A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle – [Part Two]

Study Verses: 1 John 3:1-9

WHAT “LAWLESSNESS” ISN’T:

I left off in PART ONE– A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle– on Lawlessness; what it is and what it isn’t.  Lawlessness, pure and simply stated is… “open rebellion against God; having no regard of what GOD thinks or says”:

Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God ~ 1 John 3:4.

The Amplified Bible says it this way:

Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commandments and His will).

If we’re really saved, we won’t do that–“practice sin”.  We may disobey GOD once in a while, but a true believer won’t practice sin.

“Steel Guitar Blues”

I can remember when I was about 12 years old, I begged my parents for an Electric Steel Guitar.  Not just a ‘plain old guitar’ but a “Steel Guitar”.  So, they decided to grant my request with the following conditions: “We will get you a “used” one first.  Then, after lessons and ‘practicing diligently’, maybe, just maybe we will get you a newer one with a guitar stand.”

7955856818_f2877ed5fd
My First Guitar

My first guitar laid across my lap!  Bummer!!  What will my buddies think?  They won’t think I am playing the ‘genuine’ instrument–without a stand?

If you want to get really good at doing something, you need to practice.  I never liked to “practice”, so the lessons stopped and so did my guitar playing.

If you keep on practicing sin–lawlessness–you will become really good at it.  Do you have an instrument used for sin; laying there on your lap, or if you are really good at it…on a display-stand so everyone can see it?  Do we know someone who says they’re Christian, but keeps on practicing open sin?  John says they aren’t saved!  A true believer can’t do that.

Why not?

John’s 2-part Answer:  1st, we don’t have to sin.

You know that He [GOD] appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him [JESUS] there is no sin.      (verse 5).

JESUS died on the cross to take away our sins.  And, because He had no sin, He could pay sin’s penalty.  Our sin is gone!

JESUS also took away the power of sin over us.  It may be alive in us, but we’re dead to its power over us:  “No one who abides (LIVES) in Him keeps on sinning.”  (verse 6 (a)).

We don’t have to practice sin anymore.  Why won’t a true believer keep on sinning?  Here comes a terrific Theological Answer to the question:  FIRST, John says… you don’t have to.

There’s a 2nd part of John’s answer–

“No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance  with Him]”  (1 John 3:6 (b)).

A TEENAGER’S DILEMMA:

A group of teenagers were enjoying a party [we’ve probably all been there and could tell some stories!].  Someone in the crowd suggested they all go to a certain “restaurant” and have a really good time!

“I’d rather you took me home”, the girl said to her date.  “My parents don’t approve of that place.”

“Afraid your father will hurt you?”  One of the girls asked sarcastically.

“No, I’m not afraid my father will hurt me.  But I am afraid I might hurt him!”

She understood:  A true child of God knows Father God–

—  They see and know His love.

—  They love God and in loving Him, they don’t want to sin against His love.

Now we have John’s 2-part reason why true believers can’t keep on sinning:

—  1st, they don’t have to.

—  2nd, true believers won’t want to.

When it comes down to practicing righteousness, God’s love HEALED their “Lackawanna”.

GRACE SOMETIMES CAN BE MISTAKEN – (verse 7 (a)):

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray”

Some in John’s community were arguing over what God’s GRACE meant–it didn’t matter that they kept on sinning.  John is warning us– That isn’t true!  Choosing to do what’s righteous matters!

HOW? – (verse 7 (b).):

“He who does what is right is righteous, just as Christ is righteous”

Has there been a CHANGE in our lifestyle since we were SAVED?  Or, are we still practicing sin?

John is saying we were we were never SAVED if there is no change!  And even more, we’re supposed to be changing for the better– forever.  The apostle reminds us in the Book of Romans,

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, be be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will”  (Romans 12:2 NIV).

That “renewing” Paul is talking about, isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event.  It is ongoing–everyday of your life happening.  I think that it is the second most important decision you will ever have to make in life; next to your decision of accepting JESUS as Lord and Savior.

We ought to be making PROGRESS…

WHY?  (verse 8):

“[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated divine law) from the beginning.  The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].”

SATAN (the devil) holds the lost in his power-grip.  A Christian is held by Christ’s POWER.  When a lost person is found–becomes a born-again Christian–Satan’s power is broken.  They don’t have to practice sin any more–and they don’t want to!

JESUS Sets Us Free!

JESUS promised,

[34] “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you,  Whoever commits and practices sin is the slave of sin.  [36] So if the Son liberates you [makes you free men], then you are really and unquestionably free”  (The Gospel of John 8:34, 36 AMP).

If JESUS sets us free from the slavery of practicing sin, we won’t practice sin anymore–no lessons, no instruments available for sinning when we don’t practice.

Just the opposite, we’ll be working hard at becoming more Christ-like.  We’ll love Him too much not to!

GOD PLANTS THE SEED OF JESUS:

“No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him  [His principle of life, the divine sperm (seed), remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born of God”  (verse 9).

In every christian, the SEED is planted.  It’s done at our REBIRTH.  His seed (His holy nature) can’t sin.  And, at our rebirth, we receive a new nature–Christ’s.

His nature can‘t sin because…He can’t.  Whenever we do sin, it’s our old nature sinning.  When we die, our old sinful nature (attached to our sinful physical body) will die too.  It was predestined long ago.

In Christ JESUS, it was put to death at Calvary.  But it’s taking a long time to die.  When JESUS takes us home, all that will be left is our new nature.  The lost (the unsaved) have only the old nature that has never been put to death.  So it still lives to rule and reign in their hearts.  It will have to be JUDGED–THEIR UNRIGHTEOUS SEED IS ALL THEY HAVE.

A Good Tree and its Fruit–

Our study has been focused on 1 John 3:1-9, but I couldn’t stop at verse 9, I had to include verse 10:

“By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children…”

Can there be any doubt on how we live our lives becoming a SALVATION issue?  John isn’t saying it’s our deeds that save us.  BUT, he is saying clearly what JESUS said in Matthew 7:17 and Matthew 12:33:

“Either make the tree sound (healthy and good), and its fruit sound (healthy and good), or make the tree rotten (diseased and bad), and its fruit rotten (diseased and bad); for the tree is… know and recognized and judged by its fruit”  (Matthew 12:33 AMP).

Every Good Tree Bears Good FruitA “good tree” (from the “good seed”) produces good fruit–and a bad tree–bad fruit.  The FRUIT always reveals what kind of tree it is.

When GOD plants His Divine “seed” in us, it produces a desire, even sometimes a passion to SERVE–Obey and Live for Christ.  If we don’t have this desire, we don’t have His “seed” in us.

WHEN JESUS SAVED US…

GOD planted a new seed in us–and it will bring forth fruit–our good works.  And as we mature in Christ, the fruit matures in its appearance; the more evidence there’ll be in our life that we’re SAVED!

According to John, like that expression I heard in the late 1970’s,  “If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?”

GOD GETS THE GLORY!

It comes down to the bottom line on the ‘fruit bearing’ in our lives.  Are we doing so because of the accolades we will receive from others to our self-glory…or the roses we receive laid at the feet of JESUS?

[39] “And some of the Pharisees from the throng said to Jesus,  Teacher, reprove Your disciples!  [40] He replied, I tell you that if these keep silent, the very stones will cry out”  (Luke 19:39-40).

“So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, do all for the honor and glory of God”  (1 Corinthians 10:31).

1 John 3:1-9
1 John 3:1-9

A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle – [Part One]

First John 3:1-9:1johnwordcloud

See how very much our heavenly Father loves us, for he allows us to be called his children, and we really are!  But the people who belong to this world don’t know God, so they don’t understand that we are his children.  Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, and we can’t imagine what we will be like when Christ returns.  But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.  And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure.  Those who sin are opposed to the law of God, for all sin opposes the law of God.  And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, for there is no sin in him.  So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either.  But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is.  Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous.  But when people keep on sinning, it show they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning.  But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil.  Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them.  So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God.

“CHILDREN OF GOD” —

In 1997, the editorial page of a newspaper had a CARTOON tacked on to the column:

In the 1st Frame, a man said,  “I’m tired. I’ll take a pill.”

In the next frame, he said,  “I’m stressed. I’ll take a pill.”

In the 3rd frame, he said,  “I’m depressed. I’ll take a pill.”

And in the next-to last frame,  “I’m overweight. I’ll take a pill.”

In the last frame, he says,  “I’m unethical–is there a pill for that?”

Yes! There is!  The GOS–pill .

The GOSPEL is…the Good News!!

When it comes to obeying God’s law, are we troubled by our “Lackawanna”?  In JESUS Christ, God does more than tell us, “Don’t do that!”  In Christ, God transforms us–fixes that Lackawanna.  That is the Good News!

1.  What is our Motivation?

JESUS IS COMING BACK.  And when He does, we well know, we have to give an account of our lives.  That should motivate us to live today more Godly lives.

1 John 2:28:

Who Are God's Kids?
Who Are God’s Kids?

And now little children, abide (live, remain permanently) in Him, so that when He is made visible, we may have and enjoy perfect confidence (boldness, assurance) and not be ashamed and shrink from Him at His coming (Amplified Bible).

2.  What kind of a Christian life do we live?

Not everyone in “the church” will be happy to see JESUS’ return.  Those who continue or abide in Him will.  They walk in fellowship with Christ.

I don’t know about you, but personally, that fellowship may be strained at times; I become more ‘self-centered’ and less GOD-centered and the fellowship goes out the window.  Even so, I know and recognize ,there is still rest in Christ and His grace.

If we want to– (versus “Lackawanna”), to stand confident and unashamed when JESUS returns, we better stay in close fellowship with Him right now!  In Him, nothing can shame us.

3.  Image is everything–

One day, all of our works will be judged.  ALL our works–everything we’ve done.  And a question to ask ourselves in our busy and hectic lives,  “How closely have I reflected Christ’s image?”  Just keeping it real and personal.

OUR ONLY HOPE:

Our only hope of righteousness comes by continuing in Christ.  As Jesus puts it in John 15:5, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

Lucille Ball’s Problem–

When I was growing up, my family would never miss The Lucille Ball Show on our small screen television.  Her misadventures had us all rolling on the floor laughing.

On the day Christ judges our works, if we haven’t abided in Christ, we’ll have Lucille Ball’s problem.  When she got in trouble, Desi Arnaz would tell her,  “Luci, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

This raises some important questions.  How can we know that we’re continuing (“abiding”) in Christ?  How can we know if we’re saved?  John answers the question:

If you know that He is righteous, you may also know that everyone who does righteously is born of Him  (verse 29).

Christ is righteous!  He never sinned.  He lived a perfect, holy, righteous life.

Only JESUS has ever done that.  How then can we know if we’re SAVED?

Do we look like Him?

Do we do right?

Do we practice righteousness?

By practicing righteousness, we show we really are born of God.  GOD IS RIGHTEOUS.  Everyone born of God increasingly shows His righteousness.

4.  A true Christian pursues, seeks…Christ-likeness.

We try hard to be more like JESUS in our daily living.  And as we are ‘trying’… abiding in Christ, He gives us the POWER to do it!  That’s sanctification–it becomes a life-long process.  In this life of ours, we’ll never get sinless completely.  But we should increasingly “sin less”.

All Christians are in God’s family.  We are related to Christ by blood–His.  As in all families, there should be a trait–a family resemblance. 

Over my, ‘going on 50 years’ of marriage, my wife has said  “Honey, you and your brother and dad’s voice sound exactly alike over the phone”, or “That habit of yours is exactly like your dads.”  Could the reason just be, my brother and I came from the same seed?

John is saying, if we are truly born of Him, we will bear a family resemblance to JESUS; we will practice righteousness.  We’ll still stumble and fall flat on our faces spiritually, but we’ll keep practicing righteousness.  Otherwise, we aren’t true children of God.  If more and more we do right as God does, we show our inherited family likeness.  We show we’re His kids!  His voice (His Word), His habits…His good works.

5.  How Great Is The LOVE…(verse 1)

Literally, John says “See what kind of love the father has lavished on us”.

The Message Bible reads,  “Just look at it–we’re called children of God!  That’s who we really are.  But that’s also why the world doesn’t recognize us or take us seriously because it has no idea who He is or what He’s up to.”

The world failed to recognize JESUS.  Those living in the world live in darkness and they won’t venture into the light–they hate it!

The more we practice righteousness, the less the world will understand us and we’ll be more like JESUS.  We should fear the world’s approval, not want it!  To be hated by the world isn’t fun.  But it should reassure Christians that God LOVES us, and that’s more important than the world’s hatred.

6.  At times, we might look more like the world than we should–

We might not be as conformed to Christ’s image as we should.  But there is a time coming, when we will perfectly display Christ’s image.

John continues by saying,  “But friends, that’s exactly who we are:  children of God.  And that’s only the beginning…Who knows how we’ll end up!”  (verse 2 (a) -The Message Bible).

WHEN?  When JESUS comes to take us home with Him!

A Great Sculptor’s IMAGE–

Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo’s David

A Great Sculptor sees in stone the image that he wants.  When Michelangelo created the sculpture of David, he chiseled away everything that wasn’t David.

Likewise, God puts JESUS’ image in us–His Spirit lives in us.  And now, God wants to chisel away everything that isn’t Christ.  He is still working on us.  That’s the evidence that we are His true children.

“For we are God’s [own] handiwork  (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus [born anew]…”  (Ephesians 2:10 AMP).

7.  We aren’t finished yet!

When JESUS returns, God will complete whatever is lacking in our conformity to Christ’s likeness.  That’s what Paul was saying:

“He who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return, developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you”  (Philippians 1:6 AMP).

“But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is”  (1 John 3:2 (b)).

8.  How Will We Be Like Him?

—  We’ll be like Him physically:

Our bodies will be changed and we will be made like His glorified resurrected body (John 20:14, 19, 26-29; John 21:1-25).  Some Bible Teachers say, JESUS’ age when resurrected bodily from the earth was 33 years.  So…just possibly, our age in the glorified new body will be 33 years of age.   That’s why the apostle Paul tells us,

“But we are citizens of the state (commonwealth, homeland) which is in heaven, and from it also we earnestly and patiently await [the coming of] the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [as] Savior.    Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself”  (Philippians 3:20-21 Amplified Bible).

—  And we’ll be like Him spiritually:

We will be made perfectly holy!  Our sin nature will be eliminated.  We’ll be able to do all that is righteous and pure.  That’s all we’ll want to do.  And we won’t be tempted any longer.

9.  We will have JESUS’ NATURE:

We, too, will be pure and holy.  Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to see JESUS or enter Heaven’s glory!

Having the Wonderful Hope in Our Lives–

“And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure  (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (verse 3).

Having the wonderful HOPE that John is speaking to us about, should, change our behavior.  We will be completely righteous like Christ in the future.  THAT should, make us want to be more Christ-like now!  That “wonderful hope” prevents us from venturing into a Lackawanna” lifestyle.

Do we really believe …JESUS is coming back for us?

If so, we’d be getting ready for Him.

If we knew that an important guest was coming to our home, I don’t know about you–but personally, I’d be helping my wife by doing some housecleaning in preparation.

If we really believe JESUS is coming back, we would do some spiritual housecleaning now.  Cleaning out our spiritual closets and not sweeping the ‘dirt’ under the carpet.  Is it time for REPENTANCE (getting rid of the spiritual clutter) or, do you have a “Lackawanna” attitude?

10.  What does the word “lawlessness” mean?

I heard a pastor preach one Sunday, that as believers…”we are no longer under the Law”.  Do I disagree with that decree?  Yes, and No.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness”  (verse 4- NIV Bible).

Our youngest daughter when growing up had a personality trait that, how should I say, often frustrated her mom and dad.  One afternoon, I decided to take the family on a ride in the surrounding country; to see if I could find the perfect strawberry stand.  Finally, after a thorough search, we found the perfect spot: fresh berries, reasonably priced, and under the shade of a large tree.  It was a warm Southern California day.

Defiant-ChildWhen I returned to the car, there she was, standing on the backseat of our 1969 Station Wagon.  This was going against the “Standing up on the backseat Thompson Car Law”:  

“Krissy, you need to sit down.”  She began to frown at my command but continued standing.

“Kris, I mean it!  Sit down or…” 

She sat down at the raising of my voice but, when looking in the car’s rear-view mirror, her arms folded and a scowl on her face– she was still standing up on the inside!  That is LAWLESSNESS pure and simple–open rebellion!  My daughter was “made” to obey.  But, her heart still held rebellion.

Lawlessness isn’t occasional sin.  It is… open rebellion against God–having no regard of what God thinks or says.

[Will continue study in PART TWO– A “Lackawanna” Lifestyle?]

ADVANCED RESERVATIONS ARE GUARANTEED

a-resurrection-of-hope

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”   

(1 Peter 1:3-7 NIV)

NO ROOM at the Inn–

In 1976, my wife and I decided to take a family vacation to Yellowstone National Park.  We decided to rent an U-Haul Trailer; fill it with camping gear so our three kids (11, 9 and 6), would have plenty of room in the backseat in our almost new1975 Volvo without them saying, “he touched me”; “her elbow poked me.”  Well, that was a dumb idea!  Those conversations took place on the whole trip.

Now I am a pretty thorough person when it comes to planning, at least most of the time.  In this adventure…thinking back on the good times–camping on the Snake River near Grand Teton National Park, and the not so good times in Yellowstone National Park–my planning was somewhat half-hearted.  But I digress.

2695597480_355f1e5b9fEarlier in the day, my plan in heading towards Yellowstone, was to pull into one of the many camp grounds located in the Park–pitch our tent and set up camp.  Then after freshening up some, go into the Old Faithful Village for some dinner; fill-up the car with gasoline and the next day…enjoy God’s wonders!  That was the plan.

Either my naivety, or my stupidity (I like the first choice), my thoughts were– there will be plenty of campsites in the largest National Park in America…even in August.  WRONG THINKING!  ALL Campsites… were full to capacity.  NO VACANCY SIGNS everywhere!

So there we sat–in the Old Faithful Village parking lot– with no place to stay.  Even the Old Faithful Inn had a NO VACANCY at the front desk.  And to be honest, even if there had been ROOM AT THE INN, my family of five couldn’t afford to stay there.

And to add to our dilemma, we were advised by the Park Ranger’s Service...You can’t sleep in the car of this parking lot or any other parking lot…we needed to find a place to stay.  With the ONE Gas Station now closed for the night, and little gas in the car, it was too far to drive to West Yellowstone located outside of the National Park.  What were we going to do?

I began driving around the Village parking lot’s side roads in a daze (it was dark by now), and lo-and-behold, an empty parking space next to a log cabin.  Now I hope you can visualize, three kids in the back seat with two reclining adults in the front bucket seats. trying to keep from killing each other.  I couldn’t sleep of course…you know, bears…moose and other wild things making weird noises in the dark of night.  Somebody had to keep watch.

At about 3 AM, there suddenly appeared in the blackness of night, a beam of light shinning on the hood of our car.  And then, a soft audible voice: “Hello?…You can’t park here!”  I began to crack my car window with some uneasiness–okay, a lot of uneasiness with embarrassment on my face.  We had the misfortune of selecting a Ranger’s cabin and parking in his parking space to sleep for the night.

He politely asked us to move on, but to where?  He shrugged his shoulders when asked, WHERE CAN WE GO? and said “The Old Faithful Inn opens for breakfast at 7 AM.  You might be able to wait in their parking lot until the sun comes up.

I felt like Joseph and Mary must have felt some 2000 years ago, when they were told there was NO ROOM AT THE INN.

1593334421_77cd62619c
The Old Faithful Inn Parking Lot

If I had paid more attention in my planning– sending a check ahead to the National Park Service with an ADVANCE RESERVATION GUARANTEED…I would have spared the family ((me in particular) all the grief and desperation!

A GUARANTEED RESERVATION:

In Hotel jargon, a guaranteed reservation for accommodations is secured by “supplying the hotel with a guaranty of payment.”  Typically, a guaranteed reservation is “an agreement between the hotel and the participating quest that the room will be available, regardless of what time the guest arrives.”

The Apostle Peter Was Not Shy Theologically–

In 1 Peter 1:3-7, Peter paints a picture of the invincibility of our inheritance in Christ.  As ‘born-again believers’  [“the elect” verse 1; and “born again” in verse 3], he describes our inheritance in a multitude of ways in these five verses.  But there is one particular string that stood out to me in my Word investigation describing our security of inheritance; our advanced reservations.

He says that the Father’s inheritance is “reserved in heaven for you and me who are protected by the power of God through faith.”  If that doesn’t give you HOPE, nothing else will!

And speaking of HOPE. Peter mentions A Living Hope:

“…By His boundless mercy WE HAVE BEEN BORN AGAIN TO AN EVER-LIVING HOPE...”  (1 Peter 1:3).

First, we can rejoice…because, we have an “ever-living hope”–ongoing, not ‘past hope’–  BELIEVERS in Christ Jesus have been “born-again”  [“re-birth”] to a “living hope” because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

When we can realize that our ultimate destination in this long, difficult journey we call “life”, is eternity in heaven–it makes the potholes, the breakdowns, the ‘all nights in a cold car in an empty parking lot’ worth bearing.

To the UNSAVED…

HOPE is nothing more than “wishing on a star”:

–  “I HOPE I win the lottery.”

–  “I HOPE my boy shapes up someday.”

–  “I HOPE things work out for me in my job.”

–  “I HOPE I make it to the next paycheck.”

BUT, this kind of wishful thinking differs noticeably from the “living hope”. 

CHRISTIAN HOPE:

Christian Hope is grounded on the reality of Christ and His resurrection.  Because JESUS rose from the grave, we too will be raised like Him in  glorified bodies to dwell in heaven and the new earth for ALL eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 21:5).

A Permanent Inheritance Is Promised (1:4):

—  “REJOICING IN SUFFERING”

I’ve had the privilege over my Christian life, through career opportunities and even family vacations, to minister in a small way.  Including a three-month stay in Oahu, Hawaii in a job opportunity.

I’ve also entered a few hotels in the P.M., exhausted from a long day of travel, giving the guy a credit card…waiting, while he does some voodoo on his computer–and then he stares through you as if you are not there.  Have you ever had the same experience?

If your name isn’t on the computer screen, you DON’T EXIST!

You give the person at the front desk your confirmation number, but it’s NO GOOD.  So, you wind up in a flophouse two blocks down, with nothing but a half-hearted apology because…somehow, your RESERVATION VANISHED…faded away.

The Apostle Peter Offers Great News:

“THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO YOUR RESERVATION IN GLORY!”

Your heavenly reservation has been PAID IN ADVANCE–in FULL–by the BLOOD of Christ Jesus and CONFIRMED by His glorious resurrection!

Some celestial receptionist won’t look at you and say,  “Now what was that name again?”  Or,  “Could I see your credit card just one more time?”

There will NEVER be a” NO-VACANCY” sign–

When the Lord calls us home, He has promised us that we have an eternal “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled…”  

I think most of us understand the word INHERITANCE; either we have experienced it personally, or we know of someone who has come into an inheritance.  In my investigation, I thought I would give you the LEGAL and a Biblical definition:

One Legal Definition:

“something that is or may be inherited , property passing at the owner’s death to the HEIR or those entitled to succeed, legacy” (The Free Dictionary).

And, the Bible’s Definition of INHERITANCE by God’s Heirs–Our Birthright:

“…if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also; heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ [sharing His inheritance with Him]; only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.  [But what of that?]  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time (this present life) are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us!”  (Romans 8:17-19 AMP).

“In Him you also who have heard the Word of Truth, the glad tidings (Gospel) of your salvation, and have believed in and adhered to and relied on Him, were stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit.  That [spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance, in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it–to the praise of His glory”  (Ephesians 1:13-14).

OUR RESERVATION HAS BEEN GUARANTEED!

At JESUS’ death on the cross over two thousand years ago, and His resurrection by the power of the Spirit, as HEIRS…

“Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God’s power through [your] FAITH [till you fully inherit that final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] at the last time”  (1 Peter 1:5).

My HOPE on my journey through life on this earth is…”I’ve A Home Beyond the River”.

A Home Beyond the River
A Home Beyond the River

I’ve a home beyond the river,

I’ve a mansion bright and fair,

I’ve a home beyond the river I will dwell with Jesus there.

Tho the world is filled with sorrow

And the tear drops often fall,

There will be but joy and gladness  Safely inside the jasper wall.

As God’s kids, our inheritance makes our RESERVATIONS GUARANTEED!

DOING and SAYING the Things God Expects Us to Do and Say

1 PETER 4:10-11 AMPLIFIED BIBLE:

[10]  As each of you has received a gift (a particular talent, a gracious divine endowment), employ it for one another as [befits]  good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [FAITHFUL STEWARDS of the extremely diverse powers and gifts granted to Christians by unmerited favor].

[11]  Whoever speaks, [let him do it as one who utters] oracles of God; whoever renders service, [let him do it] as with strength which God furnishes abundantly, so that in all things God may be GLORIFIED through Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  To Him be the glory  and dominion forever and ever (through endless ages).  Amen (so be it).

ELIEZER of DAMASCUS–

Abraham and Eliezer
Abraham and Eliezer

Eliezer certainly wasn’t the most prominent of Bible Characters, and yet, he played a significant role in the life of Abraham where identified as “a steward of Abraham.”

“And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus?”  (Genesis 15:2).

What is a “steward”?

In the OT [Old Testament]; a man who is ‘over a house’.

In the NT [New Testament]; two words translated “steward”:  epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2). i.e. one to whose care or honor on has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian, and… oikonomos, the Greek word use in 1 Peter 4:10.  i.e. a manager, a superintendent – from oikos (‘house’) and nemo,u (‘to dispense‘ or ‘to manage’). 

The word is used to describe the function of delegated responsibility.

So, with that meaning in mind, ALL things are Christ’s and Christians are His executors or “stewards”–

In the case of Eliezer, he had to manage ALL of Abraham’s ‘stuff’, and boy, Abram had a lot to manage!

“Now Abram was extremely rich

in livestock and in silver and in gold.”

(Gen. 13:2).

ELIEZER, himself, mentions how great the responsibility was in Genesis 24:34-35:  flocks, herds, silver, gold, men servants, maidservants, camels, and asses.  That is a lot of STUFF!

As a STEWARD, his task was making sure that he was prompting Abraham in his best interests.  Over January 2012 062the years, Abraham had found ELIEZER to be faithful and dependable and chose him to carry-out an important errand–to find a woman who believed in the one true God.  He found Rebekah for his son Isaac and the rest is history.

No matter what Abraham placed in Eliezer’s hands, he was found to be faithful and dependable promoting his master’s best interests.  Over the years, Abraham and Eliezer had become more than a master/servant, but in relationship, had become trusted friends.

ELIEZER is an ideal example for us to imitate–

In 1 Peter 4:10, we’re told to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (KJV and NAS).

Now, everything belongs to GOD: “Behold, the heavens and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth also, with all that is in it and on it”  (Deuteronomy 10:14).

Even though GOD owns all things, He entrusts us with a portion of His possessions.  In His “manifold grace” He grants us ALL that we have and enjoy in this life.  We are then STEWARDS of what GOD gives us!

On what basis are we to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ stewards?

VERSE 11 tells us that we are good stewards when…we use all that we are given to promote GOD’S best interests–“so that in all things God may be glorified.”

THREE THINGS THAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO EACH ONE OF US TO “GLORIFY”:

1.  SPIRITUAL GIFTS.

The primary focus of 1 Peter 4:10-11, is to use our spiritual gifts Again verse 10: ‘As each one has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious divine endowment – Amplified Bible)–“employ it for one another, as good trustees of God’s many-sided grace [‘faithful stewards’].

Look carefully what is said and meditate on the certain truths that are taught in this verse:

FIRST, Peter informs each of us we’ve been given a “special gift”.  There is not a single member of the Church assembly who has not received from GOD a GIFT.

SECONDLY, we are to notice the enablement–to ‘serve one another’ in the assembly.  These GIFTS grant us the ability to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.  Each GIFT represents a ministry that GOD calls us to perform within the congregation.

THIRDLY, only as we actively “employ” our special gift are we “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  ~ adopt, utilize, apply; engage, hire, use, ‘put-to-work’.

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S ADMONISHMENT:

Romans 12:6-8 speaks to us. in regards to being FAITHFUL, in the Use of Our Gifts.

[6]  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;

[7]  [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching;

[8]  He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

“Unopened Gifts”

I happened to run across this great story late last night by Rosalind Renshaw, date 10/2/91:

How come you’ve left so many gifts unopened on the floor?  They have your name on them, they belong to you, they are yours for the taking–if only you will receive them.  What is that you say?  That they can’t be yours, you have your share already.  They must be someone elses. There must be some mistake?  You’re afraid of what so-and-so will say when they see you unwrapping that gift–you fear their reaction, their envy.  Go open up your package, see what is inside your gift box.  You’ll be amazed at how I knew exactly what to give you–the perfect fit for you right now–in fact, just what you’ve always wanted, but you didn’t know it.  Go on, open it!  You can trust Me.  I am the Master gift-giver.  I never make mistakes or give the wrong size, or color, or fit.  But, please do hurry and open it, to enjoy it and to share it with others, so they can benefit from your gift too.  That’s My whole purpose of giving gifts…not for you to put them back in the box, to keep them safe or even put them in a glass cabinet, to look at and admire.  No, all My gifts are for My children to use, to help their brothers and sisters, not to make anyone else jealous or feel less fortunate.  As I said, I see a number of unopened packages, gift wrapped especially for you.  They are yours!  I’m right here, waiting, longing to see you unwrap them, and to see the look of joy and wonder on your face.

We Each Have Different Gifts Given to Us:

Each GIFT given to the ‘re-birthed’–and this is an important first step.  None is more important than any other and only when each of us actively uses our GIFT can a church body grow as GOD intends.

EPHESIANS 4:15-16 says,

“we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, cause the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Are we using our gift(s)?  Are we performing the ministry that GOD has called us to?  We will be judged by how faithful we used our gift(s), as much as how diligently we lived the life of righteousness and worshiped GOD properly?  (Matthew 25:14).

2.  OUR TIME

The second area where we need to be GOOD STEWARDS is the use of the time GOD grants us.

Even though the length of our lives seem so long when we are young, the truth is…LIFE IS SHORT!  I’ve asked myself over the years in my Christian life, “Am I being a good steward of the precious time that GOD continues to give me?”

Paul writes in Ephesians, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise,  making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil”  (Eph. 5:15-16 NIV).

Are we, as good stewards, investing time in ACTIVITIES that promote GOD”S interests and glory?

Are we investing time now in the ACTIVITIES that will pay dividends in eternity?

Or, are we wasting valuable time that GOD has graciously given to us, engaging in ACTIVITIES, that have absolutely no spiritual significance?

How much TIME do we devote to self-improvement?

We all have weaknesses in our lives.  We all have faults.  The question becomes, how much TIME and EFFORT do we dedicate to changing our practices and habits?

How much TIME do I use, to make myself a better person, so that my light might shine brighter for GOD?

3.  MONEY!

The third and last area to discuss is our STEWARDSHIP OF MONEY.

It’s so easy for us to forget what we think of as OUR MONEY–what is actually GOD”S money (Ezekiel 16:17; Haggai 2:8).

The income which we have is given to us by our GIFT-GIVER; our GOD, to meet our basic needs but, above all, to promote His interests and glory.

When we steward GOD’S money, what is the appropriate amount to set-aside?

Every Lord’s Day, GOD’S people are encouraged to give–Scripturaly and doctrinally.  The question we need to ask ourselves, is whether or not, as STEWARDS OF GOD’S MONEY, do we contribute or offer an appropriate amount?

When my wife and I were SAVED–born-again in 1972, the issue of “giving” our money to the church, was an issue.  In our minds, there wasn’t room in the budget to “give”…period!  Much less, a tithe!!

The pastor who led us to Christ could point to Scripture about tithing all he wanted, but we just couldn’t and wouldn’t make room to GIVE!

But then the Holy Spirit’s “Light bulb” came on as we matured in Christ Jesus and has stayed on ever since; even during bad economic times in our family when things looked dark–repeated unemployment; low pay; no health insurance for a growing family.

THE TRUTH ON GIVING IN 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 NKJV:

16  Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  2 On the first day on the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

When we go about determining how much we are to give and frequently focus our attention on “as he may prosper”, then we are tempted to adjust our thinking in giving.

Often we interpret the phrase “net profit”; that is, in accordance to what money we have left over after expenses of other worldly activities.  We GIVE GOD a “cut” of whatever is left over.

However, that’s not what Paul is talking about.  The phrase “as he prospers” is referring to what GOD has prospered us with, before we begin to divide it up!  It is based upon our “gross” earnings before expenses.  In other words, GOD expects His cut first; He wants the first fruits of our labor.

There is the story about a little boy who had two quarters, one for ice cream and one for giving to church on Sunday.  Unfortunately, he accidentally dropped one of the quarters in a storm sewer.  “Well, Lord,” said the boy, “there goes your quarter.”

We are tempted to be just like that little boy in the story.  We get our pay-checks, divvy it up to this and that and when we find we have little or nothing left-over for GOD…we say, ‘Sorry Lord, maybe we can give more next time.’   GOD calls that ROBBERY! (Malachi 3:8-12).

You may be thinking right now, the Scriptures you referenced, about GOD”S money, really doesn’t apply in today’s world.  That’s Old Testament Law! 

THAT THINKING would be incorrect.  The apostle Paul repeats the same message in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (AMP):

[6]  [Remember] this: he who sows sparingly and grudgingly will also reap sparingly and grudgingly, and he who sows generously [that blessings may come to someone] will also reap generously and with blessings.  [7] Let each one [give] as he has made his own mind and purposed in his heart, not reluctantly or sorrowfully or under compulsion, for God loves (He takes pleasure in, prizes above other things, and is unwilling to abandon or to do without) a cheerful (joyous, “prompt to do it”) giver [whose heart is in his giving].  [8]  And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].

As GOOD STEWARDS; trustees, we put GOD”S interest and glory first…even in the church offering each week.

What a privilege it is to be chosen by GOD to be His stewards.  May we all take our role seriously and glorify our Lord and Savior.

“SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING” in a Nutshell

My mind, as of late, has been focused like many others, on March 31st, 2013: RESURRECTION SUNDAY!  So when reading in First Peter this past week, and starting a Bible Study with my wife Dianne, I was drawn by GOD’S SPIRIT to the HOLINESS OF GOD and the events that Christianity has named–EASTER.

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“Re-Birthing” in a Nutshell

Where did the Expression “In a Nutshell” come from?

I thought I might insert the phrase into this blog for an ‘attention getter’, but later thought…culturally, would everyone understand the meaning; what do “nutshells” have to do with “spiritual re-birthing”?

How the phrase “in a nutshell” came to mean “brief and concise:

various_nuts_including_hazelnuts_walnuts_and_almon_postage-d172902192036531751exumr_325The idea of having a detailed amount of information about the FACTS, neatly contained in a small, compact nutshell has somewhat evolved to–the idea of having just the facts you need to make a decision, minus the “superfluous waffle.”  In a nutshell became connected to the idea of the information itself becoming compacted.  [References: Forsyth M. 2011. The Etymological Icon Books].

EXPLAINING THE BIBLICAL PROCESS OF “Re-Birthing”  (1 PETER I:1-25):

Where to begin?  When I used the phrase, “re-birthing”, I’m referring of course to the phrase we perhaps hear thrown around in Christian circles… without any emphasis or concern of who’s hearing the message and the understanding: “to be born again”. 

In my Word Detective investigation this past week, I found some interesting facts in the Older Testament (OT).

The Birth of Isaac found in Genesis 21–

The birth of ISAAC was a wonderful, Biblical, and practical example of “birthing” (Galatians 4:22-23. 29; and John 3:36).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,

but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,

for God’s wrath remains in him.”

JESUS is saying in John 3:36, that those who BELIEVE in Him have (not will have) everlasting life.  To receive eternal life is to JOIN GOD’S LIFE, which by nature is eternal.  So, eternal life begins at the moment of spiritual rebirth.

Isaac’s Birth was Wonderful Because….

By all natural appearances, Isaac shouldn’t have been born.  His parents were far to old to bear children.  Yet, GOD brought Isaac to birth in spite of…Debate, Doubt, Dysfunction, Death of the natural human reproductive systems  (Genesis 15:1-4; 15-19; 18:9-14; 21:1-7).

GOD USED THE MOST EXTREME SITUATION TO SHOW HIS MERCY AND HIS MIGHT:

How important is this to mankind?  It says that any of us–whatever the SITUATION, SORROW, and SINFUL PAST–All of us can experience “spiritual birthing.”

For Abraham is the father of us all–

[16]  “THEREFORE, [inheriting] the promise is the outcome of faith and depends [entirely] on faith, in order that it might be given as an act of grace, to make it stable and valid and guaranteed to all his descendants–not only to the devotees and adherents of the Law, but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all!  [17] As it is written,  I have made you father of many nations in the sight of God in Whom he believed, Who gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things that [He has foretold and promised] as if the [already] existed [Gen. 17:5]”  (Romans 4:16-17 AMP),

AND, Jesus died on the cross to put US in the family!

In the New Testament, “spiritual  birthing” begins–

It begins WHEN WE OPEN OUR EYES TO SEE JESUS.

With GOD’S GRACE (unmerited favor). when you look, you will see ‘HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL” and have the opportunity to reach out to Him.

“JESUS declared,  I tell you the truth,

no one can see the kingdom of God unless

he is born again.”

(John 3:3 NIV)

YOU MUST BE “BORN AGAIN” !!!

You must be spiritually “birthed” !!!  Your new birth begins your new life; one who experiences TRUE HOLINESS for the first time.

You begin to KNOW GOD in the “re-birthing”, EXPERIENCING HOLINESS IN “HIM WHO IS WONDERFUL”.

Be Holy

“Therefore, prepare your minds [be “ALERT”] for action; be self-controlled [‘disciplined’]; set your hope [focus] fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not  conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as He who called you is HOLY, so be holy in all that you do,  for it is written:  “BE HOLY, BECAUSE I AM HOLY”  (1 Peter 1:13-16 NIV). [The Word Detective added the brackets [  ] for emphasis].

The main idea behind HOLINESS is not moral purity but it is the idea of “apartness”–the idea that GOD is separate, different from His creation, in His essential nature and perfection of His attributes.  BUT instead of building a wall around His “apartness”, GOD call us into the “birthing process”, to come to Him and share His apartness.  He says to us, “BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”  You have become “sanctified”.

HOLINESS is not so much something we possess, as it is something that possesses us after we come to JESUS in the “SPIRITUAL REBIRTH”–Born again!!

When you begin to experience HOLINESS for the first time…

HOLINESS isn’t what you feel–it is an experience: “I don’t feel holy so I’m not holy.” 

train

“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” (courtesy of The Four Spiritual Laws tract):

The promise of god’s Word–the Bible and not our FEELINGS–is our authority.

The TRAIN pictures above, illustrates the RELATIONSHIP we receive in the “spiritual re-birthing”  among FACT (God and His Word); FAITH (our trust in God and His Word), and FEELING (the result of our FAITH and OBEDIENCE) ~ John 4:12.

The TRAIN will run with or without the caboose.  However, it would be useless to pull the train by the caboose.

In the same way, as a “new-born” , we don’t depend on FEELINGS or EMOTIONS: “I know what the Bible says, but I just don’t FEEL very HOLY right now.”

We place our FAITH (trust) in the trustworthiness of God and the PROMISES of His Word.

~(“Don’t Depend On FEELINGS” was taken from The FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS of Campus Crusade for Christ.) ~ My wife and I were both led to Christ by this Tract in August, 1972.

I believe it is a GOD-GIVEN condition at your “SPIRITUAL BIRTHING’.  You might not recognize holiness in your life, nor others around you.  BUT that doesn’t change the “birthing process”.

DEATH FIRST, THEN HOLINESS REALIZED–

Burying Like A Seed–No Death No Fruit:

John 12:24:

“I can guarantee this truth:  A single grain of wheat doesn’t produce a thing unless it is planted in the ground and dies.  If it dies, it will produce a lot of grain”  (GOD’S WORD TRANSLATION).

Being “set apart” in re-birth; Experiencing Holiness–

RE-BIRTHING is a High Place of dying out, being crucified with Christ and burying.  Now BURYING may seem more like a horrible place, but remember, we’re talking about “a spiritual re-birth of self”–our mind, personality; who we are.  Your physical body is just a tent where you reside; it wears out eventually, but who you really are doesn’t!

A NEW ROMANCE BEGINS …

WHY?  Because burying our old life opens the way for us to fall so much in LOVE with the Savior, to begin a REAL and RADICAL ROMANCE WITH THE REDEEMER!

In the letter to the Roman Christians, Paul uses a legal and matrimonial illustration (Romans 7:1-4):

Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear FRUIT for God.  (verse 4, AMP)

The picture of “burying” here is beautiful to my eyes, then again I’m a visual person.  Our RELATIONSHIP with all other “spiritual suitors or spouses” must end through spiritual death.  Only the will of JESUS establishes A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH US.

What Is A Spiritual Suitor? 

“Bury what spiritual suitors or spouses?”

Well…other “suitors” or “spouses” can be…

— Sin (Romans 6:6-11).

— Society (Galatians 6:14).

— Perhaps other Christians? (1 Corinthians 2:2).

And, the chief, all-inclusive rival Spouse is… SELF:

“I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who LOVED ME and gave Himself up for me”  (Galatians 2:20 AMP).

The SELF we are to be freed from by death is not the first TRUE SELF, fashioned in GOD’S IMAGE.  It’s a FOREIGN SELF, fashioned after the Satanic spirit clutching hopelessly to be GOD.

It, therefore, manifests itself in ….

PRIDE…

ANGER…

FRUSTRATION…

SUSPICION…

JEALOUSY…

It is this FALSE SELF that CAN and MUST be denied (see Luke 9:23), and it must be BURIED in Christ Jesus.  The clear instruction is…12605297-holy-week

“take up your cross daily, and follow Me”

JESUS HAS TASTED DEATH AND BURIAL FOR US:

He has already delivered us from the rival suitors, to ANOTHER!  JESUS HIMSELF has already paid the price; made the Sacrifice.  He Himself took the Cross, bore ALL the hardness of real death and real burial.

JESUS has experienced the grief of death, so that by dying with Him, we experience the Grace, even the Glory of dying out to old and being re-born to the new.

Along with the apostle Paul, we can gladly say on RESURRECTION SUNDAY…and on any given day of the year...Galatians 2:20.

VERSE 1:  Alas, and did my Savior bleed?  And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head  For someone such as I?

VERSE 2:  Was it for crimes that I have done, He suffered on the tree?

Amazing pity!  grace un-known! And love beyond degree!

VERSE 4:  But drops of grief can never repay  The debt of love I owe;

Here,  Lord, I give myself away,  ‘Tis  all that I can do!

CHORUS: At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,  And the

burden of my heart rolled away,  It was there by faith

I received my sight,  And now I am happy all the day!

“At the Cross”

by Isaac Watts and Ralph Hudson

A LIFETIME TO REFLECT:

MY STORY–Learning to Perfect the Perfection.

Dianne and I got married in September 1964, almost 49 years ago.  In fact, we’ve been saving our blessed abundance for the past three years; in order to be able to celebrate our 50th wedding Anniversary.

The analogy of marriage is very fitting in reflection of “back when…”  We get married in a moment of commitment but it takes a lifetime to learn to live with each other.

It’s similar with entire sanctification (Holiness): A PERFECTION OF COMMITMENT and HEART-CLEANSING IN A MOMENT.  It takes a lifetime, however, learning to perfect the perfection. 

As the Word of God tells us:

“THEREFORE, SINCE these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God”  (2 Corinthians 7:1 AMP).

“Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the PURE (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:2).

HOLINESS BEGINS AT “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”…

We who belong in the family of God have an advocate, “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1 NKJV), who has paid the penalty to forgive our sins by what He did on the cross.  He wants to SAVE US…to be our personal attorney and Savior.  But remember, He is available only to those who call on His name.  If you have the slightest doubt that you are HOLY–that you have ever personally invited Him into your life, do it now!

TODAY’S PRAYER

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for sending Jesus, Your Son, to die on the cross for my sins.  I know I am a sinner and that only He, the resurrected Christ, can forgive and save me.  Jesus, I invite You into my life to become my Savior and Lord.  I give my life to You.  In Jesus’ name I pray,  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, “SPIRITUAL RE-BIRTHING”  has taken place.  That’s it in a nutshell!

“So brace up your minds; be sober (circumspect, morally alert); set your hope wholly and unchangeably on the grace that is coming to you…[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel].  But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written,  You shall be holy, for I am holy”  (1 Peter 1:13-16).

The Most Important Times in Our Life…in the Meantime!

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Whatever happened to Mercurochrome?

Although dating myself somewhat, okay, a lot–moms had been daubing Mercurochrome antiseptic on their kids’ owies since the Harding administration.  Then in 1998, the U.S FDA, put out a report that the generically known merbromin (Mercurochrome) was “not generally recognized as a safe and effective” over-the-counter antiseptic.

No Scars Here!
No Scars Here!

Now when my kids we growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, my wife Dianne used a O.T.C. ointment Neosporin – (from Neo, (Greek) new; Sporos (Greek) seed).  According to my wife, and much public proclamations, Neopsorin not only helped in the healing process but prevented scarring as well.  How accurate that claim might be medically, we used it (and still do) on every wound and “owie” that came along.

My God is like Neosporin–

Applied on a wound, a week later, there will be no evidence of a wound or a scar.  When the Lord heals, you are healed without scars and no evidence of ever being wounded, ever been down and out, ever being sick.

Ecclesiastes tells us,

“TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven;  A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,  A time to kill and a time to heal…”  (Ecc. 3:1-3 a. AMP).

In studying the well-known verses, I found that the most important time is…in the meantime; while you’re waiting on your own blessing; waiting on a miracle.

You have said for GOD I live and for GOD I die…but, in the MEANTIME, are you going to sell your body to make ends meet?  Are you going to rob someone to pay your bills?  In the MEANTIME, are you going back to work at a part-time drug dealer, going back to your wicked ways?

Always looking in the rear-view-mirror in the meantime…

When you are spending so much of the present, focusing on the past, you totally ignore your future.

The Lord goes beyond time…

He sees our past…

He knows our future because…

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,

The Author and Finisher of our Faith (Revelation 1:8; 21:6; Hebrews 12:2).

NOTHING BUT LEFTOVERS:

There used to be a time when people gave their EVERYTHING to GOD.  But now, we don’t seem to want to give Him nothing but leftovers.

GOD has a right to give you a “leftover blessing”–

We want to show up late, leave early.  We want to be ‘average Christians’–doing ‘average things’–GOD has a right then to give you an “average blessing.”

I don’t now about you folks, but I need the LORD “to do exceeding and abundantly above all that I can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

Thank GOD I don’t look like what I’ve been through–“You see the glory but don’t know the story!”

There were many of nights in my past where I laid awake in tears with the problems I was to face the next day.

A DESPAIRING CRY!

Have you ever had a “despairing cry”?  You cried until there wasn’t any tears left.  You got so upset until you couldn’t eat and then your body starts to get sick.

But look at you now.  You are healed without scars; you don’t look like you’ve been through what you have gone through.  You have been healed without scars; I have not been through what you have gone through but, we all have a story to tell about.  How I never would have made it if…it had not been for the LORD who was on my side.

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A “In the Meantime” Story–Joseph was a tattle tale!

Genesis 37:2 says, “and Joseph brought to his father a bad report of them”  (the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s [secondary] wives; AMP).

His brothers hated him for several reasons.  If being a “tattle tale” wasn’t enough in the family, being the FAVORITE child, because he was born in Jacob’s old age, didn’t help the situation either.

I had a brother who was 7 years my junior.  I certainly wanted a little brother, a companion to do things with–but with such differences in age, we had little in common and I’m sure many harbored jealousies in growing up.  Later in adulthood, we became closer and still so today [another story on another day].  There was a lot “…in the Meantime between childhood and adulthood.

Then Joseph had a dream…

Now having a dream and sharing with the family is not a bad thing, but when Joseph’s sharing involves the future; where he is going to be the “ruler over them”…they hated him even more.  Joseph’s father loved him more than the other children and when he shared even a second dream… they were jealous and fully of envy.

When ungodly people see GOD’S favor, they will hate you.  Keeping it real, when some church folks see GOD’S FAVOR on you, they become “favor haters”.

Joseph’s Special Coat wasn’t by Armani, but by Jacob!

Joseph was given a special coat from his father.  A normal coat in those days was cloth about ten feet long with a hole in the middle and no sleeves.

Joseph’s Coat had sleeves and dyed in many colors (Gen. 37:3).  I think Joseph more than likely wore this distinctive coat where ever he went and this fit in nicely with the brothers plans to get rid of their problem (Gen. 37:23).

Father Always Liked You Best!

“Then they took him and cast him into the [well-like]pit which was empty; there was no water in it”  (Genesis 37:24 AMP).

And …in the Meantime…

Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver to a caravan of merchants that were passing by and at the age of seventeen…he was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, and officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the [royal] guard (Gen. 37:36).

Joseph didn’t know the details at the time, but because of GOD’S FAVOR on his future… he was but 13 years away from a promotion.  At the age of 30, when Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, Joseph would be placed in charge of all of Egypt’s grain conservation programs.

But in the Meantime..

Consequently, Joseph spent a total of 13 years in Potiphar’s house–then in Potiphar’s prison.  A long time for a proud, intelligent young man to have to “waste” time in servitude and in prison.

But in the MEANTIME…in GOD’S PLANNING, Joseph was but two years away from a promotion,  Then one year away, one day, one hour, five minutes away from a promotion.

In GOD’S PLANNING...in the Meantime, nothing was wasted in Joseph’s life.  Just the necessary preparation for a great position of leadership and deliverance.  GOD’S CALLING is always specifically arranged and in Joseph’s case…there wasn’t an exception.

Young People, take note of , “in the Meantime!”

Often, young people feel they should be promoted to positions of leadership and recognition in the Lord’s work–especially those who feel they have spiritual gifting–evangelists, teachers–almost as soon as they become witnessing Christians; acquiring rudimentary knowledge in the Bible.  They tend to become impatient with what they regard as irrelevant attitudes of programs in their churches.  They would rather develop new methods of their own and get immediately out into active ministry.

Looking back now at what I thought was the most important time in my life (I was 30 years old when I accepted Christ as Lord and Savior), I was certainly becoming impatient with the church establishment.

I knew I was gifted in Evangelism in 1972, but when attempting to develop my own methods of moving forward, I fell flat on my face– without what I thought should be successful.  But in the Meantime…I pressed on with even more confidence, knowing of GOD’S FAVOR on my life.

Even today, some 40+ years later, I am finding myself often… in the Meantime.  Maybe days, hours, minutes away from a promotion!  But now that I’ve matured spiritually, I know GOD is working for me in the MEANTIME!

Impatient Christians…

What I am saying to all such impatient Christians today, the story of Joseph is proved useful:

— He thought himself ready for leadership at seventeen…in the Meantime–the Lord had to punish him; put him through a rigorous training program before…he was ready at the age of 30 years of age.

But in the Meantime!

When the Lord brings you out of a situation, you don’t have to look like what you’ve been through.  Joseph was 17 and just 13 years away from the most important time in his life:

Thrown into a dry well by his own family…

Sold into slavery…

Then put in charge of Potiphar’s household–falsely accused of promiscuity with the bosses wife…

Thrown into prison for two years…

And in the meantime, you don’t have to look like all the hell you’ve been through.

…in the Meantime for king Jehoash – (2 Kings 13:14-19):

A great hero of the Old Testament was the Prophet ELISHA–

He was a faithful man of God and about ready to die.  He had fought the good fight, finished the course and kept the faith.

As he lies dying, he thinks of the future of God’s people and in the meantime...Elisha receives a surprise visit from Jehoash, king of the Northern Kingdom.

Now Jehoash was not a godly king, and yet, he has a great respect and admiration for ELISHA.  He even weeps at the thought of losing this godly man, seeking one last word of advice to help him as king of Israel.

Three Words that Help Describe the Meeting–

1.  VISITATION –  How important it is to visit the sick, aged, and dying–SAVED AND UNSAVED. 

…in the Meantime! – we need to take advantage of these opportunities.  JAMES 1:27 says,

“External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world”  (Amplified Bible).

2.  INSTRUCTION – Jehoash… in the meantime, wanted to know what lay ahead of Israel.

II Kings 13:15-17:

[15]  And Elisha said to him,  Take bow and arrows.  And he took bow and arrows.  [16] And he said to the king of Israel,  Put your hand upon the bow.  And he put his hand upon it, and Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands.  [17] And he said,  Open the window to the east.  And he opened it.  Then Elisha said, SHOOT.  And he shot.  And he said,  The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria.  For you shall smite the Syrians in Aphek till you have destroyed them.

The king shoots an arrow to the east, indicating victory over the enemy before the event even takes place.

Then Elisha tells the king to take his arrows and strike the ground.  Jehoash, perhaps somewhat confused by now, strikes the ground 3 X’s–then stops (verse 18). 

3.  REBUKE – The Prophet scolds the king for stopping too soon.

The king could have had many great victories over his enemies.  But he limited himself on the number three.

I can just see this event happening today; a man dressed in black and a face-mask saying with a loud voice to the batter in front of him”…Three strikes and you’re out!

What happens when we as Christians make this same mistake?  We too lose out on the blessings and victories in the most important time in life.

God wants us to enjoy life:  I came that they may have and enjoy life…” (John 10:10).  When we stop too soon…things take place while we are in the Meantime!

SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS SUFFOCATED!

God’s will is for us to GROW–in Grace and Knowledge of Christ Jesus:

But grow in grace (undeserved favor, spiritual strength) and recognition and knowledge and understanding of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Peter 3:18 AMP).

Yet many of us stop too soon, and just like Jehoash…strike feeble, half-hearted blows that accomplish so little when so much MORE could happened in the Meantime!

What is lacking in the meantime?

GREAT FAITH in a great God who will never fails us.  What is needed is a ZEAL, ENTHUSIASM, DEDICATION, COMMITMENT...not to stand still but to go forward, not backward; upward to higher ground.

Too many of us are like the Hebrew Christians in Hebrews 5:12-14.  Settling for less than God intended for us to be.

Some ought to be TEACHERS…but are not!  And in the meantime…become LAZY, INDIFFERENT, COMPLACENT, LUKEWARM…Causing us to stop too soon and aim too low.  Like Joseph, we might be but a few minutes away from…PROMOTION!  We don’t see it, but it is there!

WHEN WE STOP TOO SOON, SOUL WILL BE LOST!

After Jehoash did, his nation quickly went down hill.  Glorious opportunity was knocking at his door; to defeat his enemies and turn his people back to God.  Because he didn’t, the Assyrians came in and took the nation away into captivity.

May we never forget…while in the Meantime,

Others are watching our example…following in our footsteps.

Our children will follow what they see from Mom and Dad.

Our friends will see our Christianity is not for real, and be lost eternally because of that.

Our families will never come to know Christ and be an active part of the church assembly, because we stopped too soon and said nothing to them.

DON’T STOP TOO SOON!

One more in the Meantime can make the difference in someone’s life.

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IN THE MEANTIME…DON’T STOP TOO SOON!

In prayer…be constant.

In Bible Study…be diligent.

In soul winning…be persistent.

In godly living…be committed.

In attendance…be faithful.

In giving…be generous.

As GOD was looking at Joseph’s life, GOD is watching Christians with favor–

Keep on going on for His sake…

Not giving up…

Going the extra mile…

Having FAITH that will move mountains…

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough…], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]”  (1 Corinthians 15:58 AMP).

That ENCOURAGEMENT given to us in life is …in the Meantime!  Remember…you could be just a step away from PROMOTION!!