Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Testament (NLT).

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

Scripture Study:

  

Jeremiah is an old prophet in this passage of Scripture.  He had not always been listened to by the former kings, but he was somewhat respected.

In chapter 20. just prior to the collapse of the Nation of Judah to the Babylonian Empire. Jeremiah is persecuted and placed in stocks and ridiculed by the people.  I can understand his frustration that may have festered from within.  All of us go through the problems of life that frustrate us.

In Jeremiah’s situation–nobody would listen to him, not even his best friends.  He was angry.

I can understand his despair.  You know that God has called you into ministry, yet, you feel that you are rejected by those who you’ve been sent to minister to.

Jeremiah wished that he had never been born,

He regrets he has been called to preach.

He vows to himself he will never preach again.

He wants to quit life altogether.

Jeremiah 20:9 a. (NIV)

Jeremiah then said,  “I will not mention His word or speak any more in His name.”

When you read this verse in context with the rest of this passage, you can see and understand his frustration, his complaint before God; however, I looked at this verse in another way.  I believe that this verse more than any other statement made in Scripture summarizes who Jeremiah was.

Jeremiah 20:29 (b)

His word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot!”

One quality that must be present before Internal Combustion can take place in believers is they have completely surrendered everything to God.  Surrender may start with SALVATION, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Surrender only starts to become complete when we embrace the Cross and fulfill the calling God has for us.

Think about what Jeremiah experienced when he first received his calling from God in Jeremiah 1:4-9.

Then in Luke 9:23,  

Then He said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.”

When Jeremiah answered God’s call, he surrendered everything!  Though he lived hundreds of years before Christ, he certainly knew what it meant to carry the cross!

How God calls us to sacrifice is different for each person.  Many people are eager to embrace the salvation aspect of the Cross but balk at the discipleship end of it.  To embrace the Cross means that we will sometimes have to inconvenience ourselves to answer the calling, but if we didn’t then it wouldn’t be a CROSS.

Sometimes we hesitate at Christian service because we don’t feel that we are gifted enough to serve.  But God doesn’t care about our abilities!  He cares only about our availability!  He only cares if the fire is burning inside of us!

If you are reading this study and feeling that the spiritual fire has dwindled, then ask yourself if there’s any sin in your life.  Sin is like a bucket of water being thrown over the coals.

“Where’s the fire?” 

Jeremiah 1:9 (NKJV)

Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:  

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”

Hebrews 4:12

Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Psalms 37:31 (AMP)

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

The verses referenced above speaks of God’s Word as like a sword.  I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated with medieval warfare.  Books like Lochinvar, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and many others.  In the middle ages, knights battled it out with long swords.  You needed a long sword to do battle effectively in the middle ages.

How much time you and I spend in the Word determines how long our sword is. 

For some believers, the sword is only a nail file.  For others, their sword is only a pocket knife.  Remember that your enemy, the devil, has a long sword.  Remember that you are daily in a spiritual battle.  Remember that you need to arm yourself daily in order to do effective battle.  Arming yourself with God’s Word keeps you sharp!  It keeps you on fire!

On Fire and Broken

Jeremiah 4:19 (NET)

“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach!  I writhe in anguish.  Oh, the pain in my heart!  My heart pounds within me.  I cannot keep silent.  For I hear the sound of the trumpet; the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul!”

The most anointed ministry is one through BROKENNESS. 

Being broken for the lost means being vulnerable.  This involves evangelism, servanthood, and intercession.  All big words.  We read at the beginning of this verse that Jeremiah is brokenhearted for the lost people of his generation.  Are you willing to be brokenhearted for the lost people you know?

“WHERE HAS THE FIRE GONE TO?”

Although Jeremiah’s spirit was in the dumps and seemed to be broken, he couldn’t stay down.  As soon as he was released from the stocks, he opened his mouth up with another sermon.  He had to get back into the ministry.  He would not be silent.  He had a fire in his bones!

I can completely understand why people get frustrated, angry, and filled with despair in ministry.  I know this because I’ve been there.  What I don’t understand is how a person who calls themselves a Christian can stay down.  Every person who has been born-again in the spirit has a fire in their bones.  It’s the same wind and fire of Pentecost.  It’s the FIRE put there by the Holy Spirit.

The world needs your witness.

The Church needs your help.

There is a Heaven!  There is a Hell!  Wake up!  Come alive again!  Let the Holy Spirit awaken you to righteousness!

On-fire Believers are compelled by the LOVE of Christ

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if]  One died for all, then all died;”                                     [2 Corinthians 5:14] – (AMP)

Thinking back to the times when I was dating my wife to be, it seemed like we talked on the phone for hours during the week.  My conversation with my friends was constantly remarking about her qualities as I was consumed with the topic of my beloved.  I was excited about an opportunity to share about her!

What would happen if we as believers fell head over heels in love with Jesus?  What if we chose to make 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 a cornerstone of our lives.

If every Christian did this, we would shake the world!  Love makes us do some amazing things!

Here’s a truth:  What you love the most is what fills your life the most!  It’s also what stands out the most in your life!

Jesus said:  “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Matthew 12:34)

And in Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

What’s coming out of the overflow of your heart?

When you are in LOVE with God, witnessing for Christ no longer seems like an obligation, but like talking about someone you love!  The Bible is no longer a textbook you bring to church on Sundays, but a love letter!  Prayer is no longer a chore, but a daily phone conversation with someone you’re in love with!  Giving to God no longer is like paying taxes, but like buying a gift for your beloved.  In avoiding sin, it is no longer motivated by fear of consequence, but fear of breaking God’s heart!

Talent is never enough!

Your life has to be fueled by a love for Christ.

What controls our life?  What guides our decisions?

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul writes about how he and those working with him persevere through trials.  Ultimately, it was the LOVE of Christ that empowered them!

When we become passionate, INTERNAL COMBUSTION will become noticed on the outside by others and ask about the HOPE in us [1 Peter 3:15].  

People will be drawn to us because of our LOVE for Jesus!

We become beacons of light in their darkness!

We become radiant with His presence!

Psalm 34

[5]  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Those in darkness are seeking someone with light that will guide them to the ultimate Light!

Are you willing to be that light?  Will your life be one that’s ignited by a burning passion for Jesus?  Are you willing to let your passion shine for all to see?

If you have to find a place on the altar of Faith, then to cry out to God.  Get angry with God if you must.  Make out your complaint.  Cry.  Have tears.  Wait…And let the fire grow within you once again!

Ezekiel 36:26 (AMP)

A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Jerry Depoy’s sermon notes; Where’s the Fire?

Photos/Images:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV).

 

“To Brag or Not to Brag,” that Is the question.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 9:23-24, Philippians 3:3-11

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I stole the title for this blog from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question…”  You’ll see the connection as you read on.

To Brag or Not to Brag?  Doesn’t everybody “brag”?

ILL:  Two young boys were having a discussion over school lunches.  “My father makes more money and, my dad can run faster than your dad!”  Oh, yeah!” said the other boy.  “My dad can beat up your dad.”  “That’s nothing, he responded.  “My mom can beat up my dad!”

