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.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1.  God the Father CHOSE you.

#2.  God the Holy Spirit CHANGES you.

#3.  God the Son CLEANSES you.

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

GOD THE FATHER CHOSE YOU!

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

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

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

The FIRST “C”:  God has CHOSEN us!

We are special to Him…

We belong to His family…

We are children of the living God.

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

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

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

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

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

He KNEW who would believe.

He KNEW who would know their need of a Saviour.

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

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

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

2 Timothy 2:19 REMINDS US,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOLY SPIRIT works in us…

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

The Holy Spirit can CHANGE & TRANSFORM our lives.

Here’s a QUESTION for you to ponder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:7-8 says it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDURANCE Provided When Things Appear to be Insurmountable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit lives IN you.

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

JESUS DIED for you and me.

JESUS SAVED you.

JESUS CLEANSED you.

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

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

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

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CREDITS HONORED –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advance search.

Dictionary:  Oxford Dictionary.

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

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

 

Is Church the Safest Place to Be?

In my studies this week, I ran across a report on what to avoid in life to keep us safe.  Let me share some interesting statistics:

AVOID riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.  Don’t stay at home because 17% of all accidents occur in the home.  AVOID walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians.  AVOID traveling by air, rail or water, for 16% of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.  Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals.  So, above all else, AVOID hospitals.

However, you will be pleased to learn that only .001% of all deaths occur in worship services at church and these occurrences are usually attributed to previous physical disorders.  

Therefore, logic tells us that the SAFEST place for you and I to be at any given time is at CHURCH…or Bible study, which is even less.  So for your own safety, attend church and read your Bible.

Now as much as most Pastors today would like for people to come to church in order to avoid accidents, unfortunately, what often happens is that the CHURCH gets too safe–tamed.

We throw away our rebellious side.  I don’t mean just REBELLION against God.  I mean, we just stop rebelling against the culture, too.  We try to fit in…play nice; get along with everybody because that’s what Christians should do.

This brings us to the Bible passage found in JOSHUA 17:11-18 which describes the condition of the tribe of Manasseh.

[11] Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements…  [12] Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region.  [13] However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.  [14] The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance?  We are numerous people and the LORD has blessed us abundantly.”

[15] “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

[16] The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

[17] But Joshua said to the house of Joseph–to Ephraim and Manasseh– “You are numerous and very powerful.  You will have not only one allotment [18] but the forested hill country as well.  Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

(New International VersionNIV)

MANASSEH had already claimed some land east of the Jordan River before Joshua had started to lead his people to conquer the land of Canaan, which lay west of the Jordan.

But apparently, Manasseh, because it was a large tribe, was to get some land west as well.  VERSE 11 gives what towns could be found in that land:

[11] Also Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher  [these six towns], their inhabitants and their villages:  Beth-shean, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo.  (Amplified Bible)

 

The Whinners, Grumblers, and Complainers Become Front and Center –

So you see the PROBLEM…

The people of Manasseh had these six towns in their land, given to them by God, but… they couldn’t drive the people out who lived there.  After all, the residents had iron chariots which seemed pretty scary to fight in battle (verse 16).

So they came to Joshua looking for MORE LAND, in lieu of fighting the dreadful charioteers.

At first glance, the request seems reasonable enough.  But JOSHUA knew what they were asking and it wasn’t more land because they needed it…it was more land so they wouldn’t have to take any chances fighting the enemy.  You see, they were whiny.  They were grumblers and complainers.  They had so much, they still weren’t happy.  Never mind that they had more land than any of the other tribes.  No, they wanted MORE!

That sounds like us, actually.

We have so much.  We have PHYSICAL BLESSINGS:

  • Like health, strength, food on our tables, shoes on our feet, roofs over our heads.

Plus, as Christians, we have all those SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS:

  • Like forgiveness, hope, peace, joy, love, patience, self-control, and answered prayers.

And what He’s done for us:

  • ADOPTED us, REDEEMED us, JUSTIFIED us, PURIFIED us, and CLEANSED us, to name just a few.

Ephesians 1:3 says…

 

And yet, knowing GOD’S WORD…

We still want to WHINE about all the shortages in life–in our paychecks, our casual times:

We WHINE about gas prices.  

