Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jesus Was Adopted

Jesus Was Adopted
December 25, 2017
Matthew 1:21 "She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus . . ."

When the virgin Mary was found to be with child, Joseph decided he would respectfully and quietly divorce her. He had the option of publicly divorcing her, but that would have subjected Mary to a potential stoning, especially if the court of public opinion thought she had committed adultery on Joseph's testimony. But an angel of the Lord told him to reconsider, to take Mary as his wife because the child was born of the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly Father's child.  The angel gave Joseph a further instruction, Joseph was to name the child. Names were extremely important back then, and while the focus of the angel's message was the meaning of the name Jesus, there was something else the angel was telling Joseph. The angel was telling Joseph, himself, to name the child.

Naming a child was a father's right, and when he did, it was an informal method of declaring the child as his appointed earthly heir. They did not fully use last names back then, so Joseph named  him Jesus son of Joseph. The angel told Joseph the child wasn't his but instructed him to name the child anyway, to claim him as his own on the earth. The angle never told Joseph it was his son, but that he was to take the child and name him after himself, adopting him as his son.  Evidence of this is found later in Scripture when non-believers referred to Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. Joseph did what the angel instructed, giving the "first born" child of his household his name and the rights to the family's namesake and any and all wealth that might transfer with it should Joseph die. The angel instructed Joseph to adopt Jesus as his son even though he wasn't the father. Jesus was adopted, adopted into Joseph's family, with all the rights therein. The angel declared that the child was the Lord's, it was in Mary as a result of non-human blood. When you look at the genealogical records, however, Jesus is listed as Joseph's son. Jesus had no actual blood line from Joseph, or the tribe of Judah, but was listed in records with the full rights of blood.

The importance is not relevant to the story of salvation so much as it pertains to getting into Heaven, but Jesus' adoption in Joseph's family was and is significant to our lives while on earth. Joseph, adopted a son, a child, and became a father. It was and is the first representation we have of the Heavenly Father adopting us as His children, with all the rights therein as a full heir. It demonstrates to us how a true father can be, despite the earthly example you have today. I challenge you to look through Scripture and find another example of someone adopting a son. It happened back then but rare; it was not a story line the Lord wished to bring about until the perfect adoption of Jesus. It was foreshadowed and illustrated through the prophets Isaiah and Hosea, but not concrete until Jesus. Moses was adopted but was never listed as being in Pharaoh's household.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, celebrate the miracle of our Savior's birth, but also celebrate the miracle of adoption. If Jesus had not been adopted by Joseph, you and I would not be able to be adopted by the Heavenly Father. Merry Christmas and merry adoption story. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Hosea 1-2, Matthew 1, Romans 8:15 & 23, Romans 9:24 

Monday, December 18, 2017

More Cattle

More Cattle
December 18, 2017
Psalm 50:10 ". . .for every animal in the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills."

It is said that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That statement, though figurative, was meant to be a depiction of the Lord's wealth. And those words were right out of the mouth of the Lord. He used the analogy, in speaking to mankind, regarding the fact that He does not need our help or generosity, perspective that He is greater than any man, with more authority and power and wealth and ability than any other. But what did the Lord mean when He said He owned the cattle on a thousand hills?

Hills and valleys and waterways were natural borders for people's property. Cattle, naturally herd together, being safer in numbers. They will normally stay and graze as a group and then move on to the next green pasture together.  Why did He emphasize cattle on a hill? Why not just cattle?  If a land was hilly, the cattle would stay together nearly on a single hill, with other hills peppered in between. Cattle did not graze on each and every hill, then there would be devastation to the greenery, too many cattle and not enough grassland. No, when the Lord said He owned the cattle on a thousand hills He was also explaining how much land was His as well. To accomplish cattle on a thousand hills, you would have to own tens of thousands of hills as well. Cattle do not graze on a hill in the winter time; the wind would make it too cold. Cattle graze on hill tops mainly in the spring, when the grass is green and tastiest, when they have calved over the winter and were nursing their young, having expanded as a herd. Cattle went up to the hills to avoid the mud of the valleys, where they would get stuck in the mud, as well as face predators. It was a treasured place to be on a hill, soaking up the sunshine. The imagery of cattle up on a hill was not imagery of wealth, but extreme wealth that is always growing and expanding, as the protected cattle reproduce.

The point of having the cattle on a thousand hills is for intended use, exchange for whatever and whenever He pleases. But the funny thing about it, though, is He does not need any medium of exchange. He does not eat and He has no need for money; that was really the point that He explained further in the passage. The Lord was not bragging; He was stating that any human gift to Him, no matter how extravagant or costly, was of no use to Him. He already has everything. In pointing out the size of our gift to Him, any amount of sacrifice, it would be like tossing a cup of water into the ocean. When we quote that the Lord has the cattle on a thousand hills, it is usually in a selfish reference to having a wealthy father. The argument the Lord was making was not that you should come to Him and ask Him to sell one of His cows to fund your expenses, but that if you were to give Him a gift, make sure it is actually something of value.

People, out of guilt for sin, would offer an animal up to the Lord, to gain favor from Him. This is no different than today, people giving money to cover up the feelings left over after their behavior. The Lord has no desire for this. He does not want guilt offerings, He wants you to give out of thankfulness. He wants do you do good, for others, and on behalf of Him. He wants you to keep yourself from sin and live upright. He never promised to sell His cattle to fund your expenses, but He did say if you lived a clean and honest life, then you can call on Him in your time of distress and need, promising to rescue you. Being rescued by the Lord in times of trouble is far more valuable than more cattle. It ends up being a relationship with the Father, of more worth than livestock.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50, 1 Cor 10:26

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jesus Baptized

Jesus Baptized
December 11, 2017
Mark 1:4 "And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus, just a few months older than the Savior. They grew up knowing each other, knowing about each other, possibly spending plenty of time together, at least during reunions and major celebrations over thirty years of their lives. Both were brought up with a Godly heritage, where each was able to develop a deep relationship with the Heavenly Father. John started in ministry before Jesus, however. John had disciples well before Jesus turned the water into wine. What was so special about a man who baptized Jesus and how was John's baptism so superior that he was able to baptize the Savior?

John was an oddity in his time. He developed a ministry that was on the fringe of society. Instead of preaching in the synagogue, John preached out in the desert or wilderness, the outskirts of town. He developed a ministry of preaching repentance and baptizing people. Jews did not participate in baptism, they were born into their religion. Scholars believe John's ministry was for those converting religions and coming to a faith in the Lord, into Judaism. Everything that was considered unclean had to be kept on the outskirts, far away from the synagogue or temple. John developed a following of disciples who were intent on focusing and learning the Scriptures, diving deep into a relationship with the Lord. The baptism in water was their symbolism of being made clean and dedicating themselves to the Lord. Baptism was not required back then, it was not even a part of the Jew's practice. John started a radical ministry, considered as odd as he was, even slightly crazy. It wasn't crazy, however, it was real. It was so real that even the Jewish leaders came out to him to see what it was all about, to see these dedicated men whose lives were being transformed by a deep wave of faith. Jesus, too, came out and spent time with John and his disciples.

