“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].

 

 

 

 

SANCTIFIED: To Be Set Apart As New Creatures

How often do we find ourselves trying to get a handle on religious vocabulary thrown around in Christian circles?  In this study, the words to “sanctify”; “sanctification” will be addressed.

In the generic definition, to sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer [Bible Study Tools- Dictionary].  The pencil was designed by its maker for the use of writing down information.  I used to chew on my pencils all the way through my school years with my mom pointing out…” that’s not what pencils are used for!”  In the theological sense, a human being is sanctified therefore when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose, set apart for His service.

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  

For all you Word Detective followers, YES, I did a study in these verses in 2018. [THE QUESTIONS about WORLDLY ASSOCIATIONS]

Since some topics of conversation have come up recently in my own family regarding worldly associations, I’m re-visiting the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Church

Paul wrote this second letter because of continued strife and tension over social issues and false teachers who had infiltrated the church attacking him as an Apostle.

Do we struggle in the church today concerning social issues?  Are we hearing messages from pulpits around the globe addressing the moral changes occurring all around us; touching each and every one of us in some way?  Or is “compromise” the word of the day?

The Word Is Constantly Changing

Many changes in society are necessary because we as human beings are not perfect.  For the same reason, much “development” goes in completely the wrong direction.  God’s Word, however, is perfect, and never changes.  Sin remains sin, even when it becomes widely accepted.

The Silver Ladle Story:

Helen was a wonderful Christian woman.  A single mother raising her only son Tom as best as she could to love God.  Helen became very worried when Tom told her that he was moving to the Big City.  A year went by and all seemed well.  Tom called his mother and told her, his friend Sarah was moving in with him.  He told his mom not to worry, they were just roommates, strictly platonic.  Helen knew if she could spend just a little time with them together she would know just how “platonic” it was.  She soon got the chance when invited over for dinner.  All went well until about two weeks later.  Sarah came to Tom and said, “Tom, I’m not saying she took it and I’m not saying she didn’t.  The fact of the matter is, my silver gravy ladle has been missing ever since your mother left.”  So Tom called his mother and left a message on her machine:  “Mom, I’m not saying you took it and I’m not saying you didn’t, but ever since you left two weeks ago, Sarah’s silver ladle has been missing.”  The next day Tom’s mother called and told him:  “Tom, I’m not saying you are sleeping with Sarah and I’m not saying you’re not.  The fact of the matter is, if she were sleeping in her own bed she would have found that gravy ladle.”

We are chosen people (1 Peter 2:9)

As believers in Christ Jesus, we are different.  We are not like any other, we are not supposed to be!

2 Corinthians 6:17 (NIV Bible)

Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate…”

As Christians, we are told by the Bible to live holy lives to reflect the nature of God.  We are to SEPARATE ourselves from actions, influences, or people who hinder our service to God.

True believers are to live differently from those in the world. 

Sounds simple, but there are a lot of people who think they can come to Christ–SAVED–and still hang out with the same crowd.  They think they can still go to the same places, but you can’t.

Being Separate–SANCTIFIED.

The Bible tells Christians to be separate from the world.  SEPARATED means when you are SAVED, you change your life, change your friends, and you change your hangouts.

But that said, that doesn’t mean you abandon your lost friends.

When I came to Jesus at the age of thirty, most of my friends abandoned me.  They thought I was a religious nut talking about how my life had really changed since I came to Jesus.  Their reaction was “The proof is in the pudding.  We’ll just keep an eye on how you’ve really changed.”

You still talk to your old friends, you just change the topic of your conversations.  You can still hang out with your old friends but change the locations.  Instead of going out with them, ask to bring them with you to church.

My point is, you don’t abandon sinners, but you don’t join them either.  As a Christian, you are to bring them up to your level, not let them bring you down to theirs.

A Christian is directed by God’s Word to apply the biblical principles of SEPARATION and avoid a few things:

1.  We are to steer clear of anything that attacks biblical standards. 

If the Bible said it was a sin 2000 years ago, it’s still a sin today.  The Bible doesn’t change to fit the changing culture.

2.  Avoid any association that will hinder your spiritual life. 

So, teenagers, that means if your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t come to church with you, then find a new one that will.  Not only boyfriends and girlfriends but any of your friends.

2 Corinthians 6:14, 16 (NIV Bible)

[14]  Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.  For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?

[16]  What agreement is there between the Temple of God and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God has said:  “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

3.  Avoid any situation that you are unsure of:

There are some sins that are plainly spelled out to us in the Bible, and there are sins that are your own personal convictions.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not something is a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.  Because of God’s word in Romans 14:23   that “whoever has doubts…for whatsoever is not of faith is a sin”.  In other words, if you aren’t sure if it’s a SIN, then for YOU…it’s a SIN.

JUST DO THE RIGHT THING!

James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”  (NIV Bible)

If you are not living a life separate from the world, then how does the world know you’re different?  If you can still go out and commit the same sins as before you were SAVED, then I hate to tell you, you didn’t get SAVED!  I’m not saying a Christian is never going to sin, for God saved my soul. but I still live in the flesh until I go home to be with the Lord.  So anyone who says that they never SIN is calling God a liar, according to 1 John 1:10.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.  But I’m not talking about ‘slip-ups’ here.  I’m referring to instances where we intentionally sin.  Paul says in Romans 6:15 that Christians are under GRACE (God’s mercy and unmerited favor) and no longer under the law.  So does that give us the freedom to sin at will?  Paul said, “Certainly not!”  Even though Christians are no longer in danger of God’s condemnation, we will still answer to Him for the sins we commit.

Romans 6:12 says not to let sin reign in our bodies.  There’s a big difference between intentional sin and daily struggles of the flesh.

Paul says in Romans 7, that there is none of us who are perfect, that we’ll never be as long as we’re on this Earth.  And even though we aren’t perfect, we are to strive for excellence with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

If you think you can have it both ways, you’re wrong!  Once you accept Christ as your Savior, life will change. and you’ll want to SEPARATE yourself from the old life you had.  Will you completely change?  Of course not, but you will change!

You may ask, I know I’m SAVED but I still have a problem with SIN in my life, so how do I avoid those SINS?

As a Christian, when you sin, it is not the spirit that sins, but the FLESH and Paul said…

Some of the LUSTS of the FLESH are listed by Paul in verses 19-21:

  1. Adultery – any sexual contact outside the bonds of Holy Marriage is a sin – PERIOD.  There’s been a lot said to teenager’s conduct; about keeping their hands off each other, well the same goes for the adults.  If you aren’t married to them, keep your hands off them.
  2. Idolatry – anything that comes between you and your worship of God is an idol – your job, your family, your favorite football team, ANYTHING!
  3. Witchcraft – Harry Potter.
  4. Jealousy
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Murder abortion.
  8. Hatred racism.
  9. Drunkenness

“And those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” 

Avoidance of the lusts of the flesh.

Any sin you commit that gives the devil ammo he needs to shoot your spiritual life down, and the ONE WAY to avoid this is to apply the words of Galatians 5:25 -If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.]  Amplified Bible.

Can we walk in the Spirit and the World too?  Not a chance, and that’s why we are to be separated from the sinful world.

Remember you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).

Is Jesus your Master, or are you a captive to the world; a SLAVE to this world and its master?  You can’t have it both ways, so get off the fence and choose today which master you’ll serve.

Remember the words of Joshua chapter 24, verse 15…

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CREDITS –

Commentary:  Come Out And Be New, contributed by Joseph Nordyke, December 12, 2008 – Sermon Cntral. [The Silver Laddle Story]

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

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CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

Living In Little, Staying In Small

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

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

 

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

TRAGEDIES HAPPEN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then in Genesis 19:20 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

(Genesis 19:20 NIV)

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

(Genesis 19:30 NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEAR WILL MOTIVATE YOU TO MISS BLESSED OPPORTUNITIES –

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

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

LIFEPOINT:  Delayed OBEDIENCE is NOT Obedience!

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

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

“We Better PRAY First.”

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

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

Genesis 19:14 (AMP)

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

Genesis 19:30 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 19:31

THE GIRLS, Daughters of Lot…

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

FAITH doesn’t deny reality but believes beyond reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Here is another way of putting it:

James 1:13-16 (AMP)

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

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

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

[16] Do not be misled, my brethren.

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

IN STOPPING SIN IN YOUR LIFE!

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

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

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CREDITS ~

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

The Columbia Tragedy:  Wikipedia.

PHOTOS:  Google Image search.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING CAMP

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE:  2 Corinthians 5:1-9

Growing up in Southern California brings back fond memories of summertime camping with the family.  My dad was a city fireman for over thirty years and because of his work schedule of 24 hours on duty/24 hours off, he would have as many as three days and sometimes five off, plus accrued vacation time which led to many camping trips during many summers.

Setting up the Campsite was always an adventure. 

Dad had to find the exact spot for the tent location.  He knew that the preciseness of location was a must or my mother would have him move the location to her liking.  The men (my dad, and brother), all three of us, would call my mom a ‘picky camper’!; the campsite had to be near the restrooms with hot and cold showers AND… the site had to be neat and clean for the entire stay.  Oh, and a clothesline was always stretched between two pine trees near the picnic table to hang out damp washcloths plus any wet bathing suits and towels brought back from the local swimming hole at the nearby river.

Don’t forget the rake! 

Mom wanted my brother and me to take turns in raking the campsite every morning after breakfast, then hook up the nearby hose to settle the dust in front of the tent.  “NO DIRT IN, OR ON THE TENT!”

The sad part in all of this…eventually, we had to leave and break down the campsite.  Although mom wanted the trip to be enjoyable for all, she also wanted her experience to feel like,,, let’s say, clean, tidy, and like home sweet home.

“But Mom, it’s all just temporary!”

WE LIVE IN A WORLD COMPOSED OF THAT WHICH IS ONLY TEMPORARY.

For,  “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”  (1 Peter 1:24-35, NIV Bible)

ALL will eventually fade and pass away.  Only that which has its foundation built on and in God and in His Word will live on.

DWELLING IN TENTS –

The TENT should remind us of the TEMPORARY NATURE of things which we deal with.

Abraham in the Bible Lived in a Temporary Tent but looked for a Lasting City [Hebrews 11:8-10].

BEDOUIN TENTS:

  • They were portable.
  • They were protective.
  • They were durable.
  • They were temporary.

The Hebrew Nation dwelled in TENTS but looked for a HOMELAND.

Marvin Wilson, a noted author remarked, “Israel’s religion might be called a ‘pup-tent’ religion.”  [See Footnote [i].]

The Israelites traveled for forty years in the wilderness and in doing so, they dealt with the “temporary” to achieve the permanent–Canaan, the Promised Land.

Each Year the Feast of Tabernacles is a Reminder.

It might surprise some, but Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles as well.  On the last day, “great day of the feast”, He stood in the Temple and cried out:

John 7:37-38 (NIV)

[37]  On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  [38] Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

God Lived in a Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle) but Longed for the Heart of Man (Exodus 29:46) –

The Tabernacle was a CONTRAST to the magnificent temples of pagan gods that surrounded God’s people.  When God laid out the CAMPING PATTERN for the Hebrews, the TABERNACLE was at the center while the twelve tribes camped around it in the shape of a CROSS.

That may be incidental, but God did teach them that He was in their midst–in the very heart of the Campsite.  Their lives flowed from Him and He taught them this arrangement would only be temporary.

Even the TEMPLE would picture the TEMPORARY–

God permitted the Temple that King David had proposed to build but the Tabernacle had been sufficient:

2 Samuel 7:5-7 (NIV)

[5] “Go and tell my servant David, This is what the LORD says: Are you the one yo build me a house to dwell in?  [6] I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day.  I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.  [7] Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”

The TEMPORARY was made visible when the VEIL in the Temple was torn (“rent”) from top to bottom at Jesus’ Crucifixion [Matthew 20:50-52].

God was mourning His Son–symbolized by the “renting” of His garment.

God was changing His residence [1 Corinthians 3:16, AMP] –

[16]  “Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God’s temple (His sanctuary), and that God’s Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?

God dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT [Jeremiah 31:31-34].

JESUS momentarily lived among us but looked for His Father’s EVERLASTING house (John 1:14) –

JESUS’ brief LIFE was but 33 years…His brief DEATH…3 days.

In the interim until His return, He’s preparing a PERMANENT PLACE in His Father’s House [John 14:1-6].

Jesus dealt with the TEMPORARY to establish the PERMANENT and we live in the Short-term but should look to the Eternal.

That brings me to some QUESTIONS for all of us to ask ourselves:

  1. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE PUT ON THE TEMPORARY?
  2. HOW MUCH TIME, EFFORT AND ENERGY DO WE SPEND ON THE ETERNAL?

(2 Corinthians 5:1-5) – LIFE IN TENTS

Especially notice what Paul is saying in the verses here.  He says, “For we KNOW [not we hope for or we expect or even that we believe] that if our earthly house of this TABERNACLE were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  This is a very positive “KNOW”.  Paul knows because of the fact that the Holy Spirit has made it real to him.

The Word “TABERNACLE” – (Translations – ERV; AKJV; ASV; DBT).

The word for “tabernacle” is skene, meaning “tent”.  That’s the same word that was used for the wilderness tabernacle on the Old Testament in the Septuagint, the translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language.  The Old Testament tabernacle, a skene, a tent.  It was a flimsy sort of thing.

That thought brought me back to my CAMPING DAYS as a young boy and as a father raising my own children believe or not.  Setting up a TENT in the middle of the day was hard enough, much less at night by car headlights as once happened in the pouring rain.  At the time, I was thinking, I hate tents!  No privacy, there always seems to be small rock poking my back in the floor of the tent–right where my sleeping bag lies.

I like CAMPING IN TENTS, but only for a short time, not for weeks on end.

So it’s a little disconnecting to hear how the apostle Paul describes life in this world, as a TENT CAMPING TRIP that lasts your entire life!  For we must KNOW that if this TENT that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a HOUSE not made with human hands, but an eternal home in the heavens.  For in this tent of ours, we GROAN longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.  We don’t often think of LIFE like this, do we?

We hurt at times, reminders that our earthly bodies are TEMPORARY structures: sore joints, aches, pains, diseases, you name it!  We can resonate with that language especially as we grow older as we GROAN to put on the heavenly dwelling!

But at the same time, even as we look forward to our heavenly body, TENT LIFE is still a little scary, because one day, for each of us, hearts will stop beating, and lungs will stop breathing, and the CAMPING TRIP is over.

TIME TO BREAK CAMP and it’s then we’ll be glad that we have another home!

2 Corinthians 5:6 [Amplified Bible]

So then, we are always full of good and hopeful and confident courage; we know that while we are at home in the body, we are abroad from the home with the Lord [that is promised to us].

Let’s be honest that many times we feel completely at home in our bodies [“tents”] and they’re all we’ve known.  I know every scar and can point directly to moles on my back that I’ve never seen with my eyes.  However, as long as I’m at home in this body, I’m absent from the Lord.

“For we walk by faith, not by sight”  [2 Cor. 5:7].

Paul explains that we WALK BY FAITH–We take God at His Word.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather take His Word than anyone else’s word.

FAITH is taking God at His Word.

Remember, who you are, that the soul never dies; the soul goes to be with Christ as a true believer–the ‘overcomer’.  It is the physical body that’s put to sleep. 

It’s the BODY that must be changed–TRANSFORMED [1 Cor. 15:51-53].

RESURRECTION doesn’t refer to the SOUL or the SPIRIT.

The English word RESURRECTION is the Greek word “anastasis”, meaning a “standing up.”  It’s the BODY which will stand up.

Knowing these things, we WALK BY FAITH.

Being Ambitious [2 Cor. 5:9, AMP].

“Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth away from Him] or away from home [and with Him], we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him.”

The Greek word “philotin” is “to esteem as an honor”.  It is the same Greek word which is translated “study” in 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (NIV).

[11]  To make it your ambition to lead a quiet life:  You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you”

Be AMBITIOUS to mind your own business!

We should be Ambitious, LABOR, study. “to esteem as an honor” in such a way that we will be accepted of Him.  I’m not talking here about “works”.  This isn’t AMBITION to become a great somebody but to do our very best to PLEASE God.

Being ACCEPTED in Christ.

Being accepted in Christ is my…your standing before God at the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10).

God sees me in Christ, and He is made for me ALL that I need:

  • WISDOM & RIGHTEOUSNESS.
  • SANCTIFICATION & REDEMPTION.

[see 1 Corinthians 1:30]

HE IS MY PERFECTION – I am COMPLETE in Him!

You can’t add anything to COMPLETENESS.

True believers have Christ, and we are accepted in the Beloved.

ACCEPTED in Christ Jesus the standing that ALL BELIEVERS have before God.

But to be ACCEPTED of Him is a different thing.

This has to do with our present state and refers to the way we are living our lives.  Are we living in the “tent” of ours for Christ’s sake?  Are we “ambitious” to live in acceptance of Him?

To be AMBITIOUS to be accepted doesn’t mean that we are to crawl over everybody and step on top of them in order to get to the top of the heap.

God gave His Word to the prophet:

Jeremiah 45:5 (NIV)

“Should you then seek great things for your self?  Do not seek them.  For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the LORD, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.”

That’s putting it plain enough don’t you think?

There are no guarantees in this world aside from the Grace of God.

This is what we hold onto in the storms we face here on this earth.  The TENTS of our lives get tattered and worn out, and they get blown about by the winds of struggle and conflict, and they get drenched by storms of tears and heartbreak and then get covered with the dirt of sin.

But we have a PROMISE to stand on that gets us through the storms.

And that PROMISE is, I’m going to have a glorified body [house] someday that will make a mansion look like a worn out tent, and my God has already paid for it in full!

KNOW THIS & STAND ON…

  • THAT OUR GOD IS GOOD.
  • THAT THE CROSS HAS CHANGED US.
  • THAT THE EMPTY TOMB WILL NEVER FORSAKE YOU.
  • THAT GOD’S GRACE WILL NEVER DESERT US.
  • THAT WE HAVE THE UNSHAKEABLE BUILDING AHEAD OF US, ETERNAL IN THE HEAVENS!

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CREDITS  & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i] :  Quote byMarvin Wilson, author of “Our Father Abraham – Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith.”

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

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

Commentary:  Sermon Notes from Jerry Shirley on 2 Corinthians 5:1-9 – Sermon Central.

Photo Images:  Google Image Search – settings, advanced.

 

 

HEAVEN IS MORE ABOUT A PERSON THAN A PLACE

Bible Text:  Philippians 3:20, 21

Setting out on a Summer Vacation has always been a special occasion in my life. Although I don’t travel on long road trips as much as I used to, I still love planning vacations.

When our children were young, some parts of the journey on a family vacation were much enjoyed…while other parts, not so much (He’s touching me…No, I’m not…She’s touching me!).

I remember going on family vacations with my brother, mom, and dad and on the way we would stop for a fresh peach ice cream cone on a hot Summer day in Bakersville, California, but that wasn;t our destination…our destination was Yosemite National Park and the RESERVATIONS were long in place at Camp Curry.

And if you remember Family Vacations as I do and find after arriving at your destination there are NO RESERVATIONS available and you wind up spending the night in a car with a family of five…behind a park ranger’s cabin…hearing strange noises in the dark….you might want to punch a night prowling racoon on the nose!

Arriving At The End Of The Journey

Our loving Father, who wants us to make it to the end of life’s journey posted many road signs designed to get us and keep focused on the road.

It’s why the Apostle Peter writes… “Once you were not a people [at all], but now you are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy. Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in the world] to abstain from sensual urges (the evil desires, passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul.  Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers,  [yet]  they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God on the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you Wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock]”  (1 Peter 2:10-12AMP).

The Apostle Paul and Apostle Peter are in complete 100% agreement. 

OUR HOME ISN’T HERE!  OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN, NOT HERE ON EARTH.

We are on a JOURNEY, not to see and taste ice cream or punch a raccoon in the nose, but “We eagerly wait to see our Savior, from heaven.”

We long to glorify God here, because, through that, others might also glorify Him on the day He visits us.

As we look towards the end of the JOURNEY it’s important we realize that HEAVEN IS MORE ABOUT A PERSON THAN A PLACE.

Got whatever the reason we’ve been bombarded, saturated with pictures of heaven showing white fluffy clouds, Angels with halos, and a lot of singing and strumming.

George Bernard Shaw wrote these somewhat cynical words about HEAVEN:

If heaven is nothing more than a place where we sit on white clouds and play a harp day after day, frankly, it’s not a place to really get excited about…

It’s better than HELL–to be more comfortable than being ‘burnt toast’s-but it’s not a great motivation to keep on the narrow road until the end, especially when Satan offers all kinds of side-excursions on the journey.

Behavior and Hearts Will Never Ever Be Changed Spiritually by Viewing Heaven As A Place.

Don’t get me wrong!  I believe HEAVEN to be real, tangible, rock solid!!

Here’s the problem viewing HEAVEN in a place.

1 Corinthians 2:9, 10  (Good News Translation – GNT)

However, as scripture says, “What no one ever saw and heard what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him–but it was to us that God made known his secret by means of his Spirit.”

I had to re-read the above verses several times before I really understood.  Don’t try to present or understand HEAVEN as the end, your earthly, non-glorified eye, ears and mind are not capable.  But you have a RELATIONSHIP with God through His Spirit.  His spirit made Him “Abba” Daddy to you, and this relationship reveals the PROMISE of HEAVEN, not as a place, but as His people.

I want to share Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21 with you:  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’  will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  

When you think of HEAVEN as a place…trying to be good enough to get there, to keep the Law–the 10 Commandments–do church stuff, and Jesus says “you have to know my Father’s WILL (and the only way we know it is through the Holy Spirit), don’t just do STUFF…have a relationship with Me…know Me…and then HEAVEN isn’t a place you go, it’s a family reunion.

It’s Paul’s understanding that his CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN…

VERSE 20:  “But our citizenship is in heaven…and we eagerly WAIT…

And it’s Peter who is excited to give glory to God on the day He visits us.

THE WORK OF GOD can only be carried on by the POWER of God.

The CHURCH isn’t an organization (or it shouldn’t be), but it’s a spiritual organism–a living, breathing thing fighting spiritual battles…and only spiritual POWER can make it function as God ordained.

THE KEY…

It’s not money, organization, cleverness or education, the KEY is God, His Spirit and His POWER moving us forward on the journey.

Romans 8:14 reads “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

“Sons of God”…This is exactly the RELATIONSHIP Paul is talking about.  

God has made us spend eternity in relationship with Him…and we severed that relationship.

How is it RESTORED?

He calls us back…

He pays for our misgivings, our SINS through the BLOOD of His own Son.

We REPENT and ESTABLISH the relationship through the DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION.

The Holy Spirit enters this earthly tent…

Lives within…which is God’s down payment for an external RELATIONSHIP.

Our text in Philippians 3 tells us something so important about the relationship at the end of the journey.

The Greatest Miracle…

The most amazing aspect of ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP is guaranteed by Holy Spirit.

JESUS CHRIST THE ALL POWERFUL WILL TRANSFORM US TO BE LIKE HIM!

VERSE 21:   Who will transform and fashion anew the body of our humiliation to conform to and be like the body of His glory and majesty, by exerting that power which enables Him even to subject everything to Himself.  [AMP]

WHAT KIND OF AUTHORITY DOES JESUS HAVE?

“ALL AUTHORITY,” ACCORDING TO MATTHEW  28:18-20 –

Empty tomb with three crosses on a hill side.

WHY?  Because He made Himself a servant, was made in human likeness, came to earth in the appearance of man…and then humbled Himself completely in obedience to His Father, even dying on a Cross.

As JESUS prayed before His crucifixion in John 17, look closely at His request:

This PLAN, this RELATIONSHIP, existed before the world begun as did God’s PLAN for SALVATION through Jesus!

Jesus knew this SALVATION would be presented through the DISCIPLES.  Here’s what Jesus wanted more than anything else while He approached the Cross.

But He wasn’t just thinking about the 12…

John 17:11-19

HE WAS THINKING ABOUT THOSE WHO WOULD BE SAVED THROUGH THEIR MESSAGE.

LISTEN TO THE HEART OF JESUS!!

 

Powerful Stuff, don’t you think?  The RELATIONSHIP that Jesus has with the Father and the Father has with Him, flows powerfully into the lives of His followers through the Holy Spirit… 

Not just for the TWELVE, but even those who would be SAVED by their message,

Those who have been ADOPTED into the Family of God.

You see it’s the Spirit that’s transforming us into the IMAGE of Jesus.  Holy isn’t His first name, it’s the work He performs in us as believers.  He’s molding (as we surrender) our hearts, minds, attitudes into being shaped like Jesus’ heart, mind, attitude…

CROSS SHAPED!

So while this is occurring, our inward TRANSFORMATION through the Holy Spirit taking place in a body that’s wasting away, a TENT, inwardly we are hopefully becoming Holy – H.O.L.Y.

But our earthly bodies are becoming Holey – H.O.L.E.Y. …

  • Holy=filled with Jesus
  • Holey=filled with holes.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

I can probably bet that Paul wasn’t focusing on clouds, harps, and golden streets.  He was looking straight at the face of a Savior Who reversed His blasphemous, violent, persecuting hide!  The One Who pulled him out of the angry dust on the Damascus Road one day and redirected his path towards home.

And in that place, we call HEAVEN, in the presence of Jesus…spiritual perfection is attained, and our satisfaction becomes GLORIFICATION.

And then folks, that perfect Spirit will then be housed in a perfect body…

“Transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”

Spending A Day Or A 1,000 Years On My Face…

Telling Jesus how much I love Him, how grateful I am for His grace, my salvation, and I’ll get up to my feet, and look for my Dad and ask “Want a fresh peach ice cream cone?”  And he’ll say, “You know, you look great without all your scars.”  And then we’ll both fall at the feet of Jesus again for a day or 1,000 years, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

REUNION

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CREDITS –

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

PHOTOS:  All Photos used for this post were found on Google Image Search, Advanced Search settings.

DICTIONARY:  VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY.

 

Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?

If the person listening had never heard a goat or a sheep before, they probably wouldn’t know the difference.  Also, different BREEDS of goat can sound very different.  Saanen (white dairy goat breed) goats sound similar to sheep except their voice is higher pitched–but Nubian goats sound very much like a crying human baby.  [See FOOTNOTE [i] ]

 This brings us to a passage in Matthew where the Shepherd (Jesus Christ) knows the difference between “sheep” and “goat” – Matthew 25:32 (AMP)

[32]  All nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them [the people] from one another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats;  [See Ezek. 34:17]

Now before you start thinking to yourself of separating the goats from the sheep at your church on Sunday or in your neighborhood, this passage in Matthew has brought a debate to when all this takes place in time.  Some say it is at the beginning of the millennial reign while others say it’s at the end of the Millennium.  However, I believe the more important concept for us to grasp here, that there will come a time when King Jesus will separate people into two classes – SHEEP & GOATS.

OUR STUDY IN MATTHEW 25:31-46 is a conclusion to what is called the Olivet Discourse–where Jesus reveals the TRUTH of His second coming and the gathering of BELIEVERS and the JUDGMENT of the wicked and the LOST–non-believers.

Now for some reading this, the problem will be the SEPARATION–the righteous (those in Christ) and the judgment of the wicked (those who have rejected Christ).

THE REWARD for the SHEEP and the JUDGMENT for the GOATS –

To one group – JESUS says to enter in and enjoy your inheritance.

To the other group – Depart from me.

One is offered ETERNAL LIFE with God…

One group suffers ETERNAL LIFE without God.

The central truth to keep in mind is that when Christ returns (and He will return) to His glorious throne, there will be JUDGMENT based upon people’s response to Jesus.

THERE ARE SHEEP AND THERE ARE GOATS –

All of us came into the world as GOATS, born into SIN and far from God.  Some will allow God to TRANSFORM them and some will not because they like the way they are and by CHOICE stay far from God.

We read in Scripture that the Lord Jesus is JUDGE and SAVIOR.  He will allow each one of us to enjoy or endure the path we have FREELY chosen.  Now that’s worth reading again!

IMAGINE  the world where a GOAT, presented with an opportunity to be transformed miraculously into a SHEEP, could do so by grabbing the offer extended by the one making the offer.  SUPERNATURALLY the GOAT became instantaneously a baby SHEEP and cared for by the transformer (Jesus Christ, Savior, and King).  That happens by God’s GRACE and MERCY to all those that want and will let God TRANSFORM their lives.

That’s a God thing!

You cannot earn it.

You cannot buy it.

It is a FREE GIFT received only by acceptance!

When Jesus Returns with Angels All Around Him…SEPARATION BEGINS!

The SHEEP, those on His right, hold a position of honor.  Jesus says, starting with verse 34,  “The the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…

BY CHOICE they have decided to follow Jesus.

BY CHOICE they have participated in kingdom work.

We cannot earn SALVATION, but it’s very clear here that the RIGHTEOUS (God’s SHEEP) took an interest in people they were around.

The early church in the Acts of the Apostles exploded because they were willing to open their hearts and lives to others.

I remember years ago while in attendance at a Church Growth Seminar in San Diego, one pastor said this about the growth: “Quality first, then quantity.”

JESUS made it very clear!

“their inheritance was there since the creation of the world” – verse 34 (b).

That would have been long before they could have established any good works.

GOOD WORKS is not the cause of SALVATION, but the Effect of Salvation.

As Christians, our responsibility, and yes, as believers we have responsibilities…is to be more like JESUS.

GOOD WORKS is the direct overflow of God active in our lives.  I love being in the “overflow” [John 10:10 Amplified Bible].

GOOD WORKS are only acceptable to God because of our RELATIONSHIP with Christ–NOT in place of Christ Jesus.

RELATIONSHIP is an interesting word to grab hold of.  One Greek word, pros ko Liao,  describes “to CLEAVE (join with) someone in a personal (“interfacing”) relationship. – “to glue in” (for extending towards).  [Bible Hub – Relationship].  

Reminds me of a song made popular by Sugar Land, “Stuck Like Glue” –

Now GOATS can indeed perform acts of kindness,

BUT…their HEARTS are far from God and not right with God.  Their ACTIONS do not honor Him.

BELIEVERS, after always keeping our RELATIONSHIP with Christ FIRST…we are called to be a part of KINGDOM WORK–we are “glued in”.

#1 – Seek and save the lost.

#2 – Build each other up.

#3 – Minister to one another.

We cannot do that in isolation.

EVERYTHING WE SAY AND DO MATTERS TO GOD!

  • Kind words to others matter to God.
  • Small tasks of kindness to others matter to God.

In our ‘doing’, we may not be acknowledged by the one we are showing kindness to, but to God, kindness matters and done often enough becomes a LIFESTYLE instead of occasional work.

Matthew 25:37:  “When did we see You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink?”

Jesus replies,

Verse 40:  “Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.”

Our response to others is an indication of where our RELATIONSHIP is with the LORD.  For some, there will be a great REWARD waiting and we won’t even realize it because it has become a HABIT and we can’t remember each act of kindness we do.

We will be asking Jesus, when did you see us do these things.  And He will remind us of each act of kindness to others.

What About The Other Group of People, THE GOATS?

THE GREAT SEPARATION –

The DAY OF JUDGMENT will come; the LORD will separate and say…

Matthew 25:41-44 (Message Bible)

41-43  “Then he will turn to the ‘goats’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats!  You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell.  And why?  Because–

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was homeless and you gave me no bed,

I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,

Sick and in  prison, and you never visited.’

44  “Then the ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about?  When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?

Those that had no time for God.

Those that have spent their whole life centered on themselves.

One day they’ll find themselves out of TIME–out of EXCUSES of why they have not responded to the things of God.

Many people today want to SERVE God in their own way. without restrictions, without discipline, without having any commitments. 

They want EXTERNAL REWARDS now, and INTERNAL REWARDS later and to base their rewards on good intentions and a RELATIONSHIP that’s almost non-existent.

Kingdom Rewards in Heaven is given to those who SERVE without thought of REWARD.  

God GIVES out of His GRACE!

OUR INHERITANCE…

Our INHERITANCE has been laid out since the creation of the world, based upon a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ, Lord, and Savior of our souls.

ETERNAL FIRE was prepared for the devil himself and the rebellious angels that followed him,  and also for those that REJECT the FREE GRACE of God, that REJECT what Jesus did on the Cross, and say no to Christ.

The RELIGIOUS LEADERS of the day knew 1000’s of Jewish pilgrims would come for PASSOVER and FEASTS.

They knew that many will admire Jesus from a distance, BUT… few will follow Him.

Those who REJECT Jesus will not follow Jesus.

Those who have no time for Jesus will not have time for God’s people.

“Depart from me”  (v. 41 – NIV Bible)

These will be terrible words to hear from Jesus.  You have no time for me and you show no compassion for those put in your path.

It’s like an employee who puts on a good show when their boss is present and slacks off the times he/she thinks they can get away with it.

GOD SEES ALL…

GOD KNOWS ALL.

It is while we have time that we must decide to be identified with the SHEEP.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like being called a SHEEP or a GOAT!

But I’d rather be a SHEEP and a follower of Jesus, than a stubborn GOAT that rebels at all authority and does things his own way.

Something I particularly noticed in this study is JESUS’ words:  Notice the SINS pointed out were not the things they DID, but rather the things they DIDN’T do (vs. 42-43).

He focuses on their SINS OF OMISSION; failing to act out of LOVE and COMPASSION for those in need.  And although GOATS may at certain times sound like SHEEP, even have certain characteristics of SHEEP, just like the sheep, the GOATS didn’t understand just like the SHEEP.  The GOATS are clueless to what King Jesus is talking about.

THE GOATS respond similarly as the way the SHEEP have.

Jesus responds in the same way as He did with the SHEEP–EXCEPT…the GOATS have not acted on behalf of “the least”  (v. 45).

This past week, I read about an instant CAKE MIX that was a big flop {brand in the photo is for reference only].  The instructions said all you have to do is add water and bake and you’ll have a cake.  The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell until their research discovered the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that only required water.  Apparently, people thought it was way TOO EASY.  So the company altered the formula, changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water.  

Google Image Search Advanced Settings

The idea worked!

You know where I’m going here–some think the plan of SALVATION is too simple.  

Some people think that they have forever.

Some people think that God has no rules and anything flies.

“By Grace, you have been SAVED through FAITH, it is the GIFT of God, not of works”

And that is FACT!  You cannot add anything to the mix–that’s God’s recipe.

THE GOOD NEWS we proclaim is FREE from works, BUT WORKS will follow those that truly are FOLLOWING Jesus.  It has to do with our RELATIONSHIP–“Stuck Like Glue”–with Him.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

Footnote [i]:  Do Sheep and Goats Make the Same Noise?  Ask For Answers @ yahoo.com

Photos:   Google Image Search.

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

 

 

A Glimpse of GLORY

TEXT:  MATTHEW 9:2-13

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A school music teacher asked her class the difference between LISTENING and HEARING.  At first there was no response.  Finally a hand was raised and a youngster offered this wise definition:  “Listening is wanting to hear.”

As Christians, we should believe that the Holy Spirit is always speaking to us; (And He does not need to shout!).

The KEY here is that we must want to hear Him (Are we sensitive to the Spirit’s Voice).  Remember , He doesn’t waste His voice–He speaks to those who are willing to obey and listen!

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In this Scripture passage, God speaks; but it appears there’s only one out of the four people who is actually listening!

vs 2:  “Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves…”

Previously, there had been a watershed moment (8:29).  Simon Peter replied to Jesus’ question to the disciples “Who do you yourselves say that I am?”

[29] “You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

From that time on, Jesus then explained to His disciples that He must die!  This is the FIRST TIME He had declared this news to His followers.  From now on, His direction is set for Jerusalem and the Cross.

THERE IS A PURPOSE FOR EVERYTHING!

Luke 9:22-23 (Amplified Bible):

[22] The Son of Man must suffer many things and be [deliberately] disapproved and repudiated and rejected on the part of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be put to death and on the third day be raised [again].

[23] And He said to all, “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me” [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].

For both Jesus and the disciples, these six days prior was a time for reflection and this secluded mountain gave them time for contemplation.

For the disciples, each day that past week, the disciples must have pondered and discussed Jesus’ words about His death and resurrection.  No doubt they tried to figure out how this related; to the Old Testament promises of the kingdom of God.

Also, if Jesus was going to build a Church (i.e. Matthew’s gospel); what would happen to the promised kingdom?

For Jesus, it too was a time for reflection.

Luke in his version of this same event tells us (chapter 9 verse 29); Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  He had to be thinking through the situation that was ahead of Him in Jerusalem.

Miracle On The Mountain.

Scripture doesn’t name the place where this miracle took place; so we don’t know (but of course doesn’t stop people from guessing).

If you read the bible commentaries, they tell you that you have a choice of THREE; although no-one knows for sure!

map-transfiguration-location

Tradition says Mount Tabor, but Mount Tabor is quite small (1900 ft. high).  Not quite the “high” mountain described in Mark 9:2.  Also Mount Tabor was also topped with a fortified city which would hardly give the peaceful setting Jesus was looking for!

Mount Hermon (my personal choice), because both Matthew and Mark tell us it was a “high mountain.”

Mount Hermon is 9400 ft. high.  More importantly, it’s only 14 miles away from Caesarea Philippi where Jesus and His disciples were staying six days earlier.

Mount Jebel Jermak (or Jermuk) which is in upper Galilee is another choice (not on above map).  The highest elevation in that entire region (rising 4,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea).  Again, from this mountain, it was a relatively short distance to Capernaum where Jesus and the disciples had been staying.

So there you have it.  THREE MOUNTAINS to choose from.  But no one knows with any certainty.

THE DISCIPLES:

PETER, JAMES and JOHN regularly emerged as an inner group among the twelve. Once more, if we are honest, we don’t know why these were chosen!  We can only guess, and that’s what I’m going to do through my Scripture investigation.

  • PETER – In view of Peter’s great confession in chapter 8 verse 29, it is probably no surprise he was chosen to go.
  • JOHN – John had a special relationship with Jesus; a real close bond.  He is referred to as “The disciple whom Jesus loved”.  Of course Jesus loved ALL the disciples; but John seemed to enjoy an affinity with Jesus.
  • JAMES (John’s brother) – James was the first of the 12 disciples to be martyred for Christ.  Maybe, this warranted this special ‘mountain top’ privilege.

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan (Jesus.org) points out that on THREE occasions, Jesus took these same disciples aside to go with Him.  All three occasions dealt with DEATH.

  • They would be with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane when He surrendered to DEATH.
  • And here, at the Transfiguration where Jesus taught them that He would be GLORIFIED in DEATH.

The Voice of Prophecy —verses 2-4 in the (Message bible):

In a Light-Radiant Cloud

[2-4]  Six days later, …Jesus took Peter, James and John and led them up a high mountain.  His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes.  His clothes shimmered, glistening white, whiter than any bleach could make them.  Elijah, along with Moses, came into view, in deep conversation with Jesus.

transfiguration

The PHYSICAL ILLUMINATION clearly wasn’t easy for these men to put their experience into words, and the gospel writers describe what happened to Jesus in slightly different ways.  Remember, the brightest artificial light they knew was a feeble candle or an oil lamp.

  • They knew nothing of powerful spotlights.
  • The sight before them must have been breath-taking.
  • It was both frightening and impressive and they were stunned by it.

The SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION –

What the disciples saw was SPIRITUAL as well as PHYSICAL.

The VEIL of Jesus’ humanity was briefly drawn back.  

These 3 men saw Jesus in a way they had not done ever before.  This was a one-off unique occurrence and the only time while Jesus was on earth that He revealed His GLORY in this way.

I remember when I was a young boy in school, when the teacher held up a jar with a “cocoon”, as she called it, attached to a stick, walking up and down each row, making sure that we could all see the phenomena up close.

She mentioned that a caterpillar made the cocoon, then would change into a beautiful butterfly.  She called it, “metamorphosis”.

 

“METAMORPHOSIS” is the Greek word translated into English as “transfigured.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside.

Pupa of crow butterfly (Euploea sp)
Pupa of crow butterfly (Euploea sp)

For a few moments, Jesus’ physical body was TRANSFORMED into the likeness of what His resurrection body was to become in the glorified state [Young’s Bible Dictionary, pg. 802].  Jesus was “metamorphosed,” or ‘transfigured’; the change was on the outside that came from the inside.  THE GLORY of Jesus wasn’t reflected; but radiated from within!

CONSOLIDATION TAKES PLACE!

Question:  Why did this experience on the mountain take place?

Answer:  To consolidate, to reinforce, to strengthen the disciples.

They had to learn the important TRUTH…that SUFFERING and GLORY must go together.

Apart from Jesus’ suffering and death on the CROSS, there could be no GLORY–there could be no future kingdom!  All through this story, from start to finish is ‘GLORY’:

  • e.g. Matthew in his gospel records (Matthew 17:1-9):  Jesus’ “face shone like the sun.”
  • e.g. Mark tells us in verse 3:  His clothes became “dazzling white.”
  • e.g. In verse 5, we read about a “cloud”; Matthew in his gospel calls it “A bright cloud.”

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And consolidation for Jesus…?

“And Elijah appeared to them, accompanied by Moses, and they were holding a conversation with Jesus”  (Mark 9:4).

Have you wondered about what they were saying in conversation?  Well I did and I found the answer to that question in Luke 9 verse 31:

[31] “…and they were speaking of His exit [from life]…”

They spoke about His exit from life which He was about to bring to realization in Jerusalem.  They appeared to encourage Him to go on with His mission. Remember, in them (Moses & Elijah), ALL ISRAEL’S HISTORY recognized Jesus as its own fulfillment!  They recognized and knew Jesus as the One they had dreamed and spoke about!

And in all stories, there’s COMPLETION (verse 3).

THESE THREE MEN; Moses, Elijah and Jesus represent God’s dealings with mankind; Moses and Elijah represented the Old Testament:

  • MOSES, THE LAW.
  • ELIJAH, THE PROPHETS.

The LAW and the PROPHETS was a description given to the whole of the Jewish Bible, the part we call the Old Testament.

Both men are the last Old Testament men mentioned in our English Old Testament:  Malachi 4:4-6, they both get a name check.

A Mistake is made (verse 5):

[5] Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good and suitable and beautiful for us to be here…”

Peter’s words here, are one of the great understatement of the Bible:  “It’s good to be here.”  This was an experience that both himself and John would never forget.

John would one day write (John 1:14b), “We [actually] saw His glory, such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace and truth.”

Peter would one day write (2 Peter 1:17-18):  [17] “For when He was invested with honor and glory from God the Father and a voice was borne to Him by the [splendid] Majestic Glory [in the bright cloud that overshadowed Him, saying], This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased and delight.  [18] We actually heard this voice borne out of heaven, for we were together with Him on the holy mountain.”

In VERSE 5, Peter seemed to be enjoying the experience so much that he wanted to prolong it.

  • Let’s build some shelters and we can stay here all night!

His intentions might have been good ones, but they were also wrong.

Notice that Peter wasn’t selfish in his words.  He suggests they build 3 shelters, one for each special guest.  Not 4 (including one for himself), or even 6 ( a shelter for everybody!).  It was a foolish statement!  As if Jesus and the two visitors had no other means of protecting themselves against the cold.

Notice next, God does what Peter could not do; God Himself provided a SUPERNATURAL COVERING for them (VERSE 7):

mark9_7

GOD’S VOICE spoke different things to those present on the mountaintop:

For Jesus, it was encouraging to have Moses and Elijah sharing with Him; telling Him that what He was doing was right.

But now, He had the VOICE of God, His Heavenly Father, publicly declaring what He was planning, by going to Jerusalem, was the right way.

The lesson for the disciples–JESUS is not just a successor but was superior to Moses and Elijah.  He is the FULFILLMENT of both the Law and the Prophets.

“JESUS ONLY” is God’s pattern!

So the SUPERNATURAL guests disappear!

Our Journey with the Disciples Down the Mountain.

Ah, yes, it happens!  Over the years of my Christian life, I’ve enjoyed many ‘mountaintop’ experiences.  But I would eventually find myself once again living in the ‘valleys.’

We are to use the truths and inspiration gained on the MOUNTAINTOPS as the disciples did; strengthening us for life down in the valley.

Jesus will be GLORIFIED as we serve Him daily…

So Jesus invites us to be His SERVANTS:  “SERVICE (servanthood) is not a list of things we do, though in it we discover things to do.  It is not a code of things, but a way of living.  To do specific acts of service is not the same thing as living in the DISCIPLINE of service”  [Richard Faster, “Celebration of Discipline”].

You see, it’s all about servanthood in the valley.

The Christian life is not primarily about moments of euphoria or periods of ecstasy, as nice and important as they are, but about being like JESUS in the real world.

GLORY COMES THROUGH SERVANTHOOD–

I love how God manifests His GLORY.  He manifested His GLORY on a mountain, and of course, He manifested His GLORY in a manger as a servant.  It’s the way God’s GLORY is seen today.  And through our SERVING, you and I are TRANSFORMED!

As Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 3:18):

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CREDITS & REFERENCES

The New Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form by Norman Lewis.

Bible Translations used:  Amplified Bible, unless otherwise stated (PHOTOS).

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

We Are Living In A Spiritual Fishbowl

 

1thess

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Call Good Isn’t Necessarily What God Calls Anointed!


00020013_h Today’s Scripture: 1 SAMUEL 16:1-13

VERSE 13:  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward…”

TRANSFORMED FROM A NOBODY TO A SOMEBODY

[10] Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel.  And Samuel said to Jesse,  “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”

[11] Then [he] said to Jesse,  “Are all your sons here?” [Jesse] said,  “There is yet the youngest; he is tending the sheep.”  Samuel said to Jesse,  “Send for him; for we will not sit down to eat until he is here.”

In some Pentecostal circles we talk or refer to the “ANOINTING” a great deal, almost with exclusiveness.  And that’s not true.  There are many non-Pentecostals that have an understanding of the anointing.

What is missed within the conversations of the anointing is having a good understanding of it.  I think the first thing we all need to do is to get a clear picture of what the Bible says about “anointing”.

So to get a better understanding of what anointing is, we should first attempt to understand what anointing is NOT.

In much of today’s church world, we don’t always get a clear idea of what God’s Anointing really is.  The anointing of God has been reduced to a Pastor’s performance in the pulpit: “Oh, wasn’t pastor’s message this morning anointed?”  

In some circles, large attendance numbers and a wealth of programs are considered as clear evidence, that particular church has God’s anointing upon it.

If a song brings goose bumps on your arms during the church service,,,then it has to be anointed.

If after leaving the morning/evening worship services and you feel good about your experience, then surely it was “anointed.”

I want to make a clear point right here.  I like good preaching and good singing as much as the next person, but I’ve come to the understanding, what I call “GOOD” isn’t necessarily what God calls “ANOINTED”!

I think it’s safe to say, not everything we see and hear in today’s church world is ANOINTED, and you can fill in your own blanks.  Suffice to say, not everything is set apart for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to God.

GOD IS PARTICULAR WITH HIS ANOINTING –

In reading the verses in 1 Samuel 16:1-13 this week, I found that God is not “willy nilly” in placing His anointing on everything that simply looks good to the natural eye.  One of the greatest threats to God’s work today is the supposed anointing that people and ministries have, based on who they are and what they are doing.

christian-poetry-by-deborahann-what-god-sees-doorpost-verses-comGod clearly doesn’t look on the outside as man does but rather God is most interested in what a man looks like on the inside.

It’s the INSIDE of the HEART that hold all the secrets of man (Psalm 44:21).

The Bible mentions the human heart almost 300 times.  In essence, this is what it says:

“The HEART is that spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires dwell”  [See Footnote [i] ].

Since God also has emotions and desires, He too can be said to have a “HEART’.

What may appear to be PERFECT on the outside of man, can be quite putrid on the inside.

God tells the prophet Samuel in VERSE 7 “Look not on his appearance or the height of his stature, for I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees,; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” —  [the intent]

God is particular in His Anointing!

Although Eliab was the eldest son, probably the strongest and most fit for the job as king, God overlooked him along with 6 others for the one that was the youngest.

Things aren’t always as they appear.

It’s all to easy to do as Samuel did.  Mistakenly over the years, I too have thought of others, including myself, in thinking “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.”  It’s easy to do, to ANOINT someone or something that God has not himself anointed.

God considers the HEART, always!

Notice God already knew which of these 8 sons of Jesse that He was going to ANOINT king of Israel.

He said to Samuel in verse 1,  “… Fill your horn with oil; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite.  For I have provided for Myself a king among his sons.”

God’s task seems to make certain Samuel knew who He would ANOINT as king in the process.

“Things aren’t always as they appear to be”!

God understands this better than anyone, so He looks in the place of human beings wherein lies the true nature of a person…

THE HEART!

God’s Impression.

God will never be IMPRESSED with what we are impressed with.

God is NOT impressed with an “impressive” resume.

God is NOT impressed with our talent.

God is NOT impressed with our strengths.

God is NOT impressed with our abilities.

God is NOT impressed with our good looks.

God is NOT impressed with our position.

God is NOT impressed with anything other than what is impressive in our hearts!

The Psalmist said, “Let my heart be sound (sincere and wholehearted and blameless) in Your statutes, that I may not be put to shame”  (Psalm 119:80).heart

Proverbs 14:20 states,  “A calm and undisturbed (SOUND) mind and heart are the life and health of the body…”

Most of us will agree how important a “healthy heart” is to our physical body.  And, as with our physical nature. a healthy heart is just as important to our spiritual nature. 

According to God’s standard of ANOINTING, a healthy Heart is the first and foremost requirement in receiving His Anointing!

THE HEART WON’T LIE!

Matthew recorded Jesus as referring to “false prophets” saying, “You will fully recognize them by their fruits.”  WHY IS THIS?

Because the HEART will always tell on itself!

THE HEART, being the truest representation of who a person is, is the very reason God looks upon it always!

God’s Anointing Can Cause Others to Dislike You.

Several times in Scripture, we see incidences of those God anointed for specific reasons; seeing those that despised the ones God chose to ANOINT.  And DAVID is no different.

When Samuel anointed David, it wasn’t a private religious ceremony–it wasn’t conducted secretly.  No, it was done openly and in the presence of all those that had been “overlooked.”

VERSE 13:  Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers;  and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward…

Imagine for a minute, that you have just been interviewed for the position of King of Israel. You’re strong, talented, you’ve abilities that are unmatched…AND, you are overlooked!

AND…to pour rubbing alcohol in the open wound, your younger, weaker, scrawny brother gets the job!

My first reaction, and by the way, I have a younger brother that wasn’t “scrawny”…might be, “What just happened here?”

The Bible goes on to say, from that day forward, the Spirit of the LORD was upon David.

A Matter of the Heart.

God’s ANOINTING is particular, a matter of the heart and can be confrontational.

God will never ANOINT just anything or just anyone.  The anointing of God is much too valuable to simply make it available to anyone or anything.

God is the One Who chooses who walks in His anointing, not Pastors, Elders, church leaders or anyone else.  No one can declare God’s Anointing is yours except… the One Who ANOINTS!

God will look on the HEART, always.

First, If the HEART is not PURE, you’ll not have God’s anointing upon it.  God doesn’t anoint PRIDE, ARROGANCE, JEALOUSY or HATE.

He does ANOINT HUMILITY, KINDNESS and SERVITUDE.

And yet, even God’s Anointed can make mistakes.

In study, we can look at David’s life and rule as King of Israel in the bible, and even this great man, a man after God’s own heart, is not immune from making mistakes.

We are not perfect, and that’s why the apostle Paul tells us:

“And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing to full completion in you”  (Philippians 1:6).

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THANK YOU JESUS!!

We are all a work in progress.  But the GOOD NEWS is, unlike the Spirit of the Lord in the Old Testament, that came “upon” God’s ANOINTED, the Holy Spirit in the New Covenant, SEALS and INDWELLS God’s ANOINTED PEOPLE.  (John 2:27; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). 

 

 

 


Footnote(s) & Credits –

Footnote [i]:  Got Questions? .org

BIBLE TRANSLATION:  The Amplified Bible (AMP).

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.