JESUS Loving the Unlovable

REVELATION 3:19:

JESUS is talking to a church and saying,

“Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them].  So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]”  ~ Amplified Bible.

I seldom hear about the CHASTISEMENT OF THE LORD from today’s pulpits.  In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing about God’s discipline for people in the church.  But it is an issue that all Christians should learn about, and sooner or later, most of us will probably discover what it is to be chastened of the Lord.

The Purpose for Chastening is…?  

“The Lord has chastened me sorely, but He has not given me over to death”  (Psalm 118:18).

The PURPOSE is not to destroy but to LEAD to repentance.

“…You have chastised me, and I was chastised, like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; bring me back, that I may be restored, for You are the Lord my God.  Surely after I was turned [from You], I repented; and after I was instructed, I penitently smote my thigh.  I was ashamed, yes, even confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth [as a nation]”  (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

And to RESTORE God’s blessing.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whom You discipline and instruct,  O Lord, and teach out of Your law (Word)”  (Psalm 94:12).

I must admit, I’ve never been fond of the idea of spanking–on the receiving end, or the giving end.  Probably because as a kid I received quite a few spankings.  And by the way, hiding under my parents bed to escape punishment never worked [It doesn't work for God either.].

Mom would have an ever-present tree switch nearby, and would shout to me in my hiding,  “If you don’t come out right now, the punishment will be much worse!”

Looking back now, I recognize that the discipline of my parents was necessary in keeping me out of trouble–and in many cases to spare me from greater pain and suffering.  Of course back in those days, because of my immaturity, that reasoning wouldn’t make sense to a youngster.

Furthermore, I realize now what my parents went through during those years.  I too experienced the same in the raising our three children– the ordeals of correcting–not because my parents dislike us, but because they love us.  I don’t think my children understood that reasoning either while growing up, but its application was the same never-the-less.

That realization reminded me of God’s word in The Letter to the Hebrews– 12:9-11:

[9]    Moreover, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we yielded [to them] and respected [them for training us]. Shall we not much more cheerfully submit to the Father of spirits and so [truly] live?

[10] For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for only a short period of time and chastised us as seemed proper and good to them; but He disciplines us for our certain good, that we may become sharers in His own holiness.

[11] For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems grievous and painful; but afterwards it yields a peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it [a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness--in conformity to God's will in purpose, thought, and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. 

God’s Word Exposes the Church’s Hypocrisy…

 “I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold or hot. Would that your were cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, I am rich, I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing, and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”  (Revelation 3:15-17).

Though JESUS has just exposed church hypocrisy, and has implied that many are pretending to know Him, yet don’t, His reasons are not because He hates them for falling in such a state but because He deeply loves them; He wants to come into their lives.

He reminds the church that He is impartial, always consistent while confronting and discipline.  That is the way GOD treats everyone He loves when they get off course, and believe me…I have certainly gotten ‘off course’ during my 42 years of Christian Life.

Proverbs 3:11, 12:

My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastising of the Lord  [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof.

For whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.

[Other Scripture to meditate on:  Hebrews 12:5-11; Job 5:17; Psalm 39:11; Proverbs 15:10]

JESUS’ Harsh Assessment…Revelation 3:19.

His harsh assessment of this particular church wasn’t for the purpose of driving them away from Him, but rather serve to put them on notice–YOU MUST BE ZEALOUS–they must be “HOT” (verse 16) and “REPENT” [changing your mind and attitude].

God Wants What Is Best For Us–

He wants us to have SPIRITUAL LIFE, not death.  All this language, the language of LOVE;

-  it’s the treatment of LOVE

- it’s LOVE rebuking, chastising, and exhorting.

JESUS wants to see you restored.

For this very reason, He will discipline us who persist in sin; will even deal out correction if we show signs of APATHY or SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENCE.

“Spiritual Indifference”:

Indifference robs a church of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP POTENTIAL-

It shows itself through…

…NEGLECTED ATTENDANCE…PREPARATION…PARTICIPATION…

Enthusiasm to Worship King of kings, Lord of lords, the Almighty living God will be missing (Psalm 122:1).  Violation of God’s Word will rob the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION in the body of Christ (Hebrews 5:11-12).

Our interest must increase for our worship to be a blessing– “I don’t get anything out of worship.” – Are you putting anything in?!

AGAIN, Revelation 3:19, [The New Living Bible]:

“I continually discipline and punish everyone I love, so I must punish you unless you turn from your indifference and become enthusiastic about the things of God.”

“I Hear You Knocking…”

Picture of Door by Sarah Langova

Picture of Door by Sarah Langova

Since I’m a product of the 50′s, and  remembering listening to the music of the day on my old Silvertone Radio, the Fats Domino song rang out in my ear.  Although the rest of the lyrics certainly don’t fit the topic, the title certainly does.

“I hear you knocking but you can’t come in”

Revelation 3:20:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and be [will eat] with Me.

JESUS IS THE DOOR! – John 10:7.

Restoration is Made…

What a telling image Jesus gives.  JESUS pictures Himself standing outside the DOOR of the repentive heart.

So often this famous verse is used to invite UNBELIEVERS to accept Jesus into their lives.  And of course, that is the message.  BUT the fact that He needs to ask to be let into the hearts of supposed Christians found in the church of Laodicea is a horrible assessment of their condition.

They, like the unbelievers around them, need to repent and welcome Him to come in and take control of their lives–to RESTORE the relationship they once demonstrated

Proverbs 15:10 says,  “The HEART knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.”

Psalm 39:11:  “When with rebukes You correct and chasten man for sin, You waste his beauty like a moth and what is dear to him consumes away; surely every man is a mere breath.”

Indifference Robs A Church!

Robs it of what?  Of its MAXIMUM WORSHIP  POTENTIAL.

It shows itself through neglected attendance, preparation and participation.  My ENTHUSIASM to worship will be missing (Psalm 122:1):

“I WAS glad when they said to me,  Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Violation of God’s Word will always ROB the brethren and yourself of EDIFICATION: The meaning “edification” in the sense of “being built up, strengthened in one’s faith” [Expository Dictionary of Bible Words].

Our interest must increase for our WORSHIP to be a blessing;

“I don’t get anything out of worship.” — Are you putting anything in?!   [ [i] Referenced].

While Christ is Knocking at Our Door…(3:20)

He is directing some of us to knock at Him; “knock and it shall be opened.”

He will certainly hear our voice and open the door to us.  He will not be DEAF to our voice, nor bar the door, nor keep us standing in the hallway, nor send us empty away.

Christ’s Church When He Comes…

The body (the church) will be found in different circumstances then, as well as now, and with many kinds of knocking; yet in all, it’s the same earnest desire on His part to be let in.  He will not force the door; but still wants to be let in.

Don’t find yourselves repeating the lyrics to a song that was popular in the 50′s: “I hear you knocking, but You can’t come in!” How much you will lose out on!

In His Absence…

–  NO outward prosperity,

–  NO riches,

–  NOR numbers can compensate…

IF HE IS KEPT OUT–all is sadness, and leanness, and poverty.

IF He is admitted, ALL IS WELL…

–  HAPPY is the church where Christ is daily feasting…

–  HAPPY the soul in which He has come to live…and who, is in daily communion by Faith and ENJOY the TASTES the Bridegroom’s LOVE!.

“I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.”

 

 

 

 Reference:  [i]  www.bibleanswer.com/indiffrn.htm

Bible Translation Used: Amplified except where noted.

 

 

“Marriage Counseling” Might Be In Order

I have been reading and studying God’s Word in the book of Revelation as of late.  I decided to focus more on God’s LOVE for us all, rather than only emphasize the aspect of PROPHECY–although that issue is also of importance.

EPHESUS - The Church With No Doors by Van Gogh

EPHESUS – The Church With No Doors by Van Gogh

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV):

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

[1] These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands:  [2] I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.  [3] You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

[4] Yet I hold this against you:  You have forsaken your first love.  [5] Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent,  I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  [6] But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

[7] He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

Ephesians 5:21-23 (AMP):

“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  [22] Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.  [23] For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body.” 

My 50th Wedding Anniversary is approaching…

Last year on my 49th Wedding Anniversary, a much younger friend asked for me to give a brief account of the BENEFITS OF A MARRIAGE with such a long duration and I’m sure this year, on our 50th, we will be asked the same question once more:

“Tell us, Mel, just what is it you have learned from those wonderful years with Dianne?”

“Honestly, I’ve learned that MARRIAGE is the best teacher of all.  It teaches you loyalty, patience with one another, meekness, self-restraint, forgiveness…and a great many other qualities you wouldn’t need to know if you were single.”

GOD LOVES MARRIAGE–

Transforming Lives

Transforming Lives

God performed THE FIRST MARRIAGE in the garden between Adam and Eve.  In fact, the main reason God created Eve from Adam’s side was because (as He said),

“It is not good for man to be alone”  (Genesis 2:18)

Some reasons God didn’t want man to be alone…

MARRIAGE changes us!

Marriage improves our lives, transforming us into something we could never become alone.

MARRIAGE can make you wise!

And after being married for almost 50 years, I can certainly testify it can IF…we do it God’s way!

We can learn all kinds of things as we GROW in Love!

Several years before John wrote the book of Revelation, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Ephesus (which we call Ephesians).

In that letter, Paul told the Christians about marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33).

