“If the foundation be destroyed…”

Scripture:  Psalm 11:3; Isaiah 58:12

A Christian college professor asked his doctoral students to complete a theological survey of congregations – They learned that many churches, over 56%, don’t know their church’s basic theological positions.  They can neither summarize nor explain their church’s doctrine.  There are many reasons why, and that brings me to this week’s blog.  

Many people have asked me over the last few years, what “denomination” am I member of”.  They are somewhat taken back when I answer, “I’m a fundamentalist!  I don’t ‘belong’ to any “denomination”.

So what is a “fundamentalist”?

GOING BACK TO THE “BASICS” 

The Huffington Post revealed its ignorance in an article that attempted to portray the President’s nominee for Army Secretary as some sort of Christion fundamentalist weirdo:

“Trump’s Army Pick:  Looking at Victoria’s Secret Catalogs Can Turn

Men Into Saddam Hussein,” 

…read a headline that was published.

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM –

Over the past several years I’ve heard and read about attacks on the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

It was suggested in a recent television program that Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, that Mary’s conception was the result of being raped by a Roman soldier.  Such attacks aren’t new:

John 6:42 (NIV)

The said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we knew?  How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Years ago it was reported that a certain Anglican priest expressed his view that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, rather, he merely ‘swooned’ or passed out then regained consciousness a few days later.  After showing Himself to the apostles, he moved to Egypt and lived to a ripe old age.

Mark 15:44-45


Such attacks against the FUNDAMENTALS OF OUR FAITH must not be swept under the carpet.

Galatians 1:6 (NIV)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in  the grace of Christ and is turning to a different gospel–“

“Those who take pride in their steadfastness shall fall the hardest”  (Quotes & Things, D. Collins ).

1 Corinthians 10:12 (AMP)

“Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he falls [into sin].

Manufacturers Know 3 Secrets of Increasing Sales:  Advertise, advertise, advertise.

A carefully crafted advertisement, frequently repeated during primetime viewing to increase sales.

Someone once laid down two guidelines for selling a LIE:

  • Keep repeating it to yourself until you believe it, then…
  • Tell it again and again to as many people as possible.

WE NEED TO BE SELECTIVE IN REGARDS TO THAT WHICH WE EXPOSE OURSELVES…

Or we’ll end up believing a LIE.

But more than that, we need to ‘repeat to ourselves’ over and over again the fundamental truths of the gospel so that we might remain fully convince and firmly established in the TRUTH.

Read carefully the instruction that God gave to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV)

[6]  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  [7]  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  [8]  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  [9]  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

[18]  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   [19] Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

NOTE too, what the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians:

[Also read 2 Peter 3:1-2, 17; Proverbs 3:3]

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL THAT NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD:

Isaiah 58:12 (AMP)

[12] And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell in.

#1.  The Virgin Birth.

The record concerning Jesus’ birth:

What does the record say concerning the Birth of Jesus?

Luke 1:26-55

 

AND, in Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

The facts presented by Luke and Matthew are clearly to the point.  Mary was a virgin.

In case there might be any doubt, what is meant by the word ‘virgin,’ (some say it just means ‘young woman’), it’s clear from the text that it means ‘one who hasn’t had sexual intercourse’.

Mary says, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34)

Matthew states that This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 1:18)

To deny the fact of the virgin birth is to deny that Jesus is the eternal Word of God who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” as the Scriptures affirm.

AND…

AND…

“The first man [was] from out of earth, made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven”  (1 Corinthians 15:47 – Amplified version).

DENY that Jesus is God’s one and only Son as the Scriptures affirm:

[Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:9]

The Word of God says of those who DENY the fact of the Virgin Birth and that Jesus came in the flesh is plain:

  • They are not of God (1 John 4:2-3).
  • There are deceivers and an antichrist:  2 John 1:7 (NIV)

[7]  I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.  Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

THE DEATH ON THE CROSS

The record of Jesus’ death on the cross:

What does the Bible say concerning Jesus’ CRUCIFIXION?

Acts 2:23 (AMP)

“This Jesus, when delivered up according to the definite and fixed purpose and settled plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and put out of the way [killing Him] by the hands of lawless and wicked men.”

The evidence presented by the evangelists are quite clear:

  • JESUS “gave up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50)
  • When the soldiers came to Jesus, they “saw that He was dead already” (John 19:33)
  • John also notes the fact of the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear (John 19:34)

To deny that Jesus died on the cross is to deny that Jesus has died for all our sins.

[Also READ: 1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Romans 5:6]

To DENY that we have been RECONCILED. JUSTIFIED, then we are still alienated; separated from God’s mercy and grace.

Romans 5:10 (NIV)

“For if,  while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

To DENY that Jesus tasted death for everyone, it means we must pay the price for our sins after all (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 2:9).

To DENY that the Devil has been rendered powerless!  (Hebrews 2:14)

THE RESURRECTION

The record stated of the resurrection:  (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-31)

The RECORD clearly states that Jesus was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5), and He appeared to His disciples (Matthew 28:8-9; John 20:14, 10).

The disciples saw and touched His wounds  (John 20:20, 26-28)

To DENY the RESURRECTION is to…

Regarding Jesus:

Say that His soul was left in Hades and that death has dominion over Him, and the pains of death haven’t been loosed.

Acts 2:31 (NIV)

“Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay…”

Romans 6:9 (NIV)

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”

Acts 2:24 (NIV)

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

DENY THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD:

Romans 1:4 (AMP)

“And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness was openly designated the Son of God in power [in a striking triumphant and miraculous manner] by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

DEMY THAT JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and ruling from His throne:

Ephesians 1:20-21; Acts 2:30; Philippians 2:5-11

To say that Jesus will not return:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 (AMP)

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].”

Regarding Us.

Say that everything we believe and hope is in vain and meaningless:  “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”  (1 Corinthians 15:14).

We will not be resurrected:

Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in  you.”

And, we are not SAVED and still in our sins:

  • 1 Peter 3:21.
  • Romans 10:9.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:17.
  • Romans 4:25.

We have no hope:

  • 1 Peter 1:3.
  • 1 Peter 1:21.

The fundamentals of our faith are under attack from the very beginning to the present day, and they will, without a doubt, continue relentlessly until the end of time.

Philippians 3:1

Three of the fundamental doctrines that constantly come under attack are…

  1. ‘the virgin birth’
  2. ‘the death of Jesus on the cross’
  3. And ‘the resurrection.’

To deny, modify these fundamental truths (the HEART of the Gospel) means denying the whole body of teaching surrounding the heart.

We need to constantly remind (READ) ourselves the FUNDAMENTALS of our Faith…the FOUNDATIONS of our Belief, and defend the faith delivered to the saints with the sword of the Spirit.

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CREDITS:

Christian fundamentalism AMERICAN PROTESTANT MOVEMENT written by J. Gordon Melton, Ernest R. Sandeen – Encyclopedia Britannica.

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), and other translations used in the photos and images.

Up From The Graves [THEY] Arose!

Scripture Study:  Matthew 27:51-53

As the Easter season approaches, I wanted to look at some of the strange and unusual events that are recorded in connection with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  These events are only recorded in one or two verses of Scripture and they have a real significance for understanding the power of the death and resurrection of Christ.  The specific passage I want to focus on in this study is this one:

Matthew 27:51b-53 (NIV)

[51b]  The earth shook, the rocks split  [52] and the tombs broke open.  The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  [53] They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

WHO ARE THE “HOLY PEOPLE”?

It’s possible that this refers to the great saints like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It’s possible but quite unlikely.  The fact that the tombs are empty causes enough of a commotion–had it been that it was Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–well that would have caused an uproar in the city.

I get the impression that the ones who showed up were instantly recognized.  It’s like a homecoming with many people in the city welcoming back loved ones who have recently passed away.  The “holy people” we should have in mind are those who have died more recently who now go back to a city where they are recognized without introduction.

In John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, it is said that they were some later saints, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist, John the Baptist himself, good old Simeon, Joseph the husband of Mary, and others, well-known to persons now alive.  If ever you needed a good plot for a movie–this would be it!

Passages like this are easy to speculate about especially because it’s such a brief account.

But this passage wasn’t written to make us open Pandora’s box of speculation.  These verses were written to tell us something about the nature of Jesus’ death.  To see the significance, let’s have a closer look at the process because it happens in TWO STAGES.

The FIRST STAGE happens immediately at the death of Jesus.

You can guarantee that this event caused a big stir on Friday.

The people back then were not buried in the ground like we do today.  People were buried in caves with rocks rolled in front…that’s how Jesus was buried.  It would be easy to see open and empty tombs.  With a little detective work of doing a missing body count, a trend would develop.  Not all tombs are empty–not everyone has come to life.  This was a difficult trend for the Jews to deal with because an event like this shouldn’t happen.  Common belief by most Jews that there would be a resurrection.  However, when that RESURRECTION did take place the Jews expected ALL Jews to rise, not a limited number.

The breaking open of these tombs has created a crisis.

For certain everyone would be asking, “Where are the bodies?”

They will have that answer on the day Jesus rises from the dead!

But the bigger crisis is a FAITH CRISIS–why is it that some were raised and others were not?

This brings us to the SECOND STAGE of the process. 

After Jesus was raised from death, those people went into the holy city (Jerusalem), and many people saw them.  (Matthew 27:53b. – NLT) 

When Jesus died on the cross, everyone thought it was all over.

But looks can be deceiving.

That’s because DEATH isn’t a natural occurrence.  It’s a result of SIN.

  • The grave has every right to hold us unless our sin can be covered.
  • Death has every right to keep us unless payment can be made.
  • Satan has every right to make a claim on us unless a ransom has been given.

And when Jesus breathed His last that’s exactly what happened.  SIN is covered.  Payment is made.  A ransom is given.  And DEATH watches helplessly as Jesus claims what is rightfully His.

It’s the DEATH of Jesus that VICTORY is secured. 

The RESURRECTION of Jesus is more like a victory lap.  SIN has been covered.  The payment has been fulfilled.

When these recently risen holy ones enter the city they do so as participants in the “victory lap” of Jesus.  And that’s the reason why ALL weren’t raised.

All weren’t raised because, in their lifetime, they had their eyes focused on the wrong spot.

  • The holy people were the ones who trusted that God had set them apart, not because they were Jewish, but because He was faithful!
  • The holy people didn’t presume that they had a place in heaven just because they were born in Jerusalem, they trusted in the GRACE of God to bring them into His family.
  • The holy people weren’t those who sacrificed at the Temple and went on with life as they pleased, they sacrificed their hearts as well.
  • The holy people understood they couldn’t do it on their own and they needed God.

Each of those empty tombs represents a person who understands that real spiritual victory can’t be earned…but rather that spiritual victory can be found when we put our trust in God’s incredible GRACE!

So where does all of this leave us today?

I believe it leaves us with a challenge.  What we are seeing here is a preview of what is going to happen in the future.

There will be a day when a RESURRECTION will happen–and it’s going to be a selective event.

Some will end up in the second death, to be banished from God’s grace forever.  And like the people in the city of Jerusalem, none of us should presume which group we’re in.

Looking at the situation from one side of the fence.

  • You may have been baptized in the church–but your baptism doesn’t save you.
  • You may be one of the foundational members–but that doesn’t save you either.
  • You could be a longstanding member–but that’s not what saves.
  • You Mom & Dad, your spouse are believers–but that doesn’t make you any more saved.

And here’s looking from the other side of the fence.

  • You may feel you have nothing to offer the King of Kings–that won’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be having doubts and questions–they can’t stop you from being saved.
  • You may be carrying guilt, hurt, hidden secrets, regrets–they’re not stoppages.

Salvation is totally and solely linked to the Cross.

If we come on the basis of our own merits we are being presumptuous.

If we disqualify ourselves on the basis of something we’ve done in the past, we are presumptuous.

But if we come to the Cross trusting the GRACE OF GOD then we will never be presumptuous.

That is the challenge…but there is also much comfort.  You see, at the end of the day, the HOLY PEOPLE are just like us.

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary – Matthew 27:53; Studylight.org.

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

Photo Images:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

Our God Is So Awesome!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:9-12 (Amplified Bible)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did God get His knowledge?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:18-20 asks the question:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 40:21-24 tells us,

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

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

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

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

Let me wrap up my observations with THREE POINTS:

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

“His arm rules for Him.”  

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

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

#2.  God is a very personal LIVING Being.

“His reward is with Him.”

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

#3.  God is the perfect loving Shepherd.

“He tends His flock like a shepherd.”

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

 

 

 

Psalm 34:18, 19 reminds us,

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

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CREDITS:

Photo/Images:  Google Image search.

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

 

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This man loved people not just like himself.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

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

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

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

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

So how often have you displayed such faith?

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

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

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

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

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

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

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CREDITS

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

Photo Images:  Google Image search

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

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

Making A Name For Oneself

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

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

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

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

The Etymology of Words

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

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

The Looney Tunes synonym.

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

 

The Religion of Nimrod

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

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

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

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

Family History of Nimrod

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

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

Nimrod’s Actions…

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

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

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

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

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

He wanted to take care of himself.

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

Nimrod DISOBEYED God’s Principles.

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

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

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

Nimrod was content in making a name for himself.

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

Nimrod’s Rulership (Genesis 10:10-11)

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

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

Nimrod made quite a name for himself upon the earth.

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

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

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

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

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

And what a kingdom it was!

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

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

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

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

Moving on to Chapter 11 we see furthered domination.

Genesis 11:3-4 (NIV)

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

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

Nimrod had quite a following!

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

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

GRACE glorifies the LORD while religion glorifies man!

Notice the drastic contrast between Noah and Nimrod.

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

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

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

Nimrod’s Religion was secular.

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

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

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

Nimrod’s religion was sinful.

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

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

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

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

His religion was sympathetic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I GET IT!

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

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

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

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

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

NOTICE verse 6:

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

Two dangerous attitudes in the churches:

“Don’t offend anyone!”

“Don’t get involved!”

THE RUIN OF NIMROD (Genesis 11:5-8)

The LORD Saw!

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

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

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

The LORD spoke!

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

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

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

He spoke out against their enterprise.

“This they began to do”

He spoke out against their evil.

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

COMPARE this to Genesis 6:5 (NIV)

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

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

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

The LORD shattered!  (verse 8-9)

“…they gave up building”

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

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

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [I] :  The Jerusalem Targum.

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

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

Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

A King Will Be Born In Bethlehem

Scripture for this Bible study – Micah 5:1-5; Isaiah 7:10-16; Isaiah 9:1-7

MICAH 5:1-5 (NIV)

[1]  Marshall your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.  They will strike Israel’s ruler on the cheek with a rod. 

VERSE One is a prophecy or a “foretelling” of what is to come in the near future.  It is the PROPHECY that king Nebuchadnezzar was going to attack Jerusalem and that king Zedekiah would be struck on the cheek with a rod.  This all came to pass and king Zedekiah, the “ruler” at that time was taken captive and tortured resulting in the king being blinded.

This initial verse in Chapter 5 describes a picture of strife, defeat, and hopelessness.

The following verses are a contrasting picture of Micah 5:1 as the Prophet Micah changes direction in Verse 2 to a PROPHECY for the distant future.

Micah quotes the LORD who states He will send a King with the following attributes: 

He will be born in Bethlehem, a town approximately 5 miles south-southwest from Jerusalem.

Compared to Jerusalem which was a large city with majestic buildings, Bethlehem was small.  When people ask me where I grew up I tell them San Diego, California.  But actually, I grew up in Pacific Beach/Clairemont, California which is an area located about 9 miles north of San Diego.  Very few people outside of the area know about “PB” because of its small and relatively insignificance.

Out of something small and weak God brings significance and strength.

Out of Bethlehem…verses 2-5

Out of this insignificant little town would come to the Messiah, the King of Kings who was in the beginning and forever will be.

He will be a shepherd His flock.

He will provide for them physical and spiritual needs.

He will care for them, unlike the earthly kings that look only to their own interests and well-being.

He will RULE by the strength of the LORD and not the strength of engineering, technology or reason.

His extent of Authority will not be limited to Jerusalem or Israel but will stretch to the ends of the earth.

He will have complete AUTHORITY over every tribe, every kingdom, and every nation.  All because His flock can never be out of His reach or authority and He will be their PEACE.

Through the Christ-child born in Bethlehem, we have eternal security knowing that He has conquered Satan, death, and the grave that provides an eternal home for each one of us who believes in the miracle.  That is PEACE that cannot be shaken if we live our lives according to our Faith.

The Sign of Immanuel – Isaiah 7:10-16

The second PROPHECY to look at regarding the BIRTH of Christ Jesus is in the Book of Isaiah.

Ahaz was the king of Judah at the time (approximately 700 B.C.) and was under the threat of attack from both Syria and Israel who made an alliance together.

God sent the Prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to give him the message not to lose heart but instead be calm, quiet and do not be afraid.  The LORD was telling him that he didn’t need to look to Egypt, or any other nation for armies of flesh because God was going to provide. He even tells Ahaz that “if you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all.”  [Isaiah 7:9]  

That MESSAGE applies to us as well.  Our FAITH isn’t something that should be worn around your our necks as a medal but it should dictate how we live our lives.

Ahaz must not have heard God’s message because it says “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz”  (verse 10).  This time God even tells Ahaz to ask for a sign from Him that what He says is true.

Is it then OK to ask God for a sign?

Well, that depends on the motivation of the heart!

During Jesus’ earthly life the Pharisees asked for a sign but would not have believed because their only motivation was to trick Jesus.

Gideon asked for a sign to make sure that he was going to do God’s will and when he received the sign he obeyed the Lord’s directions in FAITH.

That’s what the LORD offered Ahaz but Ahaz in his pride and arrogance answers with a spiritual cliché saying, “I will not ask.  I will not put the Lord to the test.”  

The truth here?  Ahaz didn’t believe, he didn’t have FAITH and he didn’t want to hear anything that was contrary to what he already planned.

Like Ahaz, many times we come-up with our own plans for the future and when God intervenes through the Holy Spirit we sense that still, small voice telling us that we should PRAY, or He gives us that uneasy feeling that what we are planning on doing is not what God wants us to do and many times we don’t want to hear it.  We like OUR plan and it makes perfect sense to us.

But the sign that God gave to Ahaz is the same sign that He gave to the whole world.  Isaiah told Ahaz,

To Us, A Child Is Born!

The third prophecy I want to look at with you regarding the BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST in Isaiah 9:1-7.

The NINTH CHAPTER begins…

[1] But [in the midst of judgment there is the promise and the certainty of the Lord’s deliverance and] there shall be no gloom for her who was in anguish.  In the former time [the LORD] brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time, He will make it glorious, by the way of the Sea [of Galilee, the land] beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.  (Amplified Bible)

“And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

This is the very reason for us to REJOICE, this year and every year and every single day because you and I have seen a great light and that great light has dawned on us.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God has been given to us in a spectacular way.  Jesus refers to Himself as the Light of the World in John 2:12. This LIGHT shines regardless of the circumstances that surround us in this life.  It is the LIGHT that gives us hope because it shines in a DARK and DYING WORLD.  It is Jesus Christ who calls us and says…

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden”

With Jesus, we have HOPE, FORGIVENESS OF SIN AND ETERNAL LIFE.

All of this comes about because of God’s zeal.

It was God’s zeal for you and me that caused Him to send His Son Jesus to be born of a virgin in the little, insignificant town of Bethlehem so that God Himself could take on flesh and walk among us, experience life just like you and I, but without sin so that He could become our SACRIFICE paying the penalty for our sins.

He was crucified, dead, buried, rose again on the third day and ascended to heaven where He purchased a place for you and me and offering it as a FREE GIFT!

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

One day He is coming back because Jesus said,  “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”  (John 14:3 – NIV Bible).

The proof given in God’s Word and is true and His PROPHECIES will all come to pass.  So this Christmas let’s CELEBRATE His birth remembering what He did for us, but let’s go even further than that, taking heed of what Micah said to Ahaz in Isaiah 7:9:

“He will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness”

Let’s live our lives according to what we BELIEVE so that others will truly understand the true meaning of Christmas and see that Great Light shining in the midst of darkness.

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CREDITS & SOURCES

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

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

Bible Gateway Commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

The SELF-Designated ‘Tripadvisor’

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE:  Jeremiah 10:23-24

julie-vacation-planning-date-day-plan-webready

This next week, my wife and I our taking a trip to Lake Chelan, Washington to celebrate our 52nd wedding anniversary.  

We have never visited Lake Chelan, so this year, we decided to take the 4+ hour trip as an exciting romantic adventure.  And as always, when planning vacation trips, I appointed myself as the designated ‘trip advisor.’  

You know, the person who plans the car stops for photos, picnics, coffee breaks, hotels, lunches and dinner venues, etc.  Of course, I always inform my wife of my [our] plans, and mostly she agrees.

In my studying this week of the passage of Scripture, I came upon this joke a couple relating their vacation experiences to a friend:

“It sounds as if you had a great trip in Texas,”  he observed.  “But didn’t you tell me you were planning a trip to Colorado?”

“Well,: the husband said, “we changed our plans because, uh…”  His wife cut in, Oh, tell the truth, Fred!”

Fred was completely silent.  After a long pause, the wife continued,  “You know, it’s just ridiculous!  Fred simply will not ask for directions!”

I think my wife can show empathy with Fred’s wife.

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Proverbs 14:12 puts it another way:  “There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, BUT at the end of it is the way of death.”

This is so critically important to drink in, in our journey through life.  And at the age of 74, I  can tell you that it is a definite journey!

Mathew 7:13-14 also tells us of the broad way and a narrow way to take on the journey:

[13] “Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it.”

[14] “But the gate is narrow and the way is straightened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.” 

The BROAD WAY is in yourself–depending on your own efforts to direct your life. The way is considered “broad” because of man’s EGO makes room for it and many walk on this same road.

BUT the Bible tells us that man’s way leads to destruction because we have a disease called SIN.  Notice the middle letter in the word SIN is “I”.

SIN is a mighty opponent because it deceives and distorts our view of direction on the roadway of life.  It makes us think we know where we;re going when we are really LOST!

The Bible gives some great examples of men–Being the Self-designatedTripAdvisors.” while trying to find the way on their own:

Samson found he couldn’t out muscle SIN to find his way.  Solomon found he couldn’t outwit SIN to find his way.  Jonah found he couldn’t out run SIN to find his way.  David found he couldn’t out maneuver SIN to find his way and Saul of Tarsus found he couldn’t out pious SIN to find his way.

But here’s some GOOD NEWS for the Directionally Impaired, who are willing to acknowledge their need for direction concerning the way of life.

The psalmist says:  “He leads the humble in what is right,  and the humble He teaches His way”  (Psalm 25:19).

The prophet Jeremiah knew his condition of directional impairment as he prayerfully understood and acknowledged his need before the LORD and confessed.

JEREMIAH says in VERSE 23:  “O LORD, I know” – the Hebrew word is “yada”.

The same word is used in Jeremiah 1:5:  “Before I formed you in the womb I KNEW [and] approved of you…”  It’s deeper than intellectual knowledge–it’s a personal commitment and intimate experience, a UNION–it’s the same word used in Genesis 4:1: “And Adam knew Eve as his wife…”

JESUS speaks of a similar union in John 15:16 (NIV):  “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last…”

The focus on FRUIT BEARING seems to me an important emphasis in Scripture.

Notice Jeremiah’s FEAR in VERSE 24:  “O LORD, correct, instruct, and chastise me, but with judgment and in just measure–not in Your anger, lest You diminish me and bring me to nothing.”

The FEAR displayed could be rendered fruitless as I meditated on the verse and thought about the impact on my own journey’s end.  Wouldn’t it be horrifying to come to the end of your life and finding you been on the wrong road–that your life had taken a wrong turn and you’re heading in the wrong direction, from God’s perspective?  Would you have the same look on your face demonstrated in this movie clip:  PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Jeremiah understood without the LORD in and directing his life, that he could do nothing–that he would be brought to the end of his days with nothing to show from his union–that he would face a DEAD END SIGN and be fruitless.

dead-end-signJESUS also reminded His followers in John 15:5 (AMP):  “I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”

GIVE PRAISE TO GOD, that Jeremiah believed this truth and acted in FAITH upon it!

He recognized man’s need and acknowledged and understood a life of OBEDIENCE; to a way which was outside of himself or his life would be brought to nothing!

On a deeper level, SUBMISSIVENESS to God’s will mean I acknowledge I’m Directionally Impaired (a sinner) and I need the Lord’s CORRECTION with on-going direction in my life to be FRUIT PRODUCING.

The word “Correct” in VERSE 24 MEANS, “to set right, penalize, discipline, admonish, instruct (The New Roget’s Thesaurus In Dictionary Form) — “but with judgment” or “with justice.” — which implies that which is proper, fitting, measure to mold and shape your life to be a fruit producer.

To me it’s significant JEREMIAH, perhaps the most religious person of his day, asks the LORD first…for CORRECTION.

Upon realizing and understanding his condition, Jeremiah’s first request is  “O Lord, correct, instruct, and chastise me,” NOT correct the other person, NOT change the circumstance I’m in right now, BUT “Correct me, O Lord.”  

This is up close and personal.  Are you up close and personal with the Lord today? Or, are you just playing games; just going through the motions or living on past accomplishments?  I asked myself the same questions several years ago, so I know your answers.

Are you then willing to SUBMIT to the Lord’s chastening, discipline, instructions, and admonishment as He determines it to be proper and fitting, or…are you overriding His direction?

Global Positioning System (GPS) – For a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a device that allows the directionally impaired to cover up or hide their need to be shown the way.  Even when we have a GPS, we often override the directions from that annoying voice because… we think there’s a better way, ignoring the “recalculating” cry of the device getting you back on the right path.

So do you have God’s GPS device?  It’s called “Christ in you, the hope of Glory!”

If you do have Christ in you, are you submissive to His directions–His will?  Are you experiencing CONFIDENCE in the present and do you have PEACE for the future?

If not, the Lord says to you,  “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do extinguish and recognize; have knowledge of and understand)”  [Jeremiah 33:3 AMP].

The wisest thing is to take ALL MATTERS to the LORD and ask Him to direct you.  

The Scripture says it best:

proverb-3

 


CREDITS –

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

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

The “High Places” Can and Will Prevent REVIVAL

BIBLE TEXT FOR THIS BLOG  – 2 KINGS 18:1-8 

I love Bible detective investigation, especially when uncovering hidden truths that were there all the time.  They were never HIDDEN, just ignored.

This week’s BLOG is no exception when it came to looking for the significance of ‘HIGH PLACES”.

HIGH PLACES is mentioned 117 times in the Old Testament of the Bible.  They were centers for Canaanite idol worship that God had commanded the Jews to tear down.  But instead, these places became IDOLS that subtly seduced God’s people year after year–they couldn’t stay away!

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The HEBREW word is bamah – a mountaintop, open-air altars on elevated knolls near towns.  (*Footnote [1] )

In 2 Kings 12:1-3, we read and notice Joash’s promising reign fell short of its promise; for he failed to get rid of the high places.

In this week’s Bible Text,  2 Kings 18:1-8, we are treated to the example of Hezekiah, a king who the Bible says,  “did right in the sight of the LORD”

What then went wrong (king JOASH), and What went right (king HEZEKIAH)?

#1.  What was it about Joash’s reign that kept the LORD from sending REVIVAL to the land?

#2.  What was it about Hezekiah’s reign that found favor in God’s eyes and led to REVIVAL?

The answers to the questions seem straightforward to me, but then again, I’ve been spending time in study lately in The Book of Kings!

Uncovering Evidence –

I see some very specific things in this eight verse summary of king Hezekiah’s reign, giving a clear indication what it was about Hezekiah that PLEASED GOD.

THE FIRST is found in verse 4 and it is his completed…

  • TURNAROUND

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JOASH failed to tear down the HIGH PLACES–

He wasn’t willing to make the effort to confront those STRONGHOLDS of sin and idolatry, and the consequence was the momentum toward REVIVAL; which was overcome by the EVIL of those strongholds, both in the nation and in Joash himself.

HEZEKIAH on the other hand, doesn’t fool around in his TURNAROUND.  He takes REFORM all the way to the hills!

He confronts the pagan priests and idolaters–he says, there is no more room for this kind of activity in my kingdom, because my kingdom is really God’s kingdom.

The PROCESS of Experiencing REVIVAL –

If we want to experience REVIVAL in our lives, in our home, in our church, in our community, we are going to have to make the same bold stand.

We can’t afford to have HOLDOUTS.

We can’t allow the HIGH PLACE of SIN to escape the LORD’S AUTHORITY.

We can’t say, “Lord, you can have all my life except…

  • MY FINANCES,
  • MY RELATIONSHIPS,
  • MY ENTERTAINMENT,
  • MY FUTURE PLANS.”

Today we don’t construct idolatrous clay figurines such as Baal, or attend worship services for Asherah.  But our TEMPTATIONS are just so seductive and perhaps even more subtle than in Hezekiah’s time.

Believers today might avoid the obvious “high places” such as THEFT, CHILD ABUSE or EXPLOSIVE ANGER.  But we tend to be casual about what the Bible teacher Jerry Bridges calls “respectable sins.”

We rarely speak of envy, worry, spiritual pride, sexual window-shopping, gossip or strife as SIN.  But these habits are nothing but sinful deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).

Historically, REVIVAL has come to the church when people have allowed the Holy Spirit to take the hammer of REPENTANCE to strongholds we harbor and once those barriers are busted, the river of REVIVAL becomes like a flood.

The second thing I noticed about Hezekiah that pleased God and led to REVIVAL was his complete…

  • TRUST  

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[5] Hezekiah trusted in, leaned on, and was confident in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that neither after him nor before him was any one of all the kings of Judah like him.  (AMP)

The Bible says, Hezekiah TRUSTED in the Lord, the God of Israel.

There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after him.

Hezekiah’s forefather, DAVID declared…

psa20

It must be easy for a king to TRUST in the resources of his kingdom, to try to devise a way to solve their problems of weapons, and wisdom, and wealth the way Joash did.

But Hezekiah TRUSTED in the LORD!

Without FAITH, the Book of Hebrews says, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE GOD (Hebrews 11:6).

But as we see here, with FAITH and TRUST in the Lord, God is genuinely PLEASED!!

CHURCH, if we are ever going to PLEASE the Lord, He will require from us the same that He required of the kings of Judah–REPENTANCE and FAITH–TURNAROUND and TRUST.

That TRUST must mean trusting in Him for SALVATION–believing that the SACRIFICE of Christ upon the CROSS is sufficient payment for your sins to make you righteous before God–this is the FOUNDATION of a God-blessed life!

With the central issue of SALVATION is dealt with, the LORD wants us to TRUST Him with even more–with ALL of our life.  He wants us to RELY upon Him for deliverance from the enemy, for daily bread, for our families, and for our future.

When we can openly give ourselves to God by TRUSTING HIM with ALL of our lives, and when we do that, (here it comes!)…we open ourselves up to His BLESSING, not that He’s been withholding it, but simply said, because we’ve been unable to receive it!

So then with TRUST as with TURNAROUND, we open the floodgate of REVIVAL!!

The last thing I found about Hezekiah in my reading that PLEASED GOD and opened the way for REVIVAL was Hezekiah’s…

TENACITY –

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By definition, TENACITY is “the quality or fact of being very determined”  [Google Word Definitions].

HEZEKIAH CONTINUED–he stuck to it with a ‘bulldog’ mentality!

It wasn’t that he never faced difficulty, he did.  But unlike Joash, who when faced with a CRISIS…surrendered what was SACRED.

Hezekiah plunged forward with unwavering commitment to the task at hand.  

He continued to TRUST, he continued to do what was right even when confronted by the world’s only superpower of his day, even when he saw his Northern neighbor Israel being defeated and sent into exile.  Hezekiah continued to SERVE God in FAITH and in RIGHTEOUSNESS!!!

If we (the church) are genuine in our DESIRE to see God moving in our lives in a new and a fresh way, and if we long to see His BLESSING poured out across our nation, WE must exhibit the same kind of spiritual TENACITY!

So, why aren’t we seeing REVIVAL today as we should?

I’ve seen people over the years anxious for God to move in power; people who earnestly desire to have a new vision, a deeper understanding of the majesty and holiness of God, people who are anxious to see the lost come to faith, people who believe they have a God-given vision of REVIVAL in their community, people who have begun special prayer meetings to ask God to send REVIVAL, but who never seem to get there.  I know all this because, I’ve been there myself!  I don’t mean to say nothing happens–there is always spiritual fruit when people desire to be closer to Jesus.  And yet, the outcome never quite lives up to the expectation.

I don’t know why this happens for sure–perhaps part of it is, simply our inability to box God to define what REVIVAL is going to look like.  I suspect that part of it is the lack of one thing on our part:  TENACITY

After a few weeks of lacking attendance at the prayer meetings…after a few times2173776885_1108b59098 of inviting of friends and neighbors to church, we quit asking.

After a few days of resisting TEMPTATION…we give in.

We have not resisted to the point of blood (Hebrews 12:4).

 

Choosing How We Are to Live –

If we are going to see REVIVAL, we must choose to TURNAROUND, and tear down the “High Places,” giving God the sovereignty over every part of our life, leaving no place for temptation and sin to take root.

AND, we must choose to TRUST in Christ alone, both for SALVATION from sin–to be SET FREE from its penalty and for all matters of our lives.

AND it cannot be just a temporary decision but we must choose to follow hard after the Lord with TENACITY.

WHAT’S YOUR CHOICE TODAY?

Share your decision if you wish in the Comment Section of this Blog.  Your words just might encourage another.

 

 


Footnotes & Credits ~

Footnote [1] : Billy Graham Evangelical Association – Seduced by the High Places by Scott Morton, May 2, 2012.

Photo Credits:  Google Image Search and Seduced by the High Places provided by B.G.E.A.

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

The Fullness of the Fruit

I remember in my teen years, my folks planting a lemon tree at the back of their property, next to a fence bordering an alley.  This wasn’t an ordinary lemon tree, this was a MEYER LEMON tree.  A cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange.  In my opinion, the tastiest lemon ever!

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Now this tree was a special tree to our family, for it bore fruit almost year round.  It wasn’t suppose to, but it did!  It always seemed filled with bright, round yellow lemons.  So much so that it seemed many of the tree’s branches were on the verge of snapping under the weight of the fruit.

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV):

[9] And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  [10] so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,  [11] filled with the FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS  that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.  [ I capitalized “fruit of righteousness,”  only for illustration]  

This letter of the apostle Paul to the church at Philippi, a church that he established, is a letter of thanks for their GIFT.  Also, it is a letter of encouragement, to stand firm in the faith, to exhort them in humility and unity.

This particular church was a special delight to Paul.  He had developed a bond of love and mutual confidence with this church unequaled elsewhere.  Consequently this is the most personal of Paul’s letters not written to individuals.

“And this I pray” (vs. 9), his prayer for this church comes to a crescendo in verse 11:  

May you be “filled with the fruit of righteousness…”

The word “FILLED” (pleroo – Grk.) means “filled to all fullness.”  Sort of like the Thompson family Meyer Lemon tree.

Paul is seeking spiritual fruit for the true believers at this church; he earnestly PRAYS for them to be “filled to all fullness”, and the “fullness of fruit” only comes “through Jesus Christ”.  

John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, he says “none but a good tree can bring forth good fruit, so none but a tree of righteousness can bear fruits of righteousness.”

It is only as Christians abide in Jesus, allowing Christ (John 15:4-5) to live His resurrected life through us (Galatians 2:20) can we be fruitful and glorify God.

So how do we, the CHURCH bring forth SPIRITUAL FRUIT?

stock-photo-blooming-almond-trees-in-the-garden-259285685Well, returning to my ‘love of gardening’ roots…before FRUIT can appear on a tree, it must BLOSSOM FIRST.  Following the natural progression of a fruit bearing tree, not only does the tree blossom first–then leafs out in the Spring–then the FRUIT follows.

In my study this past week, I discovered that believers in Christ are called “oaks [trees] of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3, AMP)

By nature, we are barren; not one good blossom growing on us; but when by FAITH, grafted into Christ Jesus (like the lemon tree ingrafted to the mandarin orange tree), then we are able grow and bear fruit.

Here’s a good word to add to your vocabulary: Plagiarism; meaning the belief that original sin do not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good and evil without special divine will”  [See footnote [i] ].

In other words, we have sufficiency of ourselves that brings forth good fruit; but what’s wrong with this claim?  Doesn’t the ROOT contribute to the branches?  Is not Christ’s precise FULLNESS what we receive?

“For out of His FULLNESS (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift”  (John 1:16 AMP).

JESUS then is that ROOT which shoots up that sap of grace, His branches.  THAT’S US CHURCH!

IT’S HIS GRACE!

“I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride; I have gathered my myrrh with my spice…”  (Song of Songs 5:1 – NIV).

Christ doesn’t say, “your myrrh,” but “My myrrh.”  If Christians are to bear FRUIT, we are indebted to Christ Jesus for it; it’s His myrrh.

And in Hosea 14:8:  “…I am like a green fir or cypress tree; with Me is the fruit found [which is to nourish you].”

“None but a good tree can bring forth good fruit, so none but a tree of righteousness can bear fruits of righteousness”  [Found in John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible].

What is that FRUIT which a sincere Christian brings to the table?

fresh-fruit-plate

I love the fresh fruit that’s available during the Summer months.  They’re fresh, juicy, and beautiful to look at.

And like the plate of Summer Fruit, what we as followers of Jesus should bring to the table year round, should demonstrate the quality of the fruit as well:

  • Inward FRUIT
  • Outward FRUIT
  • Kindly FRUIT
  • Seasonable FRUIT

Bringing forth the Inward FRUITGalatians 5:22-23:

“The FRUIT of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness, faithfulness,   Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence)…”

The FRUIT listed is sweet and mellow, growing under the Son of righteousness.

Outward FRUIT – Proverbs 15:4:

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life…”

A Christian who is full to the brim with righteousness brings to the table the FRUIT of good speech.  

He also brings forth the FRUIT of Good Works (Colossians 1:10):

“…bearing fruit in every good work and steadily growing and increasing in and by the knowledge of God…”

God will say on the Last Day, “…you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can] and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith”  (James 2:18).

Kindly FRUIT – Psalm 1:3:

“…ready to bring forth its fruit in its season”

That is, one brings forth that FRUIT which is proper for one to bear.

PROPER FRUIT means when we, as Christians, are living holy in our callings and relationships.  As an example, in a JUDGE, Justice is the kindly fruit:  Deuteronomy 16:19 says,

“You shall not misinterpret or misapply judgment; you shall not be partial, or take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.”

PROPER FRUIT ON THE TABLE:

…in a pastor, ZEAL (Acts 17:16).

…in a parent, INSTRUCTION (Deut. 4:10).

…in a child, OBEDIENCE (Ephesians 6:1).

…in a husband, LOVE (Ephesians 5:25).

…in the wife, SUBMISSION (Ephesians 5:22).

Lastly, SINCERITY brings Seasonable FRUIT

Psalm 1:3 says, “bring forth its fruit in its season”;

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that “everything is beautiful in His time”.

ecclesiastes-3-11

 There is a great amount of discernment that comes in to play in the right timing of a thing.  Consider that the seasonableness of a thing, puts a value on it.

For an example, our COMFORTING others must be seasonable.  

Proverbs 15:13 says,  “A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.

When the spirit is broken, a word of comfort spoken in season is putting it in joint again.  

The words that we can say in season in comfort. or sometimes, just being there with someone in time of brokenness to comfort them with a hug, without speaking any words, can be of great value.

Job’s friends pretended to comfort him–but instead of pouring oil into the wound, they poured vinegar.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul.”

Let all the trees of righteousness bring forth seasonable fruit.  

  • In prosperity, be thankful.  
  • In adversity, be patient.  “To everything there is a season.”

 Consider that the seasonableness of a thing, puts a value and preciousness on it.

In summary, RIGHTEOUSNESS doesn’t come from our good works, but is credited to us according to our FAITH.

The same is true for the Fruits of Righteousness.  

By FAITH we must earnestly seek to complete the GOOD WORK God has already prepared for us; but the FRUIT of our labor comes through Jesus–only by His strength do we have strength.  

Only through Jesus will we have the power to run the race set before us with endurance; and only Jesus can produce fruit in our lives. Only Jesus can bring forth increase.  By our own power we can do nothing.

Jesus said,  “If you live in Me and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.  When you bear much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine”  (John 15:7-8).

Living a consistent lifestyle in Christ and His words abiding in us, in order to produce perfect knowledge and discernment, gives us the foundation to build upon.

So our purpose is to be a man or woman who God can use to bear FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS that God can be glorified.

“RIGHTEOUSNESS is the action and positive result from a sound relationship between God and men” (Quote by John Harvey, pastor of Life Quest Church).

We have God’s Promise–if we love God’s Word and do these things. we will succeed and will bear fruit.

 


Credits & Footnotes:

Footnote [i] : Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Photo Credits:  Google Image Search and Photo Pin.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

Commentaries used for in this study:  Howdy Partner! (Philippians 1:1-11) by Keith Krell @ Bible.org;  John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible – Philippians 1:11 @ BibleStudyTools.com