Sunday, March 22, 2020

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT



I recently read a book written by my cousin, Delron Shirley. It is entitled, “Don’t Leave Home Without It”. The title refers to Jesus’ command for the disciples to go and preach the gospel to all nations, but to wait until they received the Holy Spirit.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to His disciples, showed them the wounds in His hands and feet and even ate fish and honeycomb so they would believe it was really Him. He explained how the law, prophets and the psalms all spoke of Him. Then he said, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.
Just before He ascended, Jesus told them again, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And they became those witnesses because they obeyed Jesus instructions to wait for the Holy Spirit to come.
Jesus told them to wait so they would not go out in their own wisdom, strength and ability, or in their own zeal. Sometimes our zeal can do more damage than good. Before the Holy Spirit was given, Peter’s zeal caused him to boast that he would not forsake Jesus, but his strength flagged and he denied Jesus. In their zeal, James and John had wanted to call down fire to destroy the Samaritans who would not receive Jesus into their territory. Jesus rebuked them. They needed zeal, but they needed the zeal of the Lord of hosts Who perfectly performs everything He has purposed. He will get the job done. Jesus knew they needed the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord. Without Him, they would fail.
Jesus had spoken to them earlier about rivers of living water. “ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
Jesus had also taught the disciples that the Holy Spirit would be a  Comforter Who would come alongside them just as Jesus had done for 3 ½ years. This Comforter or Helper would stay with each one of them always. He would be with them individually wherever they went.
Just as Jesus had been with the disciples to lead them in the right direction and set their course, the Holy Spirit would lead them. Just as He had taught them, the Holy Spirit would teach them. And He would bring to their remembrance the things Jesus had taught them.
The Holy Spirit would also give them miracle-working power, just as Jesus had when He was with them in the flesh. And the Spirit would make all the difference in the preaching of the Word, because He would make the Word alive in their hearts. Then their communication of His Word would have power and life for the hearers. People would be drawn by the Spirit of God and not the wisdom of man.
After they had waited for the Spirit in Jerusalem as Jesus had told them to do, the Spirit descended upon them in a mighty way. He came with the sound of a rushing mighty wind, and tongues of fire sat on each one. Of course, God had chosen just the right time. Jerusalem was crowded with people from many nations who were there to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. The disciples were enabled by this outpouring of the Holy Spirit to speak in the languages of all those present. Every language group heard them speak in their own language “the wonderful works of God”. Then Peter, who through fear had denied Jesus, stood up boldly and preached a powerful sermon that ended with 3,000 people believing in Jesus, receiving the gospel message, and being baptized.
The Holy Spirit will do everything for His disciples today that was promised to those first disciples. We can have the Holy Spirit operating in us and through us as rivers of living water. We all need to go and be His witnesses, but first we need the Holy Spirit. We need the guidance, power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit actively working in us and through us.
We won’t accomplish much without Him, but with Him, we can do exploits. Daniel 11:32 says, “but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” How can we be one of those people who know their God? We can know Him through the Holy Spirit living in us!
Great exploits are highly significant deeds and accomplishments that are considerable in power or number. It also includes being able to stand and take action in resisting evil and ungodliness.
Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12) Because of the Spirit of God in His children, we can accomplish more in outreach. We can cover more territory with the same power, just like the disciples did when they scattered abroad. Read through the book of Acts and see what God will do through those who are surrendered to and controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The question is do you want to be normal with a wishy-washy relationship with God? Or do you want to really know Him? Do you want Him to work through you with mighty acts and His living, powerful Word? If we want to accomplish anything of eternal value, we must have the Holy Spirit. Without Him we can do nothing of lasting value.
The Holy Spirit leads us one step at a time, so where He leads may seem illogical to our human reasoning. But, if we follow the first step, we will see the second step more clearly and will eventually see the wisdom of His guidance. It takes faith to follow when it seems there is no reason to it. But the Spirit of God is much wiser than our human understanding. We can depend on Him to be right 100% of the time. Trust Him above all human wisdom.
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal to our reborn spirits things that our natural mind cannot understand. He reveals to us the wisdom of God, spiritual things that cannot be understood with human reasoning. He is there to give us whatever we need.
When the disciples were discouraged, Jesus encouraged them. When they didn’t understand, He taught them. When they put emphasis on the wrong things (like who would be greatest), He corrected them. When they were afraid, He rebuked their lack of faith…and calmed the storm. When they didn’t know which way to go, He led them.
The Holy Spirit will do the same for you! So, when you are discouraged, go to Him. When you don’t understand, learn from Him. When He corrects you, receive it and grow from it. When storms come your way, have faith that He will bring you out. When you don’t know which way to go, follow Him.
You can receive the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to have a degree or go to a certain place. You don’t have to go wait in Jerusalem. You can receive the Spirit wherever you are and start from there.
Jesus said, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
Why not ask right now? Just surrender your life to Jesus and say, “I want to be controlled and led by the Holy Spirit.” Then begin working alongside Him!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

BELIEVE AND OBEY




            There is an overarching theme throughout the Bible. Good vs. Evil. Blessing vs. Cursing. Life vs. Death. Light vs. Darkness. This theme came into view clearly all the way back to the Garden of Eden when sin entered a perfect world.
            God called this world and its inhabitants into existence, and He blessed it all. In Genesis we read that God saw that the light He called into being was good and He separated the light from darkness. Each day of creation brought new forms of life, and God saw that they were good.
            Then, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. And God blessed them…And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” There was no sin in the garden then. Everything was pleasnt and had the blessing of God on it.
            To be blessed means to have the favor of God. If something is good, it is pleasing, useful, pure and beneficial. All of creation was good, and God’s favor rested on it. God came and walked with Adam and Eve in the evenings and they communicated freely.
            Through the willful act of mankind – Adam and Eve – sin was invited into this perfect world. It was not God’s will. He had a good purpose for this perfectly formed world and His people. But because of this act of rebellion, He could no longer extend his favor. Sin is a curse, and Adam and Eve took upon themselves a curse rather than the blessing they had. They traded light, goodness and life for darkness, evil and death. The line was drawn between good and evil. And Adam and Eve found themselves on the outside. They no longer walked and talked with God in the cool of the evenings. They no longer had peace and goodness surrounding them, because sin separates us from God. And they felt the heavy weight of that sin. The entrance of sin into the garden brought condemnation with it, because sin is rebellion against God.
God’s blessing was removed as mankind stepped into enemy territory and outside the favor of God. When we choose our own way instead of God’s way, we step out from under His blessing. It’s like stepping out from under an umbrella on a stormy day and getting saturated by the environment. Because of sin, this world will be destroyed, and our bodies will be destroyed in death. All of creation fell under the curse of sin, and even now it groans for release from the curse.
            A cursed people are condemned to destruction. But even in this condition, there were those who through faith and obedience were blessed by God. They separated themselves from the evil of their day and believed God.
            Scripture tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9) Noah had a relationship with God. He wasn’t just acknowledging that God existed, but knew Him personally. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. (Hebrews 11:7) Noah didn’t defile himself by following the pattern of his culture. Instead, he listened to what God told him to do. He obeyed God because He was certain he could trust God. That is real belief.
            Hebrews 11 tells us about Enoch. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” How did Enoch please God? By faith and obedience. We cannot please God without faith (trust, believing). And if we really believe Him, we will do what He says. Enoch’s relationship with God caused him to trust God implicitly. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” 
In Hebrews 11:23, we see the faith of Moses’ parents. “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree.” The faith of Moses’ parents saved his life and put him in a position to be God’s instrument. Then the faith of Moses took him through the rest of his journey with God. “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God].”     
Then there is Abraham. We read part of his story in Genesis 15. “And He [God] brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham believed God, and acted on what God told him. So, God raised up a nation through Abraham, a physical nation and a spiritual nation.  
            What do all these men have in common? They believed God. They believed enough to walk with Him and to obey His commandments even in cultures that mocked Him. They believed what God told them and staked their life on it. They put themselves in a position to know God personally and to receive His blessing by believing and obeying. God called and they answered. They committed themselves to wholly follow the Lord.
            And through the descendants of Abraham, a Savior was born to take our sin on Himself, so we could be free and righteous. Amazingly, this Savior is the Son of God. Even more amazing is the fact that the pure, sinless Son of God became sin, became a curse, for us. He took our punishment and our curse so we can be holy and righteous through Him. “He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness].” (2 Corinthians 5:21 Amplified) And “Christ purchased our freedom and redeemed us from the curse of the Law and its condemnation by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs [crucified] on a tree (cross)”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might also come to the Gentiles, so that we would all receive [the realization of] the promise of the [Holy] Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14 Amplified)
            How do we receive that righteousness? We must repent (be sorry for and turn away from) our sins and believe Jesus enough to surrender the whole of who we are to Him. We must believe and obey. To those who accept this gift of salvation and accept Jesus’ rule in their lives, He gives the authority and the right to be children of God. The curse is removed and the blessing of God will rest upon us. Our unrighteousness that kept us from the presence of God will give way to an open door of fellowship with Him as we take on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Although we still live in a world that is under a curse and in a culture of millions who have not come under the blessing of God, we can be assured that there is coming a day when all creation and the children of God will be back in an environment of God’s blessing in the kingdom of God. Romans 8:21-23 says, “the creation itself will also be freed from its bondage to decay [and gain entrance] into the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been moaning together as in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only this, but we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit [a joyful indication of the blessings to come], even we groan inwardly, as we wait eagerly for [the sign of] our adoption as sons—the redemption and transformation of our body [at the resurrection].” (Amplified Bible)
Jesus came to redeem us from the curse and restore our relationship with God. John 3:17 tells us, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
We don’t have to live under an eternal death sentence because Jesus has paid the price for us to be transformed into His image. We can choose goodness, life, light, and blessing.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away (vanished), and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed like a bride adorned for her husband; and then I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “See! The tabernacle of God is among men, and He will live among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them [as their God,] and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish, or crying, or pain; for the former order of things has passed away.”” Revelation 21:1-4


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?