SANCTIFIED: To Be Set Apart As New Creatures

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

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

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  

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

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

Paul’s Second Letter to the Church

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

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

The Word Is Constantly Changing

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

The Silver Ladle Story:

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

We are chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)

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

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV Bible)

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

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

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

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

Being Separate–SANCTIFIED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 (NIV Bible)

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

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

3.  Avoid any situation that you are unsure of:

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

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoidance of the lusts of the flesh.

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

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

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

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

Remember the words of Joshua chapter 24, verse 15…

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CREDITS –

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

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did God get His knowledge?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

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

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

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

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

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

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

“His arm rules for Him.”  

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

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

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

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

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

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

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

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

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

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

 

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

“Not another message about faith?”  YES!  And during the Christmas season, especially.

FAITH definition:  “Faith is not believing that God can; it’s knowing that He will.”

Application:  Walking by faith is being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.  FAITH allows God to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.

This Bible study in Luke, chapter 7,  begins with a Roman soldier’s faith and takes us inside TRUE FAITH showing how and what faith does in lives.

FAITH is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

At Christmas time, especially, faith is the highpoint from the event that happened so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  In this story, we find a Roman centurion who, though he was a Gentile, understood who Christ was and is.  And although this story of a “Centurion” is ancient history to us today, it would have been of special interest to Theophilus, a Gentile to whom this account is addressed (Luke 1:3).

The story is a significant one being this was a Gentile who exercised this faith that even Jesus would remark that this man’s FAITH was amazing.

Only twice in all of Scripture Jesus said to “marvel” or be amazed.  The other time was when He began His public ministry in His hometown of Nazareth and He was rejected by His fellow Jews–(Mark 6:6; Luke 4:14-30)  “He marveled (“was amazed’) by their lack of faith.”

The Centurion had a FAITH that was more knowing and sensitive than anything Jesus had witnessed in Israel.

What could be more horrible than to amaze the Son of God by one’s lack of faith?  What could be more thrilling than to amaze Him by one’s faith?  This centurion had amazing faith!

“Why was Jesus so amazed?”  A question I had to investigate.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC MAKES THIS MAN’S FAITH SO AMAZING?

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  AFTER JESUS had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.  [2]  Now a centurion had a bondservant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick at the point of death.

This man had an amazing faith that caused him to love across all barriers.

Jesus had just completed the teaching known to us as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  He now enters Capernaum, a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus is in Capernaum, He is approached by representatives of the Roman Centurion.  Centurions were commonplace during the Roman Empire and equivalent in rank to a modern-day army captain, normally in command of 1000 soldiers.

This particular centurion had a servant who was ill.  Matthew (8:6),  in his account of this incident, says, “a servant boy.”   Whoever this young man was, Luke, who was a doctor, said he “was sick and ready to die.”

If you’ve ever clung to a loved one at death’s door and felt they were slowly losing the battle, you must know this centurion’s awful sense of helplessness.

We are told that this man loved Israel, though it was not the land of his birth.

It’s also obvious in reading that this man cared deeply about his young servant which is very out of the ordinary socially and the crossing of racial and ethnic barriers when as a Gentile, he appealed to a Jew for help.

This man loved people not just like himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel particularly effective in loving folks who live outside the social barriers around me (eg. “skid row”, the homeless in tents on the city sidewalks…).

The second characteristic I noted of an Amazing Faith was that it caused this man to be excited and active in the work of God around him.  (vv. 3-4)

 

We need to understand that the Jewish elders had little love for the Romans in general and Roman soldiers in particular.  This Roman officer must have been a very unique individual for the elders to be willing to approach Jesus on his behalf.

The elders not only bring the man’s request but they vouch for their Gentile friend.  They argue that he’s a man of integrity he’s well-liked by the Jews, and worthy of Jesus’ help.

Verse 3 says,  “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.  [4] When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, This man deserves to have you do this [5] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

This man had given substantially to the building of a house of worship.  Gentile worshipers were barred from the Temple in Jerusalem but not so much with synagogues in the outlying areas.  The synagogue was a place that even Gentiles could come and listen to the word of God being taught.

So in that time and place, this centurion lived the major way that God was using to spread His light within the synagogue system, using his money, his reputation, and influence to build the synagogue.  The centurion consciously chose to participate enthusiastically by involving himself in what was most apparent in what God was doing.

In stark contrast, according to George Barna, a church statistician, adults who regularly attend church, 37% didn’t give a dime to a church in the last year [George Barna, How to Increase Giving in Your Church (Regal Books) p.20].

In this man’s marvelous faith, it caused him to approach Christ in great HUMILITY (vv. 6-7).

This passage reveals two essential components of the Christian FAITH–an understanding of who Christ is and an understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Not only did this man display great love, but also his great humility.

In verse six we find,  “So Jesus went with him to his house.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  [7] That s why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”

Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sent a second representative to Jesus, to tell Him that it wasn’t necessary for Him to come to his house.  All because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, he didn’t wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the home of a Gentile.

This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, was also uniquely HUMBLE and regarded himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof, even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street.

This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, doesn’t ask Jesus for a sign that he was who He said, he was.  This man doesn’t even ask to meet Him.

The third characteristic of this man’s remarkable faith might be summed up in this song–his willingness to trust Christ alone even before the Cross.

How much more do we have today but to TRUST in Christ alone?

Verses 7b-8 (NIV) –  [7b]  “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  [8] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

The centurion apparently realized the One who had the power of life and death; that could heal with a word, must be God incarnate.  And if Christ is divine, then he, as a Gentile sinner, must be unworthy to even meet Him.

All Jesus must do is say the word, and he believes that it is as good as done!

There’s no evidence that I could find in Scripture that this man ever personally heard Jesus preach, and yet he believed.  He made his request known based on what he heard of Jesus.

In verse 8, the word “myself,”–“also,” in other translations–we see that the officer saw a parallel between the way he commanded his soldiers with the way Jesus commanded diseases.

If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of FAITH in God’s word, how much greater our FAITH should be!

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

[9]  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].”  (AMP)

This man’s remarks amaze Jesus, so much so, that they came from a Gentile.  He marveled at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith, a man whose occupation prized being big, bad and tough, a man steeped in paganism, a man hated by the Jews because he was Roman.

Yet in spite of all the circumstances that went against him, here stood a man who was a perfect example of FAITH.

Almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse ten,  “And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bondservant who had been ill quite well again.”  (AMP)

So how often have you displayed such faith?

We will never be perfect in our faith but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to enables us to incorporate the elements into our lives.

Back to the question:  HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU DISPLAYED SUCH FAITH?  If you’re like me, not very often.  And that’s a sin.  Because it’s God’s will that we all have amazing faith.  But all too often in our ‘business,’ we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t show true care and concern for others.  Remember, true faith is “active”–not sitting around the fireplace talking about the unfortunate.  What startled and impressed Jesus were the characteristics that anyone like you and me can have in our lives.  Some think that “amazing faith,” is the ability to do the miraculous.  But miracles are something that Jesus can do anytime.

This Bible study in Luke should bring the understanding there are today those whose lives that would impress Jesus, because of their faithful godly lives.

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

  1. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO LOVE ACROSS BARRIERS.
  2. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE EXCITED AND ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF GOD.
  3. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO APPROACH CHRIST IN GREAT HUMILITY.
  4. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE WILLING TO TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.

Through the POWER of God’s Word, and through our Savior Jesus, we can be people of amazing faith–someone whose FAITH is unselfish, unassuming, and unwavering, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.  AMEN.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  YouTube video, In Christ Alone – Brian Littrell

Photo Images:  Google Image search

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

Various Commentary on Luke 7:1-10:  Sermon Central

Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people; those that would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

In my last three blog-posts, I dug into the Book Of Micah and looked into God’s judgment of Israel some 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  And as we enter the upcoming Christmas season we should all look at ourselves closer as the Church in our communities of who we are representing in Christ Jesus.

