is not just a passing thought. He is to be our Source, our life, our rock...and our salvation. None other. Knowing and following do or you don't. "If" scriptures give us a glimpse of all His promises. Here are a few:

"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed." John 8:31
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. John 15:7
"...but [if you] drink of the water that I shall give [you] will never thirst. But the water that I shall give [you] will become in [you] a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." 
John 4:14
If you love Me, [you will] keep My commandments. John 14:15
If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. John 13:17
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. 2Timothy 2:12
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:13
For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 1Thessalonians 3:8
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 1Peter 3:13

There are always provisions in the scriptures. God's promises are for those who are obedient to Him. We will never be perfect, I might add. He doesn't expect that. He does expect a good, heartfelt try! And He knows the motivations of our hearts. The provisions are in these "if" statements. If we seek Him, He will... If we obey Him, He will... If we confess Him, He will... Not always easy "then" statements. Like a father sometimes has to exhibit tough love on a child, so does our Heavenly Father. It's because He loves us and wants none to perish. But it's all about our choice. Either we believe, follow, trust, obey, seek or we can choose not to.

It's not about religion or denomination. It's about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Again, we will never be perfect, but if we confess our sins...and this is an immediate the Father, right now wherever we are...He is faithful to forgive. Confession is mandatory. 

We cannot say we are saved if we have not done what the Bible says is mandatory. Those things are to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our life, receive Him as our only means of salvation, turn from our old lifestyles because the old man has gone and the new has emerged, and then seek Him daily through prayer, song, dancing (like David did), and all you do. 

One last "if" statement: 

Romans 10:9-10 - If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.