So does everyone brag or not?  My mother always asked me as a child when patting myself on the shoulder for my accomplishments, why I was bragging about them  My answer, of course, was to shift the responsibility to someone else.  “My friends brag all the time!”  Her response was always the same: “If one of your friends told you to jump off the roof, would you do it?”  I would shake my head no. and she would continue saying, “Quit shifting the blame to others and admit your own wrongdoing, Mel.  You know better!”  Mom always has ways to make you want to crawl under something when coming up with a wrong ‘you should have known better’ reprimands.

So let’s see what Scripture, God’s Word has to say about “to brag or not to brag”.

SCRIPTURE:  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God says that there is something worth bragging about and it’s not your bank account, your position, your education degrees.  God says that there is only ONE THING worth bragging about.

DO YOU KNOW HIM?

It’s amazing how we can brag about everything under the sun, but God says that if you really want something to shout about, can you brag that you know Him?  Because if you can’t brag about knowing God with a personal relationship. then it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve tucked away, what degrees are on your wall, or what position you’ve acquired in your company.

The only thing really worth talking about in our lives is our relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

In Tony Evans’ book, Time to Get Serious: Daily Devotions to Keep You Close to God, he says if God is the all-consuming, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and infinite Creator, sustainer, and redeemer of this universe, then nothing else we can do matters quite as much as getting to know Him, and to know Him well.

Three Decisions We Must Make In Order to Really Know God:

#1.  LET GOD BE GOD

That sounds pretty basic.  But many times we have a tendency to put God into a box; to trim him down to fit our thinking of who God is.  Personally, I want a God who is bigger than me–bigger than my problems.  A God that Jeremiah speaks about.

I want a God who can handle my prayers, lift me up when I’ve fallen.  I want a God who can save my soul.  I want a God worth bragging about!

And we have one!  In all His infinite knowledge and power, God sent His Son.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:1 (AMP)

God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.

You must be still and know before He can be your refuge and strength.

“Be Still” –

The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, “to slacken, let down, or ease.”

Christians often interpret to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.”  While quietness is helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down and to be still.  For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help.  [See footnote [i].]

#2.  PRACTICE HIS PRESENCE

It’s one thing to say that God is everywhere.  It’s quite another to realize that you are His child.  He is with you everywhere you go.

Psalm 139:7-10  [I want someone with a face!]

Now that’s something to shout about!

Your God is everywhere!  We need to believe it and practice it!

#3.  SEEK TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE

1 Peter 1:16

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

A man brought his boss home for dinner for the first time.  His boss who always bragged, “I’m a self-made man!”  That night at dinner, his boss was loud, rude, and arrogant.  The little boy in the family just stared at his father’s boss but didn’t say anything.  Finally, the boss asked, “Why do you keep staring at me like that, sonny?”  The young boy answered, “My Daddy says you’re a self-made man.”  The boss grinned proudly and admitted indeed he was a self-made man.  The little boy said, “Well if you’re a self-made man, why did you make yourself like that?”  Out of the mouths of babes.

Do you want to be a self-made person?  Or do you want to be a God made individual?

Personally, I want to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

I want to be continually transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

I want God to create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The more we know God the more we will know ourselves.

People are always trying to find out who they are.  But you can’t know that until you come face to face with God.  If you don’t want to know the truth, don’t pursue God.

ILL:  A woman asks her husband, “How do you like my dress?”  Her husband replies, “Worse thing I ever saw!”  His answer got her quite upset and her husband said, “If you didn’t really want to know, then why did you ask?”

GOD CALLS IT AS HE SEES IT (Luke 5:1-11).

And in verse 8 – When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

But God didn’t leave it here. (Luke 5:10)

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw the GLORY of God (vs. 5)

“…for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

GOD TELLS IT LIKE IT IS (Romans 3:23)

“Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.”

God doesn’t leave you where you are.

Like a good doctor, God gives the proper treatment for your life.  For SIN, He offers SALVATION by the blood of Christ.

Paul in Philippians 3 says, “Been there, done that”

Philippians 3:3-11 (NIV)

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– [4] though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; [6] as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

[7] But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

[10] I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

God’s PURPOSE in the Creation of Man and the Salvation of Sinners is that We Might Boast (‘brag’) in HIM.

THE BRAGGING (BOASTING), PRIDE CONNECTION —

Whether you agree or disagree, we were made in His image and to BOAST in Him.

We were made to give Him credit for all good.  We were made to rely on His power.  We were made to magnify His glory and His all-sufficiency in our weakness.  This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction.  If God were to delight in anything less and our bragging in Him, He would be an idolater and a killjoy.

PRIDE diverts our capacity for exultation from the vastness of God’s Glory to the gutters of our insignificant achievements.  It’s a decorated dead-end street.  Therefore, God hates PRIDE!

What is PRIDE? 

  • It’s bragging in ourselves and not the Lord.
  • It’s taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It’s relying on self and not God.
  • It’s feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It’s the unwillingness to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It’s the reluctance to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ Jesus.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to glory [in anything or anyone] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), through Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!”  (AMPLIFIED)

And the PROMISE OF GOD is this:  There is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Topic, Pride & Humility:  “Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!” by John Piper.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV).

Footnote:  GotQuestions.org.; “To be still” footnote [i].

 

 

 

 

JEREMIAH (who wasn’t a bullfrog!)

Hoyt Axton was a songwriter and wanted to persuade his record producers to record a new melody that kept playing in his head.  The tune was absent of any lyrics but the producers asked him to sing any words to the song.  A member of Three Dog Night said the original lyrics of the song were “Jeremiah was a prophet,” but no one like it.  “Just make up anything.”  And they did!  [Wikipedia – Joy to the World (Three Dog Night song)]

In this Bible Study, I would like to introduce (or reintroduce) you to Jeremiah the Prophet and God’s plan for his life and yours as well.  The words you will read weren’t just ‘made up’.

GOD’S CALLING!

Jesus really does know who we are!

Scripture:  Jeremiah 1:4-10

We read in the story of a man named Jeremiah and how God shares with him how intimately He knows him.

JEREMIAH was a prophet in Israel.  A PROPHET was one who would foretell future events; he was one who would receive a specific message from God to speak to the people; all to do this by the power of God.  A person never decides one day they’re going to be a prophet because somebody said they should be.  You have to have a calling from God to do this.  And it’s actually during Jeremiah’s calling that he discovers something amazing about God.  He discovered that God really knew who he was!

Living In An Impersonal World

When you stop and think about it, when you shop, get your groceries, do your banking, go to school and do your work all in front of a computer screen without ever having to speak to another person…that’s an impersonal world we’re living in.

Living in such an isolated environment makes it difficult to imagine that there’s a God who truly knows who we are; who knows us on an intimate level.  A God who knows you better than any spouse can know you, better than any parent can know you.  God really knows everything there is to know about you.  The God of the Universe knows everything, and I mean everything–“Oh, oh!”– about us!

Our Scripture passage points out some things concerning you and your relationship with God.

Before You Were Born God Knew You (vs. 5).

That’s truly an amazing statement and a true one.  God knew you before you were born.  I remember how excited my wife and I were before each of our three children were born.  We couldn’t wait to see what they looked like, to see who they were.  For nine months they are inside that belly and you are excited about them coming out to meet you for the first time in the recovery room and you introduce yourself to your new child.  We couldn’t wait to see what they would be like.  [*Note:  I might be dating myself but when my kids were born the dads-to-be weren’t allowed in the delivery room.]

But the Bible says that before we were born, God knew us!

The word “know” carries with it the sense of relationship and approval.  In other words, God had a STAMP OF APPROVAL on Jeremiah’s life.  It means that God specifically knew Jeremiah and what he would become.

Obviously, God was speaking to Jeremiah here so you may think that God knew Jeremiah before he was born, but there’s no way that He would know you, the average Joe.  However, God tells us over and over again in His word that He made us and formed us.

There’s no arguing with this Scripture.  He specifically says that God knit me together in my mother’s womb.

David goes on to say, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.”

You can’t argue the FACT that God knew you before you were born.

Another Scripture puts it quite clear for us as well.

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

For we are God’s [own] handiwork  (His workmanship),  recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works, which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

WE WERE CREATED TO DO GOOD WORKS…and the Bible says that God has prepared us in advance to do those works!  God didn’t just KNOW Jeremiah but He knew each and every one of us before we ever took our first breath on our own.

You might be thinking about why it’s such a big deal that God knows us.

THE BIG DEAL is, if God knows you, that means He knows what you’re going through in life.  If God knows us, that means we’re not alone, you haven’t been forgotten.  God knows the struggles that you are facing.  God knows the temptations that you come up against.  God knows your family situation and He has promised us He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Before we accept Jesus as our Savior, there’s a God that knows who you are…knows what you have need of and wants to meet those needs.  God sees the life that you have come out of, but He also sees the life that you’re going into.

Being Set Apart Should Bring Us Confidence (Jeremiah 1:5)

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  [NIV]

God set Jeremiah apart, meaning that God had a specific purpose in mind for Jeremiah before he was even born.  In Jeremiah’s case, his designed purpose was to be a PROPHET.  He was commissioned by God to spread a message of judgment to the people of Israel.  Not exactly what you would call a fun message to preach.  It was if God was telling Jeremiah, “I know you have got a tough message to deliver, but let me tell you something.  I know you!  I am not going to leave you alone,  I am going to be by your side every step of the way as you deliver my message.”

Each person reading this should know that you were created for a specific reason.  Each person was created on purpose for a purpose!  Knowing this indicates to us that no one on the face of the Earth who is a mistake.

NO ONE accidentally came into this world.

Some parents may not have expected you, but NO ONE was an accident because God had you in mind before you were born.

Not only did He had you in mind, but He also had a purpose in mind for you when you came into the world.

We need to hear that message more often.  We hear too much that we are no good; we hear that we were a mistake; we hear that we have no purpose in life, but that’s not what God says.  God made it very clear in Jeremiah’s life that he was here for a purpose.  He even said in Jeremiah 29:11,  “For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you,” says the LORD, thoughts, and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome”  [AMP].

God’s PLAN versus Our PLANS

God wants to encourage us and let us know that He has plans for your life.  He doesn’t want you to throw in the towel.  He doesn’t want you to give up and not serve Him any longer.  He wants you to know today that He has plans to prosper you, not harm you.  God wants to be a part of your life.  He knows you and He has set you apart for His purposes.  So many times we don’t realize that God has a plan for our lives so we try to fill up our lives with our own plans, which in turn leaves us empty–that we’ve failed somehow.

“An African Plant May Help Fight Fat”

I read a story this week on the CBS website about an African plant called “Hoodia” that looks like a cactus that grows wild in the desert.  The plant is apparently getting a lot of attention these days because it seems to be a good food suppressant.  Scientists have discovered when you eat small amounts of the plant, it leaves you with a sense of being full when in fact you’re not.

Some of us are filling up our lives with things that we think are making us full and satisfied.  We’re filling our lives up with work and material things; things that physically make us feel good.  It may make us feel good and full for a time, but as time goes on we’re going to discover those things don’t actually make us full; they don’t actually give us a well-balanced and full life.

JESUS CAME TO FILL US UP!

Jesus said in John 10:10 (AMP)

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

The word “abundant” is in reference to being overfilled.  There’s no way a person can have an ABUNDANT LIFE if they feel as though there’s no real purpose or meaning in their life.  They will never feel “stuffed” until they know their purpose.

God told Jeremiah that He had set him apart.  The phrase, “set you apart,” means to separate [sanctified in the New Testament]. In other words, God separated Jeremiah from the rest of creation for a special task.  That was Jeremiah’s calling to perform a special task.

Before You Were Born, God Appointed You (Jeremiah 1:5)

According to Webster’s the word “appoint” means:  “to assign officially; equip or furnish.”

We could read this Bible verse like this:  “I ASSIGNED you as a prophet to the nations (people).”  “I will equip or furnish you to be a prophet to the nations.”

God didn’t really give Jeremiah a say in the matter.  God appointed him to be a prophet before he was even born.  He equipped him to be a prophet before he was born.

Wait a minute here,” you might be saying.  “Don’t I have a choice?  I’ve got my rights!  I have some decisions I want to make on my own in what I do or don’t do.”

That kind of thinking is backward.  The Bible is very clear that we were created for God to do with as He chooses.

Jeremiah 18:6 says:

Think about the above Bible verse for a moment.  Does a ceramic bowl get that way because it chose to be a bowl?  Of course not!  It became a bowl because that’s what the potter wanted it to be.

“What if I don’t want to become what God wants me to be?”

You have that choice. 

He will never make you do something that you don’t want to do.  You don’t have to conform.  If a potter gets a piece of clay that doesn’t conform to the image that he wants it to, the clay becomes useless in his hands.  The problem is that the clay will miss out on being a productive vessel.  I think this is one of the reasons why so many people are misled in life; why so many people feel a void in their lives.  It’s because they are not doing what they were created to do.  The end result of that is always frustration.

Before you were born, God appointed you to a certain task.  Now the question is, are you willing to fulfill the calling that He has on your life?

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CREDITS:

“Jeremiah was a bullfrog” – Wikipedia

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); Bible verses found in photo images are various translations.

Caught Up to Heaven [TWO-PART SERIES]

PART TWO – LEADING UP TO OUR FINAL DESTINATION

PAUL’S BURDEN OF PROOF – 2 Corinthians 12:1-6

Paul speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden is to prepare us, not for DEATH, but for the events that occur between your dying and your final destination.

WHAT DOES THE WORD OF GOD SAY ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE OF DEATH AND WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NIV)

[2] I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows.

[3] And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

At death, we sometimes expect great pain, but Jesus says there is none.

When we die we suddenly find ourselves somewhere else (2 Corinthians 12:4).

One of God’s best spokesmen said, knowing that the home we live in on earth is like a “tent” and is destroyed or dissolved at death, and we have a building, a house, that God is building, an eternal house not made with hands. [2 Corinthians 5:1]

So you won’t stay around and “haunt” anything after death!

We are conscious after death (2 Corinthians 12:2 (b). ).

Although Paul’s related experience isn’t from his DEATH, most probably from a near-death experience fourteen years earlier.  In Acts 7:55-56, we read of Stephen’s reaction to his soon to be death from stoning:

[55] But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. [56] “Look.” he said, “I see haven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  [NIV]

I want you to know that not only are we conscious after we die, but we are even more conscious!

Here are some arguments from Paul as to why we are more conscious than before.

  1. He saw, heard and experienced amazing things.
  2. His mental ability was so acute that he was able to compare this new life with what he just left.
  3. His new consciousness knew things from his former one that he couldn’t communicate.

Something in this place of existence in the third heaven forbade him to tell what he saw.

We stand before God and face judgment

Hebrews 9:27 says we are ALL “appointed once to die and after that the [certain] judgment (AMP),

There are several judgments mentioned in the Bible and I don’t want to take a detour here, so I’ll leave it at that.  When you die, you are judged,  The names of all the judgments I’ll leave for another blog study.

When you die your eternal fate is forever sealed (Luke 16:19-31). 

 

In this parable told by Jesus, two men died and already at their eternal destinations.  One was in a bad place and one in a good place.  The one in the bad place prayed and asked God to let him leave from the bad place and go to the good one.  God informed him that it was impossible for a great wall had been fixed.

Those who have placed their FAITH & TRUST in Jesus will never be away from His presence.

Romans 8:38, 39 (NIV) – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

UNIQUELY TOUCHED

Paul has told us this incident he describes in 2 Corinthians 12, shows that he had been uniquely touched by God.  Through his vision, we learned that PARADISE isn’t a shadowy waiting-room, but the euphoric place of unspeakable glory!  Its GLORY is that of the ultimate heavenly glory, which is the glory of the Presence of the Son of God (Rev. 1:9 ff, 22:1 ff).  

Therein PARADISE, the Third Heaven, the souls of the saints (Christians) are home with Christ, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), where they’re beyond the reach of sin.  Without fear of being driven out as happened in the first Paradise.  There they await the crowning consummation of their redemption, the union of souls and their resurrection body when the New Heaven and the New Earth will be introduced and all of God’s purposes in creation complete and eternally fulfilled.

In this TWO PART SERIES, there’s something I want to leave with my readers:

The LAST ENEMY to be destroyed is DEATH (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The 23rd Psalm

THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.  [2] He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. [Rev. 7:17.]  [3] He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness  [uprightness and right standing with Him–not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.  [4] Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me;  Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide],  they comfort me.  [5] You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.  [6] Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days, the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place. [AMP]

There’s also something I want you to do:

Never again FEAR DEATH if you’re a committed Christ follower.  If you are not yet a follower make it ASAP.

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CREDITS:

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), Amplified Bible (AMP), Contemporary English Version (CEV), New King James Version (NKJV).

 

Caught Up to Heaven [A SERIES]

PART ONE – PAUL’S EXPERIENCE

[1]  I must go on boasting.  Although there is nothing to be gained.  I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

[2]  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.  Whether it was in the body or out of the body, I do not know–God knows.

[3]  And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows– [4] was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

[5]  I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

[6]  Even if I should choose to boast, I could not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do, or say…

[The New International Version Bible (NIV)]

What Paul says in verse 1, he is forced to say so that the Corinthian church members might look at him from God’s perspective.

Paul’s restraint increases as he discloses what was probably the most intimate and sacred of all his Christian experiences.  Paul repeats that he is speaking of himself only because circumstances have compelled him to do so.

What Does the Bible Tell Us About the Experience of Death and About What Happens Next?  [2 Cor. 12:2-4]

“The Journey to Paradise” – Revelations, and Visions:

Revelations are apocalypses, literally “to remove the cover, to unveil.”  It’s the unveiling of something hidden which gives light and knowledge to those who see it (Eph. 3:3; Rom. 16:25).  

Revelations are more general than visions.  You might have revelations without having visions but one never has visions without revelations.

Visions, dreams, and trances are hard to distinguish.  A vision comes to one in an ecstatic state (Isa. 1:1; Ezek. 12:27) and brings revelation knowledge.  The experience points to a special awareness of God concerning what He is doing or going to do.

Several years ago I was asked by a local pastor if I could write a play for the upcoming Resurrection Sunday.  I was given two months to put everything together.  And by the way…I’ve never done anything like this before.  So lacking confidence, not knowing where this was going, I began to pray for guidance.  NOTHING!

Then, perhaps out of desperation and lack of faith, I found myself lying face down on the carpet pleading for God to give me inspiration.  And then I heard in my spirit, “Mel, get up from the floor, and wait.”  “Wait?  I have a month to put this all together, Lord!”  His response was “Just wait”.

That night in my sleep, I felt a nudge to my shoulder and thinking that I was dreaming, rolled over to the other side.  Again a nudge, but harder this time.  As I sat up on the edge of the bed, the voice returned:  “Mel, get up and go to the dining room table.  Get a pen and a paper tablet and I will give instructions on what I want you to accomplish.”  This was at 5:30 AM.  Was I still dreaming, is this really happening?  I got up and followed His guidance and instructions and at 7 AM the outline was finished.  The storyline, the set design, the title….everything but a script!  Yes, God even took care of that.  Was this a dream, a vision, a revelation?  All I do know is, the experience showed me what He was doing and going to do!

Background To The Text [2 Corinthians 12] –

Most Bible scholars believe Paul had a near-death experience.  Paul mentions that at least on one occasion he was left for dead.  As he writes he speaks of this experience and says some guy he knew had it.  Writing about something that happened to an author and inventing a second person to deliver a message is common literary practice.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12 speaks from experience that there are events that follow our physical death.  The burden of this conversation prepares us, not for death, but for the events that take place between our dying and our final destination.

Caught Up To Heaven (verses 2-4).

One vision which Paul recounts stands out from the rest in its extraordinary character.  His ecstatic episode which he was transported to Paradise began in VERSE 2.

Paul is sure his remarkable experience occurred but uncertain whether the “caught up” [RAPTURE] experience was in the body or out of the body.

BODY RAPTURE is not regarded as impossible.  TWO instances are recorded in the Old Testament, Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (1 Kings 2:11; Mk. 9:4) and in the New Testament, Jesus was bodily raptured into heaven.

At any rate, such a one was caught up (Gk. harpazo, “to snatch away”).  “Caught up” is a form of the Greek word harpazog, the same word used in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 which in reference to the RAPTURE of the Church.

Paul was “raptured” to the third heaven.

The Third Heaven

The third heaven designates a place beyond the immediate heaven of the earth’s atmosphere of clouds and beyond; the further heaven of outer space and its galaxies and into the presence of God Himself.  (Heb. 4:14, 7:26; Eph. 4:10)

The FIRST HEAVEN is atmospheric, the SECOND HEAVEN is composed of the stellar universe, and the THIRD HEAVEN is the unique dwelling place of God–a different dimension.

In VERSE 3, Paul again clarifies his mystifying experience to his readers.  He’s uncertain if he was in a bodily or disembodied state.  Whether his soul was separated from the body for a time and taken up into heaven, or whether he was taken up, body and soul together, he wasn’t sure.

[3] “And I know that this man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows–“

VERSE 4 teaches us that human words are inadequate to tell us about heaven.

[4] “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell”

If the THIRD HEAVEN describes the place of his rapture, then Paradise specifies the wonder of his rapture.  [The third heaven of v. 2 and the Paradise of v.4 are one and the same.]

Paradise is a Persian word for an enclosed park, garden or pleasure ground used only three times in the New Testament.  In Luke 23:43 with the thief on the Cross, and in Revelation 2:7.  In the Old Testament, this term is used in Genesis as the Garden or Paradise or Eden.

I believe Paul witnessed the state of the spirit-souls of the redeemed who had died are “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8), but still in a “celestial body” so we won’t feel naked until the day when we are covered with the glorified and incorruptible resurrection body (2 Cor. 5:1-3. 1 Cor. 15:42, Phil. 3:20-21).  Then the REDEEMED of the Lord will shine forth with full splendor of eternal Christ-likeness.

Paul heard unspeakable (“inexpressible”) words.

Unspeakable word is an oxymoron, speaking which may not be spoken, for even in the heavenly state it is beyond words.

Human language is too inadequate to describe things that transcend all knowledge and understanding.

We often speak about Paradise trying to describe its state and heaven to define its features and whereabouts, but the truth is that we are stepping over the threshold into another dimension, a reality not of this world, infinite, spiritual and only distantly sensed by us in our earthly tent.  And yet as born-again believers in Christ, we know with assurance that one day we’ll be at our permanent home.

The Scriptures will occasionally part the mists of our earthly existence and grant us brief glimpses of the GLORY yet to be revealed.  (2 Cor. 5:11-12, 1 Corinthians 15:50; Rom. 8:38-39; Phil. 1:21. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:8.)

From Paul’s experiences, we are granted a view of the indescribable GLORY that lies ahead and thereby secured him to patiently endure all the severe suffering in his ministry.  He thus knows that the sufferings of this present age were not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Someday we will arrive in heaven realizing that everything we see and experience is new and indescribable in earthly vocabulary.  I’m so thankful that God used illustrations that we could understand that gives us just a glimpse of eternity.

CURRENT EVIDENCE (verses 5-6)

Paul could have boasted, as his rivals do, of impressive religious credentials, experience, and achievements, but he doesn’t.  Instead, he speaks only of his weaknesses.

[5] “Of this same [man’s experiences] I will boast, but of myself (personally) I will not boast, except as regards my infirmities (my weaknesses)”  [AMP}

Paul’s weaknesses, trials, and tribulations he went through for Christ’s sake, that had left him broken of body, mind, emotion, and spirit.  For these areas became the very places where God could do His greatest work in and then through Paul.

Paul wouldn’t be like his opponents who glorified in their earthly state or pride.  For God alone is due to all the glory!

Though boasting includes many lies, in verse 6 Paul affirms his trustfulness.

[6] “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth.  But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say”  [NIV]

Although all of Paul’s boasts were true and about true occurrences, not to mention all the other reasons he could boast, he didn’t dwell on those things.

And the reasons why?

Others might think too highly of him.  He didn’t want to be judged by the past, or what he said about himself, but that men should judge him by what they presently heard and saw.

[NOTE:  I will continue this study, being CAUGHT UP, with Part Two in the Series – The Leading Up To Our Final Destination.]

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CREDITS:

Dictionary:  VINE’S Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV); or as noted.

 

 

 

SANCTIFIED: To Be Set Apart As New Creatures

How often do we find ourselves trying to get a handle on religious vocabulary thrown around in Christian circles?  In this study, the words to “sanctify”; “sanctification” will be addressed.

In the generic definition, to sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer [Bible Study Tools- Dictionary].  The pencil was designed by its maker for the use of writing down information.  I used to chew on my pencils all the way through my school years with my mom pointing out…” that’s not what pencils are used for!”  In the theological sense, a human being is sanctified therefore when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose, set apart for His service.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  

For all you Word Detective followers, YES, I did a study in these verses in 2018. [THE QUESTIONS about WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS]

Since some topics of conversation have come up recently in my own family regarding worldly associations, I’m re-visiting the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Church

Paul wrote this second letter because of continued strife and tension over social issues and false teachers who had infiltrated the church attacking him as an Apostle.

Do we struggle in the church today concerning social issues?  Are we hearing messages from pulpits around the globe addressing the moral changes occurring all around us; touching each and every one of us in some way?  Or is “compromise” the word of the day?

The Word Is Constantly Changing

Many changes in society are necessary because we as human beings are not perfect.  For the same reason, much “development” goes in completely the wrong direction.  God’s Word, however, is perfect, and never changes.  Sin remains sin, even when it becomes widely accepted.

The Silver Ladle Story:

Helen was a wonderful Christian woman.  A single mother raising her only son Tom as best as she could to love God.  Helen became very worried when Tom told her that he was moving to the Big City.  A year went by and all seemed well.  Tom called his mother and told her, his friend Sarah was moving in with him.  He told his mom not to worry, they were just roommates, strictly platonic.  Helen knew if she could spend just a little time with them together she would know just how “platonic” it was.  She soon got the chance when invited over for dinner.  All went well until about two weeks later.  Sarah came to Tom and said, “Tom, I’m not saying she took it and I’m not saying she didn’t.  The fact of the matter is, my silver gravy ladle has been missing ever since your mother left.”  So Tom called his mother and left a message on her machine:  “Mom, I’m not saying you took it and I’m not saying you didn’t, but ever since you left two weeks ago, Sarah’s silver ladle has been missing.”  The next day Tom’s mother called and told him:  “Tom, I’m not saying you are sleeping with Sarah and I’m not saying you’re not.  The fact of the matter is, if she were sleeping in her own bed she would have found that gravy ladle.”

We are chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are different.  We are not like any other, we are not supposed to be!

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV Bible)

Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate…”

As Christians, we are told by the Bible to live holy lives to reflect the nature of God.  We are to SEPARATE ourselves from actions, influences, or people who hinder our service to God.

True believers are to live differently from those in the world. 

Sounds simple, but there are a lot of people who think they can come to Christ–SAVED–and still hang out with the same crowd.  They think they can still go to the same places, but you can’t.

Being Separate–SANCTIFIED.

The Bible tells Christians to be separate from the world.  SEPARATED means when you are SAVED, you change your life, change your friends, and you change your hangouts.

But that said, that doesn’t mean you abandon your lost friends.

When I came to Jesus at the age of thirty, most of my friends abandoned me.  They thought I was a religious nut talking about how my life had really changed since I came to Jesus.  Their reaction was “The proof is in the pudding.  We’ll just keep an eye on how you’ve really changed.”

You still talk to your old friends, you just change the topic of your conversations.  You can still hang out with your old friends but change the locations.  Instead of going out with them, ask to bring them with you to church.

My point is, you don’t abandon sinners, but you don’t join them either.  As a Christian, you are to bring them up to your level, not let them bring you down to theirs.

A Christian is directed by God’s Word to apply the biblical principles of SEPARATION and avoid a few things:

1.  We are to steer clear of anything that attacks biblical standards. 

If the Bible said it was a sin 2000 years ago, it’s still a sin today.  The Bible doesn’t change to fit the changing culture.

2.  Avoid any association that will hinder your spiritual life. 

So, teenagers, that means if your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t come to church with you, then find a new one that will.  Not only boyfriends and girlfriends but any of your friends.

2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 (NIV Bible)

[14]  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

[16]  What agreement is there between the Temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

3.  Avoid any situation that you are unsure of:

There are some sins that are plainly spelled out to us in the Bible, and there are sins that are your own personal convictions.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not something is a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.  Because of God’s word in Romans 14:23   that “whoever has doubts…for whatsoever is not of faith is a sin”.  In other words, if you aren’t sure if it’s a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV Bible)

If you are not living a life separate from the world, then how does the world know you’re different?  If you can still go out and commit the same sins as before you were SAVED, then I hate to tell you, you didn’t get SAVED!  I’m not saying a Christian is never going to sin, for God saved my soul. but I still live in the flesh until I go home to be with the Lord.  So anyone who says that they never SIN is calling God a liar, according to 1 John 1:10.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.  But I’m not talking about ‘slip-ups’ here.  I’m referring to instances where we intentionally sin.  Paul says in Romans 6:15 that Christians are under GRACE (God’s mercy and unmerited favor) and no longer under the law.  So does that give us the freedom to sin at will?  Paul said, “Certainly not!”  Even though Christians are no longer in danger of God’s condemnation, we will still answer to Him for the sins we commit.

Romans 6:12 says not to let sin reign in our bodies.  There’s a big difference between intentional sin and daily struggles of the flesh.

Paul says in Romans 7, that there is none of us who are perfect, that we’ll never be as long as we’re on this Earth.  And even though we aren’t perfect, we are to strive for excellence with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you think you can have it both ways, you’re wrong!  Once you accept Christ as your Savior, life will change. and you’ll want to SEPARATE yourself from the old life you had.  Will you completely change?  Of course not, but you will change!

You may ask, I know I’m SAVED but I still have a problem with SIN in my life, so how do I avoid those SINS?

As a Christian, when you sin, it is not the spirit that sins, but the FLESH and Paul said…

Some of the LUSTS of the FLESH are listed by Paul in verses 19-21:

  1. Adultery – any sexual contact outside the bonds of Holy Marriage is a sin – PERIOD.  There’s been a lot said to teenager’s conduct; about keeping their hands off each other, well the same goes for the adults.  If you aren’t married to them, keep your hands off them.
  2. Idolatry – anything that comes between you and your worship of God is an idol – your job, your family, your favorite football team, ANYTHING!
  3. Witchcraft – Harry Potter.
  4. Jealousy
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Murder abortion.
  8. Hatred racism.
  9. Drunkenness

“And those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” 

Avoidance of the lusts of the flesh.

Any sin you commit that gives the devil ammo he needs to shoot your spiritual life down, and the ONE WAY to avoid this is to apply the words of Galatians 5:25 -If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]  Amplified Bible.

Can we walk in the Spirit and the World too?  Not a chance, and that’s why we are to be separated from the sinful world.

Remember you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Is Jesus your Master, or are you a captive to the world; a SLAVE to this world and its master?  You can’t have it both ways, so get off the fence and choose today which master you’ll serve.

Remember the words of Joshua chapter 24, verse 15…

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  Come Out And Be New, contributed by Joseph Nordyke, December 12, 2008 – Sermon Cntral. [The Silver Laddle Story]

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or as mentioned in the text.

 

 

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

I received a message on Facebook Messenger a few weeks ago from my great grandkids with a question for their great grandpa.  Well, it was actually from their mother since Jaxon is 5 years old and Talon is only 3,

THE QUESTION:  “I challenge you to answer the boy’s question in your next blog:  Why is God so cool?  And what about Jesus too?”

It has been a long time since I’ve used the slang word, “Cool”, so before answering their questions, I decided to go to the internet to see if the definition of the word had changed over the years:

“COOL is an acronym abbreviation or slang word meaning AWESOME, GREAT.” (thesaurusyourdictionary.com/cool/awesome – slangs]

Now I’m sure there are many books and commentary written to answer the question of why God is so awesome, so great, so “cool”, but the best book ever is written gives exhaustive reasoning to my great grandkids question is the word of God, the Bible.

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 38:4-8; Isaiah Chapter 40:3-8 (9-24); 1 Samuel 17:36; 2 Peter 3:8-13; Psalm 34:18-19.

The Book of Isaiah tells us that God described himself to the Israelites because their king (Hezekiah) was a fickled king who couldn’t make up his mind whether to be loyal to God or not, consequently, the people were questioning their relationship with God.  It was then that God thundered to the people who He really is.

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

[9] O you who bring good tidings to Zion, get up to the high mountain.  O you who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

[10]  Behold, the Lord God will come with might, and His arm will rule for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.  [11] He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arm.  He will carry them in His bosom and will gently lead those that have their young.  [12] Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, marked off the heavens with a [nine-inch] span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

The largest seas in the world are nothing but a handful of water in God’s hands.  That’s AWESOME!  And really “cool” to a five and three-year-old.

Yet, have you ever been in a ship out in the ocean where you can’t see land?  Makes you feel rather small and helpless.

But to God, all those seas are like water in the palm of His hand.

The distance between planets and stars is far in our observance.

How far are galaxies from other galaxies?  If you are traveling at the speed of light as Luke Skywalker was able to accomplish in the Star Wars movie series, you couldn’t reach the end of the universe in your lifetime.

But the Bible tells us that God measures the diameter of the universe with the span of His fingers.  Yet God knows how many grains of sand that are on that beach you collected shells on last Summer.  Now that’s really “cool’!

Verses 13-14 asks:  “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?  Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way?  Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?”  [NIV Bible]

These verses tell us about God’s omniscience.  He’s ALL-KNOWING!

Where did God get His knowledge?  

Sometimes we’re impressed by people’s Ph.D.’s or those whose IQ is more than 200, but God’s IQ is infinite.  And here we are trying to make God fit into our prefabricated boxes instead of just opening ourselves up, dispensing with our vanity, and just asking Him to tell us about Himself.  Now that may be difficult to explain to a five and two-year-old boys, but reading out loud verses in the Bible with children about what an awesome God He is a good place to start.

Verse 15 declares:  “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.”  [NIV]

Our God governs the universe and yet, He’s intimately involved in each of our lives.

Be careful not to think too highly of nations or those who govern.  Some people are tempted to elevate their leaders or governments to the level of God.  But the Scriptures tell us that they’re DUST particles on a scale–or found on a dust mop.

There are some educators today who relate God to the laws of science.  But God’s not a scientist who obeys scientific laws.

He’s the author and finisher of ALL laws and more.  This we see in Isaiah 38:1-8.

In case you don’t know what it means, turning back the sundial ten steps, it’s the same as adding two degrees–or forty minutes–to the length of day.  How “cool” is that?

In other words, our God not only created the universe, but He’s still actively in control of the universe.

He controls the movement of the planets and of time itself!  As it says in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

I think that’s where many Christians get stumped.  We know, in the abstract, that God can do anything, but we run into a problem that He’ll do anything for us.

The God of the Bible is a living Being–and a very personal one at that.

The Philistines worshipped gods as made of stone or wood.  The Israelites had forsaken God.  But to David, the Lord of all creation is a living God.

In 1 Samuel 17:36, David said to King Saul,  “I, your servant have killed both a lion and a bear!  Goliath the Philistine who is not circumcised will be like the lion or bear I killed.  He will die because he has stood against the living God!”  (International Children’s Bible).

The idea that God was real and alive had not entered the minds of the Philistines and most of Israel either.  They were worshipping gods of stone and wood; god’s devised by their own imaginations.

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

Maybe you’re thinking we don’t see Christians doing these things.  Wouldn’t it be a little weird to see your neighbor praying to his apple tree?  Or watch him peel an apple then offer it to a rock?  But that’s exactly what Isaiah’s talking about in ancient idolatry.

Today, there’s a different kind of idol worshipping.  Anytime you or I make a person, a god, an institution or anything else that’s equal to or higher than the LIVING GOD in our loyalties, our priorities, then we’re committing idolatry.  

That’s what IDOLATRY is; giving to anyone or anything the loyalty and devotion we should render to God and this includes anything that we feel deserves our time and resources more than our worship of God.

Did you know, we’re all born to be worshippers–even so-called atheists?  They may claim that they worship no god, but in God’s eyes they worship themselves or whatever it is that gives them pleasure.

If you think about it, Isaiah has a real sense of humor.  In verse 20 for instance, he’s saying, “Some of you are poor and you say that you don’t have gold to cover your idol.  Well if that’s the case, be careful of the wood you choose!  Your god may be eaten by termites.”  [paraphrased]

Then he says, “And by the way, be sure to nail your gods down or they may just fall off their pedestal and break!”

Well, God can’t be compared with a physical or human icon–a politician, movie star, or musician (the”American Idol”).  He’s very much alive, and He’s without faults, imperfections, or with failures.  All that He declares is accomplished.  And anything or anyone we put ahead of Him is bowing to deaf and dumb idols of ancient times.

Nevertheless, we do tend to put material things ahead of God.  Every time we make our jobs, our leisure time, our worries or our friends more important than our WORSHIP of God, we show that our view and estimation of God is lacking.

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

  • Don’t you know? …Hasn’t it been told to you from the beginning?
  • It is HE who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants like grasshoppers (READ to your children the verses with “awe”!), (HE) who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them like a tent to live in…

God is not only incomparably “awesome” compared to idols, but He’s incomparably great in His relations with the rulers of this world!

  • …Who makes princes into nobodies, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing  

How “cool” is all that, Jaxon and Talon?

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

#1.  God is all Powerful, all Knowing and He’s everywhere! 

“His arm rules for Him.”  

God’s arm, His Son Jesus Christ, shows us God’s power.  With Jesus, nothing is impossible – be it mountains moved, problems to solve, or bodies to be healed.

He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Big words for a 3 and 5-year-old.  It means ALL powerful; Knows everything; He’s present everywhere, all at the same time.

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

God is a very personal God whose greatest desire is a RELATIONSHIP with you.  He knows every pain (“owie”) you will have and sorrow as well as every joy and triumph that you’ll experience.  And He even listens to you–even if you don’t make sense.

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

He shows you that He’s powerful…yet tender as a shepherd who will not abandon His sheep, and wherever He leads you, take you to His perfect PEACE.

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

Recognize that God is an AWESOME God in your daily lives.  And when you continually recognize and demonstrate His care for you, your children will follow.

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); or as noted in the text.

 

“Head” and “Heart” Knowledge: Is there a difference?

Someone once said that the difference of what is in our head and what is in our heart is the longest 12 inches known to man.  And living the Christian life and being able to get head knowledge down to the heart is the difference of whether you will live out your beliefs.

That said, there are a lot of things we know we shoulder that we shouldn’t do in our heads, but stopping or putting them into action begins that struggle within us.  I think that’s why people struggle to come to church consistently.

College kids leave the nest and go off to school with all their fears and anxiety that are never settled and all those questions go unanswered.   You have to be able to address your fears and have your questions answered.  It doesn’t all happen miraculously without your participation.

Hopefully, in this brief study, you and I can get honest about where we are with God by actively participating in God’s Word that takes His Word from head knowledge to your heart and answers questions you’re diligently seeking answers for.

To Be Like Jesus Would Be Our Virtues:

VIRTUES by definition:  “Our behavior of keeping high standards.”

To be like Jesus would be to take His VIRTUES and live them in our lives for that’s God’s design for us.

To think like Jesus–it is our belief.  To believe something isn’t enough, you must believe it as a way of life.

How can we do that?

Setting our standards and moral lives to the standard God desires for us by living it out in our beliefs, producing disciplines that will keep us strong in our faith.  I don’t know about you, but thinking like Jesus–just saying that makes me feel inadequate.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but I have a past, I have issues, I have shortcomings, I have kids and family, I have weaknesses, I have attitudes.  All these things keep me from thinking like Jesus because all these things show my imperfections.  So what are we to do?

God tells us that we need a renewed mind [Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:16; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 3:2].

We can’t THINK like Jesus unless we have the mind of Christ, and the only way we can do that is let Jesus RENEW or CHANGE the way we think.

Our Bible Text:  Colossians 2:6-8

Setting Goals –

As we journey in our Christian walk with the Lord, our goal is to allow God to renew or change our thinking about the truths of God.

[Verse 6] “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.”

Christ has saved us from the penalty of our sins.  He adopted us into the family of God because of what Christ has done for us.  We had to go from knowing about Jesus to Jesus being the center of our lives.

REFLECTION:

There’s a big difference between knowing about Jesus and having a relationship with Jesus with Him being the center of your life and mine too!

For us to have the correct belief in God, we have to put God in His rightful place to have an understanding of what Jesus has done for us.

God is the catalyst if you want more of God in your life, and if you want to have more, you must have a relationship with Him.

To have a relationship with God you have to desire to be in the presence of God.  In the presence of God, God makes changes to our lives, and through those changes, He empowers us to live a life that’s not only abundantly full but with blessings overflowing in our lives which are pleasing to Him.

These are the central truths in our Christian faith.

One of them is that we understand who God is and how much He desires a relationship with us.

And, in 1 John 4:19 (AMP)

“We love because He first loved us.”

Because God bestowed on humanity a free will, man is not forced to love Him, but rather consciously and freely chooses the responses he makes to God’s love.  [Footnote: Bible Hub]

God the Father sent God the Son to die for each of us for our sins and Jesus sent God the Holy Spirit to empower our lives for service to Him.

So a key question at this point is…Who IS God?

The Bible opens up with Genesis 1:1 with the very first words from God to us:  IN THE BEGINNING GOD…  everything revolves around God creator, savior, master of the universe. There are of course questions we don’t have answers for–Where did God come from?  At the beginning before time as we know it, God was, God did, God created!  He doesn’t have to explain anything!

How He came about…He IS God and we aren’t.  He owes no explanation.

The Apostle Paul tells us “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”  (Romans 1:20 – NIV)

The question isn’t Is there a God?  We know that there is a God because we see His glory every day in our lives as we look around.  We see there’s a creator of all this and we are without excuse.  Scripture makes it clear that there will always be gods (small “g”) that people choose to follow and serve.

God makes no apology that He’s the God of God’s and there’s no one higher and nothing was created by an alternate god.

Here is a Statement of Truth we have to take deep in our heart:  I believe the God of the Bible is the only true God–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.

I don’t believe that’s blind faith.  I believe that’s faith-based upon the word of God and the anointing power of the Holy Spirit confirming it to our souls.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to understand all about the God I serve, because I take strength and comfort knowing that my God knows more than I can even think or fathom.  What a difference that would make in your life–just think how many struggles would go away if you realized you don’t have to have all the answers.  You can take comfort knowing that He is God and you aren’t.  You can rest knowing that He’s in charge and is in control.  And you have a desire that goes beyond your own abilities and you actively want to follow His will for your life.

What is His will?  He will show you if you’ll let Him.

Once you put that in perspective, God is put in the right perspective.  God loves you and wants to do what’s best for you.  He becomes your God and not one of many gods.

Once you believe the truth that there’s only one God; once you believe that the one God wants to have a personal relationship with you, you will begin to LIVE your belief.

You will live like God is near in your life…

You will live like God can control your life and you are happy to let Him…

You will live a life that has meaning and a purpose because you know God is in it!

Once you know that God that you serve, you LIVE instead of just existing!

PSALM 121 (NKJV)

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New King James Version (NKJV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); English Standard Version (ESV).

Music Video:  YouTube:  The Center Of Your Life by Charlie Hall.

 

Every Meal Has A Desired Outcome!

Scripture:  Luke 22:7-27  The Last Supper 

 

I just love the Food Network on television.  The one thing I’ve learned from watching the cook shows over the years is:

Every meal has a DESIRED outcome.

There’s something that the TV Cook intended to accomplish in preparing this meal.  What makes a birthday dinner special?  Or a wedding reception?  Or that special date with a special young girl back in 1964 when I prepared a juicy steak and twice-baked potatoes for the first time.  The MEAL can make all the difference.

Yet the very thing that can make a meal great can also ruin it!

The Three “R’s” of ruining a meal:

  1. RECIPE.
  2. RECEPTION.
  3. RELATIONSHIPS – Conflict and Competition.

The argument at the table

LUKE 22:24-27

The disciples all gathered together for the Passover meal in the upper room with Jesus.  They all wanted to be Numero uno, number one.  And what’s worse, each thought he was!  Each wanted to be Jesus’ right-hand man, His Chief of Staff!

“What is causing so much disharmony among the nations is the fact that some want to beat the big drum, few are willing to face the music, and no one wants to play second fiddle.”  ~ Henry Kissinger

The disciples had their own view of the Kingdom

Jesus followers wanted Jesus to be KING over the Jews, the Romans, the Greeks, and every political power.  They didn’t realize He already was.  He didn’t have to overthrow surrounding nations and governments in order to be King.  His Kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36).  He rules by spiritual relationship.  The disciples thought they should be leaders while Jesus is looking for lovers and lifters.

“Mop Bucket Attitude!” 

The LORD has a GREAT MEAL PLAN for us!

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s Hamburger, wrote:

“I got my MBA long before my GED.  I even have a photograph of me in my MBA graduation outfit–a snappy knee-length work apron.  I guarantee you that I’m the only founder among America’s big companies whose picture in the corporate Annual report shows him wielding a mop and a plastic bucket!  It wasn’t a gag; it was a case of leading by example.  At Wendy’s, MBA does not mean Master of Business Administration.  It means Mop Bucket Attitude!”

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has planned for us (verse 30), we must go from…WHAT will I eat? to…HOW will I GIVE?

Luke 22:25 (NIV)

[25]  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.”

Earthly leaders normally lord it over their subjects, issue commands, give orders and tell people what to do and where to go.  They are the BOSS.

In Jesus’ day, it was a commonplace practice of rulers to make gestures of goodwill.  They might open the Coliseum and invite the public for free entertainment, or make their soldiers do some project for the common good.  These rulers called themselves “Benefactors”, or “Friends of the People”, one who does good, as if their sole aim was to rule for the good of the people and not their own gain.  They may do good things, but with an ulterior motive.

Followers of Jesus can’t be concerned with position or power.

Jesus said it:  “But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (verse 26).

In order not to ruin the great meal the Lord has a place for us (verse 30).  We must go from …WHERE will I SIT? …to HOW will I SERVE?

PLACE SETTING to PLACE SETTING–

It’s really unfortunate in today’s society that SERVICE has become associated with a business.  We use to have “Service Stations”, where an attendant pumped the gas, checked your oil, washed your windshield, checked the air in your tires, told you potential problems with your car, and all with a smile and for less than 50 cents a gallon!  NEVERMORE!  And yet we really do value good service.  We are willing to pay more if we know the service will be good.

Our habit of connecting service with business makes it hard for us to understand the Biblical language.  In the Bible, the word SERVICE means the kind of work a slave did for his master.  They didn’t get paid for it.

Just as we can have trouble understanding “service” and “business”, so the disciples had trouble bringing the words “servant” and “King” together.

Forgetting about “your place”, “your position”!

What did Jesus do in setting an example for His disciples?

He washed their feet!

What would Jesus do today?

He’d wash our feet.

You never stand taller when you are on your knees! You are never more in control than when you choose to serve:  “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:26-28).

The Communion Song to listen to in reflection of your position as a true believer and of God’s Planned Meal for us:

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CREDITS

Music Video:  The Communion Song by Jonathan Stockstill and Bethany Worship; YouTube.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search–settings, advanced search.

Bible Translations:  English Standard Version (ESV); New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

Dave Thomas Story:  Dave’s 5 Values – The Biography of Dave Thomas.