Returning to One’s Own Vomit [Part Two]


I proposed a question for the readers at the close of Part One:

“Could enlightenment, tasting the heavenly gift, sharing in the Holy Spirit, tasting the goodness of God’s Word, and the powers of the coming age…could they be true of a person who has not received Christ as Savior?”

Well, in seeking to interpret this with the view of the Bible as a whole, it’s challenging to understand this as a Christian who LOST their salvation.

Look again of the context of the Letter to the Hebrews that helps us to possibly understand this meaning differently.

Overall, the Letter is saying that Jesus is Greater and the message is greater to persevere through challenges.

Additionally, the immediate context of this passage leading up to our verses in Chapter 6, focused on The Word of God being able to hear it, speak it and digest it and growing in our understanding and knowledge of it and living it out.

So, could these verses, instead of being about a person who is truly saved, be about a person who has heard the word, seen the truth of it and its power, but…has not yet truly TRUSTED & RECEIVED Christ Jesus?

So with the rules–the PRINCIPLES– of the interpretation given and set in place in Part One of the studies, let’s take a look and see if things begin to fit and make sense that another Scripture supports.

Hebrews 6:4 (a) (NIV)

“It is impossible for those who have been enlightened…”

What does “been enlightened” mean?

Does it mean to be a Christian or something else?

“the giving of spiritual light to the soul” – Grk.photizo  [*See footnote]

Enlightenment in this sense, in the context of my previous comments, is the Word of God.

Other Scriptures seem to confirm this.  Ephesians 1:18 (AMP) reads “By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light [“enlightened”], so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones).”

We are enlightened to the HOPE we find in the gospel message,  We respond to that by receiving Christ. That happens before we receive Christ and is necessary to be able to respond and receive.

We need ENLIGHTENMENT so we can come to receive Jesus!

Also, 2 Peter 1:19 says,  “And we have the prophetic word [made] firmer still.  You will do well to pay close attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dismal (squalid and dark) place until the day breaks through [the gloom] and the Morning Star rises (comes into being) in your hearts.” [AMP]

It’s saying to pay close attention to God’s word through the prophets of old because in doing so, it will give you LIGHT (enlighten you) to see and understand.

And Paul tells Timothy something similar about God’s Word:  2 Timothy 3:15 says, “from infancy, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”  (NIV).

So these other Scriptures should give us confirmation of our understanding of being enlightened.  This enlightenment–this understanding of the Truth of God’s Word and the hope found within it must be before SALVATION, because it’s this “enlightenment” that makes SALVATION even possible!

If you don’t know the message of HOPE found in God’s Word and BELIEVE it, you’ll never be saved!

WHAT’S NEXT?

“TASTING THE HEAVENLY GIFT” — What does it mean?  [vs. 4-6].

[4] It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit,  [5] who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age.”

How this ENLIGHTENMENT works.

So what does it mean to have “tasted the heavenly gift”?

It means having read the word of God, is like tasting a new food item on a restaurant’s menu. But, because it seems foreign to your taste buds, you just can’t swallow it and spit it out in your napkin.

Scripture talks about the word being a treasure given to us in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NIV).

Verse 6,  For God, who said, “Let the light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ,”

And Verse 7,

THE WORD OF GOD IS A TREASURE…

A GIFT from heaven to us, to tell us of the HOPE that’s available through Christ Jesus.

“Shared in the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 6:4)

The meaning here is that the Spirit has revealed truth and drawn you to the Lord.

It doesn’t mean they have the Holy Spirit indwelling them as some think.  But the teaching of the rest of the Bible disputes that idea and it can just mean that you have been on the receiving end and the Holy Spirit’s work is revealing the truth of God’s word to you and His work has drawn you to the Lord.

Let’s remember what the author of Hebrews doesn’t say here.

He hasn’t said, “The Spirit of Truth lives with you and will be in you” – John 14:17

He hasn’t said, you are a temple “of the Holy Spirit, who is in you” –  1 Corinthians 6:19

He hasn’t said, you have been sealed with the Holy Spirit – Ephesians 4:30

Here the author says “Shared in the Holy Spirit”.  It’s a recognition that this person has been a participant in the work of the Holy Spirit which as Jesus says in John 16:13, “guide you into all truth”.

“TASTED THE GOODNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD”  (vs. 5)

I didn’t find this particular phrase as difficult to understand as the others and pretty self-explanatory in that a person knows God’s word is “good” and true.  You have seen the WORD working in people’s lives and know its goodness and truth.

What does “tasted the powers of the coming age” mean?

You’ve seen miracles that have been performed among you that have been used to confirm the message of the gospel.

Looking back at the author’s words in Hebrews 2 about the message of SALVATION.

Hebrews 2:3-4 (NIV)

[3] how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?  This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

[4] God also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The person being spoken about has been enlightened by the work of the Holy Spirit to the truth of God’s word, the Gospel.  It’s not a person that’s already in Christ but a person that has all they need to know to become a Christian.

This person has seen it all and knows the truth of it since the Spirit has shown them these things and drawn them to Lord Jesus, but they haven’t yet truly believed in and received Christ Jesus and if after all of that, they turn away from the Lord’s calling and the Truth set forth by the gospel; there’s no hope for them of ever coming back to this point again.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?

How can someone, a friend, a neighbor, a family member be enlightened and fall away?

The answer is “I don’t know.”

But we see the truth of it in Scripture who’ve seen all of what the author talks about and yet fall away.

What is described in Hebrews 6:4-6 are the people who the Apostle John refers to in 1 John 2:19 –

This here is one of 2 things that confirm the reality of our salvation.

THE REALITY OF OUR SALVATION IS CONFIRMED BY OUR PERSEVERANCE.

The importance is, it’s not required that you persevere in order to be SAVED.  It’s truly the saved who will persevere!

Your perseverance shows the reality of your salvation.

If you are saved you’ll not fall away.  You’ll persevere.

When it becomes hard to be a “Christian,” or to act like one anyway, those who aren’t really Christians, either turn to Christ in reality or fall away, showing that they were never really Christians, to begin with.

This is why the author of Hebrews warns his readers and us.  If you have seen the truth and goodness of the word of God and the Spirit of God have demonstrated the truth of it all, enlightening you to its truth as He is drawing you to Jesus, you have got a choice to make.

Will, you receive Christ and truly be SAVED, guaranteeing your salvation by the indwelling presence of the Spirit?

Or, will you not receive Christ truly, but simply go along until it gets hard and then have the reality of your salvation shown for what it is – not real – and that reality will be determined by your falling away and turning from Christianity?

Hard and challenging times await us all, Christians and non-Christians.

Christians will be encouraged in their faith as they persevere and see the reality of their own faith.

We also see that the reality of our Salvation is confirmed by Producing Fruit (Hebrews 6:7-8).

[7] For the soil which has drunk the rain that repeatedly falls upon it and produces vegetation useful to those for whose benefit it is cultivated partakes of a blessing from God.

[8] But if [that same soil] persistently bears thorns and thistles, it is considered worthless and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.  [AMP]

FRUIT is an essential element of salvation.

Again, it doesn’t earn you salvation, it’s evidence of your salvation  [see Matthew 7:17-20, 13:22-23].

A true believer produces good fruit.

There will be differences in the amounts and kinds of fruit produced, but a true Christian will produce fruit!

So what’s all this mean?

There are times when we need to test the reality of our salvation.  2 Corinthians 13:5 says it best:  Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?

We need to stop and examine ourselves in testing the reality of our salvation.

And while the author of Hebrews warns some who have yet to truly TRUST in and receive Christ, he also wants to encourage the majority who are facing hard times and circumstances that their perseverance and fruit are clear and present to others.

Hebrews 6:9-12

Encouragement and help come to the forefront in encouraging themselves and to see their perseverance and fruit.

The text of testing ourselves is not designed to make us constantly question if we are saved, or not.  No, for the truly saved, we should be encouraged to look at the whole of life we’ve been living and know that we have salvation because of the perseverance we’ve had in difficult times and the fruit that is being produced in our lives.

And in this realization, it should be an encouragement to keep on, keeping on, because the author tells us in the closing verses that God’s promises are sure and they should be “an anchor for the soul”  (Hebrews 6:19).

But it’s to those who examine themselves, who don’t see perseverance or fruit, that’s the warning and should be the wake-up call to some.

Don’t think that just knowing about the Bible and all its stories is enough! 

You need to enter into a knowing relationship with Christ Jesus by receiving Him as your Savior, recognizing the REALITY of Who He is and What He has done, FULLY believing in Him!

So if today you’ve examined your life and don’t see fruit or perseverance, and not concerned about your salvation, don’t harden your heart, but turn to Him confessing TRUE BELIEF and follow after Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you do see fruit and perseverance in your life, be encouraged and continue to be strengthened to follow Him.

May God be a blessing in your life!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES FOR PART TWO ~

Footnote:  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia/Bible Hub Link.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search – Settings, advance

Note:  Applied credits and footnotes from Part One of this blog-study can also apply to Part Two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

STUFF Happens In Life, So What’s Next?

I’m sure that many of you reading this already know that “stuff” happens in our lives.  You also understand those difficult things, unimaginable things, seem to come out of nowhere.

Now I’ve heard over the years people’s interesting answers to the “Why’s”, the “What for’s”.  And you know, there’s some really bad information floating around in the halls of religion to why stuff happens.  Here are but a few answers I’ve noticed and embraced by so-called “TV preachers and preacherettes”.

They say things like the reason things (STUFF) is happening to you right now is your fault, you don’t have enough FAITH or you have some SIN of unbelief in your life.  Their cure for your problem usually comes from some “power of positive thinking” message or “name it and claim it” sermon.  Most of this has no legitimate place in the church.

I can give you many examples and biblical reasons why stuff happens, even to “good people.”  And this brings me to illustrate my point using the life of the Apostle Paul and his own words–

We are the sum of all our experiences both good and bad!

Paul’s Recognition that Stuff Happens In Life…prior to becoming a ‘born again’ believer begins in Acts 26.

There have been many important events in history and obviously, the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ are at the top of the list but beyond that, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus ranks with the most important and influential events ever!

He describes his conversion to Christianity in Acts 26:12-18 in his defense before King Agrippa.

Paul’s life after his commission –

Paul describes many of the things (the “stuff”) that happened to him after his commission in his 2nd Letter to the church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 11:21-28 (NIV)

[21] To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!  Whatever anyone else dares to boast about–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast about.  [22] Are they speaking Hebrews?  So am I.  Are they Israelites?  So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ?  (I am out of my mind to talk like this) I am more.  I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.  [24] Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked.  I spent a night and a day in the open sea.  [26] I have been constantly on the move.  I have been in danger from rivers, in danger of bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false believers.  [27] I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep.  I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food.  I have been cold and naked.  [28]  who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

PHILIPPIANS is one of Paul’s Prison Letters…

And in VERSE 13, he speaks of his “chains”:  

Philippians 1:13 (NIV)

“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.”

According to what most scholars believe, Paul was under house arrest in Rome.  He would later finish his “race” when he was re-arrested and imprisoned in the Maritime jail.  Church history generally looks to Paul’s martyrdom outside the city of Rome at the hands of his Roman captors and it’s from this second imprisonment we have the 2nd letter to Timothy, considered Paul’s “last will and testament” (2 Timothy 4:6-18).

Paul’s Realization When STUFF Happens – 

Most of us want to view the STUFF of life through a microscope whereas Paul looked at life through a telescope!  He envisioned things that had happened to him as a teaching moment.

Contemporary wisdom would say that what had happened to Paul was a BAD THING…BAD STUFF! And that’s true, it was.

But Paul saw everything through the lens of the providential arrangement of God–GOD’S PROVIDENCE–GOD’S IN CONTROL!  

The English Standard Version translates verse 12 in this way:

Philippians 1:12 (ESV)

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

Paul declares that his “…CHAINS in Christ…” revealed to the Imperial Guard and everyone else in the palace that he was imprisoned for Christ’s sake.

The news spread from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, and then to the front doorsteps of Caesar’s household.

This very sight had to give great comfort and joy to the brethren at Phillipi.

Second, Paul ended the Philippians letter by saying,

Philippians 4:22 (AMP) – “All the saints (God’s consecrated ones here) wish to be remembered to you, especially those of Caesar’s household.”

It’s important to understand rightly the phrase Paul uses here.  That’s what Word Detectives do!

“Caesar’s household” doesn’t mean Caesar’s kiss in kin.  

Caesar’s household was the regular phrase for what we would call the Imperial Civil Service; it had members all over the known world.  The palace officials, the secretaries, the people who were in charge of the Imperial revenues, those who were responsible for the day-to-day administration of the EMPIRE, all these were known as “Caesar’s household”.  [See Footnote [1] ].

Look at what Paul says next in VERSE 14:

He says that most of the “…brethren…” were emboldened by his chains and they preached the Word without fear.

This is important and a great lesson for believers today.

When we SHARE our faith it serves to give encouragement to those around us.

And Paul’s Response When STUFF Happens… (Philippians 1:18-19) –

“Happiness depends on happenings, but JOY depends on Jesus!”

The overwhelming THEME of Philippians is JOY.

16 times Paul uses the word JOY or REJOICE.

He’s THANKFUL in the midst of his STUFF…

#1.  Christ is proclaimed.

Paul acknowledges that some preach Christ because they’re jealous and quarrelsome, but others do so from genuine goodwill.  They do so from love and because they know that God has given me, Paul, the work of defending the GOSPEL.

The others don’t proclaim Christ sincerely but instead, from a spirit of selfish ambition; they think that they will make more trouble for me while I’m in prison.

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

I’m happy about it–just so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, right or wrong.  And I will continue to be happy!

#2.  Christ is honored – Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJ)

Many who are reading this, or know of someone who is struggling with some STUFF that has happened or happening in life have questions but no answers to the circumstances faced.

Maybe I can give you a few things that might help you and others understand the “stuff” that happens.

FIRST, and this is important, you’ll never understand what’s going on without a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE APART FROM THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.

Proverbs 3:1-6 (NIV)

[1] My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart,  [2] for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.  [3] Let love and faithfulness never leave you, bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  [4] Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.  [5] Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  [6] In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Ask Him to help you see LIFE the way He does.  I know that’s hard but that’s where TRUST comes in to play.

Remember what He said…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (AMP)

[8] For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1:5 (NIV)

[5] If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 3:17 (NIV)

[17] But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

God Will Make A Way in a Tragedy…

In other words, as we depend on the Lord in difficult circumstances–in the STUFF that can surround us at times, when we persevere in doing what’s right even when it’s hard.

Several years ago, Don Moen was awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call.  His mother-in-law called to tell him that a tragic car accident involving his wife’s sister and her husband, and their four small boys on a road trip when the tragedy occurred.  The oldest, who was eight, was killed instantly.  The others in the car were seriously injured.

As Don and his wife grieved and poured out their hearts to the Lord, Don felt helpless at communicating hope and grace to his wife’s sister and brother-in-law.

Don recalls how God helped him through the tragedy:

“It was as if the Lord gave me these words”

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Media:  YouTube Video – Don Moen, God Will Make A Way, 1990; Integrity’s Hosanna Music/ASCAP.

Photos:  Google Image Search, subject to copyright.

Footnote [i]:  William Barclay, The Letters to The Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other versions used are noted in the text.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1.  God the Father CHOSE you.

#2.  God the Holy Spirit CHANGES you.

#3.  God the Son CLEANSES you.

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

GOD THE FATHER CHOSE YOU!

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

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

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

The FIRST “C”:  God has CHOSEN us!

We are special to Him…

We belong to His family…

We are children of the living God.

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

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

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

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

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

He KNEW who would believe.

He KNEW who would know their need of a Saviour.

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

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

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

2 Timothy 2:19 REMINDS US,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOLY SPIRIT works in us…

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

The Holy Spirit can CHANGE & TRANSFORM our lives.

Here’s a QUESTION for you to ponder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 4:7-8 says it this way:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDURANCE Provided When Things Appear to be Insurmountable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit lives IN you.

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

JESUS DIED for you and me.

JESUS SAVED you.

JESUS CLEANSED you.

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

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

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

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CREDITS HONORED –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advance search.

Dictionary:  Oxford Dictionary.

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

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

 

Christmas In October, Really?

Scripture Study – NUMBERS 24:17

Okay, it may be a bit early for a blog-POST about A “STAR” at Christmas, especially since I’ve been reading and studying in the Book of Numbers in the OT of the Bible.  I don’t believe in ‘happenstance,’ so before venturing down a dead-end road I prayed and asked God for some answers to the timing of this POST.  Why had God’s Spirit given me this particular verse at this particular time?

Here is how He answered my questions:

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV Bible)

[8] “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  [9] “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

So after meditating on God’s answer from His Word, I began to consider our Saviors birth and the details knowing that Jesus’ birth is amazing at any time of the year and not just during the Christmas holidays.

CONSIDERING THE DETAILS OF JESUS’ BIRTH…

Would we have planned it that way?  None of us would choose to lay our newborn in a trough where animals had fed.  I wouldn’t have.

BUT THAT WAS GOD’S WAY FOR HIS SON!

Maybe we would have thought, “Yea!  Let’s send some angels!”

Would we have sent them to no-name shepherds, out in the country where no one else could see them?  I wouldn’t!

GOD’S WAY IS NOT OUR WAY!!

But God’s Way Does Not Fail!

That’s something for us to take heart to, especially when tragedies in the world recently make us want to cry out,  “Why God, why this way?  It’s too hard for me to understand!”  But His Way doesn’t fail!

With that thought in mind, look closely now at this PROPHESY from NUMBERS 24.  I think you’ve heard this Prophesy many times before and you know how it’s fulfilled in JESUS.

But after looking at the CONTEXT of the verse, God’s Way becomes all the more AMAZING!

His Way Amazes!

This PROPHECY didn’t come about in the usual way.  It wasn’t spoken directly by the LORD when He promised the Savior to Adam and Eve or to Abraham.  The words weren’t unspoken by a BELIEVING PROPHET of Israel–Isaiah or Micah.  It was spoken by someone whom we would call a Sorcerer.  His name was Balaam, son of Beor.

As the story begins, the LORD had brought ISRAEL out of Egypt about 40 years earlier.  And now was the time to enter the Promised Land.

On the east side of the Jordan River, Israel’s armies had defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan.  So when the people of Moab saw this, they became terrified!  Can you imagine over 601,000 combat-ready troops approaching the city where you live?

Then king Balak, son of Zippor took action.  If the Amorites couldn’t stand against Israel, he figured he couldn’t either, so he tried another tactic.  He sent an envoy to Balaam, son of Beor in Pethor.  He wanted to employ Balaam to CURSE Israel.  If they were CURSED, perhaps the outcome of the battle would be to their favor.

That night the LORD told Balaam not to go and he sends the envoy back to king Balak the next day.  But Balak was persistent and sent more princes who were more distinguished and promised Balaam with even greater rewards.

That night the LORD allowed him to go, IF, and only IF, he did exactly what the LORD would tell him.  As Balaam sets out, he apparently had decided in his heart, not to do what the LORD would tell him.  You know, the old crossed fingers behind the back tradition.

The angel of the LORD stood in his way and would have killed him on the spot, except Balaam’s donkey saw the angel and went off the path around him.  Since Balaam couldn’t see the angel, he became angry with his donkey.  Finally, for the third time, there was no room for the donkey to go around and it sat down and Balaam beat the poor animal.

AND THEN THE DONKEY SPOKE:

“Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day?  Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”  (Numbers 22:29 NIV)

And the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel, agreeing to speak ONLY what the LORD told him.

Now King Balak readied seven altars with sacrifices in preparation for Balaam to curse Israel.  But instead of a CURSE, Balaam spoke a BLESSING instead since those were the words of the LORD.

King Balak had Balaam try again at another place and again he blessed Israel.

They tried a third time and instead of resorting to SORCERY as he had on previous occasions, Balaam continued to BLESS Israel as the LORD had told him.  By now, King Balak was furious!  But before he left, Balaam spoke some more words with a BLESSING and PROPHECY, including the Text for this BLOG-POST in Numbers 24:17 (NIV) – 

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near.  A STAR will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.  He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.”

His Way Brings Hope!

People have looked to the STARS for hope throughout the ages past.  Ancient astrologers tried to predict the future from the Stars.  Modern science looks to the Stars to find new planets, a new hope when the earth is dried up.

Then we have celebrities, movie stars, and people look to them for hope and inspiration.  But how they disappoint!  All those different kinds of STARS are FALSE Hope.

But these words in Numbers 24:17 are spoken from such an unlikely source, these words were spoken almost three and a half millenniums ago, these words are THINGS spoken that don’t disappoint.

For God’s Ways Do Not Fail!

That STAR did come at the right time and was laid in a manger.

 

How many years had passed for God’s way to work out according to His schedule of GRACE, not our schedule of instant gratification.

“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not now”

Numbers 24:17 (NIV).

Almost 1500 years after these words were spoken before THAT STAR came.

But He did come!  The LORD keeps His Word!  And that should bring us all HOPE.  Hope doesn’t disappoint or prove false.

For the LORD keeps His Promises.

In Moments of the Darkness of Sin…what does the Hope of the Star Bring?

How dark the night can be!  But even in pitch-blackness of night, doesn’t even compare to the DARKNESS of Sin… the shroud of DEATH.  And since everyone is born into this DARKNESS [Romans 3:23; 5:12; Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5], our natural self-thinks that it’s normal.

But God didn’t make us be creatures of the night; rather, He wants us to be His children of the Light.  Now, this goes against our inherited nature.  We don’t want to be seen by others as naked; our hearts laid bare, our secret sins exposed, our self-imagined goodness.  We cling to artificial lights to make us feel good by our own efforts, running from the TRUE LIGHT.

BUT DARKNESS AND SELF-IMAGINED LIGHT….end in Death and Hell.  NO HOPE, NO JOY.  Only the weeping and gritting (gnashing) of teeth [Matthew 13:42].

BUT LOOK!  A STAR HAS RISEN!

And this STAR shines into the DARKNESS…THE TRUE LIGHT!

This Star has worked a marvelous change in you and me–that worked a NEW BIRTH in us– A REBIRTH!  We who had been born children of darkness, we were reborn:

John 1:13 (The MESSAGE Bible)

“The Life-Light was the real thing.  Every person entering Life, he brings into Light.  He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice.  He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.  But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.  These are the God-begotten, not blood-begotten, not flesh-begotten, not sex-begotten.”

SO THIS STAR brings you and me HOPE!

He has shattered the DARKNESS OF SIN, bring the LIGHT of forgiveness.  Thar was God’s Way to save you and me, namely to send His Son into our DARKNESS, so that He took our guilt upon Himself and died in our place as the SACRIFICE for our sin, and so ransomed us with His blood.

How far above our ways!  God’s Way doesn’t fail!

His Way Prevails!

COMFORT comes with this Prophecy when it talks about the SCEPTOR.

God’s Way will not fail, for that STAR who shines into the darkness to SAVE US, is the SCEPTOR.  He, JESUS, is the KING who has redeemed us to be His people.

HE IS YOUR KING…for He ransomed YOU with His blood!

He carries the SCEPTOR, for He has conquered SIN, Satan, and Death for you, risen from the grave in Victory and Glory for you.

He carries the SCEPTOR, for He is the Almighty God and He reigns over all at the Father’s right hand.

I thought about that for a minute.  Think of it when said and done.  When a foreign King. a pagan Sorcerer plotted to undermine God’s plan for His people, the LORD used a dumb donkey to set things right.  GOD’S WAY DOESN’T FAIL!

He even used that pagan sorcerer to speak a wonderful promise of the Savior.  A PROMISE that stirs HOPE in our hearts still today…each and every day of the year.

So whatever you are facing right now, whatever the circumstance you find yourself in, look to the STAR in the manger. see His Scepter, follow Him in HOPE!

“The peace of God that surpasses all understanding

keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Amen.

Philippians 4:7

 

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You might enjoy this Music Video at the end of this Blog-Post from YouTube:  A STAR IS BORN!  “Mary Did You Know?”

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CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings, Advance search.

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

An Easter Postscript: DEATH HAS EXPIRED!

Where were you when President Kennedy died?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosea 13:14 

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

I will redeem them from death.

Where, O death, are your plagues?

Where, O grave, is your destruction.”

EASTER MEANS THAT JESUS LIVES!

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

Our Savior Destroyed the Enemy.

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

DEATH HAS ENDED?  HOW CAN THAT BE?

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

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

SO DEATH IS OUR GREATEST ENEMY –

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

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

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

DEATH HAS PLAGUES –

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

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

DEATH’S ENTRY TO THE WORLD –

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

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

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

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

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

THE ENEMY HAS BEEN DESTROYED ONCE AND FOR ALL!

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

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

THE VICTORY IS WON!

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

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

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

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

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

But then He rose again from the dead.

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

I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR REDEEMER GIVES YOU VICTORY!

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR REDEEMER SHARES HIS VICTORY OVER DEATH WITH YOU –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But DEATH has!  The PROPHECY of Hosea is fulfilled!

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

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

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

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CREDITS:

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

PHOTOS:  Google Advanced Image Search; Photo Pin.

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

Let’s Start Listening to the WHOLE Story

POST’S SCRIPTURE:  HOSEA 5:1 – 6:3

I was feeling a bit nostalgic the other day while writing down thoughts towards my next blog.  I started THE WORD DETECTIVE blog-site over 5 years ago, relating many personal stories throughout my life.  But it struck me (that’s a funny choice of words) this morning that I hadn’t revealed the story about when I was once stabbed.

It was a regular work day in January 1999.  There were 7 of us in a room–myself, three other men, and three women.  One of the guys was talking about his upcoming vacation when one of the women handed him a knife and he stabbed me in the chest!  The last thing I remembered before I passed out was a woman working to control the bleeding.  I woke up in a 5th-floor hospital bed with an oxygen mask over my entire face at Tacoma General Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.

I GUESS I BETTER TELL YOU THE WHOLE STORY–

I wasn’t at work.  The room was a surgical room and the six other people in the room were my anesthesiologist, my surgeon, and his PA (Physician’s Assistant), and three nurses.  They were there to perform Heart Bypass Surgery, which is why the doctor stabbed me in the chest.

Fortunately, he had my best interest at heart (no pun intended) and nice enough to have his PA sew me up when he was finished.

You see if you don’t LISTEN to THE WHOLE STORY You May Get the Wrong Opinion. –

The ACT of a surgeon cutting into you with a knife sounds quite traumatic and who would opt for that?  But for someone who has cardiovascular disease and in need of relief in my breathing, a loss of energy, and everyday existence, it is a welcomed wound.

I’m telling this story as an introduction to God’s solution to the problem of UNFAITHFULNESS.

“HOW DOES GOD GET OUR ATTENTION?”

Those who don’t HEAR THE WHOLE STORY might only hear that the Lord will tear into us and go away, like a lion.

On that basis, people reject God, thinking of Him as a vengeful judge who wants to destroy all of us who don’t OBEY His commands.  But in my thinking, it is more appropriate to describe God as a divine Surgeon, who indeed cuts into us, but also binds up our wounds.

Job 5:18:  “For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”

Lamentations 3:32:  “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.”

Deuteronomy 32:39:  “See now that I am he!  There is no god besides me.  I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” 

HOSEA CHAPTER 5 ~

Hosea chapter 5 describes the surgical work of God in detail.  It describes how God gets our attention and removes the spiritual blockage left by our UNFAITHFULNESS.

The relief of the symptoms I acquired over time came through surgery, which was painful at the time, but critical for relieving my symptoms and ultimately my life.

Hosea 5:1-2 (Amplified bible):

[1]  HEAR THIS, O you priests!  And listen, O house of Israel!  And give ear, O house of the king!  For the judgment pronounced pertains to you and is meant for you, because you have been a snare at Mizpah and a net spread upon Tabor [military strongholds on either side of the Jordan River).  

[2] The revolters are deeply sunk in corruption and slaughter, but I [the Lord God] am a rebuke and a chastisement for them all.”

Hosea was called upon by God to get Israel’s attention so He could address the “rottenness”–the “decay” that came as a result of the nation’s sickness of SIN.

IN VERSE 3, God charges Ephraim [the northern ten tribes] with prostitution and corruption.

IN VERSE 4, the words reveal a HEART CONDITION of Unfaithfulness.

IN VERSE 5, the symptom is ARROGANCE–“pride and self-reliance”. 

VERSE 6 talks about going “with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord,” meaning these people were bringing their animals for Sacrifice, but it was empty worship.  Outwardly they were “worshipping,” but inwardly they had a heart condition and were far off from God.

These were a people, like us, who were sick with SIN of self-seeking and self-centeredness and assumed they were self-sufficient.

THEY SOLD OUT…their bodies as well as their moral and religious convictions like a prostitute.  They were UNFAITHFUL to God

They were UNFAITHFUL to God as Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful to her husband.  Even their sad attempts at WORSHIP was empty and void of meaning.

So am I referring only to ISRAEL here, or am I pointing a finger at us–the CHURCH today?

Do you see your own sickness in ISRAEL half as clearly as I see my own?  I see signs of DECAY showing up in our BEHAVIOR.  At times I have to admit that even my own worship experience on Sunday morning is just an act–going through the motions which then leads to repentance.  Or should “lead to repentance.”

The DIAGNOSIS is clear, God goes to work as a SURGEON.

From verses 8-12, we find a series of pronouncements that cut at ISRAEL like the perspective wounds of a SURGEON’S knife:

  • “Sound the trumpet…”
  • “Raise the battle cry…”
  • “Ephraim will be laid waste on the day of reckoning.”
  • “I will pour out my wrath”
  • “I am like a moth…”
  • “I am like rot…”

These don’t sound like words from a loving-God, any more than a six-inch cut down the chest sounds like the wounds of a healer!  But that’s exactly what they are.

For even God can be like a LION; His presence is that of a RESTORER and HEALER.

Coming to an Understanding…

This interaction between God and Israel through His prophet HOSEA, we are given the ability to recognize how God is at work to RESTORE us as INDIVIDUALS, as the CHURCH, and even our NATION.

Recognizing the Ways God Comes To Us to Get Our Attention So He Can Heal Us ~

FIRST, He comes like A MOTH or We Rot!

IN VERSE 12 He says,  “I am like a moth to Ephraim, like rot to the people of Judah.”  ISRAEL, represented by the divided kingdoms of EPHRAIM and JUDAH, already were in a state of decay.

It was a slow decay much like the slow, natural damage a MOTH does when forgotten sweaters folded in the closet are noticed after slipping them over my head.  And then my wife would notice the damage and say, “Looks like we have MOTHS in  the closet!”

GOD had allowed the natural consequences of Israel’s UNFAITHFULNESS to ROT their NATION.

Next, GOD Would Come Like A LION (verse 14).

Courtesy of Photo Pin

If the people couldn’t see the signs of DECAY…or just ignored them, God was warning through His prophet Hosea, He was next going to come and tear them to pieces–carry them off in exile with no one to rescue them.

But notice there would be a PURPOSE in this.  God would do this until…until they would admit their GUILT.

He would become like a LION so they would seek His face:  “in their MISERY,” He said, “they will earnestly seek me”  (verse 15).

 THE RAIN, It’s a Comin’!  – (Hosea 6:1-3)

 

Ultimately, God LOVES us and He wants us to experience Him in the SPRING RAIN.  He will let you ROT in your choices for a time if you insist and if you’re stubborn He will come to you like a Lion.  But His ultimate purpose will always be to RESTORE you.  It will always be to PROSPER you and not harm you.

His PURPOSE is to give you HOPE and a FUTURE.

Today in our nation, God is like a MOTH and like RUST.  He’s allowing us to DECAY because in general, we’ve forsaken Him.  And if we refuse to turn to the gentle rain of Jesus, we may soon know Him as a Great Lion.

Our nation, your nation, will crumble as with any dynasty that has gone before us.  Unless we change, the Western church will be torn apart.

So the question arises before each one of us:  How do you see God at work in restoring you personally?

This very week, have you lived in HIS PRESENCE and experienced His GRACE-like a SPRING RAIN?

If the answer is “NO”, then look carefully to see if God has been like a MOTH to you in your life.

Consider that your spiritual desert might show that you’re in a slowly developing state of DECAY.  Like the folded sweater lying unnoticed in the closet–not seeing the things changing before your eyes, but before you know it, you realize that the clothing of righteousness you once wore has been eaten away by the natural consequences of your choices.

If you are not spending the necessary time in the presence of God each day you have in essence locked your spirituality in a closet infested with MOTHS.

My fear is that you may try to pull it out later and only find it has been eaten away.

BEWARE OF APATHY!  Because APATHY will ROT your spiritual life–like RUST on a nail.

Maybe some who are reading this Blog-study have felt Him tearing at you like a lion ripping at his prey.  Perhaps the consequences of your choices have you confused–a struggling marriage, the loss of a job, an addiction. Maybe the pain of sickness or the mourning of death has reminded you of sin’s curse.  It could be the activity of the Holy Spirit has you weighted down concerning your own SIN, and the weight of GUILT is more than you can bear.

If God has been like a GREAT LION to you this week, do not despair!  He will BIND up your wounds!! –

JESUS came to Peter like a roaring lion with the crow of a rooster.  He came to Paul like a roaring lion in the midst of a blinding light.  Yet He came to them both like a refreshing RAIN restoring them to places of great significance in His divine plan.

SPRING RAINS ARE A COMIN’

Knowing the WHOLE STORY, will you let Him wash you like the RAIN?

There is only ONE WAY to God’s presence and that’ through to the CROSS of JESUS CHRIST.  Let Him tear apart your self-seeking–self-sufficient ways and RESTORE your spirit.

REJOICE, THE GREAT SURGEON COMES!

He brings HEALING on His wings.

He RESTORES us.

He is JESUS, our SAVIOR…AND He wants to operate on you.  Will you let Him?

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CREDITS –

Photo Credits:  Google Advanced Image Search and Photo Pin.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

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Several days ago, the Lord led me to do a study in 1 Thessalonians.  In His sovereignty, this study comes at a perfect time with the worlds current events.

I Thessalonians speaks about REAL HOPE in the midst of the trials and tribulation that surround us.

Warren Wiersbe written commentary on 1 Thess., “Be Ready” really sums up what we face ahead.

Aquarium/Fishbowl Experience –

What do you do with an aquarium?  What do you do when you visit an aquarium?  I just look.  The fish, for the most part are oblivious–could care less.

I remember when first married and we were as poor as a church mouse.  An aquarium sat on a stand in our duplex style apartment, with not much else in the room.  It was Valentine’s Day, and unable to afford much except exchanging Valentine cards, my wife said,  “Did you notice the aquarium?”  “No,” I replied. “Why?”  “Just go look,” she said.  There on the outside of our aquarium, on the outside of the glass, was a heart drawn in pink lipstick–“I LOVE YOU”.  But there’s more!  For fourteen cents, my wife bought an angel fish.  I must have watch that fish swimming around behind the glass for hours.  Even days later, that angel fish reminded me of my wife’s love for me and it wasn’t the amount spent, but the LOVE behind the gift.  “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” John 3:16.

As Christians, we live in a spiritual fishbowl.  People are constantly examining us and looking at us, especially in times of stress and discomfort. They let us know when we misspeak or mess up entirely.

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There’s another reason why they watch us.  The problem is…we’re often oblivious–like fish in a bowl–we could care less what they see or even read on our social media page; which means they may be viewing the wrong things.  

The Barna Group–“Knowledge to navigate a changing world” says there’s “no difference between believers and unbelievers.”  

That’s tragic–it’s no wonder Christianity as we know it isn’t growing like it should.

This was definitely not the case with the Thessalonians.

Here was a church who realized they were being watched on all sides.  Paul hears about their reputation/testimony, and writes to them.

There’s a LESSON here for us.  Our reputation is at stake and the world is watching us; they need to see a DIFFERENCE is us.

1 Thessalonians 1 BACKGROUND:

This was a fledgling church (Paul was there but 3 weeks).  Paul had been kicked out, riots going on, their pastor was gone.  They were familiar with persecution.  I can imagine it was like being a Christian in Afghanistan or Iraq today.

You would think they wouldn’t be too concerned with their reputation, but the opposite is true.

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Here was a CHURCH whose reputation was faultless.  They had an incredible TESTIMONY.

WHAT OTHERS SHOULD SEE WHEN THEY LOOK AT US:  

“Your work of faith” – salvation (V. 3)

Philippians 2:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, my dear friends; as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

In our spiritual journey on this earth, FAITH gets us on the started on the right path.  Notice what Paul says about our FAITH:

1 Thessalonians 1:4-6:

[4]  For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,  [5] because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.  You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.  [6]  You became imitators of us and of the Lord, in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible — Vs. 4:  “He has chosen us” not vice versa.

John 15:16 (NIV):

[16]  “You did not choose Me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Somewhere in eternity past, God chose us to believe on Him.  ELECTION makes our FAITH possible, but not automatic.

That takes us to the next step:

CONVERSION makes our FAITH actual “because”– Vs. 5:

“BECAUSE our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.  You know how we lived among you for your sake.”

“Because” shows why Paul is so convinced that God CHOSE them.  He sees their changed life, their “conversion.”

The Gospel isn’t just some fancy speech we mouthe that most don’t understand.

No amount of persuasion can “convince” someone to turn to Christ Jesus.

What makes our FAITH actual is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in our lives.

Colossians 2:13 (NIV):  “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.”

Our conversion, the transformation of our OLD dead nature, to our NEW nature in Christ, is what makes our ELECTION sure.

The Thessalonian church didn’t just HEAR the Gospel message, they experienced the Gospel!  It transformed their lives!!

ELECTION makes our FAITH possible while CONVERSION makes it actual.

But there’s even more.  We need to have a WORKING FAITH, a VISIBLE FAITH.

ACTION makes our FAITH visible–Vs. 6 (AMP):

[6]  “…become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself, for you welcomed our message in [spite of] much persecution, with joy [inspired] by the Holy Spirit.”

THEY, the church, became IMITATORS (of Paul and the Lord).  They acted out their FAITH and they welcomed the message with JOY (in suffering).

A baby learns by imitating/children playing “copy-cat.”  The same is true in our spiritual lives (we learn by imitating).

When someone comes to Christ, they immediately begin looking at other professing believers to see how they behave; how they act.  [ Prayer, church etiquette, sit in the back, express/hold our emotions, worship. ]

Who are you imitating?  Your spiritual parents?  Your Pastor?  Are they truly IMITATING Christ?

1 Corinthians 4:16 (Paul says)  “So I urge and implore you, be imitators of me.”  He could say that because in Galatians 2:20 (NIV):

[20]  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had a REAL working FAITH.  In other words, they wore their FAITH on their sleeves, visible to everyone they came in contact with.  There was a great difference between them and their pagan, unbelieving neighbors.  So Paul didn’t need to defend them, he bragged about them!

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1 THESSALONIANS 1:7

People often wonder how we can know if someone is SAVED or not.  Paul knew that God chose the Thessalonians for SALVATION because he saw the POWER of the Gospel in their lives.  He also saw their transformation in their working, visible FAITH.

DO WE HAVE THAT KIND OF FAITH?

The world should see JESUS in us!

The WORLD should see our LABOR OF LOVE – Vs. 3:  “Your LABOR should be prompted by LOVE”

Whereas FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle on our way.

Will Rogers once said,  “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

What is the LABOR OF LOVE?

1 John 3:18 (NIV):  

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

John 4:15 (NIV):

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

There are so many opportunities that are missed in our Christian life in reaching out to others with the LOVE of Christ.

  • At WORK:  working for the Lord or your boss?
  • At HOME:  patience?  loving our families as Christ loves us.
  • In SOCIETY:  Lifestyle Evangelism?  integrity?
  • In CHURCH:  seeking to meet others’ needs, rather than our own?

FAITH & LOVE go hand in hand.  You can’t have visible faith without real love!

Galatians 5:6 (AMP):

“For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.”

The WORLD is watching us!  Our reputation is framed and hanging on the wall!  

They should see our working FAITH and our labor of LOVE in action.

V. 3…your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

The WORLD should be able to SEE our everlasting HOPE!

Paul actually uses three qualities as bookends in the closing of this chapter (vs. 9-10 AMP):

[9] For they themselves volunteer testimony concerning us, telling what an entrance we had among you, and how you turned to God from [your] idols to serve a God Who is alive and true and genuine.

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

FAITH gets us started on the journey, LOVE becomes the vehicle, and HOPE…? HOPE shows us where we’re going.

There’s a difference between HOPE & WISHING.  This HOPE Paul’s referring too, isn’t like dropping pennies into a wishing well.  This HOPE is like saying, “I hope tomorrow is Monday!”

The Thessalonian BELIEVERS had a real, visible, enduring HOPE.

They hoped for 3 things that we too, should hope for (VERSE 10):

#1.  They HOPED for Jesus’ return!  “…look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.”  (v. 10)

#2.  They HOPED in Jesus’ resurrection, who He raised from the dead and because of the RESURRECTION, they knew too,  and they will eventually conquer death and be raised to a new life in Christ.  When Jesus returns, all those who HOPE in His resurrection can have confidence that we will live with Him forever!

#3.  They HOPED in Jesus’ rescue from God’s coming wrath (v. 10).  There’s coming a Day when God will return vengeance and wrath upon this godless and evil world we currently live in.  Those who’ve chosen God, those who’ve been transformed, those who’ve a visible faith and a labor of love…have a heart peace from the HOPE they will be RESCUED from His great wrath.

SO, WHAT DO PEOPLE SEE WHEN THEY LOOK INTO… OUR “FISHBOWL”?

Do they see CHRIST in us?

Do they see a WORK OF FAITH?  a labor of love?  an enduring, everlasting LOVE?

Do they see a DIFFERENCE in us?

If not, why would they want to become a Christian?

Whether we like it or not, we are LIVING in a public aquarium, where we’re putting on a show for the world to see.  How’s the show going?

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We need to be ready for Jesus’ soon return.  

In the meantime, we also need to be busy bringing people to Him by being imitators of Jesus, before it’s too late.

 


CREDITS –

COMMENTARY:  Enduring Word Bible Commentary:  1 Thessalonians 1 – Receivers and Responders.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.