Proverbs 21 6-21-20

Want to be like Christ? He tells us how. All we have to do is…depend on Him for everything–and do what He did.

3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Romans 12:9-11 is a great place to start:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Let’s break it down:

  1. Focus- We need our attention to be on what is good. Keep our minds open to the presence and participation of His Spirit in everything.
  2. Diligence- Our devotion to Christ and to our brothers and sisters in Christ needs to be consistent. We should never give up. Maybe it should be called the Practice of Christianity (like practicing law or medicine).
  3. Action- If we are not moving forward, then we are drifting backward. “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going [drifting] down to the grave.” Proverbs 15:24
  4. Renewal- The Spirit gives us strength, tenacity, and determination to keep working at it. We are always successful, even if it’s just in the fact that we never give up trying. It counts.
  5. Reward- For this we look at verse 12: We will be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” These are characteristics of Jesus. We are most like Him when the Spirit creates these traits in us. How do we get them? Through practice, tenacity and determination; by not ever giving up.

I told the story of the two frogs the other day. I’ll tell it again:

Two frogs found themselves in a large can of milk out on the farm one day. They swam and swam until one of them gave up and “croaked.” The other kept swimming until he felt something under his flippers. It was butter! He swam a while more and then used the butter to jump out of the can. Tenacity won the day!

Our desire to please Jesus comes from His Spirit within us. As we struggle, He uses our struggles to recreate Himself in us. We become like Jesus! Is this good news? Yes and no. Yes in the fact that we are becoming like our Savior, but no in that we will continue to struggle. We can take great comfort in the fact that Jesus struggled His whole life here on earth. We also can take great comfort in His peace that He offers us along with His love and His joy. He also gives us hope, mercy and grace each time we need it–which is all the time (or seems like)!

Today, let’s worship our Savior and Lord with all our hearts and thank Him for winning the war for us ahead of time. Our battles now take on a whole new perspective.

Abba, may You continue to conform us into the image of Your Son. Jesus, You are our Hero! We want to be just like You. We worship You today, thanking You and blessing You as our Savior and our God. Amen.

Critique of #9 part two, Jesus Is Coming Soon 6-4-20

One of the things I like about posting is the feedback I get. In this case, I need to make some adjustments and clarifications to what I said. The blue print is what I have either added or changed from the original. The red print is either a link or is the subjective material.

Here is the second half of #9 of the Top 10 Things I Would Like to Say

Their importance is not necessarily rated, but their order has a flow to it. They move from initial contact to ultimate destiny.

  1. Absolute truth is based upon empirical, changeless evidence. When followed to its logical conclusion, it must stand the closest scrutiny.
  2. Debating Evolution vs. Creation does no one any good unless a person is willing to consider that the other person may be right. 
  3. Faith comes by hearing; are you ready to listen?
  4. Why I believe in Jesus.
  5. We are designed to create, but not by ourselves. The Spirit wants to create with us!
  6. Every decision we make shifts our direction, vision, and course. How much depends upon the decision, and how long depends upon our own stubbornness.
  7. Jesus is Jewish.
  8. We owe quite a debt to Israel.
  9. Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready?
  10. What awaits us in heaven?

24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips. [Jesus is coming soon]
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you. [Jesus is coming soon]
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways. [Jesus is coming soon]
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil. [Jesus is coming soon]

#9 Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready? Part 2

Yesterday, I made the statement that mankind will not know the hour, day, or year when Jesus is coming back, but we can know the season. Today, we look at His actual coming.

The best verses are in Revelation 19 where John describes the Second Coming:

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Let’s break it down:

  1. The doors to heaven were standing open.
  2. Jesus was on a white horse as opposed to the donkey He rode into Jerusalem.
  3. His names are Faithful and True, the Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, plus there is a name that only He knows!
  4. His robe is dipped in blood–whose blood, it doesn’t say. It could be His; it could be His enemies’.
  5. The many crowns represent His sovereignty over all kingdoms.
  6. Saints that have died are with Him! They are dressed in white (the big tell), and they don’t have weapons–they don’t need them. Jesus strikes down His enemies with the sword of His mouth. How? The same way He created the universe with His words. He will pronounce words of judgement and voila! Done. Somewhere in this process, those saints meet up with their earthly bodies that are glorified and the saints that are still alive on earth join them (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
  7. The beast and the false prophet are cast into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 

If we were to keep reading, it just gets better and better!

There are other clues to the imminent return of Christ: This is how Satan does business:

  1. One world currency
  2. The mark of the beast
  3. Worldwide communication
  4. Treaties and kingdom coalitions. “We are focused on fruit while the world is focused on success.” Ricky Griffin

These we all have now. What we DON’T have is a peace treaty between Israel and her surrounding countries. Clinton tried it in 2000, but failed. President Trump initiated a peace plan in 2017 that is still underway. PEACE. That peace plan may be the very thing that allows Israel to build her temple.

There is another vie on the temple in Ezekiel 43-48. In fact, the LORD did away with the old sacrificial system with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. It’s very likely that He will NOT allow it to be reconvened. If so, then we must consider a different interpretation of the building of that temple.

1. It may be the specifications for the temple Zerubbabel built upon returning to Jerusalem after the deportation; there is not mention of it, but the timing is right.

2.It could be plans for Herod’s temple built in 6 BC, but he really just renovated and added to the current structure.

3. It could be a spiritual temple, which relates to the building of Christ’s kingdom using believers as “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). If so, then the river that begins at the temple door and passes right by the altar (Ezekiel 47:1) could represent the Gospel: God’s gift of salvation (the temple door) through the shed blood of Jesus (the altar), that grows and fills the land (like a mustard seed-Matthew 13:31-32).

At the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will renew all things, so we do not lay up for ourselves treasures here on earth, but heavenly treasures (Matthew 6:19-21).

How shall we prepare? Peter tells us how:

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way [the old world passing a way by fire], what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… 2 Peter 3:11-12, 14-15

Solomon said it best, though, when it comes to evangelism:

10 If you falter in a time of trouble [don’t look back], how small is your strength [weak is your faith, double-minded is your heart]! 11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). Let’s BE THOSE HARVESTERS!

One more thing: Each year, I get really excited when Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) rolls around. Why? I’m glad you asked! Jesus fulfilled four of the seven Jewish festivals, which, by the way, were instituted by God, with His death (Passover and Unleavened Bread), resurrection (First Fruits), and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). If He did it with the first four, I believe that He will fulfill the last three just as literally. The New Year is begun with the Feast of Trumpets, then 10 days later is the Day of Atonement, and then the Feast of Tabernacles/Ingathering. These easily translate into The Return, The Judgement, and Heaven. We may not know the day, hour, or year, but we CAN know the season! This year, Rosh Hashanah is Friday, September 18 through Sunday, September 20 (the trumpet can be blown anytime during these days). It seems a bit early according to other prophecies, but–who knows? Christ may surprise us all!

I believe that God is preparing His church for a final push; whether it’s global revival or gleanings, I don’t know. I believe that God is spreading His kingdom today at an exponential rate, especially in the middle East, Africa and Asia–anywhere there is persecution. I believe that He is training me for something specific. He has not revealed it to me, and probably won’t until it’s time or close to time to do whatever it is for which He is training me. In the meantime, I am staying close to Him with my eyes fixed on Him; I am writing down everything He is saying to me, and trying to memorize as much Scripture as I can. I am trying to whittle down my testimony and the Gospel presentation to their essential points so that I can share them quickly and concisely. And, I am praying for God’s Spirit to move in your heart and all who read my posts along with those who meet with me for prayer each Wednesday morning.

What is God calling you to do to prepare for what is coming?

Abba, I pray that You will impress upon the hearts of Your children what it is that You want us to do, whether it’s to get up earlier and read more in Your Word, to make lists of people and pray for them, or to talk to our neighbors, coworkers, and even random people to find out what their spiritual needs are–and then to meet them. May we all make ourselves available to You for WHATEVER You have for us to do. We are Yours. Do with us as You will. Amen.

Critique of #9, Jesus is Coming Soon, 6-3-20

One of the things I like about posting is the feedback I get. In this case, I need to make some adjustments and clarifications to what I said. The blue print is what I have either added or changed from the original. The red print is either a link or is the subjective material.

Here is #9 of the Top 10 Things I Would Like to Say:

Their importance is not necessarily rated, but their order has a flow to it. They move from initial contact to ultimate destiny.

  1. Absolute truth is based upon empirical, changeless evidence. When followed to its logical conclusion, it must stand the closest scrutiny.
  2. Debating Evolution vs. Creation does no one any good unless a person is willing to consider that the other person may be right. 
  3. Faith comes by hearing; are you ready to listen?
  4. Why I believe in Jesus.
  5. We are designed to create, but not by ourselves. The Spirit wants to create with us!
  6. Every decision we make shifts our direction, vision, and course. How much depends upon the decision, and how long depends upon our own stubbornness.
  7. Jesus is Jewish.
  8. We owe quite a debt to Israel.
  9. Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready?
  10. What awaits us in heaven?

21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,
    preserve sound judgment and discretion;
22 they will be life for you,
    an ornament to grace your neck.

