Dealing With ‘SEESAW’ Christianity

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Philippians 2:12-18

Before we open our Bibles in the study, let me first give you definitions of the word SEESAW:

One of the most difficult things in life is to maintain and to keep all things where they are all supposed to be at all times.  It’s called BALANCE.

I remember going to elementary school way back when and riding a teeter-totter with my best friend and trying to keep all our feet off the ground in perfect balance.  It took a lot of our focus, many times finding ourselves up in the air or flat on the ground.

BALANCE IS CRITICAL IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

What has guided and given me direction and purpose in life are the words found in Luke 2:52.  This Bible verse follows the story when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days in the big city of Jerusalem.  When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the greatest teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well.  And the Scripture says that the teachers were amazed by his understanding.  After all, he was only 12 years of age at the time.  The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of his life.  We don’t know exactly what happened during those years but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years and it simply says…

...JESUS increased with wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

So what we know is that life should be filled with BALANCE:

  • He grew in wisdom…Intellectually.
  • He grew in stature…Physically.
  • He grew in favor with God…Spiritually.
  • He grew in favor with man…Socially.

And if we want to live as Jesus did, we need to learn to do the same.  Because, they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE, we’re happier.  And when we’re out of BALANCE, we’re miserable.  Balance is one of the most difficult things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us of three areas where we must maintain balance:

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  [13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

To understand what Paul is saying here we need to understand what he’s NOT saying.  This phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  He’s not telling us that we have to work to be saved.  It was Paul who wrote to the church in Ephesus and said…

We cannot be SAVED by works.  In fact, Paul says it is NOT by works.

So to understand what Paul is saying here, you must bear in mind that he is writing to the CHURCH, to believers, so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people already knew Jesus!

So this phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is referring to how we live out our faith.

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, “work out” in the Greek N.T. means “to work to full completion.”  It refers to working in a mine or in a field where you’re constantly digging and cultivating until that mine or garden reaches its full potential.

So here’s a question all of us must stop and ask ourselves at various places in life:  Am I reaching for my full potential in life or am I just settling for average?  What is my level of obedience to Christ Jesus?

Once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, that becomes our PURPOSE in life to OBEY Him in absolutely everything.

When we get sick and go to the doctor he diagnoses our condition and tells us what we need to do.  He hands us a small slip of paper where he’s written the correct prescription on.  We then take that slip of paper to the pharmacist who fills the prescription and gives us the medication.  Now up to that point, everything has been done for us.  A diagnosis…A prescription…We have received the medication.  Now it’s our responsibility to do something and here it is–follow the doctor’s orders.  Work out the process and if we do, we will recover.

This is also true on a spiritual level.

And here should be our goal.  Paul tells us in verse 13 that God works in us to fulfill His good purpose.  And he describes that PURPOSE as being good.

Whether we know it or not, God wants us to find happiness and contentment not only in the next life eternal but also in this one.  You see there won’t be anything to work out in the next life–it will all be taken care of, but in this one there is.  There are things to be worked out.

Someone has said there are three types of people in the world…

  • Those who make things happen
  • Those who sit and watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  This is a balance of power and purpose.  He pours His power into us, we do the things that bring Him pleasure.

Now Paul wants us to see something here.

  • It is His pleasure (not ours)
  • It is His will (not ours)
  • It is His glory (not ours)

This is what makes our lives meaningful.

But there’s a potential conflict right there since most of us prefer to have things go our way.  It’s our attitude.

So Paul tells us the second area where we need BALANCE.

There must be a balance of attitude and action.

To accomplish what Paul is saying here, he gives us a negative and a positive.  Because this is how we get BALANCE.

On the negative side here, Paul says to all of us–you need to watch your attitude.  There are two things Paul mentions here that shows our bad attitude:

  1. Are you a grumbler?  Boy, I’ve been here too many times in my life.  Grumbling is not usually loud.  Its low tone, negative complaining, whining, and one thing it will do for you is that it will steal your JOY!  And unfortunately, it just comes naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around,  Grumblers can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it…that’s what they focus on.

BOUGAINVILLEA – 

 

I was born and raised in Southern California where the sun shines most of the year–a Mediterranean climate.  Certain plant species especially do well there and my parents loved colorful plants around their home.  We lived high above the street level, so mom and dad decided to plant Bougainvillea on the hillside to cover it with beautiful flowers.  It took several years to blanket the front of their home, but oh, how I remember the beauty that hillside was in full bloom.  Now each year you would find mom and dad crawling over the Bougainvillea to prune them and make them tidy.  The unfortunate undertaking was always a loud outburst by my dad while standing in the middle of the flora–“I hate these thorns!  Let’s pull them all out!”  All dad saw was the THORNS.  He couldn’t enjoy the flower.  The reason is perspective.  It’s an attitude.

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove to be different by our actions.

He said to prove that you are a blameless and innocent child of God and in the midst of a very dark world, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.  We should brighten up the place.

Remember that little song we used to sing with our parents and then taught ut to our kids?  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”  But we are not just “little lights” to the world.

Paul refers to us as stars…

These are no small stars!  The smallest star in our universe is basically the size of the planet Saturn,  The word here means luminous.  Luminaries are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us, let your light shine so the people can see your good works and through that glory will be given to God the Father.  [Matthew 5:16 – ESV]

There’s no need to shout, stomp your feet, or scream.  No need for drama.

  • JUST SHINE!

The negative Paul gives us here–don’t grumble.  The positive–just shine!

Get your attitudes and actions in BALANCE.

Then Paul describes a third area we need to balance: There must be a BALANCE at being serious and being joyful.  (verses 17-18)

Reading these two verses gave me an amazing word picture worth looking closely at.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”  Unbelievers had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–would pour one out on the ground before every meal, then eat–then pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshipped.  The PURPOSE was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul is speaking of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  This has a very serious connotation here.  He’s saying, I may never get out of the situation alive.  Remember he is in prison and facing execution at any moment.  But even if I don’t make it out…it will be worth it!

If you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–it makes you think really serious thoughts.  Paul was imagining that he might be living his final days, the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.  He refused to FOCUS on the dark side.  He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death and steal his JOY.

Then he says to us–you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Paul’s words have encouraged me every day after reading his thoughts through in study.  To find something during my last days; finding something to be continually happy about, something to laugh about, to take a day off from writing, to take a walk around the block with my dog, to watch a movie, to work out in the garden, to do something that can take you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy each and every day.

Karl Wallenda, of the Flying Wallendas, perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in the world, had the amazing ability to keep his focus; to concentrate and keep his balance.  But one night in Puerto Rico, he fell to his death while up on the wire.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him he always focused walking the tight rope, but on that given night for some reason, he kept focussing on the possibility of falling.

Often the difference in our success and failure is losing one’s balance and looking in the wrong direction.  The Scripture tells us to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Solomon says, don’t look to the left or right, just keep your eyes on the heavenly Father (Proverbs 4:25-27).

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CREDITS:

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

The Interlinear Bible

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

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.

 

 

 

Every Meal Has A Desired Outcome!

Scripture:  Luke 22:7-27  The Last Supper 

 

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

Every meal has a DESIRED outcome.

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

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

The Three “R’s” of ruining a meal:

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

The argument at the table

LUKE 22:24-27

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

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

The disciples had their own view of the Kingdom

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

“Mop Bucket Attitude!” 

The LORD has a GREAT MEAL PLAN for us!

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

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

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

Luke 22:25 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLACE SETTING to PLACE SETTING–

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

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

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

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

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

He washed their feet!

What would Jesus do today?

He’d wash our feet.

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

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

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CREDITS

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

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

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

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

JUDGMENT is Good! (Part One in Series)

A STUDY IN THE BOOK OF MICAH

Scripture:  Micah 1:1-9; 1 Peter 4:17-18

Micah 1:1 (NIV)

[1]  The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah– the vision saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.

The word here translated as “came” speaks of the Word ‘happening’ to Micah.  It was a ‘happening’–as unplanned and spontaneous.  It was a revelation!

Has that ever happened to you?  God speaks to you and a revelation occurs.

A PERSONAL ‘God-moment’ STORY:

Several years ago, the pastor at a church I was attending called me and asked if I could write a play, a skit, for the upcoming Easter season.  I tried to explain to him that my experience in stage productions was acting in a limited fashion, but writing a play?  His reply, “Do the best that you can,” and hung up the phone.

So for the next three days, I fervently prayed for direction and guidance from the Lord but my prayers seemed to go unanswered.  Until one very early morning, around 3 A.M., I felt a hand on my shoulder.  A clear, soft voice said, “Mel, wake up.  I’ve heard your prayers.”  Thinking I was dreaming, I rolled over to my other side.  Again, the hand and the voice,  “Get up and go into the dining room with paper and pen.  I have heard your prayer.”  Wiping the sleep from my eyes, I put my feet on the floor and quietly proceeded to the God designated room with paper and pen and sat down at the table in obedience.   Was all this a dream, was this really happening?  Time passed by quickly and at 6:30 A.M., “Mercy On Trial”, a three-act play on Christ’s death sentence, death, burial, and resurrection was written down in a draft.  Also, a clear picture that I could sketch on paper for the set design, costumes, and props.

What was absent to my dismay was a script.!  “What now, Lord?” asking out loud.

Silence.

And then a thought was placed in my spirit.  My daughter-in-law graduated from college with a major in communication and theater. Thank You, Lord.

I called her later that morning with my vision, God’s creation with directions and asked her if she could write God’s play with a script?  Her answer:   “How can I refuse?  When do you need it?”  ”

Would next week be too soon?” I asked sheepishly.  She giggled and answered,  “I’ll try.”   One month later after casting, set building, costuming, “Mercy On Trial” was performed for the first time on Easter morning.

Not everyone thinks in tidy terms, nor in a form of Systematic Theology that’s suppose to bring the orderliness to the Bible.  [*See https://www.theopedia.com/systematic-theology]

Micah not only had the Word of God “come” or “happen,” to him; it was the Word of God “which he saw.”

It’s not just that he heard God’s voice, but he was enabled to see into God’s mind.

The origin of the word describes the impact of pictorial thinking.  What Micah has now experienced and visualized, he now must translate into words to convey God’s message to man.

Micah’s prophecies began during the reign of three successive kings of Judah.

So in seven short chapters, we can see a summary of some fifty years of ministry.  I’d call that a ‘study in brevity’!

Micah’s prophecy concerned Samaria and Jerusalem, two capital cities in divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  However, Micah isn’t limited to time and space.  God’s Word never is.

The prophet goes on to address ALL people on the whole earth (verse 2).

[2]  “Hear, you peoples, all of you, listen, earth and all who live in it, that the SOVEREIGN LORD may bear witness against you, the LORD from His holy temple.”

According to 1 Peter 4:17-18, Micah seems to say that if the LORD deals with His own people, what shall the end of those be who oppress them!

Who does God call as the witness against the peoples?

He calls Himself, even the LORD from His holy temple (Micah 1:2-3).

He comes out of His place in heaven, from His holy temple, and treads upon the earth–the towering places of the earth where idolatry is widespread.

What is Idolatry?  Is it something that was just practiced in the Old Testament of the Bible?

“Idolatry” is “anything that is placed before or above the One, True God” [Footnote [i].]

Martin Luther is right; our hearts are idol factories, mine included.

At the time of Micah’s writing, the Assyrian armies were on the march.  As the instruments of God’s judgment, the whole earth shook before them.

Samaria would surely fall, her idols would be beaten to pieces.  The enemy reached even to the gates of Jerusalem, which the prophet vividly described to Judah’s high place.

The Reality of God’s Judgment.

God’s judgment on the world can be comparable to the verdict of a judge in a courtroom.  God’s universal position entitles Him to act as JUDGE.  And when God acts as JUDGE, it takes powerful and decisive actions (verse 4) –

Micah 1:4 (AMP):  And the mountains shall melt under Him and the valleys shall be cleft like wax before the fire like waters poured down a steep place.

These images portray God who comes to judge His people at His command ALL the powers of the universe.  From the beginning of Israel as a nation, God demanded absolute obedience to Him.  He prohibited allegiance to idols (Exodus 20:3).  Even in a casual reading of Samaria’s history, it discloses allegiance to idols.

Israel kept some idols of Canaan and they also utilized some of the idols of their foreign neighbors.  The LORD wouldn’t tolerate rivals; He responded in judgment.

IDOLATRY IS NOT OUTDATED!

It doesn’t belong to the superstition of ancient people.  Anything…and I mean anything that takes the place of God is an idol and the cause of God’s judgment of sin (verse 5).

[5]  All this is because of the transgression of Jacob and the sins of the house of Israel.  What is the transgression of Jacob?  Is it not [the idol worship of] Samaria?  And what are the high places [of idolatry] in Judah?  Are they not Jerusalem?  (AMP)

God’s people had committed sins against the LORD.

Micah didn’t name the specifics; he simply accused both Israel and Judah of offending God.  They deliberately rebelled against the LORD and failed to live up to His expectations.  Failing to attain God’s goal and plan for their lives made the people liable to the prosecuting action of the Judge.

God’s judgment isn’t simply an outburst of rage; one that we sometimes display as parents when our children are disobedient and rebellious.  God’s judgment is a settled disposition that resolves the issue of rebellion.  When we rebel and choose to go our own way, we can expect judgment from the LORD.

Learning from the Tragic Effects of Judgment (verses 6-7)

God’s judgment brings destruction

Micah referred to the destruction of the impressive city of Samaria in verse 6:  “Therefore I will make Samaria a heap of rubble”

This impressive city, the reputation for its beauty and military strength, became nothing more than a hill.  The city wall toppled.  Future generations used the site to plant vineyards.

Human beings must beware of what they call security.

Feeling secure in wealth and military might lead to destruction.  Armies can be bested and cities can be destroyed.

God’s JUDGMENT can bring disappointment

The Israelites gave their allegiance to the idols of the day, and the idols were destroyed by the Assyrians.  They then had no place to turn.  They were not only defenseless but bitterly disappointed in their so-called gods.

God’s great grief in His judgment (v.v. 8-9)

God discloses His aching in judgment in verse 8:

“Therefore I [Micah] will lament and wail; I will go stripped and [virtually] naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a lamentation like the ostriches.”  [AMP]

God’s is portrayed by Micah as one distraught with grief by vivid pictures such as jackals howling and ostriches crying in the night to illustrate intense grief.  Micah draws back the veil that allows us to see God’s great grief over sin.

God discloses His sadness over one person’s failure and to learn from another person’s mistake.  (v. 9)

“For [Samaria’s] wounds are incurable and they come even to Judah; He [the Lord] has reached to the gate of my people, to Jerusalem.”  [AMP]

Not only was God hurt over Samaria’s failure, but He was also sad that Judah failed to learn from their neighbor’s mistake.

JUDGMENT WAS ABOUT TO COME!

Jerusalem was to face the consequences of judgment in the same way as Samaria.

God’s people stand at a unique place and time in history.  We possess the story of former generations.  The lesson is obvious; we ought to learn from the errors of their ways.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  “What Does dolatry Mean?” by Jack Wellman, The Christian Crier.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, Settings advanced.

Youtube:  Law & Order theme music from television.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV), or where noted.

Vine”s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine and Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

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CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

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).

Living In Little, Staying In Small

A Study In Genesis 19:17-38 [You will need your Bible]

ZOAR – “Zoara,” the biblical Zoar, was previously called Bele (Genesis 14:8), and one of the FIVE “cities of the plain” – a pentapolis apparently located along the lower Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, plainly mentioned in the Book of Genesis and other Bible passages as well.

 

Regardless of your opinion of the JUDGMENT of Sodom and Gomorrah, you have to admit that it was a tragedy and a trauma to the three known survivors.

TRAGEDIES HAPPEN.

Your character determines how the substance of a trauma directs your life.

A large event has energy attached to it and it can propel you.  Yet the direction in which it propels is mostly up to you.

As an illustration, in the Columbia tragedy over the Texas sky on February 1, 2003, the stunned NASA officials who tearfully spoke of Columbia’s horror, were not hesitant to remind the watching world that it wouldn’t stop adventures into space.  In fact, the tragedy actually spurs on the survivors of the team to continue with greater vigilance and excellence.

A natural response to TRAGEDY/FAILURE/LOSS is to withdraw, to reduce. This response shows up in the characters of this study in Genesis 19:19 –

[19] “Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life.  But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die.”  [NIV Bible]

The FIRST FOCUS of Lot was:  “I CAN’T” –

Then in Genesis 19:20 (NIV)

[20] “Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small.  Let me flee to it–it is very small, isn’t it?  Then my life will be spared.”

AND, the FIRST FALLOUT of “I Can’t” is, it ties up God in the process.

Lot had a bent toward little.  (ZOAR means “little”).

SURPRISE!  Divine Behavior isn’t natural! “I don’t want to go there!”

(Genesis 19:20 NIV)

[20]  Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small.  Let me flee to it–it is very small, isn’t it?  Then my life will be spared.

(Genesis 19:30 NIV)

[30]  Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar.  He and his two daughters lived in a cave.

In each move (vs. 19, 30), Lot’s motivation was FEAR.

  • It was FEAR for the angels’ well-being, not hospitality, that motivated Lot to invite them overnight. [vs. 2-3]
  • It was FEAR that caused Lot to wrongly offer the COMPROMISE of his daughters as an appeasement to the mob that appeared at his front door.
  • It was FEAR of change that made Lot almost late in leaving the city, “when he hesitated” (vs. 16)…and the angels took him out of the city.

Lot was AFRAID to make a LIFESTYLE CHANGE and his wife’s hesitance made her infamous.

“REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE” – Jesus’ words (Luke 17:32) as He explains to the disciples what it will be like on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.

Lot’s issue was to still be in a ‘city’.  Afterall, he was an urbane man–a ‘city’ kind of guy.  You know the old expression, “You can take the boy/girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy/girl.”  Well, in Lot’s case, I’m going to change one word:  “You can take the boy out of the ‘city’, but…”

Lot and his family had earlier been abducted in a military raid on the city and had been rescued by his uncle Abraham.  Even then, Lot and his family remained in Sodom.

The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 2:7 that Lot was considered a RIGHTEOUS MAN and that the behavior of the people of Sodom infuriated him (“distressed him” – NIV).

There’s a terrible silence when it doesn’t tell us how he acted on his infuriation…his ANGER, his DISGUST, to the surrounding culture.  Maybe it was out of fear.  In fact, Scripture reveals that Lot assimilated into his culture, even as what might have been called, a city leader in Sodom.

Often, city leaders, government officials, would be positioned at the gateways of the town. (19:1)  Sort of like members of the local  Chamber of Commerce for the city–a standout in the community; a civic leader.  Someone you would know if his name appeared in the local newspaper or the church bulletin.

Lot’s thinking over time took him to the place where he believed he could not live away from a town.

Living in SIN will blind you to true reality and cause you to start believing the cultural LIES!  

EXAMPLE: “Quit fighting it!  Cultures change over time, so you might as well just accept the changes!”

Has FEAR of LIFESTYLE CHANGE blinded your thinking into believing a false reality?

FEAR WILL MOTIVATE YOU TO MISS BLESSED OPPORTUNITIES –

Lot was afraid that he couldn’t live in the mountains (vs. 19), but the irony is, he had spent years living a prosperous life in the mountains with his uncle Abraham.  If he had gone to the mountains as the angel(s) had said, God would have provided again, perhaps to restore to prosperity.

Moving to the same mountain later, however, after the open opportunity presented itself, wouldn’t recapture a prior promise.

LIFEPOINT:  Delayed OBEDIENCE is NOT Obedience!

Sometimes, you can press God and get what you desire (or think you did, anyway!). But sometimes the worst thing you can have is to have your own way.

An illustration came to mind of an old episode from the TV series, The Twilight Zone: “The Man in the Bottle”.  It’s where the man gets 4 wishes from a genie and the last wish being Hitler in the bunker.

“We Better PRAY First.”

In 1980, I was given the job opportunity to relocate from Southern California to the Grand Pacific Northwest.  My wife and I both decided this was a good move for ourselves and the family.  No state income tax, clean air, beautiful green trees, etc.  And yes, we better pray about it too.  We had already made our minds up that pulling roots up, leaving friends and family behind was what God must want for us.  “But we better pray first!”  Did we get what we desired?  For the most part, we did, in spite of being disobedient in relational PRAYER first.

IF YOU AREN’T TRANSFORMED, LIVING IN LITTLE WILL LEAD YOU TO LESS –

Genesis 19:14 (AMP)

[14] And Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, and said, “Up, get out of this place, for the Lord will spoil and destroy this city!”  But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be [only] joking.

Genesis 19:30 (NIV)

[30] Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar.  He and his two daughters lived in a cave.

The ROOT of the Hebrew word for CAVE is “naked”, that is, to have nothing.

The Lot who went to Sodom was a wealthy rancher, with herds and servants.  He was a man who walked with God, who had a young family and a bright future.

The Lot who left Sodom was a man whose light-weight LIFESTYLE had made his spiritual impact on those close to him seem like a joke.

He fled from there an impoverished, fearful widower, finding himself now as the single parent of two daughters who had lost their finances when their life was literally obliterated!

Living with SIN in your life will slowly strip you of your stuff, trample your treasured possessions and parch your purest pleasure–your relationships.

Words determine your THINKING; Thinking determines BELIEF; Belief incites EXPECTATION; Expectation forecasts ATTITUDE; Attitude is what motivates BEHAVIOR.  It’s BEHAVIOR that creates the outcome.  (John Maxwell)

LIVING IN LITTLE, STAYING SMALL CAUSES PEOPLE TO…settle for the way things are–to base their lives on the low levels of circumstance and customs.

John Maxwell and the man who went to the fortune teller (45 years of misery then you’ll just get used to it.).

Genesis 19:31

THE GIRLS, Daughters of Lot…

Lot’s daughters chose to settle for what was, to make do with what was convenient, rather than BELIEVE God for what was right.

FAITH doesn’t deny reality but believes beyond reality.

Remember, just because a thing can be, doesn’t mean it should be.  Basing our lives only on our circumstances and customs results in our destiny being directed by SIN.

And when you start in SIN you launch its CAREER–and the consequence to follow can be far-reaching.

The offspring of this conspiracy to commit two counts of aggravated sexual assault and incest (the modern charges that would have applied) were TWO NATIONS of people who became enemies of God’s people, a major influence in their perversion of WORSHIP (idolatry).

Ultimately, the DESTRUCTION of the nation of Israel and the termination of a PROMISE of God, ” a nation of priests to bless the world” (19:6).

God has also in His plan made us as true believers in Christ Jesus to be “A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS” to serve God (Revelation 1:6).

It all started when a FEARFUL MINDSET of ‘living in little’ wasn’t transformed.

At the time of this writing in The Book of Genesis, they knew of MOAB and AMMON but had not interacted with them as enemies, yet.

 

Thoughts lead to BELIEF…to EXPECTATION…to ATTITUDE…to BEHAVIOR…to PERFORMANCE.

Here is another way of putting it:

James 1:13-16 (AMP)

[13] Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one.

[14] But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions).

[15] Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death.

[16] Do not be misled, my brethren.

If you’ve been reading all of this and convicted in making a move…from living in little, settling for small, then it’s time for a change in direction.

IN STOPPING SIN IN YOUR LIFE!

You need to move out of the “Little”, and not leave your forwarding address.  Quit basing your life on CIRCUMSTANCE and CUSTOM, get out of staying in SMALL, being mentally naked.

I will look forward to reading your REPLY on your decision and desire for transformation in the COMMENT section of this page.

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CREDITS ~

John C. Maxwell:  50 Inspirational John C. Maxwell Quotes, by Addicted2Success

The Columbia Tragedy:  Wikipedia.

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), or where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Giving $20 Explanations to a 50 Cent World” Is Difficult!

SCRIPTURE – 1 PETER 1:13-20

Be Holy…How is this even possible?

I have had difficulties over the years just being a decent husband and father to my three kids.  How am I supposed to be as HOLY as the One True Living God?  I’m just human.  I make mistakes, many of them.  So does HOLY mean I just need to follow a bunch of rules?  A list of things I’m supposed to do and things not to do?  Like, be nice to others?

I’m a good person, mostly, so does that make me HOLY?  Great questions!

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)…

[15]  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  [16] for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” 

Peter isn’t introducing a new concept here.  He’s repeating a principle laid down by God in the Covenant [See footnote].

With all that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says in Psalm 14:2-3 (AMP)…

[2]  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

[3]  They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that does good or right, no, not one.

And in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)…

[6]  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Both Psalm 14 and Isaiah 64 are in the Old Testament from the time before Jesus’ birth. 

But even in the New Testament, after Jesus, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:1-3 (AMP)…

“O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?].  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

There were believers in the early church who were trying to be HOLY; trying to be acceptable to God based on their human efforts.  They believed that they had to continue living up to all the rules; the list of all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the Old Testament Law.

The Apostle Paul’s Reminder…that HOLINESS is not just based on our OWN EFFORTS of being good–HOLINESS is WHO WE ARE, based on our RELATIONSHIP with Christ Jesus!

We CAN’T earn God’s favor…

We CAN’T earn His love and mercy…

We CAN’T earn HOLINESS through our own efforts, it’s a FREE GIFT being offered to you right now!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–[9] not by works, so that no one can boast.

HOLINESS isn’t just who we are…it’s how we live.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says…”For God did call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

Let me go back to 1 Peter 1:17 again…

[17]  And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

2 Corinthians 5:9 explains it more plainly by saying…“So we make it our goal to please Him. whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

I don’t want to confuse anybody on this point. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are accepted by God.  He offers you a position in His kingdom, in His family, as a “FREE GIFT”… you just need to place your faith, your acceptance, your commitment to His Son Jesus to become accepted by God.

For most of us, growing up in a loving family brings back memorable times.  Our parents loved us and we loved them not for what they did for us materialistically, but because of who they were in our lives.

In appreciation of that LOVE, we, in turn, wanted to please them, respect them, honor them by our actions in response to that LOVE by our obedience.

As a child of God, we should want to please our Heavenly Father on how we live out our daily lives.  But how do we do this?

I’ve already mentioned how being HOLY is not following a list of rules, a lost of do’s and don’t’s. What I did discover in reading and studying God’s Word in this passage of Scripture are THREE things that Peter gives us in helping us to live in HOLINESS:

#1.  PREPAREDNESS

First, we are to prepare our minds for action.  Look at 1 Peter 1:13 again:  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”

I’ve been glued to my TV, watching every afternoon and evening of late the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea.  I particularly noticed how the athletes prepared beforehand to compete.  The visualize what they are about to do…they prepare their minds to intently focus on what needs to be done.

As Christians, we are to do the same thing.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7 (b) “…train yourselves to be godly.”

A lazy athlete will never perform well…neither will a lazy Christian.

When we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with the world’s garbage, then we won’t be prepared to live in HOLINESS.

We MUST prepare our minds, folks!

#2.  IMITATION

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”  (Quote by Oscar Wilde).

I think a better way to phrase that quote would be is that God much rather us to resemble His Son, than “flatter” Him.

Then, in verse 14, Peter says…“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

So, the SECOND thing we are to do is to be OBEDIENT.

We are to IMITATE Christ: We turn away from the temptations the world presents to us and we live in OBEDIENCE to our Heavenly Father and His Word.  We won’t know how to IMITATE Jesus unless we do the first thing of preparing our minds.

When we study God’s Word (our bible), we will grow in understanding of Jesus Christ which makes the second thing possible, because the Holy Spirit develops us…makes us more mature…changes us to be more like Jesus.

But it’s still A CHOICE…

We must choose to turn away from temptation and instead turn to God.

Ephesians 5:1 says,  “Therefore be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”  (AMP).

We should ask ourselves, “Is this something God would say?”  “Is this something that I would be comfortable in watching if Jesus was sitting next to me?”  “If I do this, will it PLEASE my Heavenly Father?”

We IMITATE Christ in everything we think…everything we do…everything we say.  And as we grow in maturity as “sanctified” (set apart, made HOLY) believers, then we will become better and better at imitating Christ and not the world.

This is the path of HOLINESS!

“you also be holy in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:15

KEYWORD is “ALL”- “in ALL your conduct.”  

NOT some of your conduct…

NOT when you feel like it…

NOT just on Sunday when you come to church…

ALL your conduct!

WHY?  Because as believers, we are CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM!

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

#3.  LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS

And the THIRD thing…living our lives in HOLINESS we must LOVE each other…regardless!

Boy, that can be hard to do sometimes.  But you see, you alone can’t do it without the prompting of the Holy Spirit!!!

1 Peter 1:22 reads in the Amplified Bible…

[22]  Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.

Jesus says it Himself in the Gospel of John…

John 13:34-35 NIV)

[34]  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

[35]  By this [LOVE] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Living our lives in HOLINESS isn’t easy.

There’s a story I read this week about an artist who was making a statue of an elephant out of a huge chunk of marble.  Someone asked him, “How do you do it?  How do you turn this piece of rock into a beautiful masterpiece?”  The artist answers him and says, “I just chip away, chisel the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

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

LIVING THE “GOOD LIFE” IN HOLINESS!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE:  Note:  Also read Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2 and 1 Thess. 4:7-8.

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

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Sermon Notes:  “Sanctified Saints” by Jeff Strite on July 16, 2016 – Sermon Central.

The “Great Expectations” of Discipleship

After reading my Bible this morning and given inspiration by the Holy Spirit for my next blog, I decided to borrow the title from a 13th century novel by Charles Dickens.  The book depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip and I thought there must be some parallels between Christ’s followers and Dickens’ character published in 1861.  I don’t think Mr. Dickens will mind too much.

TEXT:  Matthew 10:32-39

In this passage, Jesus tells us what He expects of His DISCIPLES.

The Dictionary defines a “disciple” as “one who accepts and follows a teacher or a doctrine.”  

We could use that definition to define what a DISCIPLE of Christ is:  A person who follows Jesus Christ and His teaching.

Every Christian is a DISCIPLE.

We read in Acts 11:26 that “the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  Frankly, I don’t see a distinction between a Christian and a disciple.  Every Christian is a DISCIPLE; every Christian is a follower of Christ.

The Big Idea:  Christ EXPECTS complete commitment from His followers.

In this passage of God’s Word, Jesus tells us what complete commitment looks like in the lives of His followers’

Matthew 10:32-33 (AMP)

[32]  Therefore, everyone who acknowledges Me before men and confesses Me [out of a state of oneness with Me]. I will also acknowledge him before My Father Who is in heaven and confess [that I am abiding in] him.

[33]  But whoever denies and disowns Me before men, I also will deny and disown him before My Father Who is in heaven.

#1.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM BEFORE OTHERS.

The phrase “whoever denies or disowns me” (v. 33) doesn’t refer to a moment of DENIAL of Jesus.  Peter denied Christ three times one night, but he never denied Him again.  That’s a comfort to me.  As a follower of Christ since 1972, I’ve had moments of denial, but I’ve repented my sin and proudly announce today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour.

A DISCIPLE of Jesus is NOT ASHAMED of the One he or she follows.

#2.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO LOVE HIM MORE THAN ANYTHING OR ANYONE ELSE.

A college student once walked into a photo studio with a framed picture held closely against his chest.  It was a picture of his girlfriend and he wanted it duplicated which involved removing it from the frame.  In doing this, the owner of the studio noticed the inscription on the back of the picture which said, “Dear Tom, I love you with all my heart.  I love you more and more each day.  I will love you forever and ever.  I am yours for all eternity!”  It was signed “Mary,” and it contained a P.S.:  “If we ever break up, I want this picture back.”

There can be no P.S. in a life given to Christ.  We can never break up with Him.  His amazing LOVE for jus demands that we LOVE Him more than others.

CHOICES will have to be made –

SOMETIMES when a person becomes a Christian and his enthusiasm overflows from his/her decision, his or her family turns against them.

Therefore, a CHOICE must be made between Christ and family.  Family ties cannot be allowed to pull a DISCIPLE from complete allegiance to his LORD.

#3.  CHRIST EXPECTS HIS FOLLOWERS TO GIVE UP EVERYTHING TO FOLLOW HIM.

IN THE 1ST CENTURY, if anyone was seen carrying his CROSS, it was clear that he was on his way to die.

Jesus uses this word picture to describe dying in our own personal pursuits and follow Him completely.  Don’t get me wrong here.  It’s a good thing to have personal pursuits–goals for yourself and family.  But when they take precedence over following Jesus completely…

In Luke’s account, we are told that before Jesus spoke these words, “Large crowds were following Him” (Luke 14:25).

BUT the crowds gradually disappeared.

And we know the reason why.

It was because Jesus DEMANDED TOTAL COMMITMENT from His followers.  He made sure that people knew the cost of DISCIPLESHIP was high.

Luke 14:27-33

Christ has already counted the cost of DISCIPLESHIP for us.  The COST is…EVERYTHING we have!

Jesus once declared, “The kingdom of heaven is like something precious buried in a field, which a man found and hid again; then in his joy, he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.”  (AMP)

What the man received was so much more valuable than what he gave up–though it was everything he had.

The cost of DISCIPLESHIP is high; but compared to what we receive from Christ Jesus, the price is a bargain!

“MANY DISCIPLES TURNED BACK AND NO LONGER FOLLOWED HIM”  (John 6:66-68)

The TWELVE DISCIPLES had given up everything to follow Jesus, BUT, with the exception of Judas, they never regretted it because, as Peter declared, Christ has “the word of eternal life.”

The apostle Paul wrote,

He said, “Know this: DISCIPLESHIP is going to cost you whatever you have.  Don’t expect comfort and ease.”

Let’s READ what Jesus said to His DISCIPLES in Mark 8:34-35:

Mark 8:36 (AMP) Continues…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life [in the eternal kingdom of God]?”

The WHOLE WORLD refers to all the things that could possibly be achieved or acquired in this lifetime.

GAINING the WHOLE WORLD looks more appealing than losing everything for Christ.

BUT… the REWARD for following Christ is ETERNAL LIFE, while the RESULT of gaining the whole world is the loss of one’s soul.

Under Obedience As True Followers Of Christ Jesus –

A. W. Tozer said, [Years ago] no one would ever dare to rise in a church meeting and say, “I am a Christian” if he had not surrendered his whole being to God and taken Jesus Christ as his Lord as well as his Saviour, and had brought himself under obedience to the will of the Lord.  It was only then that he could say, “I am saved!”

Today, we let them say they are “SAVED” no matter how imperfect and incomplete the action, with the stipulation that the deeper Christian life can be ‘tacked on’ at any time in the future.

Do we really think we don’t owe Jesus Christ our OBEDIENCE?

We have owed Him our OBEDIENCE ever since the second we cried out to Him for our SALVATION, and if we didn’t give Him that OBEDIENCE, I reason to wonder if we are really converted!

I see and hear of things that Christian people are doing, and as I watch and listen to the profession of Christianity, I do raise the question whether they have been truly SAVED.  I believe it is the result of faulty teaching, to begin with.  They act as though the Lord is a hospital and Jesus is the chief of staff to fix up poor sinners that have got into trouble!

“Fix me up, Lord, so I can go my own way!”

The person who says, “Save me, Jesus, but stay out of my life!” is NOT a Christian.

To that person, Christ says,

“Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘That’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you?  These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on”  (Luke 6:46-47, The MESSAGE Bible).

If your commitment to Christ has faltered you can RENEW your commitment to Christ in 2018.

THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS HIGH–

Complete Commitment–but it’s benefits are eternal!

BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for your sin and rose from the grave.

COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO HIM!

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CREDITS –

Dictionaries:  Merriam-Webster.

Great Expectations – Wikipedia.com

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  NIV and Amplified Bibles, except where noted.

 

 

A GUIDE For Witnessing In A Christ-like Manner

you will be my witnessesIn my reading of Scripture every morning, my set-aside devotional time, there’s one book in the New Testament that refreshes my spirit over and over again.  It was the first book of the Bible I read through after I was “born again” in 1972.  The book, The Gospel Of John.  

Many truths set forth in John’s gospel have made a great impact on my Christian life.  First and foremost, there is no greater honor than to be a part of God’s work of telling others about Jesus.  So this is where I want to begin; sharing from my own experiences and giving a beginning guide to today’s oft forgotten term… Witnessing to others about Jesus Christ.

We hear from pastor’s sermons at least once a year from a familiar passage in Acts 1:8  “and you shall be My witnesses…”  Now if we take that verse to heart, seriously, maybe we need to reevaluate our preparedness to obey Christ’s command.

WHAT IS A WITNESS?

WITNESS Definitions:  Merriam Webster;  [2] One that gives evidence;  [5] public affirmation by word or example.

The word WITNESS we are most familiar with comes to us from the legal sphere, derived from the root meaning “to bear in mind,” “to be careful.”  Thus a witness in the field of law is one who has the knowledge of something by recollection and experience and who can tell about it accurately.

Biblically speaking, A WITNESS is born when one is born again, that is, when you experience the POWER of God in your own personal death, burial and resurrection. In that sense, Christian Witnessing is not optional, nor is it mandatory.  It is inevitable.

When I first had knowledge of what a witness was, and internalizing Jesus’ message in Acts 1:8 of being “witnesses” in the community, this next little tidbit was added to my spirit: 

The word MARTYR: “comes from the Greek word for “witness”.  Early Christians were often put to death for the “witness” of Christ Jesus.

Boy, after having that scary thought placed in my mind, I needed some real motivation if… I was going to be a witness for Jesus.  But where was that motivation going to come from?

A GUIDE to Being A WITNESS:

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In John chapter four, JESUS is passing through Samaria.  He comes to Jacob’s well, tired from His journey and He sits down (John 4:6).

Now the disciples have gone into a nearby town Sychar, to buy food (John 4:5, 8).  The Bible says it was about the sixth hour which most likely be around noon.

LUNCH TIME!

In my last job before retiring, I was required to be at my desk by 6 AM.  So by the time lunch time rolled around, I needed to get away from the office, where I could sit down, get a bite to eat, and relax.  Many times, several of my co-workers would show up at the same place.  I didn’t invite them to come.  They just showed up!

In this portion of Scripture, we see Jesus’ human side and see that He is tired and evidently hungry, just like when we get tired and hungry.

Notice how Jesus uses a common physical thirst to cause the lady at the well to ask questions about deeper eternal matters.

I was intrigued once more to focus on their discussion.  Remember, they are total strangers to one another–not co-workers, not BFF’s, but strangers.

STEP #1.  Jesus arouses the woman’s curiosity with a promise; the quenching a natural spiritual thirst common to all mankind.  That spiritual thirst which people try to satisfy through giving into the flesh, drinking in the world’s views and Satan’s lies.  Sadly, only a few drink of the Living Water offered by the Lord.

John 4:13-14:

[13] Jesus answer her, “All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.  

THE PROMISE…

[14] But whoever takes a drink of the water that I will give him shall never, no never, be thirsty any more.  But the water that I will give him shall become a spring of water welling up (flowing, bubbling)  [continually]  within him unto (into, for) eternal life.”

By Divine Appointment – A Personal Story

Working for a large company for over fifteen years, starting as a truck driver and working myself up through the ranks to Branch Manager, in February, 1985, the company was sold, and my services were no longer needed.  I was to be replaced by new management.  Although I was given a decent severance pay package, my self-worth was definitely damaged in the process.

Two weeks later, I received a phone call from an old business associate, who had heard through the grapevine reasons for my termination.  He asked the question–“Would I be interested in taking a job out-of-state?”  “That depends,” I answered.  “Where is ‘out-of-state’?”  HAWAII.  So, two days later, I found myself sitting in front of the president of large Hawaiian Wholesale Plumbing Company on the island of Oahu.

The next several months was a time in my life I have reflected on in detail for years. For my stay was for a brief time.  At the time, A Divine Appointment wasn’t even a thought. But God had set His plan in motion long before I had a clue.

After accepting the new job, part of my negotiated package was housing and a company vehicle to use until my family and automobile arrived from the mainland.  Since the president’s daughter and son-in-law lived nearby and also worked at the same office, I carpooled with the young man…for over two months.  Our conversation varied during the heavy commute, from family to music choices (the car radio was always active), to Hawaiian lifestyle compared to mainland lifestyle.  Then one day he asked, “I’ve noticed you go to church every Sunday.  What church do you attend?”  The opportunity at the well was there and I took it!

I answered his question with a question; asking him his religious background and did he have a personal relationship with JESUS; a few weeks later led him to Christ.

Hawaii wasn’t the place for my family and I to live, and I returned to the mainland; unemployed to employment…and back to unemployment… all with three month’s time.

WHY?  God had a DIVINE APPOINTMENT in mind and I had the privilege to be a part of.  It wasn’t until I returned to my original starting point did I fully understand the details in my going.

Divine Providence brings always amazing things and Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Three simple truths we can hold on to here as laid down by Jesus to help all Christians in their daily witness.  For after all, when we leave our front door in the morning, we don’t go out witnessing; we witness as we go.  It may be today, next week, next month or off and on through out the calendar year.  But know this: God wants to use you.

So how can we follow the simple example of Christ with confidence that Jesus is going to use us?

The FIRST THING I noticed that Jesus did was to make a connection.

The woman who lived a sinful life came out to get water and He makes the connection with her.

You have family members, friends and co-workers just like this lady and you need to be making connections.  Jesus made the connection in being obedient to His Father who was sending Him to Galilee.

All Divine Appointments that are set up for you come about as you are obedient to the Lord’s call on your life.  

Divine Providence brings all glorious things into existence.  Jesus doesn’t want you to miss the opportunities He gives you.

Is there someone in your workplace that you want to reach for Christ?  Is there a neighbor, a family member you’ve been praying for?  Ask the Lord for a connection.

Jesus had a need for water and the lady had a way of getting water from a well that was very deep.  The depth is around 70 feet to the water line with a depth of about 105 feet (Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Jacob’s Well).

The point being Jesus, being a man, had a NEED that could not be met without her help.

We all have some needs that we cannot meet and there is someone who is bound by sin who can help you meet that need.

This is a wonderful opportunity to make a connection. It may be an answer to a question about work, home repairs, a physical task you cannot do on your own.

Make a connection with someone who would be shocked that you even noticed them let alone asked them for help.

The lady at the well asks,  “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”  (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans) – (John 4:9)

A Little History About Samaritans –

Samaria is right about center of Israel.  When Israel fell to the Assyrians, Samaria was theacts_1_8_1 place where the poorest were left behind.  They intermarried with other races and brought in a false priest.  Add to that, they began false worship and twisted Scripture while rejecting everything in the Old Testament except the first five books of the Bible (2 Kings 17).

There are many PREJUDICES that keep people from hearing the gospel message of Jesus.

PREJUDICES of the people who are living in sin.  They convince themselves that obedient Christians don’t want to associate with them or care about their needs, problems or concerns.

Jesus’ lifestyle was to be out among sinners, ministering to the sick, the needy, meeting practical and spiritual needs to all who would accept what God was doing through Him.

“Must needs”  (John 4:4)

After looking at different bible translations, I like the KJV version the best:  “And he must needs pass through Samaria.”

Interesting TRUTH can be found here that the Holy Spirit wants us to grasp in our efforts to fulfill our part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

“Must needs” in application means it was a necessity, a compulsion and Jesus’ destiny to go through Samaria for the sake of His mission.

There are THREE ROUTES Jesus could have taken.  But Jesus had to go through Samaria to lay down a foundational work of the gospel, because it was His Father’s will for Him (John 4:34).

THE SECOND TRUTH the Holy Spirit wants us to get hold of:  Jesus drew attention for temporary satisfaction to eternal fulfillment.

The core of Jesus’ mission at the well as defined in John 4:10 and 13 is to move the lady from what she does know to what she does not know.  He does this in stimulating her curiosity resulting in her asking a question about Him (John 4:12).  She wants to know who this man at the well is:

“Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?”

Through Jesus’ example, our goal is to get people from thinking and talking about what they know and talking about and asking they about what they don’t know.

How can we guide the conversation in our connections to talk about what they don’t know?  

One example, when people begin to talk about the problems their family is having, move them to ask about a Christian family that had the same problem, maybe your own family, but do not have them now.  

Point how Jesus did a work in their lives.  Remember the goal here is to be walking in obedience to the Lord.  The focus is to be speaking to people you connect with.  

Let the Lord lead you to the Divine Appointment; to a heart that is prepared to receive what the Lord has for them at that time on their life.

An important note to remember in witnessing to others: Jesus pointed the women’s attention to what matters in eternity.  There is a contrast to what will satisfy PHYSICAL Thirst (water drawn from a well by labor) and to SPIRITUAL Water that will bubble from the inside given by Jesus.

In this incident at Jacob’s Well, the Samaritan lady makes a request, “…Sir, give me this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water!” (John 4:15).

This lady typifies many of the people we come across daily in our witnessing.  Because they are bound by SIN, they are so slow to respond to the things of God.

Like the lady at the well, many HEAR the gospel message, yet still want the things of God for all the wrong reasons.  In other words, she and those like her, still need a purifying of the heart.

People who are carnal in their thinking and not yet surrendered to the Lord (Matthew Henry Commentary).

In John chapter four, we see that Jesus had to break the barrier that kept her from understanding.

The TRUTH that must be presented to all, including Christianity is FIRST,  the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that He is.

The SECOND is the revelation on oneself.

It begins with the realization that LIFE lived without Him being Savior and Lord will not do; that one must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit that he is in great need of GRACE & MERCY of God.  Use your own testimony of how God’s Grace & Mercy made things new in your life.

The THIRD TRUTH I discovered is that the Lord wants us to grab hold of and pass on to others the importance:  What is a TRUE WORSHIPER?

Jesus said,  “You [Samaritans] do not know what you are worshiping [you worship what you do not comprehend]. We do know what we are worshiping [we worship what we have knowledge of and understand], for [after all] salvation comes from [among] the Jews.  A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers.  God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (reality).”  (John 4:22-24 AMP).

Most of the people we come in contact with are like the Samaritans in a sense who have chosen a partial knowledge of God’s Word.  They, like the Samaritans, have selective worship.  They choose which portion of Scripture they like and disregard the rest.

No one can worship in spirit and truth without an honest heart, seeking God’s will through the whole council of the written Word.

That doesn’t mean that a worshiper has to know ALL of God’s Word, but they must have a heart desire in seeking the Lord’s will and a willingness to live out what has already been revealed to them.

Those who want to WITNESS as Jesus did must point out the Lord is looking for the worshipers who approach God through his spirit, to attain a closeness and intimacy with God–a new relationship.

TRUE WORSHIP is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of oneself, speaks to and meets God, who is immortal and invisible (William Barclay).

This study in John chapter four is but a GUIDE towards your making connections in your community.  Simply use what you have already been given and He will make the way for you to WITNESS for Jesus.

God has a DIVINE APPOINTMENT for you to keep–be ready and willing to keep it!!

 


CREDITS:

Photos & Map – Google image search.

The New Testament Meaning of “Witness” [Founders – by Ernest Reisinger]

Bible translations as noted in the text.