Jesus decided He would be baptized by John. Jesus didn't need baptized though, He had never sinned. Baptism was a symbol of being washed clean of sin with the intent of living a life dedicated to the Lord. Jesus didn't need that, either; He was already dedicated. So why was Jesus baptized; He didn't need to convert to Judaism. Jesus asked John to perform the Baptism and John refused initially, suggesting it wasn't needed. Jesus insisted. John consented. Jesus said it was necessary to complete and fulfill righteousness.  His righteousness did not need completed, though. Jesus did it to show others, to demonstrate what we should do with our own lives. It wasn't for show, it was to lead by example, similar to God resting on the seventh day then ordering us to do likewise. It was the demonstration of a practice we are to emulate. But Jesus wasn't just emulating being dipped in water, Jesus was emulating the dedication to what John's ministry was all about, to a full dedication and living intently for the Lord. Jesus' baptism was real, the start of something radical and John helped set it in motion.

You and I understand baptism as an outward statement of following Jesus. But it is so much more than that, it is a radical statement of wanting to go deeper, wanting to be a true disciple, wanting to live with a passion. Jesus was baptized to demonstrate what a passionate person does who is intent on serving the Lord. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 3, Mark 1

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Azor Matters

Azor Matters
December 4, 2017
Matthew 1:14 "Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud. . ."

There is a man in the Bible who is extremely significant yet seldom gets discussed from the pulpit or in small group. His name is Azor and his life was significant. Not much is known about Azor, as His name only appears twice in Scripture. His name is mentioned twice because it was used to describe his father and his son. Here is all we know about Azor: his father's name was Eliakim and his son's name was Zadok. We don't know if Azor had other sons, we don't know if Azor was a devout follower of the Lord, and we don't know if Azor did anything spectacular with his life to write about. Despite being written about in Scripture, by simply being mentioned, the events and accomplishments of Azor are only known by God. But we do know one more thing about Azor. He was in the lineage of Jesus. He was an ancestor to Jesus.

You might suggest that Azor did not do anything worth while because he did not even get a full mention in the Bible, just that he existed. But I would submit to you Azor's life matter. He mattered enough to be born, He mattered enough to be included in the lineage of Jesus, and he mattered to God. If Azor did not exist, if he never grew up and had a son, whom he protected enough to become a man himself, then you and I would not have the same Salvation story; the Bible would be different. Azor's life affected eternity the way you and I understand it today. He simply existed and played a role in the Lord's plan. He played the exact role in the Lord's plan that the Lord had appointed for him. For all we know he was a leader among leaders, a worshiper of worshipers, and a prayer warrior who defeated the  enemy. Just because Azor's life was written about to great lengths does not mean his life was any more or less important than Noah's or the apostle Paul's. It is too easy to assume his life was insignificant just because angels have not sung about his life to you.

Sometimes we feel our lives do not matter, like we are so insignificant that we aren't even worth a mention that we existed. We assume because we have not accomplished something worthy of the angels singing about that we should be disposable, that it would not affect anything if we were not here. This could not be further from the truth. Your life matters to the Lord and you play an intricate role in His plan for the world. Your life has so many ripple effects that have altered the course of so many people's lives that it all cannot be counted. It is hard for us to believe sometimes, because all we focus on is the negative or we never see the moments of impact. Despite your point of view regarding your life, despite Azor's point of view regarding his life, it all matters to the Lord. It matters to the Kingdom.

This understanding is important, not to make you feel good about your life to date, or give you a big head that you are a superstar, but to give you perspective on moving forward appropriately. If your life matters, and it will always matter, then you have the opportunity to make every minute count. It does not matter what you did in the past it only matters what you do going forward. Good or bad, the past is in the past. You only have the future ahead of you and more opportunities than you realize to affect the Kingdom. Are you going to life every moment like it matters or are you going to serve yourself and risk your legacy. Your legacy may not get written about even to the simple degree of Azor, however the Lord knows your legacy and will reward you appropriately. You may never get a head nod in Scripture, but your life still matters to the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Josh 24:14-15, Psalms 139:13, Jer 1:5, Roman 2:6

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Fathers Response

The Fathers Response
November 27, 2017
Luke 15:20 ". . . But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. While we know that, the meaning gets lost in our daily lives sometimes.  The good thing about the Lord is that despite us forgetting about His perfect character, despite our flaws and daily mistakes, He is still the same and responds to us the exact same every time. Consider the prodigal son. You may not be the prodigal son, but you and I have played his role many times, even daily in the small things. We forsake the household of the Father and do what we want, when we want, and how we want, only to end up regretting it. But the response of the Father is the exact same every time; it is perfect.

Recall in the story about the prodigal, how the Father responded. When the son realized the error of his ways, and how bad it was, he simply headed back home to the household of his Father. The Father had not spoken to him, knew nothing about his poor choice of adventures, knew nothing of the status of his money or the condition of his situation. All the Father knew at that point was that his son was coming home. Upon hearing that his son was approaching, the Father rejoiced; He was so glad He would be embracing His son soon. The anticipation was thick, with being united with his son, and so He ran to meet him. Then he saw him in the far off distance. For all the Father knew, the son could have just been coming home for a visit, to brag about his adventures and wild success, but as the two came close, the Father soon saw the condition of his son. The Father, just by looking at his son while he approached, could see that His son was returning with bruises and stories of regret. It didn't matter to the Father; He ran to hug him anyway.

The bruises and the story of regret did not change the Father's love for His son. All He cared about was that His son came home. The son instantly told his Father of his regret and the Father simply continued rejoicing that His son came home. Not only did His son come home, but His son came home and wanted to stay, wanted to forsake his poor choice of adventures. The Father's response was perfect, welcoming, forgiving, and rejoicing. That response started when He saw His son in the far off distance coming home, long before the stories of regret. His character was so perfect, the Father had forgiveness in his heart even as His son approached, even before He knew how bad it was. It didn't matter; all the mattered was that His son was home.

None of this is a shock to any of us. We have read the story of the prodigal many times. We know the Father is full of forgiveness and will welcome us home; we know what His response is going to be when we decide to head back to His household. We know His response will be perfect. And how do we repay the Lord's forgiveness? By playing the part of the prodigal yet again. We may not forsake our Father for months on end, traveling the world while rolling in our filth and sin, but we certainly take day trips. You and I take brief jaunts away from the Father's house, not wandering far, but far enough to revel in our little sin for a few hours or days. We know the Father's response will be perfect, and in response to Him we end up abusing His forgiveness on a daily basis with our gossiping lips, our self serving attitude, our complaining and defiant actions, and our lack of respect for the Father. The ironic thing is that the Lord knows this about our character, the propensity to play the role of the prodigal, and yet He is still full of forgiveness and mercy, and grace. His response is still perfect. He will still run to see you, being filled with compassion and forgiveness.

How many day trips have you taken lately, away from the Father's house?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Malachi 3:6, Luke 15, Heb 13:8

Monday, November 20, 2017

Simple Standard

Simple Standard
November 20, 2017
Ezekiel 18:24 ". . . Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die."