In Ephesians 5, God is telling them, and us, how highly He regards MARRIAGE.  In fact, God regards marriage so highly–He compares a HEALTHY MAN to a HEALTHY CHURCH.

Husbands and wives should do the same things, to have a healthy marriage as you would if you wanted a healthy congregational church.

So, what does a person do when they have an unhealthy marriage?  

How would you go about in healing a relationship between a husband and wife that appears to have gone to the breaking point?

Well, apparently you’d do the same thing you’d do if you had an unhealthy church.

In Revelation 2, Jesus is telling Ephesus that their relationship with Him had become unhealthy, uncomfortable, and strained.  Something needed to be “fixed.”

Jesus diagnoses the problem with Spiritual Advice!

He gives them [and us too] some “MARRIAGE COUNSELING” in Revelation 2:5:

“REPENT (change the inner man to meet God’s will) and do the works you did previously [when you first knew the Lord]“

REPENT means to “turn around”, to “go back”!  Go back to the beginning and do what you did at the beginning-again!  That will bring healing to the strained relationship they were experiencing.

So what had the Ephesians done back at the beginning?

If you haven’t already, you will need to grab your Bible and turn back to ACTS 19:17-20:

When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor ~ verse 17.

Once the assembly of believers in Ephesus began to LOVE JESUS…

–  they openly confessed their evil deeds,

–  they publicly burned their books of sorcery,

–  AND this all resulted in the Word of the Lord spreading widely and powerfully in the surrounding communities.

Another way of putting it:  “they changed their ways”.

Their NEW RELATIONSHIP with Jesus changed them so much that they…THOUGHT DIFFERENTLY…BEHAVED DIFFERENTLY…THREW OUT EVERYTHING standing between them and Jesus!

As a result, everybody around knew of this great LOVE they had for JESUS.

MARRIAGE is never a 50/50 percent relationship.  It’s a 100/100 percent relationship.

 - 40 YEARS PASSES BY IN THE CONGREGATION OF BELIEVERS…

…AND THINGS HAVE CHANGED!

Their LOVE for Jesus had grown stale and empty and their RELATIONSHIP is on life support.  Unless they do something drastic, Jesus is going to take His “candlestick” with Him (Revelation 2:5).

And so JESUS says:

TURN AROUND

GO BACK

LOVE ME LIKE YOU USED TO!

That’s the way to FIX a broken church…a broken relationship.  It is also the way you FIX a broken marriage…before the separation can occur.

Going Back…it’s never to late!

Doing the things you used to do when you first got married can rekindle a closer relationship.

I can remember when I was dating my wife,  how important it was to open car doors, to be well-groomed before picking her up on a date, having the right cologne splashed all over, the one she had mentioned she liked.  I wanted to impress her, to make her notice how interested I was in her and no one else.

As the years passed by all to quickly, honestly, I let things slip.  Now Dianne never said, “How come you never do those things anymore!”  God’s Spirit spoke to my spirit,  “Mel, to show your wife how much you value her, as a suggestion, start opening car doors and build on that.”  I’m still in a daily “building” process even after 50 years.  It never stops.

Redirecting Our Focus…

When your total FOCUS is on pleasing the other person (100%), and if someone asks you about that person you LOVE…you only say good things about them.

It’s NOT about you…

“If only they would”….

“…if only I could get my spouse to do that…everything would be just fine.”

“…if only my husband would say he loved me like he used to, then…”

“…if only my wife treated me the way she did at the beginning we wouldn’t be in this MESS!”

Sharing My Little Secret…

Allow me to let you in on a little secret I’ve learned in 50 years:

GOD NEVER SAID  “Husbands love your wives IF they deserve it.”

GOD NEVER SAID  “Wives submit to your husbands IF they deserve it.” 

A MARRIAGE CAN’T BE FIXED by saying:

“If only they would do this then…”

“If only they would do that!”

You can’t FIX marriages like that.  You can only FIX a marriage by deciding that YOU will do what it needs to be done.

AND it works.  Sometimes–even if you do it for the wrong reasons–it still works!

ILLUSTRATION:  (See References [i])

GEORGE CRANE, a Newspaper columnist and minister tells of a wife who came to his office full of hatred toward her husband.

“I not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even before I divorce him!”

Thinking for a minute, Dr. Crane came up with an ingenious plan:

“Go home and act as if you really loved your husband,” he told her.

“Tell him how much he means to you. praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind and considerate and generous as possible. After you have convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him…then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.”

And she followed his instructions with enthusiasm.

Two months went by…and she didn’t return to her counselor, so Dr. Crane called her.

“Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”

“DIVORCE?” she exclaimed.

“Never!  I discovered, I really do love him.”

Without realizing it–in OBEYING God–her marriage healed.  She didn’t realize she’d “REPENTED” and done the things she’d done at first.  But when she did, she fell in love all over again.

This is what JESUS is explaining to the church at Ephesus:  Remember then from what heights you have fallen.  REPENT (change the inner man to meet God’s will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord], or else…(Rev. 2:5 AMP).

“You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”–

A DEEPER KIND OF LOVE is more than just “feelings.”  It’s a heartfelt, deepened relationship as your marriage progresses and in the same manner, a closer relationship with Christ.

“Your happiness is going to be based on who you decide to share the rest of your life with.”  [ii]

One of the reasons many marriages fail today is they’ve forgotten what the attraction was about.

-  You got bored with the old routine.

-  You’ve become complacent in the everyday things in life.

JESUS says, “I have this one charge to make against you:  that you have LEFT the love that you had at first”  (verse 4).

It wasn’t that the ‘church people’ no longer had any LOVE of Jesus at all, rather it was the QUALITY of their love for Him had weakened; grown stale over a period of time.

The GREEK word translated “LEFT” means “to depart, leave alone, forsake, and neglect.”  It can also be used of DIVORCE and the image it gave me is powerful.  [iii]

When you lose your keys, where are they?  When you lose your sunglasses, they are right where you left them.  I sometimes find them on my head.

That’s the way it is with your FIRST LOVE.  If you’ve lost it, guess where it can be found.  It’s wherever you left it.

Wherever it is, it’s still there because God hasn’t moved!  He’s waiting for you to come back.

Invaluable Relationships…

Imagine ladies, that your husband comes home and says,  “I don’t love you anymore.  But nothing will change.  I’ll still earn a living and pay the bills.  We’ll still sit together and sleep together.  I’ll still father our children.  I just don’t love you anymore.”

Would that reasoning set well with you?  No way!  You’d be devastated.

Yet we say that to the Lord.

“Jesus, I don’t love You like I did in the beginning.  I’ll still come to church every week.  I’ll still serve You.  I’ll still witness for You.  I just don’t love You like I used too.”

That’s NOT good enough for Jesus either.

Overcomers!

This brings back to Revelation 2:7 in conclusion:

“He who is able to hear, let him listen to and give heed to what the Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).  To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat [of the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.  [Gen. 2:9; 3:24.]“

THE “LAMPSTAND’ REMOVAL:

Jesus tells us, unless we rediscover our FIRST LOVE and repent, He will remove the LAMPSTAND (verse 5 b.).  

No way is the Lord saying that the people of the church (we are the “church”) have lost their salvation.  For the OVERCOMERS will be granted to eat of the tree of life, which is in paradise.

Removing the “LAMPSTAND” means that your light, your uplifted TORCH LIGHT, has been extinguished in the surrounding communities.

So if you find that “MARRIAGE COUNSELING” is in order, in your marriage or in your spiritual relationship, you may need to return to a relationship of FIRST LOVE…then REPENT of your negligence, complacency and go back to the beginning.

REFERENCES:

[i]  Tests 1939 “For Husbands and Wives” The chicago Daily Tribune January 1-12, 1940.

[ii]  “Winning in Troubled Times” by Dr. Creflo A. Dollar.

[iii]  Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.

PHOTOS:

EPHESUS – “The Church With No Doors” by Van Gogh atwww.christimages.org/biblebooks/Book of Revelation.html

Photo Pin – Free Photos for Bloggers.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS:

The New International Version.

The Amplified Bible.

Imitators or Impostors?

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10  (NIV):

[6] You became IMITATORS of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.  [7] And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia.  [8] The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it,  [9] for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  [10] and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead–Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

charlescalebcolton203963

 

MAKING AN IMPRESSION:

Sometimes I hear a new song, read a book, or see something that so grabs my attention, I can’t help myself.  As soon as I have the opportunity, I want to tell someone I meet or share my experience on Social Media, “I gotta tell you about this book I’m reading…” or whatever it is.

That’s when it is CLEAR…it really made an impression.

And what happened when Paul and his fellow evangelists came to Thessalonica made that kind of IMPRESSION?  Not only impressing the local church people, but also on people all over the place.

Conversation was “buzzing” all around Greece and neighboring countries.  Nobody had to ask,  “Have you heard about those strange Jews going around talking about someone called JESUS?” because everybody who had heard about them, were telling someone else without being asked.

That’s the meaning of what Paul says in VERSE 8:  “The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia–your faith in God has become known everywhere.”

And what people were talking about wasn’t just the new church down at “The Corner of Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road” ([i]Footnote). but the way it had come into being.

People were talking about the amazing and instantaneous effect the Gospel had effecting their lives.

At the heart of it all…

At the heart of it all was the call to WORSHIP…of the One True God rather than the surrounding idols.