#9 Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready? Part 1

This entire section is under reconstruction. As new light has appeared on my horizon, I am seeing Revelation with different eyes beginning with its date of composition, which may have been around 65 A.D, in which case most of the events that happen in it are concerning the fall of Jerusalem and the complete destruction of the temple, thus putting a definitive end to the sacrificial system.

A premillennial dispensational view:

Believing like I do that John had his vision of Jesus and heaven in 90+A.D, Christians have been looking for the Return of Christ for over 1900 years. He said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done [on account of Me].” Revelation 22:12. From our perspective, it would seem that he is dragging His feet. But, Peter explained that, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to [at least, an understanding of] repentance [with an opportunity to respond].” 2 Peter 3:9.

At the same time, Daniel, Jesus, Paul and John gave us some really good clues to know the season of His Coming. It is into those that we will delve today. Just be aware that mankind is not to know the day or the hour or even the year–but, we can know the season!

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. Daniel 9:25-26

This part is understandable as we look back on history. Jerusalem was rebuilt in 445 B.C. and Daniel’s seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens” equal 490 years, which just happens to be the year that Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. He died that week. The next part, after the destruction of Jerusalem, becomes very vague:

 The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary [the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.]. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:25-27

Since the temple was destroyed and has not been rebuilt yet, we can assume that this ruler is yet to come. For insight as to who he is, we go to Matthew 24:15, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—” and then to 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” 

Now we KNOW it hasn’t happened, yet. The interesting part is that since the miraculous revival of Israel in 1948 and her subsequent victories over her enemies, there has been a push to have everything ready for the temple when it is built for the fourth and last time–even down to the Red Heifer! Update on the Building of the Third Temple

Verses 6-8 describe how it will go down:

6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.

There are many theories as to who the “One” is who now holds the antichrist back. I personally think that it is the Holy Spirit as He uses the Church to stand in the gap; this is where we stand today. Eventually, somehow, we get removed and the antichrist is finally free to do as he pleases.

Caveat: To know specifically how the antichrist will take over the world, read the following verses of 9-12. I think that you will see what I see: Control of the press, made-to-order miracles (like vaccines for viruses that were manufactured), manipulated video, and other such things. At the same time, I know that God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and if we fervently ask, He might grant another worldwide revival to thwart the evil one’s plans once again. People need Jesus more than ever before!

So far, we’ve just looked at what will happen to set up Christ’s Return. Tomorrow, we will look at His actual Return. Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you…Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:4, 42. Let’s put our hope, our faith and our trust in Him. Let’s share our hope, faith and trust with those around us. LET’S SHARE JESUS!

Abba, I pray that this post will not scare anyone, but will motivate every Christian to be about the Father’s (Your) business. It’s time to scrap the “American Dream” and adopt a heavenly one. YOU ARE COMING SOON! We not only want to be ready, we want to be found as diligent, good and faith servants. Call us to the battle, LORD. Make us ready! Amen.

Critique of #8 We Owe a Debt to Israel June 2, 2020

One of the things I like about posting is the feedback I get. In this case, I need to make some adjustments and clarifications to what I said. The blue print is what I have either added or changed from the original. The red print is either a link or is the subjective material.

We dealt a little bit concerning this subject in yesterday’s post. “We owe a debt of gratitude to Israel and should help/evangelize them every chance we get, ‘For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the [Christian] Jews to share with them their material blessings. Romans 15:27.’”

For instance, in 1973, war was–yet again–declared on Israel. Prime Minister Golda Meir called President Richard Nixon and asked for help. According to reports, Nixon’s mother had raised him on Bible stories and had instructed him that if he ever had an opportunity to assist Israel, do it. Nixon told PM Golda Meir, “What do you need?” Here’s the scoop:

Nixon Administration initiated Operation Nickel Grass, an American airlift to replace all of Israel’s lost munitions. This was huge – planeload after planeload of supplies literally allowed munitions and materiel to seemingly re-spawn for the Israeli counter effort. 567 missions were flown throughout the airlift, dropping over 22,000 tons of supplies. An additional 90,000 tons of material were delivered by sea. How Richard Nixon Saved Israel

For a nation that is mostly agnostic or atheist, it doesn’t seem to deserve or even want our gratitude. Some denominations teach that Jews are Christ-killers. Technically, it was the Romans who crucified Christ, and the mob was more than likely seeded with rabble-rousers, much like the protests going on downtown. Not only that, it was for OUR sins that He hung on the cross. No one took His life; He laid it down. Here are Jesus’ own words:

No one takes it away from me; on the contrary, I lay it down of my own free will. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. This is what my Father commanded me to do.” John 10:18

So, no one killed Christ, yet we all killed Christ. To call a Jew a Christ-killer is the pot calling the kettle black.

The history of Israel is about the Coming of the Messiah. He was foretold in Genesis 12:3 in the prophecy of God to Abraham and explained by Peter in Acts 3:21-26:

19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ 24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs [those of you who will receive Jesus as Messiah] of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your [spiritual] offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’

God is blessing all the nations through Abraham. How can He cut off His own people? The question is, “Who are Abraham’s children?” To say that the LORD has disregarded His people is to call Him a liar. The New Covenant that is spoken of in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and is reiterated in Hebrews 8:8-12 is the very covenant that He has made with us-all who trust in Jesus! In John 8:39, the religious leaders claimed to be Abraham’s children. Jesus told them that their father was the devil (v44). Galatians 3:7 says that those who believe in Jesus Christ are children of Abraham.

So, when we think of Israel and the Promise, we must always think of her and it as the root of the tree of salvation. An olive tree may die above ground, but its root system lives for thousands of years. In fact, the trees in the Garden of Gethsemane are claimed to be 1500 years old, but the roots may go back before Christ! If Israel and the Promise are our root, then Paul’s statement in Romans 11:17-18 is quite appropriate:

17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. [Even so, we are all equal in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29).]
NOTE: I have a shirt from Israel with verse 18 on it. It has a Star of David on it encircled by a fish. LOGO

One day, we ALL will live in Israel (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 with Acts 1:10-11), and eventually, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-4). Let us pray that Israel will awaken to their Messiah! The sooner they do (Isaiah 45:17; actually, the entire chapter is Messianic in nature), the sooner we get to go be with Jesus. Actually, it began in Acts 2 and has branched out from there. Those who are in Adonai will find justice and glory (Isaiah 45:17-25).

From Dr. Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries:

“By way of reminder and as the leader of this historic mission to the Jewish people, I believe that Jewish people need to accept Jesus to have a place in the age to come (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, John 3:16–17). I do not believe that anyone is capable of keeping the Law to the extent that their human efforts would somehow satisfy God’s demands for righteousness, enabling the individual to enter heaven on their own merit. (Galatians 2:15–16, 3:23–25, Romans 10:2–4 ff.) Jewish people are saved by grace through faith, just like everyone else!”

Mark 16 The End of the Beginning!

The End of the Beginning-David Phelps

Here we are, folks. One more day and night until we celebrate the RESURRECTION! Actually, we celebrate it EVERYDAY, but it becomes even more real when we gather together on the birthday of the NEW COVENANT. I wish I could be with you in person, but “virtual Sunday’s Cool” will have to suffice. Be sure to join me on Facebook or ZOOM tomorrow at 11:00.

From tomorrow on, Jesus begins to spread the word of what is now awaiting all who trust in Him.

Jesus Has Risen

It started first with the angel, “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” v. 6-7

Next came the two on the road to Emmaus, Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? v31-32 I LOVE the disciples’ description of what it is like to have the LORD explain Scriptures to them. I desire the same experience every morning! It’s why I get up each day. For what do you get up each day? I pray it is to have Jesus open your mind to Himself in the Scriptures.

Next came the rest of the disciples. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 351 OT Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. v44-45

The rest of the REVEALING is where we come in: Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and [as you go,] make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The “I’m with you always” part is what the cross is all about! His continuous presence and participation in our lives is what He intended. Was it your intention when you asked Him into your heart? Today is a good day to tell Him that you are glad He did what He did and that He is where He is: IN YOUR HEART, and to ask Him to make His presence known to you throughout today and every day. Jesus’ Invitation for Sweet Fellowship

Happy Resurrection Day

Proverbs 15 3-15-20

Concerning the Coronavirus: A result of the Curse and sin in our world. Where is your trust? Is it in the LORD?

11 [Even] Death and Destruction (hell) lie open before the LORD–how much more do human hearts!

Nothing gets by God. This virus didn’t take God by surprise. Nor, do I think that it is the judgement of God–except in a general fashion. Sin carries its own judgement through its consequences. We must remember that we all have sinful tendencies:

ARROGANCE–> REBELLION–> SIN–> DESTRUCTION

When David was being pursued by Saul and evil men were keeping Saul updated of David’s whereabouts, he prayed/sang this prayer, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise; in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4. In other words, what can happen in this life that God doesn’t know about or can’t control the outcome? If even hell lies open before the LORD, how much more do our lives!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the trial of the fiery furnace. Their response to the threat was this:

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18

The lesson of the Furnace is:

  1. Many times we are delivered from the fire = Our faith is built.
  2. Many times we are delivered through the fire = Our faith is refined.
  3. One time, we will be delivered by the fire (straight into the arms of Jesus)= Our faith will be perfected. [from Beth Moore-DANIEL]

In any of these circumstances, we can be assured that we are His and He takes care of His own. Consider this:

  1. If we avoid getting the virus, we praise God for His grace. We minister to those who do get it and encourage the fearful.
  2. If we get the virus, we praise God for the opportunity to spend some serious time with Him in our down time. We read His Word, pray, watch inspiring shows on tv, read inspiring books and magazines, stay in contact with people via internet as we encourage the fearful, etc. We enjoy His company! Also, don’t forget to be thankful and gracious to those who serve you while you are sick.
  3. If we die from the virus, what better fate awaits us than heaven and the presence of our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ?!!!

