Friday, May 26, 2017

LOPSIDED CHRISTIANS



Proverbs 18:17  The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

Psalms 43:3  Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

Grace vs. law, love vs. correction, works vs. faith, free will vs. predestination, eternal life vs. losing salvation, pre-trib, post-trib, or pan-trib, etc. etc. - there is a constant argument on these subjects and others in the Christian faith.  The "discussion" of them is good, since discussion - true discussion - causes us to go to the Word to discover what it is saying.  But many times we can become lopsided Christians, because we are not taking the whole of Scripture, but instead looking at just the Scriptures that fit our argument, for whatever reason, and trying to fit the rest into it.  I'm just seeing a lot of lopsidedness on the internet and on social media these days, so it has been taking up a lot of my thoughts.  I've seen myself as lopsided sometimes, and I've been in lopsided churches.  One thing I've noticed is that when the Lord opened up His Word to me and showed me the truth in a particular area, all the pieces fit together without being forced very nicely and understanding came along with joy and peace  and delight in His Word.  It brought life to me.  When I was lopsided there was not that, but always a striving to fit things together, and a sort of bondage, even though I was unaware of it until I was freed from it.  God's truth always sets free when accepted and understood.  It brought me closer to Him, and I enjoyed His unbroken fellowship.

When I was a young Christian I was under a strong bondage of legalism.  What I mean by that was that I felt that my works mattered greatly to my salvation, and that if I didn't measure up to the standard given to me by a certain denomination or even my own scruples, that I would lose my salvation.  I felt God was always mad at me. It was a very works based way of trying to live the Christian life.  I knew I was saved by grace, and that it was through the blood of Jesus, but somehow I felt it my obligation to "keep" it.  I was being taught a lopsided view and none of the pieces fit together right. They were always being squeezed in here or there. Many places in the Word seemed to contradict one another.

After years I discovered the other side - grace.  I discovered that I was saved through grace alone, by faith, and that it was not a performance based life at all!  It was such a blessing and deliverance to me that I became somewhat lopsided.  I was stressing grace so much in my discussions that I made it look as though sin was nothing - and people could have taken it to be antominianism. I didn't think that way, but I came across that way to some. I focused on this grace to the point that I was missing the importance of obedience and its rightful place.  As I grew in my Bible study I began seeing that the more I experienced of this grace and love of Christ, the more my heart desired to be obedient to Him in everything, and I grew in my disgust and hatred of sin in myself, all the while knowing I was not under condemnation - I hated anything that would displease Him, Whom my soul loved.  Once free from the principle of law, I was free to live truly by the law of love. My focus was now off from myself and performance and was on Christ. I began to understand grace and obedience rightly.  I began to see the danger of being lopsided in either direction.

So many times as believers, we become lopsided in our theology, because we focus on one aspect that has in some way ministered to us, or awakened us.  Or we focus on one aspect, that we are misled by men in, to the point where we cannot see the whole.  Many times we try so hard to hold to a particular teacher that no matter what that teacher says, we have to defend it, right or wrong.  We fail to check the Scriptures and study it ourselves asking the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. There are Scripture verses that seem to contradict one another.

Romans 3:27-28
(27)  Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
(28)  For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Romans 4:2-3
(2)  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
(3)  For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."

James 2:21-24
(21)  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
(Thayer on justified:  to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered). (His works made manifest and showed evidence of his faith).
(22)  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
(23)  and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God.
(24)  You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

So some, thinking there is a contradiction, choose either works or grace... but fail to see what is being said is not a contradiction at all, if taken in the whole of Scripture.  If you see it as a contradiction, you have to take one and discard the other, rather than to take them both and see what they are really saying and what the whole context says in both books.  If you do this you will see that they are saying the same thing. 

Scofield: These are two aspects of one truth. Paul speaks of that which justifies man before God, namely: faith alone, wholly apart from works; James of the proof before men, that he who professes to have justifying faith really has it. Paul speaks of what God sees -- faith; James of what men see -- works, as the visible evidence of faith. Paul draws his illustration from (Genesis 15:6) James from (Genesis 22:1-19). James' key phrase is "ye see" (James 2:24) for men cannot see faith except as manifested through works.

We have to be careful to lay the right foundation, which is always Jesus Christ and His finished work.  Many take their one sided view of Scripture, or obscure hard to understand verses as their foundation for their views rather than starting from the true foundation of His finished work.  Many also don't understand correct definitions of words and even as they are arguing their different sides to each other, they have different definitions so neither understands the other and nothing is settled.  "Never take a difficult passage of Scripture to explain away a clear cut passage of Scripture" - J. Vernon McGee.  I've seen this done many times over.  There is also correct hermeneutics in studying and "rightly dividing" the Word of truth.  You cannot just make a Scripture say what you want it to say out of context, or without understanding who it is for, or the time period it was given. 