It would be like asking the people of today, to give up using their cars, computers, tv’s and cell phones.

The gods of Greek and Roman paganism were everywhere.

For example, if you or your son or daughter were getting married this Summer, a serious and expensive worship of a deity would be expected of you.

At every turn in the road the gods were there; unpredictable, possibly mean and dangerous, and sometimes at war among themselves…there was really no way in appeasing them, making sure you had them on your side.

Paul, Silas, and Timothy…

Right smack dad into this wacky world came three unknown Jews: Paul, Silas and Timothy, telling these pagans there was only One True God and this God had a Son, and that Son had been raised from the dead!!! Nobody had ever said anything like that before!!!

And the people in Thessalonica, knowing right from the start, the huge risk they would be taking in the community–turned away from their idols to this Living God, and in doing this…discovered both suffering and great JOY at the same moment!!!

That’s what CONVERSION is all about–

The word “TURNED” in verse 9 of the text, is as close as Paul gets to the technical term of conversion or being SAVED:

“They tell how you turned to God…”

It’s what happens when someone stops going in one direction, turns around and begins going in the opposite direction.

Has this happened to you?

“Changing Beer Into Furniture”

In preparation for studying and meditating on the verses presented in this blog-post, I ran across a story told of a group of old friends hanging out and having conversation.  One of the men had recently become a Christian:

His old buddies were giving him a bit of a hard time about his conversion experience.

“You don’t really believe all those miracle stories in the Bible, do you?”

In response, his friend replied,

“I don’t know about the miracle stories in the Bible, but I do know about the miracle story in my own life.  Since giving my life over to the Lord, Jesus has changed beer into furniture!”  ([ii] See Footnote)

It’s a sight to see when someone gives their life to Christ!  I did so on August 15th, 1972–my spiritual birthday!!!

Transformation–

As we become more involved in a community of faith,

Volunteering our time,

Learning the JOY of GIVING to God,

Becoming friends–like a family with our brothers and sisters in the FAITH.

[In growing up, I had a brother who was seven years younger than I.  But when I became a BELIEVER, my family grew.  Now I have FAITH SISTERS in the Lord--and my wife, is also my sister in Christ!]

Christian Living in Thessalonica…

Christians had been true BELIEVERS for a very short time; we don’t know exactly how long, but it can’t have been more than a year.

They were very ordinary people doing something extraordinary in response to an unexpected MESSAGE and people from hundreds of miles around were talking about it.

The only explanation…the Living God at work through the MESSAGE of Jesus Christ!

“IMITATORS”/IMPERSONATORS – Verse 6 a.

“And you [set yourselves to] become imitators of us and [through us] of the Lord Himself”  (Amplified Bible).

Even in the face of “severe suffering”, the Thessalonian believers of the day, talked about…

–  GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF SOCIETY!!!

–  COURAGE!

–  COMMITMENT

–  ABOUT A MIGHTY GOD!

It wasn’t about them.  It was about HIM!!!

Even in the midst of their suffering and persecution, they were filled with JOY and the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

And so, other people became curious and wanted to know what they had discovered:  “What have they got that I don’t have?”  I wonder myself, if my neighbors are asking the same question about my life:  “Who is he, really?”

Or, is the only thing they notice–my car parked along side of the house on Sunday mornings with the engine at idle–waiting for my wife to get out of the house– then rushing off to Sunday morning services and back home by noon.

“Are the Thompson Family IMPOSTERS or what?”

The people  of First Church of Thessalonica had become Imitators…

 The church as a whole, through their IMITATION OF CHRIST, others began to imitate them…Macedonia and Achaia:

“Your FAITH has become known everywhere” Paul exclaims.

And when something is GOOD…something is REAL, and the word gets around to those who need to hear the Word.

When Christians begin to “LIVE OUT” with…

DEEP CONVICTION,

THE CALLING OF CHRIST JESUS,

THE LIFE OF JESUS,

THE WAY OF LOVE, and

GENEROSITY THROUGH CHRIST, and

the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…

…people can’t help notice that THE REAL THING HAS ARRIVED!

Living in a CULTURE engulfed in idols.

We may not call them idols, or call them gods, nor pray to them, but our ACTIONS speak volumes.

When we concentrate our efforts on building a better church buildings for ourselves rather than spending time, talent, money on going out to those who don’t know Christ…we’re WORSHIPPING IDOLS.

But when we give sacrificially so others can eat…

…when we knock on doors and offer a free cup of water or whatever…

…when we become peacemakers and reconcilers…

…when we make an effort in random acts of kindness…

…when we become lovers and not judgers…

–when we seek to heal, help and restore…

…when we offer Christ in these ways…

WE ARE TRULY WORSHIPPING THE ONE TRUE AND LIVING GOD.

And that’s exciting!!!  It’s exciting not only for us, but for those who hear about us.

No wonder the apostle Paul was delighted to write a letter to them,

“We continually remember before our God and Father

your work produced by faith, your labor

prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope”

“Imitators” are Contagious!!!

Bill Hybels says, “God wants us to become contagious [believers]…who will first catch His love and then urgently and infectiously offer it to all who are willing to consider it…”  [See Footnotes - iii]

Are you living your life in such a way as to cause people to want what you have in Jesus?

Paul concludes the opening paragraph in his letter:

“And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven.  Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath  [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah]”  (verse 10 – Amplified Bible).

Jesus is coming again!

There is no “if’s” in Paul’s wording here.  And being “left behind” as an RELIGIOUS IMPOSTER when He does return… is not a good thing.

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  Charles H. Spurgeon.

JESUS' Social Media Post

AN “IMPOSTOR’S” IDENTITY:

IMPOSTERS have religious activity that is not connected to a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  They love to look religious–in a “form of godliness.”

“FORM” refers to an outward shape or appearance, putting style over substance.  Read what JESUS SAYS about some impostors of His day:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”   (Matthew 23:25).

The Separating of Christ’s IMITATORS and the IMPOSTERS:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.  Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry…feed you…or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

And the IMPOSTERS…the “goats” on the left response?

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”  (V. 44)

“He will reply,  ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did NOT DO for one of the least of these, you DID NOT DO FOR ME”  (V. 45).

The “impostor’s” destiny…

“…they will go away to eternal punishment”

The “imitators” outcome…

“but the righteous to eternal life”  (V. 46).

So where do you belong in your community?

A Imitator…or an Impostor?

Footnotes:

[i]  Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics @ http://elyrics.net > Gaither Vocal Band Lyrics to Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road.

[ii] Story from Kenneth Sauer.

[iii]  Bill Hybels, Contagious Christian, pg. 23

 

What We Believe Determines How We Behave

A Lesson Learned From My Grandfather–

When I was young and impressible growing up, my grandfather had a habit when outside–always walking with his head down–as if he was looking for something that he might have lost.

My grandparents lived in a different part of Southern California than my parents, so visiting them on holidays and weekends during the Summer were a real treat for me.  That was where I first learned to ride a  bicycle which was stored in the garage just for my use–and learning to roller skate on the miles of sidewalks surrounding my grandparents home[no sidewalks to skate on where I lived].  All because it was something to do while not getting in someone elses hair.

Eventually, as the Summer days grew hotter and physical activity for even a young became uneventful,  I would watch my “granddad” puttering in his carpentry shop attached to the homesteads garage.

Now I never learned much from watching, because of my impatience.  But it was still a treat to see how granddad could fix anything with his hands!

One day I decided to ask him why he always walked around the yard and side patio with his head down.

“Well son, that’s a good question.”  And I waited, and waited, and waited for his answer.

Keeping my FOCUS set!

Keeping my FOCUS set!

“If you keep your eyes on where you are walking, you will never know what you might find.”

I immediately followed up the question with a question:  “Like what granddad?”

He pointed his aged and well calloused finger to a small crack in the paved walkway.

“Look over there Mel.  What do you see?”

“NOTHING,” I replied.

And then, slowly bending over, he proceeded to pick up an old, weathered copper penny and placed it in his open palm.

“Do you see what you been missing all this time?” he asked.

After our conversation, he walked back to his small little workshop while I wondered if there was a deeper lesson here.

I hesitated for a minute, not wanting him to see what I was about to do.  Getting down on my knees, I began searching intently, in every cranny and crack in the payment.  There must be more TREASURE out here…more COINS hidden… if I just keep looking and watching with my head down like granddad.

What We Believe Determines How We Behave:

The story I shared becomes a good picture of how many people live in our society today.  They are constantly searching for something because they know there’s got to be more to life.   But they never find it if they don’t know what it is they are missing.

Breaking away from the past…

If you want to break away from your past, then where you put your eyes is very important.  Although my grandfather never wanted to break away from his past, at least I don’t think he did.  Where he put his eyes was of importance to him.

Colossians 3:1-4:

Instead of looking down, the apostle Paul challenges us to LOOK UP! :

[1] IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

[2] And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.

[3] For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.

[4] When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [splendor of His] glory.

LOOKING UP! 

Colossians 3:1 establishes the TRUTH…

Since we have been RAISED WITH JESUS…we have a new status and therefore A NEW LIFE.  We now have a POWER SOURCE for living.

I remember at the age of 20, driving home from work after a  graveyard shift; getting out of my car and kicking the rear tire, hurting my foot in desperation cry, “There’s got to be more to life than this!”  It wouldn’t be until 10 years later would I discover the POWER SOURCE.