The Lord spoke to Ezekiel like no other. Sure, the Lord spoke to Moses, but those conversations were about the immediate, about how to deal with the Israelites. But the Lord talked to Ezekiel about the future, about how the Lord works in peoples lives, about Himself, and about the spiritual laws He set in motion. He asked Ezekiel to record it, to write it down so you can could read it and understand, truly understand the ways of the Lord. It wasn't a list of rules, more like an explanation of the way things worked. Keep in mind it predates salvation through Jesus, so the words were to Israelites who understood things in black and white, not through forgiveness and mercy and grace. Ironically, He introduced forgiveness, mercy, and grace but it seemed to create a double standard.

He explained that He does not rejoice when the wicked are punished in death, rather it is a sad scenario He wishes were different. It is not like He punishes them out of spite, rather their decisions carry a sentence He cannot commute if they are unwilling. The Lord says He rejoices when they turn from their ways. He has forgiveness, had forgiveness, even for the wretched before Jesus died on the cross. Repentance was always an option. But then He sets up what seems like a double standard. He says that believers who do amazing things, yet commit knowing sins later in life, will be punished and suffer the fate of the wicked, as if he was never a believer all along. It seems unfair. You can be good for 72 years of your life, even perform miracles on the Lord's behalf, literally serve Him to the ends of the earth, but fall into sin the last six months of your life and receive permanent punishment. 

The Lord foresaw this seemingly unfair treatment, when a sinful man can commit crimes against the Lord for the first 72 years of his life but figure it out the last six months and the Lord is willing to blot out, to redeem the man. The Israelites complained why they had to work hard to serve Him and yet the Lord wouldn't remember it all in the end, if they sinned only the last brief portions of their lives would reflect the punishment deserved for their sins against Him. It wasn't a tally of all the right or wrong, the Lord was setting up true forgiveness for everyone, if repentant, just like after Jesus died on the cross. Forgiveness was always available, even to the vilest of sinners. The Lord wasn't setting up a double standard, the Lord was setting up complete fairness. He set up that the final ways of a man, the final belief systems held in the end, those negated anything in his entire life before that point. It is not a double standard, it is a simple standard. 

The Israelites thought it was a mark system, a balance table of right and wrongs, of doing good things that outweighed the bad. It was unfair the Lord never remembered those things done right. It was actually completely fair, the same system was going to be applied no matter who you were, entrance to Heaven mattered only from the point of forgiveness onward. But the righteous man who lived like the wicked the last days of his life, because of those sins, he would suffer. The Lord actually said that man, who lived well in the beginning,yet failed in the end, had become unfaithful, like an adulterer. That man knew better, knew right from wrong and still chose wrong in the end. This ends up being more frustrating to the Lord than a sinner unaware. It speaks to living well all the days of your life, but more importantly, finishing well. It isn't how you start out, it isn't how you perform in the middle, it is about how you finish. There is no double standard, there never was. Forgiveness was and is always available; repentance has always been an option, until the very end. If you've messed up, get it right now. If you never got it right, now is the time to figure it out. But just as important, don't lose what you've already worked for, don't blow it at the finish line. You have to finish well, or the prior works won't mean anything.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ezekiel 18, Acts 20:24, 2 Tim 4:7

Monday, November 13, 2017

Out of Loyalty

Out of Loyalty
November 13, 2017
Joshua 24:15 "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . ."

Jesus told a parable about two sons. The father asked the two to go and work in the field. One agreed while the other denied him. Yet the one who denied it all changed his mind and did the work anyway. The one who agreed at the onset, shirked the responsibility and walked away. Jesus said the one who first said no, but ended up doing the work, he was the one who did the will of the father. This parable was referencing Christianity, specifically about the work involved with living it out, living and following Christ. The one who originally denied the father, realized he was in the wrong and went ahead and got to work in his Christianity. The one who agreed to start things out, yet walked away, watched as the other son got the reward. 

The son who agreed but failed to follow through, that son did not make it into the kingdom. Jesus said that son watched as prostitutes and tax collectors went ahead into Heaven. Either that son had no integrity or was tempted away, but for some reason decided he did not want to do his father's work. The Bible is very clear this guy knew specifically the father and knew the work asked of him. It wasn't like he never met his dad. He had a relationship with the father, lived in his household as a beloved son, yet quit when it was time to live for him. This son was completely out of loyalty, self absorbed, and served himself in the end. The other son, however, started out with selfish motives in play, then came to his senses, got his act together, and followed the will of the father. This man, the one who figured out how to lay down the satisfaction of the flesh, figured out honor and duty, this man ended up fulfilling the will of the father. This man did it all out of loyalty to the one who gave him life, to the one who kept him warm and well fed, to the one who gave him a family and a future. This man entered the kingdom, not because he was perfect, but because he understood what the father did for him, the depth of being called a son, and responded accordingly.

There are many days I'm like both of these sons. You are, too. Some days I am completely fresh out of loyalty and I end up serving myself. Some days, most days, I realize the error of my ways and move forward working for Him, not because it is always fun and exciting, but because I've figured out the loyalty required to overcome my self serving desires and I do what is right in serving my Father. For most Christians this is the case. We tell the Lord we'd like to serve ourselves this day, but then quickly remember all the Lord has done for us, realizing we are compelled to do the will of our dad. This isn't because we feel guilty about it, but we do it out of loyalty to our heavenly Father. There is work to be done and the Lord has asked a good deal from you. Are you fresh out of loyalty to Him or can you do the work out of your loyalty to Him? Which son do you side with, resembling the most? Be careful in your decision, only one makes it into the kingdom of heaven.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 21:28-32

Monday, November 6, 2017

Costly Promised Land

Costly Promised Land
November 6, 2017
Numbers 13:28 "But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. . ."

Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt and they wandered desert for 40 years. They were on their way to a land called the Promised Land, but it took them 40 years to make a few days' trip. They were disobedient, stubborn, selfish, and insolent, which is why it took so long. The Lord disciplined them, then finally brought them to the entrance to the Promised Land. There was a caveat, though. Someone else was living in their Promised Land. Recall that the Promised Land got its name because it was sworn to Abraham hundreds of years earlier, a true promise. The Lord said He would give Abraham and His descendants this Promised Land, free of charge. It had been years since anyone had seen the Promised Land, only heard about it in stories. Now, they were there, at the gateway, ready to live the life God had for them.

Moses told them to go scope out the land before they just rushed in and attempted to take what was rightfully there. There was now a problem. Since they had wandered in the desert for 40 years (not to mention the time they were in slavery), a people group had not only taken root in the land, but were flourishing. No problem. They were told they would live in houses they had not built, and harvest crops they had not planted. This was foretold. Someone else had done all the work for them, the people who had taken root and were flourishing in the land. They scoped out the Promised Land and it was now going to cost them something. They were being given the land by the Lord, but it was going to cost them dearly. The Lord predicted all of this; none of it came as a shock to Him. The Children of Israel however, were still themselves. They saw the people who lived there, in their new land, and they became fearful of the cost. They had come this far and yet were willing to forego their Promised Land.

