Monday, December 28, 2015

Be Lifted Up

John‬ ‭3:30-31‬ ‭- He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

I attended a different church in Arizona this past weekend. We sang a wonderful song I'd never heard before, Be Lifted Up. Very simple song, with powerful message.

The first verse of the scripture above came to mind...He must increase, but I must decrease. We humble ourselves before Him. That means bowing. Then...He will lift us up. As I read the context of scripture it added to the meaning. Again! It's all about Him...and has nothing to do with me...without Him. He must increase while I must decrease. Who knows best? I still need a better realization of this. 

Then this came to mind: 
Abide in Me, and I 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. ‭‭(John‬ ‭15:4-5‬)

Jesus, the vine. Me, a branch. I can do nothing (worthwhile) without Him. I cannot live without His giving me my next breath. To do the will of the Father, I must submit and allow Him to be the Lord of my life. How well am I doing, I wonder sometimes?

Do you notice the order of things? He must increase...first...but I must decrease. Perfect sense. He is Alpha and Omega, First and Last. He, according to the opening scripture, is above all. That automatically puts us lower. To bow...mmmm...lower still. 

In just a few short lines of the song, a very powerful message was brought forth. It came from scripture. Scripture is God's truth. God does not lie. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. We can rely on Him, if we first bow humbly before Him. If we do, He alone will lift us up. Hallelujah! 

He sustains those who bow to Him. He is near to those who call upon Him. He fulfills our desires if we look to Him in reverence. He saves and preserves only those whosoever shalls who call on the name of the Lord, and willingly bow before Him. Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:3,John‬ ‭3:7‬)
...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.” For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans‬ ‭10:9-11,13‬)

Man is stubborn. Man wants his own way. Man in rebellion to God determines his own eternal fate. The Bible says today is the day of salvation. Why delay?

Psalm 145:14-15,18-20‬ ‭- The LORD upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The LORD preserves all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Good Tidings

Luke‬ ‭2:15,18‬ ‭- So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

I'm often amazed, and yet not, at the order of God's things. We know this to be part of the great plan of God to bring a Savior into the world to take away all sins. 

The shepherds were the first to be told of this Child's birth. Not the wise men. The lowly shepherd. ...the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." ‭‭(Luke‬ ‭2:10‬)

They responded...right away. When they shared what had happened, how they got there, the people marveled at their words.

This same news is given by someone to someone else daily. Do not be afraid, it is good tidings and great joy for all people. Will you respond? Do not is good tidings of great joy. How could it not? This Child became a Man who chose to die for you that your sins might be forgiven. Do not be afraid to respond to the good tidings. It will be a joyous decision. It's for all people.

Good tidings, of course, is good news, gospel, preaching. From Strong's Concordance: glad tiding are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him; instruct concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation. More of the definition of a root word: messenger, envoy, one who is sent, an angel. Anyone willing to share this gospel is a messenger.

I suspect in almost every instance the word comes from one who has also had a messenger sent to bring them the good news. By experience and sent by word of mouth. Sometimes God Himself will appear!

These shepherds, lowly as they were, shared some pretty amazing news. People marveled.

I still marvel at how I came, like the shepherds, to Christ. Not quite the same purpose, but I'll bet they left that manger, that Child, with a new outlook on life. I know I did. They heard and saw the good news. They saw Who would be the source of their new life.

Imagine if every person who heard the gospel message responded in the same way, Let us now go and see this thing that has come to pass. Imagine the difference it would make in this world. Imagine less evil, less crime, less hatred, less war. 

But those who do respond can know those good tidings. They can marvel at what the good tidings bring, the peace and joy that comes as a result. It helps to have this in this day and age. 

Christ came. Why do we celebrate if we don't really receive Him? I can understand those who are totally offended. They don't know Him. There are many who believe in Him but still have not truly received Him. It's more than just hearing. It's responding to the call to repent.

Hear the good tidings this season. Listen to the messengers who proclaim the gospel message, fearlessly and steadily. Believing that being born into a certain denomination or church or infant baptism will bring salvation is not all there is to this issue of salvation. The shepherds heard...they received the word and went to see. They knelt before the Child. They bowed humbly before this Child. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke‬ ‭2:20‬)
Our hearts are to be bowed humbly before Him for the great thing that He has done. The shepherds heard and responded. May we all hear and respond to the call for salvation. What a great time of year for this. The Christmas songs will have more meaning. He is calling. Let your hearts be rent. May you fall on your knees before Christ. 

