Friday, January 31, 2020

THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY




            The Scripture speaks of the mystery of the kingdom of God, the mystery of Christ, the mystery of the gospel and the mystery of godliness. These mysteries are revealed in Jesus Christ. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1Timothy 3:16) And Jesus will return again. His second coming was proclaimed by an angel when He ascended up into heaven.
But there is another mystery that will be revealed before Jesus’ second coming. The mystery of iniquity will be revealed by the coming of an imposter who will claim to bring world peace. He is called in Scripture the son of perdition because he has allowed Satan to fill him. (Jesus called Judas by that same name because Satan had filled Judas’ heart.) Many will follow this deceiver, and, while promising peace, he will lead them into eternal destruction. Satan always seems to have an evil counterfeit for the good gifts God has given us. Many people will be taken in by this counterfeit peace that will be offered to the world. And it may seem for a short while that peace has come, but it will be suddenly replaced by a hostile, demonic takeover by the forces of evil. We know this deceiver as the antichrist. He is opposed to all that Christ is because he is filled with the spirit of the devil. His power and wisdom come from the devil, and he is sold out, fully committed to do the work of Satan. Second Thessalonians 2 warns us about him and his spirit that is already at work among us.
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [the Day of Christ] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work.”
            Paul warns the believers in Thessalonica to be careful so they will not be deceived with the spirit of antichrist that is already at work among us. That man of sin has not been revealed yet, but we can already see the lawlessness that is in the world. Be careful that it does not creep into your heart, turning you away from Jesus. Paul’s warning is important for us to hear. It is easy to let down our guard and begin to receive doctrines that seem okay, but actually lead us astray from God’s Word. The lack of power among God’s people and the lack of urgency for evangelization shows a lack of being filled with God’s Spirit and His Word. It is imperative that we don’t become lax in our relationship with Jesus in these last days.
There is a short chapter in the book of Psalms that can help us stay full of the Spirit and the Word of God. It is the very first psalm in the book.
Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers). But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].
(Psalm 1:1-3 Amplified Bible)
This chapter may be short, but it gives us some of the greatest information we can have. It outlines the two basic choices for life and the consequences of both. Although it is concise, it breaks down the components enough that we understand how to wisely incorporate this wisdom into our lives. We can choose to be blessed or cursed. We can choose life or death. But as we go on reading in this psalm we see the things that lead us in each direction.
The first part lets us know there are two counselors. We can take counsel from God’s Word or from the ungodly. But we need to differentiate between those voices. There are many voices offering advice and opinions. Social media is full of voices that claim to know the truth. How can we know the difference between God’s counsel and ungodly counsel? This passage of Scripture tells us the one who does not take ungodly counsel is the one who finds delight in the Word of God. They read it, meditate on it and apply it to their lives. Those are people who are walking in the will and counsel of God. When you are full of God’s Word, it is easier to recognize deception. Being full of His Spirit gives us the discernment we need.
Don’t take the word of others who say they know what the Scripture says. Go to the Scripture for yourself. Ask God to show you the meaning and how to walk it out in your daily living. Beware of the counsel of the ungodly. The ungodly have advice that might seem good on the surface, but it is not God’s counsel.
The ungodly will tell us to “look out for #1” (meaning ourselves). “Always do what will give you the best advantage.” But God’s Word tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to do to others what we want them to do to us. In other words, we are to be looking out for the good of others.
If someone wrongs us, the ungodly will tell us to get even with them and make them pay for what they have done. Jesus says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44) In other words, let God handle it. Many people consider anything less than standing up for our rights is showing weakness in us. But when we are weak, the strength of God will be seen more clearly working through us. Our part is to do good to others and pray for them. That is a choice. We have a wise, strong, powerful, all-knowing Counselor in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 9:6 speaks of Christ like this: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. We can depend on His counsel every time.
There are also two ways or paths. There is the way of the sinners. But Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It may seem easier to walk in the way of sinners, but the end is destruction. It may be difficult to live in the kingdom of God while we are in this world, because they are two opposing kingdoms. But following Jesus will lead to life. Jesus is the only way to the Father, the only way to heaven. When this earth has passed away, the kingdom of God will stand strong. Which kingdom will we be in? That depends on which path we take.
There are also two choices. We can scoff at Jesus and His teachings, or we can choose to be His disciples and follow Him. When Jesus hung on the cross, He hung between two thieves. Both were dying for crimes they had committed. Jesus had done nothing wrong, yet He was dying for their sins, your sins, my sins. One thief believed in Christ and asked to be remembered in His kingdom. That thief followed Jesus into paradise that very day. The other thief had the same opportunity, but he chose to be among the mockers of Christ. His punishment removed him from this world to face eternal punishment without Christ. It is so much better to follow the counsel of God’s Word, to walk the path where He leads us, and to make the choice to surrender to Him.
The last three verses of Psalm 1 clarify the consequences of those who choose the counsel of the ungodly, the way of sinners and the seat of the scornful. And it reinforces the blessings of those who choose God’s counsel, God’s way and following Christ. It says, “The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so” [not fruitful and prospering], “But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.  Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked shall perish.” (Amplified Bible)
 The way of the ungodly can have a strong pull, but our God is able to keep us. Beware of the spirit of antichrist that is already at work in this world. It is a lawless spirit, a deceiving, Godless spirit. Make sure you stay close to God in His kingdom. Study His Word and allow His Spirit to lead you. If you do, you will prosper even in the face of the turbulent evil of this world. Keep your heart clean and do not forsake meeting together with other believers who can build you up and encourage you.
 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NKJV)


Friday, December 20, 2019

THE MYSTERY REVEALED



One of the most wide-spread traditions we all have at Christmas is buying presents for others and keeping them secret until just the right time. I buy gifts year-round in anticipation of Christmas coming. When the time is right, I give them to the recipient and they unwrap them to reveal what I have chosen for them.  I always hope they will like what I gave them.
God gave the greatest gift ever given on that first Christmas when “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  Sometimes we take that for granted. But our Messiah Redeemer was expected for many years before the time was right for the plan of God to be revealed.
Many of us read the Christmas story from Luke 2 that tells of the angels appearing to the shepherds and proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ birth. Verse 15 says, “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known unto us.”
This “thing that had come to pass” wasn’t something the shepherds took lightly. Watching and waiting for the Messiah was the focal point for every Jew. For hundreds of years, all of Israel had been waiting for the promised Messiah, longing for that day to arrive. The prophets during those times would receive pieces of the puzzle of God’s mystery. God showed various aspects of the Messiah to prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea and others. There are also many prophetic scriptures in the Psalms.
God chose not to unwrap the whole mystery to the prophets, but gave pieces of information, a little here and a little there. These pieces were to help identify Him when He was revealed. But the puzzle still remained unfinished. It remained a great mystery.
Numerous prophecies were given down through the years. It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, He would suffer and be pierced, He would be born of a virgin, He would minister in Galilee, He would be preceded by a forerunner, and that He would ultimately be rejected by His own people.
But, in the fullness of time when God’s plan unfolded, it was breath-taking and astounding! No one could have imagined that God Himself would come down from heaven and live among us. No one would have ever thought that He would become a human Baby, be born in a stable and be laid in a manger. Yet, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” God chose to reveal the mystery of the ages through Jesus Christ. There is no glory like the glory of Jesus! And yet He came to show us His glory and make His glory to shine through all who would receive Him. John 1 tells us that to those who would receive Him, He gave power to become the sons of God. His power, not ours.
He spoke to Mary and Joseph through an angel, to the wise men by a star, to the shepherds through a heavenly host saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will to men!” He speaks to us today by His Spirit. He may use a message, a song or His written Word to speak to us, but it is His Spirit that reveals it to our soul. He will reveal Himself to you today, too, if you seek after Him.
Many think they are too young or too old or too unworthy. But as long as we live, we are never too young or too old to surrender our lives to Jesus. And no matter our status in this world, Jesus will reveal Himself to us personally if we seek Him. Kings bowed before Him. Lowly shepherds did, too! He revealed Himself to them both.
Now, we have the full revelation of God’s plan for our salvation. So what are we going to do about it? We need to be like the shepherds and go tell everyone so they can know Him too. The shepherds wasted no time in making this gift known to others. They eagerly received the message, acted on it and shared it. We have been given that same gift, that same revelation of Jesus Christ. Have we received Him? Have we passed on this gift to others? It’s the best gift to give and receive.
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith - to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” Romans 16:25-28



Monday, November 18, 2019

SET APART



             Many of the things that happened under the Old Covenant were types and shadows of what would come under the New Covenant. One of those types was the institution of priests who would hear from God and then instruct the people in God’s commandments and principles. God called out the tribe of Levi and set them apart unto Him. They were to hear from God and speak His words to the people. They were to live according to God’s law and hold up an example of holiness so the people could see what these laws looked like being walked out in daily living.
            And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.(Ezekiel 44:23) But, little by little, God’s priests stopped teaching God’s word and stopped being examples of His holiness. In so doing, they led many astray and turned them from God. Yet, it didn’t change anything about God’s Word.   It changed the people’s relationship with Him. God said, “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy (sacred) and the profane (secular), they have not taught [people] the difference between the unclean and the clean...” (Ezekiel 22:26 Amplified) The prophet Malachi gave these words from God to the people. For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 2:7-8)
            The people stopped serving God because the priests were unfaithful. The priests broke their covenant with God and taught the people to do the same. They condoned what God condemned. They were speaking their own words and attributing them to God, but they were not God’s words. They were eventually judged and punished for their disobedience after God had given them numerous warnings to come back to Him.
We may think that has nothing to do with us, but it actually has a lot to do with those who belong to Christ. Revelation 1:5-6 says, “Unto him [Jesus Christ] that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We have been made priests by Jesus Christ, our High Priest. We have been set apart unto Him, not unto our own wisdom or agenda, but unto Him. Jesus instituted our priesthood under the New Covenant. 1 Peter 2:5, 9 and 10 says, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy. 
If we are walking in the light and are true Christians, then we are called as priests unto God. We have the same mandate as the Old Covenant priests. Jesus commissioned all His followers in Matthew 28:19-20. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
            The early disciples heard God’s Word from Jesus and were commissioned to tell it to the people. They followed Jesus’ commandments and lived in obedience to Jesus’ principles. And they had the power of God with them. The early priests had followed God’s laws and principles, too, at first. But somewhere along the line they compromised and stopped speaking truth to the people and stopped holding God up as holy by their own holy lifestyles. So have we. It seems most members in Christian churches have stopped seeking to hear from God. They have stopped living in the righteousness provided by Jesus, and have lost the authority of His Word and power of His Spirit.
            This generation has compromised the truth and is leading people astray, because there is no longer a clear distinction between the holy and the profane. Yet, God has not changed His principles. It simply changes the people’s relationship with God. A lack of knowledge of God’s Word will condemn the guilty. Knowledge of His Word will warn the guilty and allow them to make a choice of whether or not they will accept the conditions of the New Covenant. Jesus’ gospel is the only way to eternal life.
Every Christian has the responsibility of living God’s Word and being a testimony of His saving power. We also have a mandate to spread the gospel to others. The power of God was with the early disciples because they were carrying out Jesus command to “go”. Without the faithfulness of God’s people to hold the Word out as a guiding light, this world has no compass as a reference point to help them find their way. Many have no knowledge of Jesus and no direction in life. They remain lost because we have ceased to make God’s Word clear by our words and example. So, what can we do to change that?
            God said, “Yet from the days of your fathers you have turned away from My statues and ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’”
            We can return to Him. We can go back to the place where we stopped following God and His Word. We might need to ask some hard questions. Are we more in line with what the world says, or with what the Bible says? Do we know the difference, or have we allowed ourselves to confuse the two because of politically correct protocol? Do we act like Jesus? Do we think like Jesus? Are His priorities our priorities? What are we spending more time on than we are with God? Instead of adjusting to the world’s climate, we need to search the Scripture and follow what God says. Don’t depend on your memory of what the Bible says. Go directly to the Word. Look at the issues in our society and search them out in the Scripture. What does God say about these issues?  Some of the recent topics are abortion and same-sex marriages. If you want to know what God says, it’s in the Bible. God also has a lot to say about anger, bitterness, adultery, vengeance and envy. Once we know what God says, we have to decide whether to go His way or not. If we want to follow God and we pick up the Bible to guide us, I believe we will find that we need to make major changes in our lives. Some may seem severe, but that is only a reflection of how far we have departed from His Word. We need to return to living a separated life unto God, holding up the holiness of God in our daily living.
            I am sometimes amazed at what people believe about God, heaven, hell, salvation and what it means to be a Christian. It is so far from what the Bible teaches. It seems most people think acts of kindness and acknowledging that God is real secures us a place in heaven, and that’s all that really counts. This kind of belief is dangerous because it gives a false hope and false sense of security that keeps people from entering God’s kingdom. Where do they get these ideas? Maybe from priests who no longer hear from God. Somehow the true gospel has ceased to be taught in many churches and homes. So we have failed people who think they are okay and on their way to heaven.
It is a counterfeit gospel that promotes a god who accepts everyone into his kingdom because he is good. God IS good and He will accept those who come to Him in repentance from sin and who move forward into a new life following Christ’s teachings and example. But He will not accept sin. Those who continue in sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. If He accepts sin in His kingdom, there was no need for Jesus to die for us to remove our sins. True repentance doesn’t just thank God for forgiveness and continue in sin. Those who truly repent walk according to the Word of God. Jesus makes us a whole new creation and changes who we are inside. Because of the inner change, the outward changes, too. It is not a matter of following the law. It is a matter of having the law of God in our hearts and the power of His Spirit empowering us to live as a changed person. Those truths are becoming more and more foreign among us. Even in Christian circles, those who follow the Word of God are considered strange. How sad that we are so far removed from God’s principles and His power! And yet, we proclaim to be His followers. What a confusing message we are sending this world. And we are deceiving ourselves.
While we cannot force people into the kingdom of God, we can give them the truth of the gospel so they can make their decision with a knowledge of the consequences of sin and of what Jesus has done to save us from those consequences. The message of the gospel is a light to lead us to truth and freedom. We are to share it in its purity with others. We don’t need to start a crusade against evil as much as we need to speak and live the truth plainly. But we need to speak the truth out of love and with compassion to draw in the lost, not with condemnation and vengeance against them. God’s priests had stopped making a clear distinction between truth and error, righteousness and unrighteousness. Let’s not make the same mistake.

What kind of priests are we?

Faithful? Or Unfaithful?

Are we speaking truth?




Monday, October 14, 2019

HOPE WITH A GUARANTEE



During our excursions out west, we would often ride for a long time through a desolate part of the land. The map told us if we kept going, the scenery would change and we would see some beautiful sights. We were hoping for something good just over the horizon, and we were not disappointed.  
Hope is an expectation of good. We may be facing troubles, but we hope to reach a refuge soon that will mark the end of the wilderness we are traveling through. We don’t know what the end will look like, but we wait for it like an old, faithful friend. Or we may hope to go on a vacation. We aren’t there yet, but we have plans and are waiting for that day of departure. We haven’t seen God face to face, but we are looking forward in hope to seeing Him one day and leaving all the toils of this life behind us.
Sometimes our hopes are realized. Sometimes they fall by the wayside and we never see them come to pass, but there is one hope that has the guarantee of God Himself. It is a hope that every true child of God can have, those who are anchored in Jesus Christ. It is rock solid and more sure than the sun coming up in the morning. Hebrews 6:17-19 tells us, “In the same way God, in His desire to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable nature of His purpose, intervened and guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. This hope [this confident assurance] we have as an anchor of the soul [it cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it] – a safe and steadfast hope…”
When we place our hope in Jesus, it’s like putting down an immoveable anchor. We can trust Him to keep us calm and steady. Our boat may toss about in a storm, but it will not be moved from its position. We can remain firmly positioned in Christ. Then we won’t drift into uncharted or hostile waters where we don’t need to be. Our hope in Jesus is the anchor of our soul. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions.
With our hope completely in Christ, we won’t reason out problems or make plans with our own intellect. We will do it with the wisdom of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Our own way usually leads us into trouble, because we don’t always know what’s best. God knows the past, present and future.
If we keep our anchor in Jesus, our will becomes meshed into His will. We no longer stubbornly demand to have our way. We are no longer resistant to His will, because we have become one with Him, anchored to Jesus Christ. When we walk in God’s will, we are safe.
Our hope in Jesus also prevents our emotions from carrying us out into the open sea where we drift aimlessly whichever way the tide pulls us. There is so much drama in our world today that sometimes I wonder if people know who they really are.  So many lives are governed by what will gain the most attention to self, or whatever makes us popular with our peers. If we are not careful, we can be sucked into the drama and forget who we are in Christ. Instead of allowing our emotions to lead us, we need to anchor our emotions to the Word of God.
This immoveable anchor is a complete trust in God, even in disturbing times. It is being confident that He will take the good and the bad and use it all for our ultimate good. It is about abiding in Him and clinging to His Word regardless of the circumstances.
We know our anchor is down when we live and move and have our being in Jesus; when He is at the center of our whole life, every decision and every activity; when the very essence of who we are is based in Him.
Our soul can only remain steadfast if we are anchored in Christ. Any other anchor will slip and eventually pull us along with the tide. Jesus alone can make good on His guarantee to keep us, because He alone has full control of everything. When we place our confidence and hope in ourselves, a doctor, minister or anyone else, regardless of how skilled and wise they are, we will eventually be disappointed. Make sure your hope is truly in Jesus and not just what you want to believe.
Two of Jesus’ followers were walking away from Jerusalem because Jesus had died and their hope had vanished. They were so disappointed that they didn’t even believe the women who found the tomb empty and an angel there who told them Jesus was not there but was risen just as He had told them many times. Even the women’s testimony didn’t revive their hope. Why?  How could they have followed Jesus, hearing His words, seeing His miracles and experiencing His presence and be so forlorn and disillusioned now?
They were disappointed because they believed in the wrong thing. They didn’t believe what Jesus said. They believed what they wanted from Jesus. They believed in their own dreams and plans instead of what Jesus said He would do. They said “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel and set our nation free.” They were believing for a physical kingdom and physical deliverance. Jesus never promised that. They had small hopes. So they missed the eternal hope until Jesus revealed Himself to them. Jesus had joined them in their journey from Jerusalem, and they didn’t recognize Him. He talked with them all the way to their destination before He revealed Himself to them. Then He disappeared. They immediately headed back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples they had seen the Lord. Their hope was renewed and rightly placed.
God had something far greater, something eternal, a deliverance that would reach to you and me in our generation 2000 years later. The natural mind couldn’t understand it, the will of man wanted physical deliverance and their emotions caused them to drift away.
Where have we placed our hope? In Jesus, or in our own interpretation of Jesus? Read the Word of God and listen to the Holy Spirit within you to find out what Jesus has said and what He has promised. Then hold on to that and don’t allow anything to turn you aside! It may be postponed until a future date, but He will bring His Word to pass in His way and His timing. And it will be the right way.
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” When the reality of our hope is postponed until a future time, we can become disillusioned because it hasn’t happened when and how we thought it would. We have God’s guarantee that when we place our hope in Him, we will never be disappointed. If you are disappointed now, check out what you are believing in. If you are believing in the Word of God, it will come to pass at the right time. It is a “safe and steadfast hope.” “It cannot slip and it cannot break down under whatever pressure bears upon it.”
With our anchor in Jesus Christ, our soul (our mind, will and emotions) will remain calm because our God is bigger than the storm.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of this world. It’s like the tide constantly rushing in to shore and then pulling back out to sea. We can allow ourselves to be pulled into the rhythm of this world, or we can break free to live in the rhythm of God’s will, God’s Spirit and God’s kingdom.
This world is afraid and angry. But we don’t have to be because we have an anchor. The world will tell us “it’s impossible”. But don’t let it pull you out to sea. Find out what God has to say about it and keep your anchor down. The world is fighting for its rights. We don’t have to because our God is in complete control.
As Christians, we should have peace, not turmoil. If we keep our anchor in Jesus, we can remain calm in the storm, strong and confident in opposition, bold to proclaim His Word, and courageous enough to keep our anchor down, secure in Christ, even in the hard times. When the storm rages and winds blow with hurricane force, it may seem we need to do something or we will perish. The best thing we can do is to keep our anchor down and not be moved from our position in Christ. If your anchor is in Jesus, don’t take it up for anybody or anything!! If your anchor is not in Jesus, I ask that you please place all your hope in Him today, because only God can guarantee our hope.


We have an anchor for our souls
We can stand firm against the tide.
We can be unmoved by the storms.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

ALMOST PERSUADED OR FULLY PERSUADED?



            Have you ever had someone try to persuade you to do something you were reluctant to do or even determined not to do? In my (much) younger days, I went to a theme park with some of my cousins. The guys wanted to ride a roller coaster that turned upside down, and I said, “absolutely not”. (It was relatively new at the time.) So, I removed myself from the line for that ride and told them to have fun. The next thing I knew, I was being lifted from my place outside the line back inside the line. Guess what I did. I rode the roller coaster. Did I enjoy it? Of course, I did! The only reason I didn’t want to ride it in the first place was because it was not familiar to me and I was afraid. I just needed a little persuasion.
            Riding or not riding the roller coaster really made no difference in the quality of my life, even though I still remember it after all those years. But being persuaded or not being persuaded to follow Christ will make all the difference for now and eternity.
            To persuade someone means to appeal to them by advising or urging them to do something or believe something. One who is persuaded by this urging becomes fully convinced and will carry out their belief until it is entirely accomplished. The proof of someone’s persuasion is in their actions, not just their words.
            On one occasion, the apostle Paul was taken from his prison cell to state his case before the Roman Governor Festus and King Agrippa who was visiting Festus. First, Paul acknowledged that he was happy to speak before King Agrippa because the king was well-versed in the Jewish law and was also knowledgeable of Jesus and His works, crucifixion and resurrection. After that Paul gave an account of his own life as a Pharisee and a persecutor of those who followed Jesus until he met Jesus personally. He told them of his conversion when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed his course. He also gave a testimony that Jesus is the Messiah they had been waiting for. “Then Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time [and with so little effort] you [almost] persuade me to become a Christian.”
My cousins’ “persuasion” to change my mind was physical. They actually lifted me back into the line with them. But we can’t do that in trying to persuade someone to follow Jesus. We cannot lift them into a place of full surrender. That is entirely up to the individual.
            Agrippa knew about Jesus firsthand. He knew the Jewish laws and traditions. He knew the prophecies about the Messiah. Now he had heard Paul’s testimony. And he was almost convinced to follow Christ, but he didn’t. ‘Almost’ is still a negative. Almost is very nearly, but not quite. If someone almost dies, they are still alive. If someone almost wins, they have still lost. It remains that they did not die or they did not win. The end result is not altered by ‘almost’. Being almost persuaded is not receiving the gospel. Having respect for those who follow Christ and acknowledging holy things as holy is not receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ. King Agrippa’s “almost persuaded” status left him just like he had been, or maybe a little worse because he had heard the truth and rejected it. He had a divided heart. It seems he believed mentally but not enough to change his course.  He wanted what he had in this world more than Jesus Christ. He received nothing because he did not surrender to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. We must be all for God, His Kingdom and His will. We cannot have a heart half-way for God. He will not accept it. We must give Him all. Those who are almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom of God.
Abraham was a different story. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”  (Romans 4:20-22)
Abraham was fully, completely, entirely persuaded that what God said was true. He was certain that everything God said would be entirely accomplished, so he obeyed everything God told him to do. If you receive a box containing all the pieces to construct a bookshelf and you follow the directions on how to put it together, you will get a bookshelf just like the picture on the box it came in. You were promised the outcome and were given the instructions on what to do to get the promised results. But only if you are fully persuaded that whoever wrote those directions knows how to deliver what they promised will you actually follow the directions. Abraham believed, so he followed God’s instructions, and he saw the promise come to pass. If Abraham had not believed God’s Word to him and had not acted on it, God would not have bestowed on him the blessing of being “the father of many nations” and “the friend of God”. But Abraham was fully persuaded, and he fully followed God’s instructions, so he received exactly what God promised.
Abraham even believed for things he knew he would not see in his lifetime. Much of what God promised him was for his descendants. But there was no unbelief in him, and everything God promised him happened. God blessed Abraham immensely both physically and spiritually because of his faith and even declared him righteous by faith. Because Abraham was fully persuaded, it changed the course of his life and the course of many lives.
We find in the Bible that God has promised great things to those who believe Him enough to follow His directions and give their all to follow Him completely. But we must be fully persuaded. We cannot be persuaded “all except”. We may not understand it all, but faith means we believe God anyway. Abraham didn’t understand it all, either.
We are not fully persuaded if we have a divided heart. If we believe part of God’s Word, but not all of it, we have a double heart and try to take the place of God by determining which part is true and which is not. Those who are fully persuaded have an undivided heart and their actions prove their persuasion. Whatever God says is true and they believe truth whether they understand it perfectly or not.
When King Saul rebelled against God’s instructions, God rejected him. Saul obeyed part of what God told him to do, but not all of it. Saul himself decided to determine how the spoils of battle should best be used, putting his own judgment above God’s. So, God rejected him and chose David to succeed him on the throne of Israel. It didn’t happen immediately. Many years went by before it came to pass, but David believed what God had promised him. And quite some time after the death of Saul it happened. Warriors from each of the twelve tribes of Israel came to David to make him king over all Israel, “to turn over the kingdom of Saul to him.” These men are described like this: “All these, being men of war arrayed in battle formation, came to Hebron with a perfect (committed) heart to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest of Israel were also of one mind to make David king.” These men were trustworthy, men of honor without any sort of hidden agenda or double purpose.
God had already turned the kingdom over to David. The people were now confirming God’s choice and making His will their own. They joined the kingdom God had already declared many years before. They placed themselves under David’s command willingly and unconditionally. Although they came from many tribes, they gathered for one purpose – to acknowledge David as king. They were fully persuaded.
If we are fully persuaded to follow Jesus, we must come with an undivided heart; no hidden agenda, no double purpose. We must come fully surrendered to Jesus’ rule over us willingly and unconditionally, and acknowledging what God has already declared – Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, now and forevermore! Everything is under subjection to Him, and the day is coming when “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Those who are only almost persuaded are still outside the kingdom. Those who are fully persuaded and have given their all to Jesus will receive His righteousness, wisdom, discernment, and an inheritance as His children. One day we will all bow and confess Jesus as Lord. Why not today?
Are You Fully Persuaded?


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW GROUND




Jeremiah 4:3 says, “For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.”
            Most farmers are familiar with fallow ground, but for those of us who are not farmers, let me give you the definition. It is a field that has lain idle, so the crust needs to be broken up before it can receive seed again. The ground that was once plowed, fertile and ready for harvesting, but was left untended and became hard and dry. In other words, it is uncultivated and left to whatever nature does with it. It has become useless.
But God wasn’t just talking to them about their fields. He was talking about their hearts. Through years of neglect and disobedience to God’s Word, their hearts had become hard. Just like the hard crust on the ground of a fallow field. Seeds can’t grow in it because they cannot penetrate the hard shell.
Once we willfully disobey God’s Word and resist the conviction of His Spirit, it becomes easier and easier to do it the next time, and so our hearts harden a little at a time. These men had come to the place where they couldn’t receive God’s Word or sense His Spirit. But God was telling them it wasn’t too late. They could soften their hearts through repentance and surrendering themselves to God.
In Matthew 13, Jesus taught the parable of the sower, the seed and the soil. He said, “And some [seeds] fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up and choked them.” He explained the parable like this: “And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the Word, and it yields no fruit.” Why did God say not to sow among thorns? Because it is useless.
We hear these teachings from Jesus and think of all the people who hear the Word and remain unmoved. But what about us? The Seed is the Word, the Sower is God. They remain the same. They are perfect. It is the soil of our hearts that varies and determines the yield.
When is the last time we tested the condition of our soil? The test might be painful, but we can reap rewards if we are willing to change. What God does or does not do in us depends on the condition of the soil in our field. If we don’t continue to cultivate our hearts, we will become useless. We may attend church and be active there, but if our hearts are hard and crusted over, the Word of God won’t be alive in us. Just because we are moving, it doesn’t mean we are making progress. And whatever we accomplish without the Holy Spirit has no life. So we need to hear AND follow the Word of God.
When we hear a message, do we automatically think that it applies to somebody else? Do we say, “That was a good word. THEY really needed to hear it.”? If God confronts me with a message, regardless of how it comes, it is for me! And He requires a response. I am responsible for what I hear. If I don’t respond, I have in essence told Him “no”. When we hear the Word of God we need to make a practice of stopping and asking ourselves, “Am I walking this out in my life every day?”
Let’s be honest. When we have been saved for a long time, we have read the Bible so much and heard so many sermons and teachings, that we feel like there is nothing more to learn. But God wants us to come deeper into His presence and deeper into a knowledge of Him. When we get settled in a spiritual rut, we become hardened against the Word of God and will resist it without even realizing it. The fact is, we may have already heard most of what the preacher is preaching, but has it changed us? If we are not consistently growing in the Word and the Spirit of God, we are consistently becoming fallow.
     When we hear the Word of God, what do we do with it? What has God spoken to you about today or yesterday? Did you hear Him? Did you receive it into your heart personally and begin to apply it to every part of your life? Have you allowed the Word to bear fruit? Or did you tell Him “no”? I don’t think we maliciously say “no”, but we are so busy that we lose what we have heard almost immediately. We just don’t stop long enough to let it sink in. We don’t take time to meditate on the Word of God. We are up and running to the next thing on our agenda and forget what God spoke to us because we are entangled with the cares of this life, the worries and distractions of this world.
When we become settled in our past experience rather than moving from glory to glory, our hearts have become fallow ground. If we have become unresponsive to God’s Word, if it no longer convicts us, if we no longer open our hearts to the examination of the Word, we might want to check the integrity of our soil. It is so hard to come face to face with the truth sometimes. But if we are lacking, we need to be aware of it so we can change. We know so much of what the Bible says, that we feel like we are doing it all. But often the application of it is missing.
If we realize our hearts are fallow, we can change the condition of our soil. How do we do it? Clearly, God told the people YOU break it up and stop sowing among the thorns. You are wasting your time by putting the Word in hardened ground. It just sits on top and never sinks in that way. First prepare your heart. Surrender it to Jesus, withholding nothing. Repent and prepare loose, rich soil for the Word to grow in. Don’t get caught up following the ways of the world, letting nature do whatever it wants with your heart.  Instead, seek God – first and foremost, above all! We have to be open to God’s voice, ready to hear Him and ready to change. He doesn’t do that for us. God doesn’t repent for us. He says YOU break it up! Then live deliberately in obedience to the Word of God. When we show Him a receptive, broken heart we will begin to see the seeds He sows springing up. As we openly look into the Word, we will find areas that need to be cultivated, but it is totally up to us to obey. So we are to read the Bible, then change our lives to live by what it says. It’s that simple. But it can be overwhelming when we realize what it demands.
A.W. Tozer wrote concerning obedience, “Just do the next thing you know you should do to carry out the will of the Lord. If there is sin in your life, quit it instantly. Put away lying, gossiping, dishonesty, or whatever your sin may be. Forsake worldly pleasures,…Get right with any person you may have wronged. Forgive everyone who may have wronged you. Begin to use your money to help the poor and advance the cause of Christ. Take up the Cross and live sacrificially. Pray, attend the Lord’s services. Witness for Christ, not only when it is convenient but when you know you should. Study the Bible to learn the will of God and then do His will as you understand it. Start now by doing the next thing, and then go on from there.”
We grow day by day. God will not put on us more than we can handle at one time. If He gave me a list of everything I need to change, I would be overwhelmed. I am thankful He allows us to grow from glory to glory. Not all at once. But if we keep trying to sow seeds of God’s Word without letting the soil of our hearts be prepared to receive it, it will do us no good. If we are open to obey the Word no matter the consequences, the Word will do His work.
We don’t see things as God sees. That’s why we need to ask Him to show us. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All the ways of a man are clean and innocent in his own eyes [and he may see nothing wrong with his actions], But the Lord weighs and examines the motives and intents [of the heart and knows the truth]. He knows the condition of the soil. He knows when it needs attention. So we need to ask God to show us, then follow what He says. We don’t need to be obsessively introspective. That isn’t healthy. But we do need to be open for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.
We can have a fruitful life. It begins with a plowed heart – broken – fully surrendered to God. Are we prepared to open our hearts to God as He calls us deeper and deeper into His presence and farther away from the world? It requires us to trust that He is perfect in all His ways for us. And it requires us to surrender every moment into His hands.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10
That sounds like a negative ministry, but you can’t have one without the other. There is a time to reap a harvest, but it only happens after the soil is broken up and cultivated to receive the seed. The plow may hurt, but the results will be worth it all. Then the rain and the sun are sent to work with the soil to bring forth much fruit. If we want to see His Spirit rain on the work of our hands and see spiritual fruit within us and through us, we need to keep the condition of our soil in good shape. When our hearts are soft, the seeds of God’s Word can take root in us and keep our souls alive and healthy.
Hosea 10:12 says, “Break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you.” 
Now is the time!
Are you ready for change?
Are you ready for complete surrender?
Will you take the challenge to break up the fallow ground and receive God’s Word?


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

THE RICHES OF OUR INHERITANCE




            The wonder, power, majesty and glory of God is revealed somewhat in segments throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  What we read is unfathomable to our human minds. In Genesis we see God creating the world and all that lies beyond it from nothing but the power of His living Word. Yet, the makeup of every substance of life – plant, animal and human – is perpetual, and the intricacies are beyond human knowledge. God spoke, and it came into existence.  God said, “Let there be light”, and light was.
            In the book of Job we read about God’s storehouses of snow, His authority over lightning bolts, thunder, rain and hail. He laid the foundation of the earth and hung the stars in their places. Everything was done by His design. Some of the prophets saw visions of such splendor that it was impossible to completely describe in words.
            In the New Testament we see the same Word that created everything coming to us in human flesh, casting out devils, healing the sick, raising the dead. Then He allowed His flesh man to be crucified, died and was buried. But He came out of the tomb alive and later ascended back to the Father.
            In the book of Revelation, we see the resurrected Jesus in His glory revealed through the things He showed to John, one of the disciples. John saw Him in such brilliant light and glory that he fell at His feet. When you consider Jesus’ greatness beyond what we could ever imagine, it seems impossible that we could ever approach Him or that He would take notice of us. But in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, He not only made provisions for our sins to be forgiven, but for us to receive His righteousness and to be joint-heirs with Him of the Father’s estate. After He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to live in us and work through us. His Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance. He invites us into the fullness of His kingdom right now where we become sons and daughters of the King of kings.
            Our inheritance is above and beyond anything we could imagine. Descriptions of it use words like abundant, exceeding, great, and glorious. There is treasure to be had and He wants us to have it all, but first we must give Him all of us. Then we can have the riches of heaven.
            “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the [Holy] Spirit who is from God, so that we may know and understand the [wonderful] things freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12, Amplified) Let’s look farther into the Scripture to see some of those wonderful things God has made available to us. If we don’t know about them, we won’t search for them, and we will miss out on all the wonderful riches that belong to us.

John 10:10 – Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  Jesus doesn’t just offer us life. He offers it to the fullest extent for eternity. He will open the eyes of our understanding to see spiritual things clearly. Satan does not want us to know what God has made available to us. He tries to steal our spiritual enlightenment and destroy our spiritual life.  But if we will accept Jesus’ invitation to deny ourselves and follow Him, we will begin our lives in the kingdom of God, living life abundantly. It may seem odd that such favor and blessing can be given to us even in the middle of this world that opposes us so violently and causes us to endure trials and persecution. But Psalm 23:5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” (NKJV) God will feed us and pour out His Spirit on us even as the enemy looks on. He prevails over the enemy.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (KJV) – “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Just as God moved on the face of the waters and penetrated the darkness with His light, He will do the same for us. He will move in us and enlighten our spiritual eyes with His light. Have you ever seen an object in a dark, shadowy room and it appeared to be one thing, but when the light was turned on you saw it for what it was? Light shows things as they really are. When we look at life through the light of God’s Spirit rather than the darkness of this world’s view, everything becomes clear. In Him is light and there is no darkness at all. Light reveals truth. Although we live in these earthen vessels, God places the Holy Spirit in us with His knowledge, wisdom and discernment. It is up to us to give Him the preeminence and allow the glory of God to be seen instead of our vessels.

Ephesians 3:12 – “In whom [Jesus] we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him [that is, our faith gives us sufficient courage to freely and openly approach God through Christ].”  One of the most amazing privileges we have as children of the King is our access to Him. We can actually enter into His presence by the righteousness of Jesus Christ in us. We should constantly use this privilege, because in His presence we receive truth and confidence in His Word. Impossibilities become possible, pain is eased, confusion gives way to peace. We gain understanding into the deep things of God. In Psalm 84:10, the psalmist writes about the greatness of God’s presence. “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand [anywhere else]; I would rather stand [as a door-keeper] at the threshold of the house of my God than to live [at ease] in the tents of wickedness.” Nothing in this world can compare to the presence of God that He has made available to us. If you want to have an audience with an important public figure, you probably will never get that chance. If you do, it will be through a long process. But the God of the universe has invited us into His presence! Enter in!

1 Peter 1:3-4 (Amplified) – “Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant and boundless mercy has caused us to be born again [that is, to be reborn from above - spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] to an ever-living hope and confident assurance through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [born anew] into an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you,”.  We are totally transformed through Christ. In Him we are always changing “from glory to glory”, coming into the fullness of our inheritance that is unending. This is accomplished by the Holy Spirit. Children of kings are taught how to be royal, and are trained to rise up to their calling and position in life. There are people whose job is to prepare them. We are prepared by the Spirit of God Himself for the same purpose. So, let’s rise up to our calling.

Ephesians 1:17-20 – “[I always pray] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Without the riches of God’s grace and mercy toward us, we could not receive all the other treasures. Realize your inheritance. It is not symbolic. It is real. It is genuine and legal because it is all based on the work of Christ on our behalf. None of it is because of our goodness. None of it is because we deserve it. If it were based on our merits, we would have nothing from God. But God so loved us that He made provisions for our redemption and equips us for His service, giving us the wisdom, power and authority to carry it out.

Philippians 3:8 (NKJV) – “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” What do we actually give up to know Christ and to follow Him? If what we gain in exchange is far greater and more lasting, have we really given up anything? We give up a life of fleeting tenure that is full of pain, disease, sin and all its consequences; a life that ends in death and hell. In following Christ we gain eternal life and an inheritance far greater than all the riches of this world. Then when this life is over we enter into life in the presence of God forever with peace, joy and complete satisfaction. What have we actually given up?  We receive the supreme privilege of knowing Christ Jesus personally. That is why Paul considered all the persecutions in this life as “light afflictions”. It is difficult for our flesh to deny itself or our physical and emotional being to go through persecution. But the rewards far outweigh the trials.

Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes or dream], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” All the riches, power and enlightenment he gives us is to be used for the glory of God and to accomplish the Great Commission of reaching others with the gospel, bringing them into the kingdom and inheritance of God. He will give us more than we can even think to ask for so we can give more than we can imagine. He does this as we let Him freely work through us. What comes to our hands is to go through our hands to bless others and glorify Christ, whether it is a revelation of His Word or a material blessing. Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Use what God has given you to touch the lives of others and to build His kingdom. When a blessing comes into your life, ask God how it can be used for His glory. He doesn’t give us spiritual riches and enlightenment so we can exalt ourselves. He gives to us so we can give the words of life to those who need them.

Are you aware of your inheritance?
Are you rising up to your calling and your position in Christ?