The cost of entering the Promised Land was not a battle with the inhabitants of the land, though that was inevitable. That was not an issue for the Lord; He saw that coming and knew He'd have to fight them off. That cost was already paid for. The Lord showed them time and time again how He fought their battles for them. This battle seemed bigger, though, the cost seemed higher. The cost of entering the Promised Land was trust. The Children of Israel were going to have to trust the Lord beyond all measure, that He was going to carry them through the hard times, the soon coming battles, to take possession of the Promise. It would require trust and faith in the One True God. The Promised Land was a given, but they still had to walk forward in faith.

As a child of God, there is a cost to following Him into all He has promised for you and for me. That cost is trust, trust that He will be there, trust that He will help you though the difficult times, trust that He will bring you through victoriously. You've probably missed out on a few Promised Lands because you were fearful just like the Israelites. Sometimes it feels easier to shrink back than walk forward in faith to take possession of your promise. The benefits of the Promised Land are amazing, but the trust required to get it is costly. Will you trust the Lord? Or will you forego your Promised Land?  

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Genesis 12:1-9, Numbers 13

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humbling Circumstances

Humbling Circumstances
October 30, 2017
Romans 12:3 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you."

Paul wrote in one of his letters, that by the grace given to him, he was able to advise us all to be humble on our own accord, by our own volition. To understand his statement, understand first what he meant when He said, "by the grace given me." This sentence was written in the 12th chapter in his letter to the church in Rome. Scholars believe this was one of his last epistle's written, about 57 A.D. Scholars also believe it was written about a year or two after his second letter to the church in Corinth. Recall in 2 Corinthians Paul talked about his thorn in his flesh. He said he prayed and prayed that the Lord would take it away after the thorn was given to him. Someone or something gave Paul a thorn in his flesh. Regardless of the literal meaning of his thorn, Paul said it was given to him to keep from being conceited, and that God's grace was sufficient for him to endure throughout all of that situation.

Paul's thorn in his flesh was meant to keep him humble and that he had to lean on God's grace to carry him during that enduring circumstance. No one knows if the thorn was every even removed throughout his life. But we do know Paul learned to lean on the Lord's grace. Fast forward to his letter to the church in Rome and he alludes to the Lord's grace in his life from the thorny circumstance. Basically he tells the church in Rome to trust him when he says you should be humble on your own accord. Paul knew from experience it was better to be humble on your own than have the Lord grant you a thorn in your flesh to keep you from being conceited. We have been warned, like a parent telling a child to learn from the mistakes of those who have experienced it already.  Humbling circumstances have a way of humbling us. Paul said to humble yourself so the Lord doesn't have to for you. Learn from Paul's experience, though few of us will.

Each of us has something in our lives to keep us from being conceited and arrogant. You think you did it on your own? Keep thinking that and the Lord will be quick to grant you a thorn, possibly permanently. For some of us, if life is easy, then we don't need the Lord. That is exactly where the Lord does not want us, on easy street. Easy street is the least path of resistance to arrogance. Jesus said it was hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, not because they are rich but because of the tendency to lean on wealth in this world rather than lean on the Lord. Paul needed to lean on the Lord at all times and his thorn helped him do just that. 

Few of us learn from our parents who tried to warn us from their own mistakes. Paul attempted to warn us, to humble ourselves with sober judgment. It is easier to humble yourself than live with a thorn. Humbling circumstances are mean to do just that, keep us humble. There is a perfect way to avoid humbling circumstances. Humble yourself, on your own, unlike Paul, and you can avoid the humbling circumstances. Think of your situation in life right now that gives you the most anxiety, the one you spend time wishing you could avoid it. That circumstance may be there to keep you humble. If you didn't have that situation, you might think you don't need the Lord. I have one, a humbling circumstance, it keeps me grounded and forces me to depend on the Lord. Without it, I may become conceited and think I don't need the Lord, that I can do it all on my own strength. Some of you are where you are because you haven't learned to lean on the Lord or you haven't learned to rid yourself of conceit. It is only the arrogant that need humbled. Examine what is humbling you right now.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 19:23-24, 2 Corin 12:1-6

Monday, October 16, 2017


October 16, 2017
2 Timothy 2:13 "If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

The word "unfaithful" suggests cheating on someone, not being true to your vows of dedication. It certainly promotes vivid emotions. The Apostle Paul did not use the word unfaithful when writing to his favorite disciple, Timothy, rather the word "faithless." The choice of words used to communicate with Timothy is interesting though. In the second letter to Timothy, the tone of communication is clearly different than the first letter to Timothy. The first letter carries far more elementary topics and the second letter builds on those topics, representing the maturity of Timothy's understanding. Paul takes a break from his lengthy discourse in the second letter to Timothy and gives him a summary song to learn. The summary song, not necessarily meant to be sung, was meant to be memorized as a short collection of idioms to spark meaning when easily quoted. The full stanza is:
     "If we died with Him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself."

In the set of verses, Paul uses opposites. He juxtaposes dying with Christ as well as living with Christ. He said the opposite of owning is disowning. He says if we endure, living as powerless, then we will reign. Then Paul says if we are faithless the Lord will remain faithful, because the Lord cannot disown Himself. The Lord's portion in that line is to remain faithful, as in He cannot leave or deny or revoke His intention. The Lord does this despite someone being faithless. What does it mean to be faithless? The opposite of faithful is unfaithful, not faithless. Does it mean to doubt or deny? Does it mean to cheat, as in know the truth but not walk in it? It can mean many things to many people, but the apostle Paul used it to communicate the perfect opposite of trust or ability to acknowledging the truth. It does not mean to cheat, because that would mean being confident in the truth yet denying it. Paul was saying that when we doubt, or question the truth, or forget it altogether, that the Lord maintains that truth as an absolute.

You and I have the propensity to doubt, question things when it gets tough or the timing does not submit to our ideals. But the Lord would say that no matter how much we doubt the truth about our lives or His Word or His plan, the Lord would maintain it, standing there with the truth in His hand, ready to help us take it up again in absolute terms. You have come to the knowledge of many truths, about the Lord, about your life, and about your participation in the Lord's plan. If you doubt those truths at any time, forgetting them or wondering the accuracy, the Lord wants to help you in that unbelief. His desire is that you have clarity and peace about the knowledge you should hold dear. If it no longer seems certain than take it to Him and ask Him to re-establish its validity in your heart. It is always true and valid, but sometimes we lose heart as human beings. If you lack faith, the Lord maintains all that is true. Doubting does not make something untrue, just untrue in your heart. 

If you doubt something, it is OK to talk to the Lord about it. Ask Him to re-establish it in absolute terms in your heart. Let Him place it there again.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Malachi 3:6, Mark 9:24, James 1:6-7 & 17, Hebrews 13:8

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Seas Have a Voice

Seas Have a Voice
October 9, 2017
Psalm 93:3 "The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves."

