Monday, December 10, 2018

Let's Say Grace

The grace of God is most likely the most far reaching and comprehensive gift that believers can receive all due to the tremendous work of God in Christ. Yet, I believe one reason that so many believers do not achieve maturity is that they have never truly understood what it means to receive the righteousness of Christ. They find it difficult to allow the Holy Spirit to be their Guide because they are relying on another method to find their way. God's Word reveals two ways to achieve
righteousness with God. The distinction between the two is extremely important for believers to comprehend and understand. The Pauline Epistles reveal these distinctions, however, many believers pay very little attention to them due to a lack of revelation and faith in God's Word. This is not to be critical, but to show us that in the attempts made by most theologians for centuries to bring the freedom that Christ has provided has not brought the very freedom that they hope to achieve.

The two ways to obtain righteousness revealed to us in God's Word are law and grace. God's Word explains very clearly that they cannot occur simultaneously. If you seek to achieve righteousness by the law, you cannot achieve it by grace. On the other hand, if you seek to achieve righteousness by grace, then you cannot do it by keeping the law. This truth is tremendously important because many believers attempt to live partly by law and partly by grace. The Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul, "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6) In other words, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8) 

God's Word also reveals that trying to achieve righteousness by the law or the works of the law has a major stumbling block for every person, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (James 2:10) Therefore, the law is a set of rules you have to keep completely and fully to be considered righteous in God's eyes. If you keep all the rules, all the time, then you are made righteous. Grace, on the other hand, is something we cannot earn or achieve by doing the works of the law. If you are working for anything or seeking to earn it, it is not grace as we see in the scriptures above. Grace is received only one way, through faith, and that not of
yourselves, it is the gift of God. The result of grace through faith is righteousness. Therefore, if you want to achieve righteousness, if you want to come into the maturity of God, you have to decide whether you are going to do it by law or by grace.

The verse that best describes grace is also found in the Pauline Epistles, "[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight." (Philippians 2:13 AMP) Notice, grace is not something that is given to us so we can do whatever we want because we are not under the law but under grace. Grace, as it says above, is not our works, but God working in and through us giving us the the desire and ability to do His will. Keep in mind that God's Will is revealed in His Word. Unfortunately, many believers, out of maybe ignorance, personal hurt or some other reason see grace from this unbiblical perspective.

The crux of this is, every believer must choose to live either by law or grace, you cannot have it both ways. The Apostle Paul was speaking to people who had received the grace of God when he said, "For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14). Notice that law and grace are quite distinct, like to water and oil, they do not mix. Notice the implication here. If you are under the law, sin will have dominion over you. This is a very important verse. It teaches us two things. First, if we try to achieve righteousness by law, sin will have dominion over us. Second, if we want to achieve righteousness by grace, we cannot achieve it by law. I labor this due to the number of believers who try or have tried every imaginable way to achieve righteousness, such as, doing penance, fasting, giving money, saying long prayers, doing good deeds, giving up pleasures, confess sin over and over, fighting bad habits, self-denial, abusing their body. Some of these are actually part of the Christian life, but we must ask ourselves what is the motive behind doing these things. Again, righteousness only comes by faith in Jesus Christ.

As we grow in understanding in the fact that God has given to us, "abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness"  we will come to know without wavering that God is our Father; we are sons and daughters; we are in His family; we know He loves us and that we are not servants or sinners, but heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Therefore, I pray that you all "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)    

Monday, December 3, 2018

Born Free

The greatest desire within man has been the quest to rid himself of sin consciousness and live free of guilt, unworthiness, shame, condemnation and inferiority. To be free of these thing is the driving force behind all the major religions of the world. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter tells us, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) The facts is, God has dealt with the sin problem in His Son Jesus Christ. He has put sin away by the sacrifice of His Son and has made it possible on legal grounds for man who is spiritually dead and in union with Satan, (John 8:44), to become a new creation by confessing, believing and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In doing so, he immediately receives the very nature and life of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21; 2 Peter 1:4) He may not know it, he may not take advantage of it, but it is true.

The downside of this great news is, sin consciousness has been permitted to rule over many believers and has been fostered, developed, and made a reality by ministers who have and continue to preach sin instead of preaching Christ and the new creation. Looking back to the Garden of Eden, we see that sin consciousness came with the fall, "...Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." (Genesis 3:8) Sin consciousness creates the guilt, unworthiness, shame, condemnation and inferiority which causes people hide from God, because spiritually dead man cannot stand in God's presence. We see how God illustrated this fact in the Old Testament where the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once every year, and then only when he was blood covered. The High Priest did not go into the Holy of Holies to worship, but to make a yearly atonement for spiritually dead Israel. (Leviticus 16)

However, the time came when God would deal with man's sin once for all. How? He made Jesus sin. Sin was not only reckoned to Him, His spirit actually became sin. Looking at the Prophet Isaiah we find that Jesus died twice on the cross, "And they made His grave with the wicked, but with the rich at His death..." (Isaiah 53:9) The word death in the Hebrew is plural, "deaths." On the cross when Jesus became sin He died spiritually. His spiritual death led the way for His physical death. The same happened to the first Adam. Adam's sin separated him spiritually from God and 930 years later his physical body wore out. The good news is, Jesus was, "made alive in spirit." (1 Timothy 3;16), "He was justified in spirit." (1 Peter 3:18), He was not left in hell or in the grave, "For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption." (Acts 2:27) and He was the first person ever born again, "God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: You are My Son, today I have begotten You." (Acts 13:33) "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Colossians 1:15) 

God dealt with the sin problem and made man a new creation, gave him a new nature through Christ, because no man can stand right with God simply by having his sins pardoned. It would leave the old nature that produced those sins still in control of his life. But when a person becomes a child of God, "he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) and at the same time everything man has ever done in his past life is remitted, wiped out as though it was never committed. (Acts 2:38) The Apostle Paul tells us, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) 

Notice, by grace through faith one is saved. God takes the sinner as he is. No matter how deep in sin he has gone, new birth will straighten him out. Many have been taught that a sinner could pray through, that he could repent until God would forgive him. All that is not scriptural. The truth is, God takes him as he is, full of sin, rebellion, and having the satanic nature. He imparts to him His nature and it is God's nature that drives out the old satanic nature and makes him a new creation. All the sins of that old nature are remitted instantaneously. The person stands before the Father as though sin had never been. The whole crux of redemption has one main end, that man might become the righteousness of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:21) What does righteousness mean? It is the ability to stand in the Father's presence as though sin had never been, as free as Adam was before he sinned and as free as Jesus was in the resurrection.

Jesus tells us, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:36) When one becomes born again, they are made free by Jesus Christ the Righteous. The Apostle Paul tells us, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus..." (Romans 8:1) We are new creations in Christ. We are the righteousness of God in Christ. We are children of God. When God's Word says, "the just (my righteous ones) shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) He is describing the person who has become a new creation and has been made righteous with God's own nature. This is not simply a legal righteousness, nor a reckoned righteousness, but the actual impartation of God's own righteous nature.

So, let us no longer permit guilt, unworthiness, shame, condemnation and inferiority have place. Let us no longer look at what we were, but what we are, "the righteousness of God in Christ." PTL...

Monday, November 26, 2018

It's All About Timing

At the conclusion of creation we find, "Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." (Genesis 2:1-3) We note that all creation was completed in six days and the Lord God added a seventh day to rest. Everything in creation was exactly as God wanted it including the precise time in which it all came together. In short, God is the Author and Master of time. 

Looking at the scriptures we also find some very interesting situations concerning time. One of these concerns Joshua. Joshua, commissioned by God to takes Moses' place in bring Israel into the Promised Land, was in a battle and needed more time to finish the battle, "Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day." (Joshua 10:12-13) 

We take away a few things from this miraculous event. First, Joshua's spoke to the Lord, exercised faith and commanded the sun and moon to stand still. Although Joshua's understanding was limited concerning this, God honored his faith. The reality is, the earth stopped in it rotation. Image if you can, the earth rotates at 1000 per hour and it came to a stop. Another thing that we can take away from this event, is, in essence, Joshua became the master of time to complete this task of high importance and high urgency. However, most people struggle with prioritizing their time and therefore seem to say, "I do not have enough time." This is actually a negative confession and will become what is spoken. Believers need to see themselves as masters of time, simply because we are the children of the Author and Master of time. 

For believers to take charge of their time, they must come to understand a few things. So, let's define some words. Important and or importance is defined as, that of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being; having high rank or status; influential. Urgent and or urgency is defined as, that requiring immediate action or attention; done or arranged in response to a pressing or critical situation; earnest and persistent in response to a pressing situation; importance requiring swift action; insistence. Priority and or priorities, the fact or condition of being regarded or treated as more important; a thing that is regarded as more important than another; the right to take precedence or to proceed before others. 

Now that we have defined some terms, let's put some things in order that we may see great results in our effectiveness and efficiency as masters of our time. Looking back to Joshua, he saw what was of high Importance and high urgency and tackled it above everything else. This is the first consideration for those who truly want to take control of their time and get the most out of it. Next on our list of priorities come things that are of high importance but low urgency. With these items we need to set deadlines for completion and get these projects worked into our daily routine. Next, come the things that we determine as low importance but high urgency. With these, we find quick, efficient ways to get this work done without much personal involvement. If possible, delegate these items to a person who can get the job done. Finally, come the things that we determine are of low importance and low urgency. Now, because this is busy or repetitious work in nature we do not forget them but simply stack it up and do it in one-half hour segments either daily or if possible weekly or again, you get somebody else to do it.  

Every person is either an initiator or a reactor when it comes to prioritizing and planning. An example is our calendar. The question is not, "Will my calendar be full" but "What will fill my calendar." Always remember, a life in which anything goes will ultimately be a life in which nothing goes. Another important thing to keep in mind is do not put off until tomorrow something you can do today. This will help in getting our days in order which can open the door for "free" time throughout our week. We also keep in mind that priorities continually shift and demand attention. This means that we must re-evaluate them to stay on top of life. 

Finally, most people can prioritize when faced with right or wrong issues. The real challenge arises when we are faced with two good choices. Now what should we do? Let's return to Joshua, "Then Joshua spoke to the Lord." As Joshua, we must always consult the Lord. This is where faith with patience is to be exercised, "That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12)  These two qualities enable us to act correctly when faced with two good choices. 

These are simply practical principles that believers can apply to their life to overcome the challenges we face daily. Rather then confessing our lack of time, let us confess, "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] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]" (Ephesians 3:20 AMP) and be the masters of time as Joshua.   

Monday, November 19, 2018

In Everything

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Although, what Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621, Thanksgiving services were a part of life and were celebrated in in Jamestown, Virginia in 1610. Their purpose was to have a yearly and perpetually holy day of thanksgiving to Almighty God. Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress. However, Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Under Lincoln's Presidency, Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Taken from the Greek, the word everything means; all things; every kind or variety; in the highest degree; the maximum; with all boldness. The Holy Spirit is our helper and comforter (John 15:26) and no matter what circumstances of life we may find ourselves facing, let us remember that He is with us always. The attitude of giving thanks for every believer should go beyond Thanksgiving Day. Simply put, Thanksgiving is not just a holiday every fourth Thursday in November where believers join with family and friends and share what they are thankful for, but everyday ought to be Thanksgiving Day for believers and as Paul tells us "In everything give thanks."

Honestly, we can always find something to be thankful for, especially the good things that come our way. But Paul is not saying, "in every good thing give thanks." As difficult as it may seem at times, believers are to have an attitude of thanksgiving at all times. Why? Every person, especially believers, owe a debt of gratitude to God for what He has accomplished for humanity through Christ. The Bible records Paul telling the church at Corinth of his trials, "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness, besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?" (2 Corinthians 11:23-29)

These things do not sound like they are something to be thankful for, nevertheless, he was a man who was thankful in all things. The Apostle Paul was a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:19-20). Think about the last part, "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." He does not tells us to give thanks only in what we consider the good times, but, "giving thanks always for everything," that is, no matter what the circumstances may be. Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.

Giving thanks to God in all things, should be one of the most distinctive marks of every believer. We must not allow a heart of ingratitude to have place in our lives, for it could effect our relationship with God and with others in a negative way. Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. Whereas, nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true attitude of thanksgiving. Sometimes believers take for granted God's blessings, because we tend to look at, and think about the adversities of life above the blessings. Believers may even find themselves taking people for granted, or even complain and become angry because they do not meet our every wish. But we need to give thanks for those around us; our spouses, our children, our relatives, our friends and yes, even those who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Even though we may draw back from difficulties, yet, not one of us is exempt from the trials that come in this life. In many parts of the world it is dangerous even to be a Christian because of persecution, and yet, in the midst of those trials we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. (Isaiah 41:10) We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer to Himself. The Apostle James tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Look at the benefits that we can receive by "counting it all joy when you fall into various trials...
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" PTL. Let us always remember, God has given us the greatest Gift of all, His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him and have eternal life. (2 Corinthians 9:15; 1 John 2:25) Also, the day you and I came to Christ, it was not the end, but the beginning of a whole new life! God is with us, and He wants to help us follow Him and His Word. In ourselves we do not have the strength that we need to live the way God wants us to live. But the more we turn to Him daily, we will discover, "For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 AMP). "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] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]." (Ephesians 3:20 AMP) It is the wonderful gift of grace. So, "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Monday, November 12, 2018

Not By Sight

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7) Of course we understand that the Christians life is one of grace through faith, but walking by faith is a little more involved than a simple intellectual approach to life. To walk, in the Scriptures often denotes to live, to act, or to conduct ourselves in a certain way. It infers that life is a journey, or a pilgrimage, in the sense that as Christians, we are traveling to another country. This life is to be "walked out" with reference to the things which are unseen, and not with reference to the things which are seen. Therefore, to walk by faith, is to live in the confidence that the things that are unseen are more real than the things seen.

In other words, the people of this world are influenced by the things that are seen. They live for wealth, honor, praise, for the objects which this world can furnish, as if there were nothing which is unseen. But believers, on the contrary, have a firm conviction of the reality of heaven; the reality that our Redeemer is there to receive us; the reality that there is a crown of glory that awaits us; the reality that the power of God in miracles, signs and wonders are real today in this life; and that we live and act as if these things are as real, even more real, than the seen world around us.  To walk by faith and not by sight simply means that we are not influenced, governed or controlled by the things which we see, but by the things unseen. "Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Looking back we can see why so many people, even believers find it difficult to walk by faith. Before the Fall, man had perfect fellowship with God. He lived in the realm of the spirit, but when he disobeyed God's one commandment he was driven from the presence of God and he became dependent upon his five senses for everything. His spirit became the slave of his senses and when the senses gained the supremacy, man lost all real knowledge of spiritual things, he was now carnal, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14) Throughout the history of man, even under the Covenant with Abraham, until the glorification of Jesus, man lived in the natural realm by his senses. Yet, in the realm of the senses, Abraham believed God. His faith is the true type of the faith of a believer today.

The good news for believers, as the Holy Spirit through Paul declares, "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:12) Our recreated spirits, receive life from God, are able to know the things of God, while the natural minds, dominated by the senses, are unable to know the things that are freely given to us in the redemptive work of Christ. The natural man does not understand the expressions "in Christ, in Him, in Whom." Now we can see that one of the greatest needs of the present day church is the renewing of the minds of believers, and of the education and development of the recreated spirit.

There is a way that we can help these brothers and sisters, and that is to teach them how to take their place in Christ, to become doers of the Word, and not hearers only, because faith comes by getting acquainted with the Father through His Word. Not simply studying the Word alone, but by actually living the Word; doing the Word; practicing the Word, and letting the Word live in us. So, let us ask the Holy Spirit to open our spiritual eyes and walk by faith as father Abraham did, "who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, So shall your descendants be. And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform." (Romans 4:18-21) Amen...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Research and Development

One of the questions that believers ask is, "how can I develop and grow spiritually?" Naturally, spending time in God's Word is by far the best way. But it goes beyond simply reading the Bible. When Moses died and Joshua was commissioned to lead Israel into the Promised Land, the Lord spoke to him these words, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8) Notice the first thing that God commanded Joshua to do, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth..." In other words, Joshua was to be prepared every moment of every day to speak God's Word. Jesus said it this way, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63) God's Word is spirit and life.

Solomon says it this way, "My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh." (Proverbs 4:20-22) The next thing that the Lord tells Joshua is, " shall meditate in it day and night..." This is the best way to get God's Word in our heart which, in turn, will flow in a natural way from our mouth. Next, the Lord tells Joshua, "...observe to do according to all that is written..." Believers will never grow in grace, faith and the knowledge of our Lord unless we act on God's Word. In open combat with the devil, Jesus reveals a very important thing that all believers should embrace and apply daily, "...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) Now that we see the great premium that God puts on His Word and how believers should do the same, there is one more thing that I believe will undoubtedly help believers grow spiritually.

It is in the last verse of first Corinthians chapter twelve and in the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians that we find the answer. We begin with, "But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31)  From here we will see the love that Jesus brought to earth, which is the very love that has been pour out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, (Romans 5:5), which is also the first thing mentioned concerning the "fruit of the spirit." (Galatians 5:22-23) "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul is showing us how empty spiritual gifts, faith, human knowledge and the highest development of the natural man are absolutely worthless and meaningless in comparison to agape, love, that is, the God kind of love. Next, we see the God kind of love revealed, "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a) Now we can understand what Paul meant when he said, "And yet I show you a more excellent way." The other way that we develop our spirit man is by walking in love. Now we can understand this fact, that to develop our recreated spirit, it is necessary that we walk by faith and love.

If we could learn to walk in love and make it the business of our lives, we would solve many of the problems that we face in our relating to one another. Looking at the life of Jesus as our example, we find that He lived in the realm of love. His words were love filled. His acts and deeds grew out of love. Healing the sick, feeding the multitudes, never condemning was the love of God in word and deed, in Christ. If we could have our spirits developed in love like that, then we would be the most wonderful reflection of our Savior to a lost world. Jesus told His disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

The Apostle Paul tells us, "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19) You see, it is possible to build the very life of Jesus into us through God's Word, because Paul tells us that we can know the love of Christ which passes human understanding and also be filled with all the fullness of God. However, we will never be like Jesus until the Word becomes a part of us and we act on it. Paul also tells us,"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." (Galatians 5:6) Again, we see the Christian life is one of being filled with the Word which builds our faith, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17) And the God kind of love, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, 
you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 10:8-10)

So, let us develop our recreated spirits in faith and the God kind of love so the world will know that we belong to Jesus. Grace and peace be unto you...

Monday, October 29, 2018

Redeeming the Time

As time goes by, it seems that most people, even believers, have less time. Of course every person has the same amount of time every day, every week, every year. However, how do we make use of the time we have? The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul tells us, "See then that you walk circumspectly, (careful consideration of all circumstances ) not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Ephesians 5:15-17) To redeem the time is, "making the most of your (the) time...making the most of every opportunity...laying hold of, and understanding the special significance of life as a whole." Notice, that Paul does not say "time," but "the time." Believers are to apprehend the significance of every moment of time as an opportunity for a special work for building God's Kingdom.

When the Apostle Paul looked around at the world, he saw that he was living, (as believers also live today), in evil times. All matter of evil and wickedness surrounded Paul, as they also surround us. The evil of these days can cause opportunities to do good to slip away and be consumed unless we act. It’s as if we have to rescue and redeem these opportunities from the clutches of an evil world. It may seem that we are in a tug-of-war where opportunity is in the middle, and we are struggling, pulling one way while the evil days are pulling the other way. However, the reality is, opportunity is not in the middle. Paul is telling us that opportunity is in hostile territory, because the days are evil. The opportunities we have to do good and to bring glory to God are on a course to be swallowed up by busyness and our worldly mindsets. Believers can no longer just “go with the flow” of our culture. If we do, we will find ourselves wasting time and always saying, "I don't have enough time."

Honestly, redeeming the time involves sacrifice. Our top priority should always be, spending time, having fellowship, with the Father and the Son. (1 John 1:3) So, we must look at our lives and see what can be adjusted or even cut out to make time available for God. We must take a candid look at how we spend our time and learn to maximize our daily time with God. Again, this means cutting out the non-essentials in our routine and arrange things so we can spend profitable time every day with the Father and the Son. This requires a change of thinking. The Apostle Paul tells us, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)

You may be thinking, "well I have a spouse, children, a job that requires much of my time." Know this, God knows the importance of a job to supply for ourselves and family and also know, that family is very important to Him. God is the author of family, and we were created to become part of His divine Family. Therefore, family time should be a high priority in our lives. However, we can find ourselves faced with two dilemmas when it comes to family. Sometimes we can become so busy, we tend to place family time on the back burner. On the other hand we can become so consumed with family we miss the point of what quality time with our family truly is. For those working full time jobs, (especially stay home moms), those in ministry, and or in ministry working a full time job, scheduling a regular weekly family day and or night to enjoy one another is a priority. (Keep in mind I am not saying that we can only spend one day or night with family, but scheduling time is important or time will slip away).

My wife and I have lived most of adult lives working full time jobs, (my wife being a stay home mom for many of those years) and being in ministry with a full time job. So I offer some things that we have found to be successful quality family time. First, we purposefully scheduled a regular weekly family day and or night to enjoy one another and did everything possible to keep it. We did Bible studies; took walks together; went to parks, playgrounds; played games; and enjoy other activities, (to many to list). But most important communicating with each other. Our objectives were to have our children know their importance and value to us, the importance and value of family, their importance and value to God, their importance and value to God's Kingdom, and to have a balanced, productive life as children of God for His glory. (Proverbs 22:6; Matthew 5:16)

Finally, another important aspect of redeeming the time. Everyone needs some “space” now and then, that is, some time to be alone; time to slow down, rest and recuperate. We all need to take some solitude time to think and meditate on what is truly important in life, which includes what God's divine purpose is. Jesus is our example of this very thing, "However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." (Luke 5:15-16) Jesus also had His disciple do the same, "And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves." (Mark 6:31-32)

It is important to God and should be for us also, to live a balanced life. There is a time to commune with the Father and the Son, a time to be with family, a time to work, a time for ministry, a time to play, and a time to be alone. The good news is, the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit, has given us unlimited resources to redeem these opportunities from the clutches, the mindsets, of the world. (John 16:13-15) Through Him we can seize these opportunities, and through Him we can act on them. The evil days don’t stand a chance with the Holy Spirit working in and through us. So, to redeem the time, we must apply the words of Jesus to our daily lives, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (opportunities, if you will) shall be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) This means that we may need to make some adjustment to accomplish these things. However, if we live by Matthew 6:33, God will show us how to redeem the time. The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you all.