Christmas Behind Us…So What’s Next?

– THE MIRACLE BIRTH –

Christians just celebrated the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the World.  Every year my wife and I re-watch the DVD of The Nativity on the night before Christmas.  There lies in a manger, a crib between Mary and Joseph as they lay the baby Jesus gently down in a bed of hay.

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Baby Lying In A Crib

One night a wife found her husband standing over their infant’s crib.  As she watched him looking down at their very first baby, she saw a face with mixed emotions…disbelief, doubt, delight, amazement, enchantment, skepticism.  Touched by this unusual display and the deep emotions it aroused, she slipped her loving arm around her husband.  “A penny for your thoughts,” she said.  My wife occasionally asks me the same question, “A penny for your thoughts,” even after 50 years of marriage while I stare into an empty space of a room.

Her husbands response?  “It’s amazing” he replied.  “I just can’t see a crib like that for only $46.50.”  

Now in the original Christmas Story, I’m positive that Joseph and Mary’s dialogue never considered the costs involved of a borrowed crib in the manger.  They were thankful that they had a place at all!

Here, in both stories, lay one of the greatest MIRACLES in God’s creation.  In the first story I shared, all the father saw was a CRIB.  As baby JESUS lay in His crib…Joseph and Mary saw what lay within.  Not the uncleanliness of barn animals, the town’s people reactions, the cold of the night.  They were focused on the Miracle!

Many times people FOCUS upon God’s handiwork and only see the outside manifestation…never the MIRACLE of the birth of a new baby… or, the MIRACLE BIRTH OF A NEW CHRISTIAN!

SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL HAPPENS DURING THE SPIRITUAL REBIRTH.

Something very exceptional dies within each Christian when we obey Jesus; by repenting of our sins and being buried in Christian Baptism and a new life is born.

We receive a promise…

“Repent  (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it)  and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”  (Acts 2:38 AMP).

There are those who believe that the Holy Spirit is some kind of inanimate object – like the crib that held that baby – AND they see only the crib, NOT the miracle within.

What the Bible Tells Us that the Spirit of God Does Within Us–

~ helps us in our prayers

~ guides us

~ teaches us

~ AND empowers us

BUT perhaps the most captivating thing that the Holy Spirit was sent to do was implied in Acts 1:8:

But YOU shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and YOU shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all of Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.

Notice the Bible verse says first, they had to receive Holy Spirit – and then they would be His witnesses.  The Holy Spirit came first – then the witnesses.

Now that might sound rather peculiar at first reading.  These people gathered here had been with JESUS from the beginning of His ministry. They had been schooled, taught by JESUS and sat at His feet.

BUT Acts 1:8 implies they should become witnesses AFTER receiving the Holy Spirit.  Why should they have to wait?  Why not just start witnessing right then and there?

WELL, they could have…but they would have been lacking the “DUNAMIS” — the POWER to effectively witness.

We get the English word “dynamite” from the Greek word “dunamis”.  

In other words, they could have begun witnessing in the surrounding communities without the Holy Spirit but it wouldn’t have the same exploding power.

My wife gave me a wonderful surprise Christmas gift this year–an Electric Hedge Trimmer!  I’ve been trimming the hedges along side of our home for years with only hand shears.  Now the shears got the job done alright, but with the POWER  TRIMMER…the task becomes less difficult.

FRUSTRATION Can Come With WITNESSING:

Have you ever felt frustrated in witnessing…inviting someone to church…talking to them about JESUS?  Trust me, it can come with FRUSTRATION and INTIMIDATION.

Understanding  Prevents Frustration–

It’s my belief that part of our frustration in our sharing JESUS (“witnessing”) can come from NOT UNDERSTANDING the pivotal role that Holy Spirit can play in helping us share our faith with others.

JESUS said:  “However, I am telling you nothing but the truth when I say it is profitable for you that I go away.  Because if I do not go away, the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Advocate, Intercessor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you [into close fellowship with you]; but if I go away, I will send Him to you,    And when He comes, He will CONVICT and CONVINCE the world and bring demonstration to it about sin and about righteousness and about judgement”  (John 16:7, 8 AMP).

It is NOT our job to CONVICT and CONVINCE the World… 

One of the primary jobs for God’s Spirit in this world of ours is convicting people of their sin; their need for righteousness and the impending judgement.

You and I don’t have to convict people (change their hearts) regarding SALVATION.  That’s the Spirit’s job.  According to Scripture in Acts 1:8, we are to be WITNESSES.

Courtroom Testifying
Courtroom Testifying

Let me give you an Illustration:  In a courtroom, there is a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney,a defendant, AND witness.

Who gives TESTIMONY in the courtroom?  The witnesses do.

Do the witnesses prosecute the defendant?  Do the witnesses convict the defendant?  NO!  WITNESSES…witness…and they do their best to give honest and true testimony because they realize that the verdict may hinge on how well they give an account.  BUT their only job is TESTIFYING.

CONVICTING OF PEOPLE of their Sins & of the Need of Righteousness & the Closeness of Judgement…is the Spirit’s job–NOT OURS!

OUR TESTIMONY IS IMPORTANT:

In Romans 10:13-15, the apostle Paul says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be SAVED.”  How then, can they “call” on the one they have not believed in?  How can they believe in the one of who they haven’t heard?  And how can they he”ar without someone preaching to them?  And how can they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

God’s Mandate 2000 Years Ago Is Still In Effect…”Be witnesses”

GOD has given every one of us (NOT just pastors), a MANDATE.  What’s a “mandate”?  According to the On-line Dictionary:  The noun is…”an official order or commission to do something”; the Verb is “to give (someone) authority to act in a certain way.”

So when Jesus says “you shall be My witnesses”, He is given us the AUTHORITY and the COMMISSION to be His witnesses here on earth after receiving the given POWER to do so.

Now I found it interesting in Acts 1:10, 11 after JESUS was caught up, and a cloud received and carried Him away out of their sight, what the disciples were found doing:

“And while they were gazing intently into heaven as He [Jesus] went, behold, two men [dressed] in white robes suddenly stood beside them”  (verse 10).

The messengers (angels) question becomes one to be asked to all of us:  “…why do you stand gazing into heaven?”  

JESUS had already said, “you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  

The angels were encouraging the disciples (and us too!),  “Don’t just stand there and think about what’s in the ‘right now’, GO!”   Their words sunk into their hearts and in verse 12,  “Then [the disciples] went…”

Who Are the Preachers Today?

UNLESS someone preaches (witnesses), people cannot hear the Gospel Message…the Good News.

AND, if they don’t hear, they can’t believe…

AND, if they don’t believe, they don’t call…

AND, if they don’t call out, they won’t be SAVED!

This Is Our Service to God–

The SALVATION of the people we care about around us hinges on our FAITHFULNESS in our witnessing.  This is such a valuable SERVICE to God, that He regards even our feet (those who give testimony), of how they came to Jesus… as beautiful!

HOLY SPIRIT OPPORTUNITIES:

I believe that God’s Spirit gives each Christian believer opportunities to talk to others, IF…and that’s a big IF, if we just ask.  I’ve been reading of late in the Gospel of John, when I came upon 3-verses about “asking”.

John 14:12-14:

“I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, IF anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father.    

“And I will do [I will grant] whatever you ask in My Name, so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son.

“[Yes]  I will grant [I myself will do for you] whatever you shall ask in My name  [as presenting all that I AM].”

Now most of the things we seem to ASK FOR, are things that will benefit us: food, clothing, roofs over our heads, a good job…  But how about asking for OPPORTUNITIES…opportunities to talk to other about Christ Jesus this coming new year.

SO, WHAT’S NEXT AFTER CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR?

We need to:

PRAY, ASK for God’s Spirit to prepare the hearts of people we want to talk to.  We don’t go out “witnessing”, we “witness” as we go after praying earnestly first.

TRUST the Holy Spirit to do His part as we go.

LISTEN for God as He guides you to people to speak with.

AND SPEAK about what God has done specifically for you and what He means personally to you.

We are truly living in the LAST DAYS.  The BAD NEWS is always hitting you in the face.  The GOOD NEWS should be always in our hearts, minds, and souls as we go.

JERUSALEM FIRST…our neighborhoods, our workplace, our communities.

JUDEA…the towns, cities, counties all around us.

SAMARIA…the bordering States, Provinces, Countries…

TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH!

What’s next?  The Time Is Now!

But you shall receive POWER (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be MY WITNESSES in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth.

Where is your JERUSALEM?

Our Umbrella of “Goshen”

TEXT:  John 17:11-19 NAS TRANSLATION.

Jesus is praying to the Father in behalf of His disciples, saying  [11] “And I am no more in the world; and yet they themselves are IN the world, and I come to Thee, Holy Father, keep them in Thy name, the name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are.  [12] “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  [13] “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  [14] “I have given them Thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not OF the world, even as I am not OF the world.  [15] “I do not ask Thee to take them OUT OF THE WORLD, but to keep them from the evil one.  [16] “They are NOT OF THE WORLD, even as I am not of the world.  [17] “SANCTIFY them in truth; Thy word is truth.  [18] “As Thou didst send Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.  [19] “And for their sakes I sanctify MYSELF, THAT THEY THEMSELVES ALSO MAY BE SANCTIFIED IN TRUTH.” 

6307059684_4f7747965cTHE UMBRELLA’S PROTECTION:

Living in the Northwest of America, you almost get use to the weather.  Well, almost!  Although I keep an UMBRELLA in the trunk of my car, the old saying in this part of the land when seeing an umbrella is,  “The must be a tourist!”.  After all, you can’t live under the protection of an UMBRELLA all the time.  Or can you?

In John, notice what JESUS says in verse 15:

“My prayer is NOT that you take them out of the world…”  ~ John 17:15.

JESUS didn’t want the Father to lock us up in Fort Knox; gold protected by steel, concrete, bobbed-wire, security guards,  impenetrable to the outside world.

Back in the Old Testament…

GOD did provide the protection needed for the Israelites.  The Book of Genesis tells us God went to a great deal of trouble to send the people of Israel down to Egypt in the days of Joseph.  Granted there were 70 or so of them at the time, but once Jacob and his sons moved to Egypt, they were given a special land called “the land of Goshen.”  That’s where they lived for the next 430 years or so.

The Land of Goshen
The Land of Goshen

Isolation–

Israel was literally isolated from the rest of the world– sheltered, protected from the influence of paganism and the outside world.  They had limited contact with their Egyptian neighbors and hosts; Egyptians were vegetarians, where the Israelites were meat eaters.  GOD created a cultural barrier of the two people s.

Now GOD could have done the same with us today…

Once we’re BAPTIZED into Christ Jesus, GOD could have whisked us away to some isolated and exotic land.  Personally, I pick an island in the Caribbean.

It would be wonderful for GOD to just take us away from this world’s temptations and lusts.  To a tropical paradise where we would sing praises for the rest of our lives.

BUT, that’s NOT what GOD had in mind.  JESUS prayed that we would NOT be taken “out of this world.”

JESUS prayed that we NOT be physically ISOLATED from people around us.

As Christians, God intended us to LIVE IN this world…but NOT OF this world.  As Peter wrote that we are to live “as aliens and strangers in the world.”  (1 Peter 2:11).

God has entrusted a very SPECIAL MINISTRY once we’re SAVED!

We are to be “the salt of the earth”; “the light of the world”–

GOD saved us to represent Him as Christ’s Ambassadors right where we are.  But there is a danger in that.  We might become like our neighbors–WATCH THE SAME MOVIES; READ THE SAME BOOKS; LISTEN TO THE SAME MUSIC.

The DANGER for Christians…since we LIVE IN the world, we might become LIKE the world and think like the world.  The apostle Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:17-20:  

This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart,  and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.  But you did not learn Christ in this way.

So if that’s the DANGER and GOD isn’t going to isolate us from temptation, how does GOD protect us under His umbrella as JESUS prayed in John 17?

SANCTIFICATION: 

“SANCTIFICATION” is a $20 word meaning “being set apart”.

Examples:

When you are attending church, you might have recognized people sitting in the “sound booth”; they, are “sanctified.”  They are “set apart” from the rest of us.

When your pastor is up on the stage preaching…“sanctified” from the congregation; set apart.

Anyone who is SEPARATED from the rest of us is “SET APART” and are SANCTIFIED.

A Powerful Tool…

Now as simple as it sounds, God has given us SANCTIFICATION, as protection under His Umbrella.  It’s the setting ourselves apart from the rest of the world while living IN the world, allowing us to be God’s servants to those around us.

THE FREEDOM OF BEING A SERVANT:

Your car is a wonderful thing.

– It helps you to go to church,  the grocery store,  a friend’s house, or drive to the country.

Your vehicle gives you almost total freedom to go anywhere, do anything.  But driving a car can also be dangerous.  The force of your car running ahead on into a tree with speeds of 55 or 65 mph; having the effect on your body, as if you were to fall from a 6th or 7th story window to the ground.  I read that it’s not the fall that kills you…it’s the sudden stop.

Over the years, manufacturers have created protection for us from this kind of danger:  Seat belts, Air bags, Bumpers, designs of the chassis allowing the front of your car to absorb most of the impact.  You are literally encased in a metal box that contains all the aforementioned protections and that METAL BOX literally “sanctifies” you while you drive down the road.  You are SET APART from the rest of the world; you are IN the world, but not OF it while you are in the car.

That is what SANCTIFICATION does for us.  When GOD sanctifies us, He “sets us apart” from the dangers of the world.  And when GOD sanctifies us this way…we are FREE to live IN this world, but not OF it.

We’re not locked away in a closet somewhere…we’re not walled off from people around us that need to know the LOVE OF JESUS.  We are FREE to be GOD’s Ambassadors; Servants IN a lost and damaged world.

How Does GOD Sanctify Us?

Here are several ways I discovered where GOD accomplishes this:

—  We are “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  (Romans 15:16)

—  We are “sanctified in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Corinthians 1:2)

And when we become SAVED, we are added to His church that sets us apart–sanctifies us.

LIVING UNDER THE WORD UMBRELLA:

JESUS praying to the Father says in Verse 17:  “Sanctify them by the TRUTH; your word is truth.”  John 17:17.  The word TRUTH is found in your Bible and the Bible is God’s tool to help us to be set apart from the world.

Paul wrote,  “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”  (Romans 15:4 NIV).

And he told Timothy:  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.  So that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 NIV).

Thus, when we study and take-to-heart GOD’S WORD, His word IN us, teaches and gives us hope.  We become equipped for not just a few, but for every good work.

How can the Bible do all that?

JESUS tells us in the TEXT:  GOD’S WORD SANCTIFIES US….it PROTECTS US.

That was what David wrote about when he said:  “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee”  (Psalm 119:11 NAS).

And in Psalm 119:9, David wrote:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Thy word.”

When we use God’s Word correctly, the Bible becomes a “sanctifying umbrella” for our hearts, our minds and our souls.

God’s Word IS Truth.

We need to be so familiar with God’s TRUTH–you know it, you believe it, you live your life by its counsel.  By contrast, if you don’t guard your heart with God’s given word, you’re prone to be influenced by lies OF the world.  And if you hear those lies enough, you start to believe what the world believes.

PROTECTION COMES WITH A CHOICE:

When Jacob and his family were encouraged to go down to the Land of Goshen, where they would be protected from hunger, plagues, neighboring influences, they must CHOOSE:  Live their lives UNPROTECTED in their current circumstances,  or live PROTECTED under God’s “umbrella” in a foreign land.

Living in the Northwest of America, the rain seems somewhat constant.  You never know whether to make plans or not with RAIN always in the forecasts.  Now you can sit in your homes 365 days of the year; set apart from the elements or you can venture out with preparation.  I CHOOSE to have an UMBRELLA in the trunk of our car, or near an exit door of the house.

With the SANCTIFICATION UMBRELLA close at hand,  I can be IN the world without being OF the world without protection.  The UMBRELLA is God’s Word and it comes with a choice.   Either you can use it, or ignore it!

WHAT IS YOUR CHOICE?

Protection in the Storm
Protection in the Storm

JESUS: There’s Something About That Name

Text: Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 2:9-11

Well, it’s the Christmas Season once more (2013).  And like most people, I love to put some old CD’s on and listen to my all-time favorites.  One of those favorites, although not traditionally known as a Christmas song, in my mind… is certainly a CHRISTMAS SONG:                         There’s Something About That Name.  

In 1970, Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote the music and lyrics to favorite of mine:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus;

There’s just something about that name!

Master, Savior, Jesus,

Like the fragrance after the rain,

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

Let all heaven and earth proclaim;

Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,

But there’s something about that name!

Each one of us possesses a name…

This name given to us is usually by our parents.  Perhaps we were named after some relative, or were just given a name our parents liked.  Whatever the reason, however you came by your name, it probably came with no great significance.

My name for the record, is Melvin Dale…  MEL means “chief”; DALE means “valley”.  Put them together…Chief of the Valley.  Did my parents have any idea of the meaning before they named me?  Not so.  DALE is my father’s middle name and MELVIN came from my mother’s brother who died in infancy.

THE “POWER” THAT THE NAME OF JESUS HOLDS!

When we say Father (God), we’re immediately in the presence of God; we immediately have His full attention.  Have you ever really thought how awesome that is?

We Serve A Mighty God!  We Serve An Almighty God!

God certainly loves us, but He also expects us to worship and serve Him.

God calls us to be “servants”…Romans 6:18, 22:

[18] Having been set free from sin, you have become servants of righteousness.”

[22] Now since (you–insert your own name) have been set free from sin and have become SLAVES…[servants] of God, you have your present reward in holiness and its end is eternal life.”

The word “servant” sometimes makes the hair on our arms stand up straight.  We might be thinking as we hear the word, “I’m not a ‘servant’, I’m a child of a King.”   So, we often put our own definition behind what the word conveys… making it more palatable as we swallow it.

8113389762_13766f8b8a“PALATABLE” EXAMPLES: In Giving Football Terms to Our Religious Experiences on Sundays–

Many of us our big fans to American Football.  Our entire life is surrounded by the local teams, college or professional.  We get enthused, even excited over the possibilities that come from attending the “Big Game.”

I found during my detective investigation this week of FOOTBALL EXAMPLES that could be applied to some of our expressions in “serving” on Sunday mornings in America:

GAME DAY:

QUARTERBACK SNEAK – When church participants leave during the invitation.

DRAW PLAY What many children do to the bulletin during worship.

HALF-TIME – The period between Sunday school and worship when many attendees choose to leave.

BENCH-WARMER – Those who do not sing, pray, work, or apparently do anything but sit.

BACKFIELD-IN-MOTION – (I sometimes would like to throw a” penalty flag” here)  Making a trip to the back restroom or water fountain during the service.

STAYING IN THE POCKET – What happens to the “offering” and the “tithe” that should be given joyfully.

TWO-MINUTE WARNING The point at which you realize your pastor’s message is almost over and begin to gather up the kids and belongings.

SUDDEN DEATH – What happens to the attention span of the congregation if the pastor/preacher goes “overtime.”

TRAP – You’re called on to pray and are asleep with your eyes open.

END RUNGetting out of church quickly, without speaking to any guest or others gathered on Sunday.

HALFBACK OPTION –  The decision of 50% of the congregation to…NOT return to the evening service.

THE BLITZThe rush for the nearest restaurant following the closing prayer (personally one of my favorites).

WHAT MAKES THE NAME OF JESUS SO POWERFUL?

2735461489_203a7f5316Well for one, God said Himself that it was so:  “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,”  (Philippians 2:9 NIV).

Hebrews 1:3 further explains the POWER of the  Name of Jesus:

“He [JESUS] is the sole expression of the glory of God, and He [JESUS] is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power.  When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high”  (Amplified and the Word Detective’s adding for emphasis). 

“All Hail the “Power” of Jesus’ Name”

That old hymn written by Edward Perronet was based upon the bible verse… “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” – Psalm 145:3:

“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!  Let angels prostrate fall;  Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown Him  Lord of all”.

BIBLE VERSES CONCERNING THE “POWER” OF JESUS’ NAME AND THE BENEFITS:

Acts 2:28:  And Peter answered them,  REPENT (change your views and purpose to accept the will of God in your inner selves instead of rejecting it) and be BAPTIZED, every one of you, IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the forgiveness of and release from your sins; and you shall receive the (gift) of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 4:30:  While You stretch out Your hand to cure and to perform signs and wonders through the authority and by the POWER of the NAME of Your holy Child and Servant JESUS.

Acts 8:12:  But when they BELIEVED the good news (the Gospel) about the NAME OF JESUS CHRIST  (the Messiah)  as Philip preached it, they were BAPTIZED, both men and women.

Colossians 3:17:  And whatever you do  [no matter what it is]  in word or deed, DO EVERYTHING IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.

Now there are several more bible verses pertaining to the POWER of Jesus’ Name:  John 14:13, 14; John 16:24; Mark 9:39; 16:17,  just to mention a few.  I’m sure you have many more written on your heart (and your refrigerator).

How We Should Use the Name of JESUS.

[10] That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,    [11] And every tongue  [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”  (Philippians 2:10, 11 AMP).

Right now, those who believe in JESUS acknowledge Him in this lifetime as Lord and Savior; they already have the POWER and AUTHORITY to use His Name because He says so in His Word.

Those who do not believe, don’t have the authority to use the power in Jesus’ Name.  But one day, every tongue, yes the unsaved… and in heaven, earth, or under the earth will bow down and accept Jesus.  Unfortunately, the outcome of living an eternity in Hell, is made clear at the time of judgement.

“But I don’t believe in Hell!”

Whether you believe in something or not; it doesn’t change the truth of God’s Word.

God has set the NAME of His Son Jesus above every other name.

That Is The Lord We Serve–

We serve a Mighty Master…

We serve a Risen Savior…

He is exalted (Lifted up) above all others…

Jesus sits on the right hand of God…

Today, He is our intercessor (our mediator, our go-between) with God.

JESUS’ NAME IS POWERFUL BECAUSE…

WHOEVER CALLS UPON IT WILL BE SAVED!

“And it shall be that whoever shall call upon the NAME of the Lord [invoking, adoring, and worshiping the Lord–Christ] SHALL BE SAVED”  (Acts 2:21).

“This  [Jesus]  is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner  [the Cornerstone].    And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved”  (Acts 4:11, 12).

BUDDHA can’t SAVE you…

MOHAMMED can’t SAVE you…

No other name can save you; only the NAME OF JESUS leads to your salvation.

Why Don’t We Apply the “Power”?

The POWER to heal, to perform MIRACLES, cast our demons…?

We FAIL to give Him our problems to Him because we really don’t believe He will or can handle them.

We will TRUST Him for the most important thing we have, our salvation, but we won’t trust Him with our troubles and problems.  We forget about the POWER IN JESUS’ NAME that is available to those who believe!

The “Exousia” :

The Greek word for “authority” is exousia, or as Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary explains: “freedom of action, right to act; delegated authority…”;  all in the name of Jesus.

“But as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”  (John 1:12 King James Version).

A Faith Believing Story from Smith Wigglesworth–

Smith Wigglesworth was a British evangelist, born June 8, 1859 and died March 12, 1947.

This true story of his carries the theme of my POST,    “All things are possible through the Name of Jesus” …if we have the FAITH to let it be done!

“THE POWER OF JESUS’ NAME” –

I want to instill into you through the following story of Mr. Wigglesworth,  a sense of POWER, the virtue and glory of that Name.

Six people went into the house of a sick man to pray for him.  He was an Episcopalian vicar who lay on his bed helpless without strength to help himself.

He had read a little tract about healing, heard people praying for the sick and had sent for these friends, who he thought, would pray the prayer of faith.  

He was anointed according to James 5:14, but…because he had no immediate manifestation of healing, he wept bitterly.

The six people then walked out, discouraged to see the man lying there unchanged by the condition.  When the six friends were outside, one of them said,  “There is one thing we might have done.  I wish we could all go back in and try it.”

They went back inside and all got together.  This one brother said,  “Let us whisper the name of Jesus.”  At first, nothing seemed to happen.  But as they continued to whisper, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”, the POWER began to fall.  As they saw God was beginning to work their faith… joy increased; and they whispered the NAME louder and louder.

As they did so, the man arose from his bed and dressed himself.  The secret?  Those men had taken their eyes off the sick man, taken up with the Lord Jesus Himself, and their faith grasped the POWER that there is in His Name.

O, if people would only appreciate their God-given AUTHORITY in the POWER there is in this NAME, there is no telling what could happen.

THERE IS SOMETHING ABOUT THE NAME OF JESUS!

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Comfortable with Religion but not Committed to Spiritual Growth

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7-16 NAS:

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.  Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without complaint.  As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to who belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.  Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;  but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.  If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evil doer, or troublesome meddler;  but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.

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LIVING IN THE “LAST DAYS”

Spiritually speaking, many people I’ve come in contact with, have no perception of the times we are living in.  The message has been preached so much, many have become hardened by even the mention of the words–“END TIMES” or “LAST DAYS”.

What are the Last Days?  When did they begin?  When will they end?

ALL good questions.  Let’s search the Word of God for His answers, not mine:

Acts 2:17-21 (Amplified Bible).

“And it shall come to past in the LAST DAYS, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams.  [18] Yes, and on My menservants also on My maidservants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy [telling forth the divine counsels and predicting future events pertaining especially to God’s kingdom].  [19] And I will show wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth beneath, blood and fire and smoking vapor;  [20] The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the obvious day of the Lord comes–that great and notable and conspicuous and renowned [day].  [21] And it shall be whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [invoking, adoring, and worshiping the Lord–Christ] SHALL BE SAVED.”

THE “LAST DAYS”…

The “last days” is a period of time that began at Pentecost and will end at the second coming of Christ Jesus.  In my humble opinion, based on the signs mentioned in the bible, are coming closer together…we are living near the end of the last days.

The “Last Days” Church On Display

The condition of the last days church is outlined in Revelation 3:7-22–a divided church, whose condition is characterized by the churches at Philadelphia and Laodicea.

1.  The Church at Philadelphia:  A church marked by faithfulness, unashamed boldness and good works–a church that is spared from the hour of tribulation that will come upon the whole world.

2.  The Church at Laodicea:  A church marked by laziness, spiritual poverty, lukewarmness–a church that is so distasteful to the Lord, He wants to “spew”, “spit” them out of His mouth with force.  The Message bible really paints an ‘ugly’ picture:  “I will vomit them out of My mouth”–and all this will occur if the church doesn’t repent.

HERE’S THE QUESTION.  “WHERE ARE WE?  WHICH CATEGORY DO WE FALL UNDER?  HOW DOES GOD VIEW OUR SPIRITUAL CONDITION?”

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Spiritual Growth

OR

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Lifeless Pews

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND BEHAVIOR IN AMERICA:

George Barna is the founder of The Barna Group; a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans, and the intersection of faith and culture.  “Overall, Barna said, the survey revealed “a nation that is comfortable with religion but not particularly committed to spiritual growth.”

He commented:  “Most people who are aligned with a Christian church really make a rather minimal investment in religious activity…most people describe themselves as religious, describe their faith as being very important in their daily life, but make only a half-hearted effort to truly master the foundations of their chosen faith and living a life that is determined by that faith.”

In a typical week…

“In a typical week, 41% of the adults attending Christian churches are not “born again”…and most of these people have been attending Christian churches for years and years without understanding the foundations of Christian faith with personal implications.

Barna suggested that our nation seemed stuck in a ‘bog of oozing mud…of spiritual complacency’.  Americans seem to have become almost inoculated with spiritual events, outreach efforts and the quest for personal growth.

The changes that are needed…

Barna’s research study points out:  “…the need for behavior modeling, strategic ministry and a more urgent reliance, not on the pastorate, but upon God to change the people.  

Now there’s a topic of prayer to consider in the body of Christ.  Like the churches of Laodicea and Sardis, as described in Revelation 3, the lack of commitment, their complacency, their lack of commitment and their spiritual deadness is distasteful to the Lord.

The Bottom Line… 

It is NOT how many do we have coming through the church doors all week-long, but how many people are actually ready to go if Jesus should rapture His Bride, the church?  What I found in my detective work, was some startling statistics from the Barna Research Study that should grab your heart as it did mine:

85% percent of Americans claim to be Christian while only 41% percent claim to be “Born Again”.

49% are actually committed to Christian faith and 37% read the Bible outside of church.

42% percent attend church; 49% have a private time of prayer and devotion.

20% did volunteer work at church and 19% attend Sunday School.

Now the next statistic not only grabbed my heart, but also put a lump in my throat:

According to the same research study,  “America loses 48 churches every week, that’s 2,496 in a year”!

SPIRITUAL CHARACTERISTICS WE ALL NEED IN DEVELOPING OUR COMMITMENT – 1 Peter 4:7-16 NAS:

1.  “Be clear minded”; “SOUND JUDGEMENT” – (verse 7 a).

Literally, God’s meaning is to have a correct understanding of what being a Christian is all about; having a thorough and correct understanding of God’s Word.

In the Last Days…

There will be days of religious deception…spiritual illusion, deceiving spirits, doctrines of devils, abandonment of sound doctrine, an increased activity of the “spirit of antichrist”.

2.  “Alert”; “self-controlled”; a “sober spirit” in the practice of prayer” – (verse 7 b).

The average Christian prays about 45 seconds a day, over a meal.

Ephesians 4:14 says, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”;

The apostle Paul is telling the church, don’t stunt your growth by your spiritual immaturity–not searching and knowing the TRUTH contained in God’s Word.

3.  “Fervent charity” – (verses 8-9).

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another”.  Peter is telling us ‘point blank’…above everything, above all…keep fervent or,  “have a red-hot, burning, glowing” (Greek translation) love for your brother and sister in Christ Jesus.  Remain motivated in your good works by LOVE!  Real bible faith is not what you believe, but what you do, motivated by LOVE.

4.  “Proper use of ministry gifts” – (verses 10-11).

I just finished a home bible study on the Spiritual Gifts given to all who accept Christ as their Savior (1 Corinthians 12:7-11; Romans 12:3-8). I gave it the title, “Gifted for a Purpose”.   In the “not knowing” how to recognize the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifested in the body of Christ, the Church, how are we going to apply the proper use of ministry gifts?

As we progress into “the last days”, we’re going to have the tendency to spiritually “cool off”.  Peter reminds us to be passionate in our Christian service, no matter what is going on around us.

PASSIONATE/ZEALOUS

“…Christ Jesus; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, ZEALOUS FOR GOOD DEEDS”  (Titus 2:14)

“…So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with ZEAL, and repent–changing your mind and attitude”  (Revelation 3:19 AMP).

5.  “Rejoice in our sufferings” – (verses 12-16).

This is something that the church preaches and sings a lot about but seldom do.  We generally moan, groan and complain.  As the LAST DAYS continue to unfold, opposition to the gospel and Christianity will increase.  So, to be able to REJOICE, we are going to have to keep our eyes on the Cross and REJOICE in Christ.

As long as we remain quiet about our FAITH, we can sail through life pretty easily.  When you become vocal about your FAITH, opposition against you will increase.

WHICH CHURCH ARE WE TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY?

Is it the Philadelphia church or the Laodicean church?  Are we following the instructions of Peter, or will we ignore them?

Living in a “Status Quo” Frame of Mind

5613840537_8a551215a5WHAT IS THE “STATUS QUO”?

Wikipedia DEFINITION:  Status quo is a Latin term meaning the existing state of affairs; to maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are.

Question:  Have you ever found yourself putting off doing something that really needs to be done and your reasoning…? “Things are just find the way they are!”

Yes, we’ve all probably said or thought about the status quo when someone came up with a “bright idea” and we responded with… “Quit rocking the boat!  Things in my life are just fine the way they are.”

–THE BOOK OF HAGGAI–

Haggai says…”Oh Yeah, that’s NOT what God says.”

In Haggai’s time, the temple needed rebuilding; and “no”, my POST is NOT about starting a new church building program where you reside.  In saying that, in Israel dating back to about 520 B.C., the Temple needed rebuilding but the people kept saying, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord”  (Haggai 1:2).   If you are a pastor reading this, you just might be thinking… “I’ve heard this statement before.”

God’s Answer to the “Status quo”–Rich, Fat, and Lazy.

Although Cyrus had ordered it done eighteen years before, the construction had come to a complete halt.  And God’s response was to the point: You are rich and fat and lazy; you people keep putting off doing God’s will.

So God says, “Come on people, the time has come.”  Don’t you just hate that, when you’re convicted by God’s will?  We do have a pretty good idea how WE would like our lives to go, OUR priorities, how WE’D like to spend our idle time and resources.

LIVING IN THE “STATUS QUO”:

As a whole, we’re often NOT as happy as we’d like to be.  Our lives are NOT as satisfying and fulfilling as we’d hoped.  And this is particularly true when we are NOT following God’s direction in our lives.

So, we become SATISFIED living in the “status quo”; keeping the things exactly the way they are.

This is where we begin the story, in Haggai 1:2-11:

God says, “Your house looks good, but what about mine?”

After the Babylonian exile, a newly returned group of Jews (some 50,000) were back in the land.  This would certainly give way for a great opportunity to rebuild the temple, the house of God.  Plenty of labor available for the task ahead.  “Yippee!”

However, at the writing of the book of Haggai, 18 years had passed since beginning the building project and it was still unfinished.  They had only laid the foundation.  And, the monies they had brought back from Babylon had been used for other purpose other than what they were originally intended.  Am I stirring up any memories of past experiences?

Foundations
Foundations

Excuses, excuses, excuses!

After the Passage (Vs. 2-11), according to the Lord, the people’s concern for their own lives and houses were more evident than their concerns over the house of the Lord.

They Did Have An EXCUSE…

They said it’s not time yet  TIME? Time was all they had!  They hadn’t done a thing for 18 years; only the foundation was complete!!!  Actually, the Temple had laid in ruins for over 60 years by that time.

What do you think may have been some other excuses used?  How about these suggestions:

— God wants us to take care of our own families first, doesn’t He?

— The job is just too big.  We’ll never finish it.

— We need to pray about it some more!

— The time just isn’t right.

— Our motives are good, but…we’re just too busy right now!

Any of these mentioned sound somewhat familiar?

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BLESSINGS GONE?

God says, “And you wonder why you haven’t received the blessings I have promised?”  He said:

You have sown much, given much – but have reaped little.

You have to eat, but never enough.

You drink, but are never filled.

You are clothed, but still cold.

You earn wages, but it’s like you put your money in sack, a bag with holes; you never have enough.

WHY?

Because they spent more time and money on themselves (their own houses) than on God’s house!

It’s all a matter of COMMITMENT!

Or, in this case, the “status quo” had become the chosen option.  You see, they may have had an interest seeing the Temple built, but there was NO COMMITMENT.  You see, commitment and interest are two different things.

Illustration:

Once a chicken and a pig took a trip together.  After many miles and many hours on the road, they got hungry.  Finally, the sharp-eyed chicken spotted a restaurant.  Approaching the door they read a sign which said, “HAM AND EGGS: Our Specialty!”  “Hold it!” shouted the pig.  “What’s the matter?” asked the chicken.  “Plenty.  All they want from you is a contribution.  They are asking me for total commitment!”

Today, CHRISTIANITY seems to be less a matter of commitment and more of a matter of convenience.  Thus the excuses flow!

What Is the Result of a Neglected Foundation?

Remember when Solomon initially built the Temple, a place where God dwelt, representing the very presence of God Himself!!!

So what happens when you neglect the presence of God?

I’m not talking now about a physical building you enter on Saturday or Sunday that needs repair or refurbished.  It’s what happens in your HEART that affects every other part of your life: your heart-prayer life, your heart-worship, your heart-faith.

The Lord God caused drought to come upon the land.

Many blessings stopped flowing and were BLOCKED:

The heavens dew – spiritually refers to God’s glory!

The earths fruit – refers to spiritual prosperity; produce.

The lands grain – refers to increase.

The lands oil – refers to the anointing.

When the Message is Heard!

The MESSAGE given by Haggai, is a simple one.

The Word of the Lord is spoken through the prophet.

…and, the book of Haggai is not a long book.

The people are living in a “status quo” frame of mind; they have become complacent and sinful because of their complacency.  So God speaks through His messenger and God moves the hearts of the hearers through His Spirit; the people respond, God’s will is done, and the people are rewarded; the “blessing blockers” are removed.

That is the HEART OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE in a “nutshell.”  In two short chapters:

The Gospel in a Nutshell
The Gospel in a Nutshell

Hear Me,

Know who I am,

Know who you are,

And be saved!

The Time Is Now!

Moses had predicted the Israelites would be successful and would prosper in crops, in warfare and in their personal lives IF…they obeyed God’s commandments.  DISOBEDIENCE and LAZINESS would bring about tragic circumstances.

Haggai told the people their problems.  He said, “Consider your ways–do a self-examination.”  Don’t you see what is wrong here?  THE TIME HAS COME!

This time the people listen and do.  It took only a little more than three weeks to respond with action.  Don’t you pastors and church leaders out there dream of the flock responding to your Spirit given message in three weeks or less?  Or is the “status-quo” good enough?

Something to consider…

Do we Christians (sheep of the flock) put off what is to be done now?

Do we leave for later, what God is urging us today?

Do we think we will have forever, or do we know that the time has come?

THE TIME IS NOW!

“From this day forward–mark it down!–you will be blessed,” Haggai says.

In the moment…

When we REPENT and accept Jesus, turning from our wicked ways, to serve God–at that very moment–God’s True Blessing comes and rests upon us.  In fact, God is so eager to BLESS us, He takes the initiative.

In kindness He sends His messengers, with the Holy Spirit moving us to hear the Word of God, to repent, and believe.  God IS eager to BLESS us today–not tomorrow, but today!

Our Heavenly Father Loves Obedience!

Philippians 2 explains:

“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but how much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (verse 12 NAS).

Paul goes on to give the support; encouraging us as we need in stepping out of the “status quo” frame of mind…not on our own strength, but in Gods’:

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His [not ours] good pleasure.”  (verse 13)

Someone has said, “Going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian anymore than going into a McDonald’s makes a person a hamburger.”  The appearance of OBEDIENCE isn’t good enough folks.  Putting on a happy face doesn’t cut it.  “Faking it until you make it”, is living in a make-believe state of Christianity–the “status quo”.

Stepping Out and Living a Full Christian Life 

This is hard for me to put down in my own words, what stepping out of the STATUS QUO and living a full life is.  But I’ll try.

If we’ve really put our minds on the Lord’s work, resting in Him, we will experience PEACE.  Can you feel that in your life right now?  Do you experience the TRUE PEACE that comes only from Christ?

FROM HEBREWS:

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching”  (Hebrews 10:25 NIV).

The Day is approaching, my friends.  The time has come.

THE TIME IS NOW!  Time to consider our walk with Jesus.  We cannot live with Christ in the back seat–the “status quo”, any longer.  Be in the position God’s people found themselves in; according to the promises of God when they heard and obeyed:

“From this day on, I will bless you.”

(Haggai 2:19)