Many of the Psalms were written to music, as in a ballad or celebration to what is going on in the psalmist's heart and life. Psalm 93 is a short, five verse song, comparing the Lord's magnitude and strength to that of the ocean. The psalmist sings that the seas have a voice, with their dangerous and pounding waves, declare how magnanimous is the Lord of Heaven. It is not known if this is the psalmist writing and singing from the safety of the shoreline, being afraid of the stormy ocean, or if this was written from a death defying experience on the open waters. Maybe this is a storm in the psalmist's heart and the ocean is an allegory for his problems that cannot be controlled or harnessed. Whatever the case may be, any of the above mentioned scenarios hold true. The ocean is vast and powerful, dangerous, but the Lord is bigger than it all and the ocean declares it so.

The psalmist may have written it to encourage his heart, reminding him no matter how big the situation, how powerful or scary or dangerous, the Lord is bigger and mightier than it all. The Lord made that which is feared, and the psalmist was suggesting one need have more respect for the Lord than the pounding waves, or dangerous situation. The pounding ocean waves, representing a formidable scenario to a weak human being, declared the Lord's greatness. Simply stated, the potential problem declared how strong the Lord was and is and will be in our lives. The psalmist wrote these words to encourage himself, to sing the words that lifted the Lord up above the scary scenario. If the psalmist wasn't afraid of the situation, he would not have used the words "pounding waves," "thunder of the great waters," and "breakers of the sea."

He writes that the Lord is above it all, stronger and mightier, secure enough to not be rocked by the pounding breakers. In the last verse he determines that the Lord is steadfast, resolute and unchanging. He was declaring the Lord, no many how many scary situations arise, the Lord will be bigger than all of them, for all eternity. You would not know how big your God is without a big and scary situation needing overcome. There are a million scenarios right now in this world to be feared: earthquakes, floods, terrorists, and rogue gunman, bill collectors, doctor reports, and loneliness. The Lord is bigger than them all, resolute and unchanging, mightier than whatever situation you fear right now. 

Whatever you are fearing, the Lord is bigger. It is the Lord you should fear, not your situation. He can calm the waters, move the mountains, heal the sick, and pay any debt. Make sure you are right with the one who can overcome your breaking waves. They will not overtake you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 93, Psalm 111:10, Mark 4:35-41, 1 Peter 5:7

Monday, October 2, 2017

Get Behind Me

Get Behind Me
October 2, 2017
Matthew 16:23 "Jesus turned and said to Peter, '"Get behind me, Satan!'

Jesus called Peter a bad name; He called him Satan. Peter and Jesus had many famous conversations; usually with Peter arguing with the Lord. On one night the two had a dynamic exchange in which Jesus suggested Peter was either being controlled by Satan or possessed by Satan or was Satan, himself. Peter was trying to convince Jesus that the idea of Jesus being put to death should and would not happen. Of course Jesus knew it had to happen, but Peter thought surely there would be a way for Jesus to escape death, to which Jesus replied, "Get behind me, Satan." These seemingly aggressive words were actually directed at Peter, not Satan. Yes, Jesus was calling Peter, Satan, sort of.

The quote must be reviewed in full context. Just prior to the harsh discourse, Jesus asked the disciples if they truly knew who He was. Peter answered that He was the Christ. Jesus was thrilled with Peter's answer because it had not yet been revealed that Jesus was the Christ. Peter was the first to figure it out, the real identity of Jesus. Jesus was proud of Peter's personal revelation; it showed he was paying attention and was sensitive to the Lord's work.  Peter declared that Jesus was the Savior, and Jesus was impressed, commending that Peter was truly a critical man in the Lord's plan. Then Jesus went on to explain as the Christ, He had to suffer and die, to fulfill all that was written about Him.  This is where Peter argued and suggested there was another way. Then Jesus got slightly aggressive, and called him Satan. I bet Peter was shocked.

The word that Jesus called Peter was not actually the same name that is given to Satan, although it translates to that in our modern text. Peter was not possessed by Satan and Jesus was not speaking to Satan; Satan was not in the room. The word Satan means adversary, or one who opposes as the enemy, specifically opposed to the work of redemption. Jesus used a word that was a diminutive of Satan when He used it against Peter. It was as if Jesus was adding the letters "ish" or "esque" to the name of Satan when He used it in context. Jesus was referring to Peter's words as something that would sound like they were coming from Satan. Jesus wanted to get Peter's attention, to understand the words Peter was suggesting were actually opposed to the redemptive work of the Christ through His death. If Peter was right, and Jesus did not suffer death on the cross, there would be no redemption, no salvation of sins. Peter had declared Jesus was the Christ but if the Christ did not die for the sins of mankind, then Salvation could not be attained. If this happened, then Satan would have won. Jesus was telling Peter that his human thoughts and reasoning would have opposed the plan of salvation just as much as Satan opposes it.

Jesus was not calling Peter, Satan, but referring to the opposition as something in favor of Satan and siding with the enemy. Jesus was nipping it in the bud, refuting the thought rather aggressively, to make sure the reasoning did not spread or continue. We must ensure our ideas do not get imposed upon the work the Lord is trying to accomplish. We must make certain not to cross the line and enter human reasoning into the equation, rather always seeking the Lord's design for it all, even if it includes death. The Lord's design for our lives, His plan to use you, may not make sense but to deny it would be akin to siding with the enemy, being like-minded with Satan.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 16:13-28

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Good Break

A Good Break
September 25, 2017
Genesis 2:3  "The God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done."

On the seventh day He rested. The story of creation is easy to remember. Sure, we may forget the exact order in which He created things during those six days, but everyone remembers He created everything during the course of six days and on the seventh day He rested. The seventh day, as we call the Sabbath, was the the first example we were told to follow. The Lord's first act as a Heavenly Father was to demonstrate rest. Not only did the Lord demonstrate rest, but He demonstrated a rhythm to the rest, an actual schedule. There is far more to that rest, though, than many people realize.

As the Lord decided to rest on the seventh day, it became set apart. Anything in the Bible referred to as set apart meant that it was Holy. The Bible specifically calls the seventh day, a day of rest, Holy. Recount the story again. The Lord created the sun, the earth, the animals, and mankind but none of them ever received the description of Holy. In fact, it wasn't an actual thing that was called Holy, it was the act of resting on a schedule, because the Lord rested, that was called Holy. If you re-read all the creation details, after every day of creating, the Lord reviewed His handiwork and called it, "good." The act of creating and the things that He created were good, but the act of rest became Holy. This demonstrates the importance the Lord wanted to place on a scheduled day of rest.

The Lord never told us to create, like He did, but the Lord told us to rest like He did. Ironically, we attempt to create every day, but seldom to we actually rest on schedule, maintaining complete holiness. We work, six days, and then some more, many times doing good works. Most of the time, the work that we do is Christ-centered, well intended and even on behalf of our fellow man, but the Lord says despite it goodness, it isn't Holy. Resting on the seventh day is Holy.

Just as we do acts of kindness for our fellow man, even on behalf of the Lord, we rest on schedule, even from those acts of kindness, to be Holy. We do good works, that is required, but the good works are not Holy, despite the righteous intentions. Resting on the Sabbath, however, that is Holy. The Lord set this up. He goes even further to make sure that the Sabbath is blessed. Not only was it emulated by the Lord, required of us, and Holy, but it is also Blessed. I'm not sure how you can bless a schedule of time, but the Lord declared it so. The Lord declared that our time of rest is blessed, as in it blesses not only Him but ourselves, when we take a scheduled rest from doing good works. So often we think of our good works as something to bless the Lord, but resting somehow from those good works, on a regular schedule is also blessed. The Lord knew of our propensity to burn ourselves out, even in doing good things. Many times we feel guilty, or even lazy, if we stop doing good works for a short while, but the Lord says it is actually blessed to schedule a break from good works. He even requires it. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 1, Ex 20:11, Eph 2:10, Phil 2:13

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Try and Fear

Try and Fear
September 18, 2017
Matthew 25:25  "So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground...."

In the parable of the talents, when the Master gave the servants a portion of money to invest, the Bible says he gave to each one according to his own ability. The man who was given five talents to invest clearly had the ability to manage those five talents. The man who as given two had the ability to manage two. Obviously the man who was given only one talent had the ability to at least manage that one talent. So each went to work, according to his ability. I imagine, though, the one who was given five, when he put it to work, still had to work at it. Just because he had the ability to manage five talents, does not mean it was easy. In today's dollars some would estimate that five talents at just over $7 million. Managing $7 million is not an easy task, especially considering the man doubled it and turned it into $14 million. The stress of that much money, making sure it does not experience any loss, must have been great. The man had a healthy fear of the Master and had to work hard; he at least had to try. The story is the same for the man who was capable of managing two talents. He a healthy fear of the Master; he had to work hard and at least try to the best of his abilities.

The man who was given one talent, though, should not be looked upon as a basket case. He was given, by some estimates in today's dollars, $1.4 million to invest on behalf of the master. The man was still a business man, and knew how to invest wisely. He was capable of managing $1.4 million and turning it into almost $3 million dollars. I've never been given $1.4 million, but I doubt it is easy to double that into $3 million, at least not overnight. It still takes a degree of diligent work and even risk. But that man, he was so ruled by fear that he buried it. He did not even try. According to the Master, the man had the capability of succeeding. The Master was at least expecting effort, something, anything. The man was so afraid of the consequences of failure, that he didn't even try. The Master knew if the man tried, that failure wasn't likely; the man had skills to manage a large chunk of money still. The other men, with the five and two talents, surely had a healthy fear of failure, too, but they at least tried to the best of their abilities.

The point of the story is not about doubling money or making millions. The point is that we are supposed to do something, anything, with what we've been given. We are supposed to try, despite a fear of failure. Fear has the ability to paralyze people; that's what it did to the man who buried $1.4 million. Interesting to note in the story that the Master's response to the man who buried it was that the measure of success was not to see if he doubled it, just that he put it to work, just that he tried to the fullest extent of his ability. The man was afraid of the wrong thing. He should not have feared failure, he should have feared failing to try. If you don't even try, failure is already certain. The man feared an unknown end, so he submitted to it and failed instantly. The Master already knew the man given one talent could not have returned five. The Master had realistic expectations of the man's abilities.

You've been given much to work with in life, however little you think it is measured. But the Lord has given you something to manage, something to do on behalf of Him, and He is asking that you try. The Lord's expectations of you is realistic with regard to how He has equipped you. He does not compare you to anyone except you. You are different than me and everyone else in the world. The Lord does not require that you measure your success by the accomplishments of others, but only that you try to the best of your ability. If you are afraid to start, however, then you've already failed. Don't be afraid of failure, be afraid of not trying. If the Lord has faith in your abilities then it is OK to step out. Success is not measured in the outcome, but trying to the best of your abilities. Interesting to note the Master's response to the man who buried his effort. He called the man lazy. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 9:10, Jeremiah 18, Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-28, Romans 19:21 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

If I Die I Die

If I Die I Die
September 11, 2017
Esther 4:16  ". . .And if I die, I die."

The story of Esther is famous enough that little needs told of it. There is a poetic portion of the true tale that reads, "such a time as this." Those words, suggesting that Esther was placed as queen by Divine providence to save her people from destruction were never spoken by Esther. Those words were spoken by Mordecai, her uncle. Mordecai feared for his own life, but not just his own life, his entire family and people. He was a good man and knew thousands of innocent people were going to die. Mordecai put on sackcloth when he heard the news of the impending death. This sackcloth not only signified mourning, but signified he was on his knees before his God searching for a way out of the mess, insight only gained through prayer. Esther, on the other hand, was slightly selfish and insecure enough to hope that hiding her identity would at least keep her alive. Esther was self-serving at this time.

Mordecai convinced her to consider those poetic words, that she was place there for such a time as this, to save the people from certain death. Esther needed this encouragement, but the encouragement was not enough to make her bold or give her the insight as to how to attempt to save everyone. The encouragement for her to consider her position was just enough to put Esther on her knees in prayer. Mordecai was already prayed up but could not act on Esther's behalf. She had to be encouraged to seek the Lord for herself on the matter. And so she did. She did not just take Mordecai's word, she prayed earnestly for divine wisdom into the matter. You cannot say Mordecai convinced her, influencing her to sacrifice her life, she had to come to that consensus on her own, consider some other words Mordecai spoke to her. He told her that if she kept quiet, the Lord would have to find another willing vessel to accomplish His will.

Esther, through this encouragement to consider the Lord's plan for her life, realized her relationship with the Lord and serving Him was far more important that staying alive. She finally came to her own resolve and personal statement. Esther mounted her courage and her famous lines are not quoted nearly as much as Mordecai's, if at all. She resolved to move forward with a plan, after seeking the Lord's face, and said, "If I die, I die." She realized it was far better to die serving the Lord than to live serving herself. 

When the Lord has something for you to do, it may seem very scary, something you may not want to consider. It will end up costing you something greatly, your status, your friendships, your wealth, maybe more. It won't be easy and the only way you'll have enough courage to attempt it is by first getting on your knees before the Lord in deep personal prayer. When you have your resolve and courage, you'll realize that the worst possible outcome of any situation in this life is death, which amounts to being with Christ in Heaven. But more importantly, you'll realize that serving the Lord and His will, no matter what the cost, is far better than ignoring Him and serving yourself. At some point you'll have  to answer to Him for your unwillingness to head His call for your life. What will your answer be? That it wasn't comfortable to serve Him? That it didn't profit you to serve Him? That it could have cost you your life to serve Him? I challenge you to consider following the Lord at all costs and come to the same resolve Esther did. If I die, I die, but it is better to die serving the Lord than to live serving myself.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Esther 4, Luke 19:40, Romans 9:21, Romans 14:18

Monday, September 4, 2017

Before Zacchaeus

Before Zacchaeus
September 4, 2017
Luke 19:4  "So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way."

The story of Zacchaeus has more to it than any song you might have learned when you were younger. The short of the story is that he was not a tall man, nor an extremely moral man. Zacchaeus was disliked by his peers, by the general public, and especially by the Jews. He was a tax collector and had become very rich at the expense of others, dishonest gain. Not a single detail about Zacchaeus matters when you realize he was just a human being, though, a sinner needing a Savior. Zacchaeus obviously knew something was different about the man named Jesus and his heart was not only curious but possibly desperate to have what Jesus offered. Just to get a glimpse of this man named Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see above the crowds.

Sycamore trees grow between 60 and 100 feet tall. They are big trees and some species can grow to a very old age. Sycamore trees live, on average 200-250 years. Some species of sycamore can live for more than 500 years. Something else unique about a sycamore tree is its bark. The bark of a sycamore tree is slippery. A friend of mine was telling me he likes to hunt and he put a tree stand in a sycamore tree one time. The tree stand fell down, sliding right down the sides of the trunk with him on it. He said you would not pick a sycamore tree unless you had no other option. It is not an ideal tree to climb. Zacchaeus must not have had any other option to see Jesus but that sycamore tree. He had to climb it. He had no other option because Jesus was passing by, it was that tree at that moment or possibly nothing else.  Zacchaeus had to work hard in order to see Jesus. He was desperate to see Jesus. And before Zacchaeus could climb that tree, someone had to plant it there. Zacchaeus could have been climbing a 200 year old tree. Before Zacchaeus, there was a tree.

Jesus prepared the way for that tree, a way for Zacchaeus to see Him. But just because Jesus prepared a way, in advance, Zacchaeus still had to want it badly enough to work for it. The Lord has always promised if you look for Him, if you seek for Him with all your heart, you will find Him. Zacchaeus was searching with all his heart and he found Jesus. The Lord has made a way for each and every one of us to see Him, to find Him. He prepared a way in advance, long ago, so you and I could be able to have a relationship with Him. Finding Him takes work, not because He is hidden, but because there are distractions obstructing your view of Him. Zacchaeus' view was hindered by the world; he had to rise above the obstacles to see Jesus clearly.

There are so many things trying to get in your way. There are distractions in your life that will try to keep you from Jesus. Your job is to rise above the crowds, the distractions, and search for Jesus, seek Him while He may be found. Jesus honored Zacchaeus because of his effort. Jesus knew Zacchaeus' heart was trying to find what Jesus had to offer. Despite the tax collector's storied past, Jesus was thrilled with the man's effort. He took great lengths to find Jesus, taking advantage of the opportunity that tree afforded him. What obstacles are in your way of finding and seeing Jesus? What efforts do you take to seek Him out?

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Chronicles 21:24, Jer 29:12-14, Luke 19:1-10

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Medium to Mild

Medium to Mild
August 28, 2016
Revelation 3:15  "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!"

To the church in Laodicea, Jesus did not describe Himself as wielding a sword or with angry fireballs in His eyes. He described Himself as the ruler, as the one who had been given charge over the earth, and the one with the only true testimony in life. In other words, He had the final say and His final say was the truth. Jesus then told the church He was aware of their actions, but more importantly the truth about their hearts. He knew the condition of their hearts, in unbiased fashion, and their hearts were at a setting going from medium to mild. They were not on fire for the Lord, yet they were not ice cold to Him either. They were just tepid in their relationship with the Lord and fully content to stay there.

When he was describing their middle-of-the-road status, He was not talking about their maturity level in their walk with Him. A new Christian can be completely sincere in His faith, with the execution of it off slightly; Jesus has patience for this. Jesus was not talking about their knowledge of the Word or that they were following false teachings. He had no complaint with their doctrine, their belief system, or the method of handling the Word. He was frustrated with them because they had simply allowed their hearts to be set at medium. Apparently, Jesus does not like medium. He'd prefer all or nothing. In the letter, He wrote that they had become wealthy Christians by the world's standards and their wealth was allowing them to deceive themselves. Since Jesus had the only unbiased testimony about them, He told them that their hearts were not focused on the right things, their wealth was not helping them they way they thought it was.

Jesus recommended they trade for gold that had been refined in the fire by Him. The meaning of this is similar to laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven. His gold was truth, and faith, and being rich in deeds, not monetary treasure. True wealth has nothing to do with physical assets but everything to do with spiritual rewards. Their spiritual rewards were lacking, since they depended on their physical wealth while allowing their hearts to be set on medium. This is one of the biggest issues facing the church in first-world nations. Decorative housing, occasional vacations, ample health care, freedom to live out a personal walk with Jesus without persecution--these are actually dangerous to a person's heart. They give the feeling of comfort, which creates complacency. Complacency allows a heart to go from medium to mild. Jesus said He wanted to spit complacency out of His mouth. This imagery is similar to a person who thinks he is talking a refreshing sip of ice water on a hot day and realizes mid-mouthful that it is vinegar, spitting it out with vigor. That's how Jesus feels about most of the Christians in His churches today. He wants to spit them out of His mouth like vinegar. 

While you can evaluate your own life all you want, the opinion of Jesus is the only one that matters since He holds an unbiased testimony about you. Does He find that you are comfortable and complacent, that you've reach a level in life where you can coast in your walk with the Lord while focusing on your simple pleasures? Jesus wants your all or your nothing, not the middle-of-the road mentality that you think is enough to get by in life and church. Jesus wants hearts that are dedicated to Him. Half-hearted attempts at serving the Lord won't make it in His kingdom. In fact, Jesus promised discipleship for those who found themselves at a setting of medium. This discipleship, He said, will come in the form of discipline. Turn the dial up on your Christianity, lest you get ready for some discipline.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 6:19-21, 1 Cor 3:11-14, Heb 11:26, Heb 12:4-11, Rev 3:13-21, Rev 22:12

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Truth Revealed

Truth Revealed
August 21, 2017
Revelation 3:9  "I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars--I will make them fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you."

The letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches, His light to the world, all carried with them a strong degree of correction. This was for all the churches except for Philadelphia. Jesus had praise and encouragement for the church in Philadelphia. To the other churches He started His letters depicting His frustration and anger, but not so when He addressed Philadelphia. In their letter, Jesus described Himself as holy and true, holding the keys of David. The description of holding David's keys was in referencing to being a king, THE KING, and holding the rights to the throne. Those holding rights to a throne also had all power and authority over the kingdom. He was reminding the church that He had all power and authority over the world and all those in it, with the ability to make the inhabitants do what He wants. 

This was critical to encouraging the church of Philadelphia, reminding them He held the authority over all the inhabitants of the kingdom. The church in Philadelphia was like most healthy, God-fearing church today, dedicated in serving Him yet growing weary of doing the right thing and fighting off those who would try to pervert their Christianity. Jesus called those, who were not true Christians, liars. Jesus promised He would protect them from the liars. Not only would Jesus protect them from the liars, but make the liars confess the truth in front of them, being humbled on their knees and acknowledging the true saints as being right in the eyes of the Lord.

It does not matter that you are right and that others know it, however; it matters that you are right in the eyes of the Lord. It matters that your Christianity is true. It matters that you always do the right thing and deny those who would pervert Christianity trying to get you to do the same. Jesus encouraged that church and reminded them of His willingness to honor those who held to His teachings, who were not liars in their faith, and who stayed faithful to the end. Jesus holds the authority over those who are around you, those who may not be true Christians and those who may be attempting to deceive you. The Lord holds the authority over the liars. The truth will come out and the Lord will honor those who hold true to Him. The truth will be revealed in front of everyone. The Lord holds the keys to the kingdom and the door He has opened for you cannot be shut. He has opened the door to His kingdom for those who remain full of His truth.

Not only will the Lord reveal the truth, but some day those liars will be humbled in front of you. It is not your job to humble them or force them to admit you are right, that is the Lord's responsibility. He has promised to vindicate you, forcing them to acknowledge He has loved you on account of your faithfulness. He has promised to make them acknowledge He has shown you favor because you have held true to Him. Furthermore, the Lord has promised you will be spared from the suffering that is coming during the end times, keeping you from living through the tribulation. While the tribulation is a whole other conversation, all you you need to do is keep the faith, do the right thing, and the Lord will protect you from it. You are not a liar and the Lord desires you to hold truth to His word. He understands you are weary of doing right, when at times it would be easier to deal with liars according to their own methods. That is not an option if you are going to remain faithful to Him.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 63:11, Rom 1:18, Gal 1:10, Col 3:9, Rev 2 & 3

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not Always Saved

Not Always Saved
August 14, 2017
Revelation 3:2  "Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God."

When Jesus dictated the seven letters to the seven churches, His lamps unto the World, He was not writing to the non-believer. He was not writing to the Jew, or to the Pharisee, or anyone following false religions. Jesus was writing to a very specific group of individuals. He was writing to Christians, to those who professed to follow the name of Jesus and had received salvation for the repentance of their sins. It was a very narrow group of individuals, and each Christian church was subject to their own struggles. None was perfect and Jesus recognized that. He was sending the letters on ahead of Himself, to convince the believers He was on His way and that when He arrived, they better be living rightly. They better had fixed the problems within the four walls of their church and within the lining of their hearts.

The church of Sardis, though, they were unique above all other churches. Jesus said they had a reputation that preceded themselves. He acknowledged that they were known for being a healthy church, a living and vibrant place where lives were changed and people were true believers and worshipers of the name of Jesus and the one true God. They hadn't fallen victim to false teaching and they hadn't worshiped other Gods. Their problem, however, is probably the most common problem among churches today. He said they had a reputation for being alive but they were really dead inside. This reputation of once being alive could not have been gained if it wasn't legitimate at one time. My guess is that the church of Sardis was once an amazing environment where lives were restored and healed, where people were truly introduced into a relationship with Jesus. Their fault, however, was falling victim to the status quo.

The church of Sardis had risen to the level of excellence in the eyes of many and they tried to maintain it on programs and practice and the perpetuation of going through the motions. Jesus said they had gone through the motions long enough that it still looked real to those peering from the outside. They were now faking it, because somewhere along the line it was easier to do it from memory than from the heart. Their hearts were no longer in it. Jesus had a warning for them; He threatened to erase their names from the book of life. Many people believe that once you have come to the knowledge of Jesus as your Savior, and repented of your sins, that you will enter Heaven no matter what you do after that moment. Jesus said He had the authority to "blot out that name from the book of life." A name could not be blot out if it had not been written there in the first place by the only one who could write it in place. I can't write anyone's name in the book of life, only Jesus has that authority. But Jesus also has the authority to take away someone's name, thereby voiding their salvation and ticket into Heaven. Only true believers, those who believe and live that way until the very end received salvation. Those faking it or going through the motions are at risk.

You and I are probably the most at risk for this. Those in the church of Sardis were still regular church attendees, after all they were part of the church body who would be reading His letter. Apparently, those who were once rich and vibrant in their relationship with Jesus, can still be church attendees until the very end, yet end up with their name blotted out of the book of life. This is a sad state of affairs, to lose the most important thing ever and not even realize it, your salvation. Jesus says wake up before its too late. Falling asleep in church could void your salvation. You still have work to do for Him; your life is not complete and therefore your tasks are not complete. Stay alert and keep your heart in it at all times, lest your name get blotted out from the book of life.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  John 15:1-6, Rom 11:17-22, Phil 2:12, Revelation 2 & 3

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Modern Jezebel

Modern Jezebel
August 7, 2017
Revelation 2:22  "So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways."

As Jesus wrote to each of the seven churches, through the apostle John, He was specific, not just to state His concerns for each church, but to express His level of frustration. Recall the church in Pergamum, whom Jesus reminded He was standing there with His sword ready to use it. His emotion had risen to the level of action, on the edge of destruction. To the church of Thyatira, however, He was being rather patient with them. He reminded them that His eyes were burning like fire and feet like burnished bronze. He was suggesting that anger was in His eyes and that His feet were ready to march toward them. He was warning them, a cautionary measure because they were being deceived by someone else, someone who was akin to the devil's wife.

The church in Thyatira apparently knew better, but their spiritual laziness and apathy caused them to be deceived by Jezebel. Jesus called this deceiving prophet Jezebel, but was it the actual Jezebel in the Old Testament, in the time of Elijah? Jezebel had been dead for hundreds of years when Jesus dictated these letters to John. Jesus was using the name Jezebel to reference an allegory to what happened in the real story of Jezebel's life. Recall she had such sway over her husband that she forced her religious practices to replace the ones of the Hebrews, to replace the rules the Lord had put in place. Jezebel's husband was weak and succumbed to her control, doing things he knew in his heart were wrong. While she was not considered a prophet back then, she hired hundreds of false prophets and made sure she was their head and leader. Jezebel had such strong influence that eventually the pagan practices took over and there was no ounce of the Lord's standards or teachings or practices in place.

Jesus said this church, the church in Thyatira, was allowing itself to be lazy enough to tolerate bad religious practices, which in turn were driving out true Christianity, the true teachings of Christ. Jesus knew that if left unchecked, eventually there would be no ounce of Christianity, just the bad practices the church had tolerated and let creep inside. I would submit to you that most churches today, while their hearts were in the right place at the start, have tolerated, because of spiritual laziness, poor behaviors that don't embody the epitome of the Lord.  Jesus said Jezebel's fate had already been sealed but was giving the church an opportunity to get it right.  He said the deceit in the church of Thyatira was with regard to sexual practices, the same genre of deceit Jezebel let into the church. One such modern day deceitful practice is allowing those who profess homosexuality into church leadership. There isn't anything in Scripture to support this practice, in fact quite the opposite. Our churches today have different problems than churches from hundreds of years ago, however still relevant to the analogy of Jezebel.

When we become lazy in confronting these deceptive practices, we tolerate them into becoming mainstream in our lives and churches. Though the sins of Thyatira might be different in manifestation, the deceit in the church was and is the same today. Today, the same genre would be things like: co habitation among any generation, divorce among church leaders, un-repented divorces among church members, and homosexuality. When was the last time you heard your pastor take a firm stance on any of these topics from the pulpit? Likely, the politically correct stance is to avoid it so as not to offend anyone. But Jesus said this spiritual laziness was causing His eyes to burn with fire.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   1 King 16:29-33, 1 Cor 5:10-12, 1 Cor 6:8-20, 1 Tim 1:9-11, Revelation 2