April 30, 2012
Love And Consideration!
One night at the dinner table, the wife commented, "When we were first married, you took the small piece of steak and gave me the larger. Now you take the large one and leave me the smaller. You don't love me any more!" The husband responded, "Nonsense, darling. You just cook better now!"
Perhaps that gives us a little chuckle, but is there a lesson in it? My wife is a great cook and we do love each other. However, the actual situation in our house is that often if there is one thing left, it might spoil or go to waste because my wife and I will tend to save it for the other to eat. It is a strange phenomenon that has gone on for a number of years. Sometimes when it comes to the last of something being left, it has taken one or the other of us to say, "Eat it" for it to get gone.
On a regular basis, how mindful are we of others? Is it self we first look out for or do we consider OTHERS FIRST? Regardless of the sphere of relationship, what is our first focus?
In Paul's letter to the church at Philippi he urged. . .
"(3) Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but IN HUMILITY COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELVES. (4) Let each of you LOOK NOT ONLY TO HIS OWN INTERESTS, but ALSO TO THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS." (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
This principle applies well for relationships within the church (which was Paul's context here), within our families, and within our communities. The same kind of consideration and interest we give our own life is to be directed toward others. It is a powerful principle in connecting us with the lives of others in positive and influential ways. It also honors God Who is the Creator of all life. After all, as Paul went on to note, such is to be CHRIST-LIKE. (Philippians 2:5-8) May we follow in our Lord's steps.
Have a great day LOVINGLY LIVING CHRIST'S WAY!
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April 29, 2012
The evening of the night of Jesus' arrest, He spent quite a bit of time encouraging and preparing His disciples for what they would soon go through. (John 13-16) He knew they would be challenged. He knew they would spend some time in confusion. He knew they did not fully understand. However, Jesus was both honest and encouraging with regard to the realities of their life IN HIM. All that Jesus said prior to His prayer (recorded in John 17) was summed up or capped off in these words:
"(33) I have said these things to you, that IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE. IN THE WORLD YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 ESV)
Knowing one has to face up to and endure affliction or distress may not be very encouraging, but to know one can experience PEACE in spite of it is. Even in a world of tribulation Jesus is able to provide peace. However, it must be recognized that this PEACE is found in the life lived IN HIM. LIFE IN THE WORLD brings encounters with tribulation because of those who will not accept the truth, but desire to live life their own way. Still, LIFE IN CHRIST brings PEACE even as we live in the world.
Knowing we are right with the Lord and that our eternity is safe in His hands should bring a great sense of PEACE. Though it may often appear that the world and the devil are winning, we can be at PEACE knowing ultimately IN JESUS we are able to be overcomers since He Himself has overcome the world.
In his first short letter John encouraged. . .
"(4) For everyone who has been BORN OF GOD OVERCOMES THE WORLD. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. (5) Who is it that OVERCOMES THE WORLD except THE ONE WHO BELIEVES THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD?" (1 John 5:4-5 ESV)
Are we growing in that faith? Are we daily living in accordance with our belief in Jesus as the Son of God? Life is full of challenges. Living in this world is not always easy. We will either overcome or be overcome. IN CHRIST we are provided what we need to overcome. (note also 1 John 4:4) Through maintaining faith in the "Overcomer" we are able to overcome the world as well.
Have a great day LIVING VICTORIOUSLY IN CHRIST!
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April 28, 2012
Recently as the news was reporting on a situation relative to people involved in politics, the response of an individual was, "I may have committed a sin, but I did not do anything illegal." This statement acknowledged doing wrong, but seemed to play down any legal consequences. If they knew it was a sin, what was the source of that classification: man or God? There is a sense in which the statement reflects more of a concern for consequences associated with breaking man's laws than for breaking God's.
What concerns us the most? As a teen do you fear facing your parents more than facing God when you have done something wrong? Is there sometimes a greater fear held with regard to facing jail time or coming before an earthly judge than in standing before the judgment of God? When considering right and wrong is there more thought given to the consequences in this life than there is to the eternal? Yes, God is gracious and merciful, but let us not take that for granted.
Jesus warned. . .
"(4) I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. (5) But I WILL WARN YOU WHOM TO FEAR: FEAR HIM WHO, AFTER HE HAS KILLED, HAS AUTHORITY TO CAST INTO HELL. Yes, I tell you, FEAR HIM." (Luke 12:4-5 ESV)
Whether it be ill-treatment or punishment being handed down, there is only so much man can do to us. However, our eternal destiny is in the hands of God. Praise God that even if punishment is received in this realm for wrong done, there can still be forgiveness from God for the penitent soul. Consider Jesus and the thief on the cross. (Luke 23:40-43) Being RIGHT WITH GOD is what we ought to be most concerned about. Based on the laws of man, it is possible to be legal without being right! Considering our relationship with God, if we live with a GREATER CONCERN FOR BREAKING GOD'S HEART than breaking His law, we will approach our life choices differently. Let us live to please Him!
Have a great day DOING THE RIGHT THING BY LIVING TO PLEASE GOD!
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April 27, 2012
Have You Made Up Your Mind?
Someone has said, "HEAVENLY MINDED PEOPLE DO THE MOST EARTHLY GOOD." [original source unknown]
Why is that so? Do we recognize the big difference between a HEAVENLY and an EARTHLY mind? Do we understand part of the difference between the MINDSETS is who the attempt is to please? If we live life trying to please the world we are not going to be the salt and light God has called us to be to this unseasoned and dark world. It is through trying to please God that we are able to bring a little HEAVEN TO EARTH. We need to have a HIGHER MINDSET than that of the world. The world continues to water down concepts of right and wrong until it almost appears as if there is no standard at all for distinguishing between them.
Paul noted. . .
"(5) For those who live according to the flesh SET THEIR MINDS on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit SET THEIR MINDS on the things of the Spirit. (6) For to set the MIND on the flesh is death, but to set the MIND on the Spirit is life and peace. (7) For the MIND that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. (8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8 ESV)
Do we have a MINDSET that is "hostile to God" or one that draws us and points others to Him? The MIND OF THE FLESH may please self and the world, but Paul emphatically declared it "cannot please God"!
In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul also urged. . .
"(2) SET YOUR MINDS ON THINGS THAT ARE ABOVE, not on things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2 ESV)
This MINDSET was not just taught, but also modeled by Paul, which he acknowledged where he wrote. . .
"(10) For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10 ESV)
Paul had been there. He had done that. He had fought against Christ. But then his life became all about Christ who had come down from HEAVEN to redeem us and eventually take us to be with Him there.
Like Paul, have we become a genuine servant of Christ? If not, would that mean we are instead a servant of the world? Jesus pointed out that "No one can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24 ESV) A choice must be made! Have we made up OUR MIND? If we truly desire for our life to be of some real EARTHLY GOOD, then let us grow in a more HEAVENLY MINDSET to keep life and the actions associated with it in proper perspective.
Have a great day FOCUSED ABOVE TO SERVE WELL BELOW!
[This focus was originally sent for 04/27/1998 (Edited greatly with passages changed to ESV)]
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April 26, 2012
When someone is looking at possibilities of employment, sometimes beyond the salary being offered, the "Benefits Plan" is considered. There are times when the "Benefits Plan" -- health insurance, paid travel, meal expense account, retirement fund, etc. -- may make up for a lesser salary. Also, before one decides to leave one company for another the same might be considered. What would one be giving up or what gain might there be somewhere else?
Noting again the passage from yesterday. . .
"(1) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (2) Bless the LORD, O my soul, AND FORGET NOT ALL HIS BENEFITS, (3) who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, (4) who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, (5) who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)
Oh, the benefits! Do we hold due appreciation for God's gracious and merciful FORGIVENESS? Though we pray at times for physical healing and thank God for our health, do we also acknowledge the greater spiritual HEALING AND RENEWAL that has been provided us in Christ? Do we truly demonstrate in our life an appreciation for the willing sacrifice of Christ which was the cost of our REDEMPTION, bringing us back to God? Do we live in awe at the demonstration of God's great STEADFAST LOVE and MERCY granted to us? Are we finding CONTENTMENT in the good He continually provides. Also, even though we may begin to experience signs of an aging body, do we recognize the INNER RENEWAL that still allows us to SPIRITUALLY SOAR like an eagle? And the list could go on!
What an awesome provider God is! What a marvelous plan He has put in place that can be realized so fully through our relationship with Him through Christ. DON'T FORGET the benefits both physical and spiritual, as well as those for this life and those of eternity that He has promised. CREDIT HIM for them. PRAISE HIM for them. THANK HIM for them. Acknowledge HE -- not the world nor ourselves -- IS THE SOURCE of that which we will not find elsewhere. Remembering this, why would we ever want to depart from Him?
Have a great day REMEMBERING GOD'S BENEFITS PACKAGE REACHING WELL BEYOND THIS REALM!
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April 25, 2012
An Inside Connection!
Sometimes people get promoted in business because they have an "inside connection". What I mean is, they get preferential treatment because they know someone who can make things happen for them. Even if such "inside connections" don't bring them directly into the associations they desire, they may still receive the personal benefits of getting the inside scoop on information or special deals sent their direction.
What about our "inside connections"? Are they merely worldly focused or is there something higher and more meaningful associated with what is WITHIN us?
In one of my favorite 150 Psalms we read . . .
"(1) BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, AND ALL THAT IS WITHIN ME, BLESS HIS HOLY NAME! (2) BLESS THE LORD, O MY SOUL, and forget not all his benefits, (3) who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, (4) who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, (5) who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." (Psalm 103:1-5 ESV)
As David began this psalm, it strikes me how his praise and worship toward God welled up from DEEP WITHIN himself. Rather than a focus merely on following through with outward rites and rituals associated with worship, blessing God welled up from DEEP WITHIN HIS SOUL. All that was WITHIN him was welling up in praise. Remember how David was noted by God as being a man after His own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14) David's RELATIONSHIP with God began WITHIN as a heart connection. What marks our relationship?
It is possible for us to be seen by others as believers in God by the actions we carry out and the words we use. However, is it possible to be identified with God without really identifying with Him? What I mean is, could we be going through the motions without any real relationship with God or connection to His Will? Jesus declared such could be possible. (note Matthew 7:21-23) What is going on INSIDE us? How much is our SOUL -- our eternal inner being -- being drawn fully toward God and remaining surrendered to His Will?
Outward actions may reveal something about what is going on INSIDE us, but it is the truly genuine RELATIONSHIP to God rooted deep WITHIN that will continue to keep the outward actions right regardless of what we might be facing in life. May our continued focus toward God and the praise we offer be that which is truly welling up from WITHIN OUR SOUL. In this way worship will always be a part of our existence both now and for eternity as this eternal aspect of our life -- OUR SOUL -- is forever involved.
Have a great day BLESSED BY A GENUINE INSIDE CONNECTION WITH GOD!
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April 24, 2012
You may have seen the following about Jesus before as have I, but I received it again recently with a request to comment on it. It is truly encouraging to think about.
It has been noted: "Jesus died over 2000 years ago. Nobody has ever referred to him as 'the late Jesus', not even the heathens. Nowhere in history. Nowhere has He EVER been referred to in the past tense! He is the Living God!"
To me this illustrates the reality that even those who don't believe in Jesus have not been able to completely ignore Him. He and what He came to do and the impact of His life and teachings on lives is just so much a part of real history. Upon reading the quotation again, the following passage immediately came to mind.
John recorded Jesus encouraging His disciples by stating. . .
"(19) Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU ALSO WILL LIVE. (20) In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you." (John 14:19-20 ESV)
These words were spoken by Jesus soon before facing the cross. Though the disciples did not fully understand, Jesus was clearly letting them know that what they were soon to witness would not be the end. And because Jesus is not a dead Savior, but a risen One, He is fully able to provide all He said He would. BECAUSE HE LIVES, we also have the hope of living on into a glorious eternity. Being in Christ we have that assurance of living on as He Himself eternally exists. May we be encouraged by the assurance of this hope He came to provide.
Have a great day ENCOURAGED BECAUSE JESUS IS!
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April 23, 2012
Consider again the passage we noted yesterday. We read. . .
"(12) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13) Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and STRAINING FORWARD to what lies ahead, (14) I press on TOWARD THE GOAL FOR THE PRIZE of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:12-14 ESV)
The word translated "GOAL" (vs.14) comes from the Greek "skopos". When considering the idea of taking aim, what does that word bring to mind? How about our English word "scope"? A hunter takes aim at their target by use of a scope on the rifle. A shooter at a gun range would do the same for target practice. A scope might also be used by a sailor or hiker to locate their destination.
The Greek "skopos" primarily refers to "a watcher" (from 'skopeo', "to look at", from which we do get our English word "scope"). This word carries the idea of A MARK ON WHICH THE EYE IS FIXED. It is therefore used in a metaphorical sense for an aim or an object. [source: W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words] Considering its use for an AIM or a GOAL, the word could refer to a race's finish line, the archer's target, or the GOAL at which a life is aimed.
Considering Paul's statement to the church at Philippi, we can see that his aim was high. It was fixed on Heaven. What marks our FOCUS? As we go through life, what are we "scoping" out? Where are we FIXING OUR AIM? Have the things of this world caught our attention so as to direct our aim too low? If so, let us raise the FOCUS UPWARD toward the greater blessings God desires to lead us toward. Such a focus will aid in keeping our present life on track.
Have a great day KEEPING LIFE'S SCOPE FIXED ON OUR HEAVENLY DESTINATION!
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April 22, 2012
When we realize there are things to prepare for, it is logical for us to make those preparations. When we recognize we are not yet where we need to be, it is logical for us to continue pressing on. Would we not say it is "illogical" to not do so? As I recently thought about our English word "illogic", it made me think of "ill-logic". To be "ill" is to be sick. When one is ill their health is not what it should be or what they would want it to be. Living illogically is not a healthy condition. This is especially so spiritually.
Though Paul could be described as one of great spiritual stature, he had not become satisfied with his spiritual health. Therefore he stated. . .
"(12) Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (13) Brothers, I DO NOT CONSIDER THAT I HAVE MADE IT MY OWN. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and STRAINING FORWARD to what lies ahead, (14) I PRESS ON TOWARD THE GOAL for the prize of THE UPWARD CALL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS." (Phil. 3:12-14 ESV)
Now, what was all that about "logical" and "illogical"? The word translated "CONSIDER" (vs.13) comes from the Greek "logizomai" which "primarily signifies to reckon, whether by calculation or imputation . . . ; then, to deliberate, and so to suppose [or] account." [source: W.E. Vine's Dictionary of New Testament Words] The use of this word in both commercial dealings and classical literature was "the idea of an act of thought according to strict logical rules." [source: Theological Dictionary Of the N.T., Kittel, Bromiley, Friedrich]
What marks the RECKONING and CALCULATION of our present standing in life? Hopefully we are each encouraged by progress that has been made from where we once were. However, have we become completely satisfied with our spiritual growth? Are we allowing GOD'S WORD to be THE RULE OF LOGIC FOR MEASURING our life? Is it not logical that the Creator of Life be looked to for how to live that life? Recognizing what God had in mind for us from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27) and the transforming power He has made available to us for renewal presently (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:16), may the manner in which we live reveal the logic of FURTHER GROWTH IN CHRIST (2 Peter 3:18) to His glory and praise.
Have a great day STRAINING FORWARD TOWARD ALL GOD DESIRES US TO BE!
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April 21, 2012
Sometimes people take a look at what they have and count to see how much they possess. Counting is a part of taking inventory. Businesses frequently take inventory of their stock to see if they perhaps have too much of one thing and not enough of other products for sale. How often do we take inventory or our life to see what we have placed our stock (trust) in? A result of taking inventory is sometimes recognizing what we can or cannot do without. What do we VALUE MOST?
For Paul, it was ALL ABOUT CHRIST. Whatever he could have had outside of Christ meant nothing at all to Him compared to what He did have in Christ. Perhaps that is reflected best in the following two statements he made.
When being urged not to go to Jerusalem because of the dangers that awaited him there, Paul responded. . .
"(24) But I DO NOT ACCOUNT MY LIFE OF ANY VALUE NOR AS PRECIOUS to myself, IF ONLY I MAY FINISH MY COURSE AND THE MINISTRY that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24 ESV)
It was not Paul's life for Paul, but Paul's LIFE FOR CHRIST and fulfilling the ministry he had received from the Lord that COUNTED MOST to him. Paul's words did not stem from a low sense of self-esteem, but rather a clear recognition of the value of His life surrendered in service to His Lord. Whether it was "by life or by death", Paul had a steadfast resolve to honor Christ in his body! (Philippians 1:20)
In contrasting whatever advantages and glory he may have had before surrendering his life to Christ, Paul stated . . .
"(8) Indeed, I COUNT EVERYTHING AS LOSS BECAUSE OF THE SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order THAT I MAY GAIN CHRIST" (Philippians 3:8 ESV)
Everything else compared to KNOWING CHRIST was literally to Paul what one would find on the ground in the barnyard (Greek, "skubala"). What more of a contrast could Paul have used to reveal the SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING JESUS. Looking at the manner in which Paul lived his life, was that not made clear? What does the inventory of our life reveal we COUNT MOST?
Sometimes in business, companies will count their losses and move on. In Christ, as we recognize what is of most importance, we can count our losses and rejoice at the incomparable gain that is ours because of Him. It is, in fact, living in Christ that raises our life value. There is no higher use of our life than for it to be spent for His purposes and glory. May we live a life that reveals the SURPASSING WORTH of knowing Jesus.
Have a great day PLACING THE HIGHEST STOCK IN LIVING FOR JESUS!
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April 20, 2012
Counting Life's Experiences!
As we count our varied LIFE EXPERIENCES, which ones COUNT MOST to us? Do we COUNT MOST the ones which are fun-filled or the ones from which we stand to gain or have gained the most? Of course we like having fun and the memories of such times will linger with us, but the fun itself is only for the moment. It is the life encounters and experiences from which we gain something beneficial for life that provide the potential for an ongoing experience of joy relative to them. Even some experiences that would be classified as not being fun at all can still count among the MOST MEANINGFUL of life's experiences.
James exhorted. . .
"(2) COUNT IT ALL JOY, my brothers, WHEN YOU MEET TRIALS OF VARIOUS KINDS, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith PRODUCES STEADFASTNESS. (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 ESV)
Certainly trials would not be called "fun". Listing our life experiences, trials would generally not fall into the category with our "good times." However, doing the spiritual math, they add up to great and lasting benefit. Though perhaps not good in themselves, God can make them work for good (Romans 8:28) so as to then be good for us. They are what HELP US GROW. They are what STRENGTHEN OUR CHARACTER. They are what help MATURE OUR FAITH. Without them our life would not be COMPLETE!
Though life's trials may challenge us greatly, may we greatly rejoice over the LASTING BENEFIT they can bring. Living with eternity in mind, when we are tried and tested, let us rejoice in being found true to the Lord and to His Will.
Have a great day FINDING THE JOY OF FAITH FILLED LIVING!
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April 19, 2012
Some people are great at math, being able to calculate figures in their head. When I count, I sometimes resort to the use of my figures. Still, beyond being good with numbers or being a good counter, are we a wise one?
Are we counting what ought to be counted? The difference of impact on our physical health could be simplified to whether we are counting calories (and limiting them) or counting the servings and boasting of how many we may be able to consume at one sitting. Similarly, when considering our spiritual health, there is a big difference between simply counting the days we have lived and considering HOW WE ARE LIVING each one of them.
In a prayer of Moses found in the Psalms, we read. . .
"(10) The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. (11) Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? (12) So TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS THAT WE MAY GET A HEART OF WISDOM." (Psalm 90:10-12 ESV)
Recognizing we are ACCOUNTABLE to God for the MANNER IN WHICH WE LIVE OUR DAYS, we need to NUMBER THEM WISELY by considering the real BREVITY OF LIFE (note also James 4:14) compared to eternity and where we will spend it. We ought to make the most of our days in how they relate to God and His plans for us both presently and eternally. Living with a reverential fear of God and His Will, are we exercising wisdom in COUNTING WHAT MATTERS MOST; properly prioritizing our life? If we simply let life slip past, we will soon regret how quickly it has gone by with perhaps little to have counted for much.
Though by the grace of God we may have many days still ahead of us, it is not wise to count too much on them. As the wise farmer would not count his chickens before they hatch, let us not count our days before they come into existence. TODAY IS WHAT COUNTS RIGHT NOW as the place from which to move closer to the full realization of our salvation in Christ. (Romans 13:11) Let us therefore look to God and His Will as we seek to make EACH DAY COUNT rather than merely slipping by.
Have a great day MARKED AS ANOTHER GOOD ONE FROM AND FOR THE LORD!
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April 18, 2012
Let me ask you a question. Do you think Burger King would allow McDonalds to come and set up their food line in a Burger King establishment? I would expect your response to be something along the line, "Of course not!" Why? Because you get Whoppers at Burger King, not Big Macs! It is their place for their stuff. And even though Burger King may advertise, "Have it your way!", it will still be their own product line they will be offering. If you want something different you will have to go somewhere else!
The Temple of God -- also known as the "House of the Lord" (i.e. 2 Kings 21:5) -- was placed in Jerusalem and became associated with the idea of meeting the LORD there. In spite of this being the purpose of this place, it was not always used in GOD'S WAY. In fact, it was not always God Whom the people went to meet! King Ahaz collected the vessels of GOD'S HOUSE, cut them in pieces, and then "shut the doors of the HOUSE OF THE LORD, and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 28:24) The people, in effect, were shut out from worshiping God. Then following the reign of one of the best kings (Hezekiah), Manasseh (the grandson of Ahaz) went even further. As one of Judah's worst kings, besides rebuilding the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed, erecting altars for Baal, making an Asherah, worshiping the host of heaven, burning his sons as an offering, and using fortune-telling, omens, mediums, and wizards (2 Kings 21:3-7), note what else Manasseh was described as doing.
We read. . .
"(5) And he BUILT ALTARS FOR ALL THE HOST OF HEAVEN IN THE TWO COURTS OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD." . . . and . . . "(7) and THE CARVED IMAGE OF ASHERAH that he had made HE SET IN THE HOUSE OF WHICH THE LORD SAID to David and to Solomon his son, 'IN THIS HOUSE, AND IN JERUSALEM, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I WILL PUT MY NAME FOREVER.'" (2 Kings 21:5 & 7 ESV)
If it was the HOUSE OF THE LORD, Who should have received the glory? Whose ways should have been followed? Later Jesus accused the leaders of making His FATHER'S HOUSE a den of robbers rather than the house of prayer, which had been prophesied would happen. (Matthew 21:13)
Now, I would encourage us to bring our focus nearer to our own lives than merely what goes on within the walls of a church building today. Let us remember what we as Christians are! Is what is occurring in our life in accord with what we be as God's people?
In Paul's letter to Timothy, he stated. . .
"(14) I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, (15) if I delay, you may know HOW ONE OUGHT TO BEHAVE IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD, WHICH IS THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, a pillar and buttress of the truth."(1Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
That's us, the people who make up GOD'S HOUSEHOLD. We are GOD'S HOUSE of which Jesus is presently the High Priest. (Hebrews 10:21) Therefore, what are we offering God from our life? Is it truly Him we are seeking to be continually drawn toward and please, or has the "door of our heart" been closed to doing things HIS WAY? Has His Truth and Will been replaced by something else?
If we are truly GOD'S HOUSE, then let us seek His Will always! It is through seeking to do things according His desires that will bring blessing to our life and glory to His Name. As HIS HOUSE, may we allow His Way to become our way for living and glorifying Him.
Have a great day BLESSED BY LIVING WITH GOD'S NAME ON US!
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April 17, 2012
Included In The Will! (part 2 of 2)
Jesus died. His covenant is in effect. Because of our relationship with Him WE ARE HEIRS of the inheritance He has secured. And it is A RICH INHERITANCE.
Let us picture ourselves as HIS HEIRS, sitting at the reading of His will, hearing what He has provided for us.
"I, Jesus Christ, being of sound mind and body, do bequeath to you, my beloved brethren and children of God: that '. . . no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.' [Mark 10:29-30 (ESV)], the 'heirs of the kingdom' [James 2:5 (ESV)], eternal redemption, forgiveness, glory, the dwelling of God with you, every tear to be wiped away, 'death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain . . . To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers WILL HAVE THIS HERITAGE, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'[Revelation 21:3-7 (ESV)]"
How does that make us feel as an HEIR OF THE RICHES OF GOD? Consider the special blessing of our extended family in Christ and all the things we share together. Knowing what is yet to be received, let us stand strong when persecuted, understanding it is because our life has been clearly IDENTIFIED WITH JESUS. Because of the "living hope" (1 Peter 1:3) we have through our Lord's resurrection from the dead, we have "AN INHERITANCE that is IMPERISHABLE, UNDEFILED, and UNFADING, KEPT IN HEAVEN for you." (1 Peter 1:4 ESV) Remember, in Jesus, every promise God has made is ours. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
The world's wealth is but for a short time (i.e. Hebrews 11:24-26), but what is offered in Jesus is for eternity. May we not allow the stuff of this world to sidetrack us from the GREATEST INHERITANCE we could possible receive.
Have a great day LIVING READY TO RECEIVE WHAT IS RESERVED FOR THE REDEEMED!
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April 16, 2012
Included In The Will! (part 1 of 2)
It seems that just about everyone in the world has either secretly or openly hoped they might have a rich relative somewhere who has included them in their will. Perhaps at least the thought has crossed our mind. Sometimes when an inheritance is ready to be distributed, relatives unheard of before arise to stake claim to their share. There are times when the claims of relationship are fraudulent. Then there are those who may have desired no relationship with the deceased until they found out there was money or property to be gained. How very sad it is when where we should see genuine love being experienced, greed raises its ugly head. There have also been times when people who were once included in a will have ended up being written out of it for one reason or another.
As the Hebrew writer compared the old covenant (through Moses) with the new (through Christ), he placed it in terms of that which was PUT INTO EFFECT through death. We read. . .
"(16) For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. (17) For A WILL TAKES EFFECT ONLY AT DEATH, since it is NOT IN FORCE AS LONG AS THE ONE WHO MADE IT IS ALIVE. (18) Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood." (Hebrews 9:16-18 ESV)
As long as one lives, they have the choice and power to change the terms of a will. After death, the will of the one who has died is settled and carried out as written. The wishes are PUT INTO EFFECT.
Jesus' death was both a ransom (a sacrifice for sin) and a covenant offering (sealed it). His death PUT INTO EFFECT the conditions of the new covenant as it also redeemed us (Hebrews 9:15), making it possible to be brought back into a right relationship with God. The Scriptures reveal what is promised, including what defines the relationship of those who will receive the inheritance. Through Jesus' death on the cross, His blood "inaugurated" (ESV) the new covenant as blood had done so with the old. (Hebrews 9:18) We should then be encouraged that since HIS WILL IS IN EFFECT, we can know what we shall receive and be encouraged that it will not be changed, nor can it be challenged.
As Paul declared. . .
"(20) For ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD FIND THEIR YES IN HIM. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV)
An inheritance is not worked for, but willingly granted by the one in whose possession it has been. Since Jesus loved us enough to die for us and provide us with a rich inheritance, let us respond in loving obedience to Him. May we continue to live ACCORDING TO HIS WILL so as to remain INCLUDED IN HIS WILL.
Have a great day LIVING AS AN HEIR OF CHRIST JESUS!
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April 15, 2012
The first wedding I ever performed was a special one. It was special for the couple of course. However, it was special for me because of the groom whose life had dynamically changed once he was united with Christ in baptism. In fact, it made such a change in his life that his co-workers wondered at how such a change could take place. A very marked transformation DEVELOPED in his life once he embraced the truth of Jesus.
Not having a lot of friends in the area, this wedding was shared with a congregation following the morning assembly and was then followed by a potluck together. The photographer for the occasion was a friend of the groom who moved about capturing the special moments of the ceremony. Some well posed pictures and candid shots were also taken afterward. However, after all was done and things were being cleaned up and put away, the photographer realized he had not put the film in the camera. Therefore there would be no pictures to be DEVELOPED. The most important thing NEEDED WITHIN had been neglected.
Through all the years of using my fancy 35mm camera, I developed the habit of EXAMINING my camera and willingly wasted the first couple of pictures just to make certain the film was advancing. I did not want to chance setting up to take the "perfect shot" only to find out the film had not been grabbed by the teeth of the spindle.
More important than this is being mindful of what is DEVELOPING in our life. As pictures are taken through "exposure", and that which is before the camera is what will be taken in and DEVELOPED, so it is with our life.
Paul urged those at Corinth to . . .
"(5) EXAMINE YOURSELVES, to see whether you are in the faith. TEST YOURSELVES. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that JESUS CHRIST IS IN YOU? -- unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
Regardless of the good we might be doing in this world, if we neglect to have JESUS WITHIN US -- continually exposing ourselves to His life and teachings -- the right things will not DEVELOP in our life. To examine ourselves and pass the test is to see that we are appropriately responding to the message of Jesus and being willing to repent of that which is out of place with the Christian walk. Fixing our focus on Jesus, godliness will DEVELOP. Get the picture?
Have a great day BECOMING A PORTRAIT FOR GOD'S GALLERY!
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April 14, 2012
Authority And Greatness!
Just like the disciples, we and the world need to understand what TRUE LEADERSHIP is all about. In Matthew we read. . .
"(25) But Jesus called them to him and said, 'You know that THE RULERS OF THE GENTILES LORD IT OVER THEM, and their great ones EXERCISE AUTHORITY OVER THEM. (26) IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. But whoever would BE GREAT among you must BE your SERVANT, (27) and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, (28) even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'" (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)
Yes, how different Jesus' idea of authority and greatness is than what the world thinks. His Way is so upside down compared to the approach of the world. However, perhaps it is the world's approach that is actually upside down and needs to be turned back right-side up!
There are many today who are in supervisory positions and positions of authority who appear to lack the "people" skills to carry it out. Many often allow the "position" to go to their head. Though it used to be that most often people worked their way up from the bottom -- thus providing the opportunity to learn what all aspects of the business are all about -- today too many have been given management positions who have no clue of what the work load is like being handled by those below them. When these managers are young it often goes to their head and they wield their perceived authority rather than truly manage. Then it becomes all about "us" and "them" rather than a willingness to work together as a team. Why is the significance of each worker minimized? Why do some managers or supervisors look down on those who are often the ones getting the actual work done? It takes organization which sometimes implies levels of responsibility for productivity to take place, but everyone involved ought to be made to feel valued in the process. Doesn't that fit the picture of the church being a living body with every member having its distinct function and importance? (Romans 12:3-7 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
When a centurion came to Jesus to ask Him to heal his servant, he noted Jesus as one under authority, knowing himself what it was like to be "under authority." (Matthew 8:8-9) Such ones -- especially in the case of our Lord -- make the best leaders. Paul reminded masters that they too had a "MASTER IN HEAVEN" and needed to bear that in mind as they dealt "JUSTLY AND FAIRLY" with those who were slaves. (Colossians 4:1) Moses was a great leader who was described as being "VERY MEEK, more than all people who were on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3 ESV) This was how Moses was described when he was opposed by his own brother and sister. Moses did not let his position go to his head. That probably played into his continued willingness to petition God on behalf of a rebellious and stubborn people.
Let us remember the world's way is not GOD'S WAY and that the manner in which we treat others can have greater impact on the whole than is sometimes realized. GREATNESS comes through being willing to SERVE and SERVANT LEADERSHIP is the best kind. Is that not exactly what our Lord modeled? Whether we are focused on secular work or service in the Name of the Lord, this sound Biblical principle can create benefit for all involved and ultimately glorify God. May we strive to be like Jesus whatever position we may find ourselves in.
Have a great day LIVING LIFE HOW JESUS DEFINED IT!
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April 13, 2012
Heroes! What makes them such? The label has been applied to individuals for a variety of reasons. Since it is used of those who have given their life or risked their life on behalf of others, we might simply conclude it does have something to do with life. Facing life's challenges are we living heroically or do we find ourselves giving up too easily?
It has been said, "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer." (Ralph Waldo Emerson) [also found as quoted, "A man is a hero, not because he is braver than anyone else, but because he is brave for ten minutes longer."]
This definition of a hero seems to be attached to those who are seen to exercise PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE. Those two qualities are addressed numerous times in Scripture and are essential to faithful and victorious Christian living. We must be PATIENT for that which is yet to come -- for things to happen according to God's timetable -- and when going through life's trials, understanding they will pass. Thus the need for PERSEVERANCE as well.
Paul was an example of FAITH and PATIENCE as he PRESSED ON in his ministry for the Lord. (2 Timothy 3:10) When we look at those listed in Hebrews chapter eleven as having great faith, we might refer to it as "heroic faith" they exemplified as they waited on God (i.e. Hebrews 11:13-16) and pressed on in spite of life's challenges. Encouraging these Christians who had been going through a time of severe persecution (Hebrews 10:32-36) and urging them to hold on a little longer (Hebrews 10:37-39), the Hebrew writer exhorted. . .
"(11) And we desire EACH ONE OF YOU to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, (12) so that you may not be sluggish, but IMITATORS OF THOSE WHO THROUGH FAITH AND PATIENCE INHERIT THE PROMISES." (Hebrews 6:11-12 ESV)
PATIENT PERSEVERANCE is a sign of genuine faith. It is also a sign of hope based on the assurance of God's promises. As we face some of life's most challenging moments, may we do so with the resolve to hold on a little longer. Such a heroic faith is what will continue to move us through victorious living.
Have a great day EXEMPLIFYING VICTORIOUS FAITH!
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April 12, 2012
Leave It On!
"Who turned out the light? Turn it back on!" Such is exclaimed when someone is in a room and someone else exiting turns the light off as if no one was there. Have we experienced it? However, there are those who prefer the darkness. They want the light off so what they are doing cannot be seen. (John 3:20) Is that our desire?
As the time for Jesus' death was nearing note what He declared where we read. . .
"(35) So Jesus said to them, 'THE LIGHT IS AMONG YOU FOR A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. (36) WHILE YOU HAVE THE LIGHT, BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT, that you may BECOME SONS OF THE LIGHT.'" (John 12:35-36 ESV)
As Jesus walked this earth, THAT LIGHT was enjoyed by some while others wanted to put it out. When Jesus was on the cross, Luke's account records. . .
"(44) It was now about the sixth hour, and there was DARKNESS OVER THE WHOLE LAND until the ninth hour, (45) WHILE THE SUN'S LIGHT FAILED. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. (46) Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" And having said this he breathed his last." (Luke 23:44-46 ESV)
Darkness! The light of the sun stopped shining while an attempt was being made to extinguish the LIGHT OF THE SON! However, THE SON would rise again and though some still refuse to come into THE LIGHT, THE LIGHT continues to shine. Are we continuing in THE LIGHT so that it can be continually reflected in our life?
We recognize there is great darkness in this world. But what is it like around us? It has been said, "Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself." [Desiderius Erasmus (around 1466-1536)] That is the POWER OF LIGHT! May we continue to be HIS LIGHT (i.e. Matthew 5:14-16) wherever we are.
Have a great day SIMPLY LETTING IT SHINE!
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April 11, 2012
He Is Able!
It is nice watching the trees begin to bud during this time of year. Soon the bees will begin pollinating the fruit trees so the fruit may eventually be enjoyed. It is wonderful how GRAFTING is used to provide so many varieties of flowers, trees, and to even provide more than one type of apple on one tree. Oh, there is nothing like an apple right off the tree.
In Romans chapter eleven, Paul provided a wonderful analogy using an olive tree and the idea of GRAFTING BRANCHES. He described how natural branches (Israelites) were cut off due to unbelief while wild olive shoots (Gentiles) were GRAFTED in due to belief. There was no room for arrogance on the part of either the natural nor the wild branches since both received the nourishing sap and needed support from the olive root. (Romans 11:17-18) However, the warning is given that if God did not spare the natural branches, why would He spare the unnatural branches if they fell into unbelief.
Still, note the encouragement Paul expressed in verses 22-23 where we read. . .
"(22) Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. (23) And even they, IF THEY DO NOT CONTINUE IN THEIR UNBELIEF, will be grafted in, for GOD HAS THE POWER TO GRAFT THEM IN AGAIN." (Romans 11:22-23 ESV)
When someone has left the Lord it is often difficult to get them to return. We may feel at a loss how to reach them. We may wonder what it might take to impact them to bring them back to "the root" that nourishes and supports. Paul said GOD HAS THE POWER TO GRAFT THEM IN AGAIN. Let that be an encouragement to anyone who has left Him. Let this be an encouragement to us to keep on praying for them that something will gain their attention, causing them to return to the Lord that they might be grafted back in. Pray that God will bring about something in their life that will regain their attention and affection. Then let us be ready to rejoice when God does HIS GREAT WORK OF GRAFTING and connecting to the source of life!
Have a great day PRAYING FOR GOD'S WORK TO TAKE PLACE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS!
[This focus was originally sent for 04/11/1999 (Edited some with passage changed to ESV)]
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April 10, 2012
Knowing what one is talking about does not always keep people from talking. There are many who have nothing to say and insist on saying it. Some think they know, but sadly do not know as they ought. (1 Corinthians 8:2)
How often have we seen people in the news who have gotten all up in arms about something of which they may not have all the facts, who then create further problems by the way in which they react? People often answer too quickly before hearing all the facts to their "folly and shame." (Proverbs 18:13) There are also those who spread information without having verified the facts. I get frustrated with much false information that gets forwarded via e-mail today that is either only partially true (so you don't know what part to believe which is always the problem with a half-truth; you might believe the wrong half) or completely fabricated. Some of those bits of information have continued to circulate for years!
The solution? As has long been said, "Think before you speak", the need today could be expressed "Google before you Tweet", "Research before you re-send", or "Fact-find before you Facebook."
James exhorted. . .
"(19) KNOW THIS, my beloved brothers: LET EVERY PERSON BE QUICK TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK, SLOW TO ANGER; (20) for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20 ESV)
If we "know this" and practice it, we will find ourselves more often saving face, saving friendships, and not being guilty of misinforming.
Have a great day CONFIRMING BEFORE CONVERSING!
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April 9, 2012
Perhaps we have enjoyed watching jugglers masterfully juggling anything from bowling pins to sharp knives to running chainsaws; entertainment with a mixture of danger and intrigue. However, what about the "juggler" with the cell phone and cigarette in one hand and a coffee cup or juice bottle in the other while trying to steer a vehicle down the highway? How can they quickly respond when obstacles are encountered on the way or safely navigate their course amidst the other traffic? Why don't such drivers recognize the danger we see when witnessing such a spectacle?
Though the dangers of driving while multitasking with other stuff is not to be minimized, there is a danger of eternal consequence when this is the picture of life. How many are juggling so much of the world while wondering why it is difficult to keep life on a good course? On one hand there are the fires burning of so many activities and appointments as well as continual conversations about everything in the world except spiritual things, and on the other hand quenching the thirst from the "quick-stops" along the way. Then it is wondered why there is a missed turn here and a lost opportunity there and how one got to where they are now! Is there the need to pull over and re-evaluate the LIFE PRIORITIES?
Jesus warned. . .
"(24) NO ONE CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MONEY." (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
What really has MASTERY over our life? Do we find ourselves frantically juggling too much stuff, and if so, what are we dropping and what is being saved? What are our PRIORITIES being based on: God or the stuff of the world? Let us take inventory of our schedules and see if there are changes needed to keep life on the course God would have us follow. Allowing Him and His Will to have MASTERY over every aspect of our life will eliminate much stress and ultimately get us to where God wants us. We could best start by simply moving over and allowing Him to take the wheel! Ready to travel?
Have a great day ON LIFE'S ROAD WITH GOD!
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April 8, 2012
Must Be Lifted Up! (part 4 of 4)
Jesus was LIFTED UP to save us, draw us to Him, and is to be EXALTED as the Sovereign Lord of our life. Are we willing to fully surrender our life to the One Who has provided the means of abundant life now (John 10:10) and the assurance of ETERNAL LIFE to come?
Jesus encouraged. . .
"(38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (40) For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I WILL RAISE HIM UP ON THE LAST DAY." (John 6:38-40 ESV) [also 6:44 & 54]
Also remember Jesus' discussion with Martha after her brother Lazarus had died. We read. . .
"(23) Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' (24) Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.' (25) Jesus said to her, 'I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, THOUGH HE DIE, YET SHALL HE LIVE, (26) and EVERYONE WHO LIVES AND BELIEVES IN ME SHALL NEVER DIE. Do you BELIEVE THIS?' (27) She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.'" (John 11:23-27 ESV)
Martha believed in the resurrection. She believed in Jesus as the Christ. Believing in Jesus is ALL ABOUT LIFE! Physical death is not the end, but merely a door into the eternity Jesus provides.
Jesus stated, "I AM the resurrection and the life." He is the "I AM" (Gk. "ego eimi"); ever-living or existent One. Paul declared that Jesus was before all things and that all things were created by Him, through Him, and for Him. (Colossians 1:16-17) Recognizing that both our origin and our destiny are associated with the ever-existing Lord, we need to live a life that is associated with Him as well. If we forget our origin, it is far too easy to begin to view ourselves as a product of this world and thus end up with a worldly rather than Divine destiny. Keeping our Divine origin and destiny in view, our life is to be presently lived with the Lord's Divine Purposes and Will in mind.
To be RAISED WITH JESUS in eternity we must also be RAISED WITH HIM NOW. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul wrote. . .
"(3) Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (4) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (5) For IF WE HAVE BEEN UNITED WITH HIM IN A DEATH LIKE HIS, WE SHALL CERTAINLY BE UNITED WITH HIM IN A RESURRECTION LIKE HIS. (6) We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." (Romans 6:3-6 ESV)
Are we living a life RAISED UP IN CHRIST? Buried and raised through baptism in the likeness of Christ's death, burial and resurrection we are to be presently walking "in newness of life."
As Jesus stated to Martha, let us LIVE AND BELIEVE! Believing is a verb. It moves us forward in Christ. Living for Him ELEVATES OUR LIFE, prompting us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), and thus keeps our focus ultimately toward being RAISED UP into eternity with Him when our journey here is through.
Have a great day LIVING THE UPLIFTED LIFE IN CHRIST!
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April 7, 2012
Must Be Lifted Up! (part 3 of 4)
It was of necessity that Jesus be LIFTED UP. This was so we could be saved from our sins. (John 3:14-15) It was also so we could be drawn to Him (John 12:31-33), being united together in Him.
Though many were un-accepting of the statements of Who Jesus was and His connection to the Father (John 8), when questioned further, we read. . .
"(28) So Jesus said to them, 'WHEN YOU HAVE LIFTED UP THE SON OF MAN, then YOU WILL KNOW THAT I AM HE, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. (29) And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.' (30) As he was saying these things, many believed in him." (John 8:28-30 ESV)
Jesus' words seemed to echo those found in Isaiah where we read. . .
"Behold, my servant shall act wisely; HE SHALL BE HIGH AND LIFTED UP, AND SHALL BE EXALTED." (Isaiah 52:13 ESV)
From the last verses of that chapter in Isaiah we move into what is very clearly a reference to Jesus and His suffering. (Isaiah 53) When Jesus was lifted up, those who were willing then BELIEVED HIM TO BE WHO HE SAID HE WAS! Immediately following Jesus' death on the cross and witnessing the earthquake and all that took place, the centurion and others with him declared, "TRULY THIS WAS THE SON OF GOD." (Matthew 27:54)
To TRULY BELIEVE in Who Jesus is will be revealed in having JESUS EXALTED in our life. As the "ONLY SOVEREIGN, the KING of kings and LORD of lords" (1 Timothy 6:15), all things are subject to Him. (Philippians 3:21). Being exalted as LORD OF OUR LIFE, He is to BE OUR LIFE (Colossians 3:4)
Two days ago we noted the bronze serpent made by Moses. Though it had been associated with saving the people when they had sinned by complaining against God and Moses, it was not to be worshiped. However, some did. Many years later, when King Hezekiah removed the high places, broke the pillars of idolatry, and cut down the Asherah, he also had to break into pieces the bronze serpent Moses had made because the people had begun to worship it. (2 Kings 18:4)
Today, we are not to worship the cross, but some do. It is THE LORD JESUS -- Who willing gave Himself to die on it -- Who is to be EXALTED AND WORSHIPED for Who He is and what He has done on our behalf! He is to REIGN ON THE THRONE OF OUR HEART. It must be so or we will find ourselves being drawn away after others or other things. Let us KEEP JESUS LIFTED UP so that others will know we TRULY BELIEVE HE IS LORD OF ALL!
Have a great day EXALTING CHRIST IN OUR LIFE!
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April 6, 2012
Must Be Lifted Up! (part 2 of 4)
At a time when Jesus struggled, knowing the time was DRAWING NEAR for his arrest and crucifixion, He was troubled deeply. (John 12:27) However, He knew it was for that very purpose He had come. (John 12:28) Had He been saved from that hour, how could we have been saved from our sins? Therefore Jesus chose to glorify the Father through surrendering to the plan. Our Lord's vocalized resolve to press on was met on that occasion with a verbal response from Heaven which some thought was the sound of thunder while others believed an angel had spoken to Him. (John 12:28-29)
Focusing on what would ultimately be accomplished through His death, Jesus stated. . .
"(31) 'Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (32) And I, WHEN I AM LIFTED UP FROM THE EARTH, WILL DRAW ALL PEOPLE TO MYSELF.' (33) He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die." (John 12:31-33 ESV)
The context of "all people" implies "all kinds of people" which would specifically draw attention to the DRAWING TOGETHER IN CHRIST BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES. Jesus has become both the means of reconciliation with God and with one another as we are together DRAWN TO HIM as the Messiah and Savior of the world.
Being LIFTED UP was also the means of dealing with the debt of sin against us and the power of the devil. (John 12:31; Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15) While Jesus was on the cross, the leaders and the devil thought they had achieved a great victory. However, through the cross Jesus brought victory over sin and dealt a huge blow to the devil. In submitting our life to God and resisting the devil, the devil will flee from us and as WE DRAW NEAR TO GOD HE DRAWS NEAR TO US. (James 4:7-8) Being DRAWN TO JESUS we are drawn away from the clutches of the devil and into the safety of His hands. (John 10:28-29)
Have a great day DRAWN INSEPARABLY TO JESUS!
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April 5, 2012
Must Be Lifted Up! (part 1 of 4)
As Jesus was talking with Nicodemus about spiritual things, Jesus looked ahead to the purpose of His coming into this world as He stated. . .
"(14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, SO MUST THE SON OF MAN BE LIFTED UP, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15 ESV)
This being LIFTED UP may refer to both the cross and His resurrection and possibly even to His ascension. Being LIFTED UP on the cross Jesus offered His blood to take away our sins. LIFTED UP from the tomb He displayed His power over death to assure us of that same hope in Him. Then His being LIFTED UP into the clouds was witnessed by His disciples who confirmed our Lord's return to the Father where He intercedes on our behalf. (Romans 8:34)
The reference to Moses goes back to when the Israelites were being led in the wilderness. (Numbers 21:4-9) During one of their many times of impatience (vs.4) the people spoke against both God and Moses, complaining of having no food or water and that they were tired of the manna and the quail God had provided. (vs.5) Therefore "the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people" which bit them and many people died. (vs.6) Acknowledging they had SINNED (vs.7), the people asked Moses to pray for them. The Lord then instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it up on a pole so that when anyone was bitten, they could LOOK at it AND LIVE. (vss.8-9) Had they been bitten and not looked, they would have died.
SIN bites! SIN brings death (Romans 6:23) and separation (Isaiah 59:2) from God! Because of SIN there is need for a solution. Otherwise we are left to die for our sins. To adequately deal with our SINS, Jesus came to die for us. (Hebrews 2:9) It was of NECESSITY for Him to "BE LIFTED UP" so that in believing in Him we could have ETERNAL LIFE. As Moses was God's servant chosen to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage, Jesus came as God's Servant to bring us deliverance from the bondage to sin. Praise Him for being willing to be LIFTED UP on our behalf.
Have a great day CONTINUING TO LOOK TO JESUS FOR OUR SALVATION!
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April 4, 2012
A Good Return!
We like a good return for our investments. We also like a good return for our actions. However, do we give the same amount of concern for what we return, especially to God for what He has done on our behalf?
Hezekiah was one of the greatest kings of Judah. He was described as being a king of the character of David (2 Kings 18:3) and there being none like him among all the kings of Judah either after him or before. (2 Kings 18:5) Following the wicked reign of his father Ahaz who had shut the temple doors (2 Chronicles 28:24) and led the people deeper into idolatry, Hezekiah led in great reforms and a return to worshiping God. (2 Chronicles 29-31) Then in 2 Kings 20 [and 2 Chronicles 32] we read of an illness Hezekiah was struck with, making him sick to the point of death. Being told he would not recover from it and therefore needed to get his house in order (2 Kings 20:1), he turned to his face to the wall and his focus toward God in prayer. (2 Kings 20:2-3) God responded to that prayer by ADDING FIFTEEN YEARS to Hezekiah's life. (2 Kings 20:6)
What would we do with such an opportunity? If we faced death and then had our life lengthened, HOW WOULD WE RESPOND? Hezekiah had lived a good life. He led great reforms. He brought the nation back into a focus of worship on God and a celebration of the Passover as it had not been done in apparently a long time. (2 Chronicles 30:5) It is sad that pride took its toll on Hezekiah in his later years.
In the brief account of his illness in Chronicles we read. . .
"(24) In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the LORD, and he answered him and gave him a sign. (25) BUT HEZEKIAH DID NOT MAKE RETURN ACCORDING TO THE BENEFIT DONE TO HIM, for HIS HEART WAS PROUD. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. (26) But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah." (2 Chronicles 32:24-26 ESV)
Here is the important thing for us to consider. When we pray and God answers our prayers, DO WE RESPOND BY LIVING ACCORDING TO THE BENEFIT DONE FOR US? Or are we ever guilty of taking it for granted? When blessed with good health and new days in which to live, are we using our life and each new day with which it has been extended for the purposes God has given it? Do we reveal our sincere thanks to answered prayer by the manner in which we live? Why have more days if not properly used? The best way to say "thanks" to God is to RESPOND in living for His glory and purposes. May that be what marks our daily life!
Have a great day RETURNING GOOD LIVING TO THE ONE WHO HAS GIVEN US LIFE!
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April 3, 2012
Do It Anyway!
What we do is not always met by an equal or seemingly appropriate response. Do we find that sometimes frustrating? Even THE GOOD JESUS DID was not always responded to by good. Sometimes the degree of GOODNESS AND RIGHTEOUSNESS was only matched by the same degree of evil and unrighteousness due to an unwillingness to accept and believe. Jesus "WENT ABOUT DOING GOOD" (Acts 10:38) anyway and even from the cross He expressed the desire for those who put him there to be forgiven. (Luke 23:34)
Ponder the following:
"People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway." [source: Teresa de Calcuta]
Does any of that mark our life experience? As I think particularly about the last line, I am reminded of how God gave the world the best (John 3:16) and how even today He is blasphemed and His existence denied. God knew before sending the Son what would take place, but HE GAVE ANYWAY. Jesus also was willing to freely give Himself.
In spite of how we might be treated, let us not allow the responses of others to determine our actions. Instead, let us follow the example of our Heavenly Father and our Lord and GIVE and DO GOOD ANYWAY!
Remember the principle Jesus taught and exemplified. . .
"(12) So WHATEVER YOU WISH THAT OTHERS WOULD DO TO YOU, DO ALSO TO THEM, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12 ESV)
It is always right to DO RIGHT and wisdom will be shown by the actions or deeds. (Matthew 11:19) In this way -- like us ourselves -- the world will be offered what it needs rather than what it deserves with the hope the Lord may be eventually acknowledged and appropriately responded to. Living life in this manner will also reveal our own appreciation to God for all THE GOOD He has done on our behalf. May He be glorified in our connection with others.
Have a great day LIVING GOD'S WAY EVERY DAY!
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April 2, 2012
I've Got Pictures!
There was a time when I would be asked about my kids and I would say, "I've got pictures!" and would eagerly pull out my wallet and share them. Then came the grandkids and now an iPod and I've got more pictures to share. As a father and a grandfather I don't mind drawing attention to those who are mine. Each one of our children (and their spouses) and grandchildren have INDIVIDUAL QUALITIES worth noting, and they are all SIGNIFICANT to me.
In the beginning of the book of Job, as Satan appeared before the Lord, God drew attention to one of His children. We read. . .
"(8) And the LORD said to Satan, 'HAVE YOU CONSIDERED MY SERVANT JOB, that there is NONE LIKE HIM ON THE EARTH, a BLAMELESS and UPRIGHT MAN, who FEARS GOD and TURNS AWAY FROM EVIL?'" (Job 1:8 ESV)
With a stretch of the imagination, picture God pulling out His wallet and saying, "I've got pictures!" as He drew attention to His servant Job. These were high compliments! Can we imagine the joy with which God would have stated such? Even after Satan took away Job's property and children, God's compliment of Job remained the same, with the additional ". . . HE STILL HOLDS FAST HIS INTEGRITY, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason." (Job 2:3 ESV)
Though we may struggle understanding why God would allow Satan to do what he did, in the end Job still stood with integrity before God. GOD KNEW JOB even better than Job knew himself. Ultimately Job stood out as more righteous than the three friends who had heaped guilt upon him rather than providing comfort. (Job 42:7-9)
We might prefer for God to not draw such attention to us that we become a target of Satan. Still, we have a Heavenly Father who is just as MINDFUL OF EACH ONE OF US as His children. We are individually SIGNIFICANT TO HIM! God knows the gifts He has given us and rejoices when they are used for His glory and purposes. He is also fully aware of the struggles we have in life and rejoices when we turn our focus toward Him for help in dealing with them. He is a LOVING FATHER attentive to all that goes on in our life. And He does know us even better than we know ourselves.
May the image of the picture of our life be that which God has intended from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27) and which is being renewed in Christ. (Colossians 3:10) Such is a life over which our Heavenly Father will rejoice.
Have a great day DEVELOPING INTO A PICTURE WORTH VIEWING!
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April 1, 2012
Two Days In One?
During a conversation I had with someone this past week, they bemoaned the fact that "April Fool's Day" and "Palm Sunday" were falling on the same day. Granted these two are marked on the calendar and the focuses on both are far from being similar, the truth is that both are days placed on the calendar with their observances based upon human origin. Though "Palm Sunday" is focused on the remembrance of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to His arrest and crucifixion, the day itself and many practices associated with it have been set in place by the authority of men rather than God.
When did these two days begin to be observed? Not during the days of Christ or the Apostles. April Fool's Day is thought to have originated during the 1500's with a focus toward those who did not follow the change to the Gregorian calendar and pranks such as sending gifts to celebrate the beginning of the New Year on April first (instead of January first) was the fun some had at the expense of others. However there are various other reasons the encyclopedia provides for the observance of this day in various countries during that same century. The customs associated with Palm Sunday are generally traced back to the fourth century AD.
It is foolishness to not accept that which is the crux of the Gospel message: Christ's death, burial and resurrection which Paul referred to as being of first importance. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) Every Sunday as we partake of the Lord's Supper (the memorial Jesus Himself instituted as the means for remembering Him) we are proclaiming the SIGNIFICANCE of His death and are to do so until He comes again. (1 Corinthians 11:26) The SIGNIFICANCE we might draw from the account in the Gospels of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem is that He is most worthy of the praise offered to Him.
In John's account we read...
"(12) The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. (13) So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, 'HOSANNA! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, EVEN THE KING OF ISRAEL!' (14) And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, (15) 'Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!' (16) His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him." (John 12:12-16 ESV)
As Jesus was entering Jerusalem on this occasion He was being received as we also ought to receive Him. We are blessed in believing in the One Who came in the Name of the Lord to redeem us by His blood given on the cross. Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy (Zechariah 9:9) which confirmed Him to be the One in Whom we are to believe. Does our life help others see how SIGNIFICANT Jesus is to us?
The Scriptures address the tragedy of foolishness (i.e. Psalm 49:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:35; Romans 1:21-23) and there is no greater folly than to mock God (Psalm 14:1) and not accept His Son. (1 Corinthians 1:20-24; 1 John 5:12) Believing in God and the Son Whom He sent, we ought to uphold the worthiness of Jesus to receive our DAILY PRAISE. Every day in Him is a day to wisely live for His glory! May it continually be so!
Have a great day PRAISING GOD FOR THE ONE WHO CAME IN HIS NAME!
[This focus was originally sent for 04/01/2007]
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