Being positioned to LOOK UP.

BELIEVERS have died with Christ Jesus, been buried with Him, have been raised with Him, and as Ephesians 2:6 states, we have been seated with Him in heavenly places.  This is our position, but we must assume these truths on a daily basis to break free from the past.

That’s why Paul writes,  “set your minds and keep them set on what is above”–

I’m sure you heard the phrase, “He/she so heavenly minded that he.she no earthly good.”  Personally, I would consider that phrase if directed to me, as a compliment.

It’s more likely that people today are so worldly-minded that they’re no heavenly or earthly good!

IF WE TRULY SET OUR HEARTS AND MINDS on things above…

We will experience POWER and FREEDOM here on earth.

The word “SET” means to seek something out with a desire to possess it [i] Footnote–like a dutiful grandson on his hands and knees while seeking a penny with great desire in the cracks of cement.

The word Paul uses is in the present tense, which implies that we’re to continue to SEEK the things above.  It’s NOT a one-time decision, but a daily activity.

JESUS puts it this way in Matthew 6:21:  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

When I was a youngster, the TREASURE I sought–where my heart was–was to be found with my head downward.  Even as a spiritually immature Christian, my FOCUS was directed to what was in my wallet.

If our FOCUS is on things that will ultimately rust, tarnish, break down, or burn up…our energy and emotions will be misplaced.

If we SEEK JESUS–allow Him to become our ultimate treasure, then our hearts will follow.

Our knowing “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

This is a reminder to us all.  JESUS is supreme and in control of all we have, all we do, and where we go on earth.  Christ is exalted (lifted up!) and sits at the right hand of the Father; He is sitting down, not standing up.

One of the most often quoted Old Testament Bible verse is Psalm 110:1:  “The Lord says to my Lord:  Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.  The word shows that His redemptive work is now complete.  “IT IS FINISHED!”

BELIEVERS HAVE TWO RESPONSIBILITIES:

Our FIRST RESPONSIBILITY–

To “set our hearts on things above.”

Our SECOND is to…

“set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

This literally translates,  “Keep on thinking, as a matter of habit, on the things above, and not on things on the earth.”  Our FEET must be on earth, but our MINDS must be in heaven.

So thoughts can, and will influence our actions…

So, if we place our THOUGHTS ABOVE and not on earth, our BEHAVIOR will reflect those things that matter to our Father in heaven.  This is not an easy thing to accomplish.  We are bombarded by outside influences–the worlds way of thinking about world events around us, material obsessions, etc.

PLACING OUR MINDS ABOVE…

This requires a never-ending effort on our part because by NATURE, we have a tendency to LOOK DOWN as my grandfather’s habit transpired, instead of LOOKING UP!

But if we fix our eyes on the things above, GOD will change our desires; and if we change our mind, GOD will change our heart.

FIVE REASONS TO “LOOK UP”:

#1.  We’ve died (verse 3 a.).

When looking back at the CROSS where we DIED POSITIONALLY in Christ Jesus, we have no obligation to live like we used to live.

This parallels the verse in Galatians 2:20, where Paul share his current spiritual position by saying “I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…”

#2.  Our life is hidden with Christ (v. 3 b.).

The image I get here is a large BANK VAULT.  My TREASURE is stored away in my account–SECURED in trust for eternity.

#3.  Christ is our life (v. 4 a.).

By realizing that Christ is our life today, we should have a new attitude towards anything that may happen to us.  There should be nothing to fear!

#4.  JESUS will come again! (v. 4 b.).

When I was growing up and getting the news that my grandparents were coming, I would be so excited…I would wait looking through the front screen door with excitable anticipation:  Are they here yet?

Since JESUS is coming again, it makes sense perfect sense we should be looking up continually…not knowing the exact time of His arrival, but knowing that He will soon be here.

The phrase “WHEN” is better translated “WHENEVER Christ appears”.  The FACT of His return is certain but the time is indefinite.

#5.  We will appear with Him in glory (v. 4 c.).

The verb “APPEAR” means to make visible what is invisible - [ii] Footnotes.

When JESUS returns, the real position of the BELIEVER, which has been hidden to the world, will be made known.  Better translated, “whenever Christ appears.”

CREDIT: jonathanselby.com

CREDIT: jonathanselby.com

1 John 3:2 (Amplified Bible):

“Beloved, we are [even here and now God's children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God's children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.”

REMEMBERING WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST JESUS:

Paul has been urging us to LOOK UP and REMEMBER:

–  Who we are now…

–  Who we once were…

–  Who we will be when Christ returns.

Some QUESTIONS to ask ourselves after reading and meditation on God’s Word today:

–  “Where am I looking?”

–  “What does my mind focus on?”

–  “What gets my hearts attention?”

READERS, we must all make a conscious effort, a deliberate daily decision to LOOK UP!  Set our minds and hearts on heavenly things.  Our outlook determines our outcome.  Keeping our minds and hearts in the right place will often determine where we end up.

HAVE YOU MADE THE DECISION?

 

FOOTNOTES:

[i]…[ii] Expository Dictionary of Bible Words.

PHOTO CREDITS:

 “Keeping my focus set” – Photo Pin  and jonathanselby.com/pg25pics html

SOURCED COMMENTARY:

Brian Hill’s “Breaking Freedom From the Past.

BIBLE TRANSLATIONS USED:

Amplified Bible and New International Version.

 

 

 

“Why bother, I’ll Just GIVE UP and QUIT!”

A Study in Philippians 1:12-20 –So grab your Bible.

I have taught a class for many years.

Borne many burdens, toiled with tears;

But folks don’t notice me a bit.

I’m so discouraged

I’ll just quit.

 

Sometime ago I joined the choir

That souls I might inspire;

But folks don’t seem moved a bit,

So why bother to sing?

I’ll just quit.

 

Christ’s cause is hindered everywhere,

And folks are dying in despair.

The reason why?

Just list a bit;

The church is full of folks who quit.  

[See Footnotes [i] ]

Giving up is always a temptation when there is a lack of visible results…

Some of the REASONS WE WANT TO GIVE UP AND QUIT can vary:

1.  FEAR OF FAILURE.

2.  SKEPTICISM I’M NOT THE ONE.

3.  I’M NOT TRAINED ENOUGH.

4.  SOMEONE ELSE CAN DO IT BETTER.

5.  I DON’T WANT TO BE THE FIRST, LET SOMEONE DO IT AND THEN I WILL FOLLOW.

6.  I HAD A BITTER EXPERIENCE.

7.  THIS IS NOT MY CUP OF TEA.

8.  I DON’T WANT TO BE EMBARRASSED.

9.  I’M JUST TOO SENSITIVE TO HANDLE FAILURES.

10.  MY SUPPORT SYSTEM IS POOR.

11.  I DON’T PREFER TO TAKE THIS RISK WHEN ALL IS FINE.

12.  WHY GET IN A MESS?

Some of the reasons I listed are overlapping, but still this is how we can feel and reason out…whether to QUIT & REMAIN A BIT SATISFIED…even though we know we can do it more than we’ve ever tried.

Marilyn von Savant once said,  “being defeated is often temporary, giving up makes it permanent.”

Thomas Edison –  “many of life’s failures are people who didn’t realize how close they were to success when they gave up and quit.”

King Solomon –  “for an upright man after failing seven times, will get up again”  (Proverbs 24:16).

“THE LITTLE SATELLITE THAT COULD”–

In 1972, NASA launched an exploratory space probe named the PIONEER 10.  The primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph its moons, and beam data it collected back to earth.

This was a bold plan.  Up until then, no satellites had gone beyond Mars and scientist feared the asteroid belt would destroy PIONEER 10 before it would ever get to the planet Jupiter.

But the “little satellite” accomplished its mission, and much more!  Flying past Jupiter in 1973, PIONEER 10 continued on its journey to the edge of our solar system.  It passed Saturn, flashed by Uranus, past Neptune and then Pluto, some four billion miles from the Sun.  And it’s still going!  Now, over 8 Billion miles from the Sun, it keeps sending signals.  Despite the distance, PIONEER 10 continues on to beam back signals to Earth.

Commenting on the “little satellite” in Time Magazine, Leon Jaroff says,

“Perhaps most remarkable is the fact that those signals

emanate from a eight-watt transmitter, which radiates about 

as much power as a bedroom night-light, 

and takes more than nine hours to reach earth.”

“The Little Satellite That Could” Wasn’t Even Qualified…

Yes, according to the scientists, to do what it accomplished it wasn’t qualified.  But it kept on going and going.  By simple longevity, its tiny eight-watt transmitter radio accomplished more than anyone ever expected.

So it is when we offer ourselves to SERVE the LORD in any activity, no matter how large or how small the mission seems to be.  God can work even through someone with only “eight-watt” abilities.  [See Footnote [ii] ]

God cannot work, however, through someone who GIVES UP and QUITS. 

Many times we are too quick to blame others, even blame God for our personal decisions.  Many times our personal decisions are based on success or more specifically the lack thereof!

Paul's Stairway to Imprisonment

Paul’s Stairway to Imprisonment

You would think BEING CHAINED to a guard in a Roman prison might make one question if  “God was telling Paul to quit?”  That thought never crossed the apostle Paul’s mind.

What did he do?  He used it as an opportunity to witness to others, to share the gospel with the guards and even took the time to write a letter [today, we would probably TEXT instead of write a personal letter], to the believers at Philippi.