I can tell when I'm with certain people, that there is no discussion because they only want to argue.  There is a difference.  When one wants to argue, there is no discussion, but only their lopsided view they want you to hear, all while they are not at all listening to you so that there can be a discussion.  A discussion involves give and take, looking honestly at the issues on both sides, pointing out the reasoning according to Scripture clearly, being willing to be taught, having a heart to learn truth, and realizing that Scripture is spiritually discerned and sometimes is a matter of maturity in the faith, realizing we have to allow the Holy Spirit time to work in a persons heart, even as He has in our own.  Love, with humility and grace, keeps from pride and anger and aggressiveness or "snarkiness." 

2 Timothy 2:23-25
(23)  Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
(24)  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
(25)  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,

We can be lopsided if we are so adamant at convincing someone of their error, that we forget grace and love.  We become dependent on our fleshly ability to convince by argument rather than seeing the real need or the real issue of the heart, as Jesus always did, and trusting the Holy Spirit to work through us, and to know when to speak and when not to. I am always impressed with the way Jesus, in Scripture never seemed to answer the direct question of some, but instead spoke directly to the real heart need, with true wisdom, in each case.  It seemed as though He were ignoring their questions, but He really saw their heart and knew what they really were dealing with and needed to hear (ex. Nicodemus when he came to Jesus by night, the woman at the well, many times with the Pharisees).  Only the Holy Spirit knows what is in a person's heart and what their heart is really seeking.  This is why our flesh cannot save anyone or convince anyone. Only His Spirit can, and we are only of use as we are led by Him.  If we are given to frustration and rage, or snarkiness, we are not being led by Him.  Do you want to reach your brother or sister, or do you want to be proven right and win an argument, which you don't really "win." 

Some become lopsided because the word "love" has been so redefined by the world to mean acceptance of every ungodly lifestyle and sin no matter how gross, and a disregarding of the well-being and salvation of the sinner.  So they jump all over it in their flesh and come across, just as they are accused of by the world, as mean-spirited, self-righteous haters.  It will do no good for them to try to convince the sinner that they love them and are trying to save them when they are lopsided and aren't showing them that.  Here again, the definition of words needs to be clarified as well as seen in the life. 

If someone is not yet prepared to "discuss" it does no good to argue.  To argue then, is only a matter of our pride trying to be "right" or vindicated in our stand.  I've seen Christians on social media become so disgustingly nasty or condemning in their remarks to one another, because they had to prove their view was the correct one, that I am just flabbergasted that they cannot see how they are coming across to, not only that person, but others who are watching.  It grieves my heart and I'm sure grieves the heart of God, when we claim to follow Him but pushing our theology or views onto others is more important than how we represent Him.  I've seen Christians post vulgar things that just astounds me, and use name calling and ridicule, and then they turn around and brag about their beliefs as being superior to others.  I've seen Christians post a mixture of occultic practices and Scripture and tear down anyone who tries to lovingly point them to see it.  How much we must grieve the Holy Spirit and quench Him in our lives!!  How much we play into the hands of the devil! Lord, help us to see our lopsidedness and to care about the things You care about, seeking truly to know You and walk in fellowship with You!  How sad to put ourselves in a place where those who see our error are afraid to come along side of us, because we are so obstinate and unteachable.  How sad if we have the truth but turn it into something else because of the way we present it.  God help us!  Do we want people to see You, or us?  Help us to discern our own hearts!

I'm sure this is not all I or others could say on this subject, and I'm sure there could be many discussions on this subject, but I hope it will at least be enough to cause each of us to question ourselves before a Holy God and loving Savior.  I hope it will not be used as another "argument" to throw in someone's face, but be used as a private moment of examination of our own hearts.  As I see these things online, that's what it has done to me.  It has made me much more thoughtful of how I am representing the Lord I love and how I am affecting people who I touch one way or another every day.  May the Lord enable me to always truly represent Him and to discern when I'm being lopsided.  



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

THE FAMILY OF GOD GROWING TOGETHER




In the family there are different relationships where we form bonds, learn to love, learn to bear with another, learn to forgive, and learn many things about our relationship with God as His children.  God shows us His love for us in many ways.  He is the author of relationships and family.  He gave us family for a purpose.  We have a husband and wife.  This relationship is said to be symbolic of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:24-32). We have children and experience the tremendous bond of love between a parent and child, which is how God refers to us, as His children (1 John 3:1).  As children we learned the love of our mothers and Fathers and we see the perfect love of our Heavenly Father. We also have sisters and brothers in a family and in God's family we have sisters and brothers, not through blood, but through His Spirit given to us, causing a new birth into His family.  It is not the earthly family that teaches us so much of His love, because not all earthly family relationships are good.  Some are corrupted so much by sin that they become bitter relationships.  No, it is God's love that teaches us what a true family is and what love is, and His examples of the type of relationship He created through the family shows us the immense love He has for us in those different types.  As we live in our families in step with the Spirit, we demonstrate His love to our family and others.  Following, is an older article I wrote on relationships in the body of Christ.  We are learning to be a "family" in Christ together, and though flawed, we will be continually learning this throughout our sojourn here below. These are things we need to learn as believers in our earthly families as well as in our family in Christ.
I John 4:11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:20-21  If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (21)  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Relationships In Christ

It would be helpful today to read the entire chapter of Col. 3 for the background of what I would like to share today.

 Colossians 3:1-4  If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  (2)  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  (3)  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  (4)  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:10  And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Putting on the "new man"... that which is the new image of Christ in us... that which Christ has made us and which is "hidden in Him", v. 3, to be revealed when we are with Him.  Put that on now and put off all those things that cause aggravation in relationships... those fleshly things that bother us or clash in our personalities with one another, knowing that in our life in Heaven, those things will disappear as that image of Christ and love is pure and perfect between us all together in Christ and from us to Him.  Just as His love is perfect then our love for one another will be perfect without any fleshly differences.  Personality clashes and flesh rubbing against flesh will then be gone.  So as they happen now, be "forbearing" v. 13, and put on what you see in Christ, v. 12, knowing that that is your portion.

Ephesians 4:24  And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

As we increase in the knowledge of God, and the image of His Son within us, all the more we are able to "put on" that image in our daily walk. We learn to walk in that which Christ has already made for us... that image which is hidden now in Him.  We have been made a "new creation in Christ Jesus," 

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Though we are a "new creature", and only that "in Christ," we are yet learning to know Him and put that image on outwardly that He has put in us inwardly.  We are yet growing in that.  But as we are continually renewed in the knowledge of that image, we are more and more being outwardly conformed to it.  We don't learn to put on that image by looking inward and seeing if we find it there.  No, it is "hidden in Christ", and we must look heavenward for it.  We must fix our eyes on things above, His redemption, His life, His finished work, and His attributes, learning of Him.  The more we see Christ, the more His image is being formed in us.  The more our affections are on Him and what He is preparing for us, the more we live in that.  If our affections are on things here below and what they can do for us in our temporal lives, we live according to that, and guard those things. 

1 John 3:2-3  Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  (3)  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

This can only be by faith in that which Christ alone has done.  His finished work must be believed in and apprehended for oneself, and by faith, as we learn more of that which He has done for us, in us, and saved us for, the more we are by faith enabled by the grace He alone gives, to walk in that new creation He has made us.  Again, it is by faith.  It is His work.  We submit to and walk in that work.  Unless we understand His work, and our position given "in Christ", we will not be able to "put on Christ".  All the putting on is under condition of that which was first stated in v. 1, being risen with Christ. We must see ourselves as now risen with Him positionaly, because God, Who is outside of time, sees all things as finished in Christ,

Ephesians 2:5-6  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (6)  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus

 He sees us there in the Heavenlies with Christ already.  The rest of His instructions in this chapter are all based on this.  And even as we put off our own fleshly things, and put on Christ in His loving others, we also need to see them as that new creation in Christ, also loved by Him, therefore forbearing them as Christ us in these bodies of death!  We need to be merciful and gracious with our differences and irritations.  They may not sin against us, but they may just rub us the wrong way in personality or likes or dislikes or scruples, etc.  Should we avoid others in the body of Christ because of these things and cling to those who are more like us?  No... we need to "put off" our own preferences and love as we are loved, putting on Christ in His love, not thinking of ourselves or our preferences for one another, but of His love for that one.  When we see each other in His love, we see each other very differently.  Putting on His love, is putting on the "bond of perfectness." 

This is something I've been becoming more and more convicted of in my own life. Most of our friendships are formed because of mutual interests or needs.  We tend to spend more time with the person who validates us in some way, and agrees with us.  We tend to avoid people who stretch us, or make us feel uncomfortable in any way.  What if God sees something you don't see?  What if he sees Himself in you both and is wanting to use each of you, in a relationship, to help each other to see the flesh for what it is, put it off, and embrace His image in each other.  Sometimes it takes some work to do that.  I have to ask myself, am I seeking relationships for myself, or am I allowing God to bring whatever relationships in my life He chooses for His purposes and not mine.  Sometimes we "bear with" one another, as the Lord does us, and continue walking in that love, putting off ourselves, putting on Christ.  Sometimes we are hurt by friends who don't reciprocate our feelings.  We can't make people like us.  We can't make people agree with us.  But we can love them regardless.

Think of it. In Heaven there will be no favoritism among ourselves, and no jealousy, no slighting one another in favor of someone else's friendship, but there will be the bond of perfectness in our love for one another just as we are loved by Him.  All of that will be done away with.  All those things that we tend to do without realizing it because of our own flesh and it's comfort, preferences, likes and dislikes.  We hurt one another without meaning to or realizing it because we prefer one over another in the body of Christ. We form clicks.  We leave someone out because we may not feel we have as much in common with that one or maybe they have a personality that is harder for us to warm up to.  We can't help that in the natural we are drawn to some more than others.  All those things are done away with in Christ as we put on the "bond of perfectness" in His love.  They look past all and love for His purposes and not our own.  They bear with little personality irritations and love the brethren as we are all in Christ.  We are all His and He has stamped His image in each of us.  The freer we are of the love of self, the freer we are to love the unlovely, not looking to get something out of it.

Colossians 3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

If the "peace of God" is in our hearts... that peace that comes from knowing He is in our hearts and has justified us and put us "in Christ," removing all doubt of our eternal life in Him, then we are also able to be ruled by that peace with each other in the body of Christ, as a "family," not quarrelling with one another but understanding ourselves as all of His body, united under His headship.  His peace acts as our "umpire" in all our relationships here.  We do not think of ourselves as individuals with our own interests, but as one body, all filled with His Spirit growing together under Him, being builded together as a dwelling place for Him.  Can He have any other dwelling place than perfect love?

Philippians 2:1-8  So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  (2)  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  (3)  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  (4)  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  (5)  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  (6)  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  (7)  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  (8)  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

There are so many things within ourselves that can separate us.  There are so many differences of personalities, likes, dislikes, opinions, ways of doing every day things, etc.  We even let them cause hurt in the body of Christ and in some cases even divisions.  We hold onto grudges and hurts and side with one over another on issues that do not relate to eternity.  It happens in families, it happens in friendships, it happens in churches.  We are quick to speak up our opinion to put down someone else's instead of taking an interest in them and listening.  We are quick to have the last word to make sure we are validated, disregarding the other.  Do we always have to make sure we are heard?  Have we really listened with interest in what the other is saying? 

But we must "let this mind be in us that was in Christ".  If He, the Son of God, could humble Himself taking on the form of flesh, taking the form of a servant, can we humble ourselves enough to serve one another?  Can we allow God to use relationships He brings in our lives to serve Him rather than serving us?  We have the mistaken idea sometimes that God will only bring people into our lives that will be a strength and encouragement to us so we don't allow others in.  Sometimes we are called to be a strength and encouragement to others, and sometimes we're just called to love and bear with someone who is not so lovable, simply because they are His.  He loves them and we are to love them no less.  He sees their need for friendship and how hard it is in the natural for them to have that and He is their friend.  He wants to work in each of your lives in ways neither of you see.

I can't help but think of how drained the Lord must have gotten from the people around him, being God in the flesh, and knowing all He knew, yet putting up with sinful men with all their temperaments and self-serving attitudes.  Some people drain you. If you ever have a hard time putting up with someone, just think of how much the Lord has put up with you!  Should you do less toward your brother? 

Colossians 3:12-14  Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  (13)  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  (14)  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Above all... love, which is the bond of perfectness.  This is what we are being perfected in, and ultimately will be... perfect in love. 

Abba, Father, enable us now and each day, more and more, as we gaze on things above to put on Christ in all His love. 





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?




Isaiah 53:1-6
(1)  Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?
(2)  For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
(3)  He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(4)  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
(5)  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
(6)  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

David Guzik:
A tender plant is weak and vulnerable - unless it is before Him, that is, before the LORD God. In God’s presence, that what seems to be weak is strong. If the plant is before Him, it doesn’t even matter that the ground is dry. God will sustain it with His presence.
Men will reject whatever does not appeal to their own self-centered lusts, affections, and ambitions. They only "esteem" what they can find personal gain from in this world. They looked for a messiah that would deliver them, be strong in battle and overcome all their enemies in this world and bring them riches, honor, and peace.  They despised a suffering, weak Messiah, Who came to take on their sin and bring righteousness to their hearts. They had no concept of His kingdom, but sought a messiah who would build their own kingdom. 

Today, even in the "church," many who call themselves "Christians" will despise the true Christ of the Bible Who turns them from sin to His righteousness, because they want the riches of this world rather than His.  They have no "esteem" for the Christ of the Gospel. There is no appeal to Him in their eyes.  So they try to make churches that do appeal to the world, that will cause the world to esteem their christ, as making him just like one of them.  But this is not the Christ of the Bible - the One true living Christ - it is their own made up christ that they esteem.

(Psalms 50:21)  These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

He could have put an end to them all, as they were blaspheming Him, scourging Him, mocking Him, and crucifying Him.  One word from Him could have ended their lives and stopped His suffering.  But He took it all upon Himself for our sake.  Has there ever been a greater love? 

(Isaiah 53:7)  He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

Even today, men mock Him, saying, "If He is real, why doesn't He come now and strike me dead? Why does He allow evil?  Why is He silent? Why doesn't He make everything right?" 

The time was not yet right then, in Jesus day, as He had to first accomplish salvation for all men, "whosoever will" and the time is not yet right today as He is still drawing men and women to that salvation until that day when He does come and bring judgment of all evil and all evil and those who embrace it and reject Him will be destroyed, and only righteousness and peace and eternal life in His glory will remain.

2 Peter 3:7-10
(7)  But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
(8)  But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
(9)  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
(10)  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

(2 Peter 3:13)  But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Just as sure as this prophecy in Isaiah, spoken over 700 years before Jesus came, was fulfilled to the letter, literally, all the rest of what the Scriptures prophecy of His coming again will be fulfilled to the letter, literally.  Whether or not we hold the Scriptures - His sure Word - in high esteem, valuing it, believing it, and abiding in it, all of it will come to pass.  We are given the opportunity now, and the choice.  What will we choose?  What will we esteem and what will we reject and despise?  Better to despise our own selves and turn to the One Who holds more value over our lives than even we ourselves do!  The One Who gave up His own life and suffered and shed His blood so that we could find real life - His life as our own! 

Revelation 21:3-7
(3)  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
(4)  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
(5)  And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
(6)  And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
(7)  The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

What a glorious salvation our Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for us! What love! What hope!  What a great and horrible sin it is to reject such a Savior and despise Him for this world.


Thank You dear Lord Jesus, for all You suffered for us, that You left Your glory in Heaven and came here to take on the weakness of human flesh, in order to redeem us all from its corruption, and make us fit for Your glory one day, when You come again to bring an end to all that corrupts!  Even so, come soon Lord Jesus!  We eagerly wait for You! While we wait, we seek to reveal Your glory in this dark world and bring Your truth to light.  Enable us to do so in Your name, by Your power. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

THE GODS WHO CANNOT CARRY US







Isa 45:20  "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.
Isa 45:21  Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.
Isa 45:22  "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

"As the LORD declares His own greatness, faithfulness, and saving power, it naturally contrasts with the foolish idols of the nation - which must be carried, instead of being able to carry the one who worships them!" - David Guzik
There is one God Who is true, Who can save, Who can carry, and Who will complete His whole purpose in the earth.  There is one way only, in this life, to know Him, to be accepted by Him, and to dwell with Him for eternity.  You cannot use His name, yet create for yourself another god.  You cannot claim to follow Him, yet build your own religion in His name. You cannot tag on His name to things that oppose Him or are contrary to His nature and make them "Christian," such as "Christian psychology" or "Christian yoga."  You cannot make your path to Him just as you please it to be. 
Many who call themselves Christians have made for themselves "gods that they can carry," which are idols in their mind and hearts of the things in this world they truly "worship" or bow down to. Webster's 1828 dictionary says of Worship - 3. To honor with extravagant love and extreme submission; as a lover. That is anything that is contrary to the God of the Bible that they depend on, trust in, embrace, and adore or submit to, other than Him, taking the place of Him.  They tell themselves they are truly worshipping God, because they find a way to add this to their "Christianity."  But can their gods carry them?  When the day of evil comes, the day of testing, the day they are faced with making a black and white decision of losing their standing with the world, their pleasures, their security, and all they hold to in this world; or in deciding for the God of the Bible, bearing His shame in this world, trusting in Him alone, will their gods carry them?  They will be forced to choose one or the other.

There are many brands of Christianity, but there is only one way to know God.  There are many ways being told to the church today as acceptable.  In fact, some embrace all religions, even those that are not claiming at all to be Christian.  "All paths lead to God" they say.  But Jesus said this to us: "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
(Matthew 7:13-14)

Does this mean He has made it hard for us to be Christians?  Are we to struggle and strive to be good enough to find that life?  He has actually made it so easy that it is hard for us to believe!  That narrow way is Jesus Himself, and no one comes to the Father but by Him.  The broad path takes in man's way... his works, or his sacrifice, or his rituals, or whatever he can concoct to make himself somehow attain a level of righteousness or acceptance.  Human pride causes us to think we can save ourselves.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(John 14:6)

The Jews thought their law was the narrow way... the only way for them to be acceptable.  Yet they could not follow the law.  Christians can also mistakenly think obedience to the law is the narrow way.  They even make up their own laws in their minds at times.  But the narrow way is Jesus.  He is our salvation. He is our righteousness.  He is our truth.  He is our sanctification.  Simply putting our faith, trust, reliance, and hope in Him, Who He is, what He has done, and knowing He will carry us... He will carry out His Word and carry through with His promise of eternal life for all who believe in Him, is the narrow way that God has made.  It is that life that empowers us to walk in righteousness, and be conformed His image.  It is that life in us that keeps us. It is that life in us that carries us through the fiery trials of this life and upholds us.  It is that life that carries us through everything we can think of that would separate us from Him.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:35-39)

He is able to carry us.  A false god cannot carry us.  This is why many who think to become Christians but come to a false jesus with a false motivation become disappointed when their jesus fails them and life turns hard, or has great sorrow or loss.  "If God is love how could He do this to me?"  Their god won't carry them through the trials and sorrows of this life, neither will their god carry them into eternity with Him.  It is really a god of self that they desire - a god that will give them all they want in this life. 
How important it is to find the God of the Narrow way - the only way that there is to truly know Him, find His love and His eternal life, and live with Him forever!  He reveals Himself in His Word. Many give forth a word that sounds good - even using some Scripture - yet it is the word of men and not the Word of God.  We must turn to His Word to know Him. If you want to know a person, you go to that person and listen to their word.  You don't go to someone else who talks about them. You have to meet that person himself. You let them speak their heart to you and little by little you learn to know them.  You share yourself with them and you form a relationship.  There is only one way to form a relationship with the God of the Bible.  You must read what He says to you as He has revealed Himself and His plan and His way to you there.  As you do, and His Word is unfolded to you, you learn to have confidence in this true God Who has proved Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ, Who died for you so that you can come freely to Him, and be cleansed of all sin that would separate you from Him, and you receive eternal life now and forever. 
The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
(Revelation 22:17)




Thursday, March 9, 2017

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD


  I'd like to share today a Grace Gem that I think will be a blessing to you. I've always loved Psalm 23, and the thought that the Lord is my Shepherd.  It immediately brings a sense of peace to my soul, knowing that all my needs are cared for by my perfect Good Shepherd.  He cannot ever fail.


Charles Naylor, 1920
 
The Psalmist says of the Lord, his Shepherd, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures," or, as the Hebrew has it, "in pastures of tender grass." What a world of significance there is in this little sentence, "The Lord is my shepherd!"

"He makes me to lie down." He does not compel me. That is not the Lord's method — he finds a better way. If he compelled me to lie down, there would be no pleasure in it. When a sheep is compelled to lie down — it is in fear; it cannot but dread what is to happen to it. So the Lord does not compel me. He leads me in the pastures of tender grass, and I eat until I am satisfied, and being satisfied with the sweet and luscious pasturage — I lie down, content.

While the sheep is hungry, it will not lie down in the pasture; it desires to eat. But when it has eaten its fill, it lies down and rests and is satisfied. In the same way, God feeds my soul day by day; the good things of his kingdom he gives unto me. He satisfies my soul with fatness. My soul desires nothing more than what he gives. If I hunger, he has a supply — and he gives me, and that with a generous hand. He knows all my needs. He supplies every one, that I may be "fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright."

There are many enemies about, but "he makes me to lie down." I am in quietness. My heart is not afraid. The Shepherd stands between me and those ravening wolves. The lion and the bear cannot harm me — for the Shepherd stands as my protector. His eye shall watch, while I lie down. His ear shall hearken and shall hear the sound of their footsteps if they come near. I trust the Shepherd; therefore my heart is not afraid, and I shall lie down safely.

It is trust which enables me to lie down. If I were afraid, I could not thus rest. I would be watching and fearing and trembling. Every noise would alarm me. I would forget about the green pastures. I would forget the tender grass. But he is watching. He has his weapon in his hand. He does not fear my enemies — and while he is watching I do not fear them, for he is strong and mighty. He is greater than my foes. They know it and are afraid. They tremble at his voice. They flee away, but I lie safely. He has said, "I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel — in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel."

"He leads me beside the still waters." When I grow thirsty, the river lies at the foot of the mountain — and down the slope he will lead me; and there in the shade, in the quiet, restful coolness, I shall drink of the waters of quietness and shall be satisfied, and my soul shall delight in him.

The path down which he leads me may be steep — and there may be thorns along the way. But so long as he leads me where he will, he will lead me safely. I must not choose my own way. I must not run ahead of him. I must not leave the path. I must follow close to him. I must listen to his voice — and then he will lead me to the still waters, and there I shall rest in his love.

Then as the evening falls, he will lead me to his fold — and inside its walls of security, I shall rest during the hours of the night. I shall not fear the darkness, for the Shepherd is watching. I shall not fear the wild beasts round about, for they cannot harm me. He will watch over me and bear me up when I am weak. I can rest secure. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd. He loves his sheep. They are a pleasure to him.

Though he sometimes may need to lead by a rugged way — yet I am safe, for he cares for me. He will lead me in the way that I should go. He will enrich my soul with his goodness. Yes, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life — and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!" 

You can find more Grace Gems at http://www.gracegems.org/


Saturday, February 25, 2017

JESUS OUR BREAD OF LIFE

John 6:5-12
(5)  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?"
(6)  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
(7)  Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little."
(8)  One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him,
(9)  "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?"
(10)  Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.
(11)  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.
(12)  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost."

(John 6:35)  Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

Just as He fed the 5000, and had some left over, the lesson for us is this...He is the bread of life, and when we eat that bread, it is in us a constant source of nourishment that continually feeds us, just as His Spirit is a spring within us that never runs dry that causes us to never thirst again.  Those who eat His flesh, and drink His blood, never hunger or thirst for spiritual life, as He is in them the constant source of it forever.

We look at the crowds as a problem, Jesus looked at the crowds with compassion and grace, seeing their great need.  He already knows what He will do, yet He wants us to be a part of it and reveal Himself through His servants. Lord, awaken us to the dire needs around us with the same compassion as You! As we give you the little bread that we have, make it multiply to feed whoever has need.

He is sufficient for all our needs. We all have a hunger that only He can satisfy. There is "bread" enough for all and even more with some left over.  This was humanly impossible, but not with God. He only looks for faith - for trust in Who He is, His love, His care, His power, His provision for His own. He is our very sustenance. 

Ironside:
Am I addressing someone who finds himself in peculiarly difficult and trying circumstances, and who is wondering if God has forgotten or if He has lost all interest in you? Let me tell you this: if you have trusted Him as your own Savior, His heart is always toward you, and He knows what He is going to do. He is not going to let you down. He is not going to leave you in the lurch. It may seem as though there is no possible way of meeting your present need, but He knows what He will do. We look at the things that we can see. We can become so discouraged and disturbed as we take circumstances into account, but our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is never affected by circumstances.
...Do you feel like wringing your hands and crying out in despair, “Everything is going wrong. All these things are against me.” Oh, no, they are not. God is for you. If God is for you, who can be against you? Our blessed Lord is for you. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet apart from sin” (Heb_4:15), because “he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Isa_2:18). And He knows what He is going to do. He is planning for you, my brother, at this very moment. He is planning for you, my sister. Believe it. Trust Him, and be assured that He is going to undertake in His own good time for you.
Think on that today.  Let your heart be open to feast on that true bread, until your hunger is satisfied in Him.  Let your soul be filled to overflow so that there is much left over to share with others as well.

Friday, February 17, 2017

ESTABLISH YOUR HEARTS



James 5:7-8
(7)  Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
(8)  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Ironside:
"So James puts before the suffering children of God the blessed hope of the Lord’s return. Not until He takes over the reins of government will conditions ever be put right in this poor world. So he writes exhorting to patient, endurance unto the coming of the Lord. He uses a little parable to show that Christ Himself is the Man of Patience now while He sits upon the Father’s throne. For just as the farmer, having sown the seed, waits in patience for the harvest, knowing there must first be the early and then latter rain ere a good crop can be assured, so our blessed Lord, having commissioned His servants to sow the good seed waits expectantly at God’s right hand until “the precious fruit of the earth” is ready to be garnered. We, too, are exhorted to be patient, with hearts established in grace, looking up in faith as we realize that the very conditions depicted only emphasize the fact that 'the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.'"

Establish, Webster's 1828 definition:
1. To set and fix firmly or unalterably; to settle permanently.

I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant. Gen 17.

6. To settle or fix what is wavering, doubtful or weak; to confirm.

So were the churches established in the faith. Acts 16.

To the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in

holiness. l Thess.3.

(Psalms 27:14)  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

How do we "establish" our hearts?  As we wait on the Lord it is He Who strengthens, confirms, fixes our hearts and makes them "established" in Him.  Through His promises He gives our hearts the confirmation we need to walk in faith no matter what is around us, or what in the world is happening.  Is your heart established in the Lord?

There are times when our hearts feel faint.  There are times when our hearts are doubtful of His love to us, His promises to us, or His presence in our lives.  These times come only to drive us to His Word and prayer that our hearts might become established in faith in Him, so that when the dry times, the troubled times, the weary times, or the grievous times come to us, our hearts are already established, fixed, firm, not wavering in our hope and trust in Him.  If we faint when adversity comes and become angry or disillusioned with God, it's because our hearts were not established in His truth, and we did not somehow know Him rightly or perceive or understand His ways.  He wants to teach us. He allows the adversity, many times, to do so, so that we'll run to Him and ask.

There are times of trouble where we need to run to Him, to sit at His feet and learn from Him, to wrestle with Him over our own troubled understanding or thoughts or our will that is stubbornly held onto.  When we come to a place of faith in His perfect ways and will for us, and a surrender of trust to Him, we find peace, and our hearts become strengthened and established in Him.

(1 Thessalonians 3:2)  and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith,

David Guzik: "To establish and encourage you concerning your faith: Paul wanted Timothy to do two things - to establish and encourage the Thessalonians. Both are necessary, but establishing comes first. Encouragement can really only come after we are established in the right direction; otherwise, we are only encouraged in the wrong course."

This was an interesting commentary.  We can only be encouraged in the Lord rightly, if we are established in the right direction.  Many run for encouragement from friends or counselors but they are looking to be built up in their own will or fleshly desires, rather than to be made right in the Lord according to His Word.  So they never become established in the right direction but instead continue feeding their own flesh, encouraging themselves away from God.  To be established in God, is to be brought in harmony with His Word, all things surrendered to Him, waiting on Him and trusting in Him.  Too often we try to find someone who will agree with what we want and will encourage us in the wrong path, even finding Scripture to support it, taken out of context.  We look for someone who will "tickle our ears" and give us what we want to hear. No wonder so many churches that don't preach the Word but preach a self-centered flesh pleasing "gospel" that is not a gospel at all, are so filled to the max.  How many flock to hear what pleases the flesh rather than to come before His light to have the flesh crucified and to be established in His righteousness?

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
(12)  and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
(13)  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

God's desire for us is to conform us to His image, that we may be holy before Him, being made for a permanent dwelling with Him for all eternity in His presence where we will have constant fellowship with Him.  There can be no fellowship with God without this.  We will never make ourselves righteous or be able to be that perfected person, but we have His righteousness dwelling in us through His finished work on our behalf, when we were born again, of His Spirit.  Now He is continually at work in us drawing us to Himself, opening our eyes, enabling us to see and know Him more and more that we will walk in His ways.

We can only enjoy Him now in this life, as far as we are established in Him.  The more we are "supping with Him and He with us" in His Word and prayer, the more established we become in faith, in hope, in love, and in holiness in our walk with Him, as He opens His Word up to us and makes it living and powerful to effect in our lives what He desires for us to see and understand, and He reveals Himself to us, feeding our hearts, strengthening our faith, and filling us with His hope and joy.  It is not a dead word, but it is a living Word full of life able to nourish and strengthen our hearts.  How sad when we deprive ourselves of it.  How much more sad when we deprive our Savior of His time of fellowship with us, and all He wants to show us of Himself and open up to our hearts and reveal to us.  He loves His time of fellowship with His children, just as we love to have that with our own children.

(John 14:23)  Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

I can't think of anything more wonderful in this life than the Father and the Son making their "home" or "abode" with me.  Nothing else in this life I could enjoy or desire temporarily could compare with that.  If you are His child, isn't this what your heart desires? To abide with Him daily in a close fellowship with Him?  Nothing more will "establish" or "fix" my heart in permanent trust and give peace. I pray the Lord will "fix" my heart permanently in His grace, His love, His righteousness, and His will more and more each day, the closer I come to that day when I will see Him face to face. Nothing more will give that peace and patient waiting and endurance as we wait for that blessed hope. Come Lord Jesus!