Sunday, December 11, 2005

Of Faith and Love

People have been writing a lot of blogs about Faith lately and I’ve been reading them. Because of this I thought of a few things that I would like to share on the subject.

What is faith and why do we need it? Would you say that faith is necessary to believe and if so how much do we need?
To start... What is faith “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Heb.11:1” It isn’t just about having a vague hope in God or in His promises, it is freedom from doubt and something that inspires confidence concerning hope. It’s the state of being convinced of something we can’t see.
But why do we need it? Well here are four reasons out of hundreds:
“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Heb.11:3-6” So we need faith to be able to please God.
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Rom.3:22” We need faith to receive righteousness.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph.2:8-9” We need faith, which comes from God, to receive His grace and salvation in Jesus.
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Gal.3:26” “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Eph.3:12” We need faith to be children of God and to receive a clear conscience before Him.

Anyway you can see that faith is important and necessary for the believer, so how much do we need? How do we measure how much we currently have? Ah... but is this the right question. Why do we as BELIEVERS need MORE faith? Is there any where in the bible that says that Christians need more faith? There are some spots where it talks about mens faith being weak and not as strong as it could be, and says that they could do with their faith being strengthened, but as for them needing more... I think it just talks about people needing some. Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. Is there such a thing as believing in Jesus and having His Spirit yet being devoid of a mustard seeds worth of faith in Him.
Well then if it’s an issue of weakness how do we strengthen our faith? We can start by encouraging one another. If you need an example read Paul’s letters they’re all about strengthening different churches through encouragement. God will also supply all of our needs according to His riches and Glory. He tells us simply to ask and we shall receive. If you need your faith strengthened ask Him.

That said I can get to my main reason for writing this. Are we as believers too fixated on faith instead of love and Christ Jesus? Love, because it is greater than faith and Jesus because He is it’s author and perfector. After Hebrews chapter on faith(Ch.11) It says that now those who have faith (any amount I’m sure) are too cast off the sin that so easily entangles us and fix our eyes on Jesus. Here’s a question... Is it faith in having more faith that sets us free or is it faith in Jesus? Should we now be asking for more faith or because of our faith more Love? Which would help us more in our ministry or in the life that he has given us more faith or more love? Does more faith strengthen our love or more love strengthen our faith? This is God’s command to the faithful.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”“And this is his command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.”“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.”“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.”“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Perfect love casts out fear and love covers a multitude of sins. What better reasons are there to seek after Jesus and receive His love. Faith brings us to His love, a love that lasts forever. We should be using the faith we’ve received with the gifts we’ve received for the purpose of sharing the love we’ve received.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Treasure of ...Life!

This is a truth I need to remember!

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46”

Does this description sound like any believer you know myself included? Do we cherish the kingdom this much?
Now I’m sure that we have all made small or once in awhile large( at least we think they’re large)concessions here and there because of our faith, but do we put our everyday All into it!
Now, I’m not saying that you or me should go out right now and sell everything of value that we don’t need and give it to the poor. But then again, why am I not saying that? Is it because it’s unrealistic or because I don't want to believe that is what these verses are actually saying? Or because I’m just too comfortable. Besides no respectable Christian would ever advise me of doing anything of the sort nor do they live that way themselves. No, these can't be valid reasons!
What did Jesus tell the rich young ruler? He told him that “you shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 19:18-19” (When the man said he had done all of those things) Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me. Matt.19:21"
Did Jesus say to him “Wow good job on keeping those laws, some of them are pretty tough. I mean, for years people have forsaken them, but not you. You’re a man among men, let me give you a pat on the back. If only Judas here were as good as you. Haha just kidding Judy ol’ boy”
No, of course this sounds nothing like Jesus. Jesus was there to tell the truth about the Father and about His kingdom. He was there to speak the truth about how it was worth far more than the treasures/pleasures of this life. Selling everything we own may not be the point. My point is that, why when we have found and received such a great blessing as to be called sons of the most high God, and an inheritance such as eternal life in the presence of God and the angels, do we act as if it were a chore? Why do we try to hold on to the pleasures of this life?
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Galations 5:16-25”
So let us rejoice that our names are written in the lambs book of life, and let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith. Let us lose our lives that we might find life. These are days of deception and propaganda, a world constantly telling us that the fun we have and ease of life we enjoy are the most important things in life. They say in more subtle ways “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die!” and we swallow it hook, line, and sinker!

I’ll end with this quote from the apostle Paul who considered his life as nothing in comparison to the riches found in Christ Jesus.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Gal.6:7-10”

Thursday, November 24, 2005

God is Love!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16"

I had an interesting thought yesterday, It was about a deep down subconscious thought that I had always kept a little below the surface. I sometimes thought (not believed, but thought) that God loved us (believers) more than He does non-Christians. Although I wasn’t conscious that I thought this way, and were you to ask me, I would have answered you passionately (perhaps in a Sunday school tone) “God loves everyone equally!” but I think I really meant that He loved all Christians equally. Because, after all, we believe in Jesus the Christ, and we who believe in Jesus are called (in His word the Holy Bible) His children. Now of course He died for every one, and He would certainly love them as much as me and other believers; if only they too would choose salvation through Jesus by believing in Him. (I probably didn’t think this way when I caught myself in a sin, but on the whole it is something that was inside of me none the less.) The problem with this thought was that not only is it wrong,  but it takes away from God’s unchanging love and perfection. It creates a religion of good works and a false hope concerning God’s love for us. It destroys the meaning of true love as defined by His word. His love is so beyond our own that it bewilders me and all of us really ( like it did the prophet Jonah when the wicked people of Nineveh repented and were spared from utter destruction). I think that it is hard for us to love somebody unless they loved us back, at least just a little bit(not a biblical principle just a way we often think). And I think we sometimes think that God’s love operates in a similar way. How could God really love those who are sinners, those who rebel and hate Him (or at least rebel and hate His law He's placed in their conscience). Those who, because of their disbelief/rejection of Jesus, are going to hell for eternity; being separated from Him and everything good that is found in and comes from Him. How could He love them as MUCH as He loves His own precious children (those born/"adopted" by faith, as His child) who He died for and who are going to be with him forever? But then I see that is not His nature. He is love! Even Hitler had a chance to live a good life, but in his rejecting truth(Jesus) became a monster. Did Jesus love his disciple Judas Iscariot less than the other disciples, even while knowing that He would be betrayed by him? No, of course not. You see... I have put stipulations on His love, and I have subjected it to circumstances. I didn’t know that I had, but I’m glad that I do now. Because there is something that I have to know/remember about His love. It IS unchanging... truly and wonderfully unchanging. He loves us all equally, both the sinner and the saint. He took everyone's penalty onto Himself in Jesus(should they accept it). Why? Because God is love!
The rest (receiving the gift of salvation, choosing Jesus and recieveing heaven or rejecting Him and in essense choosing hell) is up to us and our free will (insomuch as God gave us the choice to believe in Jesus the Christ,or not. That is why the lies of the devil againt God's love being found in Jesus are so wicked. After all, He (Jesus) is mankind's salvation and the love of God the Father displayed. So we can never say that He doesn't love us(He showed us that He does, even to be executed on a cross in our place), and we can never say that He didn't love those who rejected Him. Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Jesus is "the way" because of God's love for everyone in the world to know the only true God, and to receive the everlasting life that comes from knowing Him. Here is a great bit of Christ's teaching that shows clearly the love of God the Father  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-47"

The earth is full of Your lovingkindness, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes. Psalms 119:64

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Firm Foundation

Jesus said, “you believe in God, believe also in Me.”
I have just finished reading some of the most wonderful words. Words of promise and hope. Words that bring warnings yet joy. You may have already guessed that the words were from the Holy Bible. I have read them before several times, but this time was different. I know it is true that His words are living and each time I read them I learn something new. Now this may not be any grand epiphany, but it is a simple truth that we often forget. I don’t know why I forget, but at times like this I’ll rejoice that He lets me relearn things. The words were those of Jesus to His disciples and to those who believe in Him. From the book of John chapters 14-17. I can’t even write on them, but I insist and wish that you who believe will read them and be blessed! Read them over and over feasting on each verse (as odd as that may sound). There are sooooooo many verses that I wanted to use. About His love for us, His promises, our role as believers, our hope as children of God, the glory of the Father, the reason of existence, and the truth found in His word. But in the end I think that just as He teaches me He can teach you so much more than I ever could.

My only advice is this, that while reading the chapters you accept and believe that everything Jesus says is true(why wouldn't you anyway right). I know that sometimes when I read, I get into a mode, so to speak, of taking the book I’m reading as a story and not as fact. And so I have to remind myself when reading His word that everything is true and profitable for me. He is who our lives in Him are to reflect. His teaching is better than any you’ll find in the latest novel or sermon.

So rejoice in what you read, for He is coming again and has given us His Spirit of truth.
Wow!!! The God of the universe, of the smallest atom and largest galaxy, of the air we breath and blood that flows in our veins, He has chosen to reside with us... in us. Even if we were disobedient sinners, He said that His very words have made us clean. I’ve said this before, but can I really say it too many times? It is after all a wonderful thing. His Spirit has sealed us and He died to take our place. Why, because He was obeying God the Father who so loved the world that He sent His Son. Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, and boundless.

I’ll end with a verse that speaks a glorious truth, from a prayer of Jesus to the Father.
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. John 17:3"

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The kingdom of Heaven

I find this to be an interesting story and so I thought I would share it!

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. Luke 10:1-12"

“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. Luke 10:13-15"

"He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me. Luke 10:16"

“The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:17-20"

This is just a portion of what the Jesus taught His disciples. That they were to go and share the good news about the Kingdom of God. I find it neat that they were sent ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go, because today we are also called to share the good news of the kingdom and even now He is coming soon. But now the good news this great and glorious hope of the kingdom, is given to all the world. “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. Rev.21:26-27"
Remember, our home is not here on earth(as crazy as that may sound) but He has gone to prepare a place for you and He encourages us to store up treasure in heaven not on earth! If you, like me, believe that is true, why do we still try to build ourselves feeble little kingdoms on this earth? Isn't it so much more important to share His kingdom with those who are willing to receive it.
So rejoice if your name is written in His book, and continue to look forward to His coming. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go!

"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus."

There is a lot more written in this text so please share what you may have learned!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Question 2

I’d like to answer my questions from my last blog...
This time I’ll try to cover: Why do you think it was necessary for the Israelites to divorce or separate from their wives, and why did God condone it?

To start, I’d like to point out that the Israelites were already involved in a covenant before they “married” or united themselves to the evil nations surrounding them. There was already in place a holy covenant between their nation and the Lord God almighty. As such they were no longer their own, they belonged to God. In fact the very act of marriage outside of their own people, on the side of the priests and Levites, was a breach of that and against God’s law. They were disobeying the Lord at a time when they had just received forgiveness and the ability to return to the land of promise. They were in truth committing adultery against God. The importance of them remaining a holy nation set apart by God was being jeopardized. To remain God’s priests, and chosen people they had to turn away from all of their wickedness and immorality. If this movement had gone unchecked they would have become unfit to be God’s holy nation and ultimately destroyed. Therefore, in this situation it was necessary to separate themselves from the nations around them, and to become once again sanctified unto God.

I am by no means condoning divorce, God hates divorce. After all, one of the reasons God instituted marriage on this earth, was as a representation of the mystery that is found in the union of Christ Jesus to the church. Divorce is a separation from that truth.

Malachi 2:10-16 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers? Judah has dealt treacherously, and an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, for Judah has profaned the LORD’s holy institution which He loves:
he has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob the man who does this, being awake and aware, yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!
And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion
and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. “ For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts.

Now if you notice that in the prior text there are two troubles:
1. They were joining themselves in marriage to peoples of other faiths and gods.
2. They were divorcing their own wives, and renouncing the commitment they had made to them before God.

Jesus said of divorce:
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery. Matt. 19:4-8"

I’m also by no means trying to judge any one either;
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12"

I’m just trying to share what I’ve learned of the truth, with whatever ability the Lord supplies me with.
“Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:9-11"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

James 1:27

I’d like to answer the questions from my last blog, but because I can’t write anything that is short, I’ll do one question at a time. The question answered in this blog will be...

What application, if any, can we learn from this text(the end of the book of Ezra)?

I think there is a lot that we can learn from this text. Here are some of my thoughts in point form.

1. It is important to keep ourselves away from temptation before it overwhelms us.
”Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 1 Cor.10:12”

2. We who received God’s grace are no longer our own, but our lives now belong to Christ.
“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. 1 Cor.6:20"

3. It may be necessary to change our surroundings and the way we are currently living.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom.12:2”

4. To realize that we are already joined to Christ Jesus and should have no part of sin.
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9”

5. To acknowledge that we live in a world of idolatry and sinful desires, and are constantly being immersed in it’s culture, yet we are to keep ourselves unspotted by the world around us(not remove ourselves physically from it , but not becoming like it either).
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27"
and “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17"

6. That we have a new covenant in Jesus with a merciful God of grace who loves us, one who will save us from sin and death, restoring us to Himself.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10” and “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15”

There are more things that could be learned from the text, but for the sake of keeping this shorter I think these points are sufficient. Although I'd love to hear more of yours(the reader)!

Note: the other question(Why do you think it was necessary for the Jews to divorce or separate from their wives, and why did God condone it?) will be covered in my next blog.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Divorcing wives?

Ezra 9:1-2
"After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness."

Ezra 10:9-11,16-17
"Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. Now make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives." "So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.

I've been in a kind of theme in my thought process as of late. But I thought that instead of saying what I think about this particular text. I would ask you the reader... If there is indeed a you the reader reading this, to please share a few of your idea's or conclusions concerning the following questions.

Why do you think it was necessary for the Jews to divorce or separate from their wives, and why did God condone it?

What application, if any, can we learn from this text?

I suggest that before you answer my question, you read all of chapters 9 and 10.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Young Christian

“And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Hebrews 13:12-14

I was thinking of how God can use weak and simple things to bless us. And though there are many examples I could use, I thought that I would share with you a poem. I had originally read this about eight years ago and it really let me, at that time, bring things into perspective. It’s not fabulous by any means, and it’s a fairly simple poem, and has a few flaws, but it once blessed me none the less.

The Young Christian

I cannot give it up.
The little world I know -
The innocent delights of youth
The things I cherish so!
‘Tis true, I love my Lord,
And long to do His will;
But oh, I may enjoy the world
And be Christian still.

I love the hour of prayer,
I love the hymns of praise
I love the blessed word which tells
Of God’s redeeming grace
But I am human still!
And while I dwell on earth,
God surely will not grudge the hours
I spend in harmless mirth!

These things belong to youth,
And are its natural right -
My dress, my pass time and my friends,
The merry and the bright.
My Father’s heart is kind!
He will not count it ill
That my small corner of the world
Should please and hold me still!

And yet –“outside the camp”-
‘Twas there my Savior died!
It was the world that cast Him forth
And saw Him crucified,
Can I take part with those
Who nailed Him to the tree?
And where His name is never praised
Is there a place for me?

Nay, world! I turn away
Tho’ thou seem fair and good;
That friendly outstretched hand of thine
Is stained with Jesus’ blood.
If in thy least device
I stoop to take a part,
All unaware, thine influence steals
God’s presence from my heart.

I miss my Savior’s smile,
When’ ere I walk thy ways;
Thy laughter drowns the Spirits voice,
And chokes the springs of praise.
When’ ere I turn aside
To join thee for an hour,
The face of Christ grows blurred and dim,
And prayer has lost its power.

Farewell… Henceforth my place
Is with the Lamb who died.
My Sovereign! While I have Thy love,
What can I want beside?
Thyself, blest Lord, art now
My free and loving choice,
In whom, though now I see thee not,
Believing, I rejoice.

Shame on me that I sought
Another joy than this,
Or dreamt a heart at rest with Thee
Could crave for earthly bliss!
These vain and worthless things,
I put them all aside;
His goodness fills my longing soul,
And I am satisfied.

Lord Jesus! Let me dwell
“Outside the camp” with Thee!
Since Thou art there, then there alone
Is peace and rest for me.
Thy dear reproach to bear
I’ll count my highest gain
Till Thou return, rejected one.
To take Thy power, and reign.

written by an unknown author.

See nothing great... but it really helped me to focus my eyes back on Christ Jesus, and to see that some of the things we think are harmless could be a form of idolarty, if not put in proper check.

It's so easy to get distracted by the worthless things of this life, but we must set them aside and return to our Lord.

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelation 3:14-22

Friday, October 28, 2005

The temple in my heart

I was watching the Jesus movie the other day, why? Mainly because I was curious about it. I had never seen it before and was interested to see the tool that had been spreading the gospel in so many countries for the last few years. It was older and of poorer quality than I thought it would be, kind of like some of those old spaghetti westerns I used to watch when I was a kid. It was neat to see how God could use something so weak and evidently low in production values to spread the “good news.” It just goes to show that He can really use anything too fulfill His wonderful will.

Anyway, let me get back to the reason I started writing this.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."

In the film, when it came to the part where Jesus was throwing the money changers and crooks out of the temple, it occurred to me that, as we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, does zeal for His house still consume Him?
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
What I’m saying is do I daily remember that I grieve Him when I conform to the lifestyle of the world. Usually I find myself too caught up in the here and now to pay much attention to what I’m subjecting my Lord too. I know that He’s everywhere and already knows everything, but is that an excuse we use to then live as we wish? Do I love Him enough to tell myself, enough John. The time has come and gone for me to carry on with worldliness. And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).
Perhaps that is why I’m writing this… because His Spirit in me is turning over the tables of greed and idolatry in my heart. I love the idea that He is changing me, and molding me, conforming me into someone more like Him. Kind of like when two people come together in marriage and the wife starts taking on the characteristics of the husband, or the husband that of the wife. In a similar way we are the bride of Christ, and receive the blessing of taking on His characteristics. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. I adore the idea that Jesus loves me more than I could possibly love anyone. A love that would have been beyond the reach of creation except that He gives it to us. His love is so deep for me that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wow! Does the Spirit of God grieve for me that much! Do my sins hurt Him like when a man cheats on his wife, or a wife ignores and despises her husband. Am I such a foul and loathsome creature when I betray the love of the eternal all-powerful, ever existing, God? Lord, please forgive me for when I betray your love! A love I don’t deserve and could never earn.
But He is so good, and in the end nothing can separate me from His love in Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord, all of you who have found such mercy and grace! Praise the Lord, you who receive the everlasting love of their Creator!
Praise the Lord, sing and shout in every land! For Great is the Lord and worthy to be praised!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love

Just a few thoughts for today, nothing inspirational but perhaps ones you could give me some feed back on.

And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. “For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many. “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Birth pangs... I’ve noticed the earth going through a lot of them lately. I mean it’s true that for the past two thousand years since Christ came these things began to take place, but I’ve found that in the last few years they seem to be getting to be more frequent and steady. For something interesting to do, our school has been counting them. In the past 9-10 months throughout the world there have been at least(that we’ve seen on the news):
3 major fires, 4 huge earthquakes, 18+ hurricanes/typhoons/cyclones/tornadoes, 12 wide spreading floods, several bombings, war, worldwide unrest, famines, and volcanic eruptions. Not to mention all of the things going on in outer space the past few years.

Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. "At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. "Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

I’m not trying to be a conspiracy junky, or a fear monger. We have enough of those as it is. I just wanted to remind you that the world as we know it is not going to last(thank heaven some would say). There is a coming judgement and a coming redemption. We must ask ourselves “If He is with us always, are we living according to His Spirit’s guidance?” If yes, then wonderful, if no, then why not?
We must set aside every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles us and run with perseverance the race set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity. He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
For this reason it says,
Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Glorious Salvation

I was reading a devotional this morning and I found an interesting point that I'd like to share. It's not any thing new, I just like the way it was put.
In the old covenant a sinner would bring his offering of a sheep or bull to the temple. The priest would then carefully examine the animal. If it was found to be without a blemish or flaw of any kind, it would be pronounced good and slaughtered as a substitute for the sin of the man who had brought it. A thing to note was that the priest didn't study the man after the fact to see if he had become more spiritual. Or a quick open heart surgery to see if the mans heart was clean. It was taken in faith that the sacrifice was enough to cleanse the man for yet another day. The glorious part of this is that in the new covenant we have with Christ we are cleansed through faith in him, forever! The sacrifice of the perfect God man (Jesus)that he made on our behalf was so awesome and wonderful that even the vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from heaven a pardon receives! Praise the Lord! So be encouraged and take heart for we are saved not on the basis of things we have done, but by faith in the death and resurrection of the one who created the universe. His sacrifice was more than enough.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 6

Today I’ll address the question “Am I commonly too comfortable to follow Christ?” Perhaps, I should be more routinely utilising the Spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, Biblical reading and study. Why? Because they’re a definite part of the cure to what ails you(spiritually). I’ll discuss fasting because I think it is the most overlooked of those(by myself anyway). I read this by John Piper once talking about fasting, “The most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of the earth. For when these replace an appetite for God Himself the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.” Then the denial of my stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase, my soul’s “appetite” for God (a definite incentive). What is in jeopardy then may not only be the good of my soul, but also the glory of my Lord. He goes on to say, “There is no easy way home to heaven. The hard and narrow way is strewn with obstacles and many fatal paths of innocent pleasure. There is a war to be fought within and without. The inward war is with our own “appetites” that compete with our hunger for God. And one of the weapons is fasting. I invite you to turn from the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast, “This much, O God, I want You.” Truly everyday I desire to shout “This much, O God, I want You!” But, I often wonder if I can even grasp or realise what a self defence, self denial can be.

In conclusion the main questions I ask myself are:

Do I have faith in a goal of righteousness, or is my desire to find the limit I can reach or break and still be saved from eternal death?

Do I truly believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh, and that He came to die in our place( because of our sins) on a cross, rising three days later to a life everlasting in power, being seated at the right hand of God? That one is easy, Yes, I do. I couldn’t imagine anything otherwise.

Do I love Jesus with all of my might, confident that He loves me and is preparing for those who believe in Him a place sharing in His inheritance and glory?

I'll end with this verse which is one of my favorites:
And 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 wishes take the water of life without cost
Revelations 22:17

Note: The End

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 5

Now, In Christ I am part of the Church and “we” (in Jesus) are all a part of Christ’s body, and we have been chosen, because of the amazing grace of God, to shine as lights in the darkness of this world, and to be bearers of fruit for His kingdom. John 15:16. We are called, though love and by love, to actively transfigure our lives and the lives of our community for the glory of Jesus Christ, by the power of Jesus Christ, and to grow in our love for God, each other, and the world. Being fully aware that, in and of myself, I am incapable of these things, I must also be fully aware, through faith, that it is Christ in us that is my hope for glory. There is most assuredly victory in Jesus. I must grasp the truth that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1.” Then, as a follower of Jesus, assured through faith that the afore mentioned statement of transfiguration is not only a “hopeful” goal to strive for, but one that will be accomplished as I strive to serve Him. This needn’t take years to put in to motion, but it is a goal that is already in action, and will transform our lives and communities as soon as we step up and claim it in victory through Jesus.

When reading God’s word we see Him bestow miracles and gifts upon His people. “Who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured not accepting their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated(men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains, and caves holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:33-38.” This is written to encourage us to live in faith and victory, despite worldly consequences, while fixing our eyes fully and wholly on Jesus. We are called to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin that entangles and to run the race set before us(read Hebrews 12). If Christians were “afraid” of worldliness as much as they are “afraid” of holiness, they would set the world on fire for Christ. Then the question to ask oneself(usually over and over again)is, are we living our lives humbly devoted to Christ Jesus or to the flesh(our old sinful nature)?

Note:To be continued

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 4

What influence do worldly things have in my life? I’ve always imagined that all of God’s gifts, whether material or Spiritual, are to be used for the common good of the "Church body," and in the coming kingdom of God(I wrote the aforementioned to remind my future self). In which Christ’s followers all have a place whether they realize it or not. Here’s an example of this in a story Jesus told to His disciples, "The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousands coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country. As soon as the man had gone, the servant with five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master’s money in the ground. Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. Matt.25:14-19" Already we can see in the story that the master knew his servant’s capabilities, and we see what they did with the gifts and provisions that their master gave them according to their abilities. The story progresses and each servant reveals the outcome of their labor. The first and second are proclaimed good and faithful and are called to share in their
master’s happiness. But the third is declared lazy and good for nothing. He viewed his master as a harsh judge and therefore did nothing at all. The very least he could have done would have been to invest it in a bank for the interest. However this was not done and so everything he had was taken away and he was cast into the darkness. This may indeed sound harsh, but we must remember that the master new the capabilities of each servant. If the third servant had done anything with the gift according to his own ability, the master may have been happy. By this we can see that our new life is not based on our success, but on our faithfulness to our Master Jesus Christ. In my opinion it was a lack of faith and works on the side of the lazy and evil servant that condemned him. We know because of His word that our salvation and justification are based on faith, because of God’s grace, but we must remember that faith without works may be dead (read James 2:14-26). I must ask myself each day and every day because of my new life in Him, "What am I doing, through faith and according to my own abilities, with the gifts God’s given me?

Note: To be continued

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 3

Now I don’t think being rich and having wealth is the problem, but that there is such a determination in many "Christian" circles for obtaining a great deal of wealth and riches, whether it’s the newest and best car, jet ski, house, or television set. Do we not read our Bibles? Well, I must not enough because It seems that every year I must relearn these things. It gives many warnings and much wisdom on the follies in life, a big one being the pursuit of riches. "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens." Proverbs 23:4-5. "There are two things, Lord, I want you to do for me before I die: Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; If I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name." Proverbs 30:7-9. (I was going to write down all the verses about wealth and riches found in the Bible, but there are so many, and all of them good for instruction, that you(any one out there who had the patience to read this far) should really look for yourselves. Try using a concordance). Another important warning to the rich is in James 5:1-5. I hope I don’t misunderstand the meaning, I think it is a warning out of love. "You rich people should cry and weep! Terrible things are going to happen to you. Your treasures have already rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your money has rusted, and the rust will be an evidence against you, as it burns your body like fire. Yet you keep on storing up wealth in these last days. You refused to pay the people who worked in your fields, and now their unpaid wages are shouting out against you. The lord All-powerful has surely heard the cries of the workers who harvested your crops. While here on earth, you have thought only of filling your own stomachs and having a good time. But now you are like fat cattle on their way to be butchered." James 5:1-5. This must be written to people consumed by riches, but with so many warnings, why then is there so much drive for material gain in the Church? Remember what Jesus said, "If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. Luke 9:23." I must remember that our Lord is returning, and that this world is not going to last, but my actions done, here and now, in hate or love, will determine my(and possibly others) everlasting future.

Note: To be continued

Monday, October 17, 2005

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 2

So to continue on with the debate in myself with regard to the aforementioned things, I ask "According to God’s word what is the purpose of material wealth in the life of a Christ follower?" Is it to enjoy a simple life of pleasure with friends and family? No, that can’t be with so many warnings against the follies of riches. His word says I am called to be a servant of others, "washing each others feet" so to speak. His word clearly says that the treasures of this life will not last, and that I should instead store up treasure in heaven (Matt.6:19-21). We are told in James 1:27 that true religion is taking care of widows and orphans and keeping oneself unspotted from the world. Can I keep myself unspotted and remain living the life society tells me to live? I don’t believe it’s possible, I must follow my Master’s example, and look to providing the needs of others before providing for my own selfish cravings (no matter how I may justify them). For answers to my questions I must look to His word because He is my Master and Teacher and Friend. He has prepared all the answers I’ll need to know before I need to know them. Wow, knowing God is incredible, even if I only know Him just a very infinitely little bit. Anyway His word says "Do not be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others as more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God. But He did not try to remain equal with God. Instead He gave up everything and became a slave, when He became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honored His name above all others. Philippians 2:3-9." Then this is what I am to be and how I am to live and function as a believer, and as someone reborn in a new and everlasting life in Christ and in the Church. So why does the Church have such trouble with this? Yet even Jesus in Revelations had to tell the Churches to return to Him. This is not a new issue that we struggle with, it has been going on since the church was young.

Note: to be continued

The World of Flesh or Desire for Christ 1

The vanquishing, suppressing, and uprooting of Christians in North America, is not the result of bullets, or swords, nor hatred and beatings, but because of the pride we take in having our simple pleasures or fears and fulfilling our selfish desires. Now to be sure society does compel everyone to participate in these things. Whether in the society of the world or the "church," all too often Christ’s followers are encouraged to enjoy themselves and live a life devoted to ease, comfort, and well being. We are constantly taught by those around us to focus on number one "El Numero Uno" (that’s M-E in case you didn’t catch it).
So I ask myself "What is "well being" in the life of a Christian or their family?" Christ Jesus taught us that God our Father has promised to supply our every need just as He did for His Son, but then what are our true needs? I think our problems arise from our perception of neediness. We are caught up in our own fancies, yearnings and the needs the world as a whole indicates to us. Is happiness or fulfilment a need? Is need a quality of life issue? When God supplies our every need is it for this temporal life or for our eternal life or both? I find the answers to these questions difficult because simply, I’m not God, I don’t see the big picture and I don’t understand "need" like He does. But I do indeed believe that when following Christ we will be "well-off", but in what regard, that of western society or the transcendent Word of God? "But godliness is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.1 Tim.6:6-9." Now I’m not saying it is not wrong to desire good things, but I do believe that it is wrong to be filled with the desire of worldly temporal things in the place of Christ. As long as our eyes are focussed on Jesus and we are living according to His Spirit, the pleasures of this world its lusts, worries, and fears will have no control over us. "The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And because we belong to Christ Jesus, we have killed our selfish feelings and desires. Galations 5:22-24." Have we killed our selfish feelings and desires? It says that because we belong to Christ Jesus we have. He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.

NOTE: I wrote this and the others in this series about two years ago but it was the best way to quicly write a blog.