Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Making Goddess Cookies"

Good morning!

I am very grateful that the Lord established in His Word that men should be the leaders of the church, as well as the leaders of the family.  That idea is not popular today, but you see it all through the Old Testament and see it affirmed in the New Testament.

God began to teach the human race this principle after the debacle of sin in the Garden of Eden, when he told Eve in Genesis 3:16 that, because of hers being the first sin, Adam would "rule over her".  He told Adam that, basically, he should not have allowed himself to be led astray by his wife.  They both, then, inherited the sin curse, as did all their descendants, including you and me.

In Jeremiah 44:15-28, we read that the Hebrews living in Egypt at the time (also a mistake) have violated this principle, to their detriment.  Things in their families and churches have gotten tremendously "out of whack".

15-18 The men who knew that their wives had been burning sacrifices to the no-gods, joined by a large crowd of women, along with virtually everyone living in Pathros of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: “We’re having nothing to do with what you tell us is God’s Message. We’re going to go right on offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, keeping up the traditions set by our ancestors, our kings and government leaders in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem in the good old days. We had a good life then—lots of food, rising standard of living, and no bad luck. But the moment we quit sacrificing to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her, everything fell apart. We’ve had nothing but massacres and starvation ever since.”
19 And then the women chimed in: “Yes! Absolutely! We’re going to keep at it, offering sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out offerings to her. Aren’t our husbands behind us? They like it that we make goddess cookies and pour out our offerings to her.”
20-23 Then Jeremiah spoke up, confronting the men and the women, all the people who had answered so insolently. He said, “The sacrifices that you and your parents, your kings, your government officials, and the common people of the land offered up in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem—don’t you think God noticed? He noticed, all right. And he got fed up. Finally, he couldn’t take your evil behavior and your disgusting acts any longer. Your land became a wasteland, a death valley, a horror story, a ghost town. And it continues to be just that. This doom has come upon you because you kept offering all those sacrifices, and you sinned against God! You refused to listen to him, wouldn’t live the way he directed, ignored the covenant conditions.”
24-25 Jeremiah kept going, but now zeroed in on the women: “Listen, all you who are from Judah and living in Egypt—please, listen to God’s Word. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘You women! You said it and then you did it. You said, “We’re going to keep the vows we made to sacrifice to the Queen of Heaven and pour out offerings to her, and nobody’s going to stop us!”’
25-27 “Well, go ahead. Keep your vows. Do it up big. But also listen to what God has to say about it, all you who are from Judah but live in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name, backed by everything I am—this is God speaking!—that never again shall my name be used in vows, such as “As sure as the Master,God, lives!” by anyone in the whole country of Egypt. I’ve targeted each one of you for doom. The good is gone for good.
27-28 “‘All the Judeans in Egypt will die off by massacre or starvation until they’re wiped out. The few who get out of Egypt alive and back to Judah will be very few, hardly worth counting. Then that ragtag bunch that left Judah to live in Egypt will know who had the last word.

The Message translation says that the women were worshipping idols by "making goddess cookies".
What in the world?!

In those days, a woman's self-worth was totally wrapped up in her ability to conceive and bear to her husband children.  There was a foundational belief in pagan cultures that in order for a woman to be fertile, she had to worship the fertility goddesses.  When a Jewish woman was having difficulty conceiving, this pagan worship was very seductive to her.  And, many Jewish women fell prey to it. They, in turn, led their husbands to commit this same idolatry.

As you read the Old Testament, you will notice that God repeatedly commanded His people not to marry pagan wives, women from non-Jewish, polytheistic cultures.  This is the reason why!  Women have a powerful effect on their men, including the power to lead them into idolatry.  Even the kings of the Old Testament were not immune to this siren's call of idolatry.  Yesterday, we talked about King Solomon.  Not only did he marry non-Jewish women, he had literally hundreds of them as bedmates. This was a contributing factor to his downfall, because through these women, idol worship became more prominent in his kingdom.

When you read the passage in Jeremiah 44, the attitudes of the men and women are appalling.  The women are defiant in their defense of their evil practices, and the men back them up.  Jeremiah is quick and strong in his message that judgment will come upon them because of their idolatry, despite their claims that the sacrifices to idols ("making goddess cookies") is what they believe has brought them prosperity.

Later on, in the New Testament, we find Jesus giving women a tremendous amount of respect, much more so than was common for that day and culture.  However, in dealing with the woman at the well, he asked her about her husband, affirming that the expectations for family order and leadership were still in place.  He worked his first recorded miracle at a marriage in Cana.  On the cross, he made provision for his mother by asking the apostle John to care for her.  The apostle Paul goes on in Ephesians 5 to explain clearly the order of relationships in the family, and in the church.

Both men and women have been assigned vital roles in the church and home.  Both are indispensable.    However, we must have both parties playing their rightful parts.  This begins by both men and women being submissive to God.  Unless that happens, proper roles cannot be fulfilled.  Then, men must lovingly lead their families and their churches, so that women can fulfill their God-given role.  In Jeremiah 44, the women would not have wandered off into idolatry if their men had been leading them as God had ordained.

In a broader sense, we must ask ourselves not only if we are following this God-given principle in our own homes and churches, but also if we are "making goddess cookies" in other ways.

We cannot be resplendent if we are worshipping idols, which means putting anything before our relationship with God.  This is a constant battle for me, in how I spend my time, for example. We show what is important to us by the amount of time we allocate to it.  This is a hard truth.   I challenge us all to ask ourselves as we "walk the walk", if we are "making goddess cookies", and then to ask the Holy Spirit to root those habits out of our lives.

Father God, some commands in your Word are harder to follow than others.  Teach us the wisdom of submitting to You, daily, many times daily.  Teach us to examine our hearts and our practices, to see if we are wandering off into idolatry.  And, if we find anything in our hearts that runs contrary to your Word, pester us, Lord, until we root it out of there so that we can single-mindedly, whole-heartedly follow Your desires, not our own.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cautionary Tale of a Futile Life

Good morning!

King Solomon was an interesting man.  His list of accomplishments was long and great.  One of his accomplishments was, toward the end of his life, to write the book of Ecclesiastes, a book that has fascinated both Christian and non-Christian for centuries.

Solomon was the son of King David and his ill-gotten wife, Bathsheba.  It is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:24 that he was conceived as David sought to comfort Bathsheba over the loss of their toddler son, conceived through their adultery.  Solomon almost did not get to be king.  He had several older brothers who wanted the job.  But, David had promised Bathsheba that her son would be king.  The Bible records in 1 Kings 1 that another son of David, Adonijah, tried to steal the throne as his father the king lay on his deathbed.  But Bathsheba went to see David and claim his promise.

So, Solomon became king and did many marvelous things, which are recorded in the book of 1 Kings and elsewhere.

Now, this is a curious thing:  we find in 1 Kings 3 that God appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him to ask of the Lord anything.  Solomon asked the Lord God for wisdom, in order to rightly govern the people.  God was pleased with Solomon's request and granted it.

God's gift of wisdom allowed Solomon to make wise rulings and to govern well.  He became a very great king.  However, being blessed with wisdom from God did not take away Solomon's free will. God told him in verse 14 of chapter 3 that IF Solomon would walk in obedience, keeping God's decrees and commands, he would live a long, prosperous life.

The book of Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon looking back on his life, both the good and the bad. Somewhere along the way, in the midst of possessing supernatural wisdom, he fell prey to various enticements and made some spectacularly bad choices.

We read in Ecclesiastes 2:4-8 about some of his accomplishments, but in the midst of that, he granted himself his every fleshly desire.  His philosophy of life can be summed up in his own words at the end of chapter 5: enjoy yourself in the present.  While God allowed Solomon to create a spectacular kingdom, Solomon's removing God from his life left his soul empty.  Much of the book resonates with the theme of "I hate my life."

Solomon's father, David, despite making some colossal mistakes, was called "a man after God's own heart".  (Acts 13:22)

How can that be?  What was the difference?  The difference is this:  although Solomon sought God's favor at the beginning of his reign, the majority of his life was characterized by moving farther and farther away from God.  David, on the other hand, sought to follow after God except for occasional lapses into sin.  David summed up the life of a righteous ruler in 2 Samuel 23 when he said:
"The one who rules fairly among men, the one who rules in the fear of God, is like the light of morning when the sun comes up, a morning in which there are no clouds.  He is like the brightness after rain that produces grass from the earth."

The lesson for us is this:  regardless of our great talents, regardless of our calling, if we choose to push God aside and go our own way, we will come up empty in our souls.

I see this phenomenon present in the lives of many young people who have from birth heard repeatedly the truth of the gospel and the way to live the Christian life.  These are even people who, when old enough to understand, publicly announced their decision to follow Christ.  Yet, they get distracted and deceived by the enticements of the ungodly world in which they live.  And, they push God aside.  They choose to "go it on their own".  

Solomon's testimony should be a warning to us all.  He was given all the worldly pleasures available in his day, and still, it left him unsatisfied.  He was wildly successful by worldly standards; yet, despite his accomplishments his soul was dry and thirsty, full of despair.  St. Augustine "got it" when he confessed:  "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." The same is true today.  

In his final words, in chapter 12, verses 1 and 13, Solomon says this to young people:
"Honor and enjoy your Creator while you're still young, before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes."
And, in verse 13:  "The last and final word is this - - - Fear God.  Do what He tells you."
(The Message Bible)

Wise words, indeed.

Father, please give us your wisdom, heavenly wisdom, and also the desire to do Your will in every aspect of our lives, so that we use apply that wisdom for Your honor and glory.  Only an intimate relationship with Jesus, our Savior, can truly satisfy our souls!  And, Oh loving Father! We know from your Word that it is You who set kings on their thrones. (Daniel 2:21)  Please give us rulers and leaders like David who will rule fairly among us and who will rule in awe and reverence of You!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Good morning!

One of the things that fascinates me about the Scriptures is how the three Persons of the Trinity have a variety of names.  Because it is so difficult for us to comprehend the Godhead, Three-in-One, the Scriptures use similes to help us out.   I would love to do a study on the many names of God the Father, for example. I have a Messianic Jewish friend on Facebook.  Routinely, she publishes a post describing one of the names of God the Father, Son or Holy Spirit in the Hebrew, along with the meaning behind it.  I love to read those and worship along with her.

One of the names Jesus applies to Himself is the Bread of Life.

When I was young, I had a friend at whose house I would sometimes spend the night.  The matriarch would rise each morning and make a huge pan of fresh biscuits.  (I was fascinated by this, as it did not occur at my house.) Many of the biscuits would be consumed at breakfast, but the rest would be left in the pan on the stovetop, covered with a cloth, to be eaten during the day.  And then, the next morning, she would do it all over again.

Bread has, for centuries, been a staple of the human diet.  When Jesus gave us The Lord's Prayer, He did not pray "give us this day our gluten-free food product".  He prayed, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Elsewhere, He referred to himself as "the bread that came down from Heaven".  In the 6th chapter of his book, John describes this scene.  Jesus is speaking to a group at the synagogue in Capernaum, including a large number of Pharisees, a highly legalistic sect of Judaism.
"I am the living bread that came down from Heaven.  Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (NIV)
The Pharisees were appalled, to say the least.  They totally did not get what Jesus was saying.  They took His words very literally and believed that He was promoting cannibalism.  Because of this simile Jesus used, many of His followers turned away and abandoned their following after Him.

Later on in this passage Jesus is talking with his 12 disciples and explaining the deeper meaning of His words.  (vs. 63 "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.")  Jesus is explaining with these puzzling words that unless we take His words and message, literally Himself, inside our very beings we cannot have eternal life.  He is explaining that He is the only God-the-Father-ordained way to Heaven.

Jesus went on to expand this illustration by instituting the sacrament of Communion, which most Christian churches practice. We read about this in Luke 22, as Jesus was sharing with his disciples "The Lord's Supper", the last meal they would share together before Jesus' crucifixion.   Some practice Holy Communion daily, as in the Catholic mass.  Other churches practice it periodically.  Jesus did not specify how often we should do it.  But, in the sacrament of communion, we eat the wafer, which represents Jesus' body (the bread) and we drink the wine or grape juice (the wine) which represents His blood.  This is an act of worship, because we are reminding ourselves by these actions that we have accepted Him and that we are His.   He said, "Do this, in remembrance of Me." (Luke 22:19)

In The Lord's Prayer, Jesus prayed that we would have "daily bread".  Did He mean that we should pray God to provide our physical food each day?  I believe that this was one meaning, but that He was also praying that God would provide for us each day a new heaping, helping of Jesus to our souls. This is why we as Christians admonish each other to get into the Scriptures every day.  This "communion" with God IS our daily bread!

Later this morning some ladies from our Sunday School class are coming over to "break bread", fellowship and pray.  I am so looking forward to worshipping with them!  After I finish this blogpost, I am going into the kitchen to bake the muffins we will share, the "bread we will break" together.  After our muffins and coffee, we will pray to Father for awhile, lifting up to Him our requests and interceding for each other.

There is this ghastly movement afoot in my country to either 1) eat fake "enriched" bread or 2) avoid all bread.  Neither is right.  As we have perverted bread products in our country by removing essential ingredients and then trying to "enrich" them by putting those God-created ingredients back, our nation has developed food allergies to these artificial products.  Some people have stopped eating bread as a result.  There is a spiritual analogy here.  We must be sure to eat only "the true Bread, which is come down from Heaven":  Jesus Christ - - - not some man-made imitation "spiritual" product, which will make us spiritually sick!

As bread is foundational to our physical diet, so also spiritual, Living Bread is foundational to our faith and our walk.  We must have it every day... to be resplendent!

Loving Heavenly Father, thank you for your Son, the Living Bread from Heaven, whose body was broken for us.  Thank you that each day, we can "eat" the Living Bread as we search your Scriptures, the Holy Bible, as we pray to You, as we seek your face and walk with You, commune with You, throughout the day.  You stand ready to provide our every spiritual need, and we are eternally grateful! In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, July 28, 2014

True Religion

Good morning!

For those of you who approached this blog post expecting to read about the perfume line called, "True Religion", you will for the most part be sadly disappointed.  It is interesting, though, is it not - - - that this is the name of a perfume?  It just shows that there is an fundamental part of man that longs for, searches for meaning in his life.  God built that into us.  But, the answer is not a perfume.

Actually, Jesus tells us what true religion is and James, his half-brother, expands this answer.
You may recall that Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets (the Bible that Jews had in Jesus' day) hinge on this one principle.  Let's read it.  Choose your gospel book; it's recorded in three of them.
Matthew 22:37-39, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30-31.  Here are Matthew's words, from the NIV:
Jesus replied:  " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

In this passage, a man had asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Scriptures was.  Jesus' answer began with what Jews have for centuries called The Shema.  This guiding, foundational precept - - - this commandment - - - was given to the Jews by God.  It is seen in Deuteronomy 6:4-5.  Jesus quotes The Shema in Matthew 22:37, establishing it in verse 38 as "the first and greatest commandment".  BUT, He goes on to add that the second commandment flows from the first:  if you do the first, you will also do the second, that being to love our fellow man as much as we love ourselves.  In doing this, Jesus grabbed hold of the foundation of the Jewish faith and added a transformational element, to make these verses the foundation of Christian living.  Obeying these verses is not how one becomes a Christian, but they do instruct us how to live as Christians.
John echoes this key teaching in 1 John 4:21, when he says that anyone who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

Unless you follow me in other forums, you may have wondered "where I went"!  I had been faithfully blogging along each morning until suddenly ... nothing.
Since last Thursday afternoon I have been on a home missions trip to New Orleans.  A friend is preparing to start a home church in the area of town called Mid-City, and a team from our church's college ministry went down to network and serve.  I just did not have the opportunity, nor the capability, to blog.

Without telling you about all our experiences, let me focus on the ways our team tried to live out these verses mentioned above.

The first day we were in NOLA, we visited an inner city church and helped them out by doing some scraping off of old paint and repainting there on-site.  After lunch, we went over to the home of a widow of that local church.  Her name is Hilda, and she is raising her 5-year old twin great-granddaughters.

Hilda's house is in need of major repairs, not anywhere near all of which our team was able to do.  She subsists on her small social security pension, which barely keeps her and the girls clothed and fed, with a little gas in the car.  The house was inherited from her mother, who died about 4 years ago.  Hilda's husband died at about the same time.  Hilda is 64, and the house, although she is very grateful for it, has just overwhelmed her with its many needs.

What we were able to do was this:  we scraped all the old paint off the front porch's wrought iron scrollwork.  We then repainted the wrought iron, the porch ceiling and the facade itself.  We repainted the front face of the soffit and replaced some door moulding and trim that had rotted.  We repainted the doors and the two porch rockers.  Finally, as a finishing touch, we hanged two flower baskets.  It looks beautiful! (If you'd like to see pictures of the finished product, as well as others from the trip, go look on my Facebook timeline.)

In his book, James said this: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained {from sin and worldliness}."

I had a chance to see Hilda's Bible while I was there.  It was worn, marked up and well-loved.  She is a woman of God, and the widow of a pastor.  She also has a prison ministry.  It was my privilege to serve her this weekend.
In Matthew 10, Jesus said, "And whoever gives just a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose his reward!"  Well, I can certainly testify that my reward for helping Hilda, her grand-daughters and others on this trip has already been given.  There is nothing greater than the joy and satisfaction of serving Jesus.

While in NOLA, we took part in an open-air church service on Saturday morning.  This service is for anyone but is mainly attended by the homeless.  Another NOLA ministry, "Church Without Walls" prepares and serves a meal to these folks on Saturday morning, after the presentation of the gospel. Justin, who is planting the new church in NOLA next year, spoke on Luke 15 - - the story of the prodigal son.  We handed out socks and copies of the New Testament and spent time ministering to the folks who attended.  We cried with them, heard their prayer requests, prayed with them - - it was a special service.

Being on this missions trip with my FBCC brothers and sisters was a special time, but our charge from the Lord is to always look for opportunities to bless someone else.  That is our challenge and is how we show we love our Savior.  This is True Religion.  This is how we are resplendent!

Father, you know it is easier for your children to go on an episodic trip and serve than it is to live unselfishly and serve every day.  As you give us opportunities to share the gospel and share our resources to help those in need, please don't let us be weary in our efforts!  May we obey the Holy Spirit's leading when you present us with those we have the ability to help.  According to Jesus' very words, we can't say that we love you ... and do otherwise.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Red Lifeline

Later today, I will be traveling with several of the college students from our church to New Orleans, where we will be working through the weekend with a home missions outreach.  I'm very excited about the prospect of sharing Jesus in this way.  I'm told that we will be talking with many people who do not know Jesus and indeed are living in desperate conditions.  By this, I mean, they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus and therefore are living in diametric opposition to everything He stands for. That is a desperate condition. They are living in spiritual poverty, in addition to the physical poverty that they face.

I'm wondering what to say to those to convey the blessed hope that lies in knowing Jesus. I'm sure that some of them have "heard it all before", while some of them have not.  Please pray with me about this - - - that God will open their ears, because there is hearing and then there is "hearing".

It is so hard for many of us to accept the love of God, not because He is insufficient, but because we do not see ourselves as lovable, as "worthy"!

Will you go back with me this morning to the genealogy of Jesus Christ, in Matthew 1?  In verse 5, we see the name Rahab, and we are told that she was the mother of Boaz, and mother-in-law of Ruth, both of whom I mentioned in yesterday's blog.  Looking further down the line, we see that she was the great great-grandmother of King David.  But, just who was Rahab?

Her story is recorded in Joshua 2, and it is an amazing one!

The two spies mentioned in the story are not named, but I have wondered if one of them was Salmon, the Jewish man who eventually married Rahab.  Both of those men had to have been impressed with her.  Rahab was an astute businesswoman, even though the nature of her business was ungodly.  Her house was part of the city's wall.  This is how she was able to help the two Hebrew spies escape.

I am simply amazed at how Rahab, when she HEARD the truth of the one God Jehovah, threw herself "all in".  God opened her ears, and she switched her allegiance.  She was obviously a talented, passionate woman before switching sides.  No doubt God used those talents in her new life as well.  He saw fit, in His amazing grace and redemption, to weave her into the ancestry of his Son.  Y'all, are you "getting" that she was a "madame"?  She ran a whorehouse, for goodness sake!  Such is the unfathomable grace of our God!

This is one of my favorite parts of the story:  in verses 15-18 of Joshua 2, Rahab lowers the spies down the city wall by a red cord.  It's no mistake that the cord is red, folks.  The spies go on to say that the red cord is a symbol by which Rahab and her family will be spared, as long as they stay inside her house during the upcoming raid and conquest.  The red cord represents the blood of Jesus Christ.  It is a foreshadowing of what God will do for anyone today who comes under the blood sacrifice of Jesus for forgiveness of sin and protection.  When we accept Jesus' blood sacrifice for our sins, we are "in God's House" of protection.  Spiritual destruction will never come near us again.

Notice that it was not Rahab's own merits that saved her; in that Jewish culture, she would have been stoned for her sins of harlotry.  It was her obedience and acceptance of the gift, the grace of the Hebrew God that saved her.  The same revolutionary, redemptive offer is available today!

A few weeks ago, I attended an event where a former prostitute spoke.  She told us about the hopelessness of The Life, as those in the sex trade call it, how she felt forever trapped and unable to escape.  That was, until a Christ follower told her about the red rope, the saving blood of Jesus.  All she had to do was accept it.  Now, she is free, and has been for 10 years.  Additionally, as He did for Rahab, He has given this woman a loving husband, children and a successful career.  Praise His name!

He took my feet from the miry clay, yes He did, yes He did,
And placed them on The Rock to stay, yes He did, yes He did.
I can tell the world about this.
I can tell the nations that I'm blessed,
Tell them how Jesus made me whole
And He brought joy, JOY to my soul!"
                    Traditional Spiritual, based on Psalm 40:2

Just about anytime you hear a Christian talk about Rahab, they refer to her as Rahab the Harlot.  Well, I understand why they do that; it's because they want to illustrate just how awesome the saving power of GOD is.  But, because her story does not stop with her left in her sin, it is more appropriate to refer to her as Rahab the Marvelously Redeemed, or Rahab the Great Great-Grandmother of King David. When we come to Christ, God obliterates the sin debt of our past.  We become a new creation in Jesus Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 - - - If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: old things are passed away; look!  all things have become new!)

And, don't miss this: sin is sin is sin.  Rahab's sin, the sin of those people I will meet in New Orleans - - - it is no worse than mine.  All sin separates us from our God, and He hates it - - - all of it:  the pride, the lying, the cheating, the slander, the hatred of people, the immorality....all of it separates us from Him.  This is why we need a Savior!  Yes, after we accept Jesus, all of our sins (past, present, future) are forgiven; but, we still need to come to Him for cleansing (confession, repentance, forgiveness) every day (and usually all during the day!)

Well, don't forget about the red rope.  Pray for opportunities, Christian, to share Jesus with someone today!

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Your precious Son, for me, to save me from my filthy, dirty sin.  I am incredulous that You opened my ears as a nine-year old girl, but miraculously, You did.  "Thank you" does not begin to cover it.  I know that it will be not my choice of words that resonate with the people I will minister to these next 3 days.  It will be your Holy Spirit.  So, please, fill me Lord, to the brim, with You!  Let Your love rain down and be seen and heard by everyone whom I am privileged to serve today and each day going forward.  Your grace is amazing!"  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who's Yo Daddy?

Good morning!

I've had some hardware problems this morning, but now think I've been able to get things on track.

In Matthew 1 and Luke 3, we find the genealogy of Joseph, who was the husband of Mary, Jesus's biological mother.  There appears to be no explicit genealogy given for Mary, although some scholars claim that the one in Luke is Mary's genealogy.  The text does not read that way; so, I'm a little perplexed about why they claim that.  I need to do more study on the matter.
If there is no genealogy given for Mary explicitly this is probably just the way God wanted things.  As obsessed as some churchy folk have gotten over Mary herself (Marian worship in the Catholic Church, for example), can you imagine how obsessed they would have gotten with her genealogy?  This person and that person would be claiming, "Well, I'm descended from the same lineage as Mary (hence Jesus Christ)!"  It would not be pretty.

But, for the moment, we are going to look at Matthew 1, Joseph's genealogy.  Now, why do you suppose Joseph's genealogy is given, when he was not Jesus' biological father?  The reason is because he was Jesus' legal father.  Over and over in the Old Testament, it was claimed that Messiah would come from the line of Abraham and King David, the Davidic Line, as it is called.  Joseph's lineage is provided to illustrate that legally that promise of God's was fulfilled.  The Jews are very big into legal descent, through the father's ancestral line.

The interesting thing in this passage is that there are some real characters in Joseph's line.  Let's look at a few of them this morning.  The passage in Matthew differs a bit from the one in Luke.  Luke's list only deals with the daddies, but Matthew's mentions some of the moms.

Matthew begins with Abraham, the patriarch of all Jews (via Isaac) and Arabs (via Ishmael) and goes on from there.  One of the names for Jesus is 'the Lion of the Tribe of Judah".  Notice in verse 2 that Judah (Judas in the King James Version), one of Jacob's 12 sons, is in the line-up.

In verse 3 we see that the line proceeds through Judah's son, who was born to Tamar.  Interesting that God would choose this path for the legal birthright of his Son!  Judah slept with Tamar, when he thought she was a prostitute, actually, and the firstborn of their twin sons, was a legal ancestor of Jesus Christ.  The story is recorded in Genesis 38.  It is a strange tale.  One thing you need to remember in reading it is this:  the Jews had a custom that, if a man died before siring children, his father would appoint the dead man's brother to sire children with the dead brother's wife, so as to continue the dead man's family name.  This is a key element of this story, and a key to why Tamar acted as she did.  She was one smart cookie.

In verse 5, we see that Boaz is in the family tree.  Remember him?  The biblical book of Ruth is the love story of Ruth and Boaz.  The dead man's wife paradigm is present here as well, actually.  Oh, there is so much to explore here!  But, I'll save that for another day and another blogpost.  Note for the moment, that Ruth was from the country of Moab, a pagan country.  Yet, she is in Jesus' family tree. The theme of the book of Ruth is redemption.

Let's touch on one more this morning.  In verse 6 we see that the son of David who carried on the messianic line was not born to the godly Abigail, nor to David's first wife, Michal.  No, the son who carried on the messianic line was born to Bathsheba, the former wife of Uriah - - - the woman whom David stole, whose first husband David had (in essence) murdered.  That sordid tale is recorded in 2 Samuel 11.

Why do I bring this up?  Not everybody had a godly mother or a godly daddy.  If you were blessed to have had one or both, I hope you are thanking God every day for the incredible privilege!  My parents aren't/weren't perfect, but they worship(ped) Jesus Christ as Savior and tried to follow Him as best they could.  This has been a source of tremendous blessing to me.

Many people cannot say that.  They may have had a daddy who was a drunk or a mother who was an abuser.  They may have come to know Jesus in spite of their parentage.  When we look at the legal genealogy of Jesus we find that God redeemed situations, in spite of their initial awfulness.  And, He still has the power to do that today.

Many people, especially women, hate the image of GOD as their loving, heavenly Father, because their earthly father was so evil that they have no frame of reference for what a loving Father is!  But, God can teach us about Himself, if we are only willing to learn.  He is able to redeem that situation and, yes, even the most terrible, ghastly circumstances of our past.

So, who's yo (earthly, biological) daddy?  The answer to that question is not nearly as important as "Who is your Heavenly Father?"  Who is the Lover of your Soul?  That is the question that needs answering today.  I hope you can answer that your Heavenly Father is the Lord God Jehovah, who gave His only Son so that you can have a righteous relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  If you have made that decision and settled that in your heart, then you can be a resplendent daughter (or son), knowing that God has loved you completely, from the very beginnings of time (by which He is not bound).

Dear Father, Loving Daddy, I thank you that you are my Heavenly Father, and that my is not nearly as important as my spiritual family tree.  Jesus said in John 15 that He is the Vine and we who name Him as Savior are the branches.  I thank you that I can be your resplendent daughter because I am a branch of the one true Vine, and that this, THIS is my true family tree.  Help me to be a branch that brings forth delicious, healthy spiritual fruit for You today!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Perfect Church

Some of you know that I attended and graduated with my undergraduate degree from Bob Jones University.  For those of you who were unaware, well...SHOCKER!!  Anyway, one of the things I remember Dr. Bob Jones Jr. saying was, "If you ever find the perfect church, don't join it because you'll mess it up!"

His point was that:
a) there IS no "perfect church" and
b) there are no "perfect people".
They are both points well taken.  Why else would the apostles Paul, Peter, John and other New Testament writers be constantly admonishing the early churches to "straighten up and fly right"?

Ergo, we as either Christians or non-Christians, act unreasonably toward the true Church of Jesus Christ (and/or local congregations of the same) in a number of ways, two of which I want to mention this morning.

1.  Non-Christians dismiss Christianity because Christians "are a bunch of hypocrites".  That is usually not the case, if you are talking about a gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church.  There are many, many faithful, Christ-loving members who love non-believers and love each other.  However, there are occasionally some who live one way on Sunday and very differently the rest of the week. And, yes, this is hypocrisy.  I refer you to point b) above!
The apostle Paul saw that this was the case and in his letter to the Romans (6:1-4) said the following:

What should we say then?  Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?  Or, are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life.

I heard a good analogy once to describe what you SHOULD see among believers in Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit is working in them to make them more like Jesus:
"A non-Christian leaps into sin and loves it; a Christian lapses into sin and loathes it."
The latter is what you should see in a Christ-centered church.  Most of the time, Christians should live like Jesus would live.  If you see something else, one of three situations is true:
i.   the person is not truly a believer  (oh yeah, it happens)
ii.  the person is not aware of his or her ongoing sin (pride is a prime candidate for this one)
iii. the person is resisting the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in his/her life and is walking in willful disobedience.

But, to "get real" here, let me plainly say that, when non-believers levy this charge, they are usually looking for a way to escape confronting their own sin, and scapegoating the local Bible-believing church is their excuse.

2. Astoundingly, believers in a congregation often hold similar unreasonable expectations. This is most often seen in "church-hoppers".
A church-hopper is a believer who is looking for "the perfect church".  They are "country club" church members who believe that their church family is there to serve them.  So, they join a church and as soon as some circumstance occurs that does not please them, they leave and join another neighboring church, where the cycle of discontent begins all over again! Personally, I believe that God expects us to view our local church family much as we would our biological families.  While there are good reasons to leave a church (relocation to another area, planting a new church or ministry area, foundational doctrinal issues, etc.), I believe that generally God expects us to love our brothers and sisters in the local church and "stick with them".  When the world sees us "split" over "splitting hairs", this just gives them another reason to smirk while saying, "Oh yeah, you will know they are Christians by the love they have for one another...har har har...{insert eye rolling here}"
A friend sent me something yesterday by Francis Frangipane, and I want to paraphrase it because I think it is "right on".

When slapped upside the head with the imperfect reality of my church family, my first thought is anger, closely followed by criticism.  But, I’ve discovered that, often, that situation was the very place Jesus wanted to use to make me more like Him!  After repenting of fault-finding and listening with submission to Jesus’s heart, then I am able to be used by Him to redeem the situation, to be part of the “fix”!  And, all of this caused me to grow in my faith and relationship with my Savior.

Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 5:21 - - - "Letting yourselves be ruled by one another in the fear of Christ." (Basic English Translation)

IF we truly want to be like Jesus, let's look at His response to our failings, foibles, messes - - - He doesn't just get angry and march off indignantly.  No.  He restores us.  He wants to use us to restore the Family when wounds occur, as they inevitably will.  He wants us to be agents of grace, His glorious grace, both within and outside of the Church, the Bride, the Body of Christ.

So!  Is my church "the perfect church"?
Are my pastors/leaders perfect?
Am I perfect?
Is Jesus, our Bridegroom and Beloved Example, perfect?

While there are no perfect Christians nor perfect churches, there IS a perfect Savior.  We can focus our eyes and hearts on Him, so that we can become more like Him.
Hebrews 12:2 says, "Looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (English Standard Version)
Today, whether you are searching for God or secure in your faith in Jesus, keep your eyes fixed on the Perfect Savior.  As this scripture says, Jesus founded your faith in Him and He will go on to perfect your faith in Him, as you keep the eyes of your mind and heart trained on Him.

Father God, thank you for your perfect Son, and that in Him, we have no need to look any further for perfection.  "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever!" (Romans 11:36) What a wonderful Savior is Jesus our Lord - - - incomparable, unchangeable, unshakeable!  May we never attempt to make a god of anything or anyone else, but instead to keep our eyes firmly focused on Him.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Bible - Our Light, our Sword, our Firm Foundation

Good morning!

Have you ever stumbled in the dark?  A few months ago, late at night, I was walking from the bedroom into the dark den with this laptop in my arms.  I was going to plug it in for the night. Unfortunately, because it was so late and I was exhausted, I had lost track of our dog.  Charlie had left the bedroom and gone to lie down on the cooler hardwood floor of the den.  Well, you guessed it. At top speed, I tripped over the dog.  The laptop went flying one way and I went airborne another.  The dog was fine, but I was severely "shook up" and had some monster bruises for several weeks.  The same thing can happen to us spiritually, if we have no spiritual light in order to see where to take our steps each day.

The Bible testifies of itself when the psalmist says:  "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)  In other words, if we will faithfully read the Bible, it will help to keep us from "stumbling" and getting banged up spiritually.  The world at large throws messages at us constantly, and most of them run contrary to God's instructions in his Word, the Bible.  It is so easy to stumble or to get lured off the path we should be on, because our vision gets clouded.  Reading the Word clears our vision.

One of the evidences that the Bible is God's Word is how it is used by the Holy Spirit to radically change lives.  Sometimes, I read on Facebook about horrid crimes that have been committed by individuals, and I see people on Facebook just hatin' on those people because they're so appalled by the crimes themselves.  And, I think, "Yes, that is a horrible thing, but the power of Jesus Christ can change even a person that far gone.  His love is greater.  His love is stronger.  His love is higher than any other." (a paraphrase of Chris Tomlin's song lyrics from "Our God")

Yesterday afternoon, the Hubster and I went to see Dinesh D'Souza's movie, "America".  In the movie, Star Parker gave a little bit of her testimony.  She was formerly a welfare mother who had at least a couple of abortions, maybe more.  But, when she heard the gospel and met the Savior, He changed her. That is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, revealed in the Bible.

Accordingly, when someone is trying to discredit the Christian faith, they always start with attempts to discredit the Bible.They are trying to run away from the conviction of their sin which the Bible reveals. You see, if they can downgrade the Bible to being "just another book", they can rationalize away the conviction that the Bible brings.  The Bible shines light on the dark corners of their lives, and because they love their sin, they hate the Bible for doing that.  They want to be "their own boss", "masters of their own fate".   Eventually, they trip over the rocks of life and then have no one nor any foundation on which to grab hold.  It's heartbreaking, truly.

I cannot possibly, in this limited forum, give an exhaustive, comprehensive dissertation on why the Bible is not only highly credible, but further, that it is infallible.  Many others before me have done a much better job of this.  Josh McDowell, with his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, is one excellent example.  (I invite readers to comment, in the comments section of this blog, with other helpful tools of this type.)

But, I can promise you this:  if you are doubting the truth of God's Word, and will do a thorough search of the proofs of the Bible's infallibility AND if you will READ the Bible, instead of listening to what the world has to say about it, and pray for understanding.... I promise you that you will be shown the truth.  God's promise is this, from Jeremiah 29:13:  "If, with all your heart, you truly seek me, you shall certainly truly find me.  This is what the LORD says."

Just grab that Bible and start reading.  I love the old hymn, "How Firm a Foundation."  It was written in 1787 by John Rippon, and set to music by Joseph Funk in 1832.  Below are some of the many verses:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?

Fear not!  I am with the, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy GOD and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through fiery trials they pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake.

Christian!  Read the Bible daily to walk in the light and avoid getting tripped up.
1 John 1:7 says this, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another. And, the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin."

Father, Abba, as the old saint said just before dying, let us not add to or take away one thing from your Holy Word.   Thank you for "breathing out" the words to your men of faith so that we could have your revelation of truth today.  Please give us a hunger and thirst for Your Word, Lord, even more than we hunger for the best physical food each day.  Even when we are not going through a "fiery trial", but especially then, teach us to fall on our knees in prayer, with the Word in our hands, so that we may be armed with the Sword of the Spirit.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

His Love Never Quits

Good morning!

Here are some verses from the Psalms and Romans 8:38-39 to nourish you, as you head off to worship and to fellowship with your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 117 and 118 verses 1-4  (The Message)

Praise GOD, Everybody!
Applaud GOD, all people!
His love has taken over our lives;
GOD's faithful ways are eternal.

Thank GOD because He's good,
Because His love never quits.
Tell the world, Israel,
"His love never quits."
And you, clan of Aaron, tell the world,
"His love never quits."
And you who fear GOD, join in,
"His love never quits!"

Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

How amazing, how awesome is that?!

Father God, I am so grateful that your love is eternal that, as another version put it, your love endures forever.  And, I am so encouraged by how emphatically the apostle Paul told believers that no created being will have the power to separate us from the love that is in our Savior!  Thank you, thank you, Lord!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Churchy Stuff

Good morning!

As we move deeper into the book of Titus, we read that Paul left Titus in charge of the baby church in Crete. The bulk of this letter is to mentor Titus in how to pastor that church.

It must have frustrated Paul to move around that part of the world and then be called to another area, leaving things unfinished and in the hands of others.  Have you ever felt that way?  Felt God calling you to leave one thing and start another, when what you wanted to say was, "I'm not finished here yet!" In God's plan, you had finished the work He called you there to do, but you weren't feeling that yet.
God's perfect timing and His perfect way do not always seem right to us.
"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."  Proverbs 16:9
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is the way of death." Proverbs 16:25
"As for God, His way is perfect..." 2 Samuel 22:31
We have to trust God's promises when things don't go the way we think they should or when we don't understand God's timing.  (I never said this was easy...)

Paul goes on to warn Titus to appoint godly leaders in the church, and to beware of those who would stir up trouble and dissension by teaching false doctrine.
He then gives Titus advice about how to effectively lead groups of people in the church - - - older men, older women, younger women, young men, slaves.

Paul makes a powerful point in chapter 2, verse 7.  He emphasizes that Titus must show the Cretans how to live in Christ by living right himself...that this is the only way to be authentic and to win others for Christ, as well as to help new Christians grow in the faith.

Some of my favorite verses from Titus are at the end of chapter 2, verses 11-14.   Here they are in the NIV:
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Here, Paul is making the point that, although our eternal salvation is a certainty in Jesus Christ, we are learning as we grow in grace to say "no" to ungodliness. This is an ongoing, purifying process that the Holy Spirit will do in our lives, if we yield to Him and let him purify us.  I love the word for that process:  Sanctification!
Paul reminds us in verses 4-8 of chapter 3 that we had nothing to do with earning our salvation, that it was all God's doing, not ours.
As a saved people, though, a people that Jesus can be proud of, we must live as those who have been washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.
Paul said something similar to the Philippians in 2:12 when he instructed them to "work out their salvation".

The final point Paul makes to Titus is to stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over "fine print in the law code" (Message version).  The major doctrines of our faith are worth fighting over, but all too often Christians harm their testimony in their communities by allowing their pride to lead to arguing over things that are much less important.  You know the things I'm talking about - - - whether the words to worship music are in a hymnbook or on a screen, whether the pastor should wear a jacket or a Hawaiian shirt, etc.  Satan loves to use these silly disagreements to disqualify the message of the gospel to unbelievers in our neighborhoods, when what we should be doing inside our churches is valuing others above ourselves.
Philippians 2:3 [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves...{King James Version}
Love one another.
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
 (John 13:35)When we do that, we honor Christ.

Good morning, Father!  Thank you for the rain that is falling on us here this morning.  As the water cleanses the earth so your Holy Spirit waits to cleanse our hearts, minds and spirits by your amazing grace!  I am so grateful for that.  Lord, remind us to take to heart the admonitions you gave to Titus in this inspired book.  Some days we seem so surrounded by evil that we despair of seeing your glorious appearing, and maybe we won't see it in our earthly lifetimes.  But, that only goes to show that our plans are not your plans.  Work Your will in me today.  Be King over my life today.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Paul's Calling

Good morning!

Today's reading is from the book of Titus, chapter 1:1-4.  This morning I was reading from The Message version.

I realize that I sometimes get long-winded in my blog posts.  They tend to be longer than most posts of this type you see here and there on the internet.  My posts are intended to give you a morning spiritual meal, not a snack.  As I feed myself each morning, I share with you.  I hope that this blog nourishes you spiritually, as that is what I have felt led by the Lord to do: to share my morning spiritual food with you each day.  I'll be honest.  It is against my nature to do a blog, as I lack self-discipline in this area. But, I am trying to walk in obedience to the Lord in doing it, so as to glorify Him.

Paul introduces himself at the beginning of each of his New Testament letters.  While that may seem egotistical to you, remember that for a long time he was seen as "Public Enemy #1 of the Early Church".  He was a fanatical Jewish leader, who was committed to exterminating the Christian movement by going around killing Christians wherever he found them.  He was a one-man Inquisition and Executioner!  The beautiful thing about after Saul (he was called Saul then) was converted is that that very same passion and zeal carried over into his new life in Christ!  He turned from killing Christians to "birthing" disciples in Christ!  Sometimes, I encounter very passionate people who are headed off in a destructive direction and I think, "Oh, if only they could meet the living God!  I just know that passion would change the world for Christ!"  Jesus, in His sovereignty, chose to "slap Paul upside the head with His awesomeness", and the world is forever changed by this man who was "on fire" for Jesus. You can find the story of Saul's conversion in Acts 9.

 From Paul, a slave of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, to further the faith of God’s chosen ones and the knowledge of the truth that is in keeping with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before time began. But now in his own time he has made his message evident through the preaching I was entrusted with according to the command of God our Savior.To Titus, my genuine son in a common faith. Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!
Titus 1:1-4 (NET)

So, at the beginning of Titus, look at how Paul describes himself:
1.  God's slave
2.  Christ's agent (apostle)
With this declaration, Paul is declaring the Jewish religion as being the foundation of Christianity.  The two faiths are inextricably linked, and the members of the early Church were encouraged to not reject the major tenets of Judaism, but to let the Jewish faith point them to Jesus.  Even Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Old Testament law of Moses, but to fulfill it.  (Matthew 5:17)

Paul further states here that his calling is to:
1.  promote the faith among God's chosen people
2.  get out the word accurately and how to respond rightly to it
3.  point the way to life without end
     Let's dig here.  Who are God's chosen people?  God's chosen people in this Church age are those who accept God's Son, Jesus Christ, as their Savior.  If you read that and think, "Well, I'm not one of those chosen ones, then it is you who are deciding to reject Jesus, not God making that decision for you.  When the Scriptures say (Jesus' words)  in Matthew 22:14,  "Many are called, but few are chosen", it means the invitation is extended to everyone.  "The chosen" are those who respond to the Holy Spirit's prompting, who refuse to harden their hearts to God, and who accept God's gracious invitation of His Son, Jesus.
     Many have said, and I agree with them, that Jesus came at just the perfect time in history to allow the early Church to grow and flourish.  One of the evidences is here in Paul's next phrase ("get out the word accurately...).  While, to us, it seems that communication was very limited (foot travel/messenger or written letter or both) these "antiquated" modes of communication allowed Paul and the other early Church fathers to correct error as they encountered it.  There was plenty of it!  Because Christianity was born out of Judaism, and the Jews of that day were ultra-bound up in their legalistic traditions, it was difficult for Paul and the other Church leaders to "root that out".  BUT, can you imagine all the error that would have been spread in this modern world, via TV, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? (blogs?  lol...) had Jesus been born and lived today?  We still use Paul's New Testament letters (and also those of other eyewitness apostles) today.  How great is our God and how wise!
     "Life without end" - - - if I try to grasp that concept it quickly kinks up my brain.  Can't grasp it.  But, what a thought!  We who know Jesus will be in Heaven forever and ever and ever.  And, those who do not know him, well, they will exist in an eternity apart from God, which the Bible records as being a place of eternal torment.  The best example of this is the story of the wise man and Lazarus, whose deaths are retold by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31.  We'll talk in more detail about that tomorrow.
     Paul's calling is the calling of every Christian pastor and Bible teacher, but wait....hold on now, before you push that aside, it is also the calling of every Christian!  God has gifted every Christian with the spiritual gifts unique to him or her, so that each of us can fulfill these purposes by using our spiritual gifts!  (Spiritual gifts are a multi-blogpost topic...)

In verse 4, Paul admonishes Titus to "receive everything God our Father and Jesus our Savior give you"!  That admonition applies to every Christian also.  I hope that I will and I hope that you will, Christ follower, embrace that in your life.  Today, receive everything God has given you in Christ, whether it is easy or not, whether it is "your plan" or not!  If you do, you will be ... resplendent!

Father, thank you for the example You gave us in your Word, the example of the apostle Paul.  While we do not possess the same set of spiritual gifts he did, You have created each of us beautiful in your sight.  Through Christ, you see us as bought back, redeemed, perfect, resplendent!  Help us to embrace the calling You have given to each one of us and also to use our set of gifts to honor and glorify You today and every day.  I love you, Lord!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

And More Weapons . . .

Good Morning!

This morning, we continue to look at the remaining weapons that the apostle Paul lists in this passage (Ephesians 6:12-20), weapons which are essential for enabling us to bring honor to God as we live out our Christian faith.

Helmet of Salvation
One of Satan's biggest lies is to cause us to doubt that we really belong to Jesus Christ.  Another "biggie" is to cause us to believe that there is little we can do to further God's Kingdom.  This is why it is imperative for us to remember two truths:
1.  Once we have embraced Jesus as our Savior, we are His, forever and ever.  Regardless of our emotional state at the moment, we are His.  Regardless of how we wander, we are His.  Regardless of the mistakes we make, He is waiting for us to turn back to Him in confession and deep repentance.  He is waiting with open arms.
2.  Every Christian is crucial to God's plan to bring Him glory.  There is no such thing as an insignificant Christian.  In fact, if Satan is slamming you up against a wall, very likely God wants to use you in a powerful way, and this is why Satan is opposing you so greatly.  Never believe that you are insignificant.  Some of you reading this may have physical limitations and believe that, because of that, you are finished, done, washed up.  Well, my dear, that is a lie.  As long as you can think, you can pray.  We'll talk more about that later in this post.  Get to praying, as often as you can.  Satan hates that.

So, don't let Satan "get inside your head" about this and discourage you!  Put on that helmet of salvation every day.  You are a child of the King, a resplendent daughter (or son)!  Get out there and GLEAM!

Sword of the Spirit - God's Word
Psalm 119:89-120
I was just reading this passage and I encourage you to go read it also.  The Psalmist is painting a beautiful picture of how much God's written Word means to him.  (Of course, at that time, the only written word he had was the Old Testament law, which is why he constantly refers to "your law".)
In Hebrews 4:12, the writer (whom many believe to be Paul, others Luke or's disputed who the author was) tells us straight up how powerful God's written Word is:
"For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart."  (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
The Bible is alive.  How is that possible?  What the writer is saying here is that the Bible can cause cataclysmic change in people's lives when they read it, just as if it were a living person.
In the Ephesians passage, Paul says that the Bible is the sword of the Holy Spirit.
So, the living Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Holy Trinity, uses this mighty sword to change lives. How amazing!
Christian, do not neglect the daily reading of this Book.  Read it prayerfully and reverently and allow the Holy Spirit to change your life through the reading.  The Bible is God's personal, special message to us, His Children.  Don't underutilize this powerful weapon!

How do you view prayer?  In a previous post, I went into great detail about this topic and I won't rehash it here.  But, please remember that prayer is one of your most powerful weapons, Christian! Paul began this dissertation of spiritual weapons with Truth and ended it with Prayer.  Bookend and bookend.
One thing I want you to notice here is that Paul, as a minister of the gospel, asks the Ephesians to pray for him, specifically that he would be given the necessary boldness to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ as he should. This is what every godly minister of the gospel hopes that his congregants will pray for him.  Do you pray for your godly pastor?  Please do!  It matters.  Boldly proclaiming the truth of the Word of God is a fearsome responsibility.  Our godly men in the pulpit need all the prayer and support they can get.  It always touches my heart when our pastor prays right before his sermon and asks the Holy Spirit to guide his words and not to let him stand in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to say through him.  I appreciate my pastor and hope that you appreciate yours too.  If you don't, pray harder for him and about what you can do to support him.  He is God's man for your church at this time and needs your prayers.

Well, love is not mentioned in this passage, but I mention it here because love is the super-weapon.  In another letter of Paul's (to the Corinthians - - 1Cor. 13) he devotes a whole chapter to the pre-eminence of love.  Jesus called love "the greatest commandment" in Matthew 22:36-40.  See John 13:34-35.
Read these passages and reflect on how love should be in everything we do. No matter what spiritual weapon we wield, we should cover it in love.  Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14), wielding these weapons of spiritual warfare is useless, without love.

We'll talk more about love in a later post.

So, there you have them.  "Put them on" every day so that you can walk in spiritual victory!
"But, thank God!  He gives us the victory over sin and death, through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Oh Father God, thank you for the precious instruction You give us in Your holy Word.  Thank you for telling us how to please, honor, glorify, magnify You.  Thank you for these weapons, with which we can claim victory over the Evil One, our Adversary.  Thank you that "we can do all things through Christ our Savior, who gives us strength."  Help us to be dedicated to use these weapons daily and throughout the day.  Help us to remember to love You, and to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.  We love You, Lord!  In Jesus' name, amen.