So thankful for our Savior,

Jim

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Let's Be Real!



- INTRODUCTION -

Let's Be Real...

The articles here will have material introduced over time examining our lives and actions in light of our relationship with our Lord to confirm that our faith is real.

Thank you for visiting and considering...

Prayerfully, hopefully, there will be inspiration for personal repentance, prayer, thinking, writing, spiritual growth and encouragement to life-changing experience with our LORD, guiding our daily conduct.

- Jim B.

- A SABBATH REST -

A SABBATH REST FOR THOSE WHO BELONG TO JESUS

If we who belong to Jesus are going to rightly understand and enjoy the Sabbath in our lives, then I think it good to begin by considering some words from our Lord: 

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  - Matthew 5:17-20

How do we experience and live out Jesus’ fulfillment of the law in our lives? 

Consider a few more words:

“For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." – Matthew 12:8; (cf. Mark 2; Luke 6)

Our Lord recognizes Sabbaths as a sign of a special relationship with His own.  Our Father God has declared:  “Moreover, I gave them my Sabbaths, as a sign between me and them that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them.” – as recorded for our benefit by Ezekiel the prophet (Eze. 20:12) 

Further, the Lord promises to give those who belong to Him a new heart – a heart to keep God’s commandments:  “26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit  I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. … 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations.” (Eze. 36:26-31)

On the cross, His work completed, Jesus proclaimed the debt of my sin, of your sin, paid in full and the legal requirements of the law fulfilled: “It is finished” – John 19:30

The finished work of the Lord on the cross for us and His work and Spirit in our lives elevates each of our Father God’s commandments to a higher standing in our hearts.  Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill, complete it.  Consequently, Jesus taught us in Matthew 5 that in the kingdom of heaven harboring hatred in our hearts is as murder.  And, the one looking upon another with lust has already committed adultery. 

I suggest to you dear reader, that each and every other one of the ten commandments and all of God’s law has been elevated to a higher standing and calling in the life of believers due to the finished work of our Lord, because He has fulfilled the law, and it is being fulfilled (made complete) in our hearts.   I regard as true that in keeping with Jesus’ fulfilling of the law, that the commandment to keep the Sabbath has also been elevated in our lives.  We should not be surprised to see in scripture the Sabbath elevated in the lives of those who believe in and belong to Jesus. 

I believe that in the book of Hebrews we find the Sabbath as God has it for us in Jesus. Beginning in chapter 3 Israel is held out as an example of those who do not enter God’s rest because of unbelief.  They did not listen.  They did not believe.  They did not enter in our Father God’s rest.  Yet, in chapter 4 – “we who have believed enter that rest.”  Our Father God keeps calling and setting the date as “today”.  If we have believed, we can rest in Him today.  “We who have believed enter…”  It is not, will  enter someday when we are with Him in eternity.   Rather, “enter” - we can enter in today - if we will listen, believe in Him, obey His Spirit in our hearts and not harden our hearts.  When we respond in such a way, the promise for us is in Hebrews chapter 4 verse 9:  “So, then, there remains a Sabbath rest   for the people of God…”  Just as all the rest of the Ten Commandments were elevated to a higher standing by Jesus fulfilling the law – the same is true of the Sabbath.   We keep the Sabbath and enter into His Sabbath rest for us when we believe, trust, and depend on Jesus’ finished work for us every day in our lives.   In this way, Jesus fulfills the Sabbath in and through us.

Let us not deceive ourselves.  There are many good reasons we should gather together as believers in church…  “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together”, “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”  It is for these reasons we gather together – because we are one body in Christ.   But, we do well not  to gather together on Saturday or Sunday because we see this as keeping a legal requirement.   With such thinking we are on the dangerous edge of leaning on righteous acts of our own, though all our righteousness are as “filthy rags” before Him - risking not entirely believing in Jesus and His finished work for us.  Rather, our Father God has fulfilled the Sabbath in Jesus and makes this Sabbath available for those of us who believe in and belong to Jesus!  Thanks be to Jesus – He is all our righteousness, fulfilling all righteousness in us. 

I firmly believe that if any church teaches that we are a law breaker and we do not keep the Sabbath because we do not attend church on a specified day, it is simply misguided and has not carefully sought out and listened to the words of our Lord to us regarding the Sabbath, as He fulfills it, for those who belong to Jesus.    There needs to be a meeting of the mind with Him who owns the Sabbath, and an entering into the Sabbath He has provided for us.   Remember - just as all the rest of the Ten Commandments were elevated to a higher standing – the same is true of the Sabbath.   Why would we recognize this dynamic for the other commandments and yet seek to make an exception of the Sabbath?  Rather, we keep the Sabbath and enter into His rest for us when we believe, trust and depend on His finished work for us every day in our lives, just as Hebrews admonishes us.

Let us also remind ourselves that “resting” in our Lord is not a call to slothfulness!  Our Father God’s word to us from Philippians chapter 2 comes to mind.  “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” “…shine as lights in the world.”  In these words, we find that we have our salvation in hand, due to our repentance and placing of our faith in Jesus as our Savior.  But our Father God desires that we join Him in working out   the salvation our Lord has given us – so that with fear and trembling there is an outworking of it in our lives.   Our life in our Lord becomes active – lived out in obedient response to the guiding and empowering of His Spirit in us, as He joins with us and works out His will and pleasure.  In this activity, we have peace and rest in Him – due to knowing that He provides our salvation, we are not laboring to earn it – it is a joyous obedience springing from a changed heart and His Spirit in us.  The Old Testament living metaphor of Israel called to take the promised land does not fail us – God’s chosen people were called to much toil and battle in the endeavor – but were also offered the rest of the Lord in obeying, knowing that He would work it out for them.  They could rest in that, if they were willing to believe and obey.  Many did not enter His rest.

Am I trusting, believing and resting in Jesus’ finished work for me?  Or not?  This is the heart that Jesus will be interested in when I bow before Him one day.  I would be ashamed before my Lord to try to explain to Him that I consider to have kept and entered into the Sabbath by attending church on a specific day of the week because that is what a church taught me.  What about embracing what Jesus has taught me and done for me?  The apostle Paul rhetorically asks in Galatians 3:  “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

When I bow before my Lord one day, I want to be able to express to Him with clear conscience that I entered into, kept and reveled in His Sabbath by resting in His completed work for me.   

All praise be to Jesus - God the Son, Lord of lords, King of kings, Lord of the Sabbath, and my Savior.

- Jim B

- THE PRUDENT, WISE AND SUCCESSFUL WAY FORWARD -

The Prudent, Wise and Successful Way Forward

 

Though it is the recent U.S. election cycle which impresses this on my heart, I believe that this will be of interest to all peoples of all cultures, and have universal application wherever you are…

Going forward for any culture, that is, for every person everywhere, we must repudiate in our heart and mind the notion that not following Jesus in our personal and public decisions carries even a remote possibility of God’s blessings.  

Secularism is utterly bankrupt and it is our responsibility as Christian citizens to hasten the day when that will be evident to all.

Jesus said:  “Whoever is not with me is against me…” - Mt. 12:30

And in Mt. 12:38, 41, Jesus illustrated the sign of Jonah, and Nineveh repented.

Jesus further explained:  “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is Like:  like a man building a house… on the rock… the one who does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground…it fell” - Luke 6:47,48,49

It is Christ or chaos, Christ or nothing, Christ or the abyss. 

When you read the history of Israel and Judah, you will see that time and time again God judges a nation with its leaders.  We must resist placing our trust in solely our national leaders, because, unless we repent, our culture will remain divided and under God’s judgment.  And Jesus said: “Every Kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Mt. 12:25b). 

We need to commiserate with our neighbors who may be genuinely anxious over their future in light of the election, because they do not know the Prince of Peace and Lover of our souls.   So, we need to share our Lord and the hope that can be had in Him. 

Our Father God is in control of nations.  And, being in control, He is presenting us with the opportunity to reflect on our situations and repent.  We cannot manage our way out.  We cannot vote our way out.  The way out is repentance.  (And if the way out is repentance, we need to take care not to call evil good in the process, because minimizing evil is not in keeping with true repentance.)   I firmly believe that the hand of God is at work in the affairs of nations, and that God is in charge of judgment and blessings - we do not own the luxury of devising God's judgment or blessing

The only prudent thing for anyone ever to do is to finally wake up, humble ourselves, and for us individually and corporately, to repent of our sins, placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and applying His Word in our lives, through a great reformation and revival.  If we want anything else, we are desiring salvation without a Savior.


- IN HIS NAME -

        In the Gospel of John, chapter 16, and verse 23, Jesus tells us:  “…whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.”   I firmly believe that to ask “in Jesus’ name” does not mean that we can simply tack His name onto our selfish requests and expect that they will be given to us.  What then does Jesus mean by “in my name”?  Jesus tells us what He means – for this is a continuation of His discussion with His disciples from chapter 15.  There He tells us “…bear fruit…abide, so that whatever you ask…” (John 15:16).  And, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).  In John chapter 15, we learn that abiding in Him is a lifestyle of being a fruit-bearing branch in Him, the true vine.  As we live that lifestyle of abiding in Him, and His words abide in us, when we come before the Father with our requests, we come in His name. 

        Further, as we abide in Him, as we delight ourselves in Him, He will place desires in our heart that are of Him – “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).   As we abide in Him and His words abide in us, we will ask what we wish, and it will be given to us (cf. John 15:7).  Our wishes, our desires, will be in keeping with His word and what He places in our hearts, as we practice a lifestyle of praying and living out His word, abiding in Him.

          An example?   It won’t be: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?  My friends all drive Porsches, and I must make amends”.   And, it won’t be: “Bless our nation, though we make divorce easy, abort babies at will, and celebrate sexual sins”.   If God’s word is in our heart, and we are in His name, then we will have a desire to conform to His word, humbling ourselves and repenting for our sins first (2 Chronicles 7:14), asking God to grant that our nation will turn from its wicked ways, then expecting and asking for our Father God’s blessing and healing in our land. 

        Because if His words are abiding in us, 2 Chronicles 7:14 will be in our hearts as well: "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

- THE CONSEQUENCE OF GLORY -

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Recently I sat and observed the moon, which had not yet set, on a brilliant blue-sky sunlit day.  I am sure that you have seen the same at times.  Have you considered what can be learned from this?  After all, we know that “The heavens declare the glory of God …” (Ps. 19:1).  As earth’s moon reflects the glory of the sun, it gains its own glory, and becomes “the lesser light.”  This is a physical graphic for us in the heavens which carries a consequential, weighty, and very valuable lesson to us.  We become as the glory we reflect…

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis spoke of “good infection” and wrote: “If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. … Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? … He came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has – by what I call ‘good infection’ ”.

This dynamic extends to God’s glory – and when we understand the import, we should be left awestruck and bow in humble adoration and gratitude before our Father God. 

Glory really is infectious.  And, when we consider the Glory of our Father God, it is truly a good infection that we gain to our own eternal benefit or lose out on to our own eternal harm.

In The Weight of Glory Lewis eloquently captured the eternal import of it in our lives when he wrote:  “remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly temped to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a night mare. … There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.  Nations, cultures, arts civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.  But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

We are eternal beings – for we have been created in the “image” of God (Gen. 1:26).  Dear Reader – consider this:  we set our feet on a path in this life to what we will become in eternity.

Jesus said:  “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth …” (John 8: 31-32).  I take “know the truth” here as not merely trivially being in on some secrets, but “knowing” in the biblical sense – where the truth becomes part of us, and we become part of the truth, for we become true disciples that way – reflecting the glory of His word in our lives, becoming a “lesser light”.   Is my mind set on His eternal word, becoming part of me, or is my mind set on this world’s lies through the world’s entertainment, letting the world’s dim, temporary glory become part of me?  Either way, we are choosing a mold for all eternity

We know that our Father God is “good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lam. 3:25).  And, so it is with us – He wants to be good to us and place us in the cleft of the rock for our safety as He did for Moses (Ex. 33:22), and that as Moses’ face shone (Ex. 34:30), so may ours in eternity.

We should also solemnly hear the words of Jesus:  “… Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28 and Luke 12:5).  If we reject One Who is eternal in nature, our rejection becomes by definition an eternal rejection, and so the only appropriate punishment is eternal – an eternal destruction in an eternal hell.  We should shudder for those about us who are rejecting the Lord, and call for our nation, our culture, our neighbors to be reconciled to God through Jesus and repentance.  We should begin by examining ourselves, and repent as the Lord convicts, dying to ourselves daily. 

Choosing to allow the Lord and His glory into our lives is not only consequential, but cumulative in its effect…. Choices build on one another, taking us step by step further along a pathway to becoming one kind of creature or quite another.

So, our choice of repenting and receiving Him into our heart, and dying to ourselves daily means taking a step one day into His home and becoming then a completely perfected being in Him along with fullness of life and joy.

On the other hand, rejecting Him is rejecting an Eternal Being with an eternal offer – so in the end, a final rejection is an eternal rejection. It begins with a step by step process of making choices which removes ourselves from Him, and day by day finding it more difficult to turn back to Him because of the deceitfulness and complexity of sin and growing darkness until one day stepping into Hell having removed ourselves eternally from Him and becoming then over eternity a monstrous being of complete and eternal selfishness, hatred, loneliness and despair.

For some, because of innocence and childlike hearts, gaining intimacy with Jesus can be a fairly quick process. For others, who have made many wrong choices and have hard habits to die to, it can take time to become intimate. This is why our choice must not be put off and the first choice of dying to ourselves and partaking of Him must be made without further delay.

Let’s be real – this is not easy in our world.  It isn’t for me.  But, as I do not neglect, but abide in His Word, I have also experientially confirmed His promise of glory to me (and you) when He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). 
- Jim B.  

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

- CHUTZPAH WHEN LEAST EXPECTED -

Chutzpah When Least Expected

You would think that surely the few remaining in Judea would have learned their lesson.   They had seen the northern kingdom of Israel carried into captivity because they had chosen not to repent of following false gods.  Now they had witnessed their own kingdom of Judea and their beloved Jerusalem ravaged and their brothers and sisters and neighbors made slaves by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.   They were destitute and left with the soil beneath their feet, and the promises of their Father God to bless them if only they would now remain in land, trusting and obeying Him, forsaking the false gods of their neighboring nations. 

But, no!  Sadly we read of one of the most extreme examples of direct defiance against God displayed in God’s Word.  After the ravaging of Judea and destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldean forces of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and their nation carried off into captivity, only a very few of God’s people remained in the land.  Some of them approached Jeremiah and asked him for a Word from the Lord – so that “they might know what to do”.  They swore repeatedly that they would follow the instructions that the Lord would give them.    

It is so much like our Father God that He generously offered to bless this group of people and prosper them in the land, but they would need to stay in Judea and not go to Egypt as they intended.  They would need to trust the LORD that He would protect them in Judea and obey Him.   After what they had been through, it is reasonable to expect that this group of the remnant would humble themselves and accept the LORD’s terms for their blessing.  After all, HE IS GOD. GOD OVER ALL.  and we are, well, wee.  wee.   That they would have accepted the LORD’s offer is an entirely reasonable expectation. 

What the remnant heard though was not to their liking, and not in keeping with their intentions, so they flat out refused to obey the Lord’s message to remain in Judea, as heard through Jeremiah and chose instead to run off to Egypt where they would worship other gods and the “Queen of Heaven” instead!  Let’s face it.  Their response to the God of the Universe, who loved them and saved them on occasion without number, reeked of:  Insolence.  Audacity.  Gall.  Nerve.  Cockiness.  Cheekiness.  Brashness.  Arrogance.  Chutzpah.  Chutzpah when least expected.  Dear reader, you are right to be shocked.

Consider this:  we live in a land which has been blessed by our Father God.  Yet, just as the Judean remnant did, our nation has largely turned away from our Father God’s way for us.  Whenever we personally, or as a people, presume to know what is better for us than what our Father God has so clearly shown, we should be shocked at ourselves as well.  With our legal abortions, "pride" in abominations, our “boy is girl”, “girl is boy” “tolerance” and when we set whatever we “feel” right to be “right”, without absolutes, we exhibit the same chutzpah.  Yes, chutzpah before our Father God.   May our Father God grant us repentance.

However, before we blame calamities suffered by others on their sinful lifestyle, or lightly say that others are worse offenders, let us soberly remember the reproof of Jesus:  “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them:  do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (- Luke 13: 4-5 ESV) 

Orlando?  Every person born into this world is in need of repentance.  Jesus said:  “…this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19)  For our nation to heal, those of us who belong to the Lord need to begin by examining ourselves for complicity in the world’s ways and repenting – “…if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and repent…” 

When we as Christians do not love those who have offended us, or take lightly the entertainment of this world, rather than abiding in His Word, are such things not also an offense to our Father God worthy of repentance? 

Look, we will all one day find ourselves before our Father God and need to answer to Him.  The only possible way to prepare for that day is to take refuge in Christ – to know Him as our Savior and for Him to know us.  “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God… (- 2 Cor. 5: 19-20 ESV)  And that is for all of us.

Returning to our narrative - This true story of the Judean remnant we review now is recorded in Jeremiah chapters 42-44, where we can prayerfully consider our own lives and learn lessons from this chapter in Israel’s history, which underscores the inevitable judgment which comes to a nation and its people who willfully continue to choose to behave contrary to the expressed will of God in their lives.

How did all this come about?

In Jeremiah 42: 1-3 we hear the request of the group of remnants, led by Johanan – “pray to your God for us that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”

We know though from Jeremiah 41:17 that they were already “intending to go to Egypt…”  (And in light of their subsequent response, it appears though that they wanted the LORD’s word more as a means to hedge their bets than a sincere desire to obey and please the LORD.)

Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you.  Behold, I will pray to the LORD your God according to your request, and whatever the LORD answers you I will tell you, I will keep nothing back from you.” (– Jer.42:4 ESV)

The people swore three times… Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the LORD your God sends you to us.  Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (- Jer. 42: 5-6 ESV)

At the end of ten days the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah.  Then he summoned Johanan… and all the commanders of the forces…and all the people… (- Jer. 42: 7-8 ESV)

The Lord told the people… “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,…If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down: I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you.” (- Jer. 42: 9-10 ESV)

The Lord, as sovereign over Nebuchadnezzar, told them not to fear him… “Do not fear the king of Babylon…for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand.”  (- Jer. 42:11 ESV)

However… “But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the LORD your God… If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die.”  (- Jer. 42: 13-16 ESV)

What have learned about our Father God?  That He is sovereign over the kings of the earth (of Babylon, of us) and His judgment can and will reach anywhere (to Egypt, to us).

Jeremiah remained faithful to the Lord, reminding the people that they had asked him inquire of God’s instructions for them, had promised to do whatever He commanded, and of the consequences of disobeying.  

We need to remember that there are consequences in our lives for disobeying the Lord. 

When Jeremiah finished speaking to all the people these words of the LORD their God,…Azariah…and Johanan…and all the insolent men said to Jeremiah, “You are telling a lie.  The LORD our God did not send you to say, “Do not go to Egypt to live there,…” So Johanan and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of LORD, to remain in the land of Judah. (- Jer. 43:1-4 ESV)

Warren Wiersbe has this to say about their response: “Sometimes God’s people take this false approach in discerning the will of God.  Instead of honestly seeking God’s will, they go from counselor to counselor, asking for advice and hoping they’ll find somebody who will agree with their hidden agenda.”  

Johanan, and the people in this group of remnants were Judeans gathered near Bethlehem – not all the people in the land.  There were Judeans who remained in the land and did not go to Egypt.  In the end, those who remained were blessed, and those who accompanied Johanan in disobedience, were judged.  

And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD.  And they arrived at Tahpanhes. (- Jer. 43:7 ESV)

Think of it!  The descendants of Abraham – the “Friend of God”, descendants of those whom Moses had led out of Egypt in triumph, bringing to shame the “gods” of the Egyptians, carrying the bones of Joseph, and delivered from slavery, were returning nine hundred years later, enslaved to their own fear, and intent on worshipping the false “gods” of Egypt.  How utterly sad.  May we not turn from our walk with the Lord!

Jeremiah had been carried there with them.  Jeremiah remaining faithful, God instructed Jeremiah to prophesy, beginning with a living picture:  He had Jeremiah place stones “in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes in the sight of the men of Judah.” (- Jer. 43: 9 ESV)

And say to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant…He shall come and strike the land of Egypt, giving over to the pestilence…to captivity…and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword.  I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them…he shall clean the land of Egypt…He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis…and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.”  (- Jer. 43:10-13 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar would set up his throne over where Jeremiah had imbedded the stones.  Though the remnant had placed themselves in Egypt, they would suffer Babylonian might just as they had previously witnessed in Judea.

Sure enough, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt and defeated the Pharaoh – compare Ezekiel 29: 19-20 (and the history of Josephus as well).

Nebuchadnezzar also broke down the obelisks that stood at Heliopolis, and burnt the temples of the gods of Egypt.   One of these obelisks, re-assembled, is now on display in Central Park in New York City, and another is on the Thames Embankment in London.   (Both have been incorrectly referred to as “Cleopatra’s Needle” – though pre-dating Cleopatra).   Chutzpah on our part!   Because, the obelisks honor various Egyptian gods.  God used Moses and then Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, to humiliate the “gods”.  Who will He use next?   

Sadly, the people of the remnant responded to Jeremiah:  “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you.  But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offering to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…” (- Jer. 44: 16-17 ESV)  They reasoned that when they did so, they prospered, but suffered when they failed in this.

This of course was a direct challenge to the LORD God’s sovereignty.  Much as we do in our society.  

“No”, Jeremiah responded…. “As for the offerings that you offered in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…did not the LORD remember them?  Did it not come into His mind?  The LORD could no longer bear your evil deeds and the abominations that you committed.  Therefore your land has become a desolation…It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the LORD…that this disaster has happened to you, as at this day.”  (-Jer. 44: 21-23 ESV)  

Yet, dear reader, hear and see in the midst of all of this the hope and never-failing love the LORD offers for those who belong to Him:  The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel said:  “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon…Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him…But fear not, O Jacob my servant,…I will make a full end of all the nations to which I have driven you, but of you I will not make a full end.”  (- Jer. 46: 25-28 ESV)

The remnant of Judea that fled to Egypt in the days of Jeremiah failed to see that their disasters were punishments from the LORD for forsaking Him.  They wrongly concluded it was because they had forsaken their false gods. They feared the Chaldeans and sought comfort in false gods, in their own way of doing things.

This incident speaks directly to their relationship with the Lord.  Their father King David had shown them the value of an intimate relationship with the Lover of Our Souls.  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Ps. 23: 4…KJV)   In the darkest valleys of Judea that the remnant walked in, in their fear they imagined they were in the shadow of death at the hands of the Chaldeans, their enemies scattered throughout their valleys.  But, Who was it with them in the dark?  When they imagined footsteps behind them, they could have listened carefully for the welcoming, warm encouragement from their Lord...  “Don’t worry.  I am with you.  I carry my rod and my staff.  Reach out for the goodness and mercy I have for you.  I will bring you to a table in my house where you will dwell forever and ever.”  

And in our fears, that is our Lord’s call to us as well.   The real tragedy is when we don’t stop to listen for that word, and hear instead the clamor of our own fears and the world around us.

In our time, there are secularists who blame Christianity for many of our nation’s ills, attributing our problems and tensions in society to biblical restraints and moral absolutes.  Just like the fearful, disobedient and rebellious remnant with Jeremiah, they are seeking to overcome our problems, not in God, but from God.   

Let’s be real.  To the extent that we go along with our culture’s push against our Father God, to that extent we are practicing “Chutzpah when least expected”.  Let’s be real as we practice abiding in our Savior Jesus, and His Word, and conforming ourselves instead to the will of our Father God in our lives and the still waters He has for us.  Let’s be real as we pray: Lead me. O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.” (- Psalm 5:8 ESV)

So thankful for our Savior,

Jim B.

- JEREMIAH BUYS A FIELD -

Jeremiah Buys A Field

Dear reader, I ask you:  If you were locked up in jail, and an overwhelming enemy army fully determined to ransack and destroy the city which your cell is located in, and take everyone in your city into captivity as slaves, were in the midst of laying siege, would your mind turn to a real estate transaction?  Yet, this is what Jeremiah, though imprisoned in a palace cell, and with the Babylonians battering the gates and walls of Jerusalem, and knowing full well that the Babylonians would soon invalidate all commercial transactions, was intent on completing.   Why do you suppose he would do such a thing?   Jeremiah gives us all of the details as the Lord had him record them.  So, there is little left to the imagination - as I read the account, I can see and hear the witness of Jeremiah from his cell…

“The jailor asked me to stand aside as he ushered in Hanamel, my uncle Shallum’s son, and the witnesses he had brought with him.  ‘Buy my field in Anathoth of Benjamin.  You have the legal right.  You have the means – the palace guard has not deprived you.’ Hanamel stated forthright.”

“I followed all the procedures I knew to be proper:  Before all those assembled there as witnesses, I wrote out the bill of sale, sealed it, and weighed out on the scales Hanamel had brought, the price Hanamel demanded for the property - seventeen silver shekels.   And so it came to be that I bought the field of Anathoth from my cousin, under guard.”

“I took the deed, the sealed copy with its contract and conditions and the open copy and gave it to Baruch, son of Neriah, and told Baruch in front of all who were assembled there as witnesses:  ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Take these deeds, both this sealed deep of purchase and open deed, and put them in an earthenware vessel, that they may last for a long time.  For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.’” – Jeremiah 32: 14,15 ESV

“The LORD had told me to prepare myself, for my cousin would come to me to sell me the field, so I knew the Lord’s hand was in it.  I was locked in a cell because Zedekiah the king was not pleased with the message the LORD had given me, telling him that he and city would be handed over to the Chaldeans.  But, I had seen the Lord’s hand in my life time and time again, so I trusted.   And I prayed:  “Father God you have created the heavens and the earth by your outstretched arm…you show steadfast love to thousands…yet you bring this disaster on your people…the siege ramps are in place, on our doorsteps.  And yet, though the Babylonians will surely take this city, you also told me, Buy the field.  Do it before witnesses…”   (Dear reader – read all of Jeremiah’s prayer in Jer. 32: 17-25)

So we have the testimony of when Jeremiah obeyed and bought a field, though the enemy was at the gates, and he was in jail. (A better deal on its face for Hanamel than Jeremiah, for when the Babylonians take all the land, silver in hand would be of more value.)

And the Lord answered that He is in control, God over all, and He has had His fill with the idolatry and rebellion of His people… (Dear reader – read all of our Father God’s answer to Jeremiah in Jer. 32: 26-44)  

Yet, “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them… Fields shall be bought for money, and deeds shall be signed and sealed and witnessed… I will restore their fortunes, declares the LORD.” – Jeremiah 32: 42-44 ESV

 What do we learn about our Father God in this story?  We learn that He is in control, though it may seem not to be the case, regardless of our circumstances.   Jeremiah trusted, obeyed, and learned from our Father God’s answer that He is willing to give a sign and make a pledge (the selling of the field as an indication of times to come again).  An extraordinary thing, don’t you think, for the God of the universe?  Yet, out of His love for us, He is willing to do such things - so that we might more clearly see that He will surely keep His promises to those who belong to Him.   And what does this story say about me and you dear reader?  We need to examine our hearts before the Lord.  What it says about Jeremiah is that he was willing to trust the Lord and be obedient in spite of what he saw going on around him.  Are we?

Let’s be real – Am I willing to trust the Lord and obey, blessing His name in spite of my circumstances?  Oh – I just lost my job – without explanation.  Can I say to those around me:  “The Lord has His perfect purposes – Let’s trust Him and wait and see…”  Yes?  No?  Our circumstances will always change.  Our Father God does not change.  He sees all and is in control.     Father, I believe, help my unbelief! 

So thankful for our Savior,
Jim

- ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR, KING OF BABYLON -

One Day in the Life of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon

It was the day the fog lifted from my mind.  I found myself on all fours in the dew-laden grass.  My hair was tangled, matted and reached the ground.  My nails were long, curved and full of dirt.  What?!! But I am King! My mind was clear again.  It all came flooding back…

I recalled how I had in foolishness mused on my balcony at the greatness I had attained, boasting: “Look at this marvelous Babylon – which I have built all by myself!  Behold! My palace – full of glory yet barely able to display all of the glory and honor due to me!”  No sooner had these words passed my lips that a voice rang clear from heaven: “This is the judgement passed on you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your kingdom is taken from you. You will be driven out from among human fellowship and live with animals. You will eat grass like a cow. This discipline will last for seven years, enough time for you to learn that it is the true God on high who rules nations and installs whomever He wishes as leaders.”

Now clear thinking, I rushed back to the palace to clean myself and set things right before the Lord of All in the kingdom of Babylon – I dared not call it “my” palace now – I now saw it is a palace which God, who is God over everything and everyone has gifted me with.  All belongs to Him.  Ahhh…. I blessed the High God, thanking and glorifying God, who lives forever:

“His sovereign rule goes on and on and on into the eons,

His kingdom is never diminished.

Our life on this earth is so short,

 and not at all as significant when all is said and done,

 as we think.

It is God’s heavenly legions which keeps all maintained.

God’s purposes are never thwarted,

There is no one who can question His authority.”

 I will sing praises to Him.  In the court praises to Him.  And those with ears to hear, will wisely join in.

Oh, what a day!  From the confusing labyrinths of madness in the field, awaking to the joy of praise in the palace. 

Straight off in the courtyard I announced my return and called for my bath and groomers.  I set about arranging the festivities – not to celebrate my re-enthronement, but rather to laud, extol and bless the King of Kings! 

I summoned musicians, singers, and dancers and beseeched them to join me in praise to the God of Heaven.   I set servants free from oaths of allegiance to me and bade them join in only if their heart was in it.  As I told my story to the royal court, to friends and family and servants as well, and they could see my clarity of mind, some seemed to dare to believe, to trust, that I was no longer mad, and joined in praising the God who is over everything – as they saw He had returned my mind to me.  The call was sent throughout the kingdom for leaders and those in authority to come and see for themselves. 

And so we sang.  Late into the afternoon and evening I sang in rapture and praise and bade those who would accompany me to join in.  Singing and praising the King of Heaven:

“Everything He does is just and perfect,

and He does it in most inscrutable ways.

He knows how to humble proud men and women

into those who recognize the King of Kings.”

Dear reader, you have been reading the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon on the day his sanity was returned to him, as I see it in my mind’s eye.  It really happened.  And you can read about it for yourself in chapter 4 of the book of Daniel from the Old Testament.  Splendor was returned to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was raised again as he humbled himself, gave recognition to, and honored his creator, the true God over everything.

Our Father God used Nebuchadnezzar not only to teach Neb and his court a lesson, but us as well.

The king’s madness came because he set himself up as a god, and did not acknowledge the true God outside of his arranged political order of things as the one over all the affairs of men. 

If there is no God outside of our order of things, then our own order is as god, and creates a culture of folly rushing headlong into judgment just as Nebuchadnezzar.  In such a culture egos can accommodate depravities and allow for nonsensical thought such as boy is girl and girl is boy.  Such a culture strives to convince itself of its “tolerance” while the full fury of its intolerance crashes down on dissenters and those who hate God stumble about in utter darkness because of their blindness.

If our arranged political order of things, our culture, is god, then that means that there is no external standard by which our order may be examined.  “…But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” – 2 Corinthians 10:12b.  This is an age-old issue.  Our culture is not being “progressive”, “modern” or “enlightened” in this.  Hundreds of years after Nebuchadnezzar, it was still an issue when Paul wrote to believers at Corinth.  Yet, there has been and always will be healing and restoration for those who walk in repentance before the Lord.  “Turn and be saved” our Lord calls.

It is an age-old issue because sin is an age-old issue.  We have lost our way, and the only hope for our society is repentance and turning to Jesus the Christ, God-the-Son, and our Savior.  It was not a new issue in Jeremiah’s day when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem and Judah.   "For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are 'wise'—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not." – Jeremiah 4:22   And, "My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains. From mountain to hill they have gone. They have forgotten their fold.” – Jeremiah 50:6

Yet, our Father God’s offer stands:  “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other.” – Isaiah 45:22

And so, dear brothers and sisters - Our Father God has a beautiful offer, but our neighbors are blind, stumbling in darkness and simply can't see it. Our Father's offer is a many splendored thing, a brilliant and sunny day that our neighbors cannot see - without us sharing the light which our Father God has put in our hearts by virtue of His Son in us.  Sharing the Light - this is how we push back – this is how we return love when hatred spews our way.

Lets be real – our culture is experiencing demonic delusions – thinking of itself as its own standard and god.  There is One Who is outside of our collective order of establishment and Who is the true God and LORD of all, though so many have forgotten Him or refuse to acknowledge Him.    Do we want salvation for our culture?  We have a Savior for that.  Beginning with the Body of Christ, we believers need to show our neighbors the way and walk in personal repentance, recognizing the authority of the King of Kings in all areas of our lives, and abide in His Word – gaining a restored relationship of light, life and love with our Father God and escaping judgment.

So thankful for our Savior,

Jim

- "SCRIPTURE IS GIVEN" -

“Scripture is Given…”

Jesus said… “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8: 31, 32

Jesus also said... “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”...”These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” – John 15: 7, 11

Jesus lived and breathed the Word of God — it was part of Him.  It shaped all his thinking and acting. If we are going to walk as he walked, the same should be true of us.  

When Jesus battled with Satan, he defeated every temptation using words from the Bible.  During His ministry, His heart was full of ready quotations and allusions to the Old Testament.   The Word of God was in His heart and on His lips while He was on the cross for us - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Psalm 22:1).

What does it mean to abide in God’s Word?... It means having the words of the Bible delivered to our hearts as inspired scripture by the Spirit of God, as we open our hearts to it, allowing God’s Spirit to speak to us through it, by meditating on it, praying it back to Him, and asking God to change us and bring us into conformity with it as we apply it in our lives.  It involves a relationship with and an interaction with our Father God and Savior - the Living Word.   If we are simply reading God’s Word in a cursory manner, as it is presented to us in sermons and church bulletins, and taking snippets of it here and there, then we are missing out.  It means God’s Word is implanted in our hearts as we set aside other distractions calling to us and seek out opportunities to dwell in God’s Word regularly instead.     Jesus' words to us were conditional - "If..."

You will be much blessed in doing so.  Hear from James 1:21: “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” 

We are told, “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…” in 2 Timothy 3:16.  Or, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  When is “scripture” given to us?  I firmly believe that it is as the Bible declares it – it is by the inspiration of our Father God as He breathes it out as scripture to us.

To the extent that we open our hearts and abide in God’s Word, it is given to us as scripture by the Spirit of God, inspiring it to us.  It involves us having receptive hearts – being willing to let the Word of God spoken to us by His Spirit, conform us to His purpose in our lives – not us trying to conform the Word to our purposes.  It is then that the Word becomes “profitable”.

We need to be praying God’s Word over our lives.  When we receive the text, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”, it requires soul-searching.  “Father, show me how I have not forgiven.  Help me to be more like you.  Father, I forgive.  Help my un-forgiveness!”  And when we read, “pray for those who persecute you”, in many cases I find that I need to be asking God for the grace to do that instead of how else I might allow the darkness and deceitfulness of my heart to respond.  When I read from Psalm 1, am I asking God to reveal to me if I am “accepting the counsel of the ungodly” – and repenting of it?  Do I examine myself in the light of Psalm 1, questioning if I am “meditating day and night” in His Word or some worldly distraction?   Are we praying His Word?   I need to allow the light of the Jesus’ presence and His Word to fill my heart, change my heart, and conform myself to it. 

Dear reader, I have reminded previously:  when we receive God’s Word, we need to be asking ourselves:  What does this say about our Father God?  What does it say about me?  How do I need to change as a result? – and pray it through with your Father God and Savior.

I believe it is a true understanding that 2 Tim. 3:16 also refers to an inspiration event which first happened when scripture was infallibly recorded, by the inspiration of God, in a manner pleasing to our Father God, and God’s people inscribed God’s Word as He inspired and directed them.   Now, this truth alone is a rich treasure, greatly to be valued.

But, our Lord wants to be even richer towards us.  This statement about God’s Word being breathed out as scripture to us has deeper meaning relating to those of us who are children of God, and explains why scripture can be so precious to our hearts – why there are those of us who cannot live without abiding in it.   I believe that this also refers to an event happening again and again, when it is given as scripture to our hearts as we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, as we open our hearts to Him and search and pray His word. Then it is given to us as scripture and not just words on the page, and we have the full understanding of: “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” - “breathed out by God” to our hearts.

It cannot be given as scripture to us if our hearts are and remain closed to Him.   But, it does not need to remain just so many words on the page.  Praise be to our Father God! As we abide in Him and practice obeying His word, praying it, and planting it in our hearts, then His word is given as scripture, breathed out by God to our hearts and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness.  Our faith grows and we may be complete, equipped for every good work. So, my hope is that God’s Word will grow in all our hearts for His good purposes as we abide in Him and His Word abides in us – as we pray His Word and it lives in us with as correct of an understanding as we can have by His Spirit this side of eternity.

Our Father God has promised that His Word will not return to Him in vain.  He has a work for His word in our lives, and His call to us is clear in Hebrews chapter 4:

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”   

Let’s be real:  Our Father God wants us to “abide” in His Word, that His purpose may be complete in us.    Too many in the Body of Christ these days accept the premise that it is sufficient to be spoon fed the Word of God by Pastors and others. But our Father God wants to deal directly with us as well - that we might grow more intimately with Him, and have fuller repentance in our lives and our nation healed as we interact directly with our Lord. Are we willing to set aside distractions and do just that as we cry out and practice:  “Father may your word dwell in me!”?   Will you join me in this?
So thankful for our Savior,
Jim

Post Script:  How about taking God’s Word into our hearts and minds regularly, as events happened in a chronological order? There is a link to some interesting reading plans in the “Links” page, with pdfs available for download.  

No Country Bumpkin..."STRIKE THE PILLARS!"

"Strike The Pillars"


“You need to understand WHO I saw…

Am I to be undone?  I saw… I saw… The Lord.  The. LORD.  GOD-of-the-Angel-Armies Himself.  

HE who touches (only a slight touch) and the earth melts, sending all of its inhabitants into lament. 

HE who has the upper rooms of His palace in the highest heaven and its supports on the earth. 

HE who assembles the waters of the seas and then spoons it out into its place onto the surface of the earth.   This is Who I saw.  The LORD is His name.

Standing beside the altar, HE said:

‘Strike the Pillars!  Strike the pillars of the shrine so hard the thresholds of the doors shake and come tumbling down onto the heads of the people inside.  If anyone is left standing, I’ll kill them with the sword.  Not a single soul will get away.  No one will be able to make a run for it.  Should some strive for hades, I’ll pull them back up.  Try to reach for the stars and I’ll drag them back down.  If any think they can hide on Mt. Carmel, what?.  He who made the eye cannot see?  It’s no use!  I’ll find them.  Even those who would try diving to the bottom of the sea will find that I can send my sea creatures to swallow them whole.  And if any runaways are captured alive by their enemies, well, I’ll see to it that the sword catches up with them.  I have determined calamity will be their portion, and not good-times.’

‘You Israelites think that you are safe and secure and so much better off than the pagan nations around you.  Is there that much difference?  Don’t I deal with all nations?  I certainly do.  I see and I have my eyes fixed on the sinful ones which I intend to eradicate from the earth, though I will not wholly wipe out the descendants of Jacob.   Yet none will escape my shake up - placed together with all the nations and shaken like grain in a sieve.  The unrepentant sinners among them who say that ‘Nothing bad can happen to us’ will surely die by the sword as I have said.’ “

Reader, you have been standing in the shoes of the herder and farmer called to prophesy: Amos.  And, you have been listening to a bit of Amos’ prophecy - from what has become to us the first portion of chapter 9, in the book of Amos, in the Old Testament, in the Bible. 

Amos.  Do you know him?  (Get to know Amos and other obscure “minor” prophets and you may discover that they are not so “minor” after all.)

Amos confronted the bent priest Amaziah, who, unable to bear the truth that he was hearing, told Amos to go prophesy in Judah instead.  Amos answered:  “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.” (Amos 7:14-16 ESV)

Amaziah, fearing I think, that Amos indeed spoke God’s words and truth, shuddered in my mind’s eye and shrank back as Amos continued…  “You tell me don’t speak out for God.  Well, here’s what He wants you to know:  Your wife will prostitute herself, your children will die violently, your land given to others, you yourself will die in a foreign, perverted land, and Israel will surely be taken into exile.”

We may be tempted to say something like… “Wow.  Yeah - not so good for Amaziah.  But what has that got to do with me?”  

That strikes me as a very good question and I am glad that you have asked it.   When reading God’s Word,  I think it is very important to always ask:  What does this have to do with me?  What does this say about me?,   (To find ourselves in Amos, and how Amos’ message relates to us, we will want to read more of Amos’ message.  More on that in a bit.)

Actually, there are three simple questions that I have found so helpful to me when coming to God’s Word…

As you read, always ask yourself:

  • What does this Scripture say about God?
  • What does it say about me?
  • What needs to change as a result? (Pray the scripture regarding this)

Dear Reader – I hope that you are doing something like this as a regular practice!  You will be blessed indeed, for Father God will bring joy to your heart with His presence as you seek Him, forsake sin and walk and talk with Him.  (For me, sometimes scripture lends itself to praying the content outright, as in the Psalms, other times I need to “digest” the larger content in context, and after seeing with God’s help what it says about me and what needs to change as a result, I find myself on my knees thanking and praising God or often, repenting and asking His grace to help me overcome…)  Sometimes we may find ourselves asking these 3 questions of the Lord, and waiting and listening.

In my experience, my walk can always be brought into better step with the Lord and my heart made to be better tuned to His, through the washing of His Word, by His Spirit, when sincere, real prayer time is spent with our Lord while approaching Him humbly in heart and mind with these three simple questions.  Let’s begin with the first question.  What have we learned about God from what we have seen in Amos so far?  

How about to begin with:  Our Father God sees sin and deals with it very seriously.  He will not overlook sin forever, and will deal with it both in personal lives and with nations as well. 

Wouldn’t you agree with me that this is a lesson our nation needs to heed?  This is something we need to earnestly take to our Father God in prayer.

There is more for us to learn about our Father God in Amos.  And, I think we can find ourselves in Amos as well. 

First, please bear with me while I re-inforce (Amos did) how seriously our God views and deals with sin…

The first two chapters tells of God’s judgment by repeatedly pointing out “For three transgressions… and for four”(i.e. many sins)…”because of…”   

Then later, “flight shall perish from the swift”…”nor shall the mighty save his life.”  “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” 

The take away?  Our Father God views and handles sin seriously.  We need to examine ourselves and quickly forsake and severely deal with any sin in our lives.

We might think that we are largely off the hook – that this all mostly involves Israel and its neighbors’ wrongs.  Yet, question 2 presses more – what else does it say about me?

While I may not have sold slaves (“exiled a whole people”) to Edom, I have to solemnly examine myself, we must solemnly examine ourselves, when we read how the Israelites had a tendency to gloss over their shortcomings and not hunger and thirst for the Lord (“yet you did not return to me”)  - so much so that the Lord told them He would send a famine of hearing the words of the Lord! (8:11-12).  This could happen to us!  May it not be!

We have not exhausted Amos’ list – there is more which may apply to us.  Here is the short list of our need to examine ourselves.  (You can dig for more yourself)  From chapters 4 and 5:  Are we ever dismissive of the down and out?  Ever demanding of others?  - “bring me that drink!”   Ever put on religious shows to look good to others?  And from chapter 6 I have to ask myself do I seek pleasure and comfort for myself to the exclusion of grieving over the ruin of my country (“over the ruin of Joseph” 6:6) ?  From chapter 8 – How can I get that further edge in my business with just a little more not so obvious cheating?  What needs to change as a result of this self examination?  What must I lay before the Lord?

Yet – there is always hope shown for us in Scripture because of our Father God’s work on our behalf!  And Amos is no exception.

I have for some time thought that Isaiah’s call:  “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD; though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” might serve well as a theme for Scripture.   From the very beginning in Genesis, after the Fall, our Father God begins to reveal his plan for redemption.  And we see Jesus in prophesy, in  type and form and person throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Our Savior’s presence and handprint is everywhere.  It is an expression of our Father God’s provision and of His yearning to deal with and fix our sin issue.

So, it should not come as a surprise to find in Amos also the building crescendo expressing the “come now let us reason together” heart of our Father God crying out repeatedly (in chapter 4) because we (yes us modern believers too – not just the Israelites) are too often prone NOT to hunger and thirst for our Father God relentlessly:   “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.” “…yet you did not return to me.”  “…yet you did not return to me.”  “…yet you did not return to me.”  ….  AND then there is our Father God’s plea… (in chapter 5)  “Seek me and live”… “Seek the Lord and live”… “Seek Good and not evil that you may live.” …  

God’s heart to us is: “Seek me and live.”  After hearing this, surely hope swells in our hearts for us to confidently approach our Father God in prayer!

Amos cried out to the Lord in chapter 7:  “O Lord GOD, please forgive!”  And immediately we see: “The LORD relented”  And again, “O Lord GOD, please cease!”  And,  “The LORD relented…”  

Yet, God the Father has a standard that we cannot attain to:  a “plumb line” (7:8) that the Lord showed Amos.    The nation was so far out of plumb that God would tear it down.  Sin would no longer be overlooked.  Is America approaching being that far out of plumb?  On a personal level, we would be without hope except that God the Father sent God the Son to satisfy that standard for us at Calvary.  Having paid for our shortcomings, God the Son presents us straight as the “plumb line” to God the Father when we repent and trust Jesus as our Savior!     

Further, “And on that day, declares the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.” (Amos 8:9 ESV)  This prophecy may have additional fulfillment, but was also certainly fulfilled at Calvary - the handprint and foreshadow of Jesus in Amos – our hope and the heart of God expressed.  How does this answer question 1?  Will I not bow before Him?

And our Father God looks into the future for Israel as well bringing hope at the end of chapter 9:  “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches (v.11)…”I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,…(v. 14) “I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them, says the LORD your God.”

A testimony to the faithfulness of our Father God when we come to Him in prayer.  That is our Father God!  

Let’s be real - We need to cry out daily in earnest prayer seeking personal repentance, repentance as the Body of Christ (“If my people…”), that our nation may be healed and be granted repentance and faith again.

Father God grant us repentance and faith - bring us into your light out of our present darkness!

And in whatever comes in the days ahead, in our personal lives may we always appropriate His Grace and be found faithful and ready - walking, speaking and thinking in a manner pleasing to our Lord and Savior Jesus.

 

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”  - Amos 5:24

 

So thankful for our Savior,

Jim

 

 

Jesus' Shocking Metaphor - "EAT MY FLESH"

"Eat My Flesh..."

Jesus wants a relationship with us. But not just any relationship will do. Not such a relationship for example as a casual one we easily cultivate with our neighbors.

Hear Jesus out: “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” – John 6: 53-56

Our Lord loves metaphor. And, here His use of metaphor is abundantly clear – after all, He wasn’t asking His Jewish audience to cannibalize Him on the spot. So, what then? What is the meaning of the metaphor?

Is He asking his listeners to partake of communion? How can this be? Because, remember - no church exists yet.

Perhaps He is speaking prophetically... Is He speaking prophetically then of communion?

Seems reasonable, but consider this - I know Jesus to be sincere. Entirely sincere. Utterly sincere. For Jesus to be sincere means that what He said had to have real and sincere meaning to those listening to Him at that time. Jesus gives a sincere offer to his Jewish listeners to respond immediately in order to live – and to have this life He is speaking to them about, from that time, that moment on.

So no - Jesus' sincerity demands it - Jesus is not demanding that his listeners wait and hope that they might somehow live long enough to participate in communion in a future church. Understanding that what Jesus is saying is said in all sincerity, this metaphor cannot refer to communion.

Lets not forget though that communion is a special and precious time to bring to mind our Lord's sacrifice - His body broken, and His blood shed for us, redeeming us and establishing a new covenant. Christ is present in our praying, singing, breaking, eating and drinking, as He is always. This is possible by His Spirit and the opening of our hearts in faith - and even that faith is a gift from our Father God so that no one of us can boast.

The bread and wine represent God’s offer of Christ to us, and as we receive them, in faith, we are gratefully remembering and accepting Christ's sacrifice of Himself for us.

So, I believe that is how in the cup we participate in the blood of Christ. And, the bread that we break is a participation in the body of Christ (ref. 1 Cor. 10:16) - a profound spiritual participation and bonding. We are "bought with a price" and we need to remember - Jesus asked us to do this in remembrance of Him. It is predicated on a relationship with Him.

We must not think that we can live without regard to Him, with no relationship with Him, and then think that we are partaking of Him merely by participating in a communion ceremony. And, communion cannot be what Jesus was referring to with His Jewish listeners, remember?

So, the point is, Jesus had something else in mind in John chapter 6: “…unless you eat …you will have no life in you…” Talk about significance! What then?

What I believe is this:   We need to be all in with Jesus – a profound union, internalizing and becoming radically different… We need to be found in such intimacy with Jesus – that it is as though we are eating His flesh and drinking His blood so to speak – and be careful not to exchange this particular intimacy Jesus refers to here with anything else, as some have suggested.

For us to have life, Jesus demands such deep joining with us that only shocking metaphoric language such as this will suffice… “eat my flesh…” We need to take Him in – He needs to become part of us. Jesus wanted His listener’s to receive Him - to partake of Him…“But to all who did receive Him…He gave the right to become children of God…” – John 1:12

Hear the heart-cry of our Lord in His prayer (John 17:23): "...I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me..."

Now the terms used in the New Testament regarding Jesus begin to make sense when talking about “putting on Christ” (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27…); about “abiding in Him and He in us”(John 15; 1 John 4:13 and elsewhere); about our coming to “have the mind of Christ”(Phil 2:5) and so forth.

Lets be clear - this is not simply a matter of we read what Christ says and do our best to carry them out. No, there is more to it! He becomes part of our being. The Tri-One God is at work with me, beside me, within me. So that when I bend my knees in prayer before God the Father, Christ is beside me and His Spirit within me, changing me. Jesus Christ, Creator, risen and living Savior, intervening in my inner being, killing the old natural self in me as I choose to die to myself, and replacing it with the kind of self He has as I partake of Him.

When we meet Jesus face to face, prayerfully it will be a fuller revelation to us of our best of friends, our Savior and Lover of our Souls – He whom we have known intimately because we have experienced partaking of Him in this life. Prayerfully, hopefully we have experienced Him in such an experiential way. Otherwise, do we not risk being one of those to whom He says “I never knew you”?

He wants intimacy with us. Intimacy - He wants us to be constantly casting our cares on Him, forsaking sin and dying to ourselves, daily internalizing His word – Jesus reminded the enemy of our souls that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God…” (Matt. 4:4). And here in John 6, verse 63 “…The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” And in verse 57 and 58 “…whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from Heaven.” So, as we are intimate with Him in this real sort of way, we live. Why? Because in Him is life. We can only participate in this life when we are close to Him and taking Him in.

Look, when I am out camping and chilled at night, I get close to the fire to get warm. So it is here. In Jesus is life. If I want His life, I must get close. I need to take Him in. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that whoever drinks from Him would no longer thirst. In Him is this well of life – and if we want joy, peace, eternal life… we need to be drinking of Him. To choose not to drink of Him is to wither and die like a plant without water.

Choosing to partake of Him or not is not only consequential, but cumulative in its effect…. Choices build on one another, taking us step by step further along a pathway to becoming one kind of creature or quite another.

So, our choice of repenting and receiving Him into our heart, and dying to ourselves daily means taking a step one day into His home and becoming then a completely perfected being in Him along with fullness of life and joy.

On the other hand, rejecting Him is rejecting an Eternal Being with an eternal offer – so in the end, a final rejection is an eternal rejection. It begins with a step by step process of making choices which removes ourselves from Him, and day by day finding it more difficult to turn back to Him because of the deceitfulness and complexity of sin and growing darkness until one day stepping into Hell having removed ourselves eternally from Him and becoming then over eternity a monstrous being of complete and eternal selfishness, hatred, loneliness and despair.

For some, because of innocence and childlike hearts, gaining intimacy with Jesus can be a fairly quick process. For others, who have made many wrong choices and have hard habits to die to, it can take time to become intimate. This is why our choice must not be put off and the first choice of dying to ourselves and partaking of Him must be made without further delay.

When I was a young man in the military, I participated in prisoner of war and survival training. After weeks of a near starvation diet, I could not eat substantial food again immediately. It took some time. So it is spiritually speaking when considering partaking of such a substantial feast as Jesus offers of Himself. For some, it may take longer for the Grace of God to become effectual and true repentance gained. So, don’t count on any last-minute-before-dying-turn-around. The good news is that God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So, ask God to grant you repentance today, and begin feasting on Him before it is too late.

Repenting, receiving Jesus and partaking of Him, is a work of God’s grace in our hearts as we open ourselves up to Him. Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 reads: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is God’s power granted to us to overcome sin in our lives when we choose Jesus. Our faith will be shown to be real and true by the works that will be manifest in our lives as we feast on Jesus – counting on Him. By the gift of His Son, God the Father can forgive us, and as we choose to receive His Son, by grace He changes our hearts and we desire to live unto Him. Our lives will manifest the fruit and works of true faith. But it is not our works which saves us - we are saved by the sacrifice of Christ - we are bought by His blood.

Ezekiel 36 declares that God says: “I will give you a new heart,… and I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes…” Romans 6:14 explains – “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law, but under grace.”

What? It is like the steel flag pole / steel railing phobia. The school boy in Minneapolis is told not to stick his tongue on the steel railing in the school-yard during the freezing winter cold. So, now, because he has been told not to, he wants to all the more! And sure enough, with tongue stuck to the railing he now has nothing but painful decisions ahead of him, unless he can get some help. This is an example of the Law at work.

And Grace? If you change the school-boy’s heart, so that he doesn’t want to stick his tongue on the steel railing, then he is in no danger. That is what God’s grace does for us, when we partake of Jesus – it changes our hearts and our desires by His Spirit within us. We become new from the inside. Jesus makes grace possible by purchasing us with His body and blood. It is what He called a “new covenant”, changing our hearts and making it possible to please Him, fulfilling the law, though we are no longer under the law.

Matthew chapter 3 tells us that John the Baptist was the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord: make his paths straight.” What does this refer to? – “make His paths straight”? For His way to be in our hearts, we must prepare our hearts with repentance - then, by His grace living and overcoming in such a way that the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts are pleasing to Him. For example, we need to read His word with not just repetitive habit - in one ear and out the other, but read while praying God’s word and applying it to our hearts every day – so that for example when we read in Psalm 19, “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you…” we can ask our Father God to make it so – we can from our heart pray to Him: “Father forgive me for the vile things I have said and thought… forgive me for my selfish intentions… may your will be done and may you be pleased with my words, thoughts, intentions and actions towards others. Give me a heart full of worthwhile words and intentions…”

Get it? We need to be praying His word, and by doing so, further taking Him in! Are you praying a bit of God’s word daily and often? Hear what Jesus said: “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Taking Him in. And as we take Him in, we are given life by His word in us – we live by them.

So, He desires that we partake of Him and have intimacy with Him, not a mere impulse of the moment – as seen in John 6: 14-15

He desires that we partake of Him and have intimacy with Him, not seeking to have merely our personal wants, e.g. health and wealth, IRAs established – as seen in John 6:24-27.

He desires that we partake of Him and have intimacy with Him, not merely religious performance – as seen in John 6: 28-29. Not us responding, “I’m a nice person” “I follow along with everything in my church.” But rather by believing in Him, by embracing what Jesus said: “Unless you eat my flesh…”

He desires that we partake of Him and have intimacy with Him, not merely asking for signs and wonders, as in “If He provides a job, changes this situation… then I will trust Him”… - as seen in John 6:30-31.

He desires that we partake of Him and have intimacy with Him, not that we look for mere ease and comfort – as seen in John 6:35-36.

I want to feed on Jesus. To live, we must – Jesus has told us so. Further, our complete satisfaction is in Him – Bread of Life, and Dispenser of Living Water.

As David expressed in Psalm 34, I want to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” Won’t you join me?

Yours in Jesus,

Jim

 

- "ON THIS ROCK" -

"On This Rock…"

Christians readily recognize that when Christ said, “On this Rock, I will build my church…" (Matt. 16), He was using metaphor. That is, there is no literal rock - (as in the dome of the rock) wherein he has built a church. Christians do not generally challenge the understanding that metaphor is used here – but rather, the meaning of the metaphor. Who is the “Rock”? Is it Peter? It certainly appears to be Peter at first glance – but is it? And does this understanding then square with the rest of Scripture?

I have been praying and wondering in my heart regarding this. If this is of interest to you, read on, and I will share with you.

As I meditated, my thoughts first turned to another incident described in John chapter 2 where Jesus cleanses the temple. The Jewish leaders said to Jesus: “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?”

We know that our Lord was using metaphor, and the “temple” He referred to was His body. John tells us so: “But He was speaking about the temple of His body” (Jn. 2:21).

What Jesus said in effect was: “If you kill me, I will rise again from the grave.” This was no shallow boast. These words came from God our Savior, Jesus, a lover of truth and sincerity, a hater of shams and hypocrisies and futile boasts.

But, the truthful words spoken out of inner humility, and meant to enlighten and save were lost on the hearers – men full of ulterior motive, arrogance and hatred. The Jewish leaders watching and listening were ever hearing but never choosing to hear, ever seeing, but never choosing to see. Never is anyone as blind as someone who chooses not to see. For we know they got it to an extent, because we have the record in Matthew 27 of their plea before Pilate after the death of Jesus: …The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise’. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure...” (Mt. 27:62-64).

But even if they did get it to an extent, they did not believe, they chose not to hear, and later twisted their testimony regarding Jesus’ words at Jesus' hearing before Caiaphas to serve their own selfish purpose.

Now... I want you to pray (as is your common practice, I trust) and ask the Lord to enlighten you and guide you regarding this portion of His word by His Spirit – because all Scripture is given by inspiration of God – 2 Timothy 3:16.

(I believe it is a true understanding that 2 Tim. 3:16 refers to an inspiration event which first happened when scripture was infallibly recorded, by the inspiration of God, in a manner pleasing to our Father God. Now, this thought alone is a rich treasure, greatly to be valued. But, our Lord wants to be even richer towards us. This statement has deeper meaning relating to those of us who are children of God, and explains why scripture can be so precious to our hearts – why there are those of us who cannot live without it. I believe that this also refers to an event happening again and again, when it is given as scripture to us in our hearts as we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, as we open our hearts to Him and search and pray His word. Then we have the full understanding of: “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” - “breathed out by God” to our hearts.)

It is not scripture to us if our hearts are and remain closed to Him. But, praise be to our Father God! As we abide in Him and open our hearts to obeying His word, then His word is given as scripture, breathed out by God to our hearts and is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness, our faith grows and we may be complete, equipped for every good work. So, my hope is that God’s word will grow in all our hearts for His good purposes as we abide in Him and His word abides in us – as we pray His word and it lives in us with as correct understanding as we can have this side of eternity by His help.

Now, after prayer and seeking the Lord, read the narrative in scripture and try to visualize the scene. What do you see? In my mind’s eye, I do not see Jesus extending His arm and gesturing to Herod’s temple with His hand as He speaks. No! Rather, I see our Savior, holding His hand to His chest and saying “Destroy this temple…” – placing His open hand on His chest, earnestly gesturing that He meant His body. And even some of the listeners with ulterior motives got it. Now look, we have the inspired text handed down to us, and not a video. So, I cannot know that Jesus placed His hand on his chest and referred to His body – but that is what I see in my mind’s eye. And, I do not expect you to trust my mind’s eye – but to trust God’s word – so here we remember, John tells us plainly that Jesus spoke of His body (Jn. 2:21) when He said, “Destroy this temple...”

This is to point out that our Lord loves using metaphor, wonderful enlightening ways for us to learn: the “bread” of life, the “light” of the world, “living water” the “body” of members in Christ as metaphor for the “church” – the group of true believers in Christ today, known to our Father God, “salt” of the earth, the “harvest”, “leaven” and so forth. Now, it is apparent and I believe all would agree that our Lord was using metaphor when He referred to “Rock” and had the “On this Rock” discussion with Peter.

Many seem to think that when Jesus said "upon this Rock" that He meant on Peter. But, after examining the Lord's word to us, we can reasonably understand from Scripture that when our Lord said “on this Rock I will build my church”... our Lord was referring to building on He Himself, as the cornerstone, the foundation of the church.   But, again, don’t take my word for it. Let’s examine God’s word...

Peter got it. Peter himself understood what Christ meant. Listen to Peter’s testimony as inspired by the Lord – (Peter proclaimed that Christ was the cornerstone, the foundation, and that he himself, and the rest of God's Chosen Ones, are as living stones being built up on that cornerstone). Hear Peter’s confession in 1 Peter 2:3-8 (ESV)….

3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Paul also said in agreement in I Corinthians 3:11 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Other scriptures back this up quite solidly. Isaiah 28:16 "Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste."

Jesus Himself quoted Isaiah in Matthew 21:42" Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."

And Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians 2:20 -"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

Also consider: has Peter been identified as head of God's church in scripture? No, Christ is clearly the Head as we read in Ephesians 5:23 "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body".

But what about the discussion Jesus had with His disciples and recorded in Matthew 16: 13-20? In addressing Peter, it seems contradictory to what we have just seen. Or is it?

Now, our Lord had named Andrew’s brother Simon, Peter (Greek) or Cephas (Aramaic), because I believe that our Lord saw solid rock traits in Peter, and knew how Peter would greatly serve His purposes.

Some have said that “Peter” means “little” rock and our Lord referred to Himself as the “big” rock in Matthew 16:18. I have formally studied N.T. Greek and I just can’t see it – “little” and “big” is just not there.

But, in all fairness, we must recognize that the implication is there in this sense: “Peter” is “Petros” the name form of the word meaning “a rock” (masc.), or “a stone” whereas our Lord referred to Himself simply as “petra” – the word meaning “rock” (not in a name form) or “bedrock”.  In Matthew 16:18 think: “Peter” (Greek Petros) = a name meaning a specific stone or rock. Then, on this “Rock” (Greek petra) = a rocky crag or bedrock. That’s about all we can get out of the “rock” word – just as you read in English – without a “little” or “big”. Our translations are correct.

So, what was going on in this conversation? I believe that our Lord used metaphor as He often did, and in a manner similar to what I believe happened at the temple. And Peter, true to the name our Lord gave him, was solid. He got it. When our Lord asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Our Lord responded: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, by my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter” (as if to say, Bravo for you! Kudos to you! My Father has revealed this to you. Bottom line, in the end you are a rock indeed as I named you) Then our Lord went further: “and on this rock” (here, from our comparison with other scripture, I believe our Lord may have placed His hand on His chest, or not, we cannot know.   But, I believe He indicated Himself and that Peter and the other disciples got it - as shown in other scripture - 1 Peter 2, Ephesians and elsewhere as we have reviewed)… “and on this rock I will build my church…” This is what I have come to believe and why.

Our Lord then gave Peter great encouragement and charged Peter with great responsibility because our Lord knew that Peter would have the Holy Spirit with him, strengthening him, and Peter would serve our Lord for His purposes greatly in the years to come.

Look, we have the words of the conversation recorded for us in God’s word. We don’t have a video. But, we can petition our Father God to give us a correct understanding of His word. Seek Him in this. He will guide you into all truth as you earnestly seek Him.

In my mind’s eye I see our Lord commending Peter for his faith and recognizing Peter for who he was – “Blessed are you… you are Peter…” Then, “on this rock (indicating Himself) I will build my church…” That is what I see in my mind’s eye.

But, again, I don’t expect you to trust my mind’s eye.   Nor do I want to.   This is not a matter of how we "feel".   We need to trust God’s Word, and His Spirit guiding us through His Word, as He has promised.  Does Scripture support this suggestion that our Lord told Peter He would build His church on Himself?  I believe we can confidently say, yes indeed it does, as we have seen.

I was recently reminded by a dear brother how our Lord used Peter mightily… Peter preached and 3000 on one day believed, repented, turned to the Lord and lived. People were healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them. Peter, an important rock in that scenario of living rocks…

I was just reminded today by that same dear brother in our Lord of that scene of the New Jerusalem in Revelation chapter 21, coming down out of heaven from God.. “And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, an on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (v. 14). Our Lord has certainly used His apostles in building for His purposes.

But, our Lord wants to use us too. The Lord wants to bless us by using us and giving us the privilege of being rocks in that clear picture given to us in 1 Peter 2:5, of the house being built.

I am asking the Lord, by His grace to grant that I please Him from here on out, being a lively stone in that building up of that spiritual house, of His living church - the body of true believers. How about you? Wouldn’t you like to join me in that?

Yours in Jesus,

Jim

- "WITNESSES TO OUR FAITH" -

Witnesses to Our Faith - Hebrews chapter 11 and 12...

Let's get real with what is shared with us in Hebrews chapters 11 and 12.

We see evidence of faith presented by a large number of (“a great cloud of”) witnesses. These folks, endeared to the heart of our Father God by their faith, testify by their lives to the faith that we too need to exhibit. Their lives and actions are a testimony to faith, and so they are witnesses to the faith. They are witnesses in the classic sense – as though called into court to present evidence and testify regarding their faith. How so?

We see this train of thought begin with convincing forcefulness at the beginning of chapter 11 when we are told that faith is “… the conviction of things not seen. For by it (their faith) the people of old received their commendation” (ESV). They are witnesses because their lives testify to the evidence of faith exhibited in their actions for which they receive commendation.

So we begin by seeing what Noah, Abraham, and Sarah did to exhibit faith. Then, in verse 13, “having acknowledged” … “who speak thus” (that is, doing the things that a good witness does to testify to the faith). And, we see the life examples and witness to the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the people of God, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets and more – “who through faith” …

The thought is continued when we read at the end of chapter 11, that “all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (that is, did not see the promise of God’s salvation by faith to all, including the Gentiles, fulfilled in their lifetime). “… that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (that is, that the promise of salvation by faith is perfected, completed, in us in these latter days as we clearly see the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ, and the full number of those called to the faith are brought in.)

And so, because of this (chapter 12 “Therefore”...), and this great cloud of witnesses to the faith, chapter 12 continues “let us also…run with endurance… (exhibiting the same faith we have such ample testimony to and witness of). How are we exhorted to do so? By looking to and praying to the saints of old, or to those saints who have passed on before us? No! We are to look to Jesus! “Looking to Jesus.. (12:2)”. To consider Him… and so “See to it that no one fails to obtain the Grace of God (12:15)”.

We ought not be looking to passed on saints as though we want to please them or look for their help. And we ought not consider them to be some sort of cosmic cheerleading section for us.   Because, as we have observed, their lives are not shown here in these chapters of Hebrews to be witnesses of us – but witnesses to faith, their lives testifying to and given as examples of faith. By this we have motivation to have faith and endure in a like manner – but looking to Jesus.

At the Transfiguration, when Peter suggested memorial tents to include Moses and Elijah, the suggestion was nipped in the bud. If our Lord had desired it, the opportunity was at hand, but Peter, James and John were not instructed to erect memorials then or later and the disciples were not asked to have Moses and Elijah pray for them (as we are instructed to have brothers and sisters present with us on earth pray for each other) at that time or later. Rather, a voice from out of the cloud instructed them: "This is my beloved Son, listen to Him." The disciples were told to even hold the news of the event until after the resurrection - this, I believe, so that our focus will be on our Lord and His glory, and on His provision, and His desire for us to look to Him.

We were already told in chapter 11, verse 6 that “whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him”. Our Father God wants us to seek Him, not His saints (however precious in His sight). He wants us to seek Him. He wants us to come directly to Him – and so our Lord taught us to pray “Our Father in Heaven…”. Chapter 12 concludes – “… and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship.”

I am asking my Heavenly Father to help me in all this. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,

Jim

 

- "LIVING BY FAITH"... -

2 Timothy...
Living By Faith - Visualizing what God intends
in a given situation & acting in harmony with it.

Dear Reader - I am going to be making comments and asking questions - pay attention! It relates to me. It may relate to you. Our text is 2nd Timothy. Please read from the inspired text as we go along.

Chapter 1 vs. 1,2: Paul greets Timothy, who we see is precious to him. Why is Timothy precious to Paul? Give consideration to this as we continue in the text. Paul desires that Timothy have grace, mercy and peace from God the Father, the head of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3) and from Christ Jesus, our head - our Lord. That is the order of a proper relationship. Take notice that Paul is not desirous that Timothy's walk be without hardships or trials. Not at all. But rather grace - the power and will to do God's will, mercy and peace, in which we are not found lacking when we are properly related to Him - the source of our strength, God the Father and Christ Jesus, one and the same.

vs. 3-5: Do we serve our God with a clear conscience? Can we honestly say that we are in the service He desires of us? Is there value in any other "service" we come up with? Are we in prayer night and day?! And then do we love someone enough that we constantly remember a brother, or sister in our Lord then? How much more of an impact would our faith have on this world if Christians everywhere would join in supporting another in this sort of fervent prayer? I need to find someone whom I love enough that I will bring them and their ministry before my God constantly. And so do you.

When others consider your faith and mine, do they recall our tears? When was the last time you or I shed tears in our service for God? Ok, so you put hours of study into preparing for your service, but how many tears? and so you have a grandmother or mother who is a woman of God? If so, do you thank God for her? You better. And often. She no doubt has had much influence in your acceptance of God's grace in your life.

vs. 6-8: Let us take the gift of faith which God has given to us and polish it until we can wholeheartedly act in harmony with what we see God intends to do in a given situation. We need to be glad to join in suffering or being praised for the gospel of our Lord.

vs. 9-10: For who among us can say he has been called to this holy life because of what he has done? Rather it is God's very purpose and grace revealed in Christ Jesus our Savior which has brought us this life and light.

vs. 11-12: So, what a privilege to be part of His program! Let us realize that it is only natural that we suffer for Him. A servant is not greater than His master. Yet by knowing Him, we need not be ashamed, for we know that He is able to guard that which we have entrusted to Him. If indeed, we have entrusted it to Him?

vs. 13,14: We will be able to guard sound teaching we have received with he help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us! Praise the Lord. He himself helps us guard this good deposit entrusted to us. What a sober responsibility, yet what an encouragement for those who diligently study God's Word.

vs. 15-18: Will you be remembered as someone who searched hard for God's helpers so that we can help them in many ways and provide refreshment for them when it is inconvenient, or full of trials or even putting ourselves in jeopardy? Should that time come for you and me, will we act in harmony with what we know God would have us to do or will I or you be one of the deserters? Let us determine now, in all earnestness, that by God's grace we will do what He would have us to do. Praise God! And shame be on me if I can't earnestly commit this matter my Lord right where I am now.

Chapter 2 vs. 1: Our hearts are far from the things of God - we're interested in money, good meals, and pretty homes, in living as we please. Would we rather just get angry when we're not treated as fairly as we think we should be - when things don't work out as we expected them to? This is when you and I need to bow our heads before our Lord and humble ask for His grace in our weak, petty lives. This is getting real, the nitty-gritty, the meat of how we are to act in harmony with what God would have us do in a given situation.

vs. 2: Am I allowing the truth to control me? Are we entrusting the truth we have learned to apply in our lives to reliable men (i.e. men who aren't afraid to let the truth control them also), who will be qualified to teach others?

vs. 3,4: Are you a veteran? When we were in the military - did we expect gentleness and kindness from enemy forces? Should we expect gentleness from Godless people? And, did I get involved in civilian affairs as I pleased? Did we put on our uniforms and join in anti-war demonstrations? No! Why? Because we were soldiers - belonging to a larger organization. Do we become involved in the things of this world? No! Why? Because we have been bought with a price. We do not belong to ourselves. We are children of, and belong to, a living God.

vs. 5-7: When we work hard, and shoot the basketball according to the rules of God's game - can we expect our Lord Himself will reward us? (I hope you are answering "Yes! Amen".)

vs. 8-9: If I should ever have the privilege of being chained for my Savior - I pray that I remember this: His Word is not chained - and my Lord is risen, alive, a descendant of David - He is to be King and then who will be in chains? Satan. Praise our God!

vs. 10: We need to plead, entreat, work hard, bear aching backs, endure, - that others chosen too may obtain salvation in our Lord Christ Jesus.

vs. 11: Here are contrasts for us to realize in our lives... We die with Him - we live with Him; We endure - we reign with Him; We deny Him - He denies us; We are unfaithful - He remains faithful. We need to often remind ourselves of these things and not quarrel and bicker over words in the living out of it all.

vs. 15: Are we doing our best, working hard, splitting a gut, putting calluses on our hands, and handling accurately what God has given to us? If I don't care this much, do I deserve to be called by His name, in His service?

vs. 16-18: Do I avoid getting involved in careless, agreeable chatting with those who have wandered away from the truth? How about enjoying the dialogue of Godless movies? It is like the poison gangrene, slowly claiming clean tissue which is exposed to it. Our indulging will replace godliness with ungodliness in our lives.

vs. 19: We find in God's Word the answer to Godless doctrines and philosophies thrown at us. God to God's Word. Search for your solid foundation. Do you spend time in God's Word daily? How much? Does it control and mold you and me? Do we allow God's word to change our lives?

vs. 20,21: We need to get the desires of the world, it's perverse ways, and warped truths out of us. Am I looking to my Savior and experiencing His cleansing continually so that I may be useful to Him?

vs. 22-26: Are we following this straightforward instruction from our God? How I need this advice! Stubborn, vile, me and you. What a thrill too that God may grant us a part in leading another to a knowledge of the truth. Praise God! Let us pursue His righteousness.

Chapter 3 vs. 1-9: Look at this list of Godlessness in the last days. Does this describe people today? In your society and mine? It sure does! Have nothing to do with them. Their folly will some day be clear to everyone.

vs. 10-13: Everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ will be persecuted. Count on it from here on out. The ungodly will abound in ungodliness. So have we no hope? We have every hope! We have the victory, we have Jesus Christ, who will deliver us from all, in the end, just as He did for Paul. Jesus Christ will be able to make suffering for Him a joy for us.

vs. 14-17: Are we continuing in God's Word - in what we have become convinced of? Are we? Because all of God's Word is from His very inner being, and is useful so that we might be thoroughly equipped for every good work of our Lord.

Chapter 4: This is Paul, a man whom God had entrusted much of the revelation of His Word, speaking to a young man he loves very much, concerning his ministry. It is a charge to this young man Timothy, but no less of a charge to us - for our God was using Paul, His personality and situations in pouring His Spirit through him to revelation to us. Are we taking heed to the charge here??

vs. 1,2: Paul gives his charge: Preach the Word... Is this what we image or think would be a nice thing to say? No - but what God has to say.

So, must I prepare? Yes - in season and out of season - that is, any and all the time! That takes hard work and persistence. Is that what we are doing? Are we sweating, working hard to be ready to give God's Word to those who need to hear? If not, we'd better get on the ball, hadn't we?

We are to correct - how can we do this unless we know God's Word well?; rebuke - how can we do this unless we are being controlled by God's Word? So, does it? And, encourage. Praise God! We have everything to be encouraged about if we are on His side - our God is the God of all comfort.

How are we to do this? With great patience and careful instruction. We need to look to our God here - all true patience, when tried hard, is of Him.

Also look! - "Careful instruction". God's Word is holy and inspired - a solemn responsibility. So, we need to be careful that our instruction is not given in a flippant, light-hearted manner. Is that what we are doing? We are dealing with the souls of men here. In vs. 1 Paul has given us the context in which he is giving us these exhortations. It is not something he has dreamt up, but rather it is in the Presence of God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ - Who will come and judge soon! Oh! Are we urgently, earnestly taking such as this to heart, in an immediate, all diligent manner? It is our God's very program.

vs. 3: Here's another why for us. The time will come when men simply will not put up with sound teaching. Incredible? No, that's the way the heart of man has always been. Desiring to suit themselves they will gather their own teachers who will teach what they want to hear. So, are we "correcting", "rebuking" and "encouraging"?

vs. 4: These people will want to listen to myths! When all the while, we have the very Word of God! What are we doing with God's Word? Are we busy preaching and sharing it? Or, are we allowing people to listen to myths instead?

vs. 5-8: So, what are we to do? Keep our heads, and endure hardship for the sake of these very things - these very important, solemn things. We need to ask our Father God to teach us DETERMINATION - Purposing to accomplish God's goals in God's time regardless of the opposition. And, one day (vs. 8) we will find that there is a crown of righteousness laid up for all of us who desire to see our Lord. Truly, he who does God's work gets God's pay. That beats union wages any day. Dear reader, are you desiring to see the appearance of our Lord? Are you, am I, involved in a program such as we have seen here? Are we fighting the "good fight"?

vs. 9-10: Are we asking the Lord to teach us ENDURANCE? That is, the inner strength to withstand stress to accomplish God's best. The Lord Himself was with Paul through all His trials, that His will might be accomplished. It is not necessary for us to repay harm. That is the Lord's work. He will bring us safely to His kingdom. Do you believe that? Then, let us live by it. It is but our work and understandable duty to be but faithful to Him as He grants us the grace. (cf. 2 Cor. 9:8).

vs. 19-22: Paul closes with kind greetings, desiring that the Lord and Grace be with Timothy. Would we get far in our efforts without such sweetness from our loving Lord?

I am asking my Heavenly Father to help me in all this. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,

Jim

- "A TWO-WAY STREET" -

A Two-way Street

Mark 15 records it: the veil of the temple torn from top to bottom – we have access to our Righteous Father God. Amen. Amen. What a blessing! What a cause for celebration. But, that is only half the story. It is not a one-way street. It is not only a picture of our access to Him – but also of He to us! His Spirit sent to us, spread abroad in our hearts… we, refined for God’s glory! A two-way street.

This has always been the heart of our God: reaching out to us. He is our Redeemer who lives in us as believers, as our Comforter. He is the God who wants to come to us, teach us and “lead you in the way you should go.” - Isaiah 48:17b

The nagging assertion of the Jewish people (and all of us for that matter) has been something like what is expressed in Isaiah 40:27… “My way is hidden from the LORD and my claim is ignored by my God” And our Father God’s answer time and time again has been to patiently point out – “Can’t you see? Don’t you understand? It is you who have forgotten me!”

Please turn in your bibles and consider Isaiah chapter 48. The essential meaning of the chapter can be capsulated like this:

“Oh house of Jacob (and us), your pious words are only a front; I know you as you really are! The things I have done in the past, I always had to tell you before they happened so that you would not give the credit to your idols (1-5). There is so much more I might tell you. But can I? No! And why not? Because you would mock my treasured thoughts by casually saying, ‘Oh, I knew about that!’ As a rebel from your birth, you deserve my wrath. But I will restrain it. Why? Certainly not because of you; but because MY NAME is at stake! (6-11)… I still love you; I will bring you out of Babylon. I will teach you. I will show you the way…But oh, if you had only really responded, it could have been so perfect (12-19). But let’s forget that now… get happy; I am still your Redeemer (20-21).

Isaiah 48:20b: “…the LORD has redeemed…” The veil is torn. We can come before Him. He comes to us. Jesus’ redemption and fulfillment of the law was perfect in His Father God’s eyes.

And as He reaches out to us, He does so as He is: Three in One. Don’t let anyone tell you that the trinity is not expressed in the O.T.! We see this unique Trinitarian passage in verse 16: “And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.”

I cannot take this as Isaiah suddenly finding his voice and interjecting his own words at the end of verse 16, as some say.

For one, punctuation in the earliest papyrii is largely interpreted for the sake of convention and placed into our translations. That is one of the aspects of my Greek N.T. that I learned when I minored in N.T. Greek. As I review my Septuagint (that Greek translation of the O.T. that our Lord quoted from) in this verse, the last part of the verse is an extension of the first part of the verse. (As the King James translation of this verse constructs it.)

Also then, consider the use of “And”. When I use “And…”, it is because I have already been speaking for a bit, extending my thought. This is everyone’s habit, by and large. It is my habit with English. It is my habit while speaking and thinking in Korean too, which I am also comfortable using. To me, using “And” clinches that it is the extended thought and conversation of the speaker. “And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.” Three as One.

But wait – who is “me” – the speaker? The speaker is clearly our Creator – Isaiah has been recording the words of our loving, heart-stricken God all along... But there is more here...

Consider first that all along it is God who is speaking. From the beginning of the chapter to the end… A few examples: “The former things I declared of old; … and they came to pass.” (v.3) … “Behold, I have refined you..” (v.10). “…My glory I will not give to another.” (v. 11). This is not Isaiah speaking. This is Isaiah recording what our Father God is speaking. Verses 12 and 13: “Listen to me , O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last. My hand laid the foundation of the earth and my right hand spread out the heavens;..” Our Creator is speaking. It continues… v. 16: ”…from the time it came to be I have been there. And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit.”

So who exactly is the “me”? The speaker has already told us in verse 12 that “I am the first, and I am the last.” Sound familiar? Listen to the words of Jesus in Revelation 22:13… “I am… the first and the last,…” And, the speaker in Isaiah has told us: “My hand laid the foundation of the earth,…” in verse 13. In chapter 1 of the Gospel of John we are reminded in verse 3 that “All things were made through him…” and in verse 14 – “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” So, who is the “me”, the speaker in Isaiah 48?  IT IS JESUS!  “And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit” Jesus speaks to us from Isaiah. “I am the first, and I am the last.”… And verse 17: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, ..”

Praise be to God! Jesus is our perfect Redeemer and when His perfect work of fulfilling the law and buying our redemption was complete, the veil of the temple was torn.

And, we celebrate His resurrection, providing proof of His Father’s approval, even as the very first Christians did – on “the Lord’s Day”, as recorded in the Didache.

Let’s Be Real: I am going to be praying that my devotion to God becomes such that my Father God will find joy in fulfilling His promises to me, rather than only to save His Name (Isaiah 48:9-11)! How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "GRAIN BY GRAIN" -

Grain By Grain

I was living in Yanji China, the corner of the world where N. Korea, China and Russia meet, when SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) became an epidemic. Beginning in the south, it had quickly spread north throughout China and elsewhere. Thousands were getting sick. I read the news reports of people of all ages being suddenly and inexplicably stricken. Those who got it found survival to be a strain. For many it was a death sentence.

Throughout China people panicked. Travel and commerce was restricted. Soap showed up in the University restrooms, but the water still ran only cold. The students at the University were overwhelmed with anxiety and looked to me for answers (if you are older and a teacher you are supposed to have all the answers).

At the time I felt and believed much the same as I do when I survey the calamities all about us in every corner of our world today. I hear the words our Lord when He considered the trials our world will go through: “These things must come to pass...” And, “Let not your hearts be troubled…”

But how can our Lord say this to us? I mean, take a look around. Worldwide you will find gang riots and wars in the streets, hatred and harm rampant, famine, drought, disasters and disease. Add to this list the rumors of government and industrial conspiracies.

Review with me if you will our Lord’s parable of the farmer and the seeds. Are you looking in the Gospels? No, turn if you will please to Isaiah chapter 28, versus 23-29:

23 Give ear, and hear my voice;
give attention, and hear my speech.
24 Does he who plows for sowing plow continually?
Does he continually open and harrow his ground?
25 When he has leveled its surface,
does he not scatter dill, sow cumin,
and put in wheat in rows
and barley in its proper place,
and emmer as the border?
26 For he is rightly instructed;
his God teaches him.

27 Dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge,
nor is a cart wheel rolled over cumin,
but dill is beaten out with a stick,
and cumin with a rod.
28 Does one crush grain for bread?
No, he does not thresh it forever;
when he drives his cart wheel over it
with his horses, he does not crush it.
29 This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in wisdom.

If a farmer knows how to handle his individual seeds to bring to the point of usefulness, God knows also what each child needs to be brought to maturity. Trials will come into our lives for His good purposes. Let’s have faith in our Father God and realize that not all of His blessings are in the form of sunshine.

Grain by grain. That is how our Father God handles us. Grain by grain. With care and understanding.

Oh, God, Help Me! "Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. - Psalm 60:11-12

It seems that every day there is some kind of trouble that can arise. I paid big money to have my car fixed and the problem is still there. The gas company is over billing me. I don’t have money to buy that birthday gift I want to share. The bathtub won’t drain. My computer has issues. I’ve lost my employment. You fill in the rest.

I have learned that I cannot handle day-to-day living without the help of the Lord. I need the peace and strength He gives me. I don’t care to get out of bed thinking that everything that happens that day is in my hands. I shun thinking that there is no control other than what I provide. I choose not to rely totally on the skills and knowledge of humans.

We are not alone. We are not expected to be able to make wise decisions all the time. But we can seek His wisdom at any time. Our loving Heavenly Father is offering His help. He is offering His advice. He wants us to seek Him and to accept the things He has for us. Not a day goes by without His unfolding grace.

Don't be fooled into thinking that you don't need God. Seek a relationship with Him so that when times get rough you'll know the help He can give. Many people wait until they have exhausted their resources and have nowhere else to turn. Don't wait, as they do, and cry out, "God, help me!" when you hit bottom. Don't wait until it is to the point of no return and wonder if there really is a God and if He hears and will answer. If we have any interest beyond this world, we should keep ourselves in a position to hear our Father God’s voice, understand His language, and bow to His requirements.

I was blessed recently when I learned of this quote from the founder of the Shakers, Anna White: “Are you free as you are? Are you in any degree bound by your appetites, your passions, and your self-will? Are you at all in bondage to the opinion of your neighbors, to the customs and notions of society, however harmful or absurd? These do not travel the true Shaker.” These issues "do not travel" any true child of God. Your Father God sees you now. He knows your situation. Talk to Him. He listens.

I believe that our Lord is pleased when we don’t focus on the negative, but obediently respond to “whatsoever things are of good report, think on these things.” Everything in this world our Lord is prepping for eternity can be repaired and prepared by our Father God. And that is exactly what He is doing. The good report is: our Lord is overcoming and He is allowing us the privilege of overcoming with Him if we choose.

So, we don’t give into sensationalism, anger, or fear of what rages around us in this world at large. We are on the winning side. We fight; we resist evil with love – as our Lord leads. We do not fear.

Our Lord is not asleep. He is aware of what is going on. He is handling it. This world will last until He returns and gives us a new one in His time. He has told us so.

His question to us is: “Will I find faith in the earth when I return?” So, in the meantime, we need to place our trust firmly in Him and His work in progress regardless of what we see. I believe that it pleases our Lord for me to concentrate on what He has given to me in my sphere of influence: to learn to love my neighbor better, to be spontaneously honest, to set aside sins, to love my Lord in all my ways. If I love Him, I need to obey Him, and as He requested, feed His sheep. Not alarm His sheep by pointing out the negative that I cannot deal with. I need not fret over things that are outside of my sphere of influence.

The inspired words of 2 Corinthians come to mind: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” - 2 Cor. 4:16-18. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. So, I choose not to focus on the negative about me that is out of my control, but give it to Him. And I know that I “cannot add an inch to my height” by fretting. I believe that if our Father God wants us to act, then He will place issues within our sphere of influence and show us how and when He wants us to act.

At the time of SARS, I received e-mails identifying SARS as a plague and curse from God. The University was locked down. I prayed that we would have peace in our hearts. I prayed that my faith would not waver. I did not want to tell the students that they were being cursed. I wanted to tell them that their Heavenly Father loved them so much that He sent His only Son to redeem them and bless them. I wanted to tell them that our Father God had all in control and wanted to bless them beyond their imagination.

Blessings from our Father God are sometimes difficult for us to recognize at first. SARS turned out to be a blessing - an opportunity to share and place faith in our Father God – despite what we saw happening around us. The frailty of our lives was apparent even to young people. Eternal issues which had been overlooked were scrutinized. Praise God – many chose to place their faith in our Lord, who otherwise would not have considered Him.

Let’s be real - I don’t want to look about myself, despairing over this world. This world will last as long as it suits our Father God’s purposes, and then he will give us a new one. I want to have faith in my Father God’s hands and address that which is unseen – that which is eternal. I want my remaining energy here on earth to be invested in eternal issues. And, I am asking my Heavenly Father to help me in this. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,

Jim

- "WILD GRAPES" -

Wild Grapes

In the news (dated news but an ever-present, always timely principle)… An Interview: Franklin Graham - the son of Billy Graham waded into rough waters when asked for his views on the religious beliefs of President Obama and the GOP hopefuls at the time.

Mr. Graham seems to me to give an honest, enlightened appraisal of the questions posed, and exercises restraint.

What struck me in such a dramatic fashion was the comments placed by readers responding to the interview. The mean-spirited comments revealed how our society is blind, and stumbles in such utter darkness. We are missing out on so much blessing that our Father God wants to give us. We may have begun our nation with a Christian worldview and heart, but the heart of man is so prone to wander. It has always been so throughout history and cultures. It brings to mind the O.T. prophets...

Guided by the Holy Spirit, Isaiah weaves a symphonic masterpiece – with rising crescendos of triumph and crises, and lows of failure and the breaking of the heart of God. This seems clear from the opening chapter which is like a courtroom scene involving the reaching out of the heart of God for people – “Come!” And the rebellion of the human heart – “I will not!” with the corresponding revelation of the judgment and kingdom of God. This continues through the book of Isaiah. How rightly did Augustine appraise: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart shall find no rest ‘till it rest in Thee.”

Note the contrast in emphasis of the beginning of chapter 2 (1-5) with the ending of chapter 5 (24-30) that God directs Isaiah to use. From “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares… come, let us walk in the light of the LORD” to “…behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.”

When I try to put into other words the nature of this contrast, ABC’s old theme from “The Wide World of Sports” comes to mind: “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” It begins with an exciting, happy, hopeful people running to God and ends with abject terror, realizing their hopelessness and absolute desperation – yet the section began with “let us walk”... a contrast with what could have been!

The root cause seems to be a prideful, arrogant trust in man, filled with everything but God. This is just what jumps out at me as I read the reader’s comments after Franklin Graham’s interview.

What a tragedy for any society to miss out on what God has for them!

We need to examine our own hearts! Our Father God gives us a song / parable in Chapter 5. (How fitting that our Lord would continue the use of parable when He visited us on earth.)

In view of the clear analogy in this parable and the fact that the woes immediately follow, what are these woes? They are the bad fruit, the “wild grapes” of the parable.

I can feel the heartbreak of our Father God – He worked so hard in the vineyard, “but it yielded wild grapes.” (v.2) And then the rhetorical response as from a lover betrayed in verse 4: “why did it yield wild grapes?”…

The heartbreak - “why did it yield wild grapes?”

We are more than the sum of our past mistakes. The grace God grants to us is sufficient for us to rid our lives of the “wild grapes” - the fruit demonstrated in the comments to Franklin Graham’s interview.

I hope you take the time to read Isaiah chapter 5, this moving parable and the six woes, the wild grapes:

5:8-10… “Counterfeit Security” - An obsession with gathering more and more to ourselves. The houses, the “homer of seed” (for us - the stock market, 401Ks…) We need to carefully guard our hearts and actions that we are not laying up treasures for ourselves here on earth. Whether you have crossed that line you will need to examine before the Lord in quiet. I cannot know or judge when your heart begins to cling – I just need to address the issue with my Lord and do as He directs me - so as not to be ashamed regarding this when I come before Him. Do I need to be giving more to those in need – to the unemployed, the hungry?

5:11-12… “Counterfeit Joy” – the party is on, let us not consider the Lord. The lewd revelry of “Carnival” and “Mardi Gras” and endless parties comes to mind. We don’t have an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness in any way we please. Our only inalienable right is to be an extension of God’s life – “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…” – John 1:12. This true inalienable right involves humbling ourselves and learning to love each other and be servants to each other.

5:18-19… “Counterfeit Confidence” – a haughtiness that demands we can keep our sins, and pull it along with us as a cart… and not abandon them. And the ultimate chutzpah – while holding onto sins, our demand that God act quickly on our behalf… We need to examine ourselves – this can be subtle – we need the Lord to help us see ourselves correctly.

5:20… “Counterfeit Ethics” – how commonly do we call evil, good, and good, evil in our culture? Do we not commonly call the evil of homosexuality “good” in our culture? In our age, saying this may seem over the top to you, but it is the truth. And the heterosexual with lust in their heart, especially when acted on, is also harboring evil in their heart and actions in the sight of our Heavenly Father. Please consider for yourself this comment from our Father God regarding these counterfeit ethics: "Don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God's kingdom." - 1 Cor. 6:9-12. God's word makes this clear enough for us, yet these lifestyles are celebrated on TV and in our popular culture. We have all fallen short and all offered forgiveness and loving encouragement from our Heavenly Father as we repent and seek a way of life that pleases our Creator by His grace. So we need to be careful not to bully and hate people, which is another evil, but rather always respond with love, imitating our Lord, and always be ready to forgive. The list is long though. We need to examine ourselves...

5:21… “Counterfeit Wisdom” – not just applying to ancient Israel – how aptly this describes our mainstream culture today... 
And, dear Christian - how wise are we regarding our "enemies" - are we loving them as our Lord asked of us?

5:23… “Counterfeit Justice” – may we not be guilty of trying to “buy” justice today with expensive lawyers…

Now let’s stand back and consider… What was the heaviest thing on Isaiah’s heart as he preached? What is the Holy Spirit teaching us? Doesn’t it involve the awful tragedy of a person losing touch with why they are alive and having a relationship with God replaced by material things?

Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "IDENTIFYING WITH JESUS" -

Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin
Identifying with Jesus

In the news... (This is from awhile back when both these men were playing in the Pros. But, the principle is as timely as ever) - Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin share outspoken beliefs...

First there was Tebowmania. Then there was Linsanity. Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin became sensations because of their strong Christian beliefs.

Both have said in interviews that they have learned not to obsess about stats and championships, such things as: “I’m not working hard and practicing day in and day out so that I can please other people. My audience is God. ... The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God. I still don’t fully understand what that means; I struggle with these things every game, every day. I’m still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give up my game to Him.”

Lin already uses his social media platforms to spread the Word.

His Twitter account's description is, "to know Him is to want to know Him more." His account's avatar depicts Jesus telling a young man, "No, I'm not just talking about Twitter. I literally want you to follow me." His Facebook page quotes Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

These men are examples of sharing their beliefs even when it is not easy – taking on pressure from the media and adding even more pressure to the fourth quarter of their play, but taking it on because of their love for the Lord.

11. And they conquered him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. - Rev. 12:11

Look, dear brother and sister - Our Father God has a beautiful offer, but our neighbors are blind, stumbling in darkness and simply can't see it. Our Father's offer is a many splendored thing, a brilliant and sunny day that our neighbors cannot see - without us sharing.

Let's Be Real... How about us? Are we sharing that beautiful offer from our Lord in our workplace? To our neighbors? Are we walking in a manner that humbles ourselves and brings honor to our Lord? Are we real in our identity with and relationship with our Lord?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "ATHEISM AND SUFFERING" -

Atheism and Suffering

In the News - The New York Times headlined an article entitled “Student Faces Town’s Wrath In Protest Against Prayer," a few years back. It is the story of Jessica, a 16 year old high school student and an atheist, who won a suit to have her high school prayer poster removed. You may read the N.Y. Times article by clicking here.

Here's Jessica:

Here's the Prayer:

Jessica said she had stopped believing in God when she was in elementary school and her mother fell ill for a time.

“I had always been told that if you pray, God will always be there when you need him,” she said. “And it didn’t happen for me, and I doubted it had happened for anybody else. So yeah, I think that was just like the last step, and after that I just really didn’t believe any of it.”

This begs the question (and thanks to Dawn Evans with Christianity Explored for lending a hand):

If there is a God, why does He allow suffering?

It’s a huge question, isn’t it? And we cannot know completely because God's ways are not our ways. Still, we observe. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t come across suffering. Devastation caused by earthquakes and tsunamis… millions living in poverty… children being abused… family breakdowns… bullying… people suffer. We suffer. So it's natural to say to God: “God, if you’re there, why don’t you do something about it?”

Well, imagine we could actually tell God what to do. Where would you suggest he starts? How about God gets rid of the terrorists and the murderers. That would mean a lot less suffering for many people—but suffering hasn’t been eradicated yet. How about God deals with the pedophiles and the drug dealers and the thieves? We can see the world’s getting a much better place, but it’s still not perfect.

How about God gets rid of the unkind, the gossips, the liars, the selfish — oh, but that’s actually me.

You see, when we ask God to get rid of suffering, we’re actually asking him to get rid of us. We do suffer, but we actually cause loads of suffering ourselves. That time when we lost our temper with someone… when we trod on someone to get to where we wanted to… when we ignored our kids because we were just too tired or busy… when we gossiped about a work colleague… when we were just plain nasty to someone. We cause much suffering.

So if we demand that God throws suffering out of this world, we’re actually demanding that he throws us out too.

God is delaying the day when he will deal with all suffering so that we can realize that we’re part of the problem, and we can ask him if there’s any way not to be thrown out of his world.

And the amazing thing is that God knows what you’re going through when you suffer—because he himself suffered. God lived on earth as a man, Jesus, and Jesus suffered and even died in agony on a cross. He promises to be with those who trust in him, comforting them and helping them through their suffering, and one day bringing an end to all the suffering, in His time, when His purposes are complete.

It’s worth starting by turning the question round a bit. Clearly, there is suffering (even though some eastern religions say it isn’t really real: it certainly feels real when it happens to us).

Let’s imagine for a moment that we decide that since there’s suffering, there isn’t a God, as Jessica has concluded.

Firstly, that would mean that there’s no justice. One of the writers of the Bible imagines a world with no God, and he says:

“In the place of judgment, wickedness was there, in the place of justice” (Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 16).

Often, people who cause great suffering get away with it in this life: perhaps they’re never caught, or perhaps they commit suicide. If there’s no God, then they never face justice. Wickedness wins.

Secondly, that would mean that there’s no future. In a world without God, “all go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). Life may well be miserable, and death is the end. If you’re unlucky to be born into a life of poverty, or abuse: well, that’s all there is. In a world without God, there’s no hope.

Thirdly, that would mean that suffering itself doesn’t matter. If there’s no God, we’re all just animals; in fact, we’re all just collections of atoms. A child being shot is of no more importance than a gazelle being taken down by a lion: or a plant being trampled on. Human life is worth no more than any other life. Suffering would only matter if it happened to us.

But you’ve probably read this far because to you, suffering is a problem. And the whole idea of “suffering” being “wrong” only works if there’s a God, giving us the ability to conceive of right and wrong. Suffering is only a problem if it’s the case that suffering is an intruder into human life in this world.

And the Bible says that’s exactly what suffering is: an intruder. When God made this world, it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31): there was nothing wrong with it, no suffering. Humans were not made to know pain or death.

So why is there suffering now? Well, the Bible’s answer is that humanity caused suffering to enter the world; and that each day, even after all this time, we still cause suffering. Suffering is our problem; but as we look around, we can see that it’s actually our fault, too.

So, if there’s no God, this is a world without justice, without a future, and where suffering isn’t something we should be bothered about (unless it happens to us personally). It seems to me that’s NOT the world we experience; and it’s certainly not the world we want.

If the God of the Bible is real, however, justice will be done; there is a perfect future on offer; suffering is an intruder which will one day be banished.

How do we deal with suffering?

So when we hear of suffering, how does the Bible suggest we might like to respond?

When Jesus was alive on earth, a tower collapsed, killing many. How did Jesus respond? “Unless you repent, you too will all perish”(Luke 13:5). The existence of suffering is a reminder that all is not well with this world, or with us, and that one way or another we will all one day die: and so we need to turn back to the one who can give perfect life beyond our death—to Jesus, God himself.

By the way dear Christian, There are times when God calls for his children to suffer. Sometimes the suffering comes from forces we cannot avoid or we cause: a hurricane, an earthquake, our own wickedness. But sometimes we are called to put ourselves in the path of suffering. We go to lands where Christianity is outlawed, carrying our possessions in a coffin for we know this is a one-way trip. We move into the inner city to bring light into the darkness. We visit housing projects to share the love of Christ. And we give up fame, fortune, and prestige, all for the glory of God.

Christian, the Lord does not always call you to easy things. He will often call you to suffer for the sake of his name.

"For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps" (1 Peter 2:2).

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake" (Philippians 1:29).

We do not know what lies ahead for us - but the Lord calls us to be prepared in our hearts and minds and remain faithful so we live like those saints in Hebrews 11:16 who desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Sometimes God allows suffering for His testing, His refining, His purposes which are beyond us - for we do not have His full mind on the matter.

And Jessica? It is a shame that such a young and intelligent girl, so lovely in her Creator's eyes, has not recognized yet that her 16 year old mind may not be able to fully understand or even conceive of that which is on God's mind and His eternal purposes in allowing suffering.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, 
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. 
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55: 8-10

Must the Creator of the universe immediately jump when we, the created, snap our fingers? As though we know the big picture better? Might not our Creator answer "Not yet...wait" or "No" for His good purpose that we do not yet understand?

It would also be good for Jessica to consider the words of a wise middle eastern king:

1 So remember your Creator in the days of your youth:
Before the days of adversity come, 
and the years approach when you will say, 
“I have no delight in them”; ...

7 and the dust returns to the earth as it once was, 
and the spirit returns to God who gave it. ...

13 When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. - Ecclesiastes chapter 12

I am going to be praying that a caring, Christian woman will lovingly mentor Jessica, so that Jessica might not remain in darkness, but gain fullness of joy while walking in the light with Jesus.

Will you join me in that prayer?

And - I'm going to ask God to grant grace, and help me accept by faith God's way for me when suffering or persecution enters my life and remain faithful to Him. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "CAMOUFLAGED DISTRACTIONS" -

Camouflaged Distractions
(that is, beyond the obvious ones)

"27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family."
Judges 8:27

Let's back up a little to verses 22 and 23:
" 22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” 23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Gideon knew that God was ordering his steps and was the reason he had turned into such a good leader. So, very wisely, he proclaimed what he had learned to all the people. After all, that was the way God intended it all along. God wanted to be their King and Ruler!

Then Gideon proceeded to do something to "honor God" apparently. He collected up a bunch of gold earrings that the people had collected off of their defeated enemy. (Hey, Red Flag! - It should have brought to someone's mind the story of the golden calf that the people had made while waiting for Moses at Mount Sinai. That should have hinted that caution was necessary.) Anyway, what started out as an honor to God turned into idol worship. Instead of dedicating the ephod to God and worshipping God, their focus turned to the ephod, itself.

And, did God need another ephod? The high priest already had one. An ephod is part of what the high priest wore. Gideon put the ephod in the city in which he lived. It really wasn't given to God, but was made to admire.

The ephod was probably beautiful and probably very expensive.

I can see myself wanting to see it, or maybe hold it. Then, I can see myself imagining what it might look like on my coffee table - but only for a short time of course.

Anyway, the ephod's original purpose was to turn people's eyes to God. They would see the ephod made of jewelry taken from their defeated enemy and praise God for helping them to arise out of the condition of being captives in their own land to being the conquerors. Instead, they focused only on the ephod, itself.

Do you think that broke God’s heart?

But we wouldn't ever do that right? We wouldn't focus on something beautiful to us more than on God, right? Yet, maybe...

So how about it? How about things today that should bring us closer to God but only serve to distract us from focusing on God, and break His heart?

Church buildings sometimes become way more important than they should.

I remember standing in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. It would have been good to have cried out to our Father God, asking that His name be Hallowed there. Instead I walked through the galleries, standing in awe of the architecture, and then left - grieving God's heart, don't you think?

I've seen people bicker and angrily argue with each other over what color of paint to use in a church building, what type of carpet to put in, and whether to use rooms for storage or classrooms.

And our Father God’s heart breaks.

I was told of a Palm Sunday at a church that did a presentation on the progress of the construction of their new building for their service that Sunday. The King of Glory, indeed, God - the Maker of Heaven and Earth Himself, chose to come to us in the flesh and display His gentleness and humility among us by riding on a donkey, on that very Sunday. That Sunday was a good opportunity to remember and celebrate that event, wouldn't you say?

So when the new building is complete, will those who use the building allow further distractions? How about adding a pipe organ? How magnificent shall we make it? What about people planning church services and neglecting to let God choose what is done there? What about the line drawn between clergy and laity?

What sort of myriad ways are we breaking our Father God's heart, and are not even aware of it because our hearts are distracted by things that we are thinking of as doing for the Lord?

All things that we do for the Lord, give to the Lord, or are about the Lord, can easily become distractions that break our Father God’s heart, and hinder our relationship with Him! We need to exercise care -if we don't see God first and foremost because of an "ephod", then the ephod needs to be deleted from our lives to allow God's presence to grow in our hearts.

Listen to Augustine's focus on our Lord in his own words: "...where His light, which no place can contain, floods into my soul; where He utters words that time does not speed away; where He sends forth an aroma that no wind can scatter; where He provides food that no eating can lessen; where He so clings that satiety does not sunder us. This is what I love when I love my God."

Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "SEEKING GOD'S FACE" -

Seeking God's Face

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Since moving back to Oregon from Colorado, I have had opportunity to restore relationships with people that I have not seen for many, many years - people that had heard of or had been hurt directly by my sins and disobedience to the Lord when I stepped far away from Him some years back.  I broke my Father God’s heart as I broke His laws, written on my heart.

Returning to the Lord has meant confessing sin and dying to myself. It is sometimes about as natural and pleasant as pulling a lodged and barbed fishhook out of our flesh. But overcoming and finding a restored relationship with the Lord is worth it – and brings light and fullness of joy to a repentant heart. The Lord is full of mercy and steadfast love.

I have had the joy of witnessing my dear friend from childhood unconditionally loving me and accepting my repentance.

Yesterday the Lord prompted me to go look up another old friend, whom I hadn’t seen for many, many years - an aging elder in a local Korean Presbyterian Church – who, along with his wife had always been an encouragement to me as I witnessed their faithful love for the Lord and others. I found myself making excuses – I have projects… tomorrow will be better. Yeah, tomorrow. But the Lord was not prompting me to go tomorrow. I loaded myself into my Jeep and headed for his custom tailor shop, having heard that he was still in business there. It was a precious time! I did not stay long – but long enough for me to admit I had sinned, that the Lord has rescued me, and pray with Him. I witnessed to the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives and not giving up on us. There were heartfelt hugs and fullness of joy all around. It was the fruit of a simple act of obedience. This good time could never have been without my obedience.

What does it mean to seek God's face? What is in a face? If you pay close attention to someone's face you can see a lot of things. In their eyes you can see if they are at peace. In their countenance you can see if they are happy, sad, mad, scared, or indifferent. You can tell what they think about you. When you are seeking God's face you are seeking His heart and His mind. You are interested in what He is thinking. You are seeking Him straight up and are willing to obey – if you were not willing to obey, you would avoid His face, His gaze. But, by being willing to obey, you can expectantly look for His approval and support.

Our first inclination is often seeking God’s hands. We seek what God can do for us. Our prayers of… please heal, please give, please fix.....

In order to seek God's face we often need to step out of our comfort zone. We have to be ready to accept anything that God reveals to us. We often have to let go of things that are near and dear to us – mainly ourselves and be willing to die to ourselves.

We can't come face to face with God unless we are repentant of our sins. Not only do we need to be repentant, we need to be AWARE of our sins. We need to find out from Him what things in our lives are displeasing to Him. Then we need to get rid of them. We can't hang on to things that He tells us are bad and expect to an approving gaze from Him.

In humbling ourselves we have to let go of those things that are important to us. We have to face the fact that everything we are and everything we have are because of Him. In ourselves, we have nothing that is of any value. We have done nothing in ourselves that will withstand the test of time. NOTHING!

We are in a society that is self-oriented. Everything is me, me, me. We are not going to find God with that attitude. We have to let go. We have to find out what we do that is wicked in God's eyes and remove that from our lives. He tells us...

2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:2-10 (English Standard Version - ESV)

Our nation will not naturally seek God's face. It is painful to the flesh and a heart of stone. We need revival. But it is not just our unbelieving neighbors who need revival. Us believers do too. We need to set an example... But, it is much easier to read the scripture, listen to a sermon, sing hymns and think that by doing that only, we are seeking His face, than it is to actually apply that scripture and sermon and in obedience seek His face.

We lament, "If only our nation would once again turn and seek His face..." But it needs to begin with us believers - "If my people.." Our nation needs the example - but that seeking is painful to the flesh and often involves dying to ourselves. So, we put it off for "tomorrow". And if we do not set the example, how can we lament that our nation does not?

Are you hungry for more? Are you hungry for a real relationship with Him? Let go of yourself - find out what He is telling you.

We need to respond to this question: "Is there a step of obedience that I need to take today in order to be seeking His face?

Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

- "RECEIVING JESUS & WELCOMING CORRECTION" -

Receiving Jesus - and Welcoming Correction

Receiving Jesus - and Welcoming Correction

John 1:12 reads: "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.

Receiving Jesus means that when Jesus offers himself to us, we welcome him into our life for who He is.


When He comes to us as Savior, we welcome His salvation.
When He comes to us as Leader, we welcome His leadership.
When He comes to us as Provider, we welcome His provision.
When He comes to us as Counselor, we welcome His counsel.
When He comes to us as Protector, we welcome His protection.
When He comes to us as Authority, we welcome His authority.
When He comes to us as King, we welcome His rule.

When He comes to us as a Corrector, we welcome His correction.

Welcome correction. This is what I have just done with this area of our website regarding content. Sometimes our Lord uses His family to draw things to our attention. This is what He did with me. And, I thank Him for it. And, I am thankful to be a part of the family of God.

Dear brothers and sisters – Lets welcome our beautiful Lord readily into every area of our lives – Let’s Get Real.

Receiving Jesus means taking Jesus into our lives for who He is. It does not mean a kind of peaceful co-existence with a Christ who makes no claims — as though He can stay in the house as long as He doesn't play His music so loud.

When Jesus preached in Nazareth in Luke 4:16ff., the people received him gladly. It says in Luke 4:22, "All spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." But a few verses later it says in Luke 4:28 they were "filled with wrath" and tried to throw him down from a cliff. They were happy to receive Him while they were hearing words that pleased them. But when their pride was pricked, they rejected Him. Receiving Jesus means taking him into our lives - (our home, our school, our work, our marriage, our dreams) for who He really is.

Next look at John 5:43-44, where "receive" and believe" are used again in close connection the way they are in 1:12. "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"

Do you see what verse 44 implies about believing?

It implies that we can't believe in Jesus if we love the praise and glory of men - if we only want to accept praise and glory and are unwilling to accept correction. 

This means that receiving Him and believing is so contrary to pride and self-exaltation that it involves a deep humbling. It means abandoning the craving for human praise, and caring more about the praise of God.


Let’s Be Real - I'm going to ask God to reveal anything that I have put in a place of importance that interferes or hinders my relationship with Him. How about you?

Yours in Jesus,
Jim

 



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