“To Brag or Not to Brag,” that Is the question.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 9:23-24, Philippians 3:3-11

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I stole the title for this blog from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question…”  You’ll see the connection as you read on.

To Brag or Not to Brag?  Doesn’t everybody “brag”?

ILL:  Two young boys were having a discussion over school lunches.  “My father makes more money and, my dad can run faster than your dad!”  Oh, yeah!” said the other boy.  “My dad can beat up your dad.”  “That’s nothing, he responded.  “My mom can beat up my dad!”

So does everyone brag or not?  My mother always asked me as a child when patting myself on the shoulder for my accomplishments, why I was bragging about them  My answer, of course, was to shift the responsibility to someone else.  “My friends brag all the time!”  Her response was always the same: “If one of your friends told you to jump off the roof, would you do it?”  I would shake my head no. and she would continue saying, “Quit shifting the blame to others and admit your own wrongdoing, Mel.  You know better!”  Mom always has ways to make you want to crawl under something when coming up with a wrong ‘you should have known better’ reprimands.

So let’s see what Scripture, God’s Word has to say about “to brag or not to brag”.

SCRIPTURE:  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God says that there is something worth bragging about and it’s not your bank account, your position, your education degrees.  God says that there is only ONE THING worth bragging about.

DO YOU KNOW HIM?

It’s amazing how we can brag about everything under the sun, but God says that if you really want something to shout about, can you brag that you know Him?  Because if you can’t brag about knowing God with a personal relationship. then it doesn’t matter how much money you’ve tucked away, what degrees are on your wall, or what position you’ve acquired in your company.

The only thing really worth talking about in our lives is our relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

In Tony Evans’ book, Time to Get Serious: Daily Devotions to Keep You Close to God, he says if God is the all-consuming, all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and infinite Creator, sustainer, and redeemer of this universe, then nothing else we can do matters quite as much as getting to know Him, and to know Him well.

Three Decisions We Must Make In Order to Really Know God:

#1.  LET GOD BE GOD

That sounds pretty basic.  But many times we have a tendency to put God into a box; to trim him down to fit our thinking of who God is.  Personally, I want a God who is bigger than me–bigger than my problems.  A God that Jeremiah speaks about.

I want a God who can handle my prayers, lift me up when I’ve fallen.  I want a God who can save my soul.  I want a God worth bragging about!

And we have one!  In all His infinite knowledge and power, God sent His Son.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:1 (AMP)

God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.

You must be still and know before He can be your refuge and strength.

“Be Still” –

The word still is a translation of the Hebrew word rapa, “to slacken, let down, or ease.”

Christians often interpret to “be still” as “to be quiet in God’s presence.”  While quietness is helpful, the phrase means to stop frantic activity, to let down and to be still.  For God’s people being “still” would involve looking to the Lord for their help.  [See footnote [i].]

#2.  PRACTICE HIS PRESENCE

It’s one thing to say that God is everywhere.  It’s quite another to realize that you are His child.  He is with you everywhere you go.

Psalm 139:7-10  [I want someone with a face!]

Now that’s something to shout about!

Your God is everywhere!  We need to believe it and practice it!

#3.  SEEK TO LIVE A HOLY LIFE

1 Peter 1:16

“Be holy, because I am holy.”

A man brought his boss home for dinner for the first time.  His boss who always bragged, “I’m a self-made man!”  That night at dinner, his boss was loud, rude, and arrogant.  The little boy in the family just stared at his father’s boss but didn’t say anything.  Finally, the boss asked, “Why do you keep staring at me like that, sonny?”  The young boy answered, “My Daddy says you’re a self-made man.”  The boss grinned proudly and admitted indeed he was a self-made man.  The little boy said, “Well if you’re a self-made man, why did you make yourself like that?”  Out of the mouths of babes.

Do you want to be a self-made person?  Or do you want to be a God made individual?

Personally, I want to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

I want to be continually transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

I want God to create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

The more we know God the more we will know ourselves.

People are always trying to find out who they are.  But you can’t know that until you come face to face with God.  If you don’t want to know the truth, don’t pursue God.

ILL:  A woman asks her husband, “How do you like my dress?”  Her husband replies, “Worse thing I ever saw!”  His answer got her quite upset and her husband said, “If you didn’t really want to know, then why did you ask?”

GOD CALLS IT AS HE SEES IT (Luke 5:1-11).

And in verse 8 – When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

But God didn’t leave it here. (Luke 5:10)

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah saw the GLORY of God (vs. 5)

“…for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

GOD TELLS IT LIKE IT IS (Romans 3:23)

“Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory which God bestows and receives.”

God doesn’t leave you where you are.

Like a good doctor, God gives the proper treatment for your life.  For SIN, He offers SALVATION by the blood of Christ.

Paul in Philippians 3 says, “Been there, done that”

Philippians 3:3-11 (NIV)

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh– [4] though I myself have reasons for such confidence.

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  [5] circumcised on the eight day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; [6] as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

[7] But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

[10] I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  [11] and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

God’s PURPOSE in the Creation of Man and the Salvation of Sinners is that We Might Boast (‘brag’) in HIM.

THE BRAGGING (BOASTING), PRIDE CONNECTION —

Whether you agree or disagree, we were made in His image and to BOAST in Him.

We were made to give Him credit for all good.  We were made to rely on His power.  We were made to magnify His glory and His all-sufficiency in our weakness.  This is the source of all ultimate joy and satisfaction.  If God were to delight in anything less and our bragging in Him, He would be an idolater and a killjoy.

PRIDE diverts our capacity for exultation from the vastness of God’s Glory to the gutters of our insignificant achievements.  It’s a decorated dead-end street.  Therefore, God hates PRIDE!

What is PRIDE? 

  • It’s bragging in ourselves and not the Lord.
  • It’s taking credit ourselves for what God alone can do.
  • It’s relying on self and not God.
  • It’s feeling sufficiency in our own strength and not in God’s.
  • It’s the unwillingness to admit that we are mere earthen vessels so that another gets the glory.
  • It’s the reluctance to admit weaknesses that may accent the power of Christ Jesus.

Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “But far be it from me to glory [in anything or anyone] except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), through Whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world!”  (AMPLIFIED)

And the PROMISE OF GOD is this:  There is no greater life, no greater joy than to boast in Him!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Topic, Pride & Humility:  “Let Him Who Boasts Boast in the Lord!” by John Piper.

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search.

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

Footnote:  GotQuestions.org.; “To be still” footnote [i].

 

 

 

 

And I Saw God’s Glory!

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Isaiah 6:1-3 (NIV)

[1]  In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

[2]  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings:  With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

[3]  And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

It’s difficult to know when reading passages of Scripture in the Bible whether God’s GLORY refers to His actual glory or to human recognition of it.  This is true, for example, when Scripture speaks of the earth being full of the GLORY of the Lord.

In Isaiah 6, we see the call and commissioning of Isaiah, the prophet.

We don’t know for sure, but we assume that Isaiah was in the earthly temple.  However, the temple described in verse 1 is the Heavenly Temple.

In the year King Uzziah died it may be like saying the year Pearl Harbor was bombed, in the year JFK was shot, or in the year the Bomb was dropped.  This was a time in the nation of crisis and change that the prophet came face to face with the King of Kings.

HOLINESS tells us that Jesus is the exact representation or image of God.  What many have lost is the holiness of God.  God has become “the man upstairs”, or “the God next door”.  Max Lucado said it well:  “Immanuel, God with us.”

In Jesus Christ, God came near.  Something of the awesomeness and greatness– His GLORY has been forgotten.  The church culture has so allowed the culture around us to shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has invaded our churches we have to be sure not to offend anyone– WORSHIP is all about them.

Here in Isaiah, we see that WORSHIP is all about God.

When we see and sing the words on the Big Screen in church or out of a hymn book, we need to remember the songs are all about Him.  When you read History in the Bible, you need to remember, it’s His story.  What Isaiah got was probably more than he bargained for in a worship service.

God’s High Position (6:1) – Beholding His Glory

[1]  IN THE year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.  [John 12:41]  (Amplified Bible).

Isaiah was reminded that God is sovereign.  When God showed up, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up.  He saw God in His greatness and holiness.  With everything that was happening, God was in complete control while sitting on His throne in heaven.

Here in Isaiah 6:1, looking at several different Bible translations, you can see Lord spelled in all caps–i.e., LORD; and others, Lord.  I just had to dig deeper here.

LORD (all caps or small caps) reflects the original term “YHWH”, while Lord (standard capitalization) is the English rendition of the Hebrew Adonai, meaning “to be”; “the Lord God Almighty, the sovereign or supreme one.”  It suggests that God simply is i.e., He possesses an underived existence; He is the eternal “I AM”.  This name became a special designation–emphasized in God’s relations ship to the nation of Israel.  [“LORD and Lord – What’s the Difference? by The Christian Courier] 

John 12:37-40 clearly tells us that Isaiah was seeing Jesus on the throne!

Isaiah saw God on the throne with His hand on the throttle in complete control.

  • When it says DISEASE–God is on the throne!
  • When the boss says you’re FIRED–God is on the throne!
  • When our children DISOBEY–God is on the throne!

Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, but he also heard the Seraphim cry “Holy, Holy, Holy”

THE HOLINESS OF GOD

The Holiness of God is, His being in a class by Himself with His perfection and greatness and worth.  All His perfection and greatness and worth are distinct and separate–we’ve been taught that HOLY means separate–His in a class by Himself.

HIS HOLINESS IS WHAT HE IS AS GOD THAT NOBODY ELSE IS –

His quality of perfection can’t be improved upon, can’t be imitated, and that determines that He is all of that and nothing is determined from outside Him.

Now when Isaiah 6:3 says that angels are crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”–the next thing they say is this:  “The whole earth is full of His”…and you might think “holiness” would be the next word.

But he doesn’t say holiness, he says GLORY!

Essentially, “holy”, essentially holy, and the whole earth is full of His GLORY.

I stab a definition here by saying the GLORY OF GOD is the manifest beauty of His holiness.  It’s the going public of His Holiness.  It’s the way He puts His holiness on display for people to apprehend.

Read the words from Leviticus 10:3:  God says He will be shown to be HOLY among those who are near Him and before all the people He will be honored.

I will be shown to be holy,” He says.  “And among ALL the people” — say it another way–“I will be glorified.”

The Worship Connection of His Holiness and Glory –

What on earth does all this have to do with our worship?

EVERYTHING!!!

If you divorce or separate God’s holiness from worship, all you have is entertainment.  Why start on time, why do things in order, why not distract others during the song service and preaching?  Because we should be focusing on the greatness of God!!!

WHY THE CROSS?

The cross was ultimately the result of God’s Holiness.  Sinful man can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God.  God took care of the ‘sin problem.’

2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)

[21]  For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

This God that’s HOLY and separate is the God we need to see in our worship–in our everyday living.

Isaiah’s Posture of Humility in God’s Glory and Holiness –

“Woe to me!  I am ruined and undone…”  (6:5)

To Isaiah’s peers, he was upright. a righteous man, a man of unmatched integrity.  AND then just one glimpse of God’s greatness changed his whole self-perception.

It took God to reveal his guilt, it took a picture of deity to reveal Isaiah’s filthiness–his sin.

Have you ever seen God in such a way that revealed who you really are?

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner that’s separated from God without hope?

That’s what the VISION did for Isaiah.  It revealed reality to him–God sees us as we are, where we are in life right now!  He sees your heart!!

What happened when Isaiah saw this VISION of God?

CONVICTION –

“Woe is me!  I am undone and ruined.”

The Hebrew word for “undone”:  to come apart at the seams.  Isaiah was totally exposed for who he was before a holy God.

CONFESSION –

A vision of the holiness of God that brings true conviction of sin is always followed by the confession of sin.

I love Billy Ricks’ slant of this fact:  “Regardless of excuses, sin is a prison from which you can never be freed until you admit it’s your own fault that you were thrown in the slammer.”

CLEANSING –

Because Isaiah came clean he was made clean.  The cleansing power of God went to work on Isaiah’s behalf.

God is HOLY and also merciful.  When we confess our sins to Him, God goes to work.  He cleanses us with the Blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What is the big deal about WORSHIP in Christian America today?

To me, it’s about seeing God in all of His manifested GLORY.  Let me break that down just a bit.  When someone says, “Look at the wind blowing outside,” and when you peer out the window you can’t actually see the wind.  What you see is the effect that the wind has on the objects it’s blowing on–the trees, a flag, a hat blown off one’s head.  So when God breathes, you can’t visibly see His breath, but you can see His GLORY manifested in your surroundings.  Just look around you!

In seeing God for who He is we can see ourselves as we truly are.  The church culture of today has so allowed the culture around us shape the way we do things.  The customer satisfaction mentality has infiltrated our churches.

Here is a heavenly worship service where Isaiah saw a fresh vision of God.  From this vision of God’s HOLINESS, Isaiah was inspired to pen words like Isaiah 40:8.

What churches and Christians in America desperately need is a fresh vision of God’s holiness and His Glory.  We don’t need a new revelation because all that God is and has for us is revealed in Christ Jesus.

We give God the GLORY!!!

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CREDITS

Commentary:  John Piper’s “What Is God’s Glory” at desiringGod.org.

Music Video:  “I SAW THE LORD” by Dallas Holmes – YouTube.

Images:  Google Image search.

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

Let the Church be the Church

Bible Study in 1 Peter 4:13-19

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

JUDGMENT BEFORE CORRECTION AND REVIVAL – 

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

Where Judgment Begins (1 Peter 4:17)

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

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

1 Peter 4:13-19 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So where does this purification process begin?

It Starts With His Church.

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

It has always been God’s plan…

Jeremiah 25:29 (AMP)

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

Amos 3:2 (NIV)

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

Then the churches of Asia Minor 

  • Jesus said to the Church in Ephesus:

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

  • The Church at Pergamum:

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

  • The Church at Thyatira:

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

  • The Church at Sardis:

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

  • The Church at Laodicea:

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

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

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

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

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

It’s always done to God’s people

Hebrews 12:8 (NIV)

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

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

Discipline.  Who Needs It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are we a church that tolerates and promotes unholiness?

Do we tolerate and promote sin in our own lives?

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

Let the Church be the Church!

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CREDITS –

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

IMAGES:  Google Image search.

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

And the Church Prayed

I think we sometimes appear to others around us as people of prayer.  After all, we attend church on a regular basis and that’s what “religious people” do.  But we’re not really.

A Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock to a supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination but couldn’t remember it.  Totally frustrated, she went to the pastor’s study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial.  After the first two numbers, he paused and stared blankly for a moment.  Finally, he said, “You know, I can’t remember the combination either.”  Then he folded his hands and looked heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, quickly turned to the final number and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed.  “Pastor, I can’t believe you prayed and God gave you the combination,” she said.  “It’s really nothing,” he answered.  “The combination is written on a piece of paper taped to the ceiling.”

As a church, we don’t know quite what to do about prayer, or how to go about prayer, or even whether we should have any expectation of prayer working in our lives.

Prayer is a major element in the Bible.

This is a strange text from the Book of Acts,  chapter 12.  It begins like a Shakespearian Tragedy.

The church is being persecuted.

King Herod puts a Christin leader, John’s brother James to death.  Herod finds that the masses like this and it helps increase his popularity, so he has Peter arrested and scheduled for execution.

Then the tragedy turns very dramatically as an angel appears by waking him from his sleep leading him out of the prison.  It’s a real mystery event as even Peter doesn’t know if it’s real, or a vision, or just a dream.

The angel and Peter walk up to the gates of the prison and the iron gates open by themselves.

But then the event turns and begins to feel like a comedy.

The whole church is praying for Peter’s release, and the church’s response when they see Peter is to think, “That can’t be Peter–he’s in jail!  We’re here praying for his freedom so he can’t be free!”

Sometimes our prayers seem to go unanswered so often, we find ourselves expecting God to do nothing when we pray.  Sometimes we don’t know what to pray for in a given situation, or how to pray. 

So looking at the Book of Acts, in particular, Chapter 12, it’s study can teach us all some important lessons about prayer.

The first lesson is, the Church should pray!

That’s simple and very logical.   Of course; you say the church should pray.  But I have to say that I wonder if we pray enough in our churches or in our own lives.  Paul says in his New Testament book, First Thessalonians,  “Pray without ceasing.”  Many of us will reverently bow our heads for a few moments and then stop.

Paul didn’t mean that we should be on our knees all the time or living like Monks in a monastery.  He meant that we should be in an attitude of prayer, so even while we’re talking with others around us, part of our mind is in communion with God.  And when we’re driving down the road, part of our mind should be in a quiet relationship with God.

But for many of us, prayer is a rare action.  It’s something we do much too infrequently.

“You are in my prayers”

We find ourselves in a conversation with others who tell us about how they are in the middle of problemed teenager situation, or they are waiting to hear back from doctors and the news might not be good, or they’re struggling to find a job and we give them what we think is comforting–but they aren’t in our prayers.  We say we’ll pray for them but we won’t.  I often will ask them right where they are if I can pray for them at the point of the request.  It helps them know they have my attention and it’s a good reminder for me to keep praying!

One of the things we see in this passage of Acts is that the Church prayed!

Praying is the most powerful thing that we can do as a church.  We need to pray as a community.

Prayer for me is often a private thing.  In the mornings when I’m reading my Bible, it becomes my prayer time as well in which I’m alone with my heavenly Father.  I like to call it ‘Father/son time’.

Hopefully, personal and private time prayer is something we all do, but we also need to pray in community.  It doesn’t have to be the entire church–it could be your small group or your Sunday School Class, or a few church members you contact via email.

The church finds strength as a praying community for one another.

Peter finds the church gathered together in prayer for him.

The strange thing is that even though the church is gathered specifically in prayer for him, a comic moment transpires as the church is caught off guard with the fact that God has heard and answered their prayers.  This brings us to another important lesson about prayer in the Book of Acts:

When we pray, we should expect God to respond!

Looking at the Bible you’ll find many times when prayers were answered.  Abraham’s servant prayed for God’s direction in finding a wife for Isaac, and God led him to Rebekah (Genesis 24:12-15).  

David prayed for strength and was able to defeat Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  

We tend to forget however, there are many times in the Bible that prayer seems to be left unanswered.

Paul prayed three times for the removal of that “thorn in the flesh.”  

Even Jesus prayed a prayer that was left unanswered.  Jesus cried out in the garden, “take the cup of suffering from me.”  He prayed that He wouldn’t have to suffer on the cross.  Instead, He had to suffer the pain of it.

Our own lives are full of unanswered prayers.  So much so, that we begin to live in expectation of our prayers being left unanswered.

And like Rhoda and the church in Acts 12, we reach a point where we are shocked and unbelieving when God answers prayer.  The thought process of why some prayers seem to go unanswered is a complex question.  It’s not a one size fits all sort of question to answer.

There are different reasons for different situations.

Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our hearts aren’t right with God:  “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

In Proverbs 15:29, we read “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Sometimes, the problem with unanswered prayer is our time isn’t God’s time.

And what we often interpret as “unanswered prayer” is simply a matter of an answer that’s delayed.

In Jeremiah 42:2-7 we read where the people asked the prophet to speak to God for providing immediate direction in their lives–“We want it right now!”

Sometimes the answer comes for longer than simply ten days later.  It might be years later.

Sometimes we misunderstand prayer.

We pray out of selfish motives. 

True prayer is God-centered.

But we often turn our prayers into a self-centered activity.  I

n the New Testament Book of James, we’re told: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).  

The object of prayer is that God is glorified and not ourselves.  At times we think of prayer as Aladdin’s lamp to use in glorifying self.  We often think of God as a genie who is at our bidding and command.

Can we not pray for ourselves?

Of course, but we should pray for ourselves unselfishly.  Unselfish prayer for self is a prayer which seeks not self-centered comfort but Christ-centered conformity to God’s will.  Prayer isn’t an end in itself but a means to a greater end which is to glorify God!

The Bible promises us that God will hear our prayers.

The Bible never says that God will obey our orders and sometimes that’s the way we treat prayer.

In the Book of Acts, we don’t see Peter praying self-centered prayers.  He isn’t begging for his freedom.  He’s resting in the comfort of God.  He trusts God so much on the eve of his execution, he falls asleep and he sleeps so soundly that when the angel comes to wake him up, a gentle nudge won’t do.

When I was a young teenager, my mother would come into my room in the morning and wake me up for school–quietly coming to my bedside and gently rocking my shoulder she would say, “Mel, Mel, time to get up and out of bed and go.”  No–that wasn’t the way the angel woke up Peter.  The angel acted like my father.  When Dad would wake me up, he would crack the bedroom door and shout, “Mel.  Get out of bed right now and get to school!!”

Acts even says the angel had to hit Peter in the side to wake him up!  [Acts 12:7 – Interlinear Bible].

And you know, that in itself is really the best answer to prayer–not that God would do this or God would do that, but that He would give us such trust in Him that we could rest comfortably and calmly in His loving presence.

And the church should pray…

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CREDITS

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search – Settings, advanced.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or as stated.

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

Commentary:  Drumbeat of Love by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Contributions by Maynard Pittendreigh in researching commentary on Acts Chapter 12.

Being Late, Yet Still On Time!

SCRIPTURE – JOHN 11:1-40

Please, if you have the time, watch this YouTube Video of a scene from the movie Son of God.  This four-minute plus scene sets up my Bible study in John 11.

BEING LATE IS A BAD THING!

I’m a person who always believes in being punctual.  Being late is a bad thing.  My dad was the same way: “Better an hour early than 5 minutes late” he used to say.

TRAINS and PLANES leave at appointed times and connecting flights are dependant on the earlier flights being on time.  Delays or cancellations can cause big problems for people.

But by far the most punctual person in the universe is God!  He set up the galaxies and our solar system like giant timepieces, run with precision.  The timing of the sunrise–a thousand years from now–can be calculated to a millisecond.

So, how strange it is then, to find God being late!  God–all-knowing and all-powerful–how can He not be on time?

And yet, we find God being so late to heal a man that he even missed his funeral by 4 days!  We’ll look together at the Scripture in this blog-study and find out, how God “Being Late, Yet Still On Time!” will give some perspective and understanding.

SCRIPTURE – John 11:1-7, 11-15, 39-40 (New International Version)

(Verses 1-7)

[1] Now a man named Lazarus was sick.  He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  [2] (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and washed his feet with her hair.)  [3] So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  [4] When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  [5] Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,  [6] So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  [7] and said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

(Verses 11-15)

(Verses 39-40)

[39]  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

[40]  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

“Lord, the one you love is sick”  (11:3)

Note that Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, didn’t say, “Lord, the one who loves You, but the one You love.”

(1 John 4:10)

“This is LOVE: not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Our LOVE to Him is not worth speaking of but His to us can never be enough spoken of.

Jesus has the POWER to alter the forces of nature; calm the winds and waves; to suspend the movement of the universe in answer to the prayer of one man.  Jesus did miracles with many elements–He made arms grow out, made bread and fish multiply, turned water into wine.  He didn’t have to be present to work a miracle.  He told the Centurion “Go your way, your servant will be made whole.”  Another long-distance healing was the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter.

No circumstances could stop Him.

No limit of time was a factor.

QUESTION:  Then, why does Jesus wait until a man, who He dearly loves, is dead, before setting out to help him?

Even the disciples knew there was a special bond between Lazarus and Jesus.  Imagine if you will, you or I call our best friend and say, “I think I’m going to die!”  And our friends’ response, “Well, I’m pretty busy right now.  It’s Sunday, I’m in church, I’ll try to make it by Friday.  Do you think you can hang on that long?”

Doug Greenwold, with Lamb & Lion Ministries, gives us a deeper look into the events that occurred:

“A messenger is commanded to go and find Jesus, to tell Him that Lazarus was about to die.  The messenger traveled by foot for two days, then faithfully informed Jesus about Lazarus’ condition.”

Here’s what I found fascinating.  When Jesus heard the message, He replied (verse 4), “This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Notice the very first thing that Jesus did.  He gave the messenger a PROMISE.  Jesus often does this when He’s going to stretch our FAITH.

He provides a PROMISE, and then He gives the reason why what’s about to happen was going to happen.

Lazarus’ sickness was not to end in death, rather it would be used for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son would be glorified through it!

Jesus stayed two more days.

Jesus didn’t leave right away.  So something puzzling was going on there.  We’re talking about God incarnate here, so everything Jesus does here is strategic and for a reason.

In Mr. Greenwold”s article, he points out something I never knew before, so I wanted to share this in the blog-study:

“The Hebrew view of death believed that when a person died during the first three days their NEPHESH, which is the Hebrew word for soul, hovered over their body.  In fact, by the beginning of the fourth day, the body would already be fallen into such a rapid state of decomposition, it would stink to high heavens, and then the NEPHESH flees.”

The upshot is for the first three days you’re just dead, but from the fourth day on, you’re totally dead-dead.

Why does this matter in the grand scheme of things?

Because the rabbis and the religious leaders had been teaching when the Messiah finally arrived, he would be able to achieve something so amazing they would easily know he was the prophesied one.  It’s so impossible to bring someone back from the dead.  Only the Messiah or his prophets could bring people back from death.

From the Religious Leaders’ Point of View –

If Jesus was really the Messiah as some had claimed, then the religious leaders, in order to keep their positions of wealth and power, would have to kill him.  They’d attempt creating some uncertainty.  They’d claim that bringing a person back from the dead during the FIRST DAY didn’t count.  The nephesh (the SOUL) hadn’t left yet.  Doesn’t count!  For Jesus to truly be THE MESSIAH, in the people’s eyes, Jesus needed to overcome this obstacle.

A Sign Of A Much Greater Love –

By Jesus delaying to answer the sister’s prayer and letting the situation to become seemingly hopeless and impossible…He showed more LOVE than anyone else!

NOTE:  GOD’S GREATEST INTENTIONS MAY BE SIGNALED BY HIS LONGEST DELAYS!

Look at the words found in Ezekiel 37:11, 13 (AMP)

[11]  Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  Behold, they say, Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are completely cut off.”

[13]  And you shall know that I am the Lord [your Sovereign Ruler],  when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, O My people.

Jesus’ DECISION was for His Disciples too!

VERSE 15 says,  “…and for your sake, I am glad I was not there. so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

God may be delaying because DELAYING is good for us!  He may be testing our faith or developing perseverance in us.  It may actually be dangerous to give us something at the moment we first ask.

Another idea is that God is setting up an impossible situation, in order that He may perform a MIRACLE or an even bigger miracle!

So the question may come up in your mind, “How long will God wait?”

And the answer?  TILL IT STINKS!

Sometimes Jesus waits until the situation you find yourself in really “stinks”.  When it “stinks,” God will get complete GLORY!

Another REASON God Waits So Long…RESURRECTION LIFE is not for the living, it’s for the dead!

You don’t get resurrected while you’re alive, you get resurrected when you’re dead!

THE PRINCIPLE IS LIFE OUT OF DEATH!

We must grow in our handling a bumper crop –

You don’t see a young apple tree bearing 150 apples; if it did, it would collapse under the weight.  Over time, God strengthens and prepares the tree so it can handle the weight for what it can bear in maturity.

It’s the same way with us.  We want everything NOW!  But God knows we can’t bear it, so He only gives us an apple or two until we grow stronger.

Jesus said to Martha,  “I AM the resurrection…”  That’s present tense.

PATIENCE!

The word “patience,” doesn’t occur in the Old Testament, but we have “patiently” in Psalm 40:1; meaning to “wait,”to expect,” or waiting on God.

In the New Testament, the Greek word “hypomone” carries in it the ideas of endurance, continuance (Luke 8:15; 21:19; Romans 5:3-4).  [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encycolopedia]

PATIENCE is often hard to give and maintain, but in Romans 15:5, God is called “the God of Patience” (ARV – “steadfastness”) as being able to grant that GRACE to those who look to Him and depend on Him for it.

NEVER CLOSE THE BOOK OF YOUR LIFE WHEN GOD HASN’T FINISHED WRITING YOUR STORY!

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV Bible) –

[35]  So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

[36]  You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Never hang up–throw in the towel–when God is still on the line with you.  Hang in there!  God is still working in your life!!

God wants us to know that even if we don’t see Him, He’s always there and He will be on time!

THE CALL!

Many teachers have asked the question and attempted to explain why JESUS WEPT.

Jesus knew at the time that in a matter of minutes He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He still wept, because He felt the hurt of Mary & Martha’s pain so deeply that He grieved for their hurt.  HE WEPT!

Jesus is touched by feelings of our own infirmities, our pain, our grief. 

Let us then turn EVERYTHING over to Him in prayer.

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~CREDITS~

Movie Clip:  YouTube video – Lazarus Raised scene from The Son Of God movie.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search – Advance settings.

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

Credit and courtesy of LAMB & LION MINISTRIES Deeper Insights Into the Resurrection of Lazarus by Doug Greenwold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Out Our Lives In the Anointing

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  AMOS 3:7-8 (ESV)

WHAT WE SHOULD KNOW AND UNDERSTAND –

VERSE 7:  “SURELY the Lord God will do nothing without revealing His secrets to His servants the prophets” (AMP).

We know that we can prepare boldly for what is coming because Jesus gave us the prophetic signs of our time.  He told us what we should look for and because of His words, we know that we’re living in the LAST DAYS because prophetically the Bible has shown us where the CHURCH will be in the future.  We know that it will end in glory and will end strong and not weak.

The Laodicean Church, one of the 7 churches mentioned in The Revelation to John (Rev. 3:14-17).  In this passage of scripture, Jesus spoke about the last days but it will not be the final church because the LAST CHURCH will be united and strong and will grow into the full stature of Jesus.

God is equipping and preparing us for great and mighty things so we will finish strong!  We will take the NATIONS for Jesus’ sake by PREACHING the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth!!

The DEVIL has already been defeated and although he will exert great power on the earth, his reign of terror will end in the lake of fire.

THE ENTIRE WORD OF GOD IS PROPHETIC…meaning “foretelling,” and “forth telling.”

But it is also apostolic because the word “apostolic” is a DOING word.

James 1:22 (The Message Bible)

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other.  ACT on [or “DO”] what you hear.”

To be apostolic means we must be “doers”: acting on what you hear!  And what we do should extend beyond the four walls of our church by extending to the ends of the earth.

An APOSTLE is a person who performs the Word IN DEED.

At Pentecost, the disciples became apostles because they were ANOINTED to do ministry.

Jesus’ ministry was apostolic because of what He did (Acts 10:38).

[38] How God anointed and consecrated Jesus of Nazareth with the [Holy] Spirit and with strength and ability and power; how He went about doing good and, in particular, curing all who were harassed and oppressed by [the power of] the devil, for God was with Him  (AMP).

And since Jesus gave us the command to “go then and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19), as fellow disciples we are ANOINTED to do ministry.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (AMP)

[21] But it is God Who confirms and makes us steadfast and establishes us [in joint fellowship] with you in Christ, and has consecrated and anointed us [enduing us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit];  [22] [He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise].

The definition of an APOSTLE is, “one who is sent forth” to represent another.

And as the ANOINTED, we, as believers are sent by God to represent heaven on earth.  We are to be the answer to a distressed world.

The true definition of the apostolic ministry is “Someone who is anointed by God [not man] to perform a supernatural task on earth by adding to God’s Kingdom.”  It implies that we can ALL be apostolic through the indwelling Holy Spirit’s power!

But are we really “doers”?

God has always been building His Kingdom or building His church which is the same thing.

Some Terminologies in the WORD May Change.

The first time the word “apostle” was used was in the New Testament.  It was never mentioned in the Old Testament, but its meaning carries the same function in the Old and New Testaments–because God has always sent man and woman to represent Him and to perform work for Him.

There are ANOINTED people who are DOING in the name of the Lord but they are not sent by God to do whatever they’re doing.  If we are not sent by God we will not be acknowledged by Him.  So it is important to DO only what God directs us to DO.  That’s what Jesus did.  He never did anything without God’s permission.

God has called each one of us to work with Him and He is building His Kingdom with us and through us.

GOD IS THE BUILDER!!!

Colossians 1:15-17 –

From this revelation in Scripture (God’s Word), we can see the great apostolic power of Jesus as the Creator and because He created everything, He has POWER and AUTHORITY over everything He created.

Those who have an apostolic anointing are also creative and the things they BUILD for God are a testimony against the kingdom of darkness.

Matthew 16:18 (NIV)

“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

What God BUILDS will defeat the devil and the things we BUILD with God cannot be destroyed by the enemy.

To be APOSTOLIC…and I know there are those reading this blog who are uncomfortable using this term…is being sent in BUILDING SOMETHING that exults God and overcomes the enemy.

Anything that was built by God and His workers in the Old Testament, by definition, is APOSTOLIC and anything built by God and His workers since then is APOSTOLIC.

GOD IS NOT YET FINISHED BUILDING HIS KINGDOM!

For example, He has not yet created a new heaven and a new earth which He will do in the future.  That’s part of His future plans and we are part of His present plans.  That is why we need the BLUEPRINT for today.

God has ANOINTED every one of us to BUILD apostolically.

Everything we see in the physical or natural environment responds to WORDS.  That’s the way God’s creation is designed:  “God said…God saw”  (Genesis One).

God has given us the ability and the authority to frame our world with His Words.  Prophetic Words have POWER and can be spoken into our circumstances in order to shape our world so that it reflects the MAJESTY AND POWER of God’s Kingdom.  So watch your words!

When these spoken words are applied to God’s creation, there will be a response.  However, there’s a time to SPEAK and a time to DO things.  That’s why we need both the APOSTOLIC AND PROPHETIC ANOINTING.

Any impressive building has a CORNERSTONE to show that it is valuable.  It usually contains inscribed the names of the Architect, the Master Builder, and the Visionary.

All that God BUILDS is valuable and JESUS is the Chief Cornerstone of everything He builds (1 Peter 2:6-8).  If Jesus isn’t part of the building then it’s not worth building.  And if it is not built by Him, then it’s not His building.

When Jesus is the CORNERSTONE, what we build, whether it is our spiritual life, our marriage, our home life, our career, our businesses, the name of Jesus will always be a stumbling block to those who oppose Him because the CORNERSTONE will reflect heaven.

God wants everything to be built on His apostolic BLUEPRINT.

The reason being that it can EXALT Jesus who is the Creator and the greatest example of the APOSTOLIC ANOINTING.

Hebrews 3:1 (NIV)

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

God wants every family to have an apostolic blueprint so that they can be built according to His plans with Christ Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone.

When others see the building, not necessarily a physical building…God will be given the GLORY.  God wants to be glorified in our families, our ministries, our businesses, and every other aspect of our lives.  But He can only be GLORIFIED if things are built according to His design.

When His name is on the building, it becomes a stumbling block to the kingdom of darkness, but LIFE and HOPE to the world.

Every Ministry Should Have An Apostolic Blueprint to Succeed.

In order to fulfill our the requirement, we need to find the BLUEPRINT of the cities and nations that God is giving us to REBUILD.  And because anything that hasn’t been built according to how God wants it built MUST be broken down and rebuilt.

AND…there’s nothing wrong with rebuilding.

Rebuilding because there are things that must be redesigned, restructured, and repositioned so that God can be given the GLORY.

If your life, my life, is not offending the kingdom of DARKNESS, that means that Jesus is not the CORNERSTONE because the Cornerstone will be the Rock of offense to everything that refuses to bow to Hum.

The laying of the CORNERSTONES is in accordance with our apostolic built-up anointing because God wants us in our ANOINTED lives to place Christ back in the cities and the nations.  And when the building is complete, Jesus is going to be the CORNERSTONE of that city or nation.

Revelation 11:15 (AMP)

The seventh angel blew [his] trumpet, and there were mighty voices in heaven, shouting, The Dominion (kingdom, sovereignty, rule) of the world has now come into the possession and become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (the Messiah), and He shall reign forever and forever (for the eternities of the eternities)!

WHEN WE BUILD THINGS FOR GOD He places us into the foundation of that building as a TESTIMONY for eternity.

The New Jerusalem – Revelation 21:12 & 14 (NIV)

[12] It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates.  On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

[14] The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

The names of the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles are etched on the FOUNDATIONS of the New Jerusalem that contributed to the building.  God advanced His Kingdom through the TWELVE TRIBES of Israel who possessed the Promise Land and laid down the FOUNDATION for the nation of Israel performing their apostolic part.

After Pentecost in the New Testament, God built the CHURCH through the early apostles and they laid down the FOUNDATION of the New Covenant for Believers (that’s us) to build on and they completed their apostolic part.

Ephesians 2:20 (AMP)

You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.

What we do for God today means something and He remembers the names of those who have worked for Him and with Him.  God doesn’t merely use your life and resources and then forgets about you, but He remembers your name and blesses you and your children up to the THIRD and FOURTH generation.

When we operate prophetically and apostolically in our lives God will make sure that your name is in the FOUNDATIONS for all to see and He will send others to BUILD on that Foundation generation to generation.

You Have An Unique Anointing – 2 Corinthians 6:1 (AMP)

Laboring together [as God’s fellow workers] with Him then, we beg of you not to receive the grace of God in vain [that merciful kindness by which God exerts His holy influence on souls and turns them to Christ, keeping and strengthening them–do not receive it to no purpose].

That unique anointing should express itself in you PASSION.  And as an example, if you have a PASSION for seeing people HEALED…God will use you for healing.

Remember, we can’t do anything without Christ because He is the SOURCE OF THE ANOINTING.  ALWAYS!

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CREDITS FOR THIS BLOG:

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

Commentary:  What is the anointing?  What does it mean to be anointed? – gotQuestions?.org.

PHOTOS:  Google Image search, using the referenced Scripture verses.

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

 

 

 

 

Sizing Up the Real Estate Market – PART TWO

Sizing up the HOUSING MARKET

HAGGAI 2:6-9 (AMP) – THE GORY COMES!

[6] For thus says the LORD of hosts:  Yet once more, in a little while,  I will shake and make tremble the [starry] heavens, the earth, the sea, and the dry land;  [Heb. 12:26]

[7] And I will shake all nations and the desire and the precious things of all nations shall come in and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts.  [Isa. 60:5; Matt. 2:1-12]

[8] The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine, says the LORD of hosts.

[9] The latter glory of this house [with its successor, to which Jesus came] shall be greater than the former,  says the LORD of hosts; and in this place will I give peace and prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

Our SERVICE will be better when we come with OUR PRIORITIES in order!

If the prioritized people will RISE UP…we ain’t seen nothing yet, folks!

PROVISION comes!

Right in the midst of famine FAVOR can fall.

PEACE comes!

In the midst of chaos, upheaval, and uncertainty.  We can be at REST!

While some argue over carpet color, music styles and whether to reach out or not, we can see God’s church packed from top to bottom and front to back  

IT IS HIS GLORY, not ours.

HAGGAI 2:18-22 – A SECURE FOUNDATION

[18] “From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought in the day when the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid.  Give careful thought;  [19] Is there yet any seed left in the barn?  Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have not borne fruit. 

” ‘From this day on I will bless you.’ “

[20] The word of the LORD came to Haggai a second time on the twenty-fourth day of the month;  [21] “Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I will shake the heavens and the earth.  [22] I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms.  I will overthrow chariots and their drivers; horses and their riders will fall, each by the sword of his brother.”

The day the foundation was secured their HARVEST changed!

BEFORE they had even planted a HARVEST was PROMISED!

BEFORE the first link in the chain was broken their BONDAGE was dealt with, on the DAY the FOUNDATION was built, VICTORY and DELIVERANCE were set in motion.

BEFORE the first punch was thrown or landed they found themselves in a fixed fight because of their RIGHT PRIORITIES!

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of life I desire!

Let me throw open several questions:

  • Are you killing yourself trying to live BLESSED?
  • Are you seeking provision for you and your family?
  • Are you trying to secure your life?
  • Are you fitting battles that seem like you can’t win?
  • Are you working without God?

Matthew 16:26 (AMP):  “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]?  Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]?”

Location, location, location

HEAR THE HOUSING REPORT AND RESPOND!

Either you and I need to change our priorities or the HOUSE will be in ruins and our PROVISION will be wasted.  We need to REPENT–change course–do an about-face.

Paying so much attention to your own house you have no regard or thought to His HOUSE!

Our PRIORITIES are messed up and the result is finding ourselves barren; our lives are meaningless and unblessed!  I believe that we’ve either forgotten or don’t really believe the words in Matthew 6:33 anymore!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When we get the ORDER right–the KINGDOM first–as His house flourishes our houses will spring to life once again!  REVIVAL has always been there if we know where to search!

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CREDITS

Photos:  Google Image Search

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

 

 

 

 

Life’s Encounters In A “Passionate Church” Enviornment

SCENE from the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

In 1962, ‘folk music’  filled the airways and in my opinion, The Kingston Trio exemplified the craze.  Half of my vinyl record collection celebrated their music: M.T.A., Good News, All My Sorrows, and of course my favorite, Tom Dooley; first recorded in 1958.  So when I got the news that this famous trio was going to be in concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!

So when I got the news this famous trio was going to be in a live concert at Russ Auditorium in San Diego, California…I had to get tickets!

After the concert, I asked my date if she wanted to go back stage and see if we could get autographs, or at least see them up close.  I was especially bold that night, most likely trying to show off a little in front of my date. Alright, it wasn’t “a little.”

As we walked backstage, I saw two giants of men standing at the foot of some stairs.  “They surely wouldn’t let us climb those stairs,” I thought to myself.  But they parted, like the Red Sea, and we went to the top and into a small dressing room.  And there, standing in their boxer shorts, was Nick Reynolds, Dave Guard, and Bob Shane.  Our mouths dropped.  How did we get this far without being escorted through a back door into the alley?  Could I actually get an autograph from the Kingston Trio members?

Well, we didn’t.  But Nick (right side of photo) did wave at us over the tops of the news cameras and that made it an evening to remember!  ‘Nick really knows me!’

THAT WAS AN ENCOUNTER.  

However, if Nick…I thought I was on a first name basis seeing him in his “shorts”… had invited us over to his dressing table and invited us to dinner in getting to know us better, my encounter would have given way to CLOSE ENCOUNTERS.   That is a huge difference.

I submit to you that most church folks attending Pentecostal churches I’ve attended over the years have become accustomed to ENCOUNTERS with God.

Too many of us have been attending church for years, faithfully, religiously, and we have been experiencing encounters.

  • We SETTLE for weekly ENCOUNTERS with God.
  • We see Him at a distance.
  • We see physical evidence of Him in our life.

But I want to put a CHALLENGE out front–We need more than just AN ENCOUNTER.  We need a CLOSE ENCOUNTER.  CONTACT!

Close Encounters Are Different.

One of the best examples I found is the story of the 10 lepers;  10 get healed, 10 lives are changed!  10 destinies are forever reshaped and marked by the POWER of God!!

However, only ONE had a close encounter while NINE settles for just an encounter.

9 SETTLED for ‘spiritual pornography’

Cheap thrills with no relationship or intimacy. While 1 has a close encounter with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Luke 17:11-19].

So the challenge for most of us as a church body and as individuals is whether we’ll SETTLE for an encounter time to time or will we call it a “good church”; we get goosebumps, get to shout out the AMEN’s, get to show off our spiritual gifts a little.

Or, will we hold out and hold on to a life changing, world wrecking, city shaking, addiction-breaking, marriage restoring, teenager rescuing close encounter with our God?

In order for us to see these events happen, we have to make a CHOICE and a DECISION–we have to determine the type of CHURCH that we are attending will be.

After my personal bible study this past week, I believe there are TWO OPTIONS available that can be found in Scripture.

The FIRST CHURCH is found in Ezekiel 44:11-14:

[11]  They [the priests] may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them.  [12] But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord.  [13] They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices.  [14] And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done there.  (NIV Bible)

The MESSAGE Bible says in verses 13-14:  “They’re fired from the priesthood.  No longer will they come into my presence and take care of my holy things.  No more access to The Holy Place!  They’ll have to live with what they’ve done, carry the shame of their vile and obscene lives.  

[14] From now on, their job is to sweep up and run errands.  That’s it.”

You can have a church like this–

  • We can come in and have charge of the house!
  • We can minister in the house!
  • We can offer sacrifices in the house!
  • We can sing in the house, praise in the house, and do church in the house!!!

BUT never come near Him.

We can have the things of God and never really have God.  That is an OPTION.  We can settle for an ENCOUNTER.

Or we cam make up our minds that it is more than that.  We can make up our minds and determine in our hearts that as members of the body of Christ we aren’t about to SETTLE for sweeping and running errands. There’s got to be more than that.

We have to set our face like a flint and fight for our place of meeting God on Sunday’s like the church described in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14: 

We can have a CHURCH, where regardless of your rank or assignment, 

  • You can be an usher,
  • A janitor,
  • An Elder/Deacon,
  • Or, the Pastor…

And it won’t matter.  You can experience the same amount of GLORY as the next person.

The GLORY will be just as strong in the church parking lot as it is in the SANCTUARY.  Just as powerful in the nursery as in the Home Bible Study.

What really matters is that we are all after the same thing.

We can have CHURCH where the GLORY of the Lord is so strong that none of us can stand it!

We can have a CHURCH where the close encounter is so close…all we can do is stand in AWE!

We can have a CHURCH where the move of God is so profound and so pronounced that A CITY will have to sit up and take notice, sinners will flock to find out what is happening–that the STARVED will find spiritual food as well as physical food, that the DRUG ADDICT will fall short-changed, that the UNLOVED will find the LOVE for which they have so longed for.

WE HAVE A CHOICE

We can SETTLE for the brief encounters that have satisfied us for so long.  

BUT as for me and my house, if we are going to have another Ezekiel 44 church we might as well shut all the doors at church. 

If the people on Sunday Morning or on any day of the week are going to walk in and leave exactly how they entered, broken, devastated, addicted and sick…then take all the equipment back!

My personal choice is to have a church where I have, and hopefully, you will have, a close encounter with God and that stuff will fall off and stay off!

I like when this man said in a statement:

“A church is not a church until God decides that it will become a place of divine visitation.  The building may seem one of architectural splendor and exquisite design, but it is not a church until God issues a certificate of divine occupancy and takes up residence there.”

**[See Footnote [i] ]

So, I present a challenge to all of us where we are.  

Will we stop at an encounter?  Will we be satisfied with a little taste here and there?  Will you wink and say “yeah they have a cool church” or will you make a commitment with me to pursue His presence at all costs.

My hope and prayer are that we will press in until God issues a “certificate of divine occupancy” in a fellowship of believers.  How does this happen?

Ask yourself, as I have asked myself on numerous occasions, are you willing to settle for an encounter or will you ask for more?  

When was the last time YOU had a “close encounter”?

____________________________________________

CREDITD & FOOTNOTES –

Footnote [i]:  On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Leading Your Congregation through the Wilderness by H. Beecher Hicks.

PHOTOS:  All from Google Image Search.

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

Finding Answers to the 4 “W’s” of WORSHIP and More!

sing-to-the-lord-a-new-song-psalm-96-1

IS WORSHIP BORING AT TIMES? 

I love stories that can bring out an emphasis in a bible study, and this blog is no exception:

A little boy asked his mother if she could remember the highest number she ever counted to.  The mother didn’t know so she asked him about his highest number.  Without hesitation, “5,372”.  The mother was puzzled and ask him why he stopped at that particular one.  The boy responded, “Well…church was over.”

The Aspects of Worshipping:

The idea of our WORSHIP being boring, to me, is an OXYMORON, or self-contradicting phrase.

The word itself comes from “oxus”, meaning sharp–and “moros” which means dull or stupidity.  [See Footnote [i].]

Some examples of my favorite OXYMORONS would be:

  • Jumbo shrimp.
  • Freezer burn.
  • White chocolate.
  • Plastic silverware.
  • Sanitary landfill.
  • Airline food.

Another self-contradicting phrase is BORING WORSHIP.

I found some interesting surveys in my research this past week, saying when people are asked why they don’t attend church, they often replied church is too boring.

While I recognize that sometimes a church service can seem dull, especially to a non-Christian attendee, my suggestion to all is, TRUE WORSHIP is anything but boring.

The Essence of True Worship –

The very essence of what WORSHIP is, doesn’t allow us to be bored.

When we come before the Majestic God of the Universe, who has created everything and done amazing things in our lives everyday, how can we not break out in adoration?

Most importantly, WORSHIP must lead us to a response.  If we don’t respond, when we don’t rejoice and the reverence of who we are worshipping, we risk becoming hardened before Him.

A PSALM OF WORSHIP – 

I love reading in the Psalms, and because of my long musical background in singing, one Psalm in particular stands out to me presenting the basic criteria of TRUE WORSHIPPING.

PSALM 96 (KJV):

[1] O SING unto the LORD a NEW SONG; sing unto the LORD, all the earth.

[2] Sing unto the LORD, bless His name, show forth His salvation from day to day.

[3] Declare His glory among the heathen [“the nations” – NIV bible], His wonders among all people.

[4] For the LORD is great, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.  [See Rev. 14:7; Deut. 6:5]

[5] For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the LORD made the heavens.

[6] Honour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

[7] Give unto the LORD, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the LORD glory and strength.

[8] Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts.

[9] O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; fear before Him, all the earth.

[10] Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth; the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved; He shall judge the people righteously.

[11] Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof.

[12] Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.

[13] Before the LORD; for He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth; He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with His truth.

A Song of Worship –

PSALM 96 is based upon David’s anthem of ADORATION as found in 1 Chronicles 16; when the Ark of the Covenant is brought to its resting place.

If you take the time to compare the TWO SONGS, you’ll find as I did, there are a lot of repeated phrases.

The Call to SING SONGS and Break Out Into PRAISE (verses 1-3):

The verses can be read here in context of Christ’s Second Coming and glorious reign.

We SING not just because of the past and the present but because we know what is coming in the future.

When singing in choirs years ago, I always loved the words to the Praise Song, “Coming Again!”;  

Coming Again,  Coming Again!  Maybe morning, Maybe noon, Maybe evening and Maybe soon…”

It always made me reflect on the exactness of the lyrics’ motivation to praise–Jesus is coming again!

FIRST OF THE 4 W’s:  What is Worship?

TO WORSHIP means to “fall on your face or bow down,” and is found more than 170 times in the Bible.

All who are true worshippers, must WORSHIP God in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).

That is, TRUE WORSHIP must take place on the inside–the HEART & SPIRIT of the worshipper.  WORSHIP pleasing to God must be with sincere feelings and transparent to His “Worth-ship.”  

We then are to recognize our place before God Almighty and acknowledge His worthiness…His “worth-ship” before us.

So, how should we WORSHIP?

  • With MUSIC  (Verse 1).
  • With PROCLAMATION  (Verse 2); The MESSAGE Bible says, “to shout the news of victory”.
  • By GIVING GOD THE GLORY   (Verse 8).
  • By BRINGING AN OFFERING (Verse 8).
  • By COMING INTO HIS COURTS  (Verse 8).
  • By LIVING HOLY LIVES  (Verse 9).
  • And, by WITNESSING FOR HIM  (Verse 10).

THE SECOND OF THE 4 W’s:  The “Why’s” of WORSHIP:

  • BECAUSE God SAVED US  (Verse 2)
  • BECAUSE of His GREATNESS and His FEARSOMENESS  (Verse 4)
  • BECAUSE of His POWER  (Verse 5)
  • BECAUSE of His SPLENDOR, MAJESTY, STRENGTH, and BEAUTY  (Verse 6)
  • BECAUSE God is RIGHTEOUS and TRUE and He is coming to JUDGE.

THE THIRD OF THE 4 W’s:  The “Where’s” of WORSHIP:

  • We are to WORSHIP the LORD among the nations  (Verse 3)
  • We are to WORSHIP in His Sanctuary  (Verse 6)
  • We are to WORSHIP in His courts  (Verse 8)

THE FOURTH OF THE W’s:  The “When’s” of WORSHIP:

VERSE 2 calls us to SING & PROCLAIM (“shout out”) His SALVATION…”day after day.”

So there you have it, FOUR ANSWERS to some common questions that will arise in conversation about WORSHIP.

BUT, there’s more to understand.

FOUR ESSENTIALS OF WORSHIP:

#1. EXALT His Name –

Looking closely at Verses 1-2 above, we are called to SING to the LORD three different times.

When something is repeated in triplicate in Scripture, it is done to get our attention.  Much like “Holy, Holy, Holy” in Isaiah 6:3.

Why Singing & Shouting?

Singing to the Holy Trinity started way back at creation in Job 38:7, where we read

“When the morning stars SANG together and all the sons of God SHOUTED for joy”

There has been singing & shouting from the beginning of time with more singing at the end of the age in Revelation 15:3–The Song of the Lamb:

“And they SANG the song of Moses the servant of God and the SONG OF THE LAMB, saying,  Mighty and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God the Omnipotent! Righteous (just) and true are Your ways, O Sovereign of the ages (King of the nations)!  [Amplified Bible]

In the meantime, we are CALLED to SING to the Lord as we wait for JESUS’ return.

SINGING A NEW SONG –

I also noticed in my investigation, the importance of singing a “NEW SONG” to the Lord.

The word “NEW” can mean something that is brand new and also can mean, “delighted, precious and exquisite.”

When something is NEW, it is fresh.  If all we sing is “Kumbaya” type songs every time we’re in church, then the chances are good, we’re not growing and experiencing fresh insights from the LORD.  Remember, it is NOT our WORSHIP, it is HIS!

New Hymns and New Praise Songs Are ESSENTIAL to WORSHIP –

Nobody I think, enjoys singing the harmonies of the old hymns of the past, more than I. However, NEW SONGS are essential to meet the ever-varying manifestations of God’s character.

In the last part of Psalm 96:1. “all the earth”, we are to break out into song, EXALTING–lifting Him up–for who He is and what He has done.

The Call to Worship…

The call to worship to SING, was not limited to Israel but was intended for all the earth.

The Book of Revelation gives us further insight in Rev. 15:4:

“All the nations shall come and pay homage and adoration to You”

#2. Extend His Kingdom.

Take a close look at verses 2 & 3:

“…show forth His SALVATION from day to day.  Declare His glory among the nations”

Declaring His Glory
Declaring His Glory

We are told HOW to EXTEND His Kingdom and WHERE to PROCLAIM (“Declare”) His SALVATION.  The words in the two verses also tell us how often to do it–“day after day.” And, we’re told WHERE to do it…”among the nations.”

OUR MESSAGE is the GOOD NEWS!

We are given specific instruction during worship, to SHARE the message and our mandate is, to take it to ALL the people (Acts 1:8).

The only MESSAGE we have today is JESUS SAVES!!!

#3. EXPRESS His Greatness.

As we EXALT His name and look for ways to EXTEND HIS KINGDOM, we will be drawn into the THIRD ESSENTIAL of WORSHIP (verses 4-9).

King Over ALL the Nations…He is most WORTHY of PRAISE!

I can’t help but notice how much we praise people.  Even at our worship services; the recognition of our local sports teams in wearing articles of clothing celebrating current and former athletes.

But it isn’t just athletes, is it? We avidly support recording artists, politicians, and yes, even Megachurch leaders.  We love to applaud the attributes of others.

And yet, this Psalm brings us back to what’s most important: Only God Himself is GREAT and most WORTHY of our PRAISE.

He is FEARED above everyone and everything else.

VERSE 5 tells us that.

He has no rivals because He is the Creator.  And as such, we should WORSHIP Him with all that we have.

In VERSE 6, FOUR ATTRIBUTES Are Personified

Personified as if they were attendants surrounding the throne –

“Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary”

A year before I was married, a friend and I, took a trip to Mexico.  We saw the beautiful beaches of Acapulco, the rose gardens in Guadalajara.  But for the real history of the country, we found east of Mexico City. at Teotihuacan (“teh-oh-tee-wa-KHAN”), the place where the AZTECS said the gods were born.

Many IDOLS that had been preserved were gruesome and ugly to look upon.

gohistoric_20319_m

NOT SO with the One Who causes things to exist and where there was nothing before.

Our GOD is not gruesome, but instead, He is BEAUTIFUL, arrayed in SPLENDOR, clothed with MAJESTY and armed with POWER AND GLORY that is brighter than the sun.

A RENEWED URGENCY PRESENTED (Verses 7-9):

THREE TIMES in a row, the Psalmist challenges us to “ascribe,” or give, to the LORD what is due His name.

Recognizing His GREATNESS, His MAJESTY, and STRENGTH First…We then will want to Honor Him.

I found it interesting that even though “the nations” are found earlier in the psalm, here we are called to WORSHIP the Lord, as the “FAMILIES” of the nations; singled out to give (“ascribe”) GLORY AND STRENGTH to the Lord.

God has ordained the family unit to a special and unique creation of His and as parents today, we must do all we can to make sure our families are honoring God.

The last part of VERSE 8 gives us a practical way to do that.  When this PSALM was written, the people would take their OFFERINGS to the Temple.  The King James Version refers to “thank offerings,” or those things that people would give out of gratitude to the Lord for all that He has done.

I was amazed when I looked up the word “ascribe” (to give) in my Concordance Dictionary, finding it listed 689 times!

At least THREE WAYS we can bring and give an offering to the LORD:

  • A Living Sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).
  • A Sacrifice of Praise (Hebrews 13:15).
  • A Financial Sacrifice (Malachi 3).

Remember, a SACRIFICE isn’t a SACRIFICE unless it costs you something!

Expect His Coming!

While we EXALT His name, we should be looking forward for the ways to EXTEND HIS KINGDOM.

This then motivates us to express HIS GREATNESS.

One last ESSENTIAL to ponder I found in verses 10-13.

The Reign of the Lord and His Coming Judgment…

In VERSE 10, the word “JUDGE” carries the idea that God sovereignly RULES over the nations and will judge everyone with fairness and equity.

In VERSES 11-12, we see that the whole creation, when reflecting on GOD’S RULE, breaks out into JOYFUL PRAISE:

The HEAVENS WILL REJOICE…the EARTH will be glad, the SEA will resound, the FIELDS: the corn and soybeans–will REJOICE, and ALL THE TREES of the forest will SING FOR JOY!

WHY?

Because, The King Is Coming!

In the meantime, we are called to WAIT & WORSHIP.

We are also told to “GO TELL OTHERS,” about the GOSPEL MESSAGE, before it is too late– JUDE 14-15:

“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men:  See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him”  (New International Version).

ONE MORE “OXYMORON” –

Here it is:  A BORED BELIEVER.

If you truly understand what being a BELIEVER, AN OVERCOMER is all about, it is impossible to be “bored.”

If we are EXALTING, EXTENDING, EXPRESSING, and EXPECTING, we’ll be fired up and experience the JOY of what it means to partner with God in His kingdom work here on earth.

So, let’s stop singing the ‘same old song,’ and let’s start singing A NEW SONG OF REJOICING!

 


 

CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentaries:   Treasury of David – Psalm 96 by Charles Spurgeon; “Why We Sing,” A Sermon on Psalm 96, Sign in the Window; Psalm 96 – Daily Devotional.

Photo Credits:    Google Images; Wikipedia photo of Aztec carvings.

Bible Translations Used:  King James Version, New International Version, Amplified Bible.

Footnote [i] – Dictionary.com -Word; Origin C17: view New Latin from Greek.

“Do You Hear What I hear?”

THE “FOUR VOICES” OF ISAIAH REVEALED IN STUDY

Scripture Study:  ISAIAH 40:1-11

VOICE #1,  “Comfort God’s People” – (40:1, 2).

“COMFORT, COMFORT my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”  [New International Version, NIV].

God Loves to Comfort His People!

Follow along with how the apostle Paul refers to God in 2 Corinthians 1:3:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…(and here is the description) “the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [who is the Source] of every COMFORT.”

And this isn’t the only place in the bible where we find God described as a COMFORTER…

PSALM 23, the psalmist says of God the Good Shepherd,  “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

“As one whom his mother comforts, so will I COMFORT you; you should be COMFORTED in Jerusalem.”  (Isaiah 66:13)

So God does love to COMFORT His people.

And…He is a great source of comfort…BUT…God recognizes we need someone with skin on them too!

"Sometimes we need someone with skin on them"
“Sometimes we need someone with skin on them”

A Mother’s Words of Comfort (See Footnote [i]):

Dr. George W. Truett, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas for 50 years, told a story of a young, unbelieving couple in a sermon.

The young couple, who had lost their baby, came to Dr. Truett, asking him to conduct the funeral, so he did.  He said later, he had such joy of seeing them both trust the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many months later, he said the young mother who had lost her child stepped forward, went to a young girl’s side and said, “I passed through this and I know what you’re passing through.  God called me, and through the darkness I came to Him.  He’s comforted me, and He’ll comfort you.”

God recognizes that just like that young girl in the story, sometimes we need someone in the FLESH to come and sit with us, hold our hand and listen to our heartache.

In the first verse of the text, God says,  “Comfort, Comfort My People…”

This command [“comfort” spoken in succession] is of God to comfort His people is directed not only to Isaiah, but to ALL of God’s prophets.

BUT before COMFORT can come…SIN was dealt with–that God calls His prophet to comfort.

The first 39 Chapters of Isaiah…

God doesn’t call Isaiah to “comfort” His people.  It’s only after “their” sin has been absolved that He can send the prophet Isaiah with words of COMFORT.

So in reading Chapters 40-66 of Isaiah, the words will show TRUE COMFORT consists (not in telling people what their ‘itchy’ ears want to hear), BUT in presenting the whole truth concerning their tragic condition.  AND…in causing them to SEE GOD as their only HOPE.

It is only when reality and ugliness of SIN raises its head that the announcement of DELIVERANCE can be made.

There’s A Prerequisite for COMFORT…

Apart from the Declaration of Judgment found in Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah, the WORDS OF COMFORT in 40-66 are without much point.

The prerequisite for comfort seen here in Isaiah is much the same as JESUS taught on the Sermon On The Mount–(Matthew Chapter 5).

He too talked about people being “comforted”–But before they could be comforted, JESUS SAID, they must be “poor in spirit” and acknowledge their absolute dependence upon God–and then they mustmourn” over their sin and hopeless condition…

“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be

COMFORTED”

VOICE #2 – “PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD” – Isaiah 40:3-5

[3] “A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord [clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway for our God!  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places made plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.”

Pope Francis was visiting the USA this past week, and as I watch all the proceedings on TV, I thought what preparations must have been made ahead of time for his arrival.

Isaiah here, pictures the scene played out by the Royal Road Builders–smoothing the way for their King, working diligently, removing barriers and obstacles in order to make the King’s journey somewhat easier.

The PROPHECY…

Though all the prophets had a part in preparing the way for JESUS’ entry into the world–this PROPHECY ultimately was fulfilled in the person of John the Baptist.

Three of the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke quote this verse from Isaiah and apply it to the Baptizer.

JOHN the Baptist Prepared the Way…

john-the-baptist2

John prepared the way by shouting out in the wilderness that the only way to get right with God–was to REPENT and be IMMERSED in baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

John also helped prepare the way by grooming some of JESUS’ first disciples – Peter, John, Andrew, and James.

Once John prepared the way–removed the obstacles–showed the futility of religious ritual–preached repentance–

Once John did this, then…the GLORY of the LORD was revealed.  John the Baptist prepared the way “FOR” (“I AM the way, the Truth, and the Light”)…

We still got some “PREPARING” to do today!

Is there now no more PREPARING for the Lord–since John the Baptist, clothed in camel’s-hair, eating wild locust, shouted in the wilderness?

In a way, YES.  But, in the way, NO.

YES, there is no preparing in the sense of preparing for the Lord’s earthly arrival.  JESUS has already come in the flesh.  John the Baptist prepared the way.

But in another sense, this PRINCIPLE still applies today.

The LORD still wants to REVEAL Himself in Glory to His church.  

But, before He can do this, there are OBSTACLES that must be removed; BARRIERS that must be torn down and ROUGH PLACES that must be made smooth again…So that JESUS can arrive and be EXALTED–LIFTED UP!

TODAY’S BARRIERS, OBSTACLES, AND ROUGH PLACES REVEALED: What has to be removed before the LORD’S GLORY shows up!

Making The Way Smooth…

Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Women labourers throw dust on a road tarmac under construction at Bharadva village in the western Indian state of Gujarat April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave

What are we in the CHURCH lifting up rather than Christ Jesus?

We are lifting up…

  • Personal Sin,
  • Pride,
  • Prejudice,
  • Indifference,
  • Opinions,
  • Comfort,
  • Convenience,
  • Worldly Pleasures.

In a word, we are lifting up SELF.  If we want to see the Lord’s Glory revealed in His Church, we too must LISTEN to the voice of God and prepare the way…there is way too much talking and not enough listening to God’s Spirit.

We must make a straight path/raise valleys/lower mountains/level the rough ground and make the rugged places a Plain.

VOICE # 3  Is Crying, “Invest in the Eternal” – Isaiah 40:6-8:

[6]  “A voice says, Cry [prophesy]!  And I said, What shall I cry?  [The voice answered,  PROCLAIM:]  All flesh is as frail as grass, and all that makes attractive [its kindness, its goodwill, its mercy from God, its glory and comeliness, however good] is transitory, like the flower of the field.  [7] The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely [all] the people are like grass.  [8] The grass (a) withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

(a.)  The apostle Peter quotes this verse (1 Pet. 1:24-25) and then adds, “and this Word is the good news which was preached to you” –which confirms as fact that Isaiah is here referring to the times of Christ the Messiah, the Anointed One *** (Amplified Bible footnote, Page 1029.).

PETER then goes on to say,

“SO BE done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy and jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  Like newborn babies you should crave (thirst for, earnestly desire) the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation”  (1 Peter 2:1, 2).

Since God’s Word is ETERNAL and everything in this world is NOT–we should rid ourselves the things of the world and crave God’s Word.

Unfortunately, we find that many people more often than not are CRAVING the temporary…craving the things of this world (money, looks, physic, career, pleasure) with passion.

While they pursue God’s Word with casual indifference…“I’ll get God’s Word from my pastor on Sunday.”  God says INVEST in something that will last!

Making Foolish Investments In The Temporary, Ignoring the Eternal…

JESUS addressed this issue in a parableLuke 12:16-21:  “What good is it to gain the world, yet lose your very soul?”

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?  

DO YOU HEAR THE VOICES?

The VOICES are calling God’s people and they’ve been calling for centuries…

  • “Comfort, Comfort My people”
  • “Prepare the way for the Lord”
  • “Invest in the eternal”

And there is one more voice, and the VOICE IS CRYING out to us,

“GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN” – Isaiah 40:9-11:

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[9] You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain, You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”  [10] See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him and His recompense accompanies Him.  [11] He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those who have young  (NIV Bible).

The Announcement of the Presence of God Must Be Proclaimed Far and Wide…

GOD’S PEOPLE are not to be silent; keeping the Good News of the Lord’s arrival to themselves.  We are to go up on a mountain, but not just any mountain.

We are to go on a HIGH MOUNTAIN.  And we are not to just softly speak about the Lord’s presence, we are to SHOUT!  Lift up our VOICE…

We are not to be intimidated but rather to shout…  

Here’s your God!!!  He is powerful and mighty!!!  He is a God who rewards greatly!!!”

The VOICE compels us to “Go Tell It On The Mountain” –

Matthew 5:14-16:

[14] You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  [15] Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  [16] Let you light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.

ISAIAH began the second half of his ministry by hearing the VOICES OF GOD calling him to:

#1.  Comfort My people…

#2.  Prepare the way for the Lord…

#3.  Invest in the eternal…

#4.  Go tell it on the mountain.

And ISAIAH WAS FAITHFUL and answered those VOICES…

And the voices, are they still calling today?

Do you hear the voices?

Will you respond to what you hear?

Or, will you ignore them?


Footnotes & Credits:

Footnote [i] – https://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/comfort-someti…h-skin-on-them/

Photo Credits- Google Image Search & Photo Pin.

Bible Translation:  The AMPLIFIED BIBLE, except where noted in the text.