Sunday, November 29, 2015

Get Excited

Get Excited
November 30, 2015
Ephesians 1:18  "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people."

Paul writes his famous letter to the church in Ephesus, which is known as the book of Ephesians.  He opens the first chapter with such excitement about the Lord's grace and love and the future inheritance found in Heaven.  If you read the first chapter as one opening paragraph, you'll see that Paul's sentences are short and overflowing with words like peace, joy, purpose, unity, destiny, riches.  I can find few places in the Bible written with so much enthusiasm and genuine excitement.  Paul was excited, but for what?  Paul tries to communicate what he was excited about, the blessings in Heaven which will eventually be made known to each of us.  He realizes we will have to wait for some of them and understands we will not grasp the reason for his excitement to the same depth he was experiencing it, as he penned the words.  He even has to write, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in his holy people."

Paul knew we wouldn't get it.  He understood it is beyond comprehension, the future and plan the Lord has for us, and tried to communicate that we probably wouldn't get it.  It is something that cannot be explained, but must be revealed in our hearts  by the Lord.  The Lord had revealed it to Paul's heart with such deep conviction that Paul was able to stay excited the rest of his days on the earth.  It kept him going.  Paul knew we needed that same excitement and knew there were not words to explain the reason for his continued enthusiasm.  Paul prayed the Lord would reveal it to us in the same way it was revealed to him.  He tried to raise the excitement of the Ephesians and some of them were able to generate a degree of enthusiasm for what the Lord was and is doing.  He suggested maintaining the same excitement would be required to carry them through the rest of their lives, and if they couldn't maintain motivation through enthusiasm they might fall away from the Lord.

It was rather prophetic, in fact.  If you read the book of Revelation, you'll find that the church in Ephesus was described as having lost their first love.  They failed to fully grasp the momentum and love for the Lord, and maintain it.  They traded the future glory and riches for something only slightly shinny on the earth, which faded away.  You and I have the tendency to be like the Ephesians.  We grasp a little bit of the excitement, but never fully let it set in to stay motivated like Paul.  We lose our excitement, forgetting our first love, when the world distracts us with flashy lights.  The flashy lights have no real substance and in the end leave us hollow and unfulfilled, and for many, lead to an eternity in hell.

Paul was trying to rally for motivation, knowing we needed to get excited about all the Lord has in store.  He knew the bigger and more genuine our enthusiasm for the work of the Lord, the more likely we would make it to the end of the race on this earth successfully.  But he also knew that he could only introduce us to the excitement, that the Lord would have to convince us individually so we would have the same internal conviction that Paul possessed.  I want you to be excited about the Lord; I want to continually be excited myself.  We both must pray like Paul prayed, that the Lord would open the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened of the future hope and glory.  It's time to get excited, Christian.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ephesians 1, Rev 2:1-7

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dirty Feet

Dirty Feet
November 23, 2015
Luke 7:45  "You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet."

Feet can be disgusting.  Everyone has smelled dirty feet before and I doubt there is anyone who would suggest it is pleasant.  Being close enough to smell someone's dirty feet is bad enough, but please don't ask me to touch them.  Kissing dirty feet is just crossing the line; that's even worse than touching them.  If the thought of putting your lips on someone's nasty feet grosses you out then the point has been made.  This is exactly what happened to Jesus at a dinner party.  A woman walked in to a dinner party where she wasn't comfortably welcomed, started crying for some odd reason, then poured perfume on Jesus' feet, kissing them with her lips and wiping them with her hair.  It was rather awkward and slightly on the inappropriate side of social etiquette.  People were embarrassed for her.

She was identified as a woman who lived a sinful lifestyle, not by her name.  There are two different accounts in the gospels of Jesus  having his feet doused with perfume.  One account puts him at Lazarus' house and another puts Him at the house of a pharisee, Simon.  Scholars suggest that these were truly two separate events.  Regardless of who the woman was, she had lived a bad life.  Some suggest she was a prostitute, but it is not known what offenses she committed.  Apparently they were, well, bad.  Apparently she lived such a life of regret that she came to the feet of Jesus crying, weeping even.  Her tears were of remorse for her sin.  I wonder why she was so full of regret?  Was she simply a prostitute or did she cause harm to others?  Did she abort her baby or she sell him?  Did she participate in the trafficking of young girls?  Why such remorse to the point that she could not contain her composure?  I imagine she was a blubbering mess, not even able to talk about her sorrow and regretful lifestyle.  Whatever it was, the weight of her sin was too much for her to carry.  She wanted them wiped away and her dignity did not matter in expressing her feelings in front of others, to the point of being a sobbing mess at the dirty feet of a man called Savior.