As we can see, this virus is a win/win/win situation for Christians! Let’s use these circumstances to show the world what it is like to walk with Christ in confidence. May people ask us why we are not afraid, and may we tell them the three reasons listed above for our confidence. We have FAITH in God; we TRUST Him with our lives. It’s that simple.

That being said, let’s consider prudence: Many people have extenuating circumstances that need to take extra precautions. They are not necessarily acting out of fear, but out of wisdom. Here again, it comes down to the leading of the Spirit: What is HE telling us/them to do?

I pray that we all have a great day of fellowship with the LORD. I hope to see you at church. If not, we stream our service on Facebook and YouTube. Either way, have CHURCH wherever you are!

Abba, I pray for Your church today that we take courage in our confidence in You. You are Sovereign LORD. May we never forget that! I look forward to singing and praising You with my fellow Christians today; I look forward to praying with them and for them, studying Your Word together in haverim (the uniting of the Spirit in fellowship), carrying each other’s burdens, and ministering to each other in myriad ways. May it be a great day of lifting up the name of Jesus! Amen.

The Sacrifice

The man took the lamb from the flock and carried it to the altar. As he took the knife to slit its throat, he looked down into the round, black eyes of the lamb.

“I can’t do it,” he cried as the knife clattered to the ground. The man released the lamb to return to the fold.

But, the lamb did not move. Instead, it looked up at the man and said, “You must, for it is the only way for you to be right with Abba. He wants you to have fellowship with Him, and this is the only way.”

The man replied, “But, why must you give your life? What have you done to deserve such treatment?”

“Whether I die by your hand, by wolves, or by old age, I am still subject to death. All of nature is subject to frustration until Jesus returns and sets it free.”

The lamb walked closer to the man and continued, “If my death will foster His coming by showing you the depths of your sin, the lengths that Abba will go to get you back, and be a foreshadow of the death of my King, then I gladly lay down my life for you.”

With tears in his eyes, the man took the lamb and held it close. “Thank you,” he whispered, “and I am sorry. Maybe we will meet again in His glorious kingdom.”

As the lamb’s blood dripped over the sides of the altar, the man prayed, “Father God, receive this sacrifice in my place.”

The Father replied, “I do. Now come and have sweet fellowship with me. One day soon, I will be your Sacrifice. No more will I require nature to pay for you sin; I will do it Myself.”

The man fell on his face before the LORD and worshiped Him. “When, O LORD?”

“Soon, Joseph, soon.”

 

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

Proverbs 14 2-14-20

Jokes that mention the reproductive parts of the body are off-limits for Christians: They conjure up mental images.

This Valentines, we may be tempted to read and/or pass along jokes that get a little personal. As Christians who show Christ to the world, we must not take part in such activities. Here is why:

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways,
    but the folly of fools is deception.

We are giving thought to our ways. Those who say, “I don’t see anything wrong with it,” are not seeing it from God’s perspective and will be deceived. What IS God’s perspective on such matters? Let’s take a look:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

There are several great lessons to learn from this passage, but we will focus on one, and that is what Christ did when presented with a woman who was likely in a compromised position and, possibly, attire. He redirected His focus by writing in the dirt! He didn’t address the woman again until they were “alone” (His disciples were with Him). Even then, His attention was on her spiritual condition.

We, too, must learn to redirect our attention when confronted with jokes, stories, movies, etc. that call unseemly attention to sexual anatomy and functions. Let us be prudent and “give thought to our ways.” Today is a great day to begin–again! We are never too old to learn new spiritual habits.

Abba, thank You for teaching me this lesson when I was younger (34ish) albeit in a rather rude awakening. I wish I had learned it through teaching rather than through an awkward experience. Oh well; the point is that I learned it! Help me keep my mind where it should be, which is on whatever You are doing, LORD. Happy Valentine’s Day to YOU, Abba. Thank You for loving me. Amen.

Proverbs 19 1-19-20

What we believe determines how we interpret events in our lives. Is God interactive in our day-to-day lives?

27 Stop listening to instruction, my child, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

The Spirit is constantly teaching us. He shows us great and mighty things in His Word; He reveals truth to us as we listen to people and observe events; He speaks to us through others as they share what He has revealed to them. The determining factor is how we are interpreting His teaching. As I see it, we have two filters:

Filter #1: Our own filter. WE are on the throne of our lives and WE make the final decision of what we believe to be true; WE decide what we want and what’s good for us. The problem with this filter is that we simply don’t know enough to make a logical, rational decision about anything. We don’t know the detailed and current (like, that day) history behind events or people; we don’t know what people are thinking; we certainly don’t know the future. How can we make an intelligent decision about anything? There are  two verses earlier in the chapter that apply:

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way! I get a mental image of a young dog on a long leash…

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD. Somehow, it always winds up being God’s fault–or someone else’s fault, but never the person’s fault…

Filter #2: We allow God to be God in the world and in our lives. We trust that no matter what happens, HE is in control and will guide us through it, using us as He sees fit as witnesses for Him and testaments to His grace and glory. Even our deaths can bring Him glory! Jesus is using us to reach others, and that involves risk. He said that He would never leave us or forsake us and would carry us to His side. Let’s let that be our goal. There are two verses in today’s chapter that apply:

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Let’s make His plans our plans.

23 The fear of the LORD leads to [true and everlasting] life; then one rests content [in the outcome], untouched [not bothered by] by trouble. Even death doesn’t scare us because we have a wonderful future in store for us on the other side!

Let’s “study to show ourselves approved, workmen who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing and correctly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15. We will find that our faith grows much faster if we apply ourselves to learning His Word even as He reveals His will to us through His Word.

Abba, as we worship in our respective houses of worship today with our friends and family, may we focus on You and Your love for us, and Your plans for us. May today be all about YOU. Help us to use the correct filter as we study Your Word and hear from You through our pastors. “Speak to our hearts, Lord Jesus, speak that our souls may hear.” I am listening. Amen.

Proverbs 28 12-28-19

Trust Christ and quit trying to live life on your own. What’s the point in being a Follower if you’re not following?

18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
    but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.

Let’s rephrase this verse: The one who walks with the Master is kept safe at Jesus’ side, but the one whose ways are all about themselves, doing things their way, have already fallen into a trap.

What kind of trap? The trap of self-dependence. We were never designed to act independently of the Spirit. Sin did that to us. Now, it is our job to quit doing things on our own and start allowing the Spirit to show us how to do things, to live life according to the Spirit.

26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
    but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe and will prosper.

If we say, “I’m saved and that’s enough,” then we are missing out on the whole reason for salvation, which is to fellowship with the LORD, through which we learn holiness. There is a lot to be learned in this world that will apply to the next world. What and how, I’m not sure, yet, but I’m studying hard to find out! How about you?

Let’s suppose that you are on a long flight and the pilot says to you, “Come up here to the cockpit and I’ll show you how to fly a 747.” You agree and you both head up to the cockpit. You strap in and he begins to tell you what to do. As he does so, he explains what each button, lever and switch does. He explains the screens and what you’re seeing. You feel the monster of a plane reacting to your commands; you feel the mighty power at your fingertips and you’re hooked! The pilot turns to you and asks, “Would you like to fly with me and become my co-pilot?” How would you answer?

  1. “Sure! What do I do next?” He hands you a manual and says, “Let’s start by reading chapter one: ‘What Makes a Good Pilot.'”
  2. “No thanks. I’m content to ride in the back.”

Many Christians are content to “ride in the back” through life. They miss out on the relationship, the interaction, the connection with the Pilot of life, Jesus Christ. Let’s not be this kind of Christian. Instead, let’s pick up that manual–the BIBLE–and head to the cockpit with the Lord Jesus and learn to fly!

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good [His words], and you will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:2

103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119:103

Abba, sitting down with You each day and reading Your Word is the highlight of my day. Unlocking the secrets stored up in each book, each chapter, even each verse is exciting! I love to read with the understanding that You give, which has come over time, time spent in Your Word when understanding didn’t come easily. But, as I experienced life and You called verses to mind, I began to apply Your lessons to my life. THEN I understood why it is important to “study to show myself approved (2 Tim. 2:15).” I must know the material before I can work on applying it with Your guidance. Keep teaching me, LORD. I have SO MUCH to learn! Amen.

Proverbs 22 11-22-19

As Christians, are we ready for “hard times”? Do we really lean on Him for life and strength? It’s important to know now.

4 Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.

In the Old Testament, it was all about obedience. Their relationship with the LORD was not nearly what God had in mind. People associated worldly blessings of health, riches and long life with God’s blessing. Little did they know that those things are always a means to an end and that each person’s health, riches and life span are determined by several factors, not the least being God’s plan for each person (also included are a person’s willingness and other people’s decisions).

The New Testament, though, is about God coming to live INSIDE each person. We become little mobile temples where God resides! On the day Jesus died–at the very moment He breathed his last– the veil in the temple was torn in two. From all I’ve read, this veil was 30 feet wide and 30 feet tall and about six inches thick. To tear this veil would have taken modern machinery (or a lot of animals yoked together), Yet it was torn from the top to the bottom. The significance of this event is displayed 52 days later at the Feast of Pentecost:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a mighty wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4

  1. This “place” was probably Solomon’s colonnade, which was an area of steps with columns; each place between the columns was called a “room.” This area was to the side of the court of the Gentiles and led to the marketplace. A strategic place for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, yes?
  2. Look at who all were there (1:13-14): The disciples and other men along with the women who went with Jesus and cared for the group’s needs (Mark 15:41). Mary, Jesus’ mother is mentioned as well as Jesus’ brothers (James and Jude and the others).
  3. They ALL were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in someone’s native language (v.6)–women included! The men went to the men’s court while the women went to the women’s court, both of which would be just past the Gentile court, which would have been filled, too. That is, if they even got out of the Gentile court…!
  4. The correlation has been drawn concerning the tongues of fire with the pillar of fire that was above the Israelites in the wilderness. That cloud by day and pillar of fire by night was the presence of God with the Israelites. ALL of them would have gotten the correlation, especially if it formed above them and then split into little flames that came to rest on each of them: 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

The point I would like to make from this event is THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD WAS IN EACH OF THEM. Salvation is NOT a decision we make with our heads; it’s a response to an invitation to come–or, rather, a request to enter. Without the Holy Spirit making Himself known through conviction, and many times a true presence, there is nothing we can do concerning salvation. With conviction comes our own conviction to give ALL to Christ. If left to our own decision, then we could be saved without giving up everything–and that’s what it takes to be saved.

What would happen if, instead of telling someone all the benefits of being saved, we told them how hard it was going to be, but that it is well worth it to have Jesus in them? Then, instead of asking them to pray a prayer, we instructed them to get alone, to fall on their knees and begin to give God everything as each idol, stronghold, and pet sin came to mind? What if we told them to cry out to God for His mercy until they felt Him come in and save them? Indeed, we would have fewer salvations, but the ones we got would be REAL!!! We would know it and they would know it!

I pray you have had an encounter with the LORD Jesus through His Spirit. I pray that You feel His presence in your life and that He talks to you through prayer, His Word, other Christians, and through circumstances. Our constant use and participation in these areas are true evidence of salvation.

Abba, may we take back the kingdom through bold witnessing and by turning up the fire, so to speak, on how a person gets saved. It has been watered down through the past century to the point that culture has crept into Your church. As our world becomes more and more polarized concerning Christianity, I pray that You will call us out as bold ambassadors for You. I look at what you have done in China and ask for that same boldness. I don’t ask for hard times, Abba, but I am ready for them thanks to You. May Your will be done. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-19

Want to know what is in your heart? Give God time; He’ll show you.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

We have a society that loves to commit to teams, groups, activities, studies, etc. and then grows weary, becomes bored, figures out it takes too much time and effort, or is offered a more interesting team, group, activity, study, etc. and quits the first for the second.

We have churches with people who love Jesus, but don’t know Him well enough to commit to Him. They are part of the church and will come occasionally, but family, vacations, work, games, etc. keep them out more than they are in.

We have Christians who claim to know Christ, but are not interested in taking the time each day to read His Word, to apply it to their lives, and to learn to hear His voice. Instead, they trust their own logic, their own fears, and their own–well, to put it bluntly, arrogance.

I can’t judge people’s salvation, but I often wonder if these people really have a working, walking relationship with the Savior. There’s one way to find out, and that is to be tested. We live in a fallen world and we all will face sickness, accidents, physical failure, and death. We live with fallen people and will face strife, adversity, relational failure, desertion, and even hatred–and that’s just from our families! WE WILL BE TESTED. Does God bring them on? He certainly has that right as Omnipotent God, but I think in His Omniscience, He sees our future and what is coming; He tries to prepare us for it, even avoid it if we will listen; still, He promises to walk with us through whatever it is.

What we must remember is that this life is all about our relationship with Him. He uses whatever comes our way to get us to interact with Him. As long as we live life on our terms, avoid consulting Him, ignore Him and His direction, and relegate Him to times of desperation, we miss the point of salvation. In fact, salvation may not have happened, yet.

Jesus was quite clear that to become His disciple, we must give up everything. NOW. When He asks.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [die to self] daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

When He says, “follow me,” He means like His disciples did: they left their families, their work, and their homes and went with Jesus. How many Christians have actually done that? Have you? Until that happens, we are untested. Until we are tested, we don’t truly know. Faith is a gift; it is based upon belief + action. The “gift” part is that God comes to us and says, “Do you trust me? Take My hand and come with me.” Our part is to take His hand and go with Him. It may be getting out of the boat on choppy waters; it may be into a fiery furnace; it may even be into a kangaroo court. Wherever it is, interacting with Him is worth more than ANYTHING in this world.

Forsaking All, I Trust Him.” This is the acronym of FAITH. Are you there, yet?

Abba, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but we all need to be reminded that it’s all about You and knowing You. Please continue to make Yourself known to me. If adversity, trial, and calamity are in my future, I KNOW You will carry me through them; please redeem them through Your grace by using them to refine me like silver, like fine gold. Purify my heart, O Lord. I want to be like YOU. Amen.

Proverbs 13 9-13-19

Doing what Jesus asks is what Christianity is all about. Are we listening? Are we even in the same room?!

(13) Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded.

Our terminology has changed since Solomon’s time. We tend to think of the Spirit’s instruction and commands as urgings and suggestions. I think it’s because we know the LORD on such an intimate level that we see His love and gentleness and patience first. What we must do is look beyond His compassion to His Lordship and leadership.

We are called…by Whom? to what?

(6) And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:6

(28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

We belong to Jesus Christ. We have been bought by His blood on the cross. He paid a heavy price for us. We should be grateful.

We have been called according to His purpose, which is to be extensions of Him to this world. He came to show us the way and to pay the price. He then returned to His place by the Father’s side. Through His Spirit, we were recruited to be His ambassadors in this world.

The Great Commission, given in Matthew 28:19-20, is usually translated, “Go.” A better way to look at it is, “As you go.” The idea is to be intentional about making disciples as we live our daily lives. The method we use is determined by the person to whom we are talking. Some people come from a Christian background and will understand the lingo we use. Some will come from a religious background that actually gets in the way of understanding because of twisted theology. Some will have no basis at all for comprehending what we are telling them. We must give the Spirit time to cultivate a willing heart. In the meantime, we are to DEMONSTRATE Christ’s love just as He did for us. (8) But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

“But what if it costs me something?”

“What if it hurts?”

“What if it means watching a loved one suffer?”

“What if I die, or my loved one dies?”

First, let’s remember that Christ showed us the way as a Suffering Servant. Second, don’t forget that He has a NEW WORLD awaiting us! With NEW BODIES! Third, let’s look at the example left by the disciples:

(41) The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41 They had been flogged because they wouldn’t quit preaching the Name of Christ (verse 40). So, what did they do? Go and hide and never speak Jesus’ name again? NO! (42) Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. 

What we must do as modern day Christians is to quit living like we belong to this world and start living like we belong to Christ and His world. We start by yielding our lives to Him each morning–even before coffee!

Are you worthy? Paul–from prison, no less– exhorts the Ephesian church to (4:1) “live a life worthy of the calling you have received. (2) Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (3) Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Are we willing to do as Paul said?

Where do we start? In our homes. If we can do it at home, then we can do it anywhere.

At church. It’s the practice field for our faith. If we can do it there, then we can do it anywhere.

At work, the ballfield, the lake, the mall, while driving (for those inside our cars as well as outside), Walmart, etc. They are where the Gospel needs to be demonstrated.

Just so you know, I’m preaching to myself here. May we all heed His instruction and follow His commands.

Abba, I know what to do; now, give me the desire and the power to do it! In Your name and for Your name, Amen.

Proverbs 21 7-21-19

We are on day three of 21 Days of Deep.” We are learning to dive into God’s Word for more than just crumbs. Come with us!

2 A person may think their own ways are right [justified], but the LORD weighs the heart.

As we pick up the narrative in 1 John, we learn the key to knowing we are God’s children. If we love as He loves, then we are His. If we reserve the right to judge for ourselves, then we haven’t given Him all of who we are. Judgement comes from that part of us that is like God–we are made in His image–but is the very thing that keeps us from coming to Him. We must learn to give up our “right” to judge others and allow Him to be in control.

As always, read it here, but also read it in your own “real” Bible.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[b] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

SOAP

We’ve read the SCRIPTURE. Now OBSERVE it. What about it stands out to you?

Now APPLY it. How does it pertain to you?

PRAY. Ask the Lord to show you where you stand with Him and how to love as He loves. Be specific if specific people come to mind. Talk to Him and work it out. Repent (which means to make a course adjustment). Ask Him what to do next and then DO IT according to His timing and instructions.

Let’s enjoy His presence and participation in our lives today. We are His. REJOICE!

NOTE: I posted my commentary prior to this post. After you have prayed, I welcome you to read it.

1 John 2:3-11

There are eleven tests of salvation that I have counted in this letter. They are: 1:7, 2:4-6, 2:9-11, 2:15-17, 2:19, 2:23, 3:6, 3:10, 3:24, 5:11-12, and 5:18. Others may count more, but those are the ones I consider to be tests of salvation.

There are two verses pertaining to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They are: 2:20 and 2:27. We will look at them later.

(3) We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. In John’s Gospel, he relates to us two commands of Jesus that he considers to be the highest commands. The first is John 6:29, where Jesus says, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” We must do exactly that: Take every word of Christ as the Gospel truth.

The other command is found in 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love [agapao] one another. As I have loved [agapao] you, so you must love [agapao] one another.” This word, agapao, means “godly love,” or “to love in a moral sense.” It is referred to as Agape Love, the love of God. The idea is to set aside our own feelings of love or hate and relate to people how God feels about them. How DOES God feel about them? John 3:16 tells us that He loves them so much that He gave His Son. Romans 5:8 tells us that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Why? Because God loves us so much!

(4) Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. A person who is not interested in doing what Jesus has commanded is not really interested in Jesus being his Lord. He has not given his life over to Jesus, yet. It’s positional; that person is outside of Christ.

(5) But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: (6) Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. The key word here is “must.” If the Spirit lives inside of us, then we feel His desires as our own. He desires to obey through us, therefore we feel the compulsion to obey. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For Christ’s love compels us…” We feel that we MUST live according to the Spirit, which is to live as Jesus lived. It’s relational; we fight our desire to do His higher desire.

(7) Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. From the first time his audience heard the Gospel, which could be those who heard for themselves Jesus’ message or it could be those in Ephesus where John preached for many years, the message of the Gospel is the same: God loved us through Christ; we love Christ, therefore we obey Him by loving others as He loves them through us.

((8) Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. John is referring to the illustration of light being God and darkness being evil. He began his Gospel with it (John 1:1-4, 14) and expounded on it in 3:19-21. We are most like Christ when we turn away from darkness (sin and self) and turn to Him, our Light, anytime, everytime.

(9) Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Our litmus test is how we feel about others and how we treat them.

(10) Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. There is a difference between “love” and “like.” We can love a person without liking him/her. We always have that person’s best interests in mind concerning his/her spiritual state. We MUST depend upon the Holy Spirit to guide us in this matter because we don’t have the knowledge to know what to do, nor the desire or the power to do it.

(11) But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. When we decide for ourselves that a person is not worth loving, then we have usurped God’s throne and His judgement. We walk NOT according to the Spirit, and therefore are walking in darkness. We stumble around spiritually thinking that we are fine when in actuality we have succumbed to the ways of the evil one. We are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” spiritually (Rev. 3:17). Jesus says, (18) “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire [of truth and trials], so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear [of righteousness  and living according to the Spirit], so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes [the Word of God, Jesus’ words], so you can see. (19) Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.”

Dear Lord Jesus, I ask that you would teach me to love as You love, to see each person as a soul in need of You. May I listen to Your Spirit as He compels me to be Your hands and feet, Your ambassador, to those around me. May I be Christ to Your children and to those who don’t know You so that they may see You clearly in me. Amen.

SOAP

I learned something the other day. I learned what SOAP is. Not the bath soap kind (although, it applies spiritually), but this kind:

S. Scripture- Read the passage.

O. Observation- Observe at least one thing in the passage that you believe God has for you to learn from it.

A. Application- Consider how you may apply this new knowledge to your life today or sometime this week.

P. Prayer- Pray and ask God to give you the knowledge and the skill, the opportunity, and the courage to do it. Ask Him what (and then wait and ponder), ask Him when (wait and ponder), ask Him how (wait and ponder), and then ask Him why (wait and ponder). On this last one, you may not realize the answer until AFTER you are obedient.

Statistically, if we do something the same way for 21 days, it establishes a habit in our lives. If we will “SOAP up” each morning, we will establish a GREAT spiritual habit with our Lord. We will find ourselves growing in our faith and knowledge (both factual and experiential). We may even move up to the next level of spiritual growth!

In the podcast, the speaker asked this question, “How long have you been at your current spiritual level?” If the answer is, “A while,” then he challenged us to get out of the shallows and take what he called, “21 DAYS OF DEEP.” That’s where we SOAP each day for 21 days with the intention of establishing the spiritual habit of SOAP. The goal is to move to the next level of spiritual development by sticking closer to Christ as we keep in step with Him.

NOTE: If you are interested in watching the podcast, text me and I will send you the link.

There are two passages of Scripture that apply. The one from the podcast is Hebrews 5:11-14, which says,

We have much to say about this [obedience through suffering and perfection (wholeness, completeness) through walking with, and becoming like, Christ], but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. (12) In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! (13) Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant [spiritually], is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. (14) But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves [by the Holy Spirit] to distinguish good from evil.

The key to this passage is time. The recipients of this letter had given up trying. The writer was urging them to restart the learning process. IT TAKES TIME.

The one I want to use is Ephesians 5:25-26,

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (26) to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word [our Bibles, God’s words],

When we put these two passages together, we get SOAP! The question we must ask ourselves, and I believe the Holy Spirit asks us each morning, is, “How much do you value the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross?” When we begin to understand just what Christ went through for us, when we consider His leaving heaven for our sake and live 33 years on planet earth to die on a cross and then rise again so that He could live in us and us in him, WE WILL TAKE OUR WALK WITH HIM SERIOUSLY.

Let’s go deep. Are you ready? Dive in!

DIVE by Steven Curtis Chapman

What I Have Believed All Along

Simple logic put me on the right path many years ago concerning when a human life begins. I asked myself, “What does it take for a zygote to be a human being?”

Later on, Dr. Duane Gish, Biologist, came to my church in 1991 and spoke to us about life and what the Bible has to say about it. I asked him my question and here is his answer (summarized):

The scientific approach to life is to answer these two questions:

  1. Is it human (does it have 23 chromosomes)?
  2. Is it alive (does it take in nourishment, excrete waste, and grow)?

If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then it IS a human life. Thus, the moment the sperm enters the egg and creates a zygote, it is a human life.

Do all biologists follow this logic? 90% of them do, according to a study done by Steven Jacobs! Here is the link to the article about his findings.

Steven Jacobs’ Survey

It is interesting to note that many who adhere to the scientific logic DO NOT support the Pro-Life movement. In fact, many become emotional and militant about Pro-Choice. It just goes to show that it’s personal and not objective. It also reveals a sinister mastermind behind Pro-Choice who disregards logic and truth to press his own agenda, which is to destroy anything God has made, particularly mankind.

Proverbs 11 7-11-19

Our hearts, by themselves, are full of wickedness; we want what WE want. Jesus wants to give us life, HIS life. Daily bread.

20 The LORD detests those whose hearts are perverse, but he delights in those whose ways are blameless.

What makes a heart perverse? What makes our ways blameless? For these answers, we look to Jesus. There’s nothing like going to the Source for truth! Jesus proclaimed the end of the Sinai Covenant and announced a new way to God: Himself. His life and sacrifice on the cross are what mankind needs to be reestablished in right relationship with the Father.

Why was it so hard for the Pharisees to believe in Jesus and His message? It would have messed up their playhouse. How so?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. Many Jews believed, but some went and reported to the chief priests and the Pharisees. They called a meeting:

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation [fulfilled in 70 A.D.].” John 11:47-48

They had things the way they wanted them. They were in control, both politically and religiously, and they didn’t want to give up any of that control.

Here’s what Jesus had to say about them:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them [by obeying the Sinai Covenant of Moses] you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me [the sacrificial system was set up to point to Jesus], 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40

What about us? We study the Scriptures, too. Does this mean that we will miss eternal life? NOT AT ALL! Jesus IS eternal life. As long as we seek Him in the pages of Scripture, we will find Him, and thus, eternal life. The religious leaders were keeping the Sinai Covenant of Moses. Jesus was introducing a New Way through Himself as the FINAL sacrificial Lamb. They simply refused to believe Jesus.

Let’s look at what Jesus taught:

  • He came to fulfill [complete] the Scriptures, not abolish them (throw them out). Matt. 5:17-18
  • He said that doing and believing are two different things. He wants us to BELIEVE in Him. “Do not work for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man [Himself] will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval [the Holy Spirit–same as us]. The crowd asked a very Old Covenant question: “What must we DO to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to [simply] believe in the one he has sent [Jesus].” John 6:27-29
  • Jesus hinted at the way He would die and thus fulfill the requirements of the law: “Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission [forgiveness] of sin.” Hebrews 9:22. Here’s what He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

If we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of Man (see Daniel 7:13-14), God Himself (Immanuel), then we look to Him for salvation, for daily renewal, for answers, for strength and endurance–for ALL THINGS.

If we believe that He lives in our hearts, then we will inquire His opinion on every subject and every question. We will trust Him to give us the desire and the power to act on His opinion and His will for our lives. Here is the promise we are given by Him:

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32

Free from the bonds of sin! Free to love as He loves! This is what victorious Christian living is all about! Let’s work hard at believing Jesus by finding out what He said. His words speak to us today just as richly as they spoke to those who heard them 2,000 years ago.

Have a great time with the Lord this morning!

Concerning Extra-Terrestrial Life

I love the Marvel movies, Star Trek, Star Wars, and other Sci-Fi stuff. It stimulates my imagination and has neat effects. But, do I believe in extra-terrestrial life? Not at all!

With as many planets as there are in the heavens, doesn’t it make sense that there should be other planets that “just happen” to have life on them? No, it doesn’t, once we examine the purpose of earth and the different purpose for all the other planets.

This planet was CREATED by God for the express purpose of being the home for His creation, particularly mankind. Created in His image, we stand above all other creatures and are invited to have a personal relationship with God. Genesis says,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the dep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

We must take God at His Word that the heavens, which includes all the other planets, were created for His glory AS THEY ARE. But, earth is different. God shaped it and grew it to be habitable for mankind. The story of mankind is about God reaching out to His creation in love and mankind spurning that love; it’s about God reaching out again through Jesus in love to give us the opportunity to come back to Him.

I read an article from Answers in Genesis about the notion of extra-terrestrial life. In the article, the writer, Dr. Jason Lisle, gave a very clear synopsis of the Gospel:

God’s plan of redemption is for human beings: those descended from Adam. Let us examine the conflict between the salvation message, and the notion of alien life.

The Bible teaches that the first man (Adam) rebelled against God (Genesis 3). As a result, sin and death entered the world (Romans 5:12). We are all descended from Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:20) and have inherited from them a sin nature (Romans 6:620). This is a problem: sin is a barrier that prevents man from being right with God (Isaiah 59:2), but God loves us (despite our sin) and provided a plan of redemption—a way to be reconciled with God.

After Adam and Eve sinned, God made coats of skins to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). He therefore had to kill an animal(s). This literal action is symbolic of our salvation: an innocent Lamb (Christ—the Lamb of God) would be sacrificed to provide a covering for sin (John 1:29). In the Old Testament, people would sacrifice animals to the Lord as a reminder of their sin (Hebrews 10:3) and as a symbol of the One to come (the Lord Jesus) who would actually pay the penalty for sin.

The animal sacrifices did not actually pay the penalty for sin (Hebrews 10:411). Animals are not related to us; their shed blood cannot count for ours, but the blood of Christ can. Christ is a blood relative of ours, since He is descended from Adam as are we; all human beings are of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). Furthermore, since Christ is also God, His life is of infinite value, and thus, His death can pay for all the sins of all people. That is why only the Lord himself could be our savior (Isaiah 45:21). Therefore, Christ died once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

He goes on to explain that any life form not of this earth would not be related to us, thus making it disqualified from the sacrifice of Jesus. Not only that, but Romans clearly states that Jesus died once for all (Romans 6:10), so there could never be Him going to another planet to sacrifice Himself for them.

The real question is, “Is there life beyond this earth?” YOU BET THERE IS! Jesus offers us eternal life with Him in heaven! Now, THAT’S a truth that I can believe!!!

It’s an interesting read (if you like that kind of stuff). Read the entire article at:

About Extra-Terrestrial Life

If I had only one chance

If I had only one chance to talk to you, what would I say?

I would tell you that Jesus loves you. If you read nothing else, I want you to know that He loves you and died in your place so that He could have you back from sin, self, and Satan. There’s more to the story, but that’s the main thing. He loves you because He made you and He wants you back, back in sweet fellowship with God and Himself (they’re the same Person) through His Spirit.

How? Respond. Surrender. Lay down your pride and arrogance and raise the white flag of humility. You must recognize that you are not the captain of your own ship. Instead, you are a slave to sin and you need a Savior. That’s what you are saved from, but what are you saved to? The point of the cross was to bridge the gap between God and you. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, you can have peace with God and enjoy a sweet fellowship with Him. Forever. And with me. We would be spiritual siblings!

God is not mad at you. He’s not disappointed in you. He’s desperate for you! Sin is killing you and keeping you from Him. Through Jesus, He can remedy that. Let Him.

The process is simple. Ask Jesus to save you, to come into your life and be your Lord and Master. You basically make yourself a slave to Him–but, instead of treating you like a slave, He adopts you into His family! You will get a spiritual bath, a white robe (sign of sonship), spiritual sandals (another sign of sonship), a ring with the family crest on it (still another sign of sonship), and adoption papers signed in the blood of Jesus and sealed by His Holy Spirit along with the promise that you will go to live with Him someday.

Do you feel His drawing in your spirit? Is there a tension there that nudges you to believe and to accept His generous offer? ACT ON IT! DON”T WAIT! Do it NOW.

When you do place your faith and trust in Christ Jesus, you will receive a wonderful blessing, which is the Holy Spirit, who comes and takes up residence in your heart and life. The Spirit of God is the essence of Jesus; it’s His way of coming to live with you. He will enter your heart and mind and be with you. Want to know the mind of God? Just ask Him. He’ll be right there with you and in you all the time!

Another residual blessing of being in the presence of the Father is what radiates from Him. You get to bask in His glory. What does that feel like? It’s loving, peaceful, joyful, hopeful (looking forward to the future), and full of grace. He will speak truth to you, especially about yourself, and He deals with you in grace. It doesn’t get any better than that! I have experienced it personally and can attest to it!

My hope, my prayer, is that you will give your life to Him today. You’ll never regret it. If you do, call me or write me. I want to know. In the meantime, I recommend you read the book of John in the Bible. John describes his call from the Lord to be His disciple and will give you a good grasp of who Jesus is and what He has done for you–for the WORLD!

Where Vultures Gather

I was reading in Luke 17 this morning when I came upon a strange verse:

“Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” Luke 17:37

What in the world?! I asked the Lord what it meant. Then, I let my mind wander through the Scriptures trying to remember where else I had read about vultures. Praise the Lord for the “search” feature on my bible app! I found a similar verse in Matthew 24, in which the reference is to Jesus’ Second Coming.

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. Matthew 24:27-28

The reference to vultures, then, may be a reference to Armageddon, in which the birds of the world come for a great feast when the armies of the world come together to fight against the Lord.

14 They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

16 Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon. Revelation 16:16

Here is the result of that battle:

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”

… 21 The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. Revelation 19:17-18, 21

As I continued to read around 16:16 for context, I noticed a similarity between verse 20 and this prophecy in Isaiah:

Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. Revelation 16:20

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. Isaiah 40:4

It’s reference is to the declaration of John the Baptist about the coming Messiah, who was Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, verse 3 of Isaiah 40 is used with verse 4 implied:

2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:2-3

John confirms this passage:

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23

Matthew does, as well, in Matthew 3:3. Jesus Himself confirmed John the Baptist:

9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.” Matthew 11:9-10, 14

If Revelation 16:20 is a prophetic reference like Isaiah 40:3-4, then the entire chapter about the seven bowls of God’s wrath may be about the earth being made ready for His Coming.

The first bowl might actually be one of God’s final evangelistic appeals to the world.

2 The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.

The second bowl I see as God’s mercy upon all the creatures of the sea. He took them on into heaven with Him in preparation for the new heaven and new earth.

3 The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died.

The same can be said for the third bowl, except that now there is no potable water- really, no water at all! Another evangelistic appeal.

4 The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood.

The fourth bowl is big. It could be a sonar flare of such magnitude that it lasts for several days or even weeks. Not only would it become intensely hotter, all communications would go down due to the huge electromagnetic pulse (EMP). Or, it could be that something happens to our ozone layer, which keeps harmful ultraviolet radiation from the earth’s surface. Whatever the case, it’s gonna be hot!

8 The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. 9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

Oh, the stubbornness of mankind!

The fifth bowl is similar to the ninth plague of Egypt found in Exodus 10:21-23. If it is only upon the kingdom of the beast, then it is exactly like the ninth plague and is a bonified miracle with no “coincidental” natural phenomena.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony 11 and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

The sixth bowl dries up the great river Euphrates. This action could possibly be man-made by China as they prepare to march to Armageddon.

12 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East.

The seventh and last bowl of wrath is the greatest earthquake the earth has ever had, even during the Great Flood. Jerusalem, which is generally divided into three areas, splits apart into three areas. Are they the same areas? We are not told. We ARE told that the cities of the world are destroyed. 100 pound hailstones! The mountains and islands, which are submerged mountains, are leveled. World-wide chaos. More loss of life. More opportunities for the remnant to come to Christ.

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since man has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. 19 The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. 21 From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.

If we were to keep reading in Revelation, we would read about the end of Satan’s throne and then his reign. Jesus wins, and so do we!

Exciting times ahead!

Addendum to 6-5-19

Addendum: Having our spiritual family before our natural family does NOT trump our responsibilities in taking care of and interacting with family. It DOES affect HOW we take care of them, in what order of importance they come, and how we interact with them. It does NOT include being at church every time the doors are open or dropping everything just because there’s a church function. What it DOES do is it runs everything through the filter of, “Jesus, how do You want me to handle this?” He will speak to us in one (or more) of four ways:

  1. Through prayer. Our continuous fellowship with Him is vital.
  2. Through the Bible. It is His written words to us.
  3. Through circumstances. Do you feel the tension? Pay attention to that tension. It may be the Holy Spirit!
  4. Through others, especially other believers.

Jesus wants us to take care of our natural families. We will let us know the best way to do that. Ask Him!

On Death and Dying

Robin and I love to read. One of our favorite authors is Lynn Austin. Her book, “Waves of Mercy,” is about the immigration of several families from the Netherlands in 1850 and their trials and tribulations, heartaches and triumphs.

The main character walks through  the leaving a love behind, the death of her parents to malaria within a year of arriving in the Michigan frontier, one son who lost his leg during the civil war, and another son who gave his life in that war. Her daughter, in a rebellious act immediately following the great Chicago fire, which also burned down her town of Sweden, Michigan, ran off with a scoundrel and didn’t hear from her for eight years. During all that time, we, the readers, walk through her struggle with God and her faith walk as she learned to trust Him in all things.

Here is an excerpt in which Geesje (the main character) comforts a young mother whose son was stillborn:

“How can I ever trust God again after He took my baby?” she [the young mother, Johanna] asked.

I squeezed her tightly and said, “No matter what, don’t ever stop trusting Him. I believe that God is as grieved over your baby’s death as we are. He created us and gave us life on this beautiful earth because He wanted us to live here for eternity. But death entered this world when Adam and Eve sinned. Now we feel pain and grief each time a loved one dies because we know it isn’t right. God knows it isn’t right, too. That’s why He sent His Son to die in our place, so that death would be destroyed and we would have eternal life. Keep your eyes on the cross, Johanna, and you’ll know that you can surely trust Him.”

Is that how you keep going, Geesje? By waiting for heaven?”

“In a way…” I said, stroking her hair. “But Jesus also taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come now and for His will to be done now, here on earth, as it is in heaven. He has work for us to do, Johanna. A life to live  for Him now. When I felt the way you do right now, I asked God to let me know He was still beside me. To show me that He loved me and that His ways were good and right. Then I watched and waited for His replies… Slowly, little by little, He let me know in dozens of everyday ways that He was near me and that He loved me. He’ll do the same for you if you ask.” pages 249-250

The book was excellent, but it would have been worth reading just for this passage! What we must  remember is that Jesus has a kingdom BEYOND this world, to which He calls His children. As my pastor, Bryan, says, the best gift we can give our loved ones is the assurance that we are in heaven waiting on them. How do we do that? By trusting in Jesus and following Him all the way there!

We don’t get to skip the heartache, but we don’t grieve as the world grieves who have no hope. We know this:

Philippians 3:20 (NIV)
[20] But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Now, THAT makes it worth it all!

A Two-Way Street

The Bible is a conundrum, a riddle. It is its own witness, yet it claims that two witnesses are needed to verify truth. The reality is that the Bible can only be “proved true” if one believes that the God of the Bible is real, for He is the Witness that makes all the claims of the Bible true.

There is no way to intellectually argue a person into faith in God. A person must be open to the idea that he doesn’t have all the facts and is willing to be open to God revealing Himself to him. Then, God must do exactly that! The Christian faith is built on an event, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and an experience, when He introduces himself to a person. Christianity is a relationship with the Heavenly Father, through the Son (Jesus), by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is His Story on paper.

People who neglect the Bible ignore the fact that it was first spoken by God and then written down by the listener (the writer). Jesus IS the WORD and is the action and the power behind every spoken word of God. Therefore, the Bible is the living Word of God, as stated in itself in Hebrews 4:12.

To read the Bible for facts and history is good, and science is proving everyday the wonderful truths-with incredible accuracy-of God’s creation and involvement in our world. But, the greater reason to read the Bible is to interact with God. Since Jesus is our Savior, Intercessor, and Friend, and the Holy Spirit is our Counselor, Comforter, and Guide, we an speak to them interchangeably without any disrespect to any of them. They are 3-in-1.

Once a person comes to believe the validity and authority of the Bible, he can begin to trust its claims as truth. He realizes that anything that sets itself up in opposition to it is a lie and a deception of the enemy, Satan. He also realizes that no only does he have incomplete knowledge–of everything–but, also, that anything learned outside of God’s word, that which contradicts its truths, has been deviously engineered to hoodwink all who hear it.

Further, the more he doubts the world’s claims, the more dependent he becomes on the Lord and His Word for truth. Hence, the hunger and thirst of which the Bible speaks in Matthew 5:6. Now, through faith, he has sweet fellowship with our Lord and experiences all the benefits of a relationship with Him: Abounding love, inexpressible joy, peace that passes all understanding, grace beyond measure, and a hope in heaven where we will spend eternity with our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer, our Victor, our KING!

On a personal note, the daily walk and interaction with Him is enough for me. If there were no afterlife, following Christ is still beyond compare to any pleasures this world has to offer–even in the face of persecution and physical deprivation. His presence in my life IS Heaven!

The reality of the truth of the Bible is that God is knowable, and He wants us to know Him. The realness and closeness of our relationship with Him is what is attractive to people who are searching for truth, for family, and for something to believe in beyond themselves. Our relationship and fellowship with Him and, therefore, with each other (His Body) is what attracts searchers to Him. So, let’s start digging into His Word and discover HIM!

Here We Go a-Caroling

If you go caroling this season, I thought you might like to have some music by which to sing.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/bbo0entjkmf4r39/AAAJcZ3wydfclmKnSTfiDxHia?dl=0

This link included traditional carols from the Baptist Hymnal with full orchestration and four-part voices.

It also includes the music without the voices, as well as a split-track version for the seriously musical (and picky).

Enjoy spreading the Good News!

What Christmas Means To Me

Christmas is about Christ’s coming. Well, let me tell you about when He came to me.

When I was a young boy, a strange thing happened to me one Sunday morning. As I was sitting in church, I found myself enthralled in what the pastor was saying. There seemed to be a voice inside of me that was agreeing with what he said. I sat up and took notice!

I had grown up in church, so I knew many of the stories of the Bible. I had sung the songs of Christ’s birth, had made crafts depicting events from His life and ministry, and I had always heard of His death and resurrection, but that’s all they were–stories. They weren’t real to me. I’m not sure what the preacher said that morning, but I do know this: The Holy Spirit placed in me an awareness of my need for Jesus in my life. All of a sudden, those stories became real to me! He had spoken to me!!!

Later that week, I asked my mom what I needed to do to be saved. She instructed me to get alone with Him and ask Him into my life. So, I went to my bedroom and knelt down. I told Him I was a sinner (I wasn’t real clear what that meant; I just knew that it was between Him and me, and I wanted it out of the way); I asked Him to forgive me (which I found out later that He already had), and to come into my life and be my Lord. I assumed that He would be like another parent to me–which is absolutely correct!

A neat thing happened next: I saw out of the corner of my eye someone standing there smiling at me. When I turned to look, no one was there (I suppose I caught my guardian angel not being careful…). The sense of Jesus coming to live in my heart was warm and light. I have felt it all my life, although it is sometimes keener than at other times. He still speaks to me. In fact, He is always speaking to me! If I am not hearing from Him as I read the Bible, then I am not paying attention. He speaks to me when I drive (which can be quite convicting), He sings with me as I sing, and He sings over me as I sleep (He told me so in His Word). He is all the time whispering to me things like, “I love you with an everlasting love,” and, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” He also tells me, “Be strong and courageous; am I not with you always?” And the one I love to hear the most is, “My peace I give you.” Having Jesus in my life gives me a joy that nothing in this world can touch!

The day Christ came into my life is a microcosm of Him coming to earth. He came so that I could be reunited with the Father, which He achieved by dying on the cross in my place–and then rising again to give us victory over death! The price has been paid, and Forgiveness is offered to everyone; all a person has to do is receive it by placing his life into His capable hands.

So, Christ’s coming, both to earth and to my heart, is what Christmas means to me.

I Never Imagined…

The question has come up whether Jesus was complete when He entered Mary’s womb (which would make Mary a surrogate mother) or whether God joined with Mary’s chromosomes in order to fashion Jesus–just as every baby is fashioned. While both sides have good arguments, I would like to explore one that seems stronger than the other.

Let’s string some pearls:

Luke 1:31 “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”

Galatians 4:4-5 But when the set time had fully come [in the fullness of time], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

My son-in-law postulated that a woman’s egg was still sinless until it mated with the male counterpart, thus, David’s statement in Psalm 51, “Surely I as sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” David, along with all mankind (both male and female), was conceived in sin. In Mary’s case, her egg mated with the Holy Spirit, therefore begetting God in human form. The Greek meaning for the word, “conceive,” is…”to conceive.” But, in Isaiah 7:14, we find the Hebrew term, “conceive,” as meaning…”to conceive.” It does add one more thought, and that is of a mental conception, as in original thought. It was something original!

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Philippians 2:5-7 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

Now, before someone cries, “Heresy!” let us remember that all things in the timeline happen outside the timeline, as well. For instance, Christ died for us both BEFORE time,

Revelation 13:8b …the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

and IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME. Likewise, Jesus was “brought forth” before time began, but also had a place in our history some 2000 years ago. Do I pretend to understand it? Absolutely NOT!I have faith in our LORD that His plan is perfect and complete, and it is well above my purview. I accept it on faith because of the passage in Hebrews.

  1. He shared in our humanity (2:14);
  2. He was made like us, fully human in every way (2:16);
  3. He Himself suffered when He was tempted (2:18).

Now Hebrews 4:15-16 comes fully into play:

  1. He EMPATHIZES with us (not just feeling pity for us, but actually feeling what we feel because He has experienced what we experience-yet, without sin-v15);
  2. We can approach God with confidence (v16);
  3. We will receive mercy and grace as needed (Jesus lives as our Intercessor – see 7:25 -and Advocate – see 1 John 2:1).

Is it necessary that Jesus have human chromosomes? It stands to reason so that He could share in humanity in every way: from pain to joy (each time He healed), from dismay to thrill (when the disciples finally understood), from fear to peace (in the garden), and from temptation to victory (at His desert experience and upon His death). The point is identification. God created all emotions, but God, through Jesus, identified with us on a level that we need. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…

To me, the whole subject boils down to Gabriel’s statement, “You will conceive…” He didn’t say, “You will be implanted…”

An interesting passage, which takes on new meaning under these new parameters, is Proverbs 8:22-31:

Proverbs 8:22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
[23] I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning, before the world began.
[24] When there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;
[25] before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
[26] before he made the earth or its fields
or any of the dust of the world.
[27] I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
[28] when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
[29] when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
[30] Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
[31] rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

Wisdom is usually a personification in Proverbs, but 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Jesus became for us “wisdom from God. If He is the “wisdom” in this passage, He brings new meaning to the words used. As I looked up each word, I found that the setting can be taken as a ceremony where Jesus is anointed and appointed (the Hebrew meanings of “possessed me,” “set up,” “brought forth”) to be the sin sacrifice and then presented as an offering (a libation) to be poured out for us. In light of Revelation 13:8, “...the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world,” we see that God’s first act IN creation was presenting the Light of the World:

Genesis 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

In the words of my daughter, “That Light is Jesus Christ,” Who was presented to the physical universe in human form, was the Creator, and is the One who holds all things together:

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was with God in the beginning.
[3] Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. [4] In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Hebrews 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. [3] The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. [16] For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. [17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Did “the One and only Son (John 3:16)” who was “begotten by the Father (John 1:14),” indeed, mix with Mary’s chromosomes to fashion God in a human body? How? When? Good questions. Concerning the “when,” we must remember that everything outside of time has a place in the timeline. Christ died outside of time, but we also know that “in the fullness of time, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:4).” Paul calls Jesus “The firstborn over all creation (Colossians 1:15).”

So, was Jesus fully human? I believe He had to be in order to complete the task given Him. Is it worth withdrawing fellowship with those who don’t believe as I do? No. In fact, we should be focusing on the PURPOSE of the Incarnation i.e. the CROSS (that’s for another article). Do I understand the nuances of the Incarnation? No, but I do understand enough to know that it was something special and new:

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

God was providing us a way back to Him through Jesus our Savior and He is using His natural design to do it. Now, THAT’S worth celebrating!

 

Why I May Never Say, “Merry Christmas,” Again (reprinted from FACT)

With today’s encapsulation of stories about schools banning certain Christmas songs and Christmas-related words and images, I couldn’t help but think about the protests in recent years over the shift from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.” I get that for many these things are a lament about the increasing secularization of our culture and that for others these things are about stifling religious speech. But something bothers me about the fuss, and this week I may have finally put my finger on it. In fact, I may never say “Merry Christmas” again.

I don’t know the origin of the phrase “Merry Christmas,” but whatever it might have meant at one time, what’s important to me is what it means now. Webster’s dictionary entry suggests that the word merry now means “full of gaiety or high spirits.” The “archaic” meaning of merry according to Webster’s was “giving pleasure,” and perhaps that understanding better captures what I’m about to say. In either case, merry just doesn’t seem to be the right word to associate with Christmas.

Is merry the right word if the point of a Christmas greeting is to distinguish it from a greeting like “Happy Holidays” that, for many, is not so much a nefarious slam on the celebration of Christ’s birth as it is an acknowledgment that some may be celebrating a contemporaneous seasonable religious event and that others may just see Christmas as a break from the usual routine?

The answer for me came as I was reading the most complete telling of the facts surrounding Christ’s birth found in the New Testament, the story in Luke chapter 2. The word first associated with the birth of Christ is glory. We’re told that an angel appeared to shepherds tending their flocks near where Christ was born and “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” Then a host of angels joined the one angel, and they all began singing, “Glory to God in the highest.” After the shepherds found the Christ child, they left glorifying God.

Glory, not merry or merriment, seems to be the operative word when it comes to how the Scriptures would have us think of Christ’s birth. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking of the word glory and the meaning it is intended to convey relative to God.

This is a subject too deep and full of meaning for this one little commentary, but I’ll focus on this: Glory is often used in Scripture to describe God’s moral beauty and perfection and as a way of describing its visible manifestation when a bit of it breaks through into our earthly existence. Glory is perhaps the best we can do when we try to describe what shone around the shepherds.

I don’t fully understand what is meant by the glory of God, but Scripture gives us some idea. It tells us that sin is more than doing something wrong or not doing what is right but is to “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Scripture also tells us that the natural inclination of human beings is to “exchange the glory of the incorruptible God” for something less glorious and find value, worth, significance, meaning, and praise in that lesser thing.

In this regard I’m reminded of what C.S. Lewis said:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

In conclusion, it seems to me that by “Merry Christmas,” Christians settle for an expression that does not do Christmas justice. The phrase expresses contentment with and wishes for seasonal merriment when glory is what Christmas really offers. It is offered to all those who believe that the baby born in the manger was God incarnate, coming to provide a way by which those who had fallen short of the glory that was originally ours to enjoy—a relationship with the God of Glory—could again enjoy that relationship, both now and for eternity.

Wishing one a merry Christmas is a bit like offering people mud pies for their Christmas dessert. Wishing them a glorious Christmas? Well, that is the offer of a holiday at the sea!1

Proverbs 31 10-31-18

Diligence moves beyond how we feel to what we know needs to be done. Are we convinced that Christ is worth serving?

Proverbs 31:11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

This verse speaks of diligence. The fact that her husband has full confidence in her says much about her:

  • She is consistent in keeping her house in order (v.27)
  • She is trustworthy with their finances (v.16, 18)
  • She keeps herself (v.22b, 25),
  • She does what she can to help out monetarily (v.24), just to name a few of the ways she contributes to the household.
  • There is more, though, and I think it is the foundation of her integrity:
  • [26] She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

    We all would do well to be diligent and consistent in our walk with Jesus. Doing FOR Jesus will get us just so far. We must do WITH Jesus or we miss the whole point of salvation: Relationship!

    If we think about it, God doesn’t need us to do anything for Him. So, why does He give us tasks and instructions? It is for us to do it with Him. This verse takes on new meaning under this way of thinking:

    Zechariah 4:6b ‘Not by might nor by power, but by [with] my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

    Let us be diligent today in walking in step with God. Let’s take His yoke upon us and work with Him as He takes the lion’s share of the load and responsibility. I promise you that we will find rest for our souls.

    Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    Proverbs 30 10-30-18

    One way God speaks to us is through others, particularly members of His Body of fellow believers. Let’s listen!

    Proverbs 30:3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

    The Writer is acknowledging the fact that no matter how hard and long a person studies, he will never have complete wisdom nor full knowledge. In fact, the more we know, the more we realize how much more there is to know. The same works with wisdom.

    Robin was sharing with some friends something she is learning, and I want to share it with you (adapted):

    Concerning each day:

    Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with You forever!

    John 15:10-11….remain in Me… so that your joy may be complete.

    Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the Lord has made. We can rejoice and be glad in it. How? By remaining in Him and enjoying His presence and participation in each day He has made! I like to pray in the morning “I look forward to rejoicing WITH YOU in this day You have made! Here WE go….!”

    It is the next thing she shared that really got my attention:

    If we are being beat up by the “you should be ‘more’ thought bullies”, those aren’t from God. God doesn’t need us to be or do more for Him, He will take care of what and where and how each hour of each day should go. All God wants is for us to stay yoked to Him and enjoy Him. (Mt 11:28) If we are yoked to Him we cannot possibly go in a different direction than He does! Praying you “find rest for your souls” and can learn to replace the “thought bullies” with the truth and joy of His presence. The reason I share this is because God has been working on me in this area, as well. The questions I feel the Spirit is asking me (daily) are:

    1. Do I accept the fearful and wonderful way God made me (limitations and all)?

    2. Do I relax and enjoy the blessings of the life He has given me (and stop listening to the “thought bullies” saying I’m never enough)?

    3. Do I rejoice with Him in each day He has made, and heed the always specific instructions from His Spirit – and not try to do or be “more?”

    That might have been more than you wanted to know about me, but there it is anyway! Love y’all.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself!