Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought  us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!

Get A Hold of This! Philippians 3:12 – Apprehended by God

I am beginning to view Philippians 3 from a new perspective. To be apprehended by God should not be taken lightly or treated frivolously. Jesus Christ has “taken hold of” my life and determines my course of action.

I work part time as a guard for the local police force. In my job, I have the privilege of seeing mankind both at its worst and its best. Where darkness dwells, the Light shines all the more brightly. I only get called to work when someone has been “apprehended,”

arrested and brought into custody,
usually handcuffed and sometimes shackled,
locked behind bars,
removed from freedom 
and detained until further notice.

Apprehended

In the New International Bible Version, Philippians 3:12 states, “Christ Jesus took hold of me.” This week an acquaintance pointed out a different, more accurate, translation:

“Not as though I have already attained,
either were already perfect;
but I follow after, if indeed I may apprehend
that for which also I am
apprehended of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:12

Somehow, to me, the word “apprehend” sounds much more forceful than “took hold.” It makes me sit up and take notice, almost like when my Dad wanted to get my attention about a serious matter. I think, that’s the point! That word “apprehend” means to “take with force, aggressively attaining, and seizing with eagerness.”

Paul compares it to pursuing the ultimate prize in public sports — the winner’s ribbon attained only through eager, strenuous exertion. It may define how God has “apprehended” me, but does it accurately represent how I am “apprehending” what God has called me to? 

“In Christ we can never say “can’t”
to what He called us to do.
We can say that we “will not” or “did not,”
but we can never say we “can not.”
He has given us His strength.”
– Rick Joyner

It is all too easy to get caught up in the daily swirl of activity. But that busyness can distract us from the main thing, the ultimate purpose, for our being apprehended by God.

Apprehend

Connie Inglis of Inscribe Christians Writers provided the inspiration for this blog. She encouraged us as writers to press into our call to blog, journal, publish and compose.

“Brothers and sisters,
I do not consider myself yet
to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

I wholeheartedly agree with Paul. I have not yet “taken hold of it.” As a matter of fact, there are times when I am downright resistant to the process of “seizing, straining and taking by force.” At times I even prefer to run in the opposite direction from the call of God on my life. 

Only weeks ago, my Heavenly Father grabbed me again but the proverbial cuff of the neck and in no uncertain terms reminded me, “What I have called you to, is impossible for you. You CANNOT do it! But I CAN! Will you let me?” 

Somewhere in the process, I erroneously began to think the call of God was somehow mine — up to me to fulfill. I was cowering under the misplaced weight of responsibility. I needed the reminder that it was and is never about me. It is and always will be about Him. He alone can fulfill His destiny for my life.

He does ask for my willingness — my “Yes, Lord.” 

So before God set my feet on the ground again, I did just that. Honestly, I am grateful for the attitude adjustment. Thankfully, He loves enough to provide it. Now I can get back to the “one thing” He has called me to — share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Being apprehended by God cannot be taken lightly.

One Thing

It impossible to safely operate a vehicle while continuously looking in the rear view mirror. The distraction will ultimate lead to a collision in some way, shape or form. By looking ahead, one’s focus remains on the “one thing” that God has called us each to do. Know your destination. The destination will determine your route. 

“…But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind
and straining toward what is ahead,”
Philippians 3:13

Our goal is to “apprehend that for which also I am apprehended.” I am apprehended by God to share biblical truth in any way possible: writing, speaking, teaching; painting or illustrating.  What is your one thing? There is a God call upon your life, What is it? Finance, education, medicine, ministry, or whatever? What have you been apprehended by God to do?

Oswald Chambers wrote the following in “My Utmost For His Highest” (June 28). Wherever there is a blank, insert the one thing God has called you to.

“Never choose to be a _______;
but when once God has put His call on you,
woe be to you if you turn
to the right hand or to the left.
We are not here to ________ for God
because we have chosen to do so,
but because God has apprehended us.
There is never any thought of,
“Oh, well, I am not fitted for this.”
What you are to ________ is determined by God,
not by your own natural inclinations…
when it comes to the call to _______,
there must be the agonizing grip
of God’s hand on you,
your life is in the grip of God
for that one thing.”

Pressing On

Once we sense the seriousness of being apprehended by God and clearly see the purpose of His calling, we press into Him, toward that  goal. 

“I press on toward the goal
to win the prize for which
God has called me
heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 3:14

For this one thing, we press forward  We reach toward the goal. We stretch to apprehend (violently taking and possessing) the call of God on our lives. Not for us, our glory or benefit, but for His.

God has no favorites. Every individual is precious to Him. But like in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30), some people have been given little responsibility while others have been given much. We don’t look over our shoulder at the portion of others. We simply honour God with what we have, using it to expand His Kingdom.

What God has for you is good! What He has for me is equally good! When you stand on the heavenly podium to receive your prize, I will applaud your accomplishments. So will multitudes of others. 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us.”
Hebrews 12:1

Run, stretch, reach and pursue! Your prize awaits! You are an earth changer, a kingdom builder, apprehended by God. A paradox exists within the apprehending. Our agreement to God’s call ultimately sets us on a path of freedom. Here alone will we discover complete satisfaction and an exhilarating life more fulfilling than we could ever have imagined.

The call of God is the key to unlocking multiple doors of opportunity, advancement and adventure. But it also comes with a price — being apprehended by God.

5 Little Steps To Walking With Our Big God

Vibrant Christian faith includes a series of intentional little steps. How can these little feet walk in step with such a big God? Only with God’s help! God promises to walk beside us. He also welcomes us to walk with Him.

Today a family of three generations walked past our house. A preschooler recklessly led the entourage while riding his bicycle. The father pushed an empty stroller, while the mother kept the little biker from running over grandpa’s toes. Grandma held both hands of a toddler encouraging its every step.

In a similar way, God walks beside me

holding my hands,
guiding my steps,
providing protection,
and encouraging strength.

God joined Adam and Eve for a daily walk. I imagine happy chatter bounced between the three of them as they walked and talked — that is until the fall.

“Then the man and his wife
heard the sound of the LORD God
as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day,
and they hid from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.
But the LORD God called to the man,
“Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8,9

“Where are you?”

God still calls to us, “Where are you?” as he waits for us to walk with Him. The same intimate relationship Adam and Eve experienced with God before the fall has been restored to us through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ parting words to his disciples were,

“…Surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20

Where am I? Too busy or preoccupied? Hiding like Adam or blaming like Eve? Feeling overwhelmed or discouraged?

Where are you? Have you struggled to develop a consistent faith walk?

Every journey, including our walk with God, contains a series of little steps. “S-T-E-P-S” form an acronym for reliable practices that have proved beneficial for generations of Christ followers:

Scriptures
Take away
Early
Prayer
Sacrifice

Scriptures

God’s Word creates a solid footing. Like that Grandmother holding the toddler’s hands, the bible establishes sure principles for us to walk in and live by. Its eternal truths endure through all seasons, for all generations.

God’s Word is perfect in every way;
how it revives our souls!
His laws lead us to truth,
and his ways change the simple into wise.
His teachings make us joyful
and radiate his light;

his precepts are so pure!
His commands, how they challenge us
to keep close to his heart!

The revelation-light of his word
makes my spirit shine radiant.
Every one of the Lord’s commands is right;
following them brings cheer.
Nothing he says ever needs to be changed.
The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth.
That’s why I prize God’s word
like others prize the finest gold.

Nothing brings the soul such sweetness
as seeking his living words.
Psalm 19:7-10

This small passage illustrates just a few of the benefits God’s word provides. Reading, mediating and studying the bible deposits immeasurable “treasures” within us. God holds our hands as we read, protectively guiding our faltering childlike steps —little steps with big God.

If consistent bible reading is new to you, start small. Choose a “quiet” spot where you can keep a bible, a small notepad or journal, and a pen handy. Establishing even a modest goal of 15 minutes a day will reap benefits.

Take Away

As you read the bible seek Holy Spirit’s help for a practical “take away” — something you can begin to incorporate into your life. Ask yourself several questions as you read,

“What application can I pull from this passage?”
“How does this relate to my circumstance or relationships?”
“What can I learn about God’s character?”
“Is there a point of growth for me to pursue?”

The bible documents God’s journey with people from eternity past to eternity future. Though the bible was written by over 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years, its relevance never diminishes.

“Such things were written in Scriptures
long ago to teach us.
And the Scriptures give us
hope and encouragement
as we wait patiently
for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”
Romans 15:4

It’s helpful to record the daily “take away” in a journalGod’s voice to your heart for that day. He may reveal something new or affirm an old lesson in a new way. Recording the “take away” helps us retain His truths. It propels us, through little steps, as we consistently walk with our big God.

Early

A day quickly becomes cluttered with activity or clouded with responsibility. Taking time early in the morning gives God our priority. Jesus said overcoming the pressures of life becomes possible by putting God first.

“But seek first his kingdom
and his righteousness
and all these things
will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 6:33

For some people, early in the morning may be the hardest but most important step. Jesus consistently patterned the example for us.

“Very early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
Jesus got up, left the house
and went off to a solitary place,
where he prayed.”
Mark 1:35

Prayer

That leads into the next “little step” — prayer. Reading the bible allows God to speak to us. Prayer is our response in this ongoing conversation.

After spending time reading the bible and considering a “take away”, prayer flows naturally from our full heart. Aspects of prayer may include:

  • coming into agreement with God’s word
  • committing oneself to follow Him
  • thanksgiving or praise for who He is and what He has done
  • presenting the needs of others
  • laying personal requests before Him
  • or silently waiting in His Presence.

Rejoice always, pray continually,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Consider writing a prayer in your journal as you confirm this little step with God.

Sacrifice

Jesus called his followers to count the cost of discipleship. Walking with God means abandoning our way and desires. Little steps yield to God’s direction.

When you fast,
do not look somber
as the hypocrites do,
for they disfigure their faces
to show others they are fasting.”
Matthew 6:16

The word “when” implies followers of Christ would fast. Fasting goes beyond dietary restrictions. All the previous steps focused our attention toward God, fasting turns our hearts away from other attractions and distractions.

Food is the most basic need of humanity. The conscious decision of fasting professes God to be our highest essential requirement. Though few Christians in North America fast regularly, fasting acknowledges God as sufficient.

God out-measures any sacrifice we might make. With eternity in mind and joy on our faces, He empowers our little steps of sacrifice.

Five Little Steps

Anne Graham Lotz  writes about two basic rules needed for anyone to walk together:

“The first rule is that we must walk in the same direction.
The second rule is that we must walk at the same pace…
If we want to walk with (God),
we must walk in His direction…at His pace.”

Many generations of followers have incorporated these five little steps in their walk with God: reading of Scriptures, finding a “take away”, seeking God early in the day, prayer and sacrifice. God walks with us encouraging our every step. So let’s keep walking with him. Step by step we will reach the finish line!

*********

 

 

Reputation – What Do I Want to Be Remembered For

One of the most valuable things we can obtain is a good reputation. Call me a little crazy, but sometimes I wonder what people will say in memory of me, when I am dead and gone. Perhaps it is a good thing to keep in mind while I’m still alive and have an opportunity to make life-style adjustments.

Awhile back, I attended a funeral that had been entirely pre-orchestrated by the deceased, from the floral arrangements, to the pictorial history, right down to the obituary and eulogy. This concerned person wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

I don’t enjoy going to funerals, but I do enjoy listening to the revelations of those who knew the individual the best. Usually a person’s life is abbreviated into a few short paragraphs of humorous stories, positive attributes, and outstanding accomplishments.

Amazing, isn’t it? Decades of living condensed into a “Reader’s Digest” version. What is even more interesting is that within a few short years, we begin to remember loved ones not by paragraphs but in single sentences.

“She was a stubborn as the day is long!”
“He was the best teacher I ever had.”
“That man could make anything work.”
“I felt sorry for anyone who tried to stand in her way!”

Oddly enough even the one liners quickly evaporate into single words that capture an entire lifetime: kind or mean, generous or cheap, caring or selfish, thankful or complaining.

Reputation

Reputation deserves more thought than we perhaps give it.

“Choose a good reputation over great riches;
being held in high esteem
is better than silver and gold.”
Proverbs 22:1

It is often the daily things, the little things, in life that blend the colours forming the full picture of our character. From front row seats, our spouse and family witness it all. They watch us navigate the highs and lows of life. They know how we respond when the kids are sick, we hit our thumb with a hammer, get cut off in traffic or stress pulls us like an elastic band to breaking point.

Solomon points out that reputation matters. How God evaluates our life, however, counts the most.

Paul advised Timothy to carefully examine the lives of people before choosing his leadership team. Positive attributes like “faithful … temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, and able to teach” started the long list. Negative qualities to be avoided included “not violent, not quarrelsome” and “not a lover of money.

“He must also have a good reputation with outsiders,
so that he will not fall into disgrace
and into the devil’s trap.”
1 Timothy 3:7

God is looking for the evidence of exemplary character at home, church, work and in the community.

“You can fool all the people some of the time,
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln.

God’s View

I must admit I have trouble with God’s viewpoint on a few biblical personalities. But then, a broad gap separates human perspective and God’s.

The church in Sardis had “a reputation of being alive,” but God called them dead. (Rev 3:1) How is that for differing viewpoints?

When a worshipper decided to break an expensive flask of perfume and dump it on Jesus head, everyone in the room turned on her in anger and screamed, “Why this waste?”  Jesus saw the gesture as beautiful.

“Truly I tell you,
whereever this gospel is preached
throughout the world,
what she has done will also be told,
in memory of her.”
Matthew 26:13

Did you catch that? Her act of worship would never, ever, be reduced to a single line or word. Her reputation as a lavish worshipper would be told, in full, throughout time.

God says, “Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:30) Anyone who thinks he needs 1000 wives and concubines (who by the way turned him away from God) isn’t all that wise, to my way of thinking. Anybody could predict trouble in that scenario. Actually God and I agree on that one!

Too quickly, we summarize King David’s life to a single word — adultery. God expands it to

“…I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.”
Acts 13:22

The Challenge

So here is my challenge. People have identified me with some surprisingly good attributes and many equally not-so-good ones. You probably have experienced the same. How do we live in a consistently honouring and godly way to develop a reputation that is above reproach with God and man?

I know it is possible.

“And the boy Samuel continued to grow
in stature and in favor with
the LORD and with people.”
1 Samuel 2:26

Jesus also “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) I don’t know about you, but I consider Jesus in a class all His own, even though he was fully man.

Solomon offeres concrete advise for us, however.

“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.”
Proverbs 3:1-4 

In one of Solomon’s smarter seasons, he recognized the connection between following not just the “commands” but also the heart of God. This reproduces a godly character that wins “favor and a good name” on earth and in heaven.

In Memory

Those who diminish the bible to a long list of “dos” and “don’ts” miss the mark. The bible reveals God and His great love for people. Yet, reality exists. In our own ability, we are powerless to create good and godly reputations. We need help!

As we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and cooperate with Holy Spirit to re-form us, change happens. The Word of God is powerful to transform lives. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is redemptive, creates hope and opens our destiny to lives well lived.

We identify Peter as the “rock” who helped establish the fledgling church. Rarely do we remember him for his betrayal of Jesus. We remember Paul for being the great apostle to the Gentiles and writer of much of the New Testament, not his persecution of the church. Everyone remembers John as “the beloved”, not as a son of thunder.

By the grace of God, a reputation can change! Perhaps Paul said it best,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me
was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15:10

I know that I have a long way to go to build that godly reputation. I also know God is improving on the original version of who I once was. If there is hope for me, honestly, there is hope for everyone.

God is an amazing Master Builder, Redeemer, Re-Creator, and Restorer. He is ready and willing to lead us into that new reputation.

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Two Options! Win or Lose, Which One Will You Choose?

In a world packed with almost unlimited opportunities, at the basest level we are left with two options, win or lose. Which one will you choose? Whether we realize it or not, the multitude of choices we make each day determines the final outcome.

What one thing will you give your life for? What one thing will you expend you energies, your time, and your resources to pursue? That one thing will dominate, dictate, and determine the course of your life both now and for eternity?

My sons enjoyed drag racing. Wins and losses were often determined in milliseconds. Warming tires, response time to the light tree, multiple smooth shifts, conscious and subconscious adjustments through the short course, all played a huge role in wins or losses. Literally thousands of decisions preceded a single race.

Competitors don’t go through training and preparation to lose. They prepare to win.

Dominate

The thrill of a win, bragging rights and a bit of cash, propels many to the short term glory of drag racing and a multitude of other endeavors. As a Christian, the target we aim for is much smaller but far more critical.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run,
but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Everyone who competes in the games
goes into strict training.
They do it to get a crown that will not last,
but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”
I Corinthians 9:24-26

Corinth, an extremely wealthy city, consistently hosted a huge international athletic festival called the Isthmus Games. It ranked second only to the Olympics. The Corinthians clearly understood Paul’s illustration of running and competing.

Though running to improve one’s health is beneficial, Paul wanted Christian’s to know faith is no casual run. “Isn’t it obvious that runners run to win? Run that kind of race.” Paul says, “I don’t run just for exercise. I train like a champion athlete.” Paul’s goal was to dominate.

Serious competitors know you either win or lose. Rather than seeing two options, however, winning dominates their focus. Champions set their target to win. Losses become learning mechanisms to gain traction for the next win.

To train and compete for a loreal wreath that would soon fade was applauded in Corinth. Yet a frail endeavour in comparison to the rewards of living all in for Christ.

Dictate

Hebrews Chapter 11 lists the alumni of great men and women of faith. Few if any compare to the high standard of their legacy.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded
by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross,
scorning its shame, and sat down
at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured
such opposition from sinners,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Hebrews 12;1-3

The athletes in Corinth were willing to press themselves beyond normal human capacity for something temporal and fleeting. That propensity to excel resides in us all to some degree.

There is a “race marked out for us” bearing more significance than any Olympic gold medal, a president’s chair, or celebrity status. The choices we make will dictate the outcome.

Those who have gone ahead of us into eternity watch our “race.” If only we could see and hear that great throng standing in joyous anticipation — applauding, fist pumping, cheering, and urging us on to the finish line.

Determine

Unfortunately, we too often wander aimlessly, unaware of the choices — the two options — that stand before us. Rather than regarding the Christian life as a strategic and high stakes athletic event, we sloth through days with ambivalence.

Just as in a race, milliseconds matter, so in our lives. Today holds a whopping 86,400 seconds. Seems like a lot right? But what if this was our last day? Then milliseconds matter!

I, and probably you with the same awareness, would treasure those milliseconds determining what matters most.

The applause of multitudes,
or the company of loved ones;
selfish indulgence or legacy building;
accumulating more or giving what I have;
reaching for the top or sharing success;
checking investments or talking with God;
temporal or eternal;
death or life.

A drag race from start to finish occurs in less than 10 seconds.The Christian race also passes far quicker than we realize. Compared to eternity, time here is short. Everything we see and know today will soon be gone. All will pass away.

Two Options

Short and long term goals may or may not be fulfilled. The planned meetings, events, and family celebrations that fill our calendars may or may not occur. Each are minute choices in a much larger canvas of time — a canvas too broad and high for narrow human view.

“Since everything will be destroyed in this way,
what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives
as you look forward to the day of God
and speed its coming…”
2 Peter 3:11-12

I hope you are not discouraged thinking our feeble efforts are futile. Quite the contrary! Even little moments potentially carry eternal significance. The way we spend our milliseconds determines eternity, both for us and many others we have the opportunity to influence.

For which of the two options, the temporal or the eternal, are we in strict training for? Focusing on eternity, with Jesus Christ as Lord, is the one thing worth giving our lives for. Expending energy, time and resources for that pursuit will gain eternal reward. 

When the one thing that dominates, dictates and determines the course of our lives is Jesus Christ, the disciplines of running the Christian race will fall into rhythm. Winners keep eternity in focus.

Only Two

I wish there were more than two options and that there wasn’t so much to lose. Eternity is just that — eternal! The stakes are high. The consequences broad.  The little choices, those millisecond decisions, carry serious repercussions.

There is eternal heaven and eternal hell. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. He said that eternal life is to know Him. (John 17:3)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way
and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through me.”
John 14:6

Strict rules and regulations govern the parameters of any race. The spiritual race we have entered is much the same. We all run. But how will we run? We all compete. But are we competing by God’s parameters or are we attempting to run this race by our own faulty set of rules.

The choices we make in our milliseconds reveal the eternity we are presently living in and aiming for. They are critical not just for the “by-and-by” when we die, but for the now in which we live.

Champions weigh both options and choose wisely!

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Pentecost, The Outpouring of Holy Spirit and The Feast of Harvest

Pentecost and the outpouring of Holy Spirit, that occurred during the Feast of the Harvest, is a subject I am continually seeking to understand. God’s Word holds a rich reservoir of significance and truth worth searching out and discovering.

Jesus “gave many convincing proofs that he was alive.” (Acts 1:3)  

“… he appeared to Cephas,
and then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than
five hundred of the brothers and sisters
at the same time…”
1 Corinthians 15:5-6

 

Jesus showed Himself

Ascension

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus visited His disciples for the last time. He instructed them to wait for “the gift” from the Father.

“… Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4,5

I’ve never been good at waiting, especially when I know something good is about to happen. Waiting creates room for God.  

The disciples waited. They returned to Jerusalem together, “to the room where they were staying.” (Acts 1:13) “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Anticipation grew as they waited together in unity.

Pentecost

Ten days later, they continued to press in together in prayer waiting for the promise  the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

“When the day of Pentecost came,
they were all together in one place.
Suddenly a sound like the blowing
of a violent wind came from heaven
and filled the whole house
where they were sitting.
They saw what seemed to be
tongues of fire that separated
and came to rest on each of them.
All of them were filled
with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues
as the Spirit enabled them.”
Acts 2:1-4

The Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of Harvest, was rooted in Moses’ receiving the Law. Many similarities mark the Presence of God both here in Jerusalem and on Mt. Sinai.

Gods Presence in the fire and cloud

  • God’s appeared with fire, smoke and thunder on Mt. Sinai. Wind, fire and the loud noise of speaking in other tongues confirmed God’s presence at Pentecost.
  • The Law taught the people how to live. Holy Spirit now became the Teacher and Counselor.
  • While Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people were worshipping the golden calf. As a result, 3,000 people died. At Pentecost 3,000 people received new life by believing in Jesus.

“… for the letter kills,
but the Spirit gives life.”
2 Corinthians 3:6

God’s presence covered Mt. Sinai. His presence filled the Tabernacle of Moses, and then later Solomon’s temple. With the outpouring of Holy Spirit, God came to dwell “in” His people with power.

Joel

At Pentecost, people were “amazed and perplexed” to hear their own language spoken by foreigners. They were convinced something significant was occurring. Others laughed and mocked, calling them drunk!

Peter rose up with boldness and authority pointing everyone to Joel’s prophecy,

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
 your young men will see visions,
 … old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.”
Acts 2:17-18

Pentecost, the Outpouring of Holy Spirit

Every Jew recognized these words as a small portion of a much larger text. The preceding verses in Joel speak of abundant harvest — relevant to both the Feast of Harvest and Pentecost.

“Be glad, people of Zion,
rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you
the autumn rains of righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers
both autumn and spring rains, as before.”
Joel 2:23

The autumn rains in righteousness can also be translatedteacher of righteousness.” The religious sect of Qumran, which produced most of the Dead Sea Scrolls, claimed that its most revered teacher of the law … the “Teacher of Righteousness” was the fulfillment of this prophecy.”

Jesus Christ, Teacher of Righteousness, fulfilled all He promised, including the outpouring of Holy Spirit.

The Harvest

As important as timely rains are, one shower never produces a bumper crop. Joel declares the evidence of the outpouring of Holy Spirit is overflowing harvest,

“The threshing floor
will be filled with grain;
the vats will overflow
with new wine and oil.”
Joel 2:24

Joel’s prophesy included both physical and spiritual overflow. Worship and praise of the Lord accompanied the feasting of the harvest. Joyous celebration and thanksgiving accompanied the festivities. 