The Christian Life Today…

Though we may never be thrown in prison for our faith in Christ Jesus, there are times in our walk that may resemble imprisonment:

– Those times of difficulty…

– Times of struggle…

– Times of adversity…

– Times of discouragement, disillusionment, and depression.

I’ve been there!  And in those times…I JUST WANTED TO QUIT…to throw in the towel and GIVE UP on my church I was attending, the people who made the decisions, and so on!

FINDING ENCOURAGEMENT:

In reading Paul’s story while writing this letter to the church, Paul says,

“Everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Gospel.”

Here is the Apostle, bound in chains for his preaching and he is REJOICING because the palace guard knows that he is in chains because of Christ.

He goes on to tell his readers that “because of his imprisonment, many other believers have gained CONFIDENCE and boldly speak God’s message without fear.”

Perseverance Prevents Giving Up and Quitting…

Roget’s Thesaurus says to PERSEVERE is to “persist, die-hard (STUBBORNNESS).”  References in our bibles to the perseverance of believers who “stand firm (i.e. endure) to the end”,  [Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13].

There’s a REASON for where we find ourselves in a given situation:  failures in ministry, a dysfunctional family, ‘stuck’ in your job, etc.

For PAUL….we find the REASON for his imprisonment–

[12] Now I want you to know, brothers, that what happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  [13] As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

News Travels Fast…

It was no different in Paul’s time.  Just imagine for a moment the talk of the Imperial guard and those who were present when Paul made his defense for himself known to all  (let me tell what that crazy prisoner just said to the Governor!).

Paul knew, that because of his imprisonment, JESUS was being MAGNIFIED and he was delighted in knowing this!

What if you were put in prison for a crime you had not committed?  Would you be a WITNESS for Christ or would you wallow in self-pity? Whatever your PRISON might be, the principle still applies.

Paul understands the reason for his own predicament he is facing…BUT he also sees in his spirit, the RESULT of this particular situation.

OTHERS WERE ENCOURAGED – v. 14

Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

The BRETHREN that had knowledge of Paul’s imprisonment were ENCOURAGED by his boldness and stand; his not giving up regardless of the ‘stuff’ he was going through.

Our CONFIDENCE can bring about changes…

PAUL was confident – v. 19

“For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”

The Jews had denounced Paul as an enemy of Caesar.   And yet, he was CONFIDENT that when the fullness of the GOSPEL was known, he would be released.

In their PRAYERS – through your prayer…

Paul knew that they were genuine followers of Jesus and their constant prayers were being lifted up to God for him which in turn…gave him the CONFIDENCE to “stand firm”, “endure to the end,” not to give up and quit!

In 1999, I faced the difficult situation when facing open heart surgery.  I knew before going into the operating room that PRAYERS from all over the country were being lifted up in faith on my behalf.

I can give personal testimony to a JOYFUL CONFIDENCE I received before being rolled down to surgery…GOD WAS IN CONTROL!  And in recovery from the successful 7-way Bypass Surgery, I gave testimony of God’s hand to all who would listen…or not!

In Christ’s Provision…

And the Spirit of Jesus Christ SUPPLIED…furnishing whatever is necessary.

Paul knew that JESUS would supply his needs:  “And my God will liberally supply  (fill to the full)  your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:19 AMP).

BEING COURAGEOUS IN DIFFICULT PLACES– V. 20

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Earnest Anticipation…{G} (Apokaradokia) (ap-ok-ar-ad-ok-ee’-ah) – intense anticipation or expectation.

This idea that Paul presents is, there is the idea of WATCHING FOR SOMETHING.  Paul wasn’t ashamed and he was bold in his defense of the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

Paul didn’t care about the CONSEQUENCES.

His GOAL in the midst of his difficulties was to MAGNIFY JESUS, even if it cost him his life.  It is never a SACRIFICE unless it will cost you something (Hebrews 13:15).

COMPLACENCY IN THE ASSEMBLY HAS ITS DANGERS:

Paul’s Counsel from his Jail Cell–

” [13] Brothers [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,  [14] I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  [15] All of us who are mature should take that such view of things.  And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.  [16] Only let us live up to what we have already attained”  (Philippians 3:13-16).

Paul’s Advice and God’s Promises if…

“…for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap…if we do not give up”  (Galatians 6:9).

I hope you get some understanding from God’s Word–through the apostle Paul’s prison letters.  GIVING UP and QUITTING isn’t an option!

WHY?  Jesus anticipates that question with His answer in Galatians 6:10:

“So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God's family with you, the believers].”

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Footnotes:  [i] Eldorado Evangel – Sermon Illustrations.com  [ii] Craig Brian Larson, Pastoral Grit: The Strength to Stand and to Stay; Bethany House, 1998.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, NIV

Photos:  Photo Pin.

Waiting With Expectancy

A Study in the Book of Job 1:13-22; 42:12:

THE “DIFFICULTIES” THAT CAN ARISE IN THE WAITING ROOM–

The WAITING Room

The WAITING Room

A few years back, my wife was given the news after her yearly scheduled mammogram, that there was a lump found in her breast.  Her doctor explained that it had to be removed BUT with the diagnosis…he wouldn’t know for sure if a mastectomy or lumpectomy would be performed until the actual surgery.

It is hard to wait!

The ‘not knowing’ can definitely play tricks on ones’ mind.  You can pretend to be “spiritual” in times like these, but PRETENSE doesn’t last for long.

My wife and I began listing numerous Scriptures on pieces of paper, then placed in our bibles and even on the refrigerator–constantly reminding us of God’s promises of healing.

However, the difficulties of waiting for the results; the process of upcoming Radiation Treatments after surgery tends to erode the concept of being “spiritual” through it all.

Job found himself in God’s waiting room…

The most famous man on earth; extremely wealthy; the best of the best.  But Job lost it all.  Not only did he lose everything, surrounded by carnal, judgemental friends…even his wife urged him to curse God and die!  Job found himself in the waiting room.

Some of you reading this POST can identify with Job.  I certainly did as I read, studied and mediated everyday.  You’re waiting to hear from God…you can’t see what’s going on in your difficulties whether it is personal or someone who is close to you.  But you find yourself in the WAITING ROOM.

FAITH is believing God is at work in a GIVEN situation, even when we can’t see His hand (Psalm 46:1-2):

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,” 

Not understanding all that is going on is frustrating.  I remember sitting in an enormous hospital waiting room the day of my wife’s surgery, looking at an electronic display on the wall with her name listed and the time of the surgery, updates were posted regularly, but the results were absent.  I trusted God’s hand guiding the surgeon’s hands, but it was still frustrating.

God chose not to explain the “whys” while Job was in the waiting room– 

The “waiting” is a place of delay as I found out while I fidgeted in the hospital waiting room.  My two daughters were waiting as well, as my oldest daughter kept patting me on the shoulder to comfort me.  “It will be okay dad.  Mom is in good hands.”

God is never late! 

As I discovered and as Job realized later on, God’s greatest work in and through you may be “soon” and the worry and anxiety that may arise during the anticipation of the results won’t change a thing. “WORRY” is convinced that God doesn’t care and not

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TRUSTING THE ONE WHO IS IN CHARGE–Directions posted while waiting…

Job 13:15,  “Though the Lord slay me, still will I trust Him”

Job 42:2,  “I know that You can do all things…”

Job 41:33,  “Upon earth there is none like Him”

Psalm 46:1,  “God is our refuge…”  Able,” …a very present help in trouble…”Available!” “The Patience of Job” while pacing in the waiting room–

IMPATIENCE…

I’ve always wondered about that old cliché, “The Patience of Job.”  For the more I read and study the book of Job, the more I see how impatient he really was.

–  He couldn’t understand what was going on.

–  He didn’t like how his life was going.

Aren’t our lives at times so very similar to Job’s?

One day we are secure in a profession–friends and family surround us–a “roof over our heads”–”good health”–and then all of a sudden… everything is snatched like a rug under our feet.  And yet Job still had the sense to WORSHIP God in the midst of the pain and agony.

Staying Close in waiting… Job 42:5,  “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You.”

Don’t desert the WAITING ROOM. That is where you are the most likely to hear from God.  [Illus. Elijah at Cherith].

PRAY… In the midst of our long-suffering, we are misguided in our thinking by the enemy…“God isn’t going to act here”, and we stop PRAYING for answers  (Job 42:1-5 a).

God doesn’t do His deepest work in the shallowest parts of our lives. Get alone with God in a time of reflection, evaluation, correction, and dedication.  Remove yourself from all the distractions.

All the while my wife was going through surgery two floors above the waiting room, I forced myself to walk outside for a few minutes to refocus on Dianne and not on myself by having a conversation with Abba Father.  Afterwards, I returned to the waiting room refreshed and with a new direction of anticipation.

Be still…and wait!

This is really hard.  All the WAITING…the “where, when, and why’s”…

WHERE ARE THE RESULTS OF THE TESTS?  WHEN CAN I SEE MY WIFE IN RECOVERY?  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO OUR FAMILY?

Psalm 46:10,  “Be still and know that I am God.”  Literally, “Let your hands hang down.”  We want to always do something;while God may need to do something in you before He does something special for you or through you.

ANTICIPATE GOD’S RESPONSE…

“Anticipate” means to expect, hope, bargain for, foresee (EXPECTATION, FORESIGHT); predict, augur...[i]

When waiting and praying, do you EXPECT…FORESEE…even EXPECT a response from God?

