LIVING In An Anti-Christian Culture

VERSES 1 thru 8 –

[1]  I lift up my eyes to the mountains–where does my help come from?

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

[3]  He will not let your foot slip–He who watches over you will not slumber; [4] indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

[5]  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand;  [6] the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

[7]  The LORD will keep you from all harm–He will watch over your life;

[8] the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.                    (The NIV Translation).

We live in scary times, to say the least.  During my lifetime I remember a time when America was what might be called “Christianized.”  When Evangelism was prominent in churches and ‘going out to witness’, beginning the conversation with statements like, “You believe in the Bible, don’t you?” or “Where have you been going to church?”

Then in the 80’s and 90’s our country moved in the direction of being “Post-Christian.”  No longer could you assume that people accepted the BIBLE was inspired or that they believed in God or were familiar with the basic teachings of Christianity.

Now that we’ve moved into the 21st century, I’ve seen our country become increasingly “Anti-Christian”.

In “The Supreme Court With Hobby Lobby, But Your Neighbor Probably Doesn’t” book, Trevin Wax writes, “A generation ago, a person’s religious observance was a public matter, a defining characteristic of one’s identity, while a person’s sexual activity was something private.  Today, the situation is reversed.”  [See footnote [i].]

According to research done recently in our country by a group called the First Amendment Center, 1 in 3 Americans says the first amendment to the Constitution (which guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech) goes too far.  Additionally, their research shows the group most likely to believe that the First Amendment goes too far are Americans under 30 years of age.

All this points to difficult days ahead for God’s people in the United States.  But we shouldn’t be surprised.  Jesus said, “In this world, you will have tribulation.”  But He also said, “Take heart!  I have overcome the world”  (John 16:33).

Psalm 121 begins with: “Where does my help come from?”  – (Vs. 1)

But the Psalmist expands upon the answer in verses 3-8, as he tells us about the kind of help God gives to enable His children…that’s us, born-again believers, living victoriously in this SCARY WORLD.

A Description – verses. 3-8

The Psalmist describes the help God makes available to us.

He will help me with the problem of WEARINESS – (vs. 3-4).

In an anti-Christian culture, sometimes it’s difficult to “not become weary in doing good.” (Gal. 6:9)

Admittedly, I do grow weary in my walk through this world with all the barricades, bombshells exploding all around my ministry.

God never does!

He’s watchful over His children.

He will help me with the problem of WEAKNESS – (vs. 5-6).

[5]  “The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield]”  (Amplified Bible).

Referring to our susceptibility to faint, dropping our sword of God’s Word to shield our eyes. 

The Psalmist speaks of God’s help with our weaknesses in battling in a godless culture.

God will provide the help we need to compensate for our weakness.  In fact, God tells us with His Word that “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He will help me with the problem of WICKEDNESS – (vs. 7).

This is a wicked world we live in, ruled by a wicked adversary (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The devil roams around like a lion, seeking our downfall.  But God promises His help so that we might overcome and not be overwhelmed in our doing (1 John 4:4).

He will help me with the problem of WANDERING – (vs. 8).  [Read Proverbs 2:8; 3:6]

If we are not careful in our “going out and coming in,” we can have said of us what Paul said of Demas: “because he loved this world, has deserted me…” (2 Timothy 4:10).

Today, devout Jews keep a metal cylinder fixed to the right-hand doorpost of their homes.  The cylinder contains a parchment inscribed with the words of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-20.  As they go in and out of the house, they touch the cylinder and recite the last verse of Psalm 121.  Through this, they seek to lift up the prayer to God that they might be kept from wandering from Him.

Obviously, this ritual hasn’t produced the desired results, for the Jewish people of today have wandered from God in their rejection of Christ.

So how do we, as the children of God, take advantage of the help God offers?

A PRESCRIPTION – verses 1-2  “A Psalm of ascents” Psalm 121

I must look to the LORD – vs. 1 (a).

One of 14 “psalms 0f ascents” (Psalm 120-134),  is a PSALM recited by pilgrims journeying to worship at the Temple in Jerusalem where the temple of God was, where the ark of the COVENANT was a symbol of God’s presence.

In other words, in SEEKING GOD’S HELP, I must SEEK His presence and preeminence.

“SEEK”:  “to try to obtain; to go to; to ask for; to ‘plea’.

“PREEMINENCE”:  “excellence”; “to be first place”…“That in all things, He (Christ) might have preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

If I DESIRE to see God’s hand, I must SEEK His face if I’m concerned about saving my face!

As John, the Baptist declared, “He must increase and I must decrease!” (John 3:30)

In seeking God’s help for us, we must focus our lives on Him!

I must learn to lean on the Lord (vs. 2).

An old gospel song from the past that I used to love to sing in a men’s trio was Learning to Lean On Jesus.  Here is the music and lyrics to the song that illustrates the process of “leaning” on the LORD:

The One who offers to help us deal with life in this world is the creator of the universe.

Knowing this absolutely, I must trust in His POWER & PROVISION.

Depending on our influence or resources leads to discouragement, BUT TRUSTING in the POWER and PROVISION of our creator God brings VICTORY!  When we try to work things out on our own, we are helpless and foolish.

Instead, let’s TRUST in the POWER &PROVISION of the One who made it all.  And as we do, we’ll be able to testify with the Apostle Paul, who said:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in your weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong. –                          [2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ] – (NIV).

I must LIVE for the Lord – (verse 2)

[2]  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God has a PURPOSE for all creation including you and me!  And as the Maker of heaven and earth, God is providentially at work.

What does that mean, “providentially at work”?

He is keeping the universe in motion.  In other words, God has a definite PURPOSE and PLAN in each of our lives for attaining that end.

He’s also providentially at work on our behalf to fulfill His purpose in our lives.

Therefore, I must surrender to His purpose and providence.  This is really important, as we think about this day we’re living in.  To remember that God’s PURPOSE is not to provide for our comfort, but to develop our character to use us to bring others to Christ Jesus.

In an article that appeared in the Christian Post, written by Delores Liesner, “Growing Intolerance For Christianity in the U.S.” [see footnote [ii]], the writer conducts an interview with Brannon Howse, author, anfounder of Worldview Weekend.

Mr. Howse speaks in the interview how American Christians have largely been sheltered from persecution.  Consequently, he says, “too many are only committed to a cotton candy Christianity, and that many American (believers) are wimps who don’t want to suffer and don’t want to be uncomfortable, while elsewhere in the world during the 20th century, 45.5 million Christians were martyred for their faith.  “Our CULTURE,” he says, “is doing what Scripture said – getting worse and worse.  The books of James and 1 Peter tells us not to be surprised at fiery ordeals [when they come – not if] as though some strange (or foreign) thing were happening to you.  Suffering, intolerance and persecution are building us.”  It’s though having our FAITH refined and we get our PRIORITIES straight to make sure our WITNESS draws others to Christ.

I, like others, personally believe God is allowing things to change in our country so that His CHURCH might be moved to embrace the same kind of PRIORITIES and give the same kind of response to the opposition as did the early church (read Acts 2:23-31).

One thing is for sure, we cannot do anything effectively without the LORD’S help.  So for our sake, for our church’s sake, let’s look to the LORD in our coming in and going; LEAN on the Lord, and let’s LIVE for the LORD!

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Trevin Wax (June 30, 2014) https://www.thegospelcoalition.or/…/trevin-wax/the-supremecourt-agrees-with-hobby…

Footnote [ii]: Article by Delores Liesner, Christian Post:  https://www.christianpost.com/news/growing-indifference-for-christianity-in-us-49588/

Dictionary:  Bible Study Tools; PROVIDENCE.

Video:  Youtube, Learning to Lean, by the Nightingales

Photos:  Google Image search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), or where noted in the text.

 

 

Is the Evidence of GENUINENESS in Christianity Really There?

A BIBLE STUDY IN 1 JOHN 3:4-10

As the WORD DETECTIVE, as we all should be, and looking at the evidence in this passage, I’ve found VERSE 9 to be one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to understand and explain.  It is often quoted to teach a child of God that once you become a “born again believer,” you will never sin.  And many honest and sincere people believe this, devoting themselves to the attainment of what is commonly called, “sinless perfection.”

1 John 3:9 (NIV) –

[9] No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.

But is this doctrine really taught in the Bible?

The ANSWER is “no” for two reasons:

#1.  There is clear teaching in the Bible.

When you come to a difficult passage to understand and explain the meaning to others, we should seek to interpret it in context with clearer teachings offered in Scripture.  To say this passage teaches a Christian never commits SIN contradicts clear teaching in this same book of the Bible:

#2.  There is the common testimony of the Bible.

In the Bible, we are told of the great Saints, all of whom were imperfect!  The Word of God doesn’t cover up their faults.  It’s made very clear in Scripture that there’s only One spoken of who is SINLESS–Jesus Christ.

For these TWO REASONS, we should say that the Bible doesn’t teach sinless perfection.  But if that is the case, what’s the deal with the words given in 1 John 3:9 mean then?

As a “Word detective” I, of course, wanted to look at this verse in an effort to find the answer to the questions that can and will arise.

GOD’S PROVISION – vs. 4-5 (Amplified Bible)

[4] Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and will).

[5]  You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him, there is no sin [essentially and forever].

I love to use different Bible translations in studying Scripture, helping me answer questions that can arise.  And it goes without saying, Holy Spirit always clarifies the answer.

When Jesus came into the world, He made a perfect provision for our salvation which makes it possible our DELIVERANCE from SIN’S PENALTY…SIN’S POWER, and eventually, SIN’S PRESENCE.

Therefore, Jesus’ SACRIFICE provided us with daily VICTORY over SIN in our life.

The Necessity of His Provision (v. 4).

HUMAN SIN made the CROSS necessary.

God is a JUST God, along with being a LOVING Heavenly Father.  God wanted a restored relationship of His Creation that was lost in the Garden (Genesis Chapter 3).

But He also needed to see the JUSTICE carried out with respect to the violation of His law.  How could these TWO attributes be satisfied simultaneously?

THE CROSS.  It had to be!

God took on flesh in the person of Christ Jesus to do for mankind what we could never do for ourselves–pay the PENALTY for our SIN in such a way to make possible a personal relationship with Himself.  NOW THAT’S REAL LOVE!

In searching the Scriptures, the PENALTY of our sin is so great, that left to pay it on our own, requires an eternity’s worth of suffering, meaning that we would never be able to be set free from sin’s penalty and have a RELATIONSHIP with Abba, Father.

God took on FLESH in the person of Jesus and lived a SINLESS life in order to QUALIFY and represent human race and pay the PENALTY of OUR SIN.  And because He was God in the flesh, He could pay that infinite PENALTY in a finite period of time on the Cross.

He provided FORGIVENESS to the entire human race and proved that sin’s penalty was fully PAID by being raised from the dead, ascending back to heaven leaving an offering of the Holy Spirit to bind the relationship with Himself to all who choose to receive His GIFT of eternal life.

Romans 6:23 (Easy-to-read Version -ERV)

[23] When people sin, they earn what sin pays–death.  But God gives his people a free gift–eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Nature of His Provision (vs. 5, 8) –

  • He came to provide us VICTORY over sin (vs. 5).
  • He came to provide us VICTORY over Satan (vs. 8).

ILLUSTRATION: The Dallas Texans, Not the Cowboys *[See Footnote [i] ]

The first NFL franchise in the state was in 1952–The Dallas Texans.

The Texans had a brief history and existing for only one year, posting a win/loss record of 1-11.  A former member of the team, before he was cut, recalls a story of the team’s equipment manager, Willie Garcia, who had never seen a football game in his life.  “Willie had one wooden leg.  When they kicked the ball into the high grass during practice, no one wanted to go after it because of SNAKES.  Willie would volunteer and said, ‘I’ve got a 50-50 chance the SNAKE will go for the wrong leg.'”

On our own, there’s always a chance of getting “bit” by the devil.  But because of the CROSS, the FEAR of him should no longer be.

By the PROVISION of the Savior, our lives need not be dominated by SIN and SATAN!

The PRACTICE of the SAVED (vs. 6-7) –

 

John doesn’t say a SAVED PERSON won’t sin.  What he does say is a Christian won’t “keep on sinning.”

The Amplified Bible reads “[deliberately, knowing, and habitually]” commits SIN.

So truly SAVED people DON’T live to do what God says is wrong!

They DO practice RIGHTEOUSNESS (Vs. 7) –

A truly Saved Person, a genuine Christian, lives to do what is right in God’s eyes and not their own.  John says those who are born again DON’T PRACTICE SIN but practice RIGHTEOUSNESS.

SIN in the life of a true believer should be the exception and not the rule.  If you are genuine in your belief, you don’t practice SIN.

So what does the word “PRACTICE” mean? 

The English Oxford Dictionary, Item #3 reads  “a Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.”  

SAVED people occasionally do wrong, just as the LOST occasionally do right.

The FACT that the SAVED occasionally does what is wrong doesn’t make him any less saved than the FACT that a LOST person who occasionally is found doing something right makes him any less lost.

In Matthew 7:17, Jesus says that a corrupt tree brings forth corrupt fruit and a good tree brings forth good fruit.  Occasionally you might find a good apple off a bad tree, and occasionally you might get a bad apple off a good tree, but normally, the FRUIT of a good tree will be good.

So it is in the life of a child of God.

That’s what John is saying here.  He’s not saying you will never sin if you’re a child of God.  He’s saying that the direction you take should be pointed toward God–doing the things that please Him.

The POWER OF SALVATION (Vs. 9-10) –

[9] Those who are children of God do not continue to sin, for God’s very nature is in them; and because God is their Father, they cannot continue to sin.

[10] Here is the clear difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children; those who do not do what is right or do not love others are not God’s children.  Good News Translation (GNT)

When one is BORN AGAIN…born of the Spirit (1 John 3:6-7)the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his/her life (Romans 8:16; Ephesians 1:13-14).

As a result of the Spirit’s presence, we should have…

A NEW DESIRE (V. 9 b ).

The phrase, “they cannot continue to sin” speaks of the NEW DESIRE on the part of those who are BORN AGAIN.

The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 7:22 (AMP): 

For I endorse and delight in the Law of God in my inmost self [with my new nature].

The Bible says that when a person is SAVED…BORN AGAIN, “God writes His law on their heart” (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10).

The CHILD OF GOD has the DESIRE to do what God says is right.  That doesn’t mean we always succeed, but it does mean that is what we want to do!

A Methodist Evangelist named Dr. Morrison taught the Doctrine of Holiness and it was said that he came closer to practicing it than most people do.  Someone once asked Dr. Morrison jokingly, “Dr. Morrison, have you gotten to a place where you cannot sin?”  Dr. Morrison answered, “No, my brother, I have not yet gotten to where I cannot sin, but I have gotten to where I cannot sin and enjoy it.”

That’s to be the testimony of every truly born again child of God.

Learning How To Live In GENUINENESS By Yielding to the Spirit –

“Yielding to” in Vine’s Greek New Testament Dictionary uses the Greek word “Peitho”; to PERSUADE BY, in contrast to “yielding” to one’s own SINFUL NATURE, something Paul had to grow to learn and as something every ‘GENUINE CHRISTIAN’ likewise needs to grow and learn.

2 Peter 1:3-4

 

An unbeliever has one nature, received a birth; a sinful nature.

But when we TRUST CHRIST, receiving a NEW nature with the Spirit’s presence in our life, a new power is provided for us.  No longer do we need to surrender to our sinful nature, give into temptation and live for sin.  Our DESIRE should be to surrender to the leading of Holy Spirit, resisting temptation and living for God!  That my friends is GENUINENESS!!

A NEW BELIEVER asked a church small group how they were doing in their Christian walk, especially around others.  They replied that it felt like they had a black dog and a white dog inside of them, constantly fighting with each other.  They were asked which dog was winning.  And their REPLY?  “The one I feed the most.”

Looking at your lifestyle right now.  Which one are you feeding the most?

___________________________________________________________________________   

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS –

Footnote [i] :  Story printed in the Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1992.

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

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search, using Bible verses as a reference.

Bible Translations:  Noted in the text.

 

Palm Trees In A Dry And Thirsty Land

A STUDY IN THE PSALMS–Psalm 92:12-15

The [uncompromisingly] righteous shall flourish like the PALM TREE…(verse 12).

In preparation for this blog, if I were going to address how it is to “flourish like the palm tree,” researching the PALM TREE’S characteristics was important to the study.

ATTRIBUTES:

There are over 300 species of Palm trees, growing from 3 to 100 feet tall.  The DATE PALM produces over 300 pounds of dates annually.  That’s a lot of fruit.

Fruit of the PALM TREE
Fruit of the PALM TREE

When growing up in Southern California, there was always the presence of palms–along side beaches, front yards, landscapes, everywhere.  In fact, there are towns and cities named for the abundance of PALM TREES.

My wife and I went on our honeymoon to PALM SPRINGS California.  There’s even a town in the desert called 29 Palms.  An OASIS in the desert.

welcome-to-twentynine

HISTORICALLY, the Palm Tree has been called the REPRESENTATIVE TREE of Palestine, where it has stood through the years as a symbol of the land of our LORD.

At the triumphal entry of Jesus as He made His entry to Jerusalem before His death, people broke off palm branches and waved them in front of Him.

Looking at a picture given to us of the victorious Children of God, given to us by John in Revelation 7:9, he says among other things, that they were “clothed with white robes and PALMS in their hands.”

The Bible says in Psalm 92:12, the PALM TREE has several characteristics that gives us pictures in the life of the Christian.

#1.  THE PALM TREE BREAKS THE BANDS –

Unlike other trees, as the tree grows, it breaks the band surrounding the trunk.

In most other trees, bands placed around the wood when young, dig into the trunk.  I’ve seen pictures of an old clothesline wire wrapped around the tree when young, sunk deep into the wood as it appears to be strangling the life out of the tree as it grew.

While in Hawaii, wide bands are placed around the Coconut Palm Trees to prevent rodents from attacking the fruit; the “bands” are broken by the growth of the tree and periodically must be replaced in the groves.

The true CHILD OF GOD can claim victory through Christ–

We don’t have to continue in sin…

Romans 6:1-2, 6, 11-14;

1 Corinthians 15:57;

Romans 8:37.

#2.  THE PALM TREE WILL BEND–BUT NOT BREAK!

3374071855_baa6da995a

Even in HURRICANE FORCE WINDS, the palm tree is able to withstand the storm.

And as the storms of life approaches, it causes many disasters for those not serving God.

But the child of God, like the PALM TREE will bend, but doesn’t break in the storms that will come our way.

#3.  THE PALM TREE IS A SURVIVOR–

Still Standing in the Storm
Still Standing in the Storm

Not only does the PALM TREE grow in the desert, it flourishes!

The roots go deep below the burning sands, finding moisture down deep below the surface, anchoring its stability in the bedrock.

“…and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that ROCK WAS CHRIST”  (1 Corinthians 10:4 NIV).

Although the HURRICANES we are familiar with come ashore to large populations and not deserts, the principles still apply–DEEP ROOTS.

As a child of God, we must go DEEP with God if we’re to flourish.

Without a deep tap-root, and only surface feeding roots…fibrous roots, it will do nothing but cause unstableness to the tree in the storms of life.

To go deep, we must live the Christ-like life:

“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me”  (Galatians 2:20 King James Version).

To go really deep…we must fervently PRAY.  

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says,  “Be unceasing in prayer–praying perseveringly” (Amplified Bible).

So it is NOT theology, NOT psychology, but “kneeology” that encourages our deep rooting.

MANY CHRISTIANS today are not flourishing…

BECAUSE, they’re seeking nourishment on the surface only–running their ROOTS of life out laterally.

Shallow rooted believers look to the world for refreshment and come away still thirsty.

True Believers send their TAP ROOT deep in into the Word of God and prayer.

#4.  PALM TREES GATHER TOGETHER IN THE WILDERNESS–

One tree standing alone will never produce much shade in the wilderness’ hot sun.

AN OASIS
An OASIS in the Sun

 

But a group of PALM TREES gathered together, forms an OASIS–stay together and stand as BELIEVERS.

Orange and lemon trees can be found growing in the desert beneath the SHADE of the PALM TREES grouped together.

When we group together, as the church gathers together, we can provide shade for those who are spiritually weaker than ourselves.  That’s why HEBREWS 10:25 is so important in a dry and thirsty land:

“Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching”  (Amplified Bible).

Since “we are the church,” whether gathered together in a large building, or a private home, or in an underground meeting place in China, we are to gather together as an OASIS.

#5.  THE HEART OF THE PALM TREE IS ALIVE!

The life of the palm tree is on the inside.  Outward abuse doesn’t affect the life or quality of the tree.

Because the child of God has a life deep within the HEART (soul and spirit)–they are free from a sin nature.

Romans 6:17-18 NIV Bible:

“But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.  You have been set free from sin and have become saves to righteousness.” 

Our lives as God’s children is seeded within us (2 Corinthians 4:16).

#6.  THE OLDER THE PALM TREE–

The Encyclopedia Britannica says this about DATE PALMS longevity:  “Palms are known to live as long as 150 years. Though their fruit production declines, with scared trunks visible, the fruit produced in the later years is often sweeter!

Though I don’t want to live to the age of a palm tree, I do hope and pray as I grow older, my FRUIT will still be as SWEET.

** [Biblical verses pertaining to FRUIT: Matthew 12:33; Luke 8:14-15; John 15:1-8; Galatians 5:22-26.]

As Christians grow older, our fruit should grow sweeter.

The SCARS OF LIFE produce the fruit of holiness and the TRIALS OF LIFE conform us, prunes us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).

#7.  THE PALM TREE CAN’T BE GRAFTED–

I remember my father-in-law telling me about his small avocado ranch in Vista, California. “Root Rot” destroyed many groves one season, forcing him to make a difficult but necessary decision:  Sell the farm, or…he took the “or”.

He cleared the diseased avocado trees, planted lemon trees in their place.  But after a few years, lemon prices dropped below market cost, and another decision was undertaken.

He GRAFTED limes on to the lemon rootstock because limes were more valuable wholesale and citrus trees are compatible to graft.

HORTICULTURALISTS say, to GRAFT a palm tree is to kill it.  

THE PALM TREE, unlike the lemon and lime trees, is distinctive and unusual.  That’s why grafting kills it.

To GRAFT A CHRISTIAN into the world, kills one’s testimony and influence.  

As a true believer, the Christian is to be unique and easily distinguished from the world.

“I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren…”  (Romans 12:1-2).

#8.  THE PALM TREE IS AN EVERGREEN–

“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green”  (Psalm 92:14 NIV).

I have lived in the Evergreen State (Washington State) now for over 35 years.  Coming from Southern California originally, I have come to enjoy the evergreen trees that are in abundance and part of the landscape; seen from every home and automobile window.

EVERGREEN is a symbol of immortality.

The child of God will never die spiritually, having an everlasting life (John 3:16, 18, 36).

When I awake every morning, I give THANKS to my God and Savior that I am “planted in the house of the Lord”; that like the PALM TREE, my fruit is growing sweeter every day by the renewing of my mind daily (Romans 12:2), in Christ Jesus; that the Word of God will keep me fresh and green as the PALM TREE.

It is good to praise the Lord…to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night…How great are your works, O Lord, how profound are your thoughts!  The righteous will flourish like a PALM TREE, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon…  [Selected verses from Psalm 92]

I hope an pray that this blog has given you encouragement in whatever you are going through in life and a testimony to others around you.


CREDITS:

DATE PALM FACTS: Wikipedia the Date Palm; Encyclopedia Britannica.

PHOTOS:  Photo Pin, Google Search.

 

 

 

Carelessness of spirit can happen!

I’ve been reading and studying lately in The Book of Psalms.  Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve done so, but it had been awhile.

Reading in the PSALMS can be uplifting, encouraging, convicting by the Spirit of God and this study was no exception.  However, the “this time” was more than a casual read, the underlining of verses…it became an eye opener to my spiritual well-being.

My hope for you is… this word study may just bring attention to your the “carelessness of spirit”; while attending Worship Services on Sundays, or whenever we sing and give our praises to Almighty God, all along while pretending we got everything down pat.  After all, we do the same thing–the “same- O, same-O”, when we attend church.  In fact, I’ve heard some people exclaim, while holding a 46 oz. travel mug of coffee, “I can’t sing, so I just ‘lip-sing’ ; no one around me even knows, and besides...the music is too loud anyway.”

I’ve come to learn, while in PUBLIC WORSHIP… is not about me…or you.  It’s not centered on us, but on God.  Though WORSHIP may have some benefits for us, it’s not about us.  It is never based on whether we FEEL like it, whether the music is to our liking, or whether we are pleased with the situation we find ourselves in.

PSALM 47:  To the Chief Musician

Unusual and Enthusiastic Expressions – 

VERSE 1:  O CLAP your hands, all you peoples!  Shout to God with the voice of triumph and songs of joy!

nfl_a_seahawksparade_300x200
Associated Press Photo

I find myself watching the 12th Man  parade this morning on local television, celebrating the NFL World Champions, the Seattle Seahawks.  As they proceed , surrounded by the throngs of fans cheering (700,000) uncontrollably for their hometown sport heroes,  for all they’ve accomplished.  It seems like the jubilation will be going on all afternoon.  Are the all the people weirdos? No! Most are sincerely excited, and besides…doesn’t everyone need a hero in their lives at times?

Verses 1-4:

[1]  O CLAP your hands, all you peoples!  Shout to God with the voice of triumph and songs of joy!

[2]  For the Lord Most High excites terror, awe, and dread; He is a great King over all the earth.

[3]  He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.

[4]  He chose our inheritance for us, the glory and pride of Jacob, whom He loves.  Selah  [pause and calmly think of that]!

We Can See JOY in the True Spirit of Worship–

JOY in God’s character…

JOY in His reign…

JOY in the triumphs of His Word (the GOSPEL)…

“O CLAP YOUR HANDS!”

Such expressions by the casual observer may seem a bit over zealous, but it shouldn’t be hastily censured and condemned, much less ridiculed; because if they come from an upright heart, God will accept the strength of the affection.

[Verse 1]  “Peoples” in the plural here, is used in calling both Jews and Gentiles–all nations.  And “Shout to God” – Jubilate Deo: 

In GOD, and concerning GOD, and in honor of GOD.

GOD doesn’t excite us to carnal JOY.

JOY in His favor, His blessing on His saints.

“The terrors of the Lord” – [Verse 2]:

“For the Lord Most High excites terror, awe, and dread; He is a great King over all the earth.”

When I first came upon the word, “terrors”, I must admit I was puzzled at first.  Being in terror would most likely curb the enthusiasm, the excitement of clapping and shouting.  Can you imagine the effect terror would have on 80,000 football fans, enclosed in a stadium, while there was the treat of terror in the building?

For the Lord most high is Terrible…

Christians celebrate Christ’s ascension–the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus–and He was “highly exalted!”  Then, He became TERRIBLE to His enemies, all power in heaven and earth being committed to Him.   

And then He began to display the excellent Majesty, His universal kingdom for all to see, being crowned King of kings, and Lord of lords.

None can resist His POWER or stand before His vengeance; yet as these terrors are carried out in behalf of His subjects.  All fit reasons for REJOICING!  His Omnipotence is terrible to crush, is almighty to protect!

God’s Omnipotence…

God is “all-powerfulness,” “almighty”, in other words, when God wants something done, it is done!  The apostle Paul wrote of God’s omnipotence--it is the sense that He is “above all,and through all, and in all” (Eph. 4:6).

THE UNUSUAL REIGN OF CHRIST, as it is, and is to be!

The Hope of Victory to the Church – [Verse 3]:

“He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.”

What shall be subdued?  By whose means?  –  Us.

By whose power? –  His.

When shall it be accomplished and what is the symbol? –  The Ascension (Psalm 47:5).

The final triumph for ALL BELIEVERS in Christ Jesus IS… all enemies are subdued under them in earth, and hell, within and without–gradually at first, then completely.

God’s Willingness – [Verse 4]:

“He chose our inheritance for us, the glory and pride of Jacob, whom He loves.  Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!”

His willingness to choose our inheritance in time and eternity.

His choice is better than ours–the excellency of Jacob.

He will leave us to the consequences of our own choices.

He will help us in obtaining that which He chooses for us by His Spirit.

The Ascension – [Verse 5]:

“God has ascended amid shouting, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.”

It’s publicity, solemnity, triumph, and joy!

Jesus, who went up…

Where He went up…

To what purpose…

With what result…

“O clap your hands people and shout…with the voice of triumph and songs of joy!”

The Importance of Songs of Joy [Verse 6]:

“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!”

Why do SONG LEADERS in our worship services today, repeat the choruses over and over again?  The same question was probably asked years ago, when the worship leaders would have us sing every verse to a hymn on Sunday mornings.

Repetition can censure at times our slackness– that implies earnestness, frequency, delight and joy in singing, which should characterize the PRAISES offered.

Sing Praises with Understanding – [Verse 7]:

“For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises in a skillful psalm and with understanding.”

How can we make JOY in our hearts to God singing?

According to Psalm 47:7, we must sing with UNDERSTANDING, not by the watches on our wrists but by the WORDS OF THE SONG; we must give our attention to the content more than the music and consider WHAT WE SING as well as HOW WE SING;

“the time may affect the fancy, but it is the matter that affect the heart, and that…God principally sees.”

The word MASCHIL is used in the Psalms many times and Psalm 47 is not an exception.  It means to instruct with understanding, denoting a song which enforces some lesson of WISDOM or PIETY; a didactic song or Psalm [BibleStudyTools].

So, with that in mind, we must sing wisely to prevent a “carelessness of spirit” in our Worship & Praise services each week.  If we will sing gratefully, then we will ENJOY what we sing.

In other words, we should SING as we should PRAY:

“The what am I to do? I will PRAY with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will also pray [intelligently] with my mind and understanding;  I will SING with my spirit [by the Holy Spirit that is within me], but I will SING [intelligently] with my mind and understanding also”  (1 Corinthians 14:15 AMP).

If we don’t understand what we sing, it promotes carelessness of spirit, hardness of heart; and this makes the worship service immaterial and impudent.

THE GATHERING…

Psalm 47:9:

The princes and nobles of the peoples are gathered together, a [united] people for the God of Abraham, for the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted.

Christ’s GATHERING of the saints together with Him, will be at His second coming; His coming judgment, and His return will be as He ascended…“with the sound of a trumpet” [See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18].

BUT RELATIVE to the coming of

our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)

and our GATHERING together to [meet] Him…

~ 2 Thessalonians 2:1~

The Covenant Promise Will Be Fulfilled…

“In thee and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” – “to Him shall the gathering of the people be.”

“For the Shields of the Earth Belong to God” [vs. 9]

All te Pomp & Circumstance, the emblems of rank and position, weapons of war,  ALL WILL pay homage and bow down to the King of all.

Those who are the earth’s protectors, the shields of society, derive their might from Him and are His.  ALL principalities and powers will be  subject to Yahweh and His Son, for He is greatly exalted in nature, in power, in character, in glory, NONE to compare with Him.  Oh, the vision of things to come!

hurricane_clouds__gulf_of_mexico5
The Blessed Hope!

“Applause, everyone.  Bravo, bravissimo!

Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs.”

Clapping Your Hands In Joy
Clapping Your Hands In Joy

~ Psalm 47:1 The Message Bible ~

“UNCHECKMATED”

A Famous Chess Game
A Famous Chess Game

 A Defeat in Progress–

The Fausts’  famous painting hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess.  And at first glance, looks like Faust is losing.

His opponent in the chess game is Satan.  The devil sits there grinning smugly, thinking the VICTORY is in hand.  He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil, gloating look on his face.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting:

“Checkmate!  Games over!  I win!”

An international famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden, he lunged forward exclaiming:

“Wait a minute!  Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him VICTORY.”

THE TEXT from Acts 26:16-18: “Another Move!”

[16]  But arise and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you.  [17] Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you–  [18] To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.  (Amplified Bible)

JESUS HAS GIVEN US PURPOSE:

I remember years ago, when I was asked to give an account of how and when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before a small group.  How inadequate I first felt.  It wasn’t that I feared standing in front of people to speak, but I thought my story wasn’t….exciting enough.  I hadn’t been driving down a road, when a lightning bolt struck the pavement in front of the car; pulling to the shoulder; hearing the audible voice of God saying,  “Mel, I have a specific purpose and objectives in mind for you.”

But in saying that, when we accept JESUS out of obedience…for He chose you, you didn’t choose Him; you accepted the calling… out of obedience.  The obedience doesn’t stop there at conversion.  It’s ongoing!

The Apostle Paul’s Testimony in Acts 26–

We find Paul stating his God-given purpose through his testimony to the whole Jewish Legal council.  Also, to three of the highest political officials in Palestine:  FELIX, FESTUS, and AGRIPPA.  All three hear the GOSPEL MESSAGE because Paul was arrested and imprisoned on false charges.

PAUL’S TESTIMONY:

He was blinded by an arrogant sense of his own importance.

Thought he was on a mission for God.

Though he was defending God…he had gone on the offensive; to wipe out as many Christians as possible.

He was chasing them down everywhere, arresting them, sentencing them to prison, even torturing them if needed.

If they (the Christians) refused to renounce their faith, like Stephen, Paul saw to it that they died as a heretic.  Saul, as he was known to the world, quickly became infamous among the Way (what believers were known as before the term “Christians” was applied).  Would Paul’s INFAMY put him in CHECKMATE after his obedience to God’s calling?

BUT SOMEONE SAW PAUL’S POTENTIAL–  JESUS!

Paul’s testimony– that JESUS turned on the lights for him–blinding him on the Road to Damascus.  Now, his eyesight was “20/20” regarding spiritual matters.

3 OBJECTIVES TO CONSIDER:

THE FIRST OBJECTIVE we are to meet is to accomplish the purpose; to move out of a “checkmated” position. 

JESUS has given each one of us in the church assembly, the BODY OF CHRIST this command:  GO AND TELL!  (verse 17)–

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles”

“I AM SENDING YOU”:

God has placed you and I to penetrate our community with the good news.

We are a sent people–

In fact, the smaller number in attendance at the church I attend, with various age differences, different occupations–we are all given the same responsibility; penetrate the world, our community, with the Gospel.

None of us live at the church, though you may complain you feel like at times.  Most of us don’t work at the church; we live and work among the people outside the church walls.  That’s just where God wants us to be.  He wants us living out there, moving about, meeting people, being involved in their lives and shining God’s Light around our own lives.  Does that sound just to “poetic” for you to grasp and understand?

THE “CHURCH” IS MORE THAN A LIGHTHOUSE:

As some of you know, I sang in a men’s Gospel trio in Southern California in the late 70’s.  One of my favorite Gospel Hymns to sing out in the community was, The Lighthouse.  The lyrics refer to Jesus as the Lighthouse, and that is certainly true.  But since we are Christ’s Ambassadors, we are to represent the “Lighthouse.”  The last verse of the song contains a powerful thought:

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Everybody that lives about us

Says tear that Lighthouse down.

The big ships don’t sail  this way anymore

There’s no use of it standing round

Then my mind goes back to that stormy night

When just in time I saw  the light

Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill.

Please understand, this idea is often a mistake in the body of Christ–the Christian Assembly.  We sometimes believe that the CHURCH BUILDING is our Lighthouse and not the Light living inside of us.

It is time for the church to start  “wiggling”–MOVING OUT!

I came across a story this past week, of an E.M.T. (emergency medical technician):

Bill Stelianessis was called to a nursing home for a routine transport.  While there, he encountered four residents enjoying the warm day, relaxing in lounge chairs, all staring up at the sky.  When he looked up to see what they were looking at, he saw a flock of large birds flying by.  Then one resident spoke up:  “Margaret,” she teased, “for goodness sake, wiggle or something.  Those buzzards are getting closer!”

We are going to have to move folks.  We are supposed to be “living lighthouses”–guiding, directing, and warning others.  We do not ask people to come here to the “building”, for most won’t come.  We are to go where they are, and show them the LIGHT.

Moving Lighthouses
Moving Lighthouses

A SECOND OBJECTIVE–ANOTHER MOVE we are to meet, to accomplish the purpose of Jesus has given us– “…to open eyes…” (verse 18).

God wants spiritually blinded eyes to be opened:  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said,  ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’  made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV).

It is God who created LIGHT in the beginning.  HE SPOKE.  IT HAPPENED!

He has a method in mind.  It’s you and me.  We are PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT in communicating the TRUTH–God’s Word.

Our Responsibility–

To LIVE and SPEAK words of truth, so that when people’s eyes are opened, there is something to believe.

Holy spirit never opens the eyes of the heart until there is GOSPEL TRUTH in the mind to believe.  We do not SAVE people, and I think most of us already know that.  But on the other hand, Scripture indicates His only plan includes our communication–God doesn’t do it without us.

3042052_b6efc7004cTHE THIRD OBJECTIVE TO CONSIDER IS “TURN THEM” INTO VICTORY (Verse 19):

“To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness…

I remember when I was living in darkness…the “darkness of sin.”   Before being saved, I use to think life couldn’t be any better.  And those who did…I thought they were more than a bit “nutty.”  I thought that DARKNESS was light and LIGHT was darkness.

Are We Hiding the Light in a Paper Sack?

TWO CLASSMATES from Washington State University were discussing their frustrations of dorm life.  High up on their list was the difficulty of keeping others from eating ice cream stored in the dorm’s refrigerator.

“I’ve solved that one,” one of them said.  “I just wrap my ice cream in a brown paper bag and label it ‘TOFU’.”

It’s possible that the devil has done the same thing.  Wrapped up the light (THE TRUTH) in a brown paper bag and called it “TOFU”–as a result, no one is going near it!

SATAN’S POWER OVER PEOPLE:

His power is simply based on DECEPTION.  He does so by working hard to keep people away from the TRUTH.  So he bends and twists the TRUTH (God’s Word), keeping people at bay and off-balanced.  He did that with us…unsuccessfully.

I certainly remember why and how he FAILED.  It was because of one small, unattractive looking pastor, living out the truth every time he came to the place where I was employed.  Because eventually, after his repeated visits, the opportunity arose… to SHARE the Gospel TRUTH with my wife and I in the living room of our home.

Paul’s Example to Us All.

Paul wasn’t concerned about his own condition, as much as he was about the condition of those who stood before him.  While he was standing in chains, he was more concerned about the spiritual chains around the necks of Festus and Agrippa.

WE ARE CHOSEN AND ENTRUSTED WITH A MISSION:

Encouragement Presented.  BE A MOVING LIGHTHOUSE!

Those of us who were called–called out of the tunnel of darkness, into His marvelous Light are entrusted with a MISSION:

To remove whatever obstacles that prevent others from rejoicing in the brilliance of God’s unconditional acceptance.  We are to GUIDE, DIRECT, SHOW THE LIGHT.

Are the people living in the DARKNESS simply because you are not sharing your light?  Have we become CHECKMATED?

WE STILL HAVE A MOVE ON THE “CHESSBOARD”:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and]  do superabundantly far over and above all that we [dare] to ask or think  [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–  To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen (so be it) – (Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP).

I see VICTORY in these two verses and the victory is in bringing others to Christ Jesus–letting the Holy Spirit do the convincing while we verbalize the “good news”!.

“Keepers of the Aquarium”

Keepers of the Aquarium
Keepers of the Aquarium

A “FISHING” STORY:

Fishing season for the lakes open up every April  near my home in Washington State.  This year, I purchased a fishing license and headed towards a well-stocked lake nearby.  Since this was my first experience in lake fishing after 71 years, I decided to invite a neighbor who had some expertise in catching FISH.  I definitely needed some instructions from someone who was patient enough to teach me to bait my hook and cast the line out into the water. After a few miss-casts into the tree branches, I finally managed to get the rigging where Henry (my good neighbor) thought the fish might be.  I then was told to lay the fishing pole in a homemade fork looking device that Henry had brought along and then… wait.  I waited…and I waited…watching for the tip of the pole to begin twitching.  And then, it happened!  Henry yelled out, you got a fish on your line Mel.  Reel it in!  My eyes must have been as big as saucers and with a wide grin on my face I reeled in my FIRST FISH…ever.  Actually, when we decided it was time to leave our guarded fishing hole, while reeling in my fishing line…I caught another trout.  I yelled out in glee, somewhat surprising Henry I think, “Thank You Jesus”!  This does prove a point:  You can ‘teach old dogs new things.’

ANOTHER “FISHING” STORY TO TELL IN A MUCH LARGER LAKE:

Bigger Fish, bigger lake
Bigger Fish, bigger lake

There were men pulling in their fishing nets one morning.  The water from the wet nets broke the silence as two of the men stood up to stretch in their 20 Foot wooden boat.  They were eagerly searching for results from their labors of fishing all night long.  Although my experience was but a few hours on a small lake, I too eagerly waited for positive results.

But as the last of the empty nets pile into the boat bottom, they discouragingly reach for the boat’s oars as another wasted night is realized.

“How’s the fishing?” — a mans calls out from the shoreline.

“Nothing.  Absolutely NOTHING!” —they answered back.

“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat”,  orders the man from the nearby water’s edge.

“But we fished all night.”  

Frustration must have been heard in their voices.  I know my impatience would have certainly been with the fishermen’s; if I had been at Lake Padden and the results were…ZERO FISH!  But fishing in a much larger lake, the the Sea of Galilee…all night…fighting the surrounding elements…and coming home with NO RESULTS?

BUT, In Obedience–

After a long pause and the shaking of heads, a sense of authority in the voice coming from the beach is felt and the fisherman responds,  “All right, but only once more…”

456991202_47102379fbAfter a short time, letting out their nets in the same water, shouts of excitement ring out…calls for help sound from the boat.  The nets were so full, they were beginning to break!

You know this story from the conversations given in John 21:1-12.  What a moment that must have been!

The Nets Are FULL of FISH…now what?

Peter and his brother Andrew desperately brought in the catch with the nets breaking.  They must have thought silently to themselves, how did the stranger know where the fish were?  Was it a miracle?

Suddenly Peter remembered the words of Jesus,  “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

On that Post Easter Morning…

On the shore of the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus and the disciples shared together the “fish fry”, a new wind began to blow.  As the Father had sent Jesus into the world…now Jesus was sending them into the world:

“Go then and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”  (Matthew 28:19).

THE TEST:  The Acts of the Apostles 8:1, 4-5.

[1] “…On that day a great and severe persecution broke out against the church which was in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.”

[4]  “Now those who were scattered abroad went about [through the land from place to place] preaching the glad tidings, the Word [the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God].”

[5]  “Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ (the Messiah) to them [the people].”

PAUL HARVEY once said,  “Too many Christians no longer are fishermen but keepers of the aquarium.”   

Had the church in Jerusalem become a “fish aquarium”?  Have we in the church– in our communities, become a “fish aquarium too?

I don’t know.  But what I do know is…it wasn’t God’s plan.  Jesus had been very specific when He said,  “And you shall be My witnesses in JERUSALEM and all JUDEA and SAMARIA and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth”  (Acts 1:8 AMP).

But what about Judea and Samaria?

The Martyrdom of Stephen:

Stephen’s death was an important factor in the life of the Christian community in Jerusalem.  It ignited “a great persecution” which instead of destroying the church movement, it spread the gospel beyond the walls of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1).

In my study and investigation of the evidence given in Acts 8,   I noticed the 12 Apostles remained in Jerusalem.  “Why were they not scattered like everyone else?”  

The church leaders had been granted religious protection by Gamaliel:

[34] But a certain Pharisee in the council  (Sanhedrin)  named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, highly esteemed  by all the people, standing up, ordered that the apostles be taken outside for a little while.  [35] Then he addressed them [the council, saying]:  Men of Israel, take care in regard to what you propose to do concerning these men.  (Acts 5:34-35).

After having them flogged and telling them not to speak in or about the name of Jesus…allowed them to go (verse 40).

Now personally, if that had happened to me, beaten with a whip and told you better not or else…I would have probably thought seriously, “Do I really want to be place in this same dilemma again?”  Maybe it would have been ‘safer’ if I would just mind my own business.  You know, go to church every week; help serve when I can; pray for the lost, the unsaved in the world; just be “low-key” in the larger scheme of things and keep on maintaining in the back row of the church I attend.

But reading further, we see how the 12 apostles reacted to the dilemma:

“Yet [in spite of the threats] they never ceased for a single day, both in the temple area and at home, to teach and to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of Jesus [as] the Christ (the Messiah)”  (Acts 5:42 AMP).

“Pastor, that is easy for you to do and say but…”

The religious leaders had agreed but…ordinary believers; the everyday working man; the stay-at-home housewife and mother had no protection.

No Programs or Written Materials to Hand Out–

I also noticed the message was a simple one:  Jesus’ death and resurrection was carried on the lips of ordinary people.

The gospel message has not changed, nor has God’s plan for personal delivery.  We must depend on the Holy Spirit’s POWER–

It Takes Time to Make Disciples:

Time of paying personal attention to people’s needs around us and hours of prayer are part of what it takes.  There isn’t a Christian assembly line knocking out believers like new cars in 30 or 45 days.  No automatic robots welding spirits and souls together to be “functional participants” in the local church.  It takes patience to teach people How to Fish: How to read the Word of God; How to feed and nourish their souls and their applications to the teaching of Jesus in their behavior.

It is ALL of that and more!

I had many questions for my neighbor Henry the first time I went fishing.  After putting the bait on the fishing hook, I asked Henry, “What do I do next?”  And his short answer to the question…“Get the fishing line in the water.  You’re not going to get any fish just thinking about what might be.” 

“Becoming a Contagious Christian” and not just “Keepers of the Aquarium”:

Bill Hybels developed a mathematical formula for reaching those who are spiritually lost from Jesus:

MR + CP + CG = ND

— Meaningful relationships + Caring for people + Communicating the Gospel = New Disciples –

This is the same pattern that the Holy Spirit used with the believers who fled Jerusalem and it is still an effective plan today.

“Salt Without Savor”–

In Matthew 5:13  JESUS SAID:  “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.”

SALT WITHOUT SAVOR IS:

— Ineffective…

— Worthless…

— Lost its POWER…

— Won’t create thirst…

— Won’t add much spice…

— Won’t prevent decay.

Becky Pippert wrote:  “Unless salt gets poured out of the shaker, it remains a mere table ornament.”

Knowing What To Say When Opportunities Present Themselves; or how to have “savor” in the Church!

Don’t let the idea of being “salty with savor” overwhelm you.  When opportunities present themselves, just tell your story.  It really IS that simple!

Why do you believe in JESUS?

How did you come to know God’s love in your life?

How has JESUS made a difference in your life? 

JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES  “You will be My witnesses”–

In a courtroom, a witness is not expected to argue the case, prove the truth or press for a verdict.  That is the job of the attorney.  A witness just reports what happened.

The Holy Spirit is our attorney…just telling your story in sharing your testimony; it builds a relational bridge between your heart and the people you are sharing with and it lets JESUS cross over the bridge from your heart to theirs.

Here’s An Old, Old Story in Sharing Your Testimony:

I love old hymns and there is one in particular that came to my mind when telling your story or how you came to be who you are as a Christian and how they too can have the same story in their life:

Verse:  

I heard an old, old story,  how a Savior came from glory

How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.

I heard about His groaning,  of His precious blood’s atoning,

Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.

Chorus: 

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!

He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.

He loved me ere, I knew Him, and all my love is due Him–

He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

Being a witness for Christ is that simple.  Just sharing an old, old story about your Victory in Jesus, a hymn written by Eugene M. Bartlett years ago.

“But how do I begin the conversation?”

I’ve learned over the years, asking questions in personal conversations… is a good place to begin.

One example might be, when someone asks you this often asked question “How’s it going?”  

Rather than giving the usual pat answer…“fine”, try this:

“Well, financially, okay; family wise, pretty well; and spiritually really great.  Which one do you want to talk about?”

What’s the Point?

GOD is already at work in people’s hearts…we learn to ask questions to see the Word seeds of the gospel.  The SEED needs to be planted, watered or harvested.

So do we really want to be Fishers of Men, as Jesus instructed us…or, are we just satisfied in being dedicated “Keepers of the Aquarium”?