Twice Joel repeats, 

never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:26,27

Peter, who once bore the shame of denying Jesus, stood strong, now filled with Holy Spirit. “Never again” would shame make his life! “Never again” would lack fill his soul. The harvest would “never again” fail. From this moment on, the new wine and oil of Holy Spirit poured through his life in overflowing measure.

Pentecost, Holy Spirit

Christ may have left, but the outpouring of Holy Spirit had come!

In

Peter used the historical record of Israel to prove Christ’s validity. Without mincing words, he boldly talked about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to explain this visible work of Father, Son and Holy Spirit evidenced among them.

Exalted to the right hand of God,
he (Jesus) has received from the Father
the promised Holy Spirit
and has poured out what you now see and hear.”
Acts 2:33

Joel spoke of God dwelling in the midst of His people.

“Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”
Joel 2:27

That little phrase “I am in” means “in the midst, present in the center or middle.” Though Joel may not have comprehended the meaning of his words, the imagery of the outpouring of Holy Spirit living “in the center” of believers is clear.

God, not wine, made the people stagger with His Presence. He came to live “in the center” of their beings. “Never again” would shame (disappointment, delay, or the pale of death) oppress them.

Respond

Peter challenged his listeners to respond to the outpouring of Holy Spirit,

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized,
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ
for the forgiveness of your sins.
And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 2:38

Fire of Holy Spirit

The only prerequisite to receiving the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is repentance. Repenting means confessing and turning from sin, accepting Jesus’ death as the all-sufficient sacrifice as payment before God. Then believing Jesus destroyed death through His resurrection and confessing Him as Lord. 

Peter calls them to publicly demonstrate their death to sin and life in Christ through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand were added
to their number that day.”
Acts 2:41

What joy in the harvest of souls!

For Today

The outpouring of Holy Spirit began at Pentecost, but it didn’t end there. A few days later, we see it continued.

“After they prayed,
the place where they were meeting was shaken.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly.”
Acts 4:31

Oil of Holy Spirit

Paul told believers to “not get drunk on wine…instead be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph 5:18) He encourages them tokeep being filled, to cram in more, to level up the supply.”

God intends the outpouring of Holy Spirit to be a continuous action in every Christian.

Just like an oil lamp needs a constant supply of oil to produce light, believers require constant filling of Holy Spirit to bring light to the world. Pentecost was the initiation into an unending supply available to all

Joel said, “In the last days“, making it clear he wasn’t referring to a single one-time activity. In Acts, they “all” received. Even now, Holy Spirit continues to be poured out on those hungry and ready to welcome Him.

Perhaps, today will be the beginning of your personal Pentecost, as you receive Holy Spirit. 

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The Lord Who Heals – Is Jesus Still the Healer?

Is Jesus still the Healer? Is He the Lord who heals, or is healing coincidence? Many people believe that divine healing ended with the Acts of the Apostles. Personal belief is often based on personal experience.

Moses led the people of Israel through the Red Sea and into the “Desert of Shur.” After three sweltering days without water, they came to Marah. Here they found water enough to satisfy everyone’s thirst, but it was “bitter.”

God’s Name, God’s Nature

Bitter water formed the perfect backdrop for God to demonstrate His character,

“He said, “If you listen carefully
to the LORD your God
and do what is right in his eyes,
if you pay attention to his commands
and keep all his decrees,
I will not bring on you
any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians,
for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
Exodus 15:26

Bitter water healed

Under God’s instruction, Moses threw a piece of wood into the water. The water instantly became pure and life-giving, complements of the “Lord who heals” — Jehovah Rapha. God’s nature is to not just to heal, but to keep us from disease.

Healing in The Cross

Jesus displayed the perfect image of the Father (Heb 1:3). Healing was and is part of the ministry of Christ,

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 9:36

The word “every” leaves no room for exclusion or doubt. Peter refers to Isaiah’s prophecy (Is 53:5) being fulfilled through Jesus when he says, 

“‘He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.'”
1 Peter 2:24

Peter witnessed Jesus heal multitudes before His crucifixion. God later used Peter powerfully as an instrument of healing.

Jesus didn’t have to be brutally beaten to save us from our sins. Such cruel treatment, “his wounds”, made healing available for every condition, however.

Confident

How can I be so confident Jesus still heals? Though my faith rests in God’s Word, not in experience, my experience validates that Word. God has taught me aspects of healing using my body as an example.

The first healing I experienced occurred shortly after I became a Christian. Even though the bible was relatively new to me, I approached it with childlike faith believing every word to be true — including healing.

Believe bible childlike faith

I had suffered from ulcers since my early teens. It wasn’t uncommon for me to vomit blood during painful flare ups. As a young twenty-three year old, I was bent over the toilet vomiting when a verse of Scripture came to mind:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone,
the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Though this verse doesn’t refer to healing, Holy Spirit amplified the word enough for my faith to grab. I stood up declaring, “Wait a minute! That means I have a brand new stomach.” You may laugh but I walked away, never to have any further trouble with my stomach. Ever!

In that instant, God became my Lord who heals! Not all healings are instant, however.

Slow Road

Some healings are more like a slow road to recovery. At fifteen years old, I was admitted to a psychiatric centre for treatment as a suicidal alcoholic. The journey out of that dark valley took decades, as God replaced truth for lies.

“Then you will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

I have witnessed many others escape mental illness through Jesus Christ, The Truth.

Set free from pain

 

Lung disease plagued my father’s family resulting in many deaths. When I was diagnosed with emphysema, the doctor proclaimed it a life long condition.

A word of knowledge led me to “cut off” the generational “curse” over myself and my family by renouncing the spirit of abandonment. In prayer, I agreed that I have been adopted by God into His family. Any sickness entering through natural genetic lines was eradicated through my new “bloodline” in Jesus Christ.

Was it a coincidence, or the Lord who heals, that further investigation revealed clear lungs?

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law
by becoming a curse for us…”
Galatians 3:13

The cross is enough!

Not Done Yet

God’s healing continued:

  • the connection between severe allergies and a broken heart was revealed through another word of knowledge. I claimed healing for my heart and renounced the side effects of allergies as I watched them disappear
  • painful arthritic hip was healed by the laying on of hands
  • ovarian cysts dissolved through forgiving of offenses
  • severely deformed hands were brought into alignment by speaking blessing over them in Jesus Name
  • restoration of movement and feeling to legs after an accident causing a 75% displacement of the spine, healed through active worship and much prayer
  • migraine headaches instantly left never to return through speaking the Name of Jesus
  • torn ligaments and a frozen shoulder instantaneously healed by rebuking the spirit of infirmity and commanding it to go.

Free from sickness and disease

 

These were all medically diagnosed. After the healing, specialists responded, “astounding”, “a miracle” and “unbelievable”. Even without God’s redemptive healing power, I believe Jesus remains the Lord who heals. These testimonies continue to elevate hope in the lives of others to also believe.

“Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday, today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

God never changes. He remains the same. What He has done for me He continues to do for multitudes.

Faith

Some people came to Jesus with unquestionable faith. While others came with wavering faith. Some, perhaps, lived “worthy” of such healing grace. Others became social outcasts, despised and rejected, yet bravely approached Jesus for healing.

Healing draws us to The Healer, filling us with awe for Jesus Christ.

“The apostles performed many
signs and wonders among the people…
Nevertheless, more and more men and women
believed in the Lord and were added to their number.”
Acts 12:12-14

Faith and healing

Healing demonstrates Christ’s presence and power among us.

“As a result people brought the sick into the streets
and laid them on beds and mats
so that at least Peter’s shadow
might fall on some of them as he passed by.
Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem,
bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits,
and all of them were healed.”
Acts 12:15-16

As you read this, may faith increase in your heart. God loves you! He is still the Lord who heals.

Receive

I seize every opportunity to pray for people. Many have also experienced healing — some instantaneous, others progressively still others have not been healed. Honestly, I don’t understand healing, but I know the more I pray for healing, the more I see healing happen.

I have faith to pursue healing for those who dare not hope themselves. Whatever the outcome, I trust God and want Jesus to get the full benefit of what He paid for on the cross.

“Therefore God exalted him (Jesus)
to the highest place and
gave him the name
that is above every name.”
Philippians 2:8

The Lord who heals

Whatever your diagnosis, may I agree with you today for healing? Would you trust to receive healing today from the Lord who heals? 

Lord Jesus, I thank You. You are the Lord who heals.
I bring this precious reader to you today.
In Jesus Name, I command all sickness and infirmity to go
from this person’s whole body, mind and soul.
I command every part to come
into complete alignment —
restored, healed and delivered.
In The Name above the name of every disease,
I declare, “Today is a new beginning!”
May the blood of Jesus
cleans and make every part new.
I thank You Lord Jesus for Your healing power,
in Your precious Name.

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Qualified for God’s Service: The Grace of Serving God

What qualifies a person for God’s service?  Confidently stepping into opportunities within our gifts and calling is a work of God’s grace. Many tools are available to help us identify our spiritual gifts, but how can we know for sure the specific calling God has placed over our lives?

Christ has established us in His kingdom and “freed us” as “priests to serve” God, the Father. Priests fulfilled the highest level of God’s service.

To him who loves us and has freed us
from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom
and priests to serve his God and Father —
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation 1:5-6

Satan, our accuser, relentlessly heaps guilt and shame upon us for past failures. With expertise, he convinces us we neither fit, belong nor quality.

Equipped and ready

Only the descendants of Levi could serve in the temple. However, any “defect” nullified that opportunity and disqualified many from God’s service.

Blemishes

The term “blemish” refers to physical “defects” and “defects” of conduct resulting from sin.

“No man who has any defect may come near:
no man who is blind or lame,
disfigured or deformed;
no man with a crippled foot or hand,
or who is a hunchback or a dwarf,
or who has any eye defect or
who has festering or running sores
or damaged testicles.
Leviticus 21:18-20

Let’s examine these disqualifying factors more closely:

  • Blindness, either total or partial, also figuratively referred to the blinding of officials eyes to injustice through bribes.
  • Being lame, resulted from injury to the leg or foot, causing hindrance to the priest’s walk. Metaphorically, it refers to anything that quenches a person’s faithful devotion to God.
  • Disfigured literally means “blunt nose” — one rebelling against God, doomed to complete destruction or severe judgment of God.
  • Deformed referred to an overextension or “stretched out” part or purposeone member stretched out of proportion, overdeveloped, or a sixth finger or toe.
  • Broken-handed or broken-footed was a badly cured fracture — also crushing, ruin, affliction, or breach. It implied an ability to “grasp” the word of God or walk in obedience to it.
  • Hunched back also means “eyebrows descending over one’s eyes.” Unable to face forward, vision was obscured by a person’s own eyebrows while bent over.

Pencils - defects and blemishes

  • A dwarf represents failure to grow to mature stature. It also indicates weakness, malnourishment, gauntness or leanness.
  • Eye defects were cataracts or fusions of the white and black of the eye, symbolizing confusion or obscurity.
  • Running sores include scabs, festering wounds, and eruptions of the skin, representing unhealed wounds of the past.
  • Finally, damaged testicles refers to unfruitfulness, or inability to reproduce, because of crushing or breaking.

Jesus Christ

Such defects did not limit a person from the provision and blessing of the priestly office, but restricted their ability to approach the Presence of God.

“…he must not come near
to offer the good of his God.
He may eat the most holy food
of His God,
as well as the holy food.”
Leviticus 21:21-22

When I am honest, I clearly see spiritual parallels in my own life. I identify with each “defect” in one way or another.

So how do we get from disqualified to qualified? How do we move from the select few in the Old Covenant to an entire “kingdom and priests” in the New Covenant?

In modern day terms, under these restrictions worship and prayer would be off limits. It is difficult to imagine such an isolated spiritual experience watching others participate in an intimacy with the Father, while being banned from entry yourself.

Broken pencils

Our hope is Jesus! He miraculously heals and delivers people completely from these same ailments — then and now.

“Great crowds came to him,
bringing the lame, the blind,
the crippled, the mute and many others,
and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”
Matthew 15:30

There was the woman bend over for eighteen years (Luke 13:10-17), the man with shriveled hand, (Matt12:9-14), and those with leprosy (Mark 1:40). Whether a result of birth, accident or sin, He approached each with mercy and grace. He also forgave their sins (Mark2:5).  He forgives ours, too!

Forgiveness is part of God’s complete benefit package.

“Praise the LORD, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases.”
Psalm 103:2-3

Every disqualification removed! Through Christ, we become qualified for God’s service.

Qualified

Paul prayed that the new believers in Colosse would fully grasp this amazing truth.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Colossians 1:9-12

The “Father…has qualified you!” By grace we are saved. By grace we are qualified. God made a way over every barrier, past every offence, through every hindrance.

Qualified for service

“Qualified” means to be “sufficient, able and competent.” Every dis-“able”-ity reversed through Christ’s death and ressurrection. Qualified to now enter freely into His Presence and into God’s service!

Grace

Believing God for salvation is the first “grace” step. The second “grace” step recognizes He also qualifies us.

  “For by grace are ye saved through faith;
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10

By God’s grace, we experience the privilege of His Presence and the equal privilege of “good works.”

Colour the world

But there is one more point we don’t want to miss. The final qualification comes by the Holy Spirit. We dare not yield to pride or presumption like Aaron and Miriam did,

“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?” they asked.
“Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”
Numbers 12:2

Holy Spirit

Though Aaron and Miriam were called, anointed and set apart for high levels of leadership, there were not qualified to serve like Moses. Wisdom and humility help us to recognize God-ordained boundaries.

Jesus commanded the disciples,

“Do not leave Jerusalem,
but wait for the gift my Father promised,
which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:4-5

Jesus Himself trained, equipped, and commissioned these men to lead His church. However, even they could not proceed without the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Set apart for God's service

After their first missionary thrust, Barnabas and Saul returned to the teachers and prophets at Antioch.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 13:2

These first century labourers for Christ constantly surrendered to the will of God through Holy Spirit, even though they were already powerful, active servants.

The seal of qualification comes through the entire Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are all called to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15) By God’s grace, He equips and sends us into this vast mission field. God alone chooses the capacity. He also chooses the timing.

Let’s face it! Most of us feel “blemished” in some area of our lives. But the truth stands — by grace alone we are qualified for God’s service.

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The Bible, Hardcopy or Digital – Sweeter than Honey on the Comb

Is your bible hardcopy or digital? Either way, it is sweeter than honey on the comb! The richness of the bible will never be exhausted. Its relevance stands the test of time, across cultural boundaries, remaining true for all generations in all circumstances.

Tonight I sat around the table with eight new friends. One woman, in her eighties, mentioned that she has never owned or read the bible. Others also said they have never read the bible, even in part. Only one woman was experiencing the wonder and pleasure of reading a bible regularly.

Books come and books go. But the Bible has remained the top selling publication of all time. Many similes describe the Word of God, each revealing a powerful attribute within its pages.

The Bible Reveals

The Word of God shines a soft but distinct light before us, guiding our feet along solid ground.

Your word is a lamp for my feet,
    a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

In an ever-shifting, unstable world, various “paths” flash with neon insistence and luring enticement, “Come here! Go there! Buy this! Choose me!” Only the bible grants steadfast principles to not only walk unhindered, but run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

The Bible is a light

I enjoy night walks in the country with only the stars and moon as my light. Withdrawing from the “visual noise” of city life, I find I “see” more clearly as I walk and meditate on God’s Word. Here God often gives wisdom for the days ahead, correction for today, and healing from the past.

The bible is also a mirror.

 “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law
that gives freedom, and continues in it—
not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—
they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:25

The Power of God’s Word

The bible reveals the hidden motivations of our hearts. His “perfect law … gives freedom!” For those prepared to “look” and “continue” in His Word, a blessing of obedience follows. The light and mirror of His Word brings visibility, but it is in the “doing” that His freedom is released into our lives.

Crafted into His Image - Hammer and Fire

When stubbornness and rebellion persist, The Word of God gently and firmly offers healthy discipline. Like a fire that refines or hammer that convicts, God’s Word removes what doesn’t belong and break strongholds of the enemy over us.

 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord,
“and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”
Jeremiah 23:29

The Word of God forms a plumb line between right and wrong, good and evil (Hebrews 5:14). His love powerfully sets us free, while tenderly protecting us in the process. Faithfully God uses His Word to craft us into perfection.

The Bible Feeds

All of us have a spiritual hunger deeper and stronger than any natural hunger. A hunger only God supplies! The bible contains a banquet feast necessary for health and growth.

“Jesus answered, “It is written:
Man shall not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.”
Matthew 4:4

The bible is food!

The Word of God is bread for the hungry, solid food for the mature, and milk the youngest in the faith can absorb. The format you choose is insignificant. Your bible, hardcopy or digital, will become

“… sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.”
Psalms 19:10

To be spiritual healthy, a continuous portion of the spiritual food is necessary. Corporate worship once a week won’t sustain us.

Most people have difficulty fasting from food for more than a few hours, yet many purposely ignore the hunger of the soul. Without a constant supply of spiritual nourishment, we will inevitably become gaunt, weak, and fail to reach maturity.

“Like newborn babies,
crave pure spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted
that the Lord is good.”
1 Peter 2:2-3

Cleanses and Purifies

The bible is also an instrument in God’s hands.

 “For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Hebrews 4:12

The bible’s pin-point accuracy penetrates right to the heart. The living Word activated within us produces results. It exposes thoughts and attitudes that may or may not align with godly principles.

The bible cleanses

The cleansing power of the living Word continuously works in our lives!

“…Christ loved the church and
gave himself up for her
to make her holy,
cleansing her by the
washing with water through the word,
and to present her to himself as a radiant church,
without stain or wrinkle or
any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Ephesians 5: 25-27

The “water through the word” removes every stain, wrinkle and blemish. It is more precious … than much pure gold.(Psalms 19:10) The bible actively working in our lives is of immeasurable worth.

Refreshing

But there’s more! The water of the Word refreshes and nurtures.

“As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower
and bread for the eater.”
Isaiah 55:10

The bible produces

God’s Word brings life to those who hear and receive it. God has a purpose for each word He speaks. The seed of His Word encases future reproduction and growth. At the same time, it sustains the hungry. Like rain coming to earth, His Word nurtures and produces what He desires. Seed and bread!

“For you have been born again,
not of perishable seed,
but of imperishable,
through the living and enduring word of God.”
I Peter 1:23

The bible activates faith bringing forth eternal life in those who believe and receive it!

“…faith comes from hearing the message,
and the message is heard
through the word about Christ.”
Romans 10:17

More than a Book

The bible, hardcopy or digital, is incomparable to any other book — more than words, thoughts, philosophies, history or prophecy.

“The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

I cannot fathom this concept, “The Word became flesh!” The Old Testament presents Christ in a concealed manner. The New Testament reveals Christ so we can behold Him.

The Bible - Hardcopy or Digital

In scratching the bare surface of the power of God’s word, awe fills me, and so it should. God wants to not only know us, but make Himself fully known to us.  The psalmist said,

“I will bow down toward Your holy temple
And give thanks to Your name
for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
For You have magnified Your word
according to all Your name.”
Psalm 138: 2

Yes! More precious than “thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72), it gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to the understanding. Maybe it’s time to take a new look at the bible, hardcopy or digital and begin to read. Meditate on its truths, letting them become ingrained into your life.

If you are not plugged into the bible yet, don’t put it off! You have so much to gain!

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The Paradox of Jesus Christ – His Death and Resurrection

The paradox of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection stands immovable against the flood of human reasoning. The magnitude undeniable! To presume understanding would diminish the unexplainable.

A paradox is something “self-contradictory that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded and true.” I suggest that every apparent contradiction, or paradox, is unequivocally true in relation to Jesus Christ.

For many people, Jesus Himself was and is a contradiction to their preconceived expectations! Scholars memorized the scriptures, studied the prophetic indications of His coming and work, and yet failed to recognize Him. And still today many disqualify Him on the basis of their own limited understanding.

No where do we see this dilemma more than in the contradictions surrounding the cross and resurrection. The cross was earth’s darkest hour! The resurrection heaven’s greatest dawn!

“The true light that gives light to everyone
was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and though the world was made through him,
the world did not recognize him.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him.”
John 1:9-11

Dawn of a new day

The Light of the world invading darkness! Creator touching creation unaware!

Love In Action

Here is John’s capsulated explanation,

“To him who loves us
and has freed us from our sins by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests
to serve his God and Father —
to him be glory and power
for ever and ever!
Amen.”
Revelation 1:5-7

Stripped naked, Jesus hung upon the cross  to clothe the unlovable, the unworthy, the undeserving in garments of love and robes or righteousness. Leaving heaven’s throne, He established an earthly but royal priesthood and kings unto God.

Light of the world

“You have made them to be
a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:10

The paradox of Jesus Christ is undeniable.

Crucifixion

The bread and the wine at the Last Supper rich with symbolism: bread in the hand of The Bread of Life broken to feed the spiritually starving; a cup held by The Lamb of God, soon to be crushed, pouring out new wine to the desperately thirsty. All for the sake of “re-membering” a church dis-membered through jealousy, selfish ambition, strife, and personal agendas.

“…The Lord Jesus, on the night
he was betrayed, took bread,
and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
“This is my body, which is for you;
do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after supper
he took the cup, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Sunrise and mist

Jesus was bound so that multitudes would be set free! He remained silent before His accusers to give bold voice to people of every nation, tribe and tongue! His body brutally whipped, beaten, clubbed, and pierced so our bodies may receive healing! Paradox upon paradox!

“”He himself bore our sins
in his body on the cross,
so that we might die to sins
and live for righteousness;
By his wounds you have been healed.””
1 Peter 2:24

The Son, rejected by Father, purchasing adoption rights for many sons and daughters to be born anew into His family! The sacrificial Lamb bearing the undeserved stain of our sins upon Himself, to cleanse and redeem the truly guilty! Such is the paradox of Jesus Christ!

Dead to Life

The Eternal God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End, submitting to the way of the cross, surrendering to the cruel Destroyer, to break the curse of the fall and defeat death, once for all.

“The thief comes only to steal
and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
John 10:10

Light over darkness

Not just life, but life “in all its fullness! Superabundant, superior, excessive life! The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection continues — unstoppable, undefiable, unquenchable!

“If a man can predict his own
death and resurrection, and pull it off,
I just go with whatever that man says.”
Andy Stanley

There is More

The King of all kings becoming servant of all! The One crowned with all glory humbling himself — becoming nothing, to make something of us. Like it or not, it required nothing less than such a radical move to make anything of the hunk of raw clay I am!

He emptied Himself so that we would be filled! He was denied any comfort to make room for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us.

“But very truly I tell you,
it is for your good that I am going away.
Unless I go away,
the Advocate will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send him to you.”
John 16:7

His death triggered the sending of Someone better, the Holy Spirit — the Advocate, Intercessor, Counsellor,  Comforter, Helper. Leaving before sending! Departing preceding receiving!

From Today

The only fitting personal response I find, is the passionate determination and fervent pursuit of all that Christ has died for, all that His resurrection has acquired. Only then will God truly receive the glory He is worthy of.

” … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death
— even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him
to the highest place and
gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:8-11

Resurrection morning

Anything less would be heresy. He became weak humanity to give us strength. May we boldly live our lives in reflection of the paradox of Jesus Christ:

contending for freedom of those
chained in sin and addictions;
decreeing release for captives internally bound,
and healing for bodies, families, churches and nations;
new wineskins continually being filled
with the wine of His Spirit
and satisfied only in the bread of His Presence;
sharing the gospel with liberty and power,
affirmed through miracles, signs and wonders;
never settling in complacent indifference
or apathetic denial,
but preaching, teaching, admonishing, encouraging
and exhorting believers everywhere
in their identity as sons and daughters,
priests and kings of the Most High.

The paradox of Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection shouts to us all, “Live! Live full! That superabundant, superior, excessive life that He paid for, live it today! Live it always!

Why? Because “He is risen! He is risen indeed!”

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