We WHINE about grocery bills.  

We WHINE about how hot or how cold it is.  

We WHINE about what sinners do.  

We WHINE about what Christians do.  

We WHINE about our church, our pastor, our teachers, our family, our friends (or shortage thereof!)…GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY!!!

“WE JUST WANT MORE!” Is an all together cry today, even in television commercials:

And I wonder, if because we think life is so bad, that we must think that God isn’t doing a good enough job to make us happy.

COMPLAINING about everything, eventually, shows that we are complaining about how good of a job God is doing on earth.

Of course, the people of Manasseh whined and complained.  They had reached a level in their lives and didn’t know how to get past it.  It seemed as though they saw what COULD happen, but too afraid to MAKE it happen.  So, instead of moving forward, they stay put.

It’s like trying to keep a two-year-old still for any length of time–they easily get bored and perhaps…unpleasable, maybe?

It’s the same for the children of God.

We were meant to move on and press forward!  (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-2).  So if at some point we stop in our spiritual walk with Christ because we are afraid of what might happen, then we’ll get bored, restless, whiny, and unpleasable.

So what you have to do is move on and get out of your COMFORT ZONE every once in a while.

Early in my Christian life at the church, I was saved at, our pastor invited a few good men, including all the men on the Deacon board, to commit to an Advanced Discipleship Training class for six weeks.  In this training, we were to meet in groups of five (there were 15 men in total) at different homes, review and discuss the previous lesson, then meet back together at church for prayer for the following week.

One week, the LESSON was on Evangelism in our neighborhoods and the discussion entailed sharing Christ to a total stranger.  Wait…it gets scarier!

We were to open up a city telephone directory, randomly pick a name, call the phone number and introduce the person on the other end of the line to Christ, reading from a prepared script.  We all practiced for about ten minutes, and then it was time to ‘move forward.’

“Who wants to be first?” the group leader asked.  “Uh, I’ll go first,” I said with eyes closed.  Was I afraid?  No, of course not.  I was scared to death!  But I pressed on.

Yes, I had several people I called hang up the phone.  But as time came to the end, the last call…“Would you like to receive Christ as your Savior?”  He said, “YES, I WOULD.”  My reaction to the stranger’s answer…”You would?”  I was as surprised as everyone else in the room, as they silently moved their lips with AMEN and PRAISE GOD!

FEAR disappeared and FAITH took over.

There are too few people who are willing to give of themselves.  Too many people, too many Christians are afraid.

Moving From Living by FAITH to Living In FEAR.

Maybe it’s age.

Maybe too much head knowledge, I don’t know, but it seems that people become more and more AFRAID OF LOSING…losing their reputations, losing their pensions, losing their health, losing their lives, the longer they live.

PEOPLE CRAVE WHAT MAKES THEM COMFORTABLE.

But, just as the tribe of Manasseh learned, COMFORT doesn’t bring satisfaction.  They knew the LORD had BLESSED them with so much, and yet, they still wanted MORE!

They whined about not having enough–“MORE IS BETTER”–because they just weren’t happy.  But they weren’t willing to go out on a limb and trust God with their challenges.

If you don’t every once in a while, put your FAITH to the test and step out a little, you’ll never be content.

Someone once said, “Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb.  That’s where the fruit is.”

James Bryant Conant, an American Chemist, and educator once wrote:  “Behold the turtle.  He makes progress only when he sticks out his neck”  [See footnote [i].]

That’s why there are so few men and teens in church.  We make this place we call our church home so safe, so secure, never going out on a limb for anything, that there’s no element of risk or danger.  Which of course…fuels men and teens.

Sometime COURAGE means letting go of what you’ve always had.

SOMETIMES COURAGE means stepping out into uncharted territory.

SOMETIMES COURAGE means going to someone and say you’re sorry.

I don’t know what you’d love to do, but you’ve been too afraid to do it.  I don’t know what COURAGE means for you.  All I know is that too few of us are too afraid to do what God is calling us to do, and we have missed out on God’s BEST for us because of it.

There’s a story in Luke 13 I want to share with you–  Luke 13:22-25 (MSG)

[22] He (Jesus) went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.

[23-25]  A bystander said,  “Master, will only a few saved?”  He said,  “Whether few or many is none of your business.  Put your mind on your life with God.  The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires your total attention.  A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not on the guest list’.”

JESUS wasn’t saying that you could ever work your way to heaven.  What He was saying “Trust in God’s mercy but work with all your might!”

He said that the VICTORY’S have been promised to us, but don’t be lazy about it.

I know it’s hard to risk ridicule from people, non-believers, and believers too.

I know it’s hard to have people disagree with you on biblical principles.

But sometimes, as we go about life’s many turns and detours, we find situations, where to do the RIGHT THING, means to step out in FAITH & COURAGE…AND it’s hard!

BUT DO IT ANYWAY!!

As a Christian, there’s no condemnation for you.

As a Christian, you’ve been forgiven.

If you fail, you always have a safety net–His name is JESUS.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Footnote [i] :  Britannica.com James B. Conant, American educator and scientist.

“WE WANT MORE” – Youtube.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Advance search setting.

Bible Translations:  New International Versions (NIV), Amplified (AMP), 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.

 

 

 

Imitators or Impostors?

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10  (NIV):

[6] You became IMITATORS of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  [7] And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  [8] The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,  [9] for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

charlescalebcolton203963

 

MAKING AN IMPRESSION:

Sometimes I hear a new song, read a book, or see something that so grabs my attention, I can’t help myself.  As soon as I have the opportunity, I want to tell someone I meet or share my experience on Social Media, “I gotta tell you about this book I’m reading…” or whatever it is.

That’s when it is CLEAR…it really made an impression.

And what happened when Paul and his fellow evangelists came to Thessalonica made that kind of IMPRESSION?  Not only impressing the local church people, but also on people all over the place.

Conversation was “buzzing” all around Greece and neighboring countries.  Nobody had to ask,  “Have you heard about those strange Jews going around talking about someone called JESUS?” because everybody who had heard about them, were telling someone else without being asked.

That’s the meaning of what Paul says in VERSE 8:  “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere.”

And what people were talking about wasn’t just the new church down at “The Corner of Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road” ([i]Footnote). but the way it had come into being.

People were talking about the amazing and instantaneous effect the Gospel had effecting their lives.

At the heart of it all…

At the heart of it all was the call to WORSHIP…of the One True God rather than the surrounding idols.

It would be like asking the people of today, to give up using their cars, computers, tv’s and cell phones.

The gods of Greek and Roman paganism were everywhere.

For example, if you or your son or daughter were getting married this Summer, a serious and expensive worship of a deity would be expected of you.

At every turn in the road the gods were there; unpredictable, possibly mean and dangerous, and sometimes at war among themselves…there was really no way in appeasing them, making sure you had them on your side.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy…

Right smack dad into this wacky world came three unknown Jews: Paul, Silas and Timothy, telling these pagans there was only One True God and this God had a Son, and that Son had been raised from the dead!!! Nobody had ever said anything like that before!!!

And the people in Thessalonica, knowing right from the start, the huge risk they would be taking in the community–turned away from their idols to this Living God, and in doing this…discovered both suffering and great JOY at the same moment!!!

That’s what CONVERSION is all about–

The word “TURNED” in verse 9 of the text, is as close as Paul gets to the technical term of conversion or being SAVED:

“They tell how you turned to God…”

It’s what happens when someone stops going in one direction, turns around and begins going in the opposite direction.

Has this happened to you?

“Changing Beer Into Furniture”

In preparation for studying and meditating on the verses presented in this blog-post, I ran across a story told of a group of old friends hanging out and having conversation.  One of the men had recently become a Christian:

His old buddies were giving him a bit of a hard time about his conversion experience.

“You don’t really believe all those miracle stories in the Bible, do you?”

In response, his friend replied,

“I don’t know about the miracle stories in the Bible, but I do know about the miracle story in my own life.  Since giving my life over to the Lord, Jesus has changed beer into furniture!”  ([ii] See Footnote)

It’s a sight to see when someone gives their life to Christ!  I did so on August 15th, 1972–my spiritual birthday!!!

Transformation–

As we become more involved in a community of faith,

Volunteering our time,

Learning the JOY of GIVING to God,

Becoming friends–like a family with our brothers and sisters in the FAITH.

[In growing up, I had a brother who was seven years younger than I.  But when I became a BELIEVER, my family grew.  Now I have FAITH SISTERS in the Lord–and my wife, is also my sister in Christ!]

Christian Living in Thessalonica…

Christians had been true BELIEVERS for a very short time; we don’t know exactly how long, but it can’t have been more than a year.

They were very ordinary people doing something extraordinary in response to an unexpected MESSAGE and people from hundreds of miles around were talking about it.

The only explanation…the Living God at work through the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ!

“IMITATORS”/IMPERSONATORS – Verse 6 a.

“And you [set yourselves to] become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself”  (Amplified Bible).

Even in the face of “severe suffering”, the Thessalonian believers of the day, talked about…

—  GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF SOCIETY!!!

—  COURAGE!

—  COMMITMENT

—  ABOUT A MIGHTY GOD!

It wasn’t about them.  It was about HIM!!!

Even in the midst of their suffering and persecution, they were filled with JOY and the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

And so, other people became curious and wanted to know what they had discovered:  “What have they got that I don’t have?”  I wonder myself, if my neighbors are asking the same question about my life:  “Who is he, really?”

Or, is the only thing they notice–my car parked along side of the house on Sunday mornings with the engine at idle–waiting for my wife to get out of the house– then rushing off to Sunday morning services and back home by noon.

“Are the Thompson Family IMPOSTERS or what?”

The people  of First Church of Thessalonica had become Imitators…

 The church as a whole, through their IMITATION OF CHRIST, others began to imitate them…Macedonia and Achaia:

“Your FAITH has become known everywhere” Paul exclaims.

And when something is GOOD…something is REAL, and the word gets around to those who need to hear the Word.

When Christians begin to “LIVE OUT” with…

DEEP CONVICTION,

THE CALLING OF CHRIST JESUS,

THE LIFE OF JESUS,

THE WAY OF LOVE, and

GENEROSITY THROUGH CHRIST, and

the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…

…people can’t help notice that THE REAL THING HAS ARRIVED!

Living in a CULTURE engulfed in idols.

We may not call them idols, or call them gods, nor pray to them, but our ACTIONS speak volumes.

When we concentrate our efforts on building a better church buildings for ourselves rather than spending time, talent, money on going out to those who don’t know Christ…we’re WORSHIPPING IDOLS.

But when we give sacrificially so others can eat…

…when we knock on doors and offer a free cup of water or whatever…

…when we become peacemakers and reconcilers…

…when we make an effort in random acts of kindness…

…when we become lovers and not judgers…

–when we seek to heal, help and restore…

…when we offer Christ in these ways…

WE ARE TRULY WORSHIPPING THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD.

And that’s exciting!!!  It’s exciting not only for us, but for those who hear about us.

No wonder the apostle Paul was delighted to write a letter to them,

“We continually remember before our God and Father

your work produced by faith, your labor

prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope”

“Imitators” are Contagious!!!

Bill Hybels says, “God wants us to become contagious [believers]…who will first catch His love and then urgently and infectiously offer it to all who are willing to consider it…”  [See Footnotes – iii]

Are you living your life in such a way as to cause people to want what you have in Jesus?

Paul concludes the opening paragraph in his letter:

“And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.  Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath  [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah]”  (verse 10 – Amplified Bible).

Jesus is coming again!

There is no “if’s” in Paul’s wording here.  And being “left behind” as an RELIGIOUS IMPOSTER when He does return… is not a good thing.

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Charles H. Spurgeon.

JESUS' Social Media Post

AN “IMPOSTOR’S” IDENTITY:

IMPOSTERS have religious activity that is not connected to a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  They love to look religious–in a “form of godliness.”

“FORM” refers to an outward shape or appearance, putting style over substance.  Read what JESUS SAYS about some impostors of His day:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”   (Matthew 23:25).

The Separating of Christ’s IMITATORS and the IMPOSTERS:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry…feed you…or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

And the IMPOSTERS…the “goats” on the left response?

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”  (V. 44)

“He will reply,  ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did NOT DO for one of the least of these, you DID NOT DO FOR ME”  (V. 45).

The “impostor’s” destiny…

“…they will go away to eternal punishment”

The “imitators” outcome…

“but the righteous to eternal life”  (V. 46).

So where do you belong in your community?

A Imitator…or an Impostor?

Footnotes:

[i]  Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics @ http://elyrics.net > Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics to Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road.

[ii] Story from Kenneth Sauer.

[iii]  Bill Hybels, Contagious Christian, pg. 23

 

“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder!”

ISAIAH 2:2-5:

[2]  In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

[3]  Many peoples will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

[4]  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

[5]  Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

[New International translation]

THE TEMPLE – (verse 2 a.):

SOLOMON'S TEMPLE -Artist's Rendition
SOLOMON’S TEMPLE -Artist’s Rendition

Solomon’s Temple was built on the mountain of the Lord, Mount Moriah, highly visible to all the people of Jerusalem.

[For more on the Temple’s significance, See 2 Chronicles 3-6].

“In the last days…”

Bible prophecy is much like peeling an onion.  As you peel the onion, it gets stronger the farther down you go and at the same time, each layer is significant in its own right.   This certainly applies here in Isaiah.  [https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012-03-13/peeling-an-onion:-the-many-layers-of-biblical-prophecy/.]

Revealing the Core
Revealing the Core

 

 

VERSES 2-5–“A Hymn of Hope for Zion”–

This is the looking forward to the “someday” of the LORD.  In the Old Testament, the “someday…” had reference to a time of the victorious interposition by GOD for the overthrow of the foes of Israel, e.g. Isaiah 2:12.  [Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary.]

Then in VERSE 6…HOPE is dashed in fragments:

Surely [LORD]  You have rejected and forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled  [with customs]  from the east and with soothsayers [who foretell] like the Philistines; also they strike hands and make pledges and agreements with the children of aliens.  (Amplified Bible)

THE WORLD TODAY:

VERSE 6 can be talking very much of the world today, where the church has largely abandoned its people.  The indifference of Christ’s teaching is diminishing as we allow, even encourage the teaching of foreign religions.

We sing songs proclaiming that we will not serve foreign gods, and society still encourages others to do so.

THE RESULT?  

We have a growth in the Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Eastern and mystical worship in our society and a confusion of belief.  Even church leaders talk about acceptance and incorporation of foreign worship into the worship of the One True God!

Exodus 20:3, 4 – King James Bible:

Thou shall have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Living In Today As Christians…

There will be a tomorrow, and a sense of tomorrows after that.  We’ve rested on our laurels; do we really believe Christ will return for His people?  Christ’s second coming becomes empty, a set of words which gives us comfort, becomes diluted, has little meaning.

THE SOMEDAY OF THE LORD – another layer of the onion revealed–

The day of the LORD will come…

JESUS has promised it… (Matthew 26)

The prophets foresee it…

The apostles affirm it…

Malachi 4:1, 2 a – NIV Bible:

“SURELY THE day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day this is coming will set them on fire,”  says the LORD Almighty.  “Not a root or a  branch will be left to them.  [2] But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…

Joel 2:30, 31 – AMPLIFIED:

And I will show signs and wonders in the heavens; and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  [31] The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood BEFORE the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.

WE NEED TO  KEEP WATCH– 

“What!  Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with Me…”  (Matthew 26:40).

The Greek word “watch” is Gregorio; translated means: “spiritual alertness”; “be vigilant”.  [i] See Footnote.

Keeping WATCH of World Events Occurring…

Matthew 24:6-8:

[6]  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

[7]  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place;

[8]  All this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the birthpangs  [of the intolerable anguish].

Our attention these days is being focused on the trials and problems of our own lives; the increasing interest rates, inflation, negative equity for mortgage loans, increasing personal debt in America.

I read this week in my WORD STUDY investigation, an article entitled Debt Slavery:  30 Facts About Debt In America That Will Blow Your Mind  [ii] See Footnote.

“When your finances are dominated by debt, it makes it really hard to ever get ahead.  Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.  According to the Federal Reserve, median household debt in America has risen to $75,000.

MEN AND WOMEN IN THE LAND…

Across the land people are working hard in offices, factories, schools, etc., just trying to keep up…forgetting sometimes to WATCH!

Matthew 24:41, 42:

[41]  Two women will be grinding at the hand-mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

[42]  WATCH therefore, for you do not know in what kind of day [whether a near or remote one] your LORD is coming.

You may be sleeping in your bed, and some will be taken…and some will be left behind.  These are the words of JESUS himself!  We ignore them at our peril because a great and terrible day of the LORD is coming.

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD  (Isaiah 2:3):

GOD  WILL JUDGE (Verse 4), and we shall have to stand before Him.  The Big Question is,  “in what frame of soul will we stand there?”  

As the story of our lives are REVEALED, what will you be thinking?

What matters even more…the Book in Jesus’ hands, the Lamb’s Book of Life–Revelation 20:12

The Book of Life
The Book of Life

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.”

IF our names are written there, have NO FEAR…for all of our past sins, our failures will be washed away.  Our past has been nailed on the Cross at Calvary.  We’ll be standing in WHITE ROBES, washed in the Blood of the Lamb!

Perfection is Attainable!

Here lies the great JOY that one day we will know:  PERFECT LIGHT–PERFECT PEACE–PERFECT JOY–PERFECT LOVE–in the eternal presence of GOD!  Nothing can take that perfection away from us, absolutely nothing!

Do you find yourself sitting on a pile of poop these days?

“Job was stuck on his dung hill”

I’ve been reading in my devotion time in the mornings, about the life of Job.  Living as I do in “dairy country”, I’m quite familiar with cow “dung.” You can see it, smell it every time one takes a walk in the morning or evening.

Job’s family had mainly been killed in tragedy.  His wife was against him and his best friends could only tell him he was in this situation because…he was a terrible sinner and GOD was punishing him.  FRIENDS can be that way sometimes, well-meaning as they may be.

Still… Job could say, in the middle of it all…

Job 19:23-27 – NAS Bible:

“Oh that my words were written!  Oh that they were inscribed in a book!  That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! 

“And as for me, I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall not see another.  My heart faints within me.”

In spite of his present circumstances, Job could confidently know and say,  “I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES,”  “IN MY FLESH I WILL SEE GOD.”

Rev21_1_New_Jerusalem_Gustave_Dore_L_Sotka_2012IN THE “LAST DAY” A New Jerusalem–Revelation 21:2:

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband;”

Do you have the same confidence of Job?  Do you know on the last day of judgement, your Redeemer lives; that you’ll see Him with your own eyes?

You can know it, right where you’re sitting.  All it takes is for you to accept Jesus Christ as your LORD and Saviour.  He will stand there with you… and for you as your advocate.

I know I’ll be standing there, when The Roll is Called Up Yonder  for the children of God  [iii] See Footnote.

Yes, our past is nailed on the Cross at Calvary, but our future is tied to the RISEN CHRIST; the RISEN CHRIST who is going to return for His bride, the Church.

JESUS is coming again…

An old hymn I used to sing every sunday morning, while the choir came from the basement of the church, into our places on the platform.  It was a song written and composed by John W. Peterson:

Coming again,  coming again;

Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening and maybe soon!

Coming again, coming again;

O, what a wonderful day it will be,

JESUS is coming again!

But will you be ready?

Or, will you’ve been diverted into the concerns of this world?  That doesn’t mean, using the cliché,  “We’ve become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use.”  

There will be a day…

When JESUS is standing with you as your ADVOCATE–claiming us as His own!  So, when “the Roll is called up yonder,” will you be there?  Just come to JESUS as you are, and claim Him as your own!

The Bride of Christ--The CHURCH
The Bride of Christ–The CHURCH

 

PHOTO CREDIT: The First Temple – Solomon’s Temple from the Jewish Virtual Library.org/…/The-Temple.html.; New Earth, New Jerusalem ONION STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY – http://www.inmagine.com;  christimages.org/biblebooks/Book of Revelation.html.

Footnotes:

[i]  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary;  

[ii] Alex Jones’ INFOWARS.COM

[iii]  Title for this Blog came from:  Words & Music by James M. Black, 1893 cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/h/e/whenroll.htm.

 

 

 

Reigniting the Olympic Flame

Sochi, Russia Olympic Flame
Sochi, Russia Olympic Flame

Well, after 16 grueling days, the flame was extinguished for the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia and in four years, the flame will be reignited in Pyeoncheng, Korea.

The OLYMPIC flame towered this year over Fisht Stadium so huge, so massive, it literally could be glimpsed from space.

Photo from 220 miles up in space
Photo from 220 miles up in space

The astronauts on the international Space Station took this photo, showing the flaming cauldron as the spacecraft drifted over Russia’s vacation spot on the Black Sea.  The picture was taken from 220 miles up in the air. [photo courtesy of Mail Online].

In a report from Sochi, NBC’s Brian Williams said when the torch was ignited, “the soaring torch is the most powerful, the loudest, of any Olympic Game.”

I wasn’t ready for the flame to be taken down.  In fact, as Christians, we ought to continually be LIGHTING THE FIRE from within.  How OLYMPIC could that be to the unsaved world today.

Being Olympic Ready!

The Urban Dictionary defines “Olympic” this way:  The true original definition of athleticism; being allowed to represent your country is considered the ultimate goal for almost every athlete in the world.

As Christians, what better ways can we represent our Lord and Savior, reigniting Holy Spirit fire in our lives.  The Light of the World, Christ Jesus, shining through us like a grand Olympic Flame to the rest of the world!

Reigniting the Fire!

GOD wants to speak to you today where you sit.  He wants a stirring within your soul, deep from within, a FIRE that wants to breakout and fan across your world.

In this Blog-Post, there is a calling for you to ignite the flame, that fire, to spark something inside of you today…that something being the POWER of the Holy Spirit.  And believe me, that is Olympic!

ARE YOU READY TO BE IGNITED?  Because if you are, the cause is greater than you!  The cause is Christ Jesus:

The Cause of being…

A difference maker,

Sharing the LOVE, 

Sharing acceptance,

Sharing the forgiveness of Jesus with those around you.

The prophet Isaiah said,

For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest until her imputed righteousness and vindication go forth as brightness, and her salvation radiates as does a burning torch”  (Isaiah 62:1 AMP).

Isaiah couldn’t keep quiet; there was a fire that burned in his belly.  He was going to keep telling people about GOD until RIGHTEOUSNESS rang out in the cities, until SALVATION became a blazing torch in the land.

“Evil triumphs when good people remain silent”

Today is the time!  The time to reignite the fire that was maybe just barely flickering within and become no longer by silent, becoming agents of change.

How Can We Ignite the Flame?

We do it with the flame of…PASSION.

Society has categorized our time in history as “passionless.”  They are wrong!  Being bombarded by a multi-media experiences of life…we’re overloaded, pure and simple.  But the flame within our spirit flickers; burns for the intimacy of relationship.  To reignite the fire within, we need to have a PASSION for God.

The Psalmist wrote of PASSION  in Psalm 86:11-12: 

[11] Teach me Your way,  O Lord, that I may walk and live in Your truth; direct and unite my heart to fear and honor Your name.

[12] I will confess and praise You,  O Lord my God, with my whole (united) heart; and I will glorify Your name forevermore.

The Fire Is Protect and Kept in a Safe Place…

The Olympic Flame comes from Athens, Greece each Olympics.  Our source for the FIRE comes from God and to visualize the flame, we need to establish it from within a vertical relationship.

Relationship on the rocks?

In an article, “Relationship on the Rocks?” written by Julie Orlov, she addresses married couples relationships when they grow cold.  She points out the breakdowns that can happen by asking the question, “Where has the spark gone?”  Many couples after some years have gone by, or when the kids have moved out, look at each other as if they’re compatible roommates; the relationship has lost the PASSION!  And for man, there comes a time when that level of complacency is no longer acceptable.

Crying Out to God…

We need to “cry out” to God, not to be complacent in relationship with Him.

OUR Prayer:  Teach me how to be more passionate for You, showing me the way You would have me walk through this life on earth.  God, direct my heart so I will respect, trust, and honor You in all ways, in all things.

Stirring the Flame of Commitment!

We stir the flame until it burns within our soul and we cannot remain silent because…we are PASSIONATE with commitment to God.  And by the way…this conversation we should have with our life-mate…establishes the horizontal relationship as well.

PASSIONATE WITH COMMITMENT!

Not only do we need to have PASSION for God, we need to have:  A PASSION FOR OTHERS.

In Psalm 2:8, God gives us this information:  “Ask of Me, and I will give You [Jesus] the nations as Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.”

When we have PASSION for God, we will have PASSION to do the work of our heavenly Father, the work of seeing the world come to JESUS.

When we allow the FIRE OF GOD to burn within, comes a passionate heart cry for the lost people in our community and around the world. This is the PASSION I have within my soul and spirit to write a weekly blog.  We all need to have PASSION to dream God’s dreams!!!

The Truth Is the Value of Our PASSION:

Like FIRE, our PASSION will be judged finally by the amount of warmth and light it transmits.

FIRE must be controlled…

To live passionately, we must develop DISCIPLINE.  Fanatics like foresting fires, burning brightly through the landscape, but at the same time, destroying everything that is tender and green in its path!  To be useful, FIRE must be controlled.

To LOVE PASSIONATELY, we need to form the bonds of COMMITMENT.

Inspiration;

Not only do we need PASSION in our lives, we need to also have INSPIRATION.

Talk to people who have been successful in life, they will tell you how they found someone they can point to for the inspiration of their achievement.

If you need some inspiration right now in your life, read the lives of the great men and women of FAITH in Hebrews 11, then reflect on Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.

If you are going to light the torch within, you are not only going to need PASSION and INSPIRATION, you’ll need PERSPIRATION!

Perspiration in Preparation
Perspiration in Preparation

Perspiration–how do we know the fire is aflame?

WHERE’S THE SMOKE?  WHERE’S THE FLAME?

The NBC news anchor, Brian Williams mentioned while in attendance, when the Olympic Flame was ignited in Sochi, the flame sounded like a Jet Airplane taking off at an airport!  Now that would certainly get your attention, wherever you were at the time.

James 2:26 says,  “For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead.”

Questions need to be answered before reigniting the flame–

WHAT ARE YOUR DESIRES?

WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS?

WHAT ARE YOU PUTTING YOUR BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS INTO?

WHAT FIRE IS BURNING INSIDE OF YOU?

We can all come up with EXCUSES, why we can’t, sitting back and doing nothing in reaching people around us to come to JESUS, or we can go for the GOLD; allow the Holy Spirit to IGNITE the fire within while accomplishing great things in Jesus’ name.

Now is the Time!

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begin in 2016; where the Olympic Torch will once more be reignited.  But the athletes are in training and getting ready for the games, in the right now!  Their PASSION, INSPIRATION, PERSPIRATION is now!!!  If they waited for 2016 to be prepared, it would mean nothing.

BUT now is the time for us, for the flame to be stirred for igniting the fire within.  RIGHT NOW is the time to be PASSIONATE about life, to not only look to others for inspiration, but to be an inspiration to others around us.

It’s time to PERSPIRE, to get into action before difference makers.

Don’t Wait till it’s Too Late–It’s a Matter of Life and Death!

People are dying around us every day, hour, minute, second–friends, family, co-workers.  And remember, we don’t need to be observed from a Space Station 280 miles above the earth to be seen.  Our Olympic Flame just needs to be reignited to the lost in our cities, communities and our neighborhoods.

Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because ALL MEN SINNED.  (Romans 5:12).

For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 6:23).

The HOPE to be Conveyed to others in Romans 8: 

[Romans 8:1-2; 9-19, 24-25].

A Prayer for Lighting the Fire Within:

Father, I know by the current events surrounding my life, the time for Your Sons return is growing nearer everyday.  There are people in my community, my neighborhood, my family that doesn’t know Him.  Your Word says that I need to share the Gospel message as Your Spirit leads.  I desire it Lord.  Light my fire within my heart and give me the right words to say at any given time.  The time IS now!

Thank You Father God, in Jesus’ name.