Job 42:10.  “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job…”

Psalm 46:10,  “I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted (lifted up!) in the earth.”

God never left Job alone in the waiting room, nor will He ever leave you alone in the “waiting”.

DISCOVERIES FOUND IN “THE WAITING”: A New Perspective…

“And it was so that after the Lord had spoken these words to Job…”  (Job 42:7)  [NOTE:  Romans 5:3-5; 8:18].

God gave Job a new perspective, one he would never have had if he had abandoned the waiting room.

Sometimes, when we find ourselves lying our backs, we are forced to look up and have a dialogue with Jesus:  “Lord, I feel so helpless in this moment. I need your help and comfort as I lay here in bed.”

A New Provision found in waiting… Job 42:10,  “And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before…”

In GOD’S WAITING ROOM, the Apostle Paul found…

JOY…  “In every prayer of mine I always make my entreaty and petition for you all with JOY (delight)”  (Phil. 1:4).

PURPOSE…  “I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward”  (Phil. 3:14 AMP).

PEACE…  “Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me…and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you”  (Phil. 4:9).

POWER…  “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]”  (Phil. 4:13 AMP).

That particular verse in Philippians (Phil. 4:13), [ I wrote it down on the top of my special list of Bible verses claimed], gave me special encouragement while my wife went through her surgery and through the six weeks of radiation.  She told me afterwards, this same verse gave her peace and expectancy as she was prepared for the operation.

Dianne and I were “empowered” by Christ towards the outcome, while at the same time, I waited with expectancy.  God was about to do a mighty work!

And PLENTY…  “And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”  (Phil. 4:19).

As a WAITING HUSBAND on that one day, I spent many hours in the waiting room of the hospital; not knowing all that was going on during Dianne’s surgery; not understanding it all, not being able to control the situation as I normally try to do in everyday life while pacing the floor… until it seemed I had worn the color off the tiled floors…trying to conceal my worry and anxiety from our adult children.

I trusted in the doctor’s hands, stayed close to the nurses station for expected good news, prayed, and waited… anticipating the results, knowing God had this.

When the doctor met with us all in a side room while my wife was in recovery, the good news came as expected.  The cancer had been totally removed–and a lumpectomy had been performed in lieu of a mastectomy.  The surgery had gone even better than what was expected by the physicians.  But the JOY I had received eclipsed all the difficulties of the WAITING!

Finding yourself in God’s Waiting Room…

TRUST HIM, STAY CLOSE, BE STILL… and with ANTICIPATION, with EXPECTANCY…and get ready for some wonderful DISCOVERIES!

 

Footnote:  [1] The New Roget’s Thesaurus In Dictionary Form

Researched Source: Commentary– http://www.jackiekay.org.  *An outline published November 1997 “In God’s Waiting Room”.

Scripture: Amplified Bible; NIV Bible.

 

Are We MERCIFUL?

Our pastor concluded a sermon series this past week entitled: BIG FAT FAKE (week #5)–HUMBLE PIE.  He started his message by giving us the following:

Psalm 139:23-24

[23] Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Great verses to memorize and plant God’s Word Seed in out hearts–“Search me, God…”

Pastor Kyle had us then turn to The Sermon On The Mount–the Beatitudes, as some call it; specifically Matthew 5:3:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

When reading and meditating on Scripture, my mind often leaps in anticipation, I NEED MORE!… more explanation, more examples and more application in my daily life  ['more is better'].

I was almost disappointed when pastor’s preaching time on the clock had run out!  And then the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit,  “Mel, you’re the ‘Word Detective’...you get something going, start digging in the Word…press on in the meantime!”

7062800113_eda2d4c87eSo I’m not going to do a whole study of The Beatitudes, but to expand and expound my thought process in and with,  Matthew 5:7.  

Actually, before diving into God’s Word, it’s important for us to take Jesus’ Sermon as a whole, not just one Bible Verse, before we come to the details.  It’s like the cliché, “missing the wood because of the trees”.  We become ready to fix on certain particular statements and not realize that this Sermon On The Mount of Jesus, cannot be understood except in the light of the whole.  They build upon each other–each verse.  That being said, “Are We Merciful?”  Then “Search me, God…”

Matthew 5:7 :  (NIV)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”

Dealing with MERCY–What MERCY IS NOT…

MERCY ISN’T:

1.  Pretending to have a heart of care and compassion.

2.  It is NOT Self-Seeking – Not trying to act nice so that others are nice to you.

3.  It is  NOT Self-Righteous – Like the Pharisees who thought they were getting brownie points from God by giving to the poor.

4.  It is NOT bothering to show kindness only when you think something’s in it for you.

I’ve given a few examples of what MERCY isn’t, so the obvious next step….

WHAT IS “MERCY”?

I found by reading various Commentaries [i]–that a good place to start is to compare MERCY with GRACE:  “GRACE is especially associated with men in their sins; while MERCY is especially associated with men in their misery.”  While GRACE looks down upon sin as a whole, MERCY looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin.

So MERCY really means, “a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering.”  That is the essential meaning of being MERCIFUL; it is pity plus action.  So the professing Christian has a feeling of pity and your concern about the MISERY of others leads to an ANXIETY to relieve it. Another way to describe it:  “an inward sympathy with outward acts in relation to the sorrows and sufferings of others.”  

A New Testament Illustration –  The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

4167350841_79b2491375

JESUS gives us a parable in Luke 10:25-37, that is an old familiar story about The Good Samaritan.

On his journey he sees a poor man who has been in the hands of robbers, he stops, then goes across the road to where he is lying.  The others who have passed by the scene, have already moved on.  They may have felt compassion and pity, yet they have not done anything about it.

But here is a man who is MERCIFUL; he is sorry for the victim, goes across the road, dresses the wounds, then takes the man with him and makes arrangements for his well-being; until he can get back on his feet.  THAT’S BEING MERCIFUL.  Now that doesn’t mean only feeling compassion; it means a great DESIRE, a desire to do something to relieve the situation.

TRUE MERCY IS COMPASSION THAT GOES INTO ACTION!

JESUS is the greatest example of this kind of MERCY.  He saw those in need, showed compassion by doing something about it:  He healed the sick; made the lame walk; gave sight to the blind; made deaf ears hear; and gave life to the dead.

“But that’s JESUS!”

The Word of God asks us these questions:

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity [Amplified Bible says, "a heart of compassion"] on him, how can the love of God be in him?”  (1 John 3:17 NIV).

“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food,    If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?”  (James 2:15-16).

Suppose someone you know is living without the “Armor of God” ( Ephesians 6:11-17) without Spiritual food?  Will you and I be content by feeling sorry for them?  Or, will we spiritually show TRUE MERCY and do something about it!

“…the MERCIFUL will be shown MERCY.”

What happens do you suppose, to persons who are not full of TRUE MERCY?  What happens to the MERCILESS?

– WHAT HAPPENS TO THE UNRELENTING BOSS?

– WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CUTTHROAT BUSINESSMAN?

– WHAT HAPPENS TO THE ABUSIVE FATHER?

– WHAT HAPPENS TO THE MANIPULATIVE MOTHER?

What happens to any of us who refuse to put our COMPASSION INTO ACTION?

For those of us who are content to say, “That’s a shame”, “Look at those poor people”, “That’s too bad for him”, “That’s a pity what’s happened to her”, “I really feel for them”, “Isn’t that something?”, and the list goes on.  We’ve all thought or made similar statements from afar.

Whether they are glaring words, or passive, we will have to answer for not being MERCIFUL.  Scripture warns us all with these words,  “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged…because judgement without MERCY will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful”  (James 2:12-13).

AN “UNMERCIFUL SERVANT”:

JESUS says in Matthew 18:33-35:

[33]  And should you not have had pity and mercy on your fellow attendant (servant), as I had pity and mercy on you?  

[34] And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (the jailers), till he should pay all he owed.  

[35] So also My heavenly Father will deal with every one of you if you do not freely forgive your brother from your heart his offenses.”

Some people think after reading that passage of Scripture…“Well; doesn’t that teach that I’m FORGIVEN by GOD only as I forgive others to the extent I forgive?”

I believe that’s the wrong understanding, for two reasons:

1.  If you and I were judged strictly on those terms, it is reasonable to say not one of us would be forgiven or see heaven.

2.  If that is the interpretation of the Beatitude and parallel passages, then we cancel out the doctrine of GRACE from the New Testament.

If that is your thinking, then you must never again say ‘we are saved by grace through faith, and not of ourselves’, we must never read again those eye-opening words of the Gospel, telling us that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’, even ‘when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God’, or ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself’.

Scripture Must Be Interpreted by Scripture…ALWAYS!

We must never interpret Scripture by contradicting other Scriptures–‘rightly divide the truth’.  

Applying this all, the explanation is perfectly simple:  JESUS is really telling us to say to ourselves,  “I am only truly forgiven when I’m… TRULY REPENTANT.”

‘Repentant’ means, I realize I deserve nothing but punishment, that I am FORGIVEN because of GOD’s MERCY and GRACE–His LOVE for me.

In other words,  if I am truly repentant, realizing my position before God Almighty, and realizing I am only forgiven in that way, then of necessity… I shall FORGIVE those who trespass against me.

In the Operation of God’s Grace–

When GRACE comes into our hearts with FORGIVENESS…it makes us MERCIFUL–

None of us has by nature a ‘forgiving spirit.’  And if you have such a spirit, you have it by one reason only:  You have seen what GOD has done for you in spite of what you deserve, and you say,  ‘I know that I’m truly forgiven; therefore I truly forgive’.

 ‘Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy’.  Because they have already obtained MERCY, therefore they are merciful.  What makes me MERCIFUL is the GRACE OF GOD.

“Let every man examine himself”

I’m not asking you what sort of life you are living.  I’m not asking whether you do this, that or the other.  I am simply asking this:

“Are you merciful?”  “Are you sorry for every sinner, even though that sinner offends you?”

THAT IS THE TEST!

‘Blessed–happy, happy, happy–are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.’

~

Footnote:

[i]  Exerts quoted from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones “STUDIES IN THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT” – WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING COMPANY Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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Simply Being There In Times Of Pain and Suffering

A FLOOD OF KINDNESS THAT CAN TURN WATERLESS IN DESOLATE TIMES:

Because of ice...

Because of ice…

“For the despairing man there should be kindness from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.    My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, like the torrents of wadis which vanish,  which are turbid because of ice,  And into which the snow melts,    When they become waterless, they are silent, When it is hot, they vanish from their place.    The paths of their course wind along,  They go up into nothing and perish,    The caravans of Tema looked,  The travelers of Sheba hope for them.    They were disappointed for they had trusted,  They came there and were confounded”   (Job 6:14-20 NAS).

A Dried-up Brook

A Dried-up Brook

 “Now to me you are [like a dried-up brook]; you see my dismay and terror, and [believing me to be a victim of God's anger] you are afraid  [to sympathize with me]”  (Job 6:21 AMP).

THE BOOK OF JOB:

For the last week or so, I’ve been reading and studying in THE BOOK OF JOB.  Where else is there a better story in the Bible, to try to “dig” out the truth and to try to understand the “mysteries of  suffering” in comforting friends; how to approach the details of the situation–how much do we need to know, to pray for them effectively, what can we say to them without making everything worse?  All good questions.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have all the answers.  But what I did find in my investigation of God’s Word, the bible, it certainly answered a few of my questions and hopefully answer a few of yours as well.

Job’s Faith, His Friend’s Fears…

Job doesn’t know what the book’s audience knows:

1.  God Himself had praised Job’s righteousness…

2.  Satan had been the one who wanted to strike him down  (Job 1:8-12).

Although, while reading through the story, I find that Job is right, in the sense that GOD has done it (12:9; 17:6; 23:16), but he doesn’t know the entire story.  Neither do we in dealing with our friends maladies.

At the end of the Book, when GOD challenges human questions, He doesn’t bother to inform Job or his friends about Satan’s role in accusing Job in the heavenly court.

Two Principles Given to us for direction…

FIRST, Satan cannot touch GOD’s servant without GOD’s permission!  In fact, GOD earlier protected Job’s health (1:2), and afterward his life (2:6) from Satan.

So if we are GOD’s servants in this life on earth, we can TRUST that GOD KNOWS every hair on our heads; He may not initiate the “suffering,” but He still cares and has a purpose.  SUFFERING may test us (cf. 23:10), but it is NOT always a punishment.

SECOND, Job didn’t really need to know; what went on in heaven.  We don’t need to understand the universal dynamics behind the suffering; we just need to know that GOD IS TRUSTWORTHY.

–It is GOD and not Satan with whom we ultimately must deal with in times of trouble, and Job was right to make an appeal to GOD.

–We don’t have all the answers; neither do we have to.  We just need to REMEMBER the One who watches over us, does have the answers.

How Do We Help People Who Are Really Going Through Stuff–”Suffering”?

Job 2:11-13 in the NIV Bible:

[11] When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him (Job), they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  [12] When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads.  [13] Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Have you ever visited someone in a hospital, a nursing home who was so ill, that their appearance was unrecognizable?  Their hair was unkempt, they had lost so much weight and lay there so frail… you felt liked turning your back and weep in the hallway.  I experienced this very thing with my mother before she died in 2008.  You ask yourself, What can I do, say, pray for this friend?  All good questions to ask.

In time of COMFORT…

If you have ever read the Book of Job, you find that Job’s friends came to COMFORT him in a time of loss, but later debate with him.

In verse 13, there is a key to be found when visiting a friend in suffering: “No one said a word…”.  

A close friend of mine recognized this verse with this simple idea:  “The three friends were of comfort until…they opened their big mouths!” There’s some real wisdom in that observation. Sometimes we confess to ourselves and others,  “I would call them, or go by to see them, but I don’t know what to say.”  Just BEING THERE is sometimes enough–’no one said a word for seven days and nights’–they were JUST THERE TO COMFORT their friend… in SILENCE.

A Time For Weeping–verse 12

Crying or weeping differs in cultures.  In some societies, wailing in the midst of suffering can bring comfort to others.  When I was growing up, the idea of boys or men crying aloud showed weakness; “you hurt your knee…put a band-aid on it…’suck it up’… it will get better later.”  I remember thinking, “How much later?”

Reminds me of a story I found and read while studying for this blog; a conversation that transpired between a mother and her daughter:

“Where have you been?” the mother demanded.  The little girl replied, “On my way home, I met a friend who was crying because she had broken her doll.”  “Oh”, said her mother, “then you stopped to help her fix the doll?”  “Oh, no,” replied the little girl, “I stopped to help her cry.”

TWO THINGS the Bible says about CRYING:

#1.  “Don’t grieve like those who have no hope”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

#2.  “Weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice”  (Romans 12:15). 

Sometimes Our “Feelings” Interfere With Our “Comforting” –

FEELINGS of hating to go visit someone who is suffering from…DEATH of a family member; sickness; losing their job, and many more examples of “suffering.”  We have this little dialogue in our heads, and I say “we” because, I’ve had these thoughts too many times in my own head:

–  I would be touching their pain if I dropped by, or called them, or sent them an E-mail…

–  I reasoned, whatever I might say, wouldn’t be of much help.

–  They would probably think I was a ‘meddler’ anyway.

–  Maybe I would just make things worse.

–  Someone else, like their pastor, my pastor could probably help more.

Those FEELINGS are normal…but they are wrong!  We ALL need to know others care, as we have the same need!

Job’s Friends:

After sitting with Job for a week, his friends blew it.  They had a need to explore what went wrong and why Job suffered so much.  They seemed certain that Job must have done something wrong; there must be some unconfessed sin in his life, thus GOD was punishing him.  THEY WERE WRONG!!

CHRIST is the Head, and WE, the Church are His body…

He has put ALL THINGS under His feet and has appointed Him the universal and supreme Head of the church  [a headship exercised throughout the church],    Which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills all in all [for in that body lives the full measure of Him Who makes everything complete, and Who fills everything everywhere with Himself]  (Ephesians 1:22-23 AMP).

There you have it friends.  JESUS is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  He can minister to the “suffering” by His Spirit; through His body [that's us!].  Since the physical body has appendages–arms, hands, legs, feet–we need to use are feet more often to minister, to comfort those who are in need.  Don’t wait for someone else to go.

Expressing Deep Feelings in a Tangible Way…

“Tearing their robes” (verse 12)

This was the custom of that day, to show deep feelings.  We certainly don’t tear our shirts as a custom today, so how else do you communicate to someone you so feel for them and feeling their pain?

Tearing one’s shirt says, “I feel torn inside”–”I feel so badly for you, that it’s tearing me up!”  Do you know what we tend to do?  We want to somehow cheer them up, so we say, “Oh don’t feel so bad.”  “It will get better.”  “You have your whole life ahead of you.”  “It’s too bad your mother died but she was 70, the bible says, 70 to 80 years and that’s it!  We have to expect it.”  I don’t know about you, but those words wouldn’t COMFORT me!  Another approach is to say, “Well, I went through that one…and let me tell you what I did.  I just got up, brushed myself off and moved on with life.”

Inside, the SUFFERING individual is feeling,  “Yeah, right!  Good for you!  How soon will you be leaving?”

Sharing our own SUFFERING with others…

We’ve gone through our own share of suffering, sometimes the other person will ask us how we got through it.  In that case, tell them, but unless they ask, just be there for them.  Even if it’s hard–even if you feel like you don’t have the right words to say.  You don’t.

Simply Being There

Simply Being There

Being Simply There For Someone Who Needs Comforted…

Job’s friends came to be simply there in his need.  Perhaps they were ready to bring him a drink of water, a loaf of bread to encourage him to eat; maybe in our day, even a homemade casserole.

You are very privileged, if you are the one…if I am the one, who has the quiet task of simply, silently being there.

Some of us are there to run errands, do some shopping, take care of the kids, make phone calls, provide meals, and fix their car or their plumbing.  It is a way of being with them without a word that’s the most important thing.

Being “tangible” in a time of need…

A neighbor and prayer partner with my wife, who in her mid 80′s,  fell and broke her hip and was in therapy.  She is an active widow who lives independently, even with her family nearby, even with her churches aid, Dianne wonder what she could do help.  So she called Darda:  “Darda, how can I help you?”  Just a phone call was needed and Dianne started taking Darda to the grocery store, helping her reach for items off the shelf, then bringing her home.

Darda’s independence was never in jeopardy, for Dianne was being simply there for someone in need of comfort.

