Sunday, February 25, 2018

Year of Favor

Year of Favor
February 26, 2018
Isaiah 61:2  "'. . . to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

The book of Isaiah is a book of prophecy, with a significant portion of it about Jesus. In many instances in Isaiah, the words "I" and "me" refer to Jesus speaking. In the sentence, "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted," the verse is talking about the God in Heaven sending Jesus to bind up the brokenhearted. Chapter 61 in Isaiah gives a whole list of duties the God in Heaven has for Jesus to accomplish. The short list is: preach good news, bind up brokenhearted, proclaim freedom, release prisoners from darkness, proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, proclaim the day of vengeance from darkness, comfort the mourning and bestow upon them a crown. There is a huge progression, starting with good news and ending with a crown of beauty for those to whom He ministered. 

Sandwiched in the middle of that list is a bizarre phrase, "proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." What does that mean, when is that year, and is it a literal 12-month calendar year. We all would like that year of favor to start today, a year of favor with the Lord, from the Lord. But since it was declared in the time and ministry of Jesus, did that year already pass? Which year was it, the year after His death on the cross? It is likely this year has not actually occurred yet in finality, but has been occurring each year since Jesus provided the forgiveness of sins. Recall in the Book of Isaiah, that the prophet was recording this prophesy for the Jews. The Jews understood a concept call the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee was a reset year, when anyone and everyone got a fresh start in the Jewish community. It only occurred every fifty years but if someone was in debt, that debt was forgiven. If someone had sold land to someone else, the land reverted back to the original owner. While it seems unfair to the one who lent money, or bought the land, all calculations for loans and the sale of land likely factored in how far away the year of Jubilee was.  In short, the Year of Jubilee was when everything was set right again, no matter how far off things had gotten in the past.

When Jesus was talking about the year of the Lord's favor, there was some major explaining in the verses that followed. Jesus described a time when enemies were scattered, lost ones were brought back and restored, land was healed, and the health of everything was brought back to life. It sounds very similar to the Year of Jubilee, when everything reset and was made right. Jesus came to make everything right, to reset everything and restore order and the overall health of mankind. It is likely the year of the Lord's favor is not a literal, one-time occurrence, but was an official kick-off season to the Lord's work of restoring mankind. The Lord has brought favor on you, an opportunity for everything to be made right in your life.

The time of the Lord's favor starts now, or whenever you want or need to be restored. Understand, though, that it is not a year of physical prosperity simply when you want to be prospered. Favor goes far deeper than momentary monetary gain. The year of the Lord's favor is not for momentary monetary gain; it is for forgiveness, freedom, healing, reconciliation, and eternal peace. If you feel you need His favor, then you are likely in need of a reset period, a restoration of things. Come to Him and ask Him to begin that work in you again; He is more than willing to make things right.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lev 25:8-10, Is 43:19, Is 61, Matt 11:28-30, 2 Peter 3:8, Rev 21:5 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Table Scraps

Table Scraps
February 19, 2018
Matthew 15:27  "'. . . Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table.'"

Jesus came to serve a small segment of the population, originally. He kept His ministry to the Jews and a very tight radius of travel. His goal was to focus on making disciples and then send those disciples out to be the missionaries. Because of this, He did not end up spending time ministering to those outside the Jewish camp. Among those outside the Jewish camp were the Canaanites. Remember that the land of Canaan was promised to Abraham by the Lord and Joshua was supposed to drive out the Canaanites. In short, Canaanites were non-believers, akin to modern day atheists today. Jesus did not spend His short days on earth ministering to the "atheists," rather He kept it very focused.

But one woman, a Canaanite, traveled to see Jesus because her daughter was demon-possessed. She thought that if she could just get to Jesus, if she could just request a healing, that He could grant the request. She was desperate and knew who had the ability, the power to save her daughter.  She was intent on speaking with Him, and knew He could do it, but was unsure if He would be willing. She made the bold request to Him, after interrupting multiple times, and Jesus slightly rebuked her, suggesting that Canaanites were viewed like dogs to the Jews because they rejected any type of faith.  Nonetheless, the woman persisted, knowing that Jesus held the power to restore her daughter. Jesus said the Canaanites were like dogs and she responded that even dogs got the scraps from the table. By agreeing that her people were like dogs to the Jews, she was admitting her people had rejected the Hebrew faith, but she also was acknowledging that Jesus alone had the power and authority to drive out demons. She, based on the reputation of Jesus alone, had become a believer in Him. It wasn't just a belief in Him, but a full knowledge and admission of Him as Lord. Likely she wrestled through her own personal belief systems and came to the realization that Jesus alone had all authority. She came to this realization and did the next logic step: begged Him for mercy on her daughter.

Jesus declared that this table-scrap woman was actually a woman of great faith. She was a dog that requested a humble favor from a king, not because she was worthy, but because she believed in Jesus. Not very many people were noted in the Bible by Jesus as having great faith, but it is likely that this former "atheist" will see us all in Heaven someday. Do you and I have the same great faith of this table-scrap woman? She knew who He was and made the bold move to seek her request. Her faith was strong because she walked in it, taking the steps to go before out the King. You and I know who He is, but do we have the great faith in seeking Him out and begging for the life-altering request?

The Canaanite woman's argument with the Lord, when He called her a dog, was that she knew and believed in His gentleness, kindness, and compassion in treating the Jews would bleed over into the non-Jews. She was calling Him out with regard to His character, and Jesus commended her for it. She knew who Jesus was, character and all, and wanted to make the most out of His character. You and I know who He is, but do we make the most out of His character. He wants to see your life healed. He wants to see your life changed and used for His glory. He wants you to come to Him with your problems. The Canaanite woman exercised all these things with Jesus but you and I sometimes leave food on the table, not fully taking advantage of all the opportunities of being a child of God. Sometimes, we don't even get the table scraps because we forget to come to the table.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Joshua 3:10, Judges 1:27-36, Matthew 15:21-28

Monday, February 12, 2018

Run What Race

Run What Race
February 12, 2018
Hebrews 12:1  ". . . And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . ."

The Apostle Paul wrote with many sports analogies as everyone knew of the original games held in coliseums. He talked about runners in a race, he talked about boxers preparing to fight, and he talked about competing as to get the prize. In the book of Hebrews, although Paul may not be credited for penning the words, an analogy is used to describe runners staying on the course. The author said that we should run the race marked out for us. Some of you may not realize this, but you are like a runner, on a course marked out. But you may not be aware of your particular race.  Run what race? What race is it that you are competing in and who are you competing against?

Your race, and my race, is exactly the same as every other Christian. It is not a race for a specific call of duty, but a generic call to compete against sin, specifically against your flesh that wants to engage in sin. When the author of Hebrews wrote that we should stay the course marked out for us, he was suggesting that we are in a constant battle or competition. Sin is competing for our lives and we have to stay on the course. Staying the course might lead you to believe it is the path the Lord has for your life and while this is completely true (He does have a path for your), staying the course is an admonition to stay in constant efforts to live the righteous life the Lord asks of you. Christianity is a daily thing, not a one time occurrence. You are never finished living a Christian life, that only happens when your life on earth is done. Since you are still living and breathing, your life isn't over; staying the course is a call to maintain your Christianity. Maintaining your Christianity is more than about believing that Jesus died for your sins. Maintaining your Christianity, staying the course, is living according to the principles set before you. It is more than being moral; it is about living as Jesus did, being a righteous man or woman at all times. 

Every day when you wake up, you have a decision to make. Are you going to live out your Christian life or are you going to live as you so desire. There are many days we both choose poorly, serving the flesh, and submitting to our sins. Staying the course means submitting to the Lord every day, not submitting to our flesh. The alternative of staying on the course, is to deviate from it. Getting off course is akin to submitting to your sin, resigning to it permanently. We all have moments of weakness, but then we get submit to the Lord, getting back into focus. The warning in Hebrews is real, as the human tendency is to quit when the going gets tough. Christians quit all the time, laying down, walking away, and forsaking all they have worked towards. There are days each of us would like to quit, trust me, but we must fight against that, believe it will be worth it.

Before the writer of Hebrews cheer leads for us to stay on course, he speaks about all the legendary leaders of the Christian faith. In Hebrews chapter 11, the author talks about those who persevered, stuck it out, pressed forward, did not give up, and kept their Christian faith until the very end of their human existence. You and I are to take those examples, and live like that, like a legend that may never get written about. Man may not see how amazing a Christian you are but the Lord notices every tiny detail of your Christian walk. Stop calling it a Christian walk, because it is more like a Christian marathon. Stay the course. You are running the race of your Christianity.

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Cor 9:24-26, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, Phil 2:16, 2 John 1:9

Friday, February 2, 2018

Misled and Misunderstood

Misled and Misunderstood
February 5, 2018
Genesis 3:1  ". . . Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'"

When Adam and Eve were told not to eat the forbidden fruit, the Lord gave them strict instructions.  He said they could not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, because they would specifically die from eating its fruit. It is unclear if the Lord told them the name of the tree was "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," as everyone suspects. Regardless, the instructions were clear they should not eat its fruit. If you and I were told we would not live if we ate a certain fruit, we would think death might be imminent. Nonetheless, the serpent decided to use the truth about the tree to deceive Adam and Eve.

He told them they would not certainly die. This directly flies in the face of the Lord's words regarding death, and in hindsight they did not die right away. The Lord did not mislead them, but as Adam and Eve might have understood it, it wasn't perfectly true. Adam and Eve did not understand right from wrong at that point, their eyes had not yet been opened to the knowledge of good and evil prior to tasting the fruit. Their understanding of the consequences (death) was impossible, since it had never happened before and they did not understand eternity or possible separation from the Lord.  They allowed themselves to be deceived, however, because Satan's words were partially true, they would now possess an understanding and insight (although regrettable) that they did not have earlier. It was now too late. They doubted the Lord's truth and wisdom in an effort to experience the forbidden.

The most likely scenario is they regretted their decision for the rest of their lives. If you and I were watching their lives play out in a movie, we would see the moment before the fall and yell out a recommendation to stop. If Adam and Eve could have gone back in time to warn themselves of the consequences, they would knock that apple out of their own hands. But the funny thing is, they were already warned sufficiently and the Lord's instructions were perfect and clear. He did not mislead them and they did not misunderstand the directions. They knew it was forbidden and decided not to heed the warning.

You and I have an understanding Adam and Eve did not. We not only know the consequences of our sin, but we have seen it first hand in our own lives and the lives of others before us. We have more than enough warning, instruction from the Lord as to what to avoid, what to do and not do. His Bible is more than clear on instructions, meant to keep us from pain and heartache and destruction and death. Yet, we, like Adam and Eve, deliberately partake in the forbidden refusing His truth and wisdom. If you have regret in your life, then you either made the wrong choice or have the wrong perspective of what happened to you. If you made the right decision, per the Lord's instructions, then trust that the results are still part of the Lord's plan, even if seemingly unpleasant. If you made the wrong choice, was and is avoidable. Your future self never has to warn your present self of impending decisions, the Lord has already made the warnings more than perfectly clear throughout Scripture. Heed the warnings and live the life the Lord has for you. His intend is never for you to feel misled or misunderstood. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 2 & 3, Ps 86:11, Pr 14:12, Is 30:21, Rom 8:28, Gal 5:16, Phil 3:13-15