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

[17]  For it is a time of judgment, to begin with, God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  [New International Version – NIV]

This passage of scripture seemed to me at first reading a little strange.  And as a student of the Bible, I looked in my commentaries to see what theologians had to say about this verse and I was surprised at how they addressed this verse.  This is why context is so valuable when studying God’s word regarding any Bible’s verses.

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

[13]  But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

[14]  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

[15]  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even a meddler.

[16]  However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

[17]  For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

[18]  And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 

[19]  So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Peter is obviously talking to those born again Jews that would have to go through suffering for their faith.

The church in Jerusalem was already under heavy persecution and would suffer even worse before it was over.

Verse 14 tells us that to be happy–to have joy in the suffering for the cause of Christ, is knowing that in your persecution God is glorified!

Peter also wants us to know that the Christian life is hard enough without coming under God’s hand of discipline.  That’s why he says in verse 15, “If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal or even a meddler.”  It has always been God’s plan to have a holy people.  Those who would stand for Him no matter what happened in their lives.

One day God will take unto Himself a Bride to be without spot or blemish.

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

“For the time has come that judgment must begin at the House of God”  verse 17.

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

“For behold, I am beginning to work evil in the city which is called by My Name, and shall you go unpunished?  You shall not go unpunished, for I am calling for a sword against all inhabitants of the earth, says the Lord of hosts.”

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

“You have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

“Consider how far you have fallen!  Repent and do the things you did at first.  If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”  (Revelation 2:5)

  • The Church at Pergamum:

“Repent therefore!  Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  (Revelation 2:16)

  • The Church at Thyatira:

“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways.  I will strike her children dead.  Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”  (Revelation 2:22-23)

  • The Church at Sardis:

In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  (Revelation 3:3 – Amplified Bible)

  • The Church at Laodicea:

“So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.”  (Revelation 3:16 – AMP)

Purification is always done for a purpose–a reason for discipline.

  • Ephesus – Lost their first love.
  • Pergamum – Teaching false doctrine.
  • Thyatira – Condoning immorality.
  • Sardis – They were spiritually dead.
  • Laodicea – They had become apathetic.

The Bible tells us, the church, that we are the light of the world.

In the case of each church mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the light had gone out.  They were no longer a lighthouse for the lost souls and shed no light at all to those around them.

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

[8]  If you are not disciplined–and everyone undergoes discipline–then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

God cannot and will not tolerate unconfessed sin in the life of the believers–His children.

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

Godly discipline is to refine us (vs. 11) –

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”  (NIV).

  • Godly discipline to reestablish us (vs. 11)
  • Godly discipline to reaffirm His love to us (vs. 6) “because the Lord disciplines those he loves, punishes everyone He accepts as His son.”  

God’s discipline sifts out contamination (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) –

  • The Church cannot condone SIN (1 Corinthians 5:1-2) –

[1]  IT IS actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, an impurity of a sort that is condemned and does not occur even among the heathen; for a man has [his own] father’s wife.

[2]  And you are proud and arrogant!  And you ought rather mourn (bow in sorrow and in shame) until the person who has done this [shameful] thing is removed from your fellowship and your midst!

  • The Church must not compromise scripture (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) –

[1]  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken a stand.

[2]  By this gospel you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

  • The Church should confront the SINNER (Mathew 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:2, 5, 13).

QUESTION:  Why Does JUDGMENT Begin At The House of God?

I hope this brief study helps you understand, as it did for me, why God wants His church to be holy and pure.  I’m afraid that if the church won’t stand up and be the church, that God’s judgment is going to fall on her.

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

Let me mention again.  God will not and can not tolerate sin in the lives of His children.  Oh, that we the Church might walk worthy of our calling.

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  “Where Judgment Begins” by Michael Goodwin – sermon on July 20, 2005.

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and as noted.

Making A Name For Oneself

As I was exiting a grocery store’s parking lot with my wife at the end of an exhausting day, I particularly noticed the car in front us had abruptly stopped.  Politely, they were allowing space for a car to enter traffic.  I mentioned to my wife what a nice, courteous gesture that was: “You don’t see that very often!”

At that point, noticing the welcoming offer of entering the busy road, it was either being rejected or the other driver was confused.  It reminded me of a TV commercial I often laughed at of “You go, no, you go!”

But on this trying day, my reaction was less humorous, saying  “What a Nimrod that guy is!”  for not entering the traffic.  With that regretted outburst, I sheepishly asked my wife where that expression comes from and the meaning behind it.  We left the question with puzzled looks on both our faces for a later time discussion.

And the Study Begins in Genesis 10:8-11; 11:1-9

The Etymology of Words

In some English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the Biblical Nimrod is described as “a mighty hunter”.

In American English, however, the term has acquired a derogatory meaning of “idiot”; “stupid”.

The Looney Tunes synonym.

In 1932, Looney Tunes accidentally portrayed and transformed the word Nimrod into a synonym for an idiot but nobody got the joke that sarcastically compared Elmer Fudd (the “hunter”) to the Biblical figure Nimrod (“a mighty hunter”).

 

The Religion of Nimrod

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You can notice in the above verses that Nimrod’s very name means “rebel” or “we will rebel!”

Notice also the words in verse 9 “before the LORD”.  This phrase literally means “against God!”

Nimrod rebelled against the Lord and disregarded the past of the family.

Nimrod would have nothing to do with the faith of his ancestors.  Instead of learning from their experiences, he rebelled against their practices.

Family History of Nimrod

His grandfather Ham and great-grandfather Noah along with the others who survived the great flood left a great heritage for him to emulate.  Out of all mankind, they were the only ones who believed God.  They had found grace in the sight of Almighty God!

After the floods receded from the earth, the first thing his great-grandfather Noah did when he came from the ark was to build an altar, offer a sacrifice to the Lord, something that pleased the Lord.

Nimrod’s Actions…

His actions became the subject of a saying back in those days that Nimrod became a “mighty tyrant in the face of Jehovah.”

He was a “hunter” in the sense that he was relentless in searching out and persuading men to obey his will.

He was powerful in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord, for he was a hunter of the sons of men, and he said to them “Depart from the judgment of the Lord, and adhere to the judgment of Nimrod!”  Therefore is it said:  “This Nimrod the strong one, strong in hunting and in wickedness before the Lord.”  [See Footnote [i].]

When I was rebellious as a child, my mom would say…Mel, you’re stubborn as a mule or when I tell you something it goes in one ear and out the other.  But imagine if you can in Nimrod’s day…they might have said to a rebellious child…“You’re rebellious as Nimrod the mighty hunter who turned against God!”

I can see a bit of the “prodigal” in Nimrod.

He wanted to take care of himself.

He reminds me of the song of Frank Sinatra…“I did it my way”

Nimrod DISOBEYED God’s Principles.

God commanded Noah and his family when they stepped from the ark that they had a responsibility.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

This didn’t just mean that God wanted the earth repopulated, but I believe also that He wanted to replenish the earth with people of faith.

Nimrod was content in making a name for himself.

He cared nothing for the kind of faith that his family before him had.  And as far as replenishing the earth…  I find no records in the scripture of Nimrod ever having any children of his own.

Nimrod’s Rulership (Genesis 10:10-11)

[10] The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Kalneh, in Shinar.

[11]  From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah–which is a great city.

Nimrod made quite a name for himself upon the earth.

He was a selfish person whose desire was to prove that he didn’t have to depend upon God as had his family!  He would make it on his own!

The idea of “mighty hunter” shows his great skill and also his ambition.

He was a great sportsman but his greatest sport may have been that of hunting men.  If you have ever seen the movie series, “The Hunger Games”, where we may have a picture of his participation in the games.  Nimrod was no doubt a conqueror of men.

He established a kingdom (verse 10) rather than replenishing the earth.

Nimrod is determined to rule over his own domain, to make it as large as possible.

And what a kingdom it was!

Nimrod was the founder of the place called Babylon and surrounding areas which is modern-day Iraq.  All the cities mentioned in the above verses became major worship centers of many pagan deities including the “moon god”…”Allah”.

In Verse 11, we see a person whose main ambition, objective, and purpose in life is to be above others, to have more than others, and never satisfied.

Those who will make pleasure, power, and prestige their goal is never content no matter how much control they gain.

Nimrod isn’t content with what he established (verse 10) but goes forth now to Assyria (verse 11) and beyond building cities in Nineveh, Rehoboth, Calah, and Resen.  They all became worship centers for pagan deities.

Moving on to Chapter 11 we see furthered domination.

Genesis 11:3-4 (NIV)

“Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.”  They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The person who would be a dictator can only be a dictator if the people below him are willing to follow.

Nimrod had quite a following!

Nimrod had been given quite a legacy to follow, but he rebelled against the idea and have no part in it.

His family had found grace in the eyes of the LORD, but he preferred trying to make it on his own merits.  His ambition…” to make a name for himself.”

GRACE glorifies the LORD while religion glorifies man!

Notice the drastic contrast between Noah and Nimrod.

Noah, Nimrod’s great-grandfather, built an ark so that his family might be saved!

Nimrod built a tower so that he could make a name!

We can see these two attitudes even today and at work in our society.  Some are concerned about the family structure, and the salvation of their family…children.  While others only concerns are about making a name.

Nimrod’s Religion was secular.

  • Genesis 11:3 –  And they said one to another…let us make brick.
  • Genesis 11:4 – And they said…let us build us a city.
  • Genesis 11:4 – and let us make a name.

God comes down to mankind that we might be lifted up to Him.

Nimrod and his religion say…let’s build our own way and let’s just do it on our own!  Sounds a bit like a commercial advertisement in today’s secular society.  “Just Do It!”

Nimrod’s religion was sinful.

We don’t often think of “religion” as being sinful.  There’s a common saying…”It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something!”

That’s one of the most foolish concepts in the world.  It’s also what is one of the most destructive.

What we believe is important because it influences our behavior and most important it decides where we’ll spend eternity!

Nimrod’s religion was sinful because it was an utter rebellion against God!

His religion was sympathetic.

Nimrod’s religion was the beginning of the Universal Church movement.  It’s a religion that prevails in our society today.

It’s a religion that says, let’s put aside our beliefs and all come together.

It’s the religion that will embrace any type of belief and any form of behavior.

The most politically correct term of our day is “tolerance”.

It’s a word used and spoken in our kindergarten classes, from America’s pulpits, from the sidewalks and from the governmental buildings in Washington, D.C.

I want you to understand where I’m coming from in my writing.  We should be loving people and care that our attitude doesn’t come across as being hateful, and bigoted.

I GET IT!

And yet, at the same time we need to take a stand on what’s right and against what’s wrong.  we can and should be sympathetic toward the predicament of sinners, to those of other beliefs, but to embrace their beliefs and behavior is to put a blessing on the very thing that may lead to their destruction…both here and in eternity!

Nimrod’s religion is the harlot mentioned in Revelation 17.

The True Church is one that’s a bride without a spot and without a blemish.

The World’s Church is one that is a harlot–prostitute.  One that is filled with blasphemy, abominations, and filthiness!

Revelation 17:5  (AMP) – “And on her forehead, there was inscribed a name of mystery  [with a secret symbolic meaning]:  Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes  (idolatresses)  and of filth and atrocities and abominations of the earth.”

NOTICE verse 6:

Revelation 17:6 (NIV) – “I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”

Two dangerous attitudes in the churches:

“Don’t offend anyone!”

“Don’t get involved!”

THE RUIN OF NIMROD (Genesis 11:5-8)

The LORD Saw!

[5]  But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.

The LORD sees and knows everything, but when the scripture speaks…the Lord coming down to see for Himself, it denotes the seriousness of the matter!

There’s something we need to clearly understand.  God knows what’s going on both on earth and each of our hearts.  He knows whether our religion is sincere or whether it’s a substitute.

The LORD spoke!

[6]  The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

He spoke out against their desire for a one world religion.

“Indeed the people are one, and they have one language”

He spoke out against their enterprise.

“This they began to do”

He spoke out against their evil.

“…nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined doing”

COMPARE this to Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every indication of the thoughts of the human heart was deeply troubled.

The LORD scattered!  (verse 8-9 – AMP)

The phrase used in the Amplified Bible reads “scattered them abroad” is translated   “to dash onto pieces”.  The Lord dealt with them by confounding their languages where they could no longer communicate by dispersing them.

The LORD shattered!  (verse 8-9)

“…they gave up building”

The religion of man is doomed.  God shall one day scatter, and shatter the ‘New Order’.

For further reading on the topic, you might compare how God deals with the Great Harlot Babylon (Rome) in Revelation Chapter 18.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [I] :  The Jerusalem Targum.

Video:  4-Way Stop:  You Go, No You Go – Youtube.

Entymology of Words:  The term “Nimrod” in American slang:  “What is the meaning of the slang term “Nimrod”?  by Quora.

Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Primarily the New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

 

 

 

Everyone Has A Story To Tell

Many of Jesus’ teachings were in the form of stories.  There’s power in a story.  Everyone has a story.  And if given a chance, everyone likes to tell his/her story.

There are some words as I run across them that brings to mind an association:

“Texas” (family)

“Waco” (Mexican food)

“Vacation” (Fun and relaxation)

“Diet” (not fun)

“Politics” (anger, depression)

How about this description, “Born Again Christian”?

From the world’s point of view, some of these words may come to mind:  (rigid, narrow, uptight, self-righteous, fanatics).

I hope the answers given by individuals who have observed Christians for a long time is true for all of us.

Answers that are given from personal friends who know us:

“They are compassionate.  Just plain kind to others.”

“They tell the truth and talk straight with you.”

“They love God and they love people.”

My Story, and it’s a simple one.

I grew up in a modest, loving home in San Diego, California.  I thought going to church was synonymous with being a Christian.  As a young adult, I attended a church that didn’t have the goodness of the Gospel presented to me.  At the age of 22, I married the love of my life and at 23 became a dad.  And before the age of 28, two more children.  Then in August of 1972, at the age of 30, both my wife and I sat together on our couch with a pastor shared the Gospel message and we both accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior that night.

Everyone has a story.

PAUL, THE APOSTLE, TOLD HIS STORY OFTEN.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to give evidence for his belief in Jesus as the true Messiah, the Son of God, he told his story of meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus.  Paul’s conversion story is the most compelling story in human history.

When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, he spoke to the mob of legalistic Jews and told them of his conversion story (Acts 22:1-16).

When Paul stood on trial before King Agrippa, he again told his story of his conversion (Acts 26:12-18).

Saul was his given name.  Born in a Jewish home in Tarsus.  His father was a Roman citizen, so Paul was privileged to also be a Roman citizen.  He was fluent in both Aramaic and Greek languages.

Paul Told About His Life Before Christ.

Paul testified that his life before Christ was empty and dark.  Paul said that something happened to him on the Damascus road comparable to the creation of light (Genesis 1:2, 3):  “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.”  Paul said that same LIGHT that God created shined into his own soul.

The Risen Christ’s Confrontation with Saul On the Damascus Road.

Jesus, the Light of the World, appeared to Saul with the brilliance of LIGHT brighter than the desert sun of the Middle East.

Saul fell from his horse blinded, landing flat on the ground.

Jesus spoke to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  (Acts 9:4 b.)  

Paul murmurs out in a weak, shaky voice “Who are you, Lord?”  [The actual word used in translation for “Lord” is “Sir”.  Paul hasn’t a clue who he’s talking to at this point]

Paul hears the response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.

Saul must have realized that he was being confronted by the very One he didn’t believe in as he laid flat on his face in the middle of nowhere.  Before the very one, he has hated.

Jesus is still hated by many people around the world today.  However many Jews and Gentiles have had their lives transformed and met Jesus.

Choices Have to Be Made…

Jesus gave Paul specific instructions and the next steps to take and Paul had the choice to OBEY or DISOBEY.

Saul became the clay and the Potter began to mold the man.  He surrendered to Jesus and asked the Lord what He wanted him to do.

He was OBEDIENT to the words of Jesus!

Saul/Paul who had been spiritually blinded and was now physically blind.

Jesus had touched his heart and gave him spiritual sight but for THREE DAYS in a tomb of darkness he was blind and had to be led around by someone else.

Ananias, A Disciple of Jesus.

Ananias, whose name means “Yahweh is generous”, was instructed to go to Saul and pray for him.  He argued with the Lord at first hearing because of Saul’s reputation of acts of terrorism against the Church; “the Way.”  Finally, Ananias took courage, went to Saul, and his first words were “Brother Saul…” (verse 17).  Ananias’ attitude, his misgivings had changed for he believed the Lord that this one man who had been against the Church was to be one of them in the new covenant of acceptance and forgiveness.

The SAUL’s of our life rise before us.

I must be the Lord’s bridge to the very people I’ve placed in the tight compartments of my righteous indignation.

Acts 9:17-18 (NIV)

[17] Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again.  He got up and was baptized,  [18] and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”

The Theme of Paul’s Life After His Conversion Was “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” ~

When Saul first met Jesus he became a new man in Christ.  He believed what he had experienced could happen to anyone who became a follower of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!”

Paul believed and preached that anyone who came to Jesus could be made into a new person.  So the theme of Paul’s life can be summed up in the gospel message in 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

Paul could preach and teach from his heart and he had a story to tell that Jesus is alive and well because he had seen Him.

When Paul met Jesus on that hot and dusty road that day, he changed his view of what he knew of the Cross.  No true prophet or Rabbi would ever dare to envision a Messiah suffering death on a tree (Cross).  The Law declared, “He that is hanged is cursed” (Deuteronomy 21:23).

After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul saw the Cross of Christ in a new light.  Paul believed the Cross was the wisdom and glory of God.

Paul said his calling was not to preach with lofty, high falutin words but to simply tell God’s message:

1 Corinthians 2:2 (GNT)

[2] “For while I was with you, I made up my mind to forget everything except Jesus Christ and especially his death on the cross.”

Paul could say, “Since I met Jesus, my life has taken a 180-degree turn.  Jesus is alive just as the prophets had foretold.”

Countless others have said the same thing in different ways:

  • THE MAN WHO WAS BORN BLIND:  “Since I met Jesus, I once was blind, but not I see!”
  • LISTEN TO LAZARUS:  “I was dead in the grave for four days, but because Jesus called my name I’m now alive!”
  • LISTEN TO ZACCHAEUS:  “Before I met Jesus I gained my riches through dishonest taxes.  I soon learned that money isn’t everything.  When I met Jesus I was glad to repay all I cheated with interest.  All the money in the world can’t bring peace of mind and heart, but Jesus gave me peace.”

The question becomes that every person must answer:

“HAVE YOU MET JESUS?”

You Can Help People Meet Jesus.

The Scriptures teach us that Jesus is our BRIDGE to God and eternal life.

The BRIDGE illustration in the image above is a simple way for you to tell others about the importance of the Cross and their bridge to God.

We can use the “Bridge” illustration in sharing with people and helping them to come to Jesus.

Looking at two sides of a river without a BRIDGE:

  • The left side represents people.
  • The other side represents God.

The Bible says that without God people are lost

Romans 3:23  “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The right side represents God.

People try all kinds of ways to reach God:

  • Good works.
  • Attend church.
  • Read the Bible.
  • Be a “good person”.

ALL FALL SHORT!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For it is by grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;  [9] Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast.  [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself].

Where might you be right now on the BRIDGE, on the left side or the right side?

JESUS BRIDGES THE GAP!

Romans 5:8  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Peter 3:18  “For Christ [the Messiah Himself] died for sins once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous (the Just for the unjust, the Innocent for the guilty), that He might bring us to God.  In His human body He was put to death, but He was made alive in the spirit”  (AMP).

John 5:24 (NIV)

Jesus gives the invitation to cross over:  Revelation 3:20 (NIV)

“Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

To “open the door” to Jesus, THREE turns off the door to make in inviting Jesus in our heart and life…

  • CONFESS SIN – (1 John 1:9)
  • REPENT – (Acts 3:19)
  • RECEIVE – (John 1:11-12)

You can share the Bridge illustration on a napkin over lunch or on a sheet of paper in your office and you can tell your personal story.  Tell of your life before Christ and how you came to personally know Jesus and received Him as Savior and Lord.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY!  WHAT’S YOURS?

I encourage you this week to write out your brief story–your life before Christ.  How you came to Jesus and now what your life is like now.  The ups, the downs you have faced.

If you haven’t yet crossed the BRIDGE, I encourage you to take the first step and cross this bridge right where you are now.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  Hillsong Worship – Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace).  YouTube, Inc.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Good News Translation (GNT).

When Things Seem Insurmountable, Always Remember the Three “C”‘s

BIBLE TEXT:  1 Peter 1:2; Romans 5:1-11

The Apostle Peter’s letter was addressed to the followers of Christ who lived in the area we know today as Turkey.  Peter was writing to Christians scattered far from home, some because of persecution and others because of circumstance.  It included words of encouragement to people who were lonely, afraid and discouraged in their doing.

Have you ever been in this state?  Of course, you have.  We all have.

The words that Peter wrote so long ago are an encouragement to us today.  Look closely at these words in 1 Peter 1:2 (NLT) –

There are THREE THINGS I hope you can see, as I saw in Peter’s words:

#1.  God the Father CHOSE you.

#2.  God the Holy Spirit CHANGES you.

#3.  God the Son CLEANSES you.

Let me take each of the above, one at a time.

GOD THE FATHER CHOSE YOU!

Ephesians 1:4 tells us,  “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”  (NIV).

That’s an amazing verse:  We’ve been chosen, You’ve been chosen, and I have been chosen.  Chosen because of God’s LOVE for us!

Even before He made the WORLD, God LOVED us and chose us in Christ Jesus to be HOLY without fault in His eyes.

The FIRST “C”:  God has CHOSEN us!

We are special to Him…

We belong to His family…

We are children of the living God.

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago – The GREEK WORD used here is eklektos (ek-lek-tos’), meaning set apart, chosen before, elect, selected.  [Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary]

God is ETERNAL.  He knows the end from the beginning and everything in between.

He knew you from the start of time as we understand time, and loved you and chose you to be His.

God CHOSE those whom He knew would believe and trust in Him.  God has given us all FREEWILL, yet He knew who would willingly REPENT and turn to Him.

In ALL THINGS, especially in SALVATION, God is sovereign!

He KNEW who would believe.

He KNEW who would know their need of a Saviour.

He KNEW who would turn to Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour.

God the Father knew everything and everyone even before He spoke the universe into existence.

You and I, and all who have FAITH in the one TRUE GOD are LOVED & CHOSEN to be the people of God.

2 Timothy 2:19 REMINDS US,

If you are a Christian, if you have repented of your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then you have been LOVED AND CHOSEN by God.

The SECOND “C”:  God the Holy Spirit CHANGED You!

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago and His Spirit made you holy.  The NIV Bible says “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit”.

The Oxford dictionary defines sanctified as “Set apart”, “declared holy”, “consecrated”, “Freed from sin” or “purified”.

As disciples of Christ, we are “set apart” for God’s purposes in this world.

At the moment we give our lives to Christ we are SAVED,  BUT…there’s an ongoing process of CHANGE and SANCTIFICATION that continues in our lives until God calls us to step into eternity.

The Holy Spirit works IN US to be His holy people.  In fact, His command, not His suggestion to us in 1 Peter 1:16 is “You MUST be holy because I AM holy”.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me, sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.”

The Holy Spirit Helps Us to Be Obedient to Our Heavenly Father.

HOLY SPIRIT works in us…

  • He helps us FOCUS on God’s plans and purposes for us.
  • He reminds us we are LOVED.
  • He reminds us we BELONG to God.
  • He reminds us we are CHOSEN by God.

The Holy Spirit can CHANGE & TRANSFORM our lives.

Here’s a QUESTION for you to ponder:

Do you allow Holy Spirit to change you?  I mean really change you, your thoughts, your actions, your words.

Do you ever make CHOICES based on what you want rather than what you know God expects of you?

Do you allow God SOME control or FULL control of your life?

The Holy Spirit makes us Holy.  His presence IN us is meant to CHANGE us; to reflect the character and holiness of God to those around us.

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul encourages us to let our bodies be a living and holy SACRIFICE to God.  I heard someone once say, that “A SACRIFICE is something given that comes with a cost.”  So if it doesn’t “cost” you something, then it’s not a sacrifice.  Deductive reasoning on my part I guess.

The NLT Bible says it this way:  “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think [even when things seem insurmountable].  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  — (I added the brackets in the verse.)

The “FULLNESS” of God’s Spirit Operating, HELPING, GUIDING, TRANSFORMING, EMPOWERING You in ALL Areas–Each of us needs the Holy Spirit, to daily bring about CHANGE in our lives, to make us holy.

Try squeezing a full aluminium can of soda and then an empty can.  Which is the easier to CRUSH?  The empty can, of course.  Being FILLED with the Spirit of the living God works the same.  Our lives are easily CRUSHED when we are empty, yet when FILLED with the Holy Spirit, we are not “cramped or crushed”.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8 says it this way:

[7] But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

[8] We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not destroyed.

The THIRD “C”:  God the Son CLEANSES you.

God the Father knew you and CHOSE you long ago and His Spirit has made you Holy.  As a result, you have OBEYED Him and made CLEAN by the BLOOD of Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us so because we have been SET APART by our OBEDIENCE, living our lives as children of God, DISCIPLES of Jesus.

You might be thinking, “Well, not exactly living my life in TOTAL obedience.”

Remember, “Transformation” isn’t a one-time event that happens when you are SAVED.  It’s an ongoing process enacted by the Holy Spirit.

Casual, convenient Christianity isn’t OBEDIENCE to God.  God wants us to be FAITHFUL…NOT FAITHLESS!  It’s about commitment.

So our “OBEDIENCE demands something from us–that we give it without regard to circumstances or results” (quote by Chuck Colson).

You have OBEYED Him and have been CLEANSED by the BLOOD of Jesus Christ.

In Old Testament times, people were sprinkled with some blood from an animal sacrifice to remind them of their vows to God and God’s great promises to them.  It was a COVENANT relationship, an agreement that was SEALED with BLOOD.

In the New Covenant, God has established with us, the PERFECT SACRIFICE, Jesus: We are CLEANSED, SET APART and PLEDGED to OBEDIENCE.

When we turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, when we REPENT… turn completely in a different direction from our sinful life and ask God to forgive us, and because of our FAITH in Jesus, WE ARE SAVED!

Our SINS, past, present and future are FORGIVEN because Christ shed His blood for us on the Cross.  Jesus has washed away the PENALTY for our sins by His BLOOD.  We have been purchased, bought and paid for with a price and our lives are not our own, God has SAVED us and the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within us.

READ the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-11

ENDURANCE Provided When Things Appear to be Insurmountable.

The verses here in Romans tells us to “REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance” (Rom. 5:3).

The KEY to pick up here is to find JOY “IN” our trials, our problems, our sufferings and not “for” them!

This is where ENDURANCE comes from (Rom. 5:4).  It produces HOPE, the strength of character; and CHARACTER strengthens our confident HOPE OF SALVATION.  And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment for we know how dearly God loves us, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our innermost being with His love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ Jesus came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the CLEANSING BLOOD of Christ, He will certainly SAVE US from God’s condemnation.

God loved you then, loves you now and will continue to love you!

Despite your faults, despite your imperfections, and Lord knows, we all have plenty, God knows you and He loves you.

  • God CHOSE you.
  • God has CALLED you.
  • God has SELECTED you.
  • God has a PLAN for you.

God wants you to DISCOVER this plan, your destiny He has ordained for you.

The Holy Spirit lives IN you.

He has CHANGED you, is changing you while I write this POST, and will continue to work IN you and THROUGH you.

JESUS DIED for you and me.

JESUS SAVED you.

JESUS CLEANSED you.

The SACRIFICE Jesus made on the Cross was made on our account and set us free from the penalty of your SIN.

May God help us to become the people He has called us to be!

“Chosen, Changed, Cleansed” and committed to discovering our destiny!

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CREDITS HONORED –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advance search.

Dictionary:  Oxford Dictionary.

Sermon Notes:  Dean Courtier, Pastor at Estuary Elim Church Group.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in the text.

 

There’s A Big Difference Between Commitment and Involvement

TEXT: JOSHUA 24:1, 14-16

 

LIFE IS FILLED WITH CHOICES –

  • We must choose when to go to bed and when to get up.
  • We must choose what to eat and what not to eat.
  • We must choose what to wear and what not to wear.
  • We choose what to do with our time.
  • We choose when we’ll go to work and where we’ll go out to eat.

Now I must admit since I’ve gotten older and retired 15 years ago, the choices have changed…a lot!  But there are still choices to make.

Some choices are easy to make while other choices are more difficult to make.

WE ARE WHO WE ARE TODAY BECAUSE OF THE CHOICES WE MADE YESTERDAY.

The CHOICES we make today have an impact on the decisions we’ll be making tomorrow.

They establish a PATTERN and a FOUNDATION for our life.  That said, most of us haven’t always made the right choices…Okay, ALL of us haven’t.  You and I may never be able to undo those choices…BUT….I have some good news for you.  HE, who holds our tomorrow, is more than able to turn it around for us.

So after reading through the Book of Joshua and writing several Blog-studies, I want to focus on the only RIGHT CHOICE we each can make.

In the last chapter of JOSHUA, it begins presenting what is often called Joshua’s FAREWELL ADDRESS.

The first mentioning of Joshua given is the picture of an HONORABLE MAN–one that you would want to follow.  In his early years, he was sent as a representative of Ephraim to spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:1-33).  He and Caleb seem to be a different standard than the other spies–the exciting voice speaking out with enthusiastic optimism about their ability to take the LAND–

  • Let’s do it!
  • We can take it!
  • We can take them!

I wondered as I read in Joshua what it was that caused this nation to follow a leader such as he.  Was it FAITH?  Was it youthful exuberance”

Who can tell, but a leader is what Israel needed as they awaited moving forward in the new campaign–CROSSING THE RIVER!

A Brief Review of Joshua’s Life –

JOSHUA is now quite old in the last chapter, and he has seen a lot over a period of 110 years.

His early formative years he spent in service to Moses.  In his later years, he spent leading God’s people into battle to the promised land.  He’d seen the PLAGUES OF EGYPT, the parting of the Red Sea.  He has endured the trip through the desert to the edge of the promised land, then the trip back into the wilderness for 40 years of wandering in the wasteland.

He saw God part the Jordan river.  He saw God crumble the walls of Jericho, sending the enemies into a panic.  He also saw the PUNISHMENT OF ACHAN after his sin,  He then saw the RESTORATION OF THE BLESSING–not ‘a blessing’ but “the blessing.”  The presence of God.

He’s led a full life and he has known the POWER and the PRESENCE OF THE LIVING GOD in his life and in his leadership.

At the ripe old age of 110, Joshua recognizes his death is near.

JOSHUA’S Last Days Are Where We Find Ourselves –

I wonder what the Israelites might be thinking at this point of history.  They understood after all those years, their campaign was now coming to a close and a LEADER is leaving his parting words on his people.

Joshua’s Life Is Coming to an End.

There’s a transition to take place.  From a people consumed with getting the other people out of the land to being a people in the land.  So Joshua asks this nation, who will you SERVE now that you are NOT FOCUSED on the conquests?  Will you return to the gods you used to worship, or will you SERVE YHWH?  Like me and my family.

There’s a back and forth going on between Joshua and the gathered ELDERS-HEADS-JUDGES-OFFICERS.  They are gathered at the same place where after Ai was finally captured, in Shechem–Joshua calls his people together for another COVENANT invitation.

JOSHUA 24:1 (AMP)

[1] THEN JOSHUA gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders of Israel and their heads, their judges, and their officers; they presented themselves before God.

In this FIRST VERSE, as I read in preparation for this BLOG study, really caught my attention.  Joshua called for the LEADERS of God’s people and they were where they were supposed to be.

We should know where the LEADERS of the Church are located.

They were on their post and Joshua knew, if no one else was around, the LEADERS were at their post and were committed.  You cannot LEAD if you can’t be found.

LEADERS then should be out front in the congregation.

Joshua before addressing the nation of Israel called upon and challenged the Leaders FIRST.  He challenged them to be more than INVOLVED…to be COMMITTED!

THE POLITICAL AND MILITARY CENTER OF GOD’S PEOPLE –

Joshua challenges their ABILITY TO BE FAITHFUL.  Now that’s an interesting thought!  If we can’t be FAITHFUL to God, we can’t be FAITHFUL to the Church.  If we’re not FAITHFUL to God, we won’t be faithful to any ministry we’re in.  To put it simply, if not FAITHFUL to God, you don’t have the ABILITY to be FAITHFUL!

  • Staying at home on Sunday mornings don’t bother you.
  • Staying home on Thursday nights from prayer and private worship don’t bother you.
  • Staying at home at 3:30 PM on Fridays at the Alzheimer/Dementia section in town doesn’t bother you.

Then You are Involved and not Committed.

YOU ARE FAITHFUL TO THOSE THINGS THAT YOU ARE COMMITTED TO –

This, of course, applies to all areas of our lives.  As an example, if we’re not committed to weight loss, then we will not be faithful in the process.  Ever start college or trade school?  If we’re not committed to the process then we will not be faithful in going to class and study (been there!).  And when it comes to marriage…ok, I’ll leave that alone.

The Mood Has Changed from the Beginning of this OT book…

When God’s people were wandering in the wilderness, they found themselves fighting and defending their little nation.  Joshua now reviews the conquest campaign, as well as a history lesson with God, being good to God’s COVENANTAL AGREEMENT.

He then concludes his message with a personal statement regarding his family’s FIDELITY in VERSE 15:

NOTICE, Joshua doesn’t say, “as for me and my people,” rather, he states, as for me and MY FAMILY, or “household”.  WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.

It appears Israel was fit for a battle campaign but now the question arises, are they fit for settling in the land and trusting God in a new way campaign?

Ultimately, isn’t that the most any of us can say?

  • In spite of what I decide to do…
  • In spite of my commitment level,
  • In spite of what I want to do with my time,
  • In spite of how I feel about supporting the Church…

Me and My Family Will Serve the Lord!

With POSSESSION of the Promised Land comes great Responsibility –

It now becomes your DUTY to take what you have already secured and passed it along to the next generation.  But as far as Joshua goes, his BATTLE DAYS are coming to a close.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know there are plenty more battles to be fought but Joshua’s time has come to a close.  After all the BATTLES, the slaughter, and the delivery of land, the ONLY THING Joshua can have control is he and his family.

Opportunity Is Knocking At The Front Door –

I’m sure the compiler of the conquest narrative more than likely lives in the aftermath of these days, in the time of Judges– when the people of God were all too quick to forget this covenant.  So they knew Joshua’s hesitation reaffirmed the COVENANT for a good reason.

But the people say: “No! We will serve the Lord.”  

They could have said:  “Well Pastor, this weekend is my time to sleep in.”

Here was the opportunity to walk away, to be more honest, to pledge just partial commitment, to say, “Pastor you know I work all week!”

BUT THEY DIDN’T!

Joshua needs them to know and understand the gravity of their being A COVENANT PEOPLE.  To ensure they really wanted to be God’s people IN THE LAND, not just A PEOPLE IN THE LAND.

A STANDARD OF SERVICE DEMANDED (24:14 NIV) –

“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.”

Joshua doesn’t leave any room for CASUAL FAITH, for serving God when it’s convenient or when things are going well, or when life is easy.  He doesn’t leave room for doing FAITH on our terms.  He calls us to SERVE ‘with ALL faithfulness.’

What if in our serving there’s no reward, no appreciation?

Joshua says, “serve Him in sincerity and in truth” (AMP).

There is A RESPONSIBILITY OF CHOICE that goes along with Commitment –

With the right to choose comes the responsibility to choose.  You can’t defer this CHOICE to anyone else.  It’s easy to say if I had a better Husband or Wife; if we had a better Preacher; to say if only others in the church were committed.  We cannot defer or place our CHOICES on others.

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”  (24:15)

I just want to add here…THE RECORD OF CHOICE.

It has always been LIFE or DEATH, BLESSING or CURSES.

  • Adam and Eve CHOSE Death.
  • Ananias and Sapphira CHOSE Death.
  • The Rich Young Ruler CHOSE Death.
  • King Agrippa CHOSE Death.
  • Pontius Pilate CHOSE Death.
  • Judas CHOSE Death.

BUT…

  • Lazarus CHOSE Life.
  • Abraham CHOSE Life.
  • Paul CHOSE Life.
  • Peter CHOSE Life.

There is a Record of the Repercussions of the Choices you make.

Which Do We Choose?

WHO ARE YOU GOING TO SERVE?

It was fairly easy for the Israelites to worship other gods–these gods didn’t demand much.

  • It was EASY to carry a wooden carving.
  • It was EASY to throw a bit of grain at an altar.
  • It was EASY to bow to the sun.

BUT GOD DEMANDS “ALL”!

It’s relatively EASY for us to carry our own dreams and desires and live for them.  It’s also EASY to throw a bit of money at a charitable cause.  It’s relatively EASY for us to raise our hands and shout praise to a local sports hero.

BUT GOD DEMANDS ALL!

Maybe Joshua is getting less patient with age.  I recognize I’m less patient since growing older.

So Joshua lays it out bluntly–either SERVE the Lord WITH ALL FAITHFULNESS or, if you don’t like that, CHOOSE some other god to serve.  It will probably be a lot easier serving another god for they don’t demand much.

AND BY THE WAY, NEITHER DO THEY OFFER MUCH IN RETURN.

Because of GOD’S GRACE, we are invited into relationship with God.  Because of GOD’S GRACE, Jesus came and died for us and bridged the chasm that separated us from God.

Now we are invited to be in a relationship with God, invited into a reunion with the Holy and jealous God Joshua describes. 

God gives us the GRACE to SERVE Him for we can’t serve Him on our own efforts.

But Here is the HEART of the Gospel:  We can serve a holy and jealous God because He has invited us to by His Grace.

NOW IT’S TIME TO MAKE A CHOICE.

  • To put that god of Alcohol away.
  • To throw away the gods of drugs, opioids, pornography…

To come to the altar, on your knees if you need to.

Today is the day to CHOOSE LIFE and follow God.

“Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”

 

LISTEN TO THE WORDS TO THIS MUSIC/VIDEO:

 

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CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings advanced.

Music Video:  As for Me and My House – John Waller/Youtube.com

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

 

 

 

TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY – “No Reserves, No Regrets, No Retreats”

Today’s Bible Study in Galatians 6:10:   LIFE HAS A PURPOSE…

NIV BIBLE:  Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

LIVING BIBLE:  That’s why whenever we can we should always be kind to everyone and especially to our Christian brothers.

MESSAGE BIBLE:  Every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith. 

Most OPPORTUNITIES come by way of A PROBLEM, A TRIAL, or A TEST.

Opportunity defined:  A favorable chance or opening offered by our circumstances, an occasion, a possibility.

AN OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED…(John 6:4-12) –

We’ve got a BIG PROBLEM here in this biblical account…5,000 HUNGRY PEOPLE!

John 6:4 –  “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was approaching…”

Many teachers say 5,000 are men and doesn’t include women and children.  Now is this going to be a BIG PROBLEM, or is it… A BIG OPPORTUNITY???

VERSES 5-12 (NIV):

[5] When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip,  “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  [6] He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.  

[7] Phillip answered him,  “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  [8] Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up,  [9] “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” 

[10] Jesus said,  “Have the people sit down.”  There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.  [11] Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.  He did the same with the fish.

[12] When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples,  “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”

JESUS already knew what He was going to do.  I don’t think we can realize the scope of the problem here–the scope of the presented opportunity.

In my hometown, a Big Mac sandwich, Fries, and a medium soft drink on average runs about $7.01.

Google Image Search, Advance Search Setting

 

So $7.01 x 5,000 = $35,050.00.

The Disciple ANDREW had the answer as his human reasoning focused on the PROBLEM rather than the OPPORTUNITY.

I think most of us have had an ‘Andrew Moment’.

JESUS took the little boys OFFERING and said thanks…Nothing was lost, and they gathered up the leftovers.

Often people have the tendency to allow their PAST determine their FUTURE and what is denied can never be healed.

Let us not forget that not all OPPORTUNITIES are good…

And in the COURSE OF TIME, choices matter, behavior matters, and how you treat others matter.

Many times ANGER, BITTERNESS are the drivers of OPPORTUNITIES…

And in the COURSE OF TIME…

CAIN OFFERS THE FRUIT…

ABEL OFFERS THE FIRSTLING.

Cain gets ANGRY at his brother but why not at himself?  You show me what ticks you off and I’ll show you what makes you tick.

Genesis 4:3 – In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground.

One event can drive one to right or to wrong.  It might come down to ATTITUDE regarding the OPPORTUNITIES set before us which will set in concrete our words and actions.

Genesis 4:5 – So Cain was angry, and his face fell.

Check it out–SIN, COMMISSION OR OMISSION, SIN lies behind WARS & STRIFE.

Genesis 4:7 (AMP) – If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

The New Testament Records the Sad History of Missed Opportunities –

There’s no record of CAIN ever repenting, rather, he throws out the EXCUSE-

Genesis 4:9 (NIV)

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

HEBREWS 11:4 –

Perhaps we need to burn some bridges behind us…the BRIDGE could be an OPPORTUNITY!

HOW MANY PEOPLE, DO YOU THINK, LOOK BACK?

Luke 17:32 “Remember Lot’s wife?”

[33] Whoever tries to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it and quicken it  (AMP).

When we can take full advantage of an OPPORTUNITY, we find what lurks in the SHADOWS, an OPPORTUNITY to return.

ABRAHAM, SARAH AND OTHERS OPPORTUNITIES – 

Hebrews 11:8-16 (NIV)

[8] By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.  [9] By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.  [10] For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

[11] By faith Abraham, even though he was past age–and Sarah herself was barren–was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. [12] And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the sand on the seashore.

[13] All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.  And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.  [14] People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  [15] If they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return.  [16] Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

This Brings A Series of QUESTIONS to ask oneself:

WHO ARE YOU?

WHAT ARE YOU KNOWN FOR?

WHAT WORDS WOULD YOU HAVE OTHERS SPEAK ABOUT YOU?

We ALL have OPPORTUNITIES in the menial task we face every day.  OPPORTUNITIES to demonstrate who we are!

OPPORTUNITIES to demonstrate the FLESH or the SPIRIT man.

Romans 12:10 (AMP) –  Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], GIVING precedence and showing honor to one another.

Do I REACT or do I ACT by FAITH?

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

ARE YOU:

  • FAITHFUL?  DEPENDABLE?
  • ARE YOU KIND?  TENDERHEARTED?  DO YOU CARE?
  • DO YOU ENCOURAGE OTHERS?  REFRESH THEM?
  • DO YOU MODEL FORGIVENESS?

LIFE Does Have A Purpose…

Does the OPPORTUNITY make me a VICTIM or a VICTOR?

How many of us take the OPPORTUNITY to drive down the road while looking in the REARVIEW MIRROR?

Philippians 3:13 (TLB)

[13] No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energy to bear on this one thing:  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.

OFTEN, Christians just want to LIVE IN THE MOMENT…

We only want to think of the “right now!”

Sure, we face all kinds of TROUBLES and TRIALS every day, but by TAKING THIS MOMENT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE CHRIST,…

We look ahead!

Never forget that JESUS IS A REWARDER— a return or recompense, restoration, award, prize, bounty, satisfying, worthwhile, fruitful.

HEBREWS 11:6 (AMP)

[6]  But without faith, it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him.  For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] BELIEVE God exists and that He is the REWARDER of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

THERE ARE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD!

Deuteronomy 30:15 (NIV) –

[15]  See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (AMP) –

[19]  I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you that I have set before you LIFE AND DEATH,  the blessings and the curses; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live.

WE have OPPORTUNITIES to PRAY, READ the Bible, WITNESS, to DREAM BIG…

A missionary served in Egypt.  He died after serving there and in the front of his Bible was penned:

NO RESERVES,

NO REGRETS,

NO RETREATS.

OPPORTUNITY IS YOUR CHOICE.  WHICH PATH WILL YOU CHOOSE?

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CREDITS –

Bible Translations Used:  New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted.

– BIBLE HUB-

Photos:  Google Image Search – Advanced Settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?

If the person listening had never heard a goat or a sheep before, they probably wouldn’t know the difference.  Also, different BREEDS of goat can sound very different.  Saanen (white dairy goat breed) goats sound similar to sheep except their voice is higher pitched–but Nubian goats sound very much like a crying human baby.  [See FOOTNOTE [i] ]

 This brings us to a passage in Matthew where the Shepherd (Jesus Christ) knows the difference between “sheep” and “goat” – Matthew 25:32 (AMP)

[32]  All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats;  [See Ezek. 34:17]

Now before you start thinking to yourself of separating the goats from the sheep at your church on Sunday or in your neighborhood, this passage in Matthew has brought a debate to when all this takes place in time.  Some say it is at the beginning of the millennial reign while others say it’s at the end of the Millennium.  However, I believe the more important concept for us to grasp here, that there will come a time when King Jesus will separate people into two classes – SHEEP & GOATS.

OUR STUDY IN MATTHEW 25:31-46 is a conclusion to what is called the Olivet Discourse–where Jesus reveals the TRUTH of His second coming and the gathering of BELIEVERS and the JUDGMENT of the wicked and the LOST–non-believers.

Now for some reading this, the problem will be the SEPARATION–the righteous (those in Christ) and the judgment of the wicked (those who have rejected Christ).

THE REWARD for the SHEEP and the JUDGMENT for the GOATS –

To one group – JESUS says to enter in and enjoy your inheritance.

To the other group – Depart from me.

One is offered ETERNAL LIFE with God…

One group suffers ETERNAL LIFE without God.

The central truth to keep in mind is that when Christ returns (and He will return) to His glorious throne, there will be JUDGMENT based upon people’s response to Jesus.

THERE ARE SHEEP AND THERE ARE GOATS –

All of us came into the world as GOATS, born into SIN and far from God.  Some will allow God to TRANSFORM them and some will not because they like the way they are and by CHOICE stay far from God.

We read in Scripture that the Lord Jesus is JUDGE and SAVIOR.  He will allow each one of us to enjoy or endure the path we have FREELY chosen.  Now that’s worth reading again!

IMAGINE  the world where a GOAT, presented with an opportunity to be transformed miraculously into a SHEEP, could do so by grabbing the offer extended by the one making the offer.  SUPERNATURALLY the GOAT became instantaneously a baby SHEEP and cared for by the transformer (Jesus Christ, Savior, and King).  That happens by God’s GRACE and MERCY to all those that want and will let God TRANSFORM their lives.

That’s a God thing!

You cannot earn it.

You cannot buy it.

It is a FREE GIFT received only by acceptance!

When Jesus Returns with Angels All Around Him…SEPARATION BEGINS!

The SHEEP, those on His right, hold a position of honor.  Jesus says, starting with verse 34,  “The the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…

BY CHOICE they have decided to follow Jesus.

BY CHOICE they have participated in kingdom work.

We cannot earn SALVATION, but it’s very clear here that the RIGHTEOUS (God’s SHEEP) took an interest in people they were around.

The early church in the Acts of the Apostles exploded because they were willing to open their hearts and lives to others.

I remember years ago while in attendance at a Church Growth Seminar in San Diego, one pastor said this about the growth: “Quality first, then quantity.”

JESUS made it very clear!

“their inheritance was there since the creation of the world” – verse 34 (b).

That would have been long before they could have established any good works.

GOOD WORKS is not the cause of SALVATION, but the Effect of Salvation.

As Christians, our responsibility, and yes, as believers we have responsibilities…is to be more like JESUS.

GOOD WORKS is the direct overflow of God active in our lives.  I love being in the “overflow” [John 10:10 Amplified Bible].

GOOD WORKS are only acceptable to God because of our RELATIONSHIP with Christ–NOT in place of Christ Jesus.

RELATIONSHIP is an interesting word to grab hold of.  One Greek word, pros ko Liao,  describes “to CLEAVE (join with) someone in a personal (“interfacing”) relationship. – “to glue in” (for extending towards).  [Bible Hub – Relationship].  

Reminds me of a song made popular by Sugar Land, “Stuck Like Glue” –

Now GOATS can indeed perform acts of kindness,

BUT…their HEARTS are far from God and not right with God.  Their ACTIONS do not honor Him.

BELIEVERS, after always keeping our RELATIONSHIP with Christ FIRST…we are called to be a part of KINGDOM WORK–we are “glued in”.

#1 – Seek and save the lost.

#2 – Build each other up.

#3 – Minister to one another.

We cannot do that in isolation.

EVERYTHING WE SAY AND DO MATTERS TO GOD!

  • Kind words to others matter to God.
  • Small tasks of kindness to others matter to God.

In our ‘doing’, we may not be acknowledged by the one we are showing kindness to, but to God, kindness matters and done often enough becomes a LIFESTYLE instead of occasional work.

Matthew 25:37:  “When did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink?”

Jesus replies,

Verse 40:  “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.”

Our response to others is an indication of where our RELATIONSHIP is with the LORD.  For some, there will be a great REWARD waiting and we won’t even realize it because it has become a HABIT and we can’t remember each act of kindness we do.

We will be asking Jesus, when did you see us do these things.  And He will remind us of each act of kindness to others.

What About The Other Group of People, THE GOATS?

THE GREAT SEPARATION –

The DAY OF JUDGMENT will come; the LORD will separate and say…

Matthew 25:41-44 (Message Bible)

41-43  “Then he will turn to the ‘goats’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats!  You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell.  And why?  Because–

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was homeless and you gave me no bed,

I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,

Sick and in  prison, and you never visited.’

44  “Then the ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?  When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?

Those that had no time for God.

Those that have spent their whole life centered on themselves.

One day they’ll find themselves out of TIME–out of EXCUSES of why they have not responded to the things of God.

Many people today want to SERVE God in their own way. without restrictions, without discipline, without having any commitments. 

They want EXTERNAL REWARDS now, and INTERNAL REWARDS later and to base their rewards on good intentions and a RELATIONSHIP that’s almost non-existent.

Kingdom Rewards in Heaven is given to those who SERVE without thought of REWARD.  

God GIVES out of His GRACE!

OUR INHERITANCE…

Our INHERITANCE has been laid out since the creation of the world, based upon a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ, Lord, and Savior of our souls.

ETERNAL FIRE was prepared for the devil himself and the rebellious angels that followed him,  and also for those that REJECT the FREE GRACE of God, that REJECT what Jesus did on the Cross, and say no to Christ.

The RELIGIOUS LEADERS of the day knew 1000’s of Jewish pilgrims would come for PASSOVER and FEASTS.

They knew that many will admire Jesus from a distance, BUT… few will follow Him.

Those who REJECT Jesus will not follow Jesus.

Those who have no time for Jesus will not have time for God’s people.

“Depart from me”  (v. 41 – NIV Bible)

These will be terrible words to hear from Jesus.  You have no time for me and you show no compassion for those put in your path.

It’s like an employee who puts on a good show when their boss is present and slacks off the times he/she thinks they can get away with it.

GOD SEES ALL…

GOD KNOWS ALL.

It is while we have time that we must decide to be identified with the SHEEP.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like being called a SHEEP or a GOAT!

But I’d rather be a SHEEP and a follower of Jesus, than a stubborn GOAT that rebels at all authority and does things his own way.

Something I particularly noticed in this study is JESUS’ words:  Notice the SINS pointed out were not the things they DID, but rather the things they DIDN’T do (vs. 42-43).

He focuses on their SINS OF OMISSION; failing to act out of LOVE and COMPASSION for those in need.  And although GOATS may at certain times sound like SHEEP, even have certain characteristics of SHEEP, just like the sheep, the GOATS didn’t understand just like the SHEEP.  The GOATS are clueless to what King Jesus is talking about.

THE GOATS respond similarly as the way the SHEEP have.

Jesus responds in the same way as He did with the SHEEP–EXCEPT…the GOATS have not acted on behalf of “the least”  (v. 45).

This past week, I read about an instant CAKE MIX that was a big flop {brand in the photo is for reference only].  The instructions said all you have to do is add water and bake and you’ll have a cake.  The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell until their research discovered the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that only required water.  Apparently, people thought it was way TOO EASY.  So the company altered the formula, changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water.  

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The idea worked!

You know where I’m going here–some think the plan of SALVATION is too simple.  

Some people think that they have forever.

Some people think that God has no rules and anything flies.

“By Grace, you have been SAVED through FAITH, it is the GIFT of God, not of works”

And that is FACT!  You cannot add anything to the mix–that’s God’s recipe.

THE GOOD NEWS we proclaim is FREE from works, BUT WORKS will follow those that truly are FOLLOWING Jesus.  It has to do with our RELATIONSHIP–“Stuck Like Glue”–with Him.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?  Ask For Answers @ yahoo.com

Photos:   Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP). Message Bible (MESS).