CONCLUSION FINDINGS–”You cannot plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” ~ Author Unknown.

Job’s three friends went to sympathize with him and comfort him – BE THERE!  Don’t wait for someone else to go!

Job’s friends began to weep aloud – If you’re not a “weeper, a crier”…[I am not, although as I get older...] JUST BE THERE!

They expressed their feelings tangibly–they sat with him “silently” for a long period of time because they saw how great his suffering was.  This was no walk in the park for themselves.  They suffered WITH Job!

We certainly can’t do all of these things for everyone that SUFFERS.  But for loved ones, for very, very, close connections in our lives, when we can experience a great privilege of simply being with people in their most private and painful moments of life.  We don’t want to be like the torrents of a spring brook, when the ground isn’t thirsty–when someone in their suffering is hoping to find refreshing water– but were bitterly disappointed because the brook had dried up.

We do not want those who we have come to comfort in their pain and suffering, to say as Job,  “I have heard many such things; wearisome and miserable comforters are you all!  (Job 16:2).  Being there in SILENCE is sometimes the best medicine.

Credits:

Dr. Craig Keener’s Commentary - Category: The Old Testament.

Photos:

Photo Pin: Free photos for bloggers.

 

“When the Roll is Called Up Yonder!”

ISAIAH 2:2-5:

[2]  In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

[3]  Many peoples will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”  The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

[4]  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

[5]  Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

[New International translation]

THE TEMPLE – (verse 2 a.):

SOLOMON'S TEMPLE -Artist's Rendition

SOLOMON’S TEMPLE -Artist’s Rendition

Solomon’s Temple was built on the mountain of the Lord, Mount Moriah, highly visible to all the people of Jerusalem.

[For more on the Temple's significance, See 2 Chronicles 3-6].

“In the last days…”

Bible prophecy is much like peeling an onion.  As you peel the onion, it gets stronger the farther down you go and at the same time, each layer is significant in its own right.   This certainly applies here in Isaiah.  [http://theworddetective.wordpress.com/2012-03-13/peeling-an-onion:-the-many-layers-of-biblical-prophecy/.]

Revealing the Core

Revealing the Core

 

 

VERSES 2-5–”A Hymn of Hope for Zion”–

This is the looking forward to the “someday” of the LORD.  In the Old Testament, the “someday…” had reference to a time of the victorious interposition by GOD for the overthrow of the foes of Israel, e.g. Isaiah 2:12.  [Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary.]

Then in VERSE 6…HOPE is dashed in fragments:

Surely [LORD]  You have rejected and forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled  [with customs]  from the east and with soothsayers [who foretell] like the Philistines; also they strike hands and make pledges and agreements with the children of aliens.  (Amplified Bible)

THE WORLD TODAY:

VERSE 6 can be talking very much of the world today, where the church has largely abandoned its people.  The indifference of Christ’s teaching is diminishing as we allow, even encourage the teaching of foreign religions.

We sing songs proclaiming that we will not serve foreign gods, and society still encourages others to do so.

THE RESULT?  

We have a growth in the Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Eastern and mystical worship in our society and a confusion of belief.  Even church leaders talk about acceptance and incorporation of foreign worship into the worship of the One True God!

Exodus 20:3, 4 – King James Bible:

Thou shall have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Living In Today As Christians…

There will be a tomorrow, and a sense of tomorrows after that.  We’ve rested on our laurels; do we really believe Christ will return for His people?  Christ’s second coming becomes empty, a set of words which gives us comfort, becomes diluted, has little meaning.

THE SOMEDAY OF THE LORD – another layer of the onion revealed–

The day of the LORD will come…

JESUS has promised it… (Matthew 26)

The prophets foresee it…

The apostles affirm it…

Malachi 4:1, 2 a – NIV Bible:

“SURELY THE day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day this is coming will set them on fire,”  says the LORD Almighty.  “Not a root or a  branch will be left to them.  [2] But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings…

Joel 2:30, 31 – AMPLIFIED:

And I will show signs and wonders in the heavens; and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.  [31] The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood BEFORE the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.

WE NEED TO  KEEP WATCH– 

“What!  Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with Me…”  (Matthew 26:40).

The Greek word “watch” is Gregorio; translated means: “spiritual alertness”; “be vigilant”.  [i] See Footnote.

Keeping WATCH of World Events Occurring…

Matthew 24:6-8:

[6]  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.

[7]  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in place after place;

[8]  All this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the birthpangs  [of the intolerable anguish].

Our attention these days is being focused on the trials and problems of our own lives; the increasing interest rates, inflation, negative equity for mortgage loans, increasing personal debt in America.

I read this week in my WORD STUDY investigation, an article entitled Debt Slavery:  30 Facts About Debt In America That Will Blow Your Mind  [ii] See Footnote.

“When your finances are dominated by debt, it makes it really hard to ever get ahead.  Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.  According to the Federal Reserve, median household debt in America has risen to $75,000.

MEN AND WOMEN IN THE LAND…

Across the land people are working hard in offices, factories, schools, etc., just trying to keep up…forgetting sometimes to WATCH!

Matthew 24:41, 42:

[41]  Two women will be grinding at the hand-mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

[42]  WATCH therefore, for you do not know in what kind of day [whether a near or remote one] your LORD is coming.

You may be sleeping in your bed, and some will be taken…and some will be left behind.  These are the words of JESUS himself!  We ignore them at our peril because a great and terrible day of the LORD is coming.

THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD  (Isaiah 2:3):

GOD  WILL JUDGE (Verse 4), and we shall have to stand before Him.  The Big Question is,  “in what frame of soul will we stand there?”  

As the story of our lives are REVEALED, what will you be thinking?

What matters even more…the Book in Jesus’ hands, the Lamb’s Book of Life–Revelation 20:12

The Book of Life

The Book of Life

“And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.”

IF our names are written there, have NO FEAR…for all of our past sins, our failures will be washed away.  Our past has been nailed on the Cross at Calvary.  We’ll be standing in WHITE ROBES, washed in the Blood of the Lamb!

Perfection is Attainable!

Here lies the great JOY that one day we will know:  PERFECT LIGHT–PERFECT PEACE–PERFECT JOY–PERFECT LOVE–in the eternal presence of GOD!  Nothing can take that perfection away from us, absolutely nothing!

Do you find yourself sitting on a pile of poop these days?

“Job was stuck on his dung hill”

I’ve been reading in my devotion time in the mornings, about the life of Job.  Living as I do in “dairy country”, I’m quite familiar with cow “dung.” You can see it, smell it every time one takes a walk in the morning or evening.

Job’s family had mainly been killed in tragedy.  His wife was against him and his best friends could only tell him he was in this situation because…he was a terrible sinner and GOD was punishing him.  FRIENDS can be that way sometimes, well-meaning as they may be.

Still… Job could say, in the middle of it all…

Job 19:23-27 – NAS Bible:

“Oh that my words were written!  Oh that they were inscribed in a book!  That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! 

“And as for me, I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall not see another.  My heart faints within me.”

In spite of his present circumstances, Job could confidently know and say,  “I KNOW MY REDEEMER LIVES,”  “IN MY FLESH I WILL SEE GOD.”

Rev21_1_New_Jerusalem_Gustave_Dore_L_Sotka_2012IN THE “LAST DAY” A New Jerusalem–Revelation 21:2:

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, all arrayed like a bride beautified and adorned for her husband;”

Do you have the same confidence of Job?  Do you know on the last day of judgement, your Redeemer lives; that you’ll see Him with your own eyes?

You can know it, right where you’re sitting.  All it takes is for you to accept Jesus Christ as your LORD and Saviour.  He will stand there with you… and for you as your advocate.

I know I’ll be standing there, when The Roll is Called Up Yonder  for the children of God  [iii] See Footnote.

Yes, our past is nailed on the Cross at Calvary, but our future is tied to the RISEN CHRIST; the RISEN CHRIST who is going to return for His bride, the Church.

JESUS is coming again…

An old hymn I used to sing every sunday morning, while the choir came from the basement of the church, into our places on the platform.  It was a song written and composed by John W. Peterson:

Coming again,  coming again;

Maybe morning, maybe noon, maybe evening and maybe soon!

Coming again, coming again;

O, what a wonderful day it will be,

JESUS is coming again!

But will you be ready?

Or, will you’ve been diverted into the concerns of this world?  That doesn’t mean, using the cliché,  “We’ve become so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly use.”  

There will be a day…

When JESUS is standing with you as your ADVOCATE–claiming us as His own!  So, when “the Roll is called up yonder,” will you be there?  Just come to JESUS as you are, and claim Him as your own!

The Bride of Christ--The CHURCH

The Bride of Christ–The CHURCH

 

PHOTO CREDIT: The First Temple – Solomon’s Temple from the Jewish Virtual Library.org/…/The-Temple.html.; New Earth, New Jerusalem ONION STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY – http://www.inmagine.com;  christimages.org/biblebooks/Book of Revelation.html.

Footnotes:

[i]  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary;  

[ii] Alex Jones’ INFOWARS.COM

[iii]  Title for this Blog came from:  Words & Music by James M. Black, 1893 cyberhymnal.org/htm/w/h/e/whenroll.htm.

 

 

 

The “OLIVE TREE” Prophecy

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Olive Tree Grove

BIBLE TEXT FOR THