Sunday, November 30, 2014

Get In The Boat, I of II

Get In The Boat, I of II
December 1, 2014
Matthew 8:23  "Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him."

The Sea of Galilee was a huge player in the Bible.  It was an anchor in many stories, a baseline with which to measure.  Most, if not all, of the disciples were called to follow Jesus near the Sea of Galilee.  It is where Jesus declared He would make the disciples into fishers of men.  The Disciples started their tutelage under Jesus near the shores of the Sea of Galilee and many of Jesus' first miracles were within eyesight of that specific body of water.  The shores represented the start of the disciples' ministry.  Then Jesus did something crazy.  He told the disciples to get into a boat with Him and cross over to the other side of the lake.  The other side of the lake was full of heathens, a tiresome journey across a big body of water to a place where they might not be received well by others.  Prior to Jesus taking the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples hadn't spent much time over there.  It wasn't exactly a perfect tourism destination for Jews.

Crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee represented a challenge to the disciples, their first set of challenges as disciples.  In fact, right at the edges of the water before they left, Jesus discussed the costs and challenges people would experience if they followed Jesus. They were willing to get in the boat with Jesus though, because He was leading.  The Sea of Galilee was about eight miles wide, a journey by row boat that could take 6-10 hours depending on the strength of the rowers.  If the boat had a sail, it wasn't a big sail; it wasn't a quick jaunt during that day and age.  Because of the long journey across, Jesus decided to take a rest, after all, it was dark, a perfect time to sleep.  Then the disciples experienced their first fright night.  A rough storm arose over the waters; it was so rough they feared for their lives. Death was imminent and I'm sure some questioned why they decided to follow Jesus in the first place.

Jesus saved the day, but never mind Jesus rising out of a slumber and quieting the waters for a moment.  The disciples had followed Jesus into ministry, being led into the middle of a storm over deep waters where death seemed only moments away.  This was their first fearful moment in following Jesus.  They followed the Lord and realized real quick it wasn't always going to be smooth waters.  What is extremely interesting is the response from Jesus when He awoke from His nap in the midst of the storm.  Jesus, before He calmed the waters, rebuked the disciples for their small amount of faith during the time of rough circumstances.  Then Jesus asked them why they were so afraid.  He was dumbfounded at the disciples response to the storm.  They had just experienced the power of Jesus on the shores and He was leading them on this ministry journey.  He was curious as to why they thought Jesus was going to let them drown.  The disciples were worried about physical drowning but Jesus was more concerned about their spiritual drowning (their lack of faith and fullness of fear).

Christian, Jesus has called you to follow Him and He may have asked you to follow Him in a boat to an impending challenge, facing rough waters along the way.  He did not call you to die, but to live through the rough waters with faith and fearlessness.  If He has called you, it is for a purpose.  You have witnessed His power and authority on the shoreline, and now when the storms of life arise do not look at the circumstances around you but remember the power and authority of the Lord.  Remember who has called you and remember who is in the boat with you.  Don't look to the rough circumstance, realize who has placed you on the journey.  It might not be a smooth ride, but He isn't going to let you die.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:
  Matt 4, Matt 8, Mark 4

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Does God Hate

Does God Hate
November 24, 2014
Revelation 2:6  "But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."

I saw a group of demonstrators, as they were caught on camera for the whole world to see, and they held signs declaring what they were demonstrating.  One sign read: "God Hates [Homosexuals]."  The group who was demonstrating had identified themselves as a Christian group, associated with a specific Bible believing church.  As I watched their demonstration, their choice of chants, the terms in their slogans, I sank in my chair and became embarrassed.  Regardless of my views on homosexuality, I was disappointed and ashamed to be called a Christian alongside those same demonstrators.  We both carry the same badge in the name of Christianity, but we are far from the same type of Christian.  It is correct, homosexuality is spoken against in the Bible as a sin, but no where in the Bible does it say that "God hates [homosexuals]."  But lets take a closer look at the word "hate" and how it IS used in the Bible, because the word "hate" is used in connection with the Lord.

The Lord declared that He hated Esau.  Esau hated the Lord's ways and as evidenced by the Lord's actions toward Esau, the Lord did actually hate a specific person.  After Esau, there were disobedient Israelites in the desert.  The Lord, as evidenced by His actions in putting them to death, hated them, too, using those specific words. Then throughout the book of Psalms and Proverbs, the Lord is described as someone who truly despises and even hates certain practices, hating those who indulge in those practices as well.  This might suggest that God is a hater, but really and truly it is only out of disgust for the evil practices that God demonstrates such feelings.  The Bible never teaches that the Lord is a God of hate.

This would lead one to assume the Lord is a bigot, but not so.  The term bigot is to assign hatred on a random basis, based upon personal preferences.  He is a God of love who cannot tolerate detestable practices.  He hates sin and loves righteousness.  He is very fair and just and clear about it, giving us all full warning of His directives.  It is not random if we chose to indulge in practices which He detests.  The Lord gives full warning as to which actions He does not like.  If we indulged in such actions, then it is safe to assume, in the least, He hates our specific actions as well.  Does this mean we are hated by the Lord?  This is a question I will not answer, as it is the Lord's decision to make.  Let no man lead a campaign of hate, only a mission of compassion motivated out of love.  And any such mission of compassion must be backed by the full message of the Gospel, regardless.

The Lord instructs, actually mandates, us to love our neighbor and if we hate anyone we are in violation of the Lord's will.  To proclaim that God hates anyone is putting words in the mouth of the Lord.  I was not appointed spokesman for God and doubt there are many, if any, appointed spokesmen currently alive.  To declare whom the Lord likes or dislikes, loves or hates, is not for me or anyone else to suggest.  All we can do is teach the Word of the Lord found in Scripture and do so in a loving manner, regardless of how it may or may not offend.  Period.  Adding to it or taking away from it is misquoting the Lord and therefore a condemnable action as well.  The Bible teaches that God is Love and to suggest anything otherwise is a false teaching.  Let the Lord determine in His own mind on such matters and stick to teaching the Word of the Lord in a manner consistent with righteousness and gentleness.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Deut 9:28, Deut 16:22, Ps 11:5, Pro 6:16, Is 1:13-15, Hos 9:15, Mal 1:2-5, Lk 6:27, Rom 9:12-14, 1 John 2:9-11

Sunday, November 16, 2014

It Should Be Better

It Should Be Better
November 17, 2014
John 16:7  "But I tell you the truth; it is better for you that I go away, for if I may not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you, and if I go on, I will send Him unto you."

Imagine if Jesus had stayed on the earth instead of ascending into Heaven.  His human body was meant to age, since He was born a human baby.  So instead of living thirty some years and ascending into Heaven, He might have lived another seventy years at most.  Suppose that happened.  Would that have changed His impact on the world?  Would more people have received physical healing?  Didn't His disciples carry on His healing ministry?  Eleven disciples were probably able to physically reach more people, because their human form could be in more places than Jesus at once.  If Jesus stayed another seventy years would that have improved His message?  Technically, the disciples wrote down what Jesus said and, again, they were able to take His written words to multiple places at once.

What if Jesus lived forever, in His human form?  If Jesus remained ageless, and continued on living, wouldn't THAT be better?  He could have continued to heal people and teach people about the Lord.  Everyone would believe He was the Son of the Living God, since they could witness His miracles.  People all over the world would travel to His ministry site and recieve healing.  They would believe in Him and believe in God.  That would be so awesome.  Or maybe not.  People saw His miracles first hand and did not believe.  Many people did not receive healing from Him while He WAS here.  In fact, while He was on the earth, He created more controversy by His physical presence than when He was only an idea.  While He was alive, all the political leaders wanted to kill Him.  Today, He'd constantly live under death threats, being forced into hiding.  Then no one would see Him.

No, Jesus said it was better that He physically leave the earth.  He said it would be more effective and more advantageous for us humans if He left.  I could create an argument both ways, but I cannot argue with Jesus.  When Jesus left He promised that in His stead, He would place the Holy Spirit, who would not just live on the earth but live INSIDE of us, empowering us to carry on the work of Jesus.  Let me say it this way.  If you have an electronic device you depend on; it must be charged.  You must constantly go to a power source and re-charge your electronic device.  It's a hassle and you have to leave it for extended times, sometimes even being without it if you don't have an opportunity to re-charge it.  Now imagine if your own body contained that power source.  Instead of having to leave your electronic device to get powered, you would always have a source of power inside your body.  You would never have to go to an outside source to receive power.  It would be so much more convenient and effective to have the power source with you wherever you went.

This is the same since Jesus left.  If Jesus was still here, we would all have to go to the source of the power constantly.  But since He left and gave us the Holy Spirit, we now have that SAME power source of Jesus living inside of us.  This is WAY better than having to constantly go get plugged in somewhere.  The original disciples didn't have the power of the Holy Spirit while Jesus was with them.  It should be better now that Jesus left, but somehow it doesn't seem that way.  Either Jesus was wrong or we are all missing it a little.  I would suggest we are not fully harnessing the power living inside us for effective everyday living.

If your electronic device needed recharging, and you had the power source inside of you, would you still take it over to a plug or docking station and leave it to re-charge?  No way.  You'd continue to use it, as it would be constantly under power!  This is how it should be in your everyday spiritual walk.  You have the power source inside of you since Jesus left.  It should be better to have Him living inside of you instead of having Him sit across from you!  Figure out how to tap that power source if you want to live an empowered life!  Jesus said it would be better and it should.  It's time to make it that way in your own life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 
John 16:5-11, Acts 1:8, Acts 10:38, Rom 15:17-19, 1 Cor 2:4, 1 Cor 12:1-11

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Evidence Enough

Evidence Enough
November 10, 2014
John 14:11  "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves."

Evidence is proof, a visible sign of something.  You cannot prove something without evidence.  If you have evidence, there can be no denial of fact.  It takes evidence in court to convict someone of a crime.  It takes evidence to support a scientific fact.  Evidence can be freeing or damning, but either way evidence puts an end to an argument.  Jesus said that evidence in His personal life's work is what people should examine when determining His identity.  Jesus didn't simply sit back and declare who He was; He proved it while living out His daily life.  He demanded the evidence of His works be examined and weighed against Scripture.  He demanded that we arrive at a conclusion about Him based upon the evidence of His actions.

People's eyes were on Jesus, watching His every move.  The Pharisees could find nothing wrong with Him so they tried to drum up false evidence against Him.  Jesus was scrutinized from every angle and found spotless.  Not only was He found spotless, He was also found to be the Son of the Living God.  There weren't any witnesses from Heaven who could testify in court as to His identity; there were only His actions.  Jesus was found to be The Christ.  There was evidence enough to prove Him Holy and Perfect and from the Heavens above.

In light of the proof of who Jesus is and was, in light of the evidence of His actions demonstrating His identity, I would ask you a simple question.  What does the evidence say about your life?  What does the evidence of your actions say of your identity?  The eyes of the world are upon you, watching you, and unfortunately they are judging you.  What will be proven about your life and character while on this earth?  Will there be evidence enough to convict you as a Christian?  Is there evidence enough to determine your identity as a child of the Living God?  Do people even know that you want to be identified as a Christian?

After spending a few hours with you, there should be at least a sense of peculiarity about you, an intrigue as to your real identity.  If someone is around you for even a day, there should be no doubt in their mind that you are different from the rest of the world.  If your actions were to be laid bare, your life should prove you are a follower of Christ.  There is proof in the evidence of your actions.  Sadly, there are many Christians who could not be convicted of actually being of a Christian.  Their life and personal actions do not parallel the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, or even a love for their fellow man.  If you are going to live as a Christian, make sure your actions create enough evidence to determine your identity as such.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 26:59, Mark 14:55, John 13:35, John 14:10-12

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taken As A Slave

Taken As A Slave
November 3, 2014
Ephesians 6:6  "Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart."

Slavery is a horrible thing, but unfortunately it happens.  Slavery is something understood by all generations throughout history, starting with the first book of the Bible.  Today, most understand slavery as kidnapping, physical bondage, and abuse.  But in the Bible, there was additional type of slave.  You could assign yourself as someone's slave to pay off a debt; there was no kidnapping involved.  This was not as palatable as indentured servitude, but a full form of slavery because you still became someone's property.  It was humiliating and done out of complete desperation due to a physical circumstance.  It was a last resort knowing there wasn't much lower a human could get.  I doubt even the warmth of a spring sunrise on your face could bring even momentary solace in any type of slavery situation.

Despite the deplorable circumstance of being a slave, the Bible said a person should keep his chin up and continue in life as if he is doing the will of the Lord.  How in the world could being a slave be the Lord's will?  It's not.  But the Lord recognized that horrible, desperate circumstances would put people in unsavory places.  He was saying that even in those stomach churning positions, a Christian should still find a way to serve the Lord with a good heart and a good attitude, maybe even with a smile on his face.  Wow, be a slave with a smile on your face having Jesus in your heart?  Yep.  You and I don't have smiles most days and we aren't even slaves.  We walk through life, frustrated by our circumstances and fail to serve the Lord in the lowest of places, even if we could pretend it was the Lord's will.

No one would consider slavery as the Lord's will, but we are instructed to act as if it is, because in that situation we can still move forward with the Lord's will for our lives.  We think the situation or circumstance of life that has taken us as a slave, away from the Lord's design, will somehow end soon so we may get back to living in the will of the Father.  Nope.  Right here, right now, we are to submit to the Lord and do His will, fulfill His mission for our lives in the midst of the path we perceive has derailed us from the perfect design of the Maker.

You may feel your situation has taken you as a slave, keeping your from doing what you want to do in life, or from living the life you thought the Lord intended.  Today is still the day that the Lord has made and you should rejoice and be glad in it, whatever it brings.  Each and every day is marked out with the Lord's will for your life despite the cheap circumstance in which you find yourself.  I will not suggest this is easy, because even if I can do something with a smile on my face, I still lie in bed at night complaining to the Father to change it.  I'm not saying you have to like the situation you are in, but I am suggesting in the midst of the daily activities you are forced to do, do them with all your heart, with a good attitude, because that alone is the will of the Father.

You may be a slave to your situation, but that does not remove your obligation to move forward in the Lord's will.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 118:24, Ecc 9:10, Rom 6:22, Eph 6:5-9, Phil 2:14-16, Col 3:23