The woman didn't care what others thought; she wanted to be at the feet of a Savior.  She was tired of carrying around the guilt of her life.  Did she plan on pouring the whole bottle of perfume on His feet?  I doubt it.  I think she planned on possibly washing His feet then maybe dabbing them with a little perfume to get rid of the dirty feet smell.  I think when she initiated the process that her feelings got the best of her, that the Spirit of Jesus was so intense and her need for a Savior was so great that she could not contain her composure.  She broke down and couldn't stop.  Whatever happened, it probably wasn't fully planned.  But it must have been something special to actually touch the feet of Jesus.  Can you imagine actually touching Jesus, even if it was just His foot?  If power exuded just from His words, just how much power was in Him?  The Holy Spirit inside of Him, the same Holy Spirit that was powerful enough to raise Him from the dead, broke through to the woman's heart when she touched Him.  She was already crying when she started, but then she could not contain herself.  By the end, her lips were touching His feet, she was sobbing, and her hair was drying off her own tears from His flesh.  He wrecked her composure but got rid of her sin.

You may not have the sin this woman carried with her, but you have something you've been carrying around with you.  I wonder if you ended up in a room with Jesus, I wonder if you'd be able to maintain your composure, retain your dignity.  Or would the power of His Holy Spirit fillet you open to the heart of your sin.  How close do you want to get to Jesus?  The closer you get the more likely you are to be moved by His power.  Again, how close do you want to get to Jesus?  Are you willing to kiss his feet?  Be careful how close you get to Jesus, you might end up doing something socially awkward.  But would it matter.  It'd be better to say you touched the feet of your Savior than to say you maintained your Christian composure.  Getting closer to Jesus has the potential to get a little messy.  Careful, you might embarrass yourself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 7:36-50, Hebrews 4:12 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No Specifics

No Specifics
November 16, 2015
Luke 8:46  "But Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.'"

There is power in the blood of Jesus.  The power sets everything right, regardless of what is wrong.  It has the ability to heal a person's health regardless of the issue; it has the ability to restore a desperate marriage no matter what the offense; it has the ability to forgive any wrong despite the severity.  Whatever the ailment, Jesus has the right fix.  It does not matter what is wrong, it only matters that you bring the issue to Him and trust in His power.

There was a woman in the Bible who was described as someone with an issue of blood.  A woman who was actively bleeding was considered unclean; a priest couldn't touch her.  But this woman, desperate for a healing, knew that the power that lived inside of Jesus could make her well.  All she needed to do was bring the issue to the feet of Jesus and He would have the exact fix for her problem.  The She didn't have to get specific with her prayer request; she only had to bring the issue to the feet of Jesus.  His power would automatically set it right and she knew this.  She tried to get close to Him but couldn't barely touch the hem of His clothing.  Immediately, she was healed.  Jesus turned around and wondered who touched Him.  Ironic that He asked that.  Wasn't He all knowing?  When the power flowed from Him to heal her, He knew that power had left Him to fix something wrong.  Did He have to ask her what she needed?  I doubt it.  The power had the right fix regardless of her or Jesus having to talk about what was wrong.  They both knew He had the power to make it right.  That is all that mattered.  She trusted in His power.

We get caught up in getting specific in how Jesus can fix our problems.  We even teach that if we don't get specific in our prayer request then the Lord doesn't know what we need.  This is foolish.  Let me provide this example.  If I see an elderly woman struggling to open a heavy door against a strong wind, I should have enough common sense to see that she needs my help.  I have enough intelligence to know what she needs without her asking.  If I go over and help her, I will only be successful in helping her if she steps out of the way.  If she blocks my attempt; I cannot help.  If she allows me to step in, then I know how best to help her.  She doesn't need to get specific with how I should help her.  She only needs to be willing to let me and trust that I can do it.

This is how it is the with Lord.  You must be willing to let His power help you; you only need to submit the issue to Him and let His power take over.  You don't have to tell Him what you need; His intelligence knows and His power can handle it.  You, however, must get out of the way and submit it to Him.  I find that the more I intervene, the more I work against the Lord.  The more specific I get the more Satan knows how to attack.  The more specific I get the more distrust I show in the Lord's ability to handle it.  The Bible says when you don't know how to pray then let the Holy Spirit intercede for you with groanings that words cannot express or comprehend.  The Lord knows better how to help you than you do.  His power knows better how to fix the situation than you do.  Let His power work and submit it to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Luke 8:40-48, Rom 8:26-27

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Right Choice

The Right Choice
November 9, 2015
Matthew 21:31  "'Which of the two did what his father wanted?'"

Jesus told some fantastic parables, analogies that put the pious religious elite in their place.  One such parable was of two sons.  The Father told the the two sons to go and work in the vineyard.  One said he would go but did not.  The other refused but later decided he would go and do the will of the Father.  The parable was slightly explained by Jesus when He told the religious elite that they were like the son who said he would go but never did.  The opposite of the religious elite, the tax collectors and prostitutes, were the ones who did the will of the Father and ended up in Heaven.  While the parable is about salvation, it is about more than just entering the kingdom of God.

Without adding words to Scripture or putting context where Jesus didn't intend, I believe the parable is not examined in its entirety.  Modern scholars disagree with the complete version of the story, suggesting scribes did not document the parable fully, rather instead jotting down the gist of it.  The Pharisees would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven because they said they believed the Word of God yet did not follow it.  The sinners, however, they refused the Word of God initially but accepted it later in life, and so got the reward.    I believe it is more than just a quick story of salvation but of obeying the Father wholly.  The full extent of obedience is not just in accepting Jesus as a Savior but of accepting Jesus as a Savior AND following His instructions.  The includes what the tax collectors and prostitutes demonstrated in their faith.  Not only did they accept Jesus as their Savior but they became disciples in spreading the excitement of following Jesus.  They believed AND they became ambassadors.

You and I have been given an option of working in the Vineyard, just like the two sons in the parable.  Thankfully, most of you have accepted Jesus as your Savior.  Sadly, some of you might read this and go to church but will end up with the same fate as the Pharisees in Hell.  You say you believe in the Word of God and in salvation through Christ, but do you live like it?  The tax collectors and prostitutes in Jesus' parable figured it out.  It required a full life-change and commitment, which entailed becoming an ambassador for the Lord.  Do you live like the Pharisee, or is there a full turn-around in your behavior?  It's one thing to accept salvation on your death bed and make it to Heaven, but it is another thing to accept salvation early and do nothing with it for the rest of our life.  Do you live like you are saved?  Are you really working in the Vineyard of the Lord?

This parable has exciting news because it carries with it the opportunity for second chances.  The son who initially refused to work in the vineyard, he repented and went at it.  You, too, can have a second opportunity in what the Lord is calling you to do.  He is calling you first to repentance and secondly to obedience.  If you find yourself not fully walking in obedience, there is opportunity to start right here and right now.

I believe if Jesus meant the parable to end with accepting salvation, then He would not have required the sons in the parable to work in the vineyard; He would have likened it to accepting a free gift.  If you want to debate this, please read the parable in Matthew immediately following this specific parable.  Jesus was comparing the Pharisees to the son who said they would go and work but did not.  The Pharisees thought they WERE doing religious work, only they were not.  They were spending all their time and energy getting it wrong, not engaged correctly in the ways of the Kingdom or the work of the Kingdom.  Accepting Jesus as your Savior requires you to be obedient in accepting the Kingdom and working FOR the Kingdom.  You have a second chance, just like Jesus was giving the Pharisees.  Whether it is the first time or the second time, make the right choice.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 7:21, Matt 21, Luke 6:46

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Wrong Question

Wrong Question
November 2, 2015
Judges 13:18  "He replied, 'Why do you ask my name?  It is beyond understanding.'"

In our efforts to understand our lives and the place where the Lord has set us, we ask questions.  Being inquisitive is OK; it is in our DNA.  Children from an early age ask so many questions; they want to understand and learn.  Sometimes children ask too many questions, the answers to which they cannot handle.  As a parent, I have to decide when they are ready to handle the information. Information is so important and the more questions we ask the better the outcome.  Tough decisions are made based on critical information.  If you don't ask questions then you might make a poor decision without the proper knowledge.  We should always be seeking information and truth; man's quest for knowledge will never be complete.  But when it comes to things of the Lord and the world outside of our own, that information is not so available to us.

Before Samson was born an angel appeared to his parents and foretold of Samson's life.  His parents were excited about the idea and asked the angel many questions.  I encourage you to read the full account in Judges 13.  Some of the questions the angel was willing to answer and others the angel refused.  The angel wanted to equip them with enough information to do the job the Lord had for them as Samson's parents.  But the angel was not willing to answer questions for which they could not handle.  The question the angel refused was a simple one; they ask him his name.  He denied it, telling them they couldn't understand the answer.  I know if Samson's parents continued in their pursuit of other information from this angel, he would have denied many requests.  Just like my children cannot handle information based on their level of understanding, mankind cannot handle spiritual information because it just would not make sense.  It would only lead to more questions and a larger quest for knowledge, knowledge that we cannot handle.

The Lord requires us to come as a child, with innocence of heart and sincerity of faith.  The sincerity of faith must be rooted in a place of acceptance.  We must accept that the Lord is in charge, that He cannot fail, that He knows better than we can ever fathom, that He has our best interests at heart, and that He will equip us with just enough information to do the job He has required of us.  No where in Scripture does it say He will ever answer all the questions we have or that we will even understand the answers to the questions.  The Bible never says we will have an answer to all the questions of WHY.  It only says He will send His Spirit who will guide you to the truth.

I suspect you have many questions in your life right now but you aren't getting the answer.  You've been searching Scripture, asking it of sage advisers, petitioning the Lord but to no avail.  Well, I have an answer for you but you might not like it.  Here is the answer; the same one the angel told Samson's parents: "Why do you ask that question?  It is beyond your understanding."  Frustrating as this might sound, it is for your benefit.  The Lord knew that Samson's parents didn't need to have that questioned answered in order for them to do their job; it just would have made things more difficult.  If you don't have an answer after an appropriate amount of searching and seeking, then the answer is one you are not able to handle just yet.  Either you're not ready for the answer or it isn't necessary to do you job.  It is quite possible that having the answer would make the situation worse.  Either way, you must trust the Lord.  If you don't have an answer to an important question, then maybe the information isn't really that critical right now or maybe you are asking the wrong question.  Find satisfaction in the Lord's sovereignty and let that be answer enough.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Judges 13, Mark 10:13-15, John 13:33-34,  John 14, John 16:12-15