Monday, January 20, 2020

The Joy of the Lord

Mountain climbing is a sport that some enjoy, while others do not. The truth is, if you are born again you will climb some mountains before your departure from this life. How one climbs a mountain is directly related to the amount of faith they have in the Word of God, that is Jesus (The Word became flesh, John 1:12). 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 1:2-3) To most believers this scripture is very familiar. However, did you know that although this letter was written to the church, it is directed to those who have not taken the time to developed there faith. Let's be honest, no one wants to experience trials but it is inevitable that they will come. The question that each believe must consider is, "Do you really have joy in the midst of a trial?"

Joy is a wonderful thing and is often mistaken for happiness. Happiness is a product of what one experiences based on their surroundings, that is, things that are expressed through the senses or put another way, the experiencing of material things. Joy however, is a product of the recreated spirit that is imparted by the Holy Spirit and has nothing to do with ones senses. (Galatians 5:22) By definition I believe this is the main reason why most believers struggle when a trial comes. They let their flesh (senses) have control over their circumstances (surroundings) and become unhappy. But this expresses the very point. Happiness is based on our surroundings. However, change the surroundings in a negative way and unhappiness becomes the outcome.

Notice also that James uses the term "Various Trials." In other words, there will be different types of trials that believers will experience. However, if a believer is going through the same trial again and again, it is due to their failure of letting go of the sense realm and looking to the LORD.  The apostle Paul puts it this way, "...I  have learned the secret of contentment in every situation..." (Philippians 4:12) In other words, Paul learned the secret of being independent of his circumstances. How was he able to do this? "For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." (Philippians 4:13) The failure of most believers is not a lack of faith per se, but trying to live the Christian life through the sense realm which actually erodes one's faith. When believers look to the circumstances instead of Christ they can expect to be unhappy and miss the very reason for the trial. Trials are to mature the believer's faith so they can be perfectly sound in spirit, soul and body. "...that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (James 1:3)

Jesus said, "For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says." (Mark 11:23) I know that many have come to believe that Jesus was using this as an analogy of speaking to the mountains (difficult life situations) and they will leave (move). However, the difficulties of life are the trials that James tells us to count it all a joy because trials mature the believer by increasing their faith. Also, in context as to why Jesus would make such a statement (He had cursed a fig tree that did not have fruit) He is literally stating a fact of how the God kind of faith (Mark 11:22) can move a literal mountain. Jesus who was present during creation. (John 1:3) spoke and the mountains were. So, faith in the one who created everything seen and unseen can move a literal mountain. I certainly do not know any believers who need to move a literal mountain out of the way, but faith can do just that.

Jesus faced the most difficult life situation that a person could possibly face as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, "Sit here while I go and pray over there." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." (Matthew 26:36-43)

Jesus knew the will of God. He was not praying a prayer to change the situation (a difficulty of life) but a prayer of consecration and dedication. Notice what He says at the end of His pray, "not as I will, but as you will." He was making Himself available to the Father to do the Father's will no matter how difficult this life situation may have been. Let's face it, this was definitely an ominous life situation. Look at what the writer of Hebrews states, "...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame..." (Hebrews 12:2) As hard as this may be to believe, in this most horrific trial of life, Jesus had joy fulfilling the will of the Father. He had to endure the agony and shame of the cross in His physical body as well as endure an even greater agony of having all sickness and sin of every person placed upon His spirit. (Isaiah 53:4-6, 9) During Jesus' entire life on earth as the Son of Man He never focused on the situations of this life, but the solutions provided by the Father, the Father's will being done. Believers are to "...look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" not the difficulties of life and then they will experience joy in the midst of a trial.

Having the kind of faith to move a mountain takes time to build. Trials are one of the ways that builds a believers faith. To experience joy in the midst of a trial is not something that one conjures up, it is already a part of the recreated spirit. With that said, we must understand that it comes down to whether or not we walk in the flesh (senses) and fulfill the works of the flesh or walk in the Spirit, standing on God's Word letting love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control have place over our senses. Like everything else, it comes down to a matter of choice. We can believe with our heart (spirit) and have joy in the midst of a trial or continue to let the flesh (senses) rule our lives. It is just that simple.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Painting A Lovely Picture

It is very unfortunate when I talk with believers who truly love the LORD but have such a limited picture of who He really is. Many see God as a holy and just, which He certainly is, but they also see Him as an austere and unapproachable being who is ever on the look out to discover sin in the believer and quick to condemn them. This concept has caused many to have a very low grade Christianity to the point where they experience almost no freedom and joy in this life here on earth. Their only hope is to leave earth one day and go to heaven. However, I am here to report that this perception of God is completely wrong. When Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray, He began by tells them to say, "Our Father." God is our loving Father as the scriptures reveal.

"For the Father Himself loves you..." (John 16:27) "...that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." (John 17:23) "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." (Romans 8:16) "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1) What a beautiful and factual picture of our Heavenly Fathers relationship to every believer. Jesus also paints this wonderful picture of our Father to His children in His overwhelming desire to bless them, "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11) Think about this truth for a moment.

As a parent myself I have always desired to see that my children were taken care of in every area of their life. I wanted them to always be encouraged and to know that no matter how things looked everything would be alright. I have made it a point to make myself available to help them through thick or thin as well as seeing their personal success at my expense and yet this is millions of miles away in comparison to how great our Heavenly Father's tender loving care is for all of His children, every believer.

When we come to know Him as a loving, caring, giving, blessing, Father who longs to spend time with you His child, our entire perception of Him changes. Look at the picture the apostle Paul paints,  "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out,"Abba, Father." (Romans 8:15) Do you know what is unique about this verse? Notice, it says we are adopted. Many look at adoption from a totally human perspective in the sense that the adopted child is not really family. However, think about it from this perspective. Jesus said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you..." (John 15:16) and Paul says, "just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world..." (Ephesians 1:4) Our Heavenly Father has personally chosen you and I. He hand picked us. You and I are very personal to Him.

One of the problems that many believers have is confessing weakness and failure which erodes faith, breeds guilt and condemnation not to mention that it also repudiates the finished work of Christ. It causes us to belittle our true position and right standing in God through Christ. Every feeling of guilt, shame, condemnation and inferiority stops being a problem the moment that we know that God is truly a loving Father. When we come to truly believer what we are in Christ, and that the Father sees us in Christ, guilt, shame, condemnation and inferiority will no longer have place. Exercising faith for the things that we desire and are entitled to through sonship with Him, are also no longer a problem. This occurs when a believer knows their rights and privileges that the Father has freely given them through Christ.

Look at this wonderful truth the Holy Spirit reveals through the apostle Paul, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17 ) Notice, old things have passed away. The old things of doubt, fear as well as bondage to sicknesses and want, have passed away all because we have been legally and lovingly adopted into the family of God. With that said, I will close with a passage that I want to encourage you to read and meditate on. As you do let faith arise in your spirit and know that your Father in heaven sees you as His "creme de la creme" (the best of the best).

"For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(Romans 6:5-11) PTL...

Monday, January 6, 2020

New Life and More

Thank the LORD for the wonderful revelation He made known to the Apostle Paul concerning ones identification in Christ. For instance, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) The very moment that a person confesses with their mouth the LORD Jesus Christ and takes Him as their Savior they become born again. Of course we know this, but do you know that the moment one becomes born again they instantaneously become a supernatural, one hundred percent "New Creation." Furthermore, do we truly understand this from Gods perspective? We are no long common anymore. We belong to an unusual supernatural order of beings. The Apostle Paul tells us, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..."(Ephesians 2:10) and "the new man was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24) The Apostle Peter tells us, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…" (1 Peter 2:9)

In Christ, the born again person is a new creation in every sense. They instantly become partakers of Gods divine nature; "by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:4) They instantly become partakers of Gods divine life; "...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) God’s ability instantly becomes their ability; "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." (John 14:12) God's strength instantly becomes their strength;  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) His promises instantly become their promises; "For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us." (2 Corinthians 1:20)

His love instantly becomes their love; "...the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5) His faith instantly becomes their faith; "So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have the God kind of faith." (Mark 11:22) His power instantly becomes their power;  "...My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9) His wisdom instantly becomes their wisdom; "But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God..." (1 Corinthians 1:30); His righteousness instantly becomes their righteousness; "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, for many Christians this is hard to believe. Far to many Christians live in the sense realm rather than the spiritual realm. In other words, their belief system is based upon what they can see, touch, taste, smell or hear, (John 20:24-25) which has nothing to do with believing and acting upon God's Word. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh (senses) profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63) The word life is the Greek word "Zoe." It literally means, life as God has it; the very life of God; eternal life. Now we can understand why one instantaneously becomes a new creation in every sense. It is because the very life of God takes residence in the new believer immediately upon their confession of Christ. This has nothing to do with feelings. It is pure fact!

The next thing we see in 2 Corinthians 5:17 is, "old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." The old thing that Satan had control of has passed away. The believer is no longer spiritually dead but made alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1) Jesus said of Himself, "the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me." (John 14:30) All believers must come to realize this very thing, Satan no longer has any authority, dominion, jurisdiction or power over them. All things have become new. The reality of the new creation is the most marvelous truths concerning the transformation of a lost, God hating, rebellious, Satan ruled person. The very life of God has dispossessed the entire former life and has filled the new believer with Himself. PTL

Now, through God's Word our faith is built up (Romans 10:17) and our recreated spirit is strengthened so that the soul (mind, will and emotions) is renewed and begins to respond to the recreated spirit and not the flesh. But this does not change the fact that the very nature and life of God is in the believer. For many in the church today, it is time to put an end to the ungodly habits of the flesh and negative confession from the mouth. It is time to let God’s life arise and call those things which do not exist as though they did. It is time to live in the abundant "Zoe" that Jesus gave His life for. It is time for believers to realize that eternal life is not a destination, but the "Zoe," life of God already exists in everyone who is born again. It is time to let the lost know that they too can have the same abundant "Zoe," life. Grace and peace be with you...

Monday, December 30, 2019

Let's Be Resolute

There is much history concerning celebrating "New Years," In brief, New Year's Day is observed on January 1st, which is the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar was used by the Roman Empire around 45 BC and is accepted today by most countries and is the calendar most used. The Romans originally dedicated New Year's Day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings for whom the first month of the year (January) is named. New Year's Day is probably the world's most celebrated public holiday, often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone. By Roman definition, beginnings, we can see why so many people make resolutions, that is, taking a course of action one determines or decides to do as a new beginning. Looking into New Years resolutions you would discover that on the average ninety percent of all New Years resolutions fail. Why is that? Statistics tell us four major reasons why they fail. One, most people try to make several resolutions instead of focusing on one; Two, people tend to set unrealistic goals; Three, after a resolution is made, most people have no one to encourage them to see it through; Four, failure to adopt new behavior and thought patterns.

You may think of more reasons, but these four points are to bring us to the place to understand that the flesh is weak. One example of a New Years resolution which is probably most popular is weight loss. Usually, beginning in November, television, news papers, magazines, internet and other forms of media focus their advertisements on weight loss. However, every time I see an advertisement promoting weight loss, I find it interesting that they never reveal the failure rate. If you do some research, you will find that only about five percent of the people who make a resolution to lose a certain amount of weight make their goal and keep the weight off for five years or more. I am only using weight loss as an example. There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to loss weight if you have a weight problem. Actually, it's a good thing.

For the believer however, a so called resolution should not be a first day of the New Year thing. Believers should be determined to be a reflection of Christ in and through their life every day, but we must remember and act upon some sound advise. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men." (Colossians 3:23) "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.' (Romans 14:8) Everything in the believers life should not be to gratify ourselves or to please men per se, but to please the Lord. Solomon tells us the conclusion of all of mans vain self efforts, "...Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

Next, we must not try to do things through our abilities or strength, but, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6). The apostle Paul reveals several things along these lines. But one of the greatest revelations that he received was through his pray to the Lord asking Him to deal with the messenger of Satan that was stirring up persecution and opposing the work that the Lord called him to. The Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The revelation Paul received was, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) It is of the utmost importance that believers rely upon the Lord, His strength and abilities to accomplish any task or conquer any trial that may be encounter in this life. This is why Paul was able say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Another area to consider, is understanding who believers are in Christ. When believers come to a full knowledge of no longer being identified with who they were before they were born again and know who they are in Christ, then they will understand what it means when Jesus said, "nothing is impossible to those who believe." (Mark 9:23) Knowing who one truly is in Christ sets believers free from shame, condemnation, guilt and inferiority. They will walk in a freedom that will cause them to not make resolution but find the grace and power to overcome and live victorious. For instance, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ.." (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) The old nature, the old way of doing things, the old person that you were prior to your salvation is gone. You have been made completely new in Christ and have right standing with God.

Finally, you must have and use your own faith. What does this mean? All believers one day must come to the place where their own faith has grown and has brought them to know without doubt, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) This is actually a realm of Christianity that few believers come to. Not because they do not desire to have this level of faith. It is mostly due to a lack of studying and meditating on God's Word as well as faithless church leaders leading people down a path that causes then to believe man's doctrines over God's Word. These things will prevent believers from having their own faith and will cause them to rely on another believers faith hoping to live a victorious Christian life.

All of these things if applied in the believers life will change their behavior and thought patterns. These things are not self imposed, by Holy Spirit inspired. The apostle Paul tells us to, "...Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) So, you see, we do not have to make New Year resolutions to only have them fail. We can live in the power and ability of God everyday through faith in Jesus Christ to overcome every obstacle of life and do the impossible where others fail. So, this New Years, do not make a New Years resolution but, "...lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of you." (Philippians 3:12) Let us be purposeful, determined,  unwavering, resolute in our walk with Jesus. Finally, my prayer for us all, as recorded in 3 John 2, is,
"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" HAPPY NEW YEAR...

Monday, December 23, 2019

Behold, The Savior Is Come

The "Christmas Story" is one of the most remembered and by far the most told of any other story in human history. Not only does this story reveal the birth of Christ the Lord, but a closer look reveals the movement of creation itself in bringing forth the Savior. It is the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke that uncover the events of the "Christmas Story." So as we look at these events, we will see the infinite wisdom and love of God at work in human history for only one reason, "to open their (humanity) eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'  (Acts 26:18)

In Luke 1:5-25 we see a priest named Zacharias chosen to minister before the Lord in the temple in the form of burning incenses. His wife's name was Elizabeth and they were both descendants of Aaron, Moses' brother and first High Priest chosen by God. (Exodus 4:14, 28:1) Zacharias was a praying man and his prayers were heard. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, was sent to give him the good news concerning what was about to break forth into human history. However, we see that Zacharias first response was doubt. Like Zacharias, we too can get so caught up in doing our regimented Christians duties or building our own personal kingdoms, that we miss what God is about to do. Then when God reveals to us His plan we again like Zacharias do not believe. I believe that most Christians today struggle with a lack of faith for the very same reason. They pray, look for God, but when He reveals Himself doubt enters and they forget the very things that they were praying for. Although, Zacharias doubted God's Word, what the angel had spoken still came to pass.

Next, Luke 1:26-38 records another miraculous event happening. The same angel, Gabriel, appears to a virgin woman whose name is Mary who was betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph. He reveals that she is “highly favored" by God and "blessed among women" and that it would be Mary who would be used by God to bring forth the One who would be the Deliverer. Mary questions Gabriel, but his answer should cause believers to see God for who He really is, "For with God nothing will be impossible." This is an important key to having prayer answered as well as living a victorious life. Jesus says it this way, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Not only are all things possible with God but all thing are possible to all who exercises faith. and simply believe. It is very apparent that Mary believed Gabriel's report, "Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her." 

 Although we see Mary exercising faith for the impossible, we see a different picture with Joseph, her betrothed. Again, we see doubt take the place of faith. (Matthew 1:19) However, we do see an angel of the Lord appear to Joseph in a dream explaining the situation to him, which caused Joseph to respond to what the angel had spoken. (Matthew 1:20-25) You may be thinking, "Well getting the news that your wife is with child and you have had nothing to do with it certainly would cause one to doubt." This may be somewhat true, but remember Zacharias had a visitation of an angel of the Lord but he still doubted. Also, Matthew records that Joseph was a "just man" which means, "justly, righteously, in accordance with what is right."

So, we have to assume that for Joseph to have this type of character, that he attended synagogue and or was versed in the the scriptures. If so he had available to him what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) But isn't that the problem that the children of God have struggled with then and still struggle with today? For most believers, although we have the Word of God recorded in what we call the Holy Bible, many still chose to look at the circumstances in the natural like Zacharias and Joseph and entertain doubt rather than faith in a faithful God, "that what He has promised He is also able to perform." (Romans 4:21) Although it appears that Joseph had some doubts, he still responded to the command of the angel to take Mary as his wife.

These wonderful events continue to unfold. Luke 2:1-7, which records, not even Caesar Augustus the top official of the human government at that time could do anything more than to bring the prophetic Word of God spoken 700 years prior through Micah to pass, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2) Joseph following the orders of the government, made his way with Mary to the very town where Christ was to be born, Bethlehem.

Finally, Luke 2:8-20 shows us the culmination of the events of the birth of Christ. Again, an angel of the Lord appears. This time to "shepherds living out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." It is recorded that the"angel stood before them and the glory of the Lord shown around them" and the angel reported the most tremendous event to date in the history of humanity, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." Once the angel gave this report "suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" Not only were the people of the earth moved to be participants in the ingenious plan of God (whether they knew it or not) but even the angels of God rejoiced. Think about that. The angels of God who are spirit beings were excited for humanity that now the plan of God was manifested for the salvation of humanity. Deity and humanity has now come together as Jesus Christ the Lord.

We all should see Christmas as a time for great rejoicing. A new birth in our love towards God and toward one another. A new birth in dedicating our lives to His service. Christmas not New Years should be a catalyst for change, hope and increased faith. A great expectation of what God can and will do through those who believe. For some, maybe we need to see Christmas through the eyes of three wealthy wise men who left their nation and traveled a great distance to behold an infant King. Three men who apparently exercised faith having only the knowledge of ancient writings and a star that guided their way. Christmas is not just about a baby in a manger, it's about the complete redemption of humanity. We should celebrate Christmas as one of the two greatest moves of God in human history. That baby, the Christ, had come into the world to save humanity from Satan's power, to reconcile God to man and man to God and to give humanity "life and to have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) Have a wonderful and very "MERRY CHRISTMAS."

Monday, December 16, 2019

Open The Door And Let Him In

Today one of the problems that captivates most people, including believers, is image. Just standing in the checkout line of most stores, all you see is tabloids and magazines concerned with how one looks. Basically, image deals with how one projects themselves, which in turn becomes what people think a person is. Although this issue has been present throughout man's history, since the mid 1990’s it has had a profound affect on the church. There is a greater concern about image that unfortunately has come in the form of compromising God's Word which results in a lack of integrity and solid character. Billy Graham said it this way, "When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost." What is meant by this?

Today many church leaders seemed to have adopted various worldly concepts and have brought them into the "Body of Christ." Some of these concepts are; the church building needs to look appealing and non-threatening to an unbeliever meaning, remove anything that presents a Christian view (banners, scripture verses, etc.); church members need to refrain from using certain Christian phrases that may make unbelievers uncomfortable; the church needs world class entertainment to keep people interested and coming back; music must be upbeat only with a time limit; worship means maybe one slow song but no true expression of worship; and sermons also known as a message, are to be short and sweet to make people happy and feel good about themselves (this type of sermon is considered to be "relevant" for today). The thinking is that if the church does these things, we then can expect to reach unbelievers and have a successful ministry.

Naturally, we should have clean facilities, but are we representing Christ or the local coffee shop? One of the things that separates believers from the world is how we talk and act. When the presence of the LORD begins to touch lives during a service believers should be shouting the name of Jesus. When Jesus entered Jerusalem look at the response of the people, the religious leaders and Jesus Himself. "Then they brought the colt to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying: "'Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!'  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out."
(Luke 19:35-40)

Notice that "the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice." This was a multitude of disciples not unbelievers. To keep believers from shouting or speaking "Christian Phrases" is to deny God the honor that He is worthy of. It is ignorance motivated by fear in church leaders that want to squelch believers from verbalizing their excitement about Jesus because it may offend an unbeliever or make them feel uncomfortable. Though the people may not be shouting out the praise due to the LORD one day the stones supporting the building may. There is certainly nothing wrong with doing drama or having special music during a church service. The problem lies when we saturate people with entertainment to keep them interested and coming back to "Our Church".

The following is the entertainment that the LORD provided in the church to multiply the number of believers. "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all." (Acts 4:33) "And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them. Also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem, bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all healed." (Acts 5:14-16) "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8) "And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:6-8) 

Not to belittle or make light the power of God in any way shape or form, but these are the entertainment, if you will, that unbelievers truly need to bring them to a conversion to Christ not a decision for Christ. What is the difference. Well a decision means, "the action or process of deciding something." However, a conversion is, "the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another." Notice, conversion brings change whereas a decision has nothing to do with change. No one can honestly deny when the LORD reveals Himself by a demonstration of the Spirit and power. (1 Corinthians 2:4). However, this takes faith in an all powerful God who has not changed. It also take courage for church leaders to step away from the pressures that the world wants to conform the church to, and let Jesus build His church through His people.

Music is a powerful medium especially during church gatherings (not to exclude any other time). It is a means to usher in the presences of the LORD as we exalt and magnify Him through singing. David tells us, "...In Your presence is fullness of joy..." (Psalm 16:11) and "But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Your people". (Psalm 22:3) Why would any church leader want to exclude Gods presence as to not offend an unbeliever or to make them feel uncomfortable? I have been in numerous congregational and small group meetings where unbelievers were so taken by Gods presences that some were saved, some healed, some delivered and some a combination of them all. I have been in other meetings where the presence of God was so strong that the praise and worship continued unplanned for two hours. There was no preaching during this time and in the LORDS presence, time seemed to stop. It was extremely powerful having such an affect on both believers and unbelievers that many still talk about the experience today. To exclude an intimate time of ministering to the LORD through worship or to place a limited time frame on worship is to say that God is not worthy of our admiration and we do not need His presences to have a successful church service.

I find it very interesting how church leaders advertise that they share a "Relevant Message" at their meetings but rarely preach from the Bible or use the Word of God in context. Honestly, the gospel (God's Word) has always been, is and will always be the only relevant message that the world will ever need to hear. Church leaders must stop being ashamed of the gospel of Christ and begin to preach and teach God's Word without reservation or apologizing for what it says. Paul says,  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Notice that the unadulterated Word of God has the power to save all people. To not preach and teach God's Word is to deny Jesus the preeminence in His Church. He is the Word! (John 1:1-2, 14, Revelation 19:13)   

When the Prophet Samuel was sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint a king to replace king Saul He made this statement concerning David, "...For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, (Image) but the LORD looks at the heart (Integrity, character)." (1 Samuel 16:7) We should not be concerned as to how we match up with the worlds image, but realize that Gods presences and glory far surpasses the best the world has to offer. We should concern ourselves with being a sanctified, a people set apart, as we serve the one true God, more than trying to adjust our image with worldly concepts that are motivated by Satan (1 John 5:19) and infested with sin (1 John 2:16) that only appeal to the flesh.

The real problem is not trying to reach the unbeliever per se, but how congregations go about it. We must stop reducing the church to a palatable organization where we fit into the world, but once again become a life filled Body that turns the world upside down. The church must begin to operate in faith and return to preaching the full gospel. The apostle Paul makes it clear as to what the full gospel entails, "For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed, to make the Gentiles obedient, in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel..." (Romans 15:18-20) As Paul tells us, the Full Gospel is preaching God's Word (the gospel) in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God. This is the churches legacy; this is how multitudes will be saved, healed and delivered; this is church growth Gods way!   

Won’t it be wonderful when the church becomes the envy of all once again. Well I have some good news and some not so good news, you can decide for yourself. We will see the so called "Open Church" (not the name of a congregation, but how they perceive themselves) continue to compromise the truth (God's Word) for the sake of unbelievers who unfortunately never come to Christ. We we see what is known as "Seeker Friendly" church's who currently have thousands of members begin to shrink and some will even be forced to close their doors (this is already happening) because all their programs and entertainment have not truly fixed broken lives. We will see many main line denominations reject sound doctrine and teach such things as Christ not being the only way to eternal life (this also is currently happening). Some will even be deceived by Mormon's, J---- Witnesses, Muslim's or other false religions and join their ranks.  

However, on the other hand, there are some church leaders and congregation that have not bowed their knee to the world for the sake of having a world pleasing image. They have maintained their integrity in Christ and have not compromised God's Word. They are not trying to please the world but save people from the world. They understand and embrace the kind of faith that pleases God which will open the door to many lost souls being saved, healed, delivered and becoming true disciples. We will see reformation taking place in some denominations. Many denominational church leaders will throw away doctrines that they have embraced for years which are contrary to God's Word. They will come out from under the religious laws of men and begin to live by grace through faith.

Even now there is a stirring in many believers, young and older, who want more of Christ. They have participated in many church programs that are more therapeutic than life changing. They have listen to sermon that are psychology based rather than steeped in the Word of God. Even now many are seeking a congregation where the Full Gospel (as Paul presents it) is the norm and where true Christian community is experienced replacing the social club atmosphere. Why are these things happening and why will they be? Because the church is Christ's Body which He loves. Even now He is cleansing her so that she will be a "glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5:27) PTL

As I close I would like to share a quote from General William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army. Although the church is in the twenty first century, his statement is still worth pondering…
The chief danger of the 20th century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell.” (William Booth Quotes) How prophetic...

Monday, December 9, 2019

Natural to Spiritual

Creation reveals the master hand of the Designer. Blind chance is not the author. Taking an honest, intelligent look at creation will agree that there is nothing left to chance. Creation is governed by fixed laws and these laws apply to the most minute cell, to the highest forms of life as well as all things seen and unseen. There is an intelligent purpose behind all creation and yet the theory of evolution (which in most institutions is taught as fact) has not given us any adequate reason for creation, why? Because we have forgotten that truth is eternal and theories are based on the opinions of man. Webster defines theory as facts related to one another based on unproved assumption. Also theories are limited by time as seen by the constant revisions made in much scientific discoveries from age to age.

Notice that theories are based on "unproved assumptions." Could this be why when evolution is mentioned educators and evolutionists who believe in this "unproved assumption" try to avoid using the term "theory of evolution." They know as fact, that it cannot be proven through any means. In short, it is argued that fossil records and biology can prove that evolution is the basis of creation; that life evolved from non-life; and that life as we know it came to exist by chance. However, modern day advancements in technology have concluded beyond question or reasonable doubt, that evolution is a fallacy. In fact, none of the means in which evolutionists use in their attempts to prove their "unproved assumption" actually disprove their theories.

I cannot speak for you, but it would take a whole lot of faith and a rejection of logic for me to believe the religion of evolution, especially when it has been proven scientifically (an evolutionists means to test theory) to be false. So if evolution cannot be proven, then why is it taught as fact? The apostle Paul tells us, "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things...who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Amen. (Romans 1:21-25)

Every human being whether involved in religions other than a true form of Christianity or even if they profess to be atheist, know that something is not right, so they look for anything that will ease their conscience. Even though they know that Jehovah God exists, they refuse to acknowledge Him as God. But to appease their conscience some will believe that a higher power exists and thereby create a god in their own image, while other who emphatically deny the existence of God, resort to their futile thinking. In either case, they exchange the truth of God for a lie. Those who deny that God exists and yet are driven by the feeling that something is not right, fail to recognize the reason behind their quest. They refuse to believe that God blew His breath of life into the first created man and it was this breath that brought life into man. They cannot perceive that sin caused man to die spiritually and that "he has become flesh.” Nevertheless, man still has a spirit and that spirit longs to connect with its Creator and until it does, man will always be on a quest to find the answers to life.

The apostle Paul tells us, "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. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:14-16) Looking at verse 14, we know another reason why evolutionist hold to the theory of evolution. However, looking at verse 15 and 16,  should be an encouragement to believers to take the truth of creation (the Creator) to those who do not believe. By adding faith to what Paul says, believers can present the truth to the world in a way that will provoke thought which will open the heart. Think where you were right before you were saved. You heard the truth, thought was provoked, your heart was opened, the Father gave you grace and faith and you believed from the heart, confessed with your mouth, and you were saved.

Think about this way, if the church is Gods vehicle to "turn the world upside down;" if the church is backed by the power of God; if it is Gods desire that all people be saved; if the authority of Christ has been delegated to the church, then there is no reason why the church cannot, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20) "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might..." (Ephesians 6:10) So, let the power of the Holy Spirit work through us all to turn the natural mans thinking from foolish carnal thoughts to becoming born again and having the mind of Christ. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you...