Acts‬ ‭2:37-39‬ ‭‬‬- Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

God Prepares

Psalm 147:5 - Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.

Reading the account in Luke the other morning about Zacharias and Elizabeth and how God intervened in their lives to bring forth a son, John (the Baptist), who would in the appropriate time announce Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. (Luke 1)

It reminded me of something I read previously in our study of Revelation and which I've known for a long time: that God is in control and that every day He is working out His plan. We don't see it but He is setting the stage in all of our lives. We might run into someone ever so briefly but they might be there for a reason.

Here's what the study said: What lengthy struggle has God required you to endure? Is He calling you to keep praying, to keep trusting Him with deep emotional wounds, sickness or loneliness? How can you rely on His provision when you do not see resources? Think deeply about the characteristics of God as a source of peace and strength. Know He loves you, and His timing incorporates greater purposes than you can understand. (Bible Study Fellowship, Lesson 12...emphasis is mine!)

Exactly! I've long believed that God works behind the scenes putting circumstances and people in order to bring about His will in everyone's life. We may not always respond the way we should, especially if we do not know this. But if we do know, we can look at circumstances differently. We can know that what we see is just part of His plan and to pretty much go with the flow. We can trust that: For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah‬ ‭55:9)‬ ‭Praise God for that! 

Back to Luke 1. Just months before Mary would conceive Jesus, the stage was being set for John to usher Him in years later. All part of His plan. And as we read in Luke 1 we see odd things happening: Zacharias loses his ability to speak, barren Elizabeth conceives. Mary conceives, without knowing a man, at the six-month time of Elizabeth's pregnancy, and my favorite part, when Mary visits Elizabeth: And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Luke‬ ‭1:41‬) That yet unborn baby John knew the presence of that yet born Savior of the world. Nothing is impossible with God, to coin a scripture!

We won't be told for what purpose things are happening, although God could do that. But we have these past experiences to stand on. God is in control. Our lives are all intertwined somehow. I know you, you know me. Maybe we don't see a connection, but there's a good chance there is. Hmmmm.

It's not always about a struggle, either, although it's when we are waiting (im)patiently or having to endure something that we might wonder why. Just trust in the Lord. Pray about the situation. Let Him know you are, or want to, trust Him for His results.

Proverbs 3:5-7a - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes...  

Monday, December 14, 2015

An Announcement and A Decision

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 
And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)

Imagine being confronted with a similar issue. Doesn't need to be about bearing a child! What if God was calling you to be His child!? It was an announcement.

Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:34-38)

Mary heard, she understood, she wondered how. But she made a crucial decision. She didn't fully grasp the enormity of it all yet, but she knew she had been confronted by a messenger of God. She accepted.

It's not much different than God calling us, choosing become His child. We should consider it a blessing and rejoice at His urging.

Mary hadn't known a man, in the physical context. We do not know the Man, Jesus, in a spiritual way, until we receive the power of the Holy Spirit, to be born of the Spirit. But first we need to respond as Mary did: Let (this new life in Christ with His Spirit within me) be to me according to your word

Being born of the Spirit. Being overpowered by the Son of God Himself. Nothing is impossible with God. Do you realize the privilege of having God living inside? Mary knew in one sense. So can we in another. Christ in me, the hope of glory. It's never too late to allow this to happen. He is always calling; He is always sending a messenger.

John‬ ‭3:5-7‬ ‭- Jesus answered, Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again.”

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Give You My Word

Nehemiah‬ ‭8:1-2,5-6,8-10 - Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The words, The joy of the Lord is my strength, popped into my head this morning. And I went to that passage to read. When was the last time God's Word caused you to weep? There are days when I weep at the Word the Lord has given us. Tears of joy, sorrow, comfort, anger, frustration...all emotions. Our HEARTS should be rejoicing in His Word...and bowing before this awesome God. His Word is life and truth. Sometimes I wish there was a way to explain how my heart feels like bursting! Is the joy of the Lord your strength

I'm thankful for a God who cares so much that He has given us His Word as a guide. Sometimes people will say, I give you my word, as a (sometimes loosely spoken) promise. God is not slack regarding His
promises, though (2Peter 3:9). All those promises written are for us to hang on to because this God will not change His mind. They were written, they stand, they will happen. Hmmm, He was, and is, and is to come! 

Oh, some are good promises. The free gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, is one. Another, however, is a day when He returns to judge the world and especially those who did not receive His free gift. That judgment upon unbelievers brings eternal death and separation from Him. That's a promise also. 

You can't separate God from His Word. It is Him. Not only did He give us this written Word, He gave us His Word, His only Son, in the flesh! Proof of His Word. His Word which was, and is, alive. 

I'm thankful for a church which takes the time to read from the Book, just the Book...and allows for discussion, meaning, understanding. I've wept in Sunday school and in church, too.

It's true. The joy of the Lord is my strength. How else can I explain why I do not fear death or the things happening in the world? In our weakness He is made strong. I trust that to be the case should something arise, which I'm sure it will. Trust in Him, rejoice in Him during the trouble. Just what He says we should do. Imagine doing the absolute opposite of what we would normally be inclined to do. It might take a reminder. 

I pray this strength never wanes for anything that might come in a more personal way. Often in dire circumstances is when our faith is truly tested. Lord, let that faith never fail but let it be strengthened all the more. Your Word is true and just. Don't let me fail to remember, Lord. Help me to recognize Your voice reminding me! 

God has given us His Word, both in writing and in the flesh. Let's earnestly trust that Word. It's the only thing we can hang our hats on! Don't understand the Word? He can help through the power of His Holy Spirit. It takes commitment.

If you have never made a decision to trust God for your life, you can do it today. It's a choice you make to truly take Him at His Word and take that Word into your heart, both written and flesh! Submit to Jesus, call on His name and receive Him. If there is a circumstance that is troubling, whatever it might be, He is the solution to the problem. Call on Him to help, strengthen, comfort. If you truly desire it, He will respond and you will know. 

Hebrews‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭- Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

My Simplistic Mind

John‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭- ...but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.

Today on my walk in my favorite park, I started at the old quarry, like I usually do. It has been made into a lake, Trout Lake. In a couple of small coves the Canadian geese congregate each morning to chat before flying off someplace. And there they were, honking, splashing and congregating. 

I started taking a path through the woods and was alongside a stream. At one part of the stream it opened up to a swampy area and there were more geese just bobbing around in the water or sitting on exposed logs. So I followed the gently flowing, relaxing stream along the path when all of a sudden I realized I was taking picture after picture of the water. I came upon a very small waterfall and it was beautiful. Snap, another picture. Video too. 

Before I knew it my mind went right to the things of God. It dawned on me this water, which was so peaceful to listen to, was like streams of living water that flow from the very throne of God and that Jesus is our living water. If we drink of Him we will never be thirsty. We will be refreshed. I got to thanking and praising Him for the new, eternal life He has given me. 

He provides what we need. He gives us peace. He will, in due time(s), give us the strength we need. If we are truly following Him He will give us the wisdom and discernment for all our situations. 

I thank Him that I can look at what's going on in this world and see it through His eyes. I don’t know how others feel about the world situation or whether they try to figure out what has caused it to happen, but my simple mind just always goes right back to Genesis. 

When God created all things and then created man to enter into this world to subdue it and live in harmony with God and His creation, that was the perfect life He desired for us to have. We all know what went wrong…a serpent entered into their garden, hung by a certain tree, tempting Eve, and changed their world in a heartbeat…by a mere bite of a piece of forbidden fruit. End of paradise. That’s my simple explanation. The rest is history. All pride, hatred, self-centeredness, immorality, killing and so much more, came to be. 

So over 6,000 years later here we are, reaping in even greater measure. None of it has been a surprise to God. He has tried and was able to get His people to be obedient time after time, but He also saw the failures of man. Self-will was just too great. Self! Me this, me that. Gimme, gimme, gimme. These all come from that same serpent from the Garden. And we listen, just like Eve did, like Adam decided to also do. The temptation to do as we wish is so great. 

So what does any of this have to do with my walk and the stream. The living water, of course. I don’t have all the answers for what goes on in the world. But Jesus does. He has called us, as hard as it is sometimes, many times, to love our enemies. How do we do that when they hate us? How do we do that when some hearts are drawn to evil? Even God hated what had happened. We are to forgive because He will avenge some day, like He did in Noah's day when the world was in a similar situation as ours.
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis‬ ‭6:5-8‬)

The Book of Revelation shows us that there will be another time like the days of Noah above. We will not be deluged by rain but by fire.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
‭‭(2Peter‬ ‭3:10).  So, how will we fare in the eyes of the Lord on that day?

The Bible tells us that purification is by fire. Israel was tested through affliction. We are definitely experiencing some affliction in this world. When this final fire arrives, God's purification will take place. All evil will be removed and that serpent in his rightful place with a fitting name, the Lake of Fire. And others will be there too. But, if we stand fast on God's Word, trust Him for the future, stand by His truth, believing all He says, we will come through this fire...into a new world, a pure world, with an honest, just, loving ruler, Jesus Christ Himself. We will reign with Him! 

So my simple mind is believing what He says will come to pass. He has given us the signs. If we search scripture we will see and understand by the power of His Spirit what those signs are. I believe we are seeing signs day by day. I do not believe things will ever be back to normal. And how do I feel about that? Come, Lord Jesus! If you do not see this, it is time to acknowledge Him, repent of your sins, turn from them, and follow Him. He will then show you.

My simple mind (come as little children, Jesus says) believes in Jesus as the living water. I drink from those living streams. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who is holding me. That's not in the Bible but the concept is there. Who do you trust? Another person, yourself, a job, money, government? Or do you choose to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who knows the times and the seasons, beginning from the end because He IS the Beginning and the End. He was there in Genesis and He was there at the writing of Revelation, announcing His return, and what we will see prior to that. That time is near (Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:10) He has told us many times the time is near. Jesus said three times He is coming soon. Do you believe it? He HAS shown us in His Word. It has played out before. Like the Ark's door closed, the next door will close permanently. Jesus is that door. God holds the power to close it. 

Don't be a scoffer and claim you've heard this all before and He hasn't returned yet. His plans have been taking shape. He will. It's been prophesied many times. In our Revelation class this was said: God's judgment on unbelievers is certain, final and inescapable. Remember that fire? Inescapable. We also heard this: We are not experiencing out of control events [in this world]; it is all part of God’s plan. He WILL return. We all need to be ready. 

Isaiah‬ ‭46:8-10,12-13‬ ‭- Remember this, and show yourselves men; recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure... Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger...."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

All Spiritual Authority

Romans 13:1 - Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Do you see that? God is all the spiritual authority we need. And since spiritual authority is greater than human authority, instead of looking only to our world leaders, spiritual or secular, for answers, we should be looking to God. No man, no matter who he says he is, has all spiritual authority. And sometimes they do not look to God for their authority. 

In a study in Revelation I am taking we are constantly reminded that we look up. We are not to concern ourselves with anything else. We are spending the next few months learning about the last days, the end times, the great Day of the Lord, whatever you want to name it. While we are not to fear what will transpire, or when it will (because it will be quite evident when it is just around the corner; maybe already is), we are being directed to the Lord each week in our lesson. We are being reminded to trust Him alone, to be certain of our relationship with Him so that our assurance and hope will lie strictly in Him, not the world. We look to wisdom from above, not ourselves or man. I know I sound like a broken record, but it's all about God. Once we get that seared into our minds and hearts our lives are more at rest.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭11:29-30‬)
And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
‭‭(John‬ ‭6:35‬)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel "...I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”
‭‭(Jeremiah‬ ‭31:23,25‬)

I was given a CD from a friend. One song reminds us that as believers we are not of this world, rather we are strangers in it. We are not, as the Word says, to be conformed to this world. In other words, if Jesus was despised for what He taught, we will be too for sharing His teachings. 

We might feel we walk this life alone, that we might be called fools and life would might not always be easy, that we will still experience physical death, but all His promises of never leaving us, being by our side during, or waiting on the other side after, difficulty, His love, strength, grace, light, will always be there...when the world will fail. He will be our anchor, He still confounds the wise, and we just trust in Him. Greatest of all, He will wipe every tear from our eyes some day. All those tears because of what we lived on this earth.

That's why it's all about Him. No man can do these things. No man can promise anything even remotely near to what the Lord can. This is what He does for those who earnestly seek Him and why I keep saying that! I don't care if I appear a fool, or get tired sounding. It's what Jesus would teach! 

He is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. All, all, all. The Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, First and Last, who was and is and is to come. The ancient of Days. That's 
ALL.ALL.ALL. In heaven and on earth. 

Matthew 28:18 - And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth."