Eternal Security GUARANTEED!

At the core of every human being is the desire to be APPROVED–to be liked.  Our self-esteem is often set by the opinions of others around us.  And from those opinions, so many of us feel bad about ourselves.  That deep down inside our soul we have a sense of failure–failed either to please those around us, ourselves or our heavenly Father.

The Apostle Paul seems to reinforce our own notions of failure in the first seven chapters of the Book of Romans in the Bible.

In my flesh, that is my old nature, Paul tells us,  “dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:5).

Paul sums it up at the end of the chapter by saying, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24)  Then he answers his own question without taking a breath:  “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25).

So it’s not through our own efforts, through our family line, through our associations or deeds that we receive acceptance–but it’s through the efforts of Jesus Christ on our behalf that we are rescued, cleansed and loved and then empowered and changed by that relationship.

Acceptance Brings Security Forever!

“I DON’T WANT TO GO!  DON’T MAKE ME LEAVE!”

One of the saddest stories I’ve read was about the biological mother of this young boy who had won a bitter legal battle to reclaim her son from his adoptive family.  When she arrived with her lawyer to take him from the only home he had ever known, the terrified 4-year-old little boy pleaded with those he knew as Mommy and Daddy not to give him up to this complete stranger.

“Don’t make me go,” he begged.  “Please, please don’t send me away!”

Without an understanding of the courts, lawyers and legal codes, the boy was removed and left to wonder what he had done to be banished from those who had always said they loved him.

Some Christians live with the terrifying insecurity that in God’s mind lurks a willingness to send them away if they fail or disappoint Him.  Despite their love of God, they fear that God will withdraw His love from them and remove them from His heavenly home forever.

In the Bible, however, God promises His children that once He sets His love on them, we can be secure in that love forever!

The place to begin to understand a believer’s security with God is with God,–for a believer’s security is not rooted in the believer, but in the believer’s God.

The Believer’s Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:1 (GNT)

“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.”

This one verse should be tattooed on everyone’s hand–printed on paper and posted on your fridge, and memorized by every believer.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how you’ve acted, who you are–how much you think you’ve failed–if you are truly in Christ, you are NOT condemned anymore.  Think about that, let it settle in.

God isn’t sitting in heaven with a big hammer in His hand, waiting for you to mess up so He can whap you on the head.  That’s hard for us to accept–quick to judge ourselves–so Paul goes on to tell us why this is a reality.

Romans 8:2-4 (AMP)

[2]  For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and death.

[3]  For God has done what the law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Slirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37]

[4]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the ways of the Spirit [our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the Holy Spirit].

We are under a new authority–jurisdiction now–it’s like when you leave your residing country, you are no longer under your country’s laws, but the law of whatever country you go to.

By believing in Jesus Christ, you left the country called “the world” and have joined God’s kingdom–and are now under a new law–a law called “the law of the Spirit of life.”

So, in Christ, we are not condemned because we’ve been set free–[in verses 1-4]. 

Set free from what?

Romans 8:5-8

So set your mind on the Spirit–

That’s easier said than done–but it’s important to see the distinction.  I think one of Paul’s points is that we have been empowered and set free–the chains have been broken–so we can now choose which mind will control us.

Before I was a Christian my sinful nature controlled my mind.  There was a little tract being passed around at the time by the Billy Graham organization during his Crusades around the country called “Have you heard of the Spirit-filled life?”  Inside it showed the life of a person who doesn’t have Jesus–priorities, hope. actions–all out of whack with no order or purpose.  We are controlled–either by the sin nature or by the spirit nature–the Spirit of God.

A life controlled by Jesus has order and purpose.

The order becomes more evident the more time you spend in the relationship in Christ.  There’s a wonderful promise here in that even though we continue to live in bodies we live with a nature that’s opposed to God–one day our perishable bodies will put on an imperishable nature.  Like Jesus, we will have a perfect, indestructible body without a flesh nature–won’t that be wonderful?

So where then does our loyalty lie?

Romans 8:12-13 (NIV)

[12]  Therefore, brother and sisters, we have an obligation–but it is not to the flesh to live according to it.  [13]  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

We have an obligation Paul says–it’s the idea of owing a debt to someone–like a mortgage to a bank.  God gave us life through the Spirit, so we are in debt to Him, He owns us–it’s a spiritual reality we need to make in an outward reality in our lives.  We are no longer indebted to our sinful nature–in fact, we need to put to death the flesh.  [vs. 12-13]

In our Godly relationship, closeness to God means we lose control but given a new nature (verses 14-17).

There is so much here in the above verses and the main point is this: the fleshly nature leads to death and fear–fear of punishment and condemnation.

But when we come to Christ Jesus, we don’t get condemned and we are welcomed into a special, close relationship.

“Abba” was the cry of a child to its daddy.

Not only that but we are now heirs to God’s riches–and boy does He have riches–not the kind you spend in a store, but the kind you live off of for the rest of eternity!

Also, looking at the end, there’s something to sharing in Christ’s sufferings that’s part of the process of becoming a child of God.  [vs. 17-b]

Look at what Paul says about it:

Having this new relationship with Christ Jesus means we will be changed.  Right now, creation itself has been waiting since the fall of mankind for the day when we receive new bodies.  It hasn’t happened yet–but it’s coming.

In the meantime, “eagerly wait for it with perseverance”, Paul says.

How–when we seem to be in constant battle with the flesh and spirit? 

Keep reading on:

There’s a lot of theology in these verses–“predestination and foreknowledge”–commentary, books, etc..

It’s at the bottom of an argument between Calvinism and Arminianism:

Calvinist believe God chose who He was going to save and we had little to do with it.  Armenians believe that we chose God and God had little to do with it,  My position, like a few others, is in the middle–I believe God knew beforehand those that would choose Him and so predestined them–that there is a balance between actions of God and actions on man when it comes to salvation.  What I want to focus on here is in verse 28.

Do people really believe this?  A more literal way to translate this would be:

“to them that love God, all things work together for good according to His [not our] purpose.”

In that case, this Scripture is true:

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises, as some understand slowness.  Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Once that repentance happens, ALL THINGS work together for good.

The word, “work together” is a good one–it’s where we get the word synergy.  

Synergy is where more than one thing works together well–“the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  [Dictionary.com]

An isolated event in ones’ life might seem bad at the time–like my visit to the hospital for four days last January from an acute respiratory infection.  But because my illness brought me to a hospital bed, I was able to share and comfort the hospital chaplain intern who came to tears sitting in a chair next to my bed over a rebellious daughter who was living in sin.  Through my sickness, God gave me the wisdom and confidence to be of some comfort.  It “worked together for good”

The word “good” means:  “BENEFIT”.  It’s not “good” like “virtue.”  

God isn’t saying “well you’re going to suffer but it’s a good thing to suffer.”  “No pain, no gain!”

There’s an actual benefit that God works through circumstances–yes there will be pain and suffering at times, but know that part of this relationship we have with Jesus means in the end, God will work even the bad to our benefit.

Now we might not see that benefit till we get to heaven–and that leads to Paul’s final major point in this chapter:

Belonging to God’s family means facing death, but receiving a rich inheritance.

God is on our side and we need fear no enemy–losing our job or sickness, or hardship or even death and taxes.

What a wonderful picture God is building–accepted into a new family (the family of God).  For ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD,  and God, who was our enemy, is now on our side–but it gets better!

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

So we can CONQUER in God.

The base word for “conquer” means “a means of success.”  Not only that but it’s a “super success.”  An individual, a group of people, can’t be a “conqueror” and be a failure at the same time.

Sin no longer has mastery, trials no longer hold terror, life is no longer something to be dreaded…BECAUSE we ARE conquerors.

Now that doesn’t mean we are free from suffering and pain, BUT we are always connected to the One who works for our benefit–NO MATTER WHAT!

Paul puts the cap on this wonderful chapter of promises with this:

What more could we ask for that “nothing can separate us from God’s love” (vs. 38-39).

God so wants to convince His children that His eternality of His love for them that He devotes an entire chapter in His Word (Psalm 136) in which every one of the 26 verses repeats the PROMISE:

“His steadfast love endures forever.”

And so, if He ever stopped loving a believer in Christ Jesus, He would be lying about His LOVE of being “steadfast” and “forever.”  If God ever allowed anything to separate one believer from His love, He would be a liar.

What great confidence we have then,  There’s no one, nothing, no event, and at no time that you can be torn from God’s loves in Jesus.  There’s no reason to say, “Oh, God can’t love me anymore after what I’ve done.”

Oh yes, He can and does!    Far from separating from you, He wants to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9).

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~ CREDITS ~

Commentary:  Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc., “Secure Forever” by Donald S. Whitney.

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

Images:  Google Image search.

Following Jesus Comes With Risks


THE RISK OF FEAR –

Many people today are refusing to acknowledge Jesus in their lives because of the fear of other people’s opinions.

They are ashamed to be associated with Christ Jesus in public but attempt to confess Him when they find a need for Him when chaos is breaking loose in their lives.  Jesus describes them in Matthew 15:8 – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” [NIV]

Everyone who comes face to face with Christ (via media, radio, tv, internet, church, Preacher, blogger, etc.) must do one of two things concerning Him.  Either confess Him or deny Him.  There’s no neutral ground.

During the final few months of Jesus’ life, He traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem along with His followers where He was crucified.  On their journey, Jesus gave them some very important teaching regarding DISCIPLESHIP.

That brings me to our Bible study and the risks involved in following Christ.

LUKE 12:8-12 (NIV)

[8] “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.  [9] But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.  [10] And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  [11] “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,  [12] for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

WARNING…NO HELMET SYSTEM CAN PREVENT CONCUSSIONS OR ELIMINATE THE RISKS OF SERIOUS HEAD OR NECK INJURIES WHILE PLAYING FOOTBALL…”

Schutt Sports, a major supplier of football helmets for the National Football League (NFL), on their website page has inserted a WARNING LABEL and goes on to give information on the symptoms for concussions and concludes with these words:  TO AVOID THESE RISKS…DO NOT ENGAGE IN THE SPORT OF FOOTBALL.

At least this company is honest about the RISKS involved in playing football.

Similarly, the Bible is honest about the RISKS involved in following Jesus.

Paraphrasing, the Bible says, “To avoid the risks of discipleship, don’t engage in following Jesus!”

DISCIPLESHIP IS GOING TO COST YOU!

Following Jesus means opening yourself up to opposition, ridicule, resentment, harm, injury, and even death!

During Jesus’ ministry, He experienced growing opposition and persecution even from His half-siblings–His own family (Mark 3:21).  He noticed that His disciples were becoming increasingly fearful–even standoffish in some cases as they saw what was happening to their teacher.

So, He used His disciples not to FEAR people, but instead to FEAR and REVERENCE God knowing that God cared for each one of them (Luke 12:47).

Then He urged His DISCIPLES to acknowledge Him before men.

I’ve found it interesting when pastors today give an invitation for accepting Jesus as their Savior at the end of Sunday Services with “every head bowed,” [‘no peaky’] and proceeds to encourage the hand raisers to “acknowledge Jesus as Savior before men”!

How does one do that?  And if they don’t do as suggested, what then?

The analysis of ACKNOWLEDGING Christ Jesus before others have both a positive and negative aspect.

I’ve always voted when asked for the “positive” first before the “negative”.

Jesus said in verse 8,  “whoever publicly acknowledges me before others…” 

Jesus puts our relationship to Him in an eternal perspective.  I like the way the Amplified Bible reads:

“Whoever declares openly [speaking out freely] and confesses that he is My worshiper and acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man also will declare and confess and acknowledge him before the angels of God.”

“ACKNOWLEDGE, DECLARE, PROCLAIM”…the point lies in doing it “before men”!  And if we acknowledge Him before others here on earth, then that will lead to Him acknowledging us before the tribunal of heaven.  WOW!

The Bible says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~ Romans 10:9 (NIV)

To DECLARE Christ Jesus before others mean that we do ALL THESE THINGS, whatever we do, whether it’s at work or at school or at home or at play, we do it ALL for Jesus.

Jesus’ PROMISE –

When we confess Christ before men, then He will declare us at the Last Day.

What a precious promise that is for every believer!

On the day we die, as we stand before Almighty God, everything about us will be revealed.  All our past sins–even those that are secret–will be exposed.  Each one of us will be condemned by God’s Law, condemned by our sin, condemned by our conscience, condemned by Satan himself.  We will stand before God without HOPE.

BUT…and this is a glorious “but”…if we’ve acknowledged Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior on earth, then Jesus will rise up in our defense!  He will tell the Father and all the angels that we belong to Him by faith.

He will tell the tribunal of heaven because of our FAITH in Him because we’ve received the gospel because we’ve acknowledged Him on earth.

He is acknowledging to all in heaven we belong to Him!

His MERIT covers ALL our faults, our iniquities, our sin and we must be accepted into heaven because of what He has done for us.

Not Acknowledging Christ Before Men Comes With Recompense.

This is the negative aspect of not declaring Christ before man.  Jesus said in verse 9,  “…he who disowns and denies and rejects and refuses to acknowledge Me before men will be disowned and denied and rejected and refused acknowledgment in the presence of the angels of God.”  [AMP]

What does it mean to “deny” Him before men?

It means that we don’t stand with or for Jesus.  It means that we don’t acknowledge that we’re Christians.  It means that when people speak against Christ and Christianity in our every-day-world, we remain silent, making excuses for all the reasons why we shouldn’t acknowledge Him.

“I don’t want them to think I’m a religious nut!”

You can add to this list, I’m sure.

Jesus says that if we don’t acknowledge Him we DENY Him!

And if we “deny” Him, He will “deny” us!

The Principles Laid Down In Acknowledging Christ Before Men –  (Luke 12:10)

VERSE 10 is a difficult verse to understand at first.  That said, I find TWO PRINCIPLES that come into play here.

There’s SIN that’s FORGIVEABLE (Luke 12:10 (a)).

I think Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College and author explains it best when he said, “To speak against the Son of Man is to speak against Jesus Christ without fully understanding who He is or what He has done.”  This isn’t the full and final denial as illustrated by Judas in verse 9.  Nevertheless, to speak a word against the Son of Man is SIN.  But…and here’s the good news…it is a SIN God can and will forgive.

Almost all Christians spoke a word against Jesus before coming to saving faith in Him.  But as soon as we fully understood who He was and what He did, we repented of what we said and received forgiveness from Him.

There’s SIN that’s UNFORGIVABLE (Luke 12:10 (b) ).

Here comes the “BUT”–“…but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”  This is where there’s been some misunderstanding.

What does it mean to “blaspheme” against the Holy Spirit?  What does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven?  What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church?

Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation.  If we look to God the Father and then turn from His glory and embrace sin, that’s bad!  If we look to His Son, Jesus, who He sent into the world and then have turned away from His glory and embrace sin, that’s doubly bad!!

But in either case, there’s hope–the Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption.  This redemption is outside of ourselves and available to us as long as we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith.

But it’s a unique and special role of the Holy Spirit plays in our lives to apply the Father’s plan and Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts.

It’s the Holy Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, to make us beneficiaries for all the Father and Son have done for us.

John Piper gives this definition for the Unforgivable Sin:

The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that He withdraws forever with His convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.

Sometimes people worry they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and have committed a sin that’s unforgivable.  The fact that a person is worrying that he or she might have blasphemed is an indication that he or she hasn’t done so.

A person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit is so vehemently opposed to Christ that he believes Jesus is from Satan.  And that sin will not be forgiven!  [See Mark 3:20-35]

The Risk of Hostility in Persecution – (12:11a).

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the magistrates and the authorities…”

Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution.  It was going to be inevitable that persecution was going to come.  In fact. this happened shortly after Jesus. death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven when Peter and John were arrested and hauled before the Jewish Sanhedrin (Acts 4:1).  The apostles were often arrested for their faith in Christ Jesus.

But Help Is On Its Way! – (12:11b-12:12)

[11b]  “…do not be anxious [beforehand] how you shall reply in defense or what you are to say.  [12] For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour and moment what [you] ought to say”  (AMP).

Although Jesus’ promise was particularly directed to the apostles, it also applies in principle to ALL disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.

We can trust the Holy Spirit to help us whenever we speak for Jesus. 

You may feel inadequate or ill-prepared or not very knowledgeable of God’s Word.  That’s not the point! It’s the matter of telling what you know about Jesus in a personal way and pray that the Holy Spirit will take what you say–however inadequate it may be–to do His saving work in other peoples lives.

Finally, Taking A Stand for Jesus Christ.

God is calling His disciples–that’s you and me–to take a stand for His Son Jesus!

Acknowledge Him, declare His name with your lips that He is Lord and Savior of your life.

He is calling you to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus in your home, in your office, in your playground, in your neighborhood, and in your school.

And remember, when you do so, you have the glorious PROMISE that Jesus will take a stand for you on the day you appear before God in heaven.

____________________________________________

CREDITS ~

Commentary:  The Power to Risk in the Cause of Christ/John Piper quote – Desiring God.com

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

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – copyrights may apply.

 

Living In Little, Staying In Small

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

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

 

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

TRAGEDIES HAPPEN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then in Genesis 19:20 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

(Genesis 19:20 NIV)

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

(Genesis 19:30 NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEAR WILL MOTIVATE YOU TO MISS BLESSED OPPORTUNITIES –

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

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

LIFEPOINT:  Delayed OBEDIENCE is NOT Obedience!

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

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

“We Better PRAY First.”

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

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

Genesis 19:14 (AMP)

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

Genesis 19:30 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 19:31

THE GIRLS, Daughters of Lot…

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

FAITH doesn’t deny reality but believes beyond reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Here is another way of putting it:

James 1:13-16 (AMP)

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

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

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

[16] Do not be misled, my brethren.

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

IN STOPPING SIN IN YOUR LIFE!

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

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

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CREDITS ~

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

The Columbia Tragedy:  Wikipedia.

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

What Should A Church and A Charging Rhino Have In Common?

I love hearing kids telling stories of events that have happened in their day.  They seem so intent in their observations.  But I really enjoy the smiles on children’s faces when they have heard a “kid’s joke”, dying to tell it to you by asking the set-up question:

“How do mice kiss?”  ANSWER:  Mouse-to-mouse (mouth-to-mouth).

“How did the patient get to the hospital so fast?”  ANSWER:  Flu.

And then I heard this riddle the other day which gave me an idea for this BIBLE STUDY:

How do you keep a rhinoceros from charging?”  ANSWER:  Take away his credit card.  [See Footnote [i] ].

BLOG-STUDY VERSES 1-24

KEEP YOUR EYES ON A ‘CHARGING’ CHURCH –

Anytime that people, the CHURCH, undertake to BUILD…there will be challenges, there will be opposition…

There will be challenges…

There will be opposition…

There will be trials and troubles.

BUT we must give a “full court press” (a basketball term)–never giving up in the process.

  • The CHURCH (the people) must charge forward…
  • The CHURCH must be built.
  • The CHURCH must grow.

I’m not referring here to church BUILDINGS.  I’m pointing out something vital to the CHURCH–THE PEOPLE,

WE MUST CONTINUE TO BRING PEOPLE INTO THE “FAMILY OF GOD” BY THE WAY OF SALVATION!.

BUT, sometimes, the church DOES stop growing.  And that’s NO JOKE!

It happened in EZRA…and, in looking at what happened to the people of God in Ezra chapter 4, I pray that the people of God in our communities avoid the same pitfalls.

Ezra 4:1-6, 23-24

[1]  When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel,   [2] they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said,  “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”  [3] But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered,  “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God.  We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

FIRST of all, there will be opposition to moving forward.  The church will not grow while her enemies look on, doing nothing.

We see here in the following verses that the ENEMIES of God heard about the goings on…so they put their heads together and they came up with a very cunning plan.  They came to the leaders of the Church, and offered to HELP them!  I’m pretty sure that the leaders would have been tempted by their offer.  Who wouldn’t want some help in any rebuilding effort?

They even gave a believable explanation why they were offering their services.  They said, “WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU…”  and we know, from reading God’s Word that they DID sacrifice to God.

BUT…that wasn’t the WHOLE truth.

We find the REST of the story in 2 Kings 17, where we read about the people who settled in the area; how they came to arrive there and some of the trouble they got into.

And in 2 Kings 17:33 (AMP) we find the rest of the story –

[33]  They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods, as did the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

So, when the Samaritans, “the enemies” came to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders, their offer to HELP would have been tempting…who wouldn’t want some help.

AND their statement about worshipping God was also true.

But they also served other gods as well, and their MOTIVE in offering help, WASN’T so they could be helpful, but their offer to help was so they could get in on the inside–

  • SLOW IT DOWN.
  • DISRUPT THE WORK
  • TRY TO THROW A WRENCH INTO THE WORKS
  • CLOG IT UP!

I might point out here that this plan has been copied over and over again right up to today where individuals or groups are trying to infiltrate the Church–

  • To change it from within…
  • To dilute the message…
  • To try to stop the church from charging forward…
  • To soften the message…
  • To change our stance on issues.

We’ve already seen some church denominations embrace certain practices that are against Scripture.  One such example is homosexuality.

We’ve got to be more like Zerubbabel and Jeshua!

We must stand for what’s right and stand for the truth…NOT truth as WE see it, but the truth as God sees it.

So, how do we know God’s truth?

It is REVEALED in His Word!

Thankfully, God’s people in Ezra’s day DIDN’T allow compromise to affect the CHURCH.  And we see that Zerubbabel and the others said “NO”!

And the Church kept charging forward!

When those opposed to the Church were unsuccessful in getting the Church to compromise, they resorted to DISCOURAGEMENT and INTIMIDATION.

BUT THERE’S MORE…

They even hired antagonists (“counselors”) to work against them.

Psychological warfare has been used in battles for centuries and here, we see that those OPPOSED to the church began using psychological warfare against the church.

  • Perhaps they tried to slow down the shipments of building materials from Lebanon to the building site.
  • Perhaps they just continued chipping away at them to the arena of public opinion.

The USED whatever means they could when compromise didn’t work–using fear-mongering, intimidation, and discouragement.

The OPPONENTS to GOD’S WORK use the same methods today–

They try to create public distrust of Christians and Christianity:  “we certainly can’t have prayer in schools”…we’ve got that ‘separation of church and state’ thing.”

“We can’t post the TEN COMMANDMENTS in public areas because that’s a ‘Christian’ thing”…

“We can’t have a Nativity or sing Christmas carols in school…BECAUSE ‘God forbid’ someone actually starts to follow Christ.”

So the enemies of God’s people create fear and distrust OUTSIDE the Church, and it appears they have been quite successful at it.

But I’ve been concerned for some time that the enemies of God’s people are making inroads into the churches–creating fear and distrust WITHIN the Church.  Making us afraid to take a stand; making us fearful to stand up for the TRUTH and making us afraid to speak out in the name of Christ.

And the psychological warfare continues on.

Finally, we read that the enemies of God resort to POLITICS to stop the CHURCH from charging forward.  In EZRA 4:11-16, we can read a copy of a letter that the enemies of God wrote to the king.

And in Ezra 4:17-22 we READ the king’s response:

[17] The KING sent this reply:  To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:

Greetings.

[18] The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.  [19] I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition.  [20] Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute, and duty were paid to them.  [21] Now issue an order to these men to STOP WORK, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.  [22] Be careful not to neglect this matter.  Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?

THE RHINOS ARE STOPPED!

We see that while COMPROMISE was an ineffective tool against the church…and see that DISCOURAGEMENT & INTIMIDATION slowed things down, we now see that through the POLITICAL process, the church was stopped in its tracks.

As soon as God’s enemies, Rehum and Shimshai and their associates had their ammunition loaded against them, they went to God’s people and forced them to STOP building the church.  And we find those fateful words in verse 24.  “That put a stop to the work on The Temple of God in Jerusalem”  (MSG).

I found it interesting to see who these ENEMIES of God’s people were.

Verse one calls them the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin”, it doesn’t say, “the Chaldeans”, or “the Persians”.  Matthew Henry’s commentary calls them “the rebels of the 10 tribes and the foreigners that had joined themselves to them”  [See Footnote [ii] ].

I dare to mention that the enemies of God’s people are the same today.  They’ll take Christianity, mix it and match it with all sorts of other thoughts and philosophies so that people today are then quick to say they BELIEVE in God– “But there are many ways to God…Budda, Mohammed, the worship of nature…”

But we stand on God’s Word, and God’s Word, in the words of Jesus Himself, says “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”  (John 14:6).

THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!

The Church has always faced opposition,

There are people who don’t WANT the church to charge forward, and SOME of these people may even be people who USED to follow Christ Jesus.

But NOW, they’ve gotten sucked into worldly thinking–the church becomes just another sociological experiment, or the church becomes a pawn in political maneuvering.

But I SAY the Church is simply God’s people, going God’s way, and if we as the CHURCH start letting the opposition get a foothold, we’ll see the church come to a complete standstill, just like it did at the end of EZRA 4.

Is this a way then, to stop those who wish to STOP a ‘charging rhino’, the church?

There is, and I had to search closely for it all the way back to VERSE ONE where Scripture tells us, “the exiles were building a Temple for the Lord”.

It seems innocent enough at first glance but when we read it from the KJV (King James Version), it adds one more description:

“the children of the captivity built the temple unto the LORD”

It doesn’t say, “The children of GOD were building the Temple”…it says, “The children of the CAPTIVITY”.

I don’t believe that I’m reading too much into Scripture when I say this points to their thinking.  They viewed themselves as “children of the captivity”, even though King Cyrus had issued the DECREE to allow the construction to begin.

These people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin still felt the oppression of 70 years of captivity upon their shoulders.  They still felt that these foreign rulers had AUTHORITY over them, and while for the most part, they did have CIVIL authority over them.  GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!

GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!

And they had, not only a DESIRE to worship God together, but they had an OBLIGATION to worship God.  No civil or government authority can take that away UNLESS we let them.

In EZRA’S day, they allowed the ENEMIES of God bring the Church to a standstill.

WHY?  Because they were thinking like children of the captivity.

What does that mean for us today?

That meaning seems quite obvious to me.  The KEY goes back to our thinking.

Do we think of ourselves as children of the captivity?  People under the rule of governments and nations?

Or, do we think of ourselves as God’s children?

Scripture says,  “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and what’s is God’s is our WORSHIP.

AS GOD’S PEOPLE…

We are OBLIGATED to see the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to spread like a ‘charging Rhino’; we will NOT allow the enemies of God cause us to compromise–TO BE STOPPED!

So, how’s YOUR thinking?

Are you a child of the KING, or a child of captivity?

The ANSWER to that question will determine the direction of the Church!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i] :  Oddball Riddles – Kid’s Jokes

Footnote [ii] :  Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 2.  EZRA 4.

Photos:  Google Image Search, Advance Setting.

Bible Translation (s):  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KEY to An Anchor In Any Storm is The Rope

During World War II, Ruth Caye Jones wrote the words and music to a hymn that was a simple, yet powerful song.  A housewife related that in the middle of her busy day she received spiritual inspiration–she wrote what God told her to write down.  The song was written in response to the daily stresses and strains of a woman and her family while living in uncertainty of worldwide upheaval and war.  [See Footnote [i] ]

Here is but one verse from The Solid Rock, Lyrics and music by Ruth C. Jones:

In times like these, you need a Savior

In times like these, you need an anchor,

Be very sure, be very sure

Your anchor holds and grasps the Solid Rock.

 

Sound like a familiar theme?

When it comes to our life…”In times like these” we need to have an adequate ANCHOR for our ship (life).  We don’t need to throw out the anchor all the time…only in storms. God is our ANCHOR, but He is NOT just a crutch or a help in time of trouble.

For many people He is…they only call on God when they need help.  God is so much more…

  • He’s our CAPTAIN to show us the way.
  • He’s our COMPASS to guide our way.

God is there with us when things are going well, to bring us closer to Him.

But in those STORMS, in HARD TIMES…He is there to be our ANCHOR; to protect us and keep us safe.

This all brings us to our Bible study in ACTS 27:18-44 –

For Mrs. Jones, it meant the horrors of war…the poverty of rationing which my mother tried to explain to me when I was a child…tears of those who lost loved ones in battle.

For us today, IMAGES like these, can mean many different things.  Maybe seeking public assistance for the first time…memories of standing in line at the unemployment office week after week.  Oh, how I remember those days.

It may be the pain of watching your child’s life spiral out of control because of drugs or bad friends.

It may be the pain of watching your child’s life spiral out of control because of drugs or bad friends.

It may be watching your marriage slowly fall apart…because of infidelity or external stress.

It may be dealing with the mounting challenges of getting older…diminished health and abilities…a sense of uselessness or at least being devalued.

The Apostle Paul and his fellow prisoners in the midst of facing the STORM–

All prisoners aboard are being transferred to another prison when a terrible storm accosted their ship.  These sailors were probably not rookies, but seasoned salts.  This wasn’t their first storm, so the fact that they were so scared gives account to the storm’s severity.

IT WAS BAD, they didn’t think they could survive, they were going down, and they were making preparations.  So they took ROPES and passed them under the hull and cinched them up to strengthen the ship against the waves.  They even threw the cargo overboard to lighten the load to allow the boat to float higher and take on less water.

VERSE 18 says they did the unthinkable:  “they began to throw the cargo overboard”

They threw the ship’s tackle overboard because they weren’t leaving anything to chance.  They were taking DESPERATE MEASURES!

The next day a few sailors were so frightened they attempted an escape in a life raft but the attempt was discovered by Paul and stopped by the ship’s captain.

At one point they took sounding…checked the depth of the water and discovered it was getting shallow.  At about 90 feet deep. they decided that was close enough to shore because to get any closer, it might cause them to be smashed on the rocky coast.

SO THEY THREW OUT FOUR ANCHORS AND PRAYED–(27:29)

I underlined in my Bible Acts 27:29:  “Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.”

The LAST thing they did was PRAY.

PRAYERS to God was the last-ditch anchors for them.  People who do that…never have Hoped in a storm.

The average depth of the Mediterranean Sea is 4900 feet.  Ships don’t anchor in water that deep, especially the ships of Paul’s time.  They only anchored in the bays and harbors along the coastline where the water is shallow.  I think the only reason they were anchoring at this depth was their FEAR of the storm and being run aground.

THEY THREW OUT FOUR ANCHORS…Why so many?

Was it because the STORM was so bad?  That’s what I thought at first reading.  But I don’t believe that was the reason.  The think the REASON they threw out FOUR ANCHORS is… each one did little good, so they thought there was safety in numbers.

Most of you know from pictures the design of an ANCHOR.

It is made with arms, some two, some more, and these arms are curved with points.

The points are to help the anchor bite into the bottom of the sea.  The deeper the bite or grab…the stronger their hold.  But because the arms are curved, it’s necessary for the ANCHOR to tip over to bite into the bottom of the sea.  If it doesn’t tip over it just slides along the bottom.  Have you ever felt in life’s raging circumstances you were just sliding along the bottom?

There’s more…

So as I see it, the PROBLEM for the sailors was not the STORM, and it wasn’t the ANCHORS, it was the ROPE!  The ROPE was too short!!

BECAUSE of the lack of rope, it wouldn’t allow the ANCHOR to tip and bite–to take hold–that’s why they used so many.

WE ALL HAVE A BOAT IN OUR LIFE…

We ALL get into storms…problems.

We ALL have an ANCHOR…God.

These are the same for ALL of us.

BUT…NOT ALL HAVE EQUAL ROPE!!!

Some have more ROPE than others.  What I’m getting at is, THE ROPE is your FAITH!!!

FAITH is the thing that connects the BOAT (US) with our ANCHOR (GOD)–

WE CAN ALL HAVE IDENTICAL BOATS WITH THE SAME ANCHOR and one holds on better than another.  That occurs because of the ROPE.  One has more rope and his anchor can tip more, bite deeper and hold stronger!

In MARK 9:24 I love the man who said to Jesus,  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.”  Using this passage of Scripture, he was saying, “Lord, I have enough rope (faith) for the shallow water (little troubles) so give me more rope so I can handle the deeper water.” [paraphrased]

I don’t know about you, but I certainly need more ROPE in my life at times.

That brings us to the other things God reveals in the Bible.  

I believe the sailors HAD MORE ROPE–enough rope to easily anchor at the depth of 90 feet…BUT wasted it!

Look at verse 17 in the Amplified Bible:

[17]  After hoisting it on board, they used supports with ropes to undergird and brace the ship; then afraid that they would be driven into Syrtis  [quicksands off the north coast of Africa], they lowered the gear (sails and ropes) and so were driven along. 

They wasted some of their rope, ROPE that would have allowed their ANCHOR to tip and grab and hold…they wasted it trying to SAVE something that was bound to perish anyway.  Paul had warned (Acts 27:10) that the ship they were on would be lost, destroyed.  But they took ROPE from the anchors and used it to try to save the ship.

RESULT:  Rope was too short for anchors.  The ship was lost anyway.

WE ALL HAVE OPPORTUNITIES TO LENGTHEN OUR ROPE…(FAITH)

When the sailing is smooth…more time to PRAISE, PRAY, GIVE THANKS, READ, MEDITATE, ETC.  That’s when we seem to have more time to devote to our FAITH.

HOWEVER–like the SAILORS, we waste time and the opportunity by using the TIME to try to tie up and protect the STUFF that is going to perish anyway.

We spend time…cutting grass that will grow back; watching TV shows that don’t matter and playing video games because there’s nothing else to do.

Am I saying we shouldn’t take care of OUR STUFF, or have any fun?  No, that is STEWARDSHIP.  What I’m trying to say is, we should use more of that time to get closer to God and let Him give you more ROPE so you can handle deeper water.

Look at the SAILORS…ROPE TOO SHORT–ANCHOR NOT HOLDING.

Look at Paul.  Paul’s ANCHOR was holding in the ROCK of God’s presence.

ACTS 27:23-25

For Paul, just having a WORD from God was enough to anchor him and give him blessed assurance.  He knew God was a PROMISE-KEEPING GOD!

Romans 4:21 (AMP):  Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.

The ANGEL OF THE LORD that ministered to Paul told him of GOD’S PLAN (V. 24):

Acts 27:24:  ‘Do not be afraid, Paul.  You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’

PAUL’S ANCHOR WAS HOLDING IN THE FIRM FOUNDATION OF GOD’S POWER!

(v. 44)  …And so it was that all [276] escaped safely to land.

GOD HAS THE POWER TO DO ALL THINGS!

“For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you,” says the Lord, “thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome”  (Jeremiah 29:11 – AMP).

  • If God has the POWER to cause an ax head to float…2 Kings 6:6
  • If God can cause a donkey to speak…Numbers 22:28
  • If God can raise the dead…
  • If God can tell the thunder and lightning to stop…

HE CERTAINLY HAS THE POWER TO KEEP YOU AND ME SAFE THROUGH ANY STORM!!!

Why then did Paul’s ANCHOR hold and the Sailors don’t?

MORE ROPE (FAITH) –

In times like these, we need an ANCHOR.  Be very sure your anchor holds and grips the SOLID ROCK.

Is your ANCHOR holding?  Do you need more ROPE right now?

[Leave your answers or your comments in LEAVE A  REPLY box at the bottom of this page]

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FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i] :  Hymnspiration: In Times Like These by Sharon Hall/May 17, 2015.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, Advance Setting.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Easter Postscript: DEATH HAS EXPIRED!

Where were you when President Kennedy died?  

I remember it clearly.  It was on November 22, 1962, around 12:30 PM.  I was 21 years of age, employed as a stocking clerk at a Grocery Store chain in Southern California.  I worked nights and slept days while living at my parents home and on this particular day I didn’t have to set my alarm to wake up.  My dad cracking the door to a darkened bedroom said, “You better wake up and come out to the front room and watch the news on TV.  President Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas.”

Where were you when Martin Luther King was shot?  Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded?

We have a way of remembering events like that, don’t we?  When something startling happens, when someone famous dies, for some reason those things get burned into our memories.

On EASTER SUNDAY we hear about a DEATH, the most shocking announcement of all time.  DEATH EXPIRED!

That’s right, DEATH DIED!  Our greatest enemy–DEAD!  Our greatest fear–GONE!  Our greatest doubt–REMOVED!  This happened through JESUS CHRIST, who rose in victory and triumph on Resurrection Sunday morning.  There is no doubt that this is true.  Never any doubt that Christ would win.  There isn’t any chance that He can’t deliver you from DEATH and bring you safely into His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

There is no doubt that this is true.  Never any doubt that Christ would win.  There isn’t any chance that He can’t deliver you from DEATH and bring you safely into His eternal kingdom of Heaven.

For so certain a truth is EASTER, even centuries before it happened, centuries before Christ lived and died and rose again, JESUS said through the prophet Hosea:

Hosea 13:14 

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;

I will redeem them from death.

Where, O death, are your plagues?

Where, O grave, is your destruction.”

EASTER MEANS THAT JESUS LIVES!

It means that you LIVE too!  It means that DEATH HAS EXPIRED!  Praise God!!!

Our Savior Destroyed the Enemy.

“Resurrection Sunday” is the MOST INCREDIBLE MESSAGE the world can hear.  Yet people don’t, or won’t believe it, and even we in the weakness of our FAITH are slow to believe it.

DEATH HAS ENDED?  HOW CAN THAT BE?

Our experience screams at us “That isn’t true!”  A father taking his kids to a Seahawk game is caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting on the nearby streets and was accidentally killed.  Every day there’s an obituary column in the local newspaper.  Every day people pass from this life to the next.  How then can I write in a BLOG-study and proclaim “DEATH HAS EXPIRED”?

Yes, in one sense DEATH is still very much in the world, very much lurking behind every corner of our lives.

SO DEATH IS OUR GREATEST ENEMY –

Ultimately everything we do is geared toward prolonging life,  We put AIRBAGS in our cars, we WARN our kids not to run out into the street.  We try to eat HEALTHY.  We WALK, WE RIDE, WE JOG…we go to doctors.

The prophet Isaiah once wrote that DEATH hangs over us like a CLOUD:

No matter how much success we may experience in life, no matter how much fun we might have, no matter how much capital we’ve accumulated, IN THE END…there is the GRAVE, there is DEATH,

DEATH HAS PLAGUES –

  • It plagues us with DOUBT,
  • It plagues us with FEAR,
  • It plagues us with SORROW.

Is being in debt to creditors a problem? Sure.  Does arthritis cause pain? Yes.  Does having our hopes and dreams dashed hurt?  Of course.  But there is no enemy like DEATH, an enemy that stirs up FEAR just by the mention of his name.

DEATH’S ENTRY TO THE WORLD –

The Apostle Paul wrote in the Book of Romans:  AND IN THIS WAY DEATH PASSED UPON ALL, FOR ALL HAVE SINNED (Ro. 5:12).

No, DEATH isn’t merely a scientific, biological problem.  But will SCIENCE ever find a CURE FOR DEATH? No.

Mark Twain once called DEATH the “ultimate statistic; one of everyone dies.”  If the Lord Jesus doesn’t return first, we too will each march off to the grave.

HOSEA HAS IT RIGHT;  the GRAVE HAS POWER AND DEATH HAS DESTRUCTION; DUST WE ARE AND TO DUST WE WILL EACH RETURN, the ultimate proof of our sinfulness.  

We feel GUILT.  Deep down we know that we are sinners.  We are afraid to DIE and stand before our CREATOR.

THE ENEMY HAS BEEN DESTROYED ONCE AND FOR ALL!

THE TRUTH is not just to be recognized during the Easter season once a year, but a TRUTH to be recognized daily; looking to the empty grave of JESUS…“HE IS NOT HERE; HE HAS RISEN!”

I don’t really care what the popular views of JESUS are–that he was only a great teacher, that he was only a great role model, that he was merely a man with moral conviction who bravely died for his beliefs.  He’s indeed more than that; He is your SAVIOR, AND HAS DESTROYED YOUR ENEMY!

THE VICTORY IS WON!

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death…”  (Hosea 12:14)

Many bible translations use the word REDEEM or DELIVER.  In the Old Testament, that word “REDEEMER” has such a beautiful meaning:  The responsibility “to redeem” belonged to the nearest relative–brother, uncle, uncle’s son, or a blood relative from his family.  The person (kinsman) who “redeemed” the one who was facing dire circumstances was known a kinsman-redeemer [READ the Book of Ruth].

JESUS became our “relative”–our “blood brother”–our kinsman-redeemer when God became a man–Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

The Bible tells us HE SHARED OUR HUMANITY (Hebrews 2:14).

  • HE ATE, HE WALKED, HE SLEPT, HE ACHED.
  • HE HUNGERED, HE KNEW PAIN, HE KNEW SORROW, HE WEPT, HE BLED, HE DIED!

But then He rose again from the dead.

All this He did for you and for me.  To REDEEM us, to DELIVER us from SIN, from DEATH, and from HELL itself!

I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES –

It’s comforting to know this because JESUS, our brother, erased our sins.

It’s comforting because JESUS has PAID THE RANSOM for our release with His own BLOOD.

It’s comforting because Easter proves that God accepted Jesus’ SACRIFICE for payment for our sins.

His RESURRECTION declares to you that you are forgiven.  Your SIN is gone!  Your GUILT is dead!

Every wrong thing you’ve ever done has been washed away by the BLOOD of JESUS.

I have had a severe wound on my right middle toe exposing the bone now for several months.  In the next week, because of the infection, the toe must be amputated.  The other morning while in the shower, I noticed BLOOD being washed down the drain.  A reminder of Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for all of mankind; washing away sin.

And Jesus came out of the GRAVE to tell each one of us,

I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.  ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN ME WILL LIVE, EVEN THOUGH HE DIES, AND WHOEVER LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME WILL NEVER DIE (Jn. 11:25-26).

So then DEATH is not the end, but only the beginning.

YOUR REDEEMER GIVES YOU VICTORY!

VICTORY, not just for your SOUL.  It was not just the Son of God that came out of the tomb, but also the Son of Man.

It was not just the Son of God that came out of the tomb, but also the Son of Man.  It was a human being that arose on Resurrection Sunday morning.  By becoming a man, Jesus Christ also became our blood-brother.  And His RESURRECTION means that these tired old bones of yours also comes out of the grave to rise in glory!  My SOUL will be united to my glorified body and I will LIVE–yes, me, not a copy, not a clone, but me!  I will LIVE with my REDEEMER in heavenly bliss.

Compared to other cultures, we Americans are obsessed with our bodies and the way we look.  Yet these bodies do grow old (trust me, I know!) and they radically change and finally wear out.

But Easter gives HOPE to our bodies as well as our souls.

WE WILL BE CHANGED, Paul wrote the Corinthians,  “In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed)” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:52 – Amplified Bible.

YOUR REDEEMER SHARES HIS VICTORY OVER DEATH WITH YOU –

God will raise us from DEATH and give to our souls and bodies ETERNAL LIFE.  That’s His PROMISE to all who believe in Him and God doesn’t and can’t LIE!

Are you reading this BLOG-study with skepticism about what EASTER proclaims?

Then proceed through life at your own risk.  Go ahead, continue to let UNCERTAINTY gnaw at you, FEAR chase you, and DEATH terrifies you.  In fact, that’s not living at all; that’s just slowly dying.

RESURRECTION SUNDAY OFFERS A BETTER SOLUTION TO LIFE AND A SURE HOPE –

It is more than bunnies and baskets of candy, more than nice flowers and long weekends, even more than that family Ham Dinner.

Today is where the rubber meets the road.  This strikes at the very heart of our human existence; will we live or is DEATH the end?

They say that there are only TWO certain things in life:  DEATH AND TAXES.  But, in view of Easter, really only one thing is certain. April 15th (April 18th this year) has passed.  I’m sorry about the TAXES.  That probably won’t ever go away, at least not in our lifetime.

But DEATH has!  The PROPHECY of Hosea is fulfilled!

That’s what Jesus’ RESURRECTION is all about:  DEATH HAS EXPIRED!

Your Savior has DESTROYED your greatest enemy!  Your REDEEMER LIVES to share with you His VICTORY.

And you who believe in Him WILL NOT DIE BUT LIVE – Psalm 118:17:

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CREDITS:

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF OLDTESTAMENT AND NEW TESTAMENT WORDS.

PHOTOS:  Google Advanced Image Search; Photo Pin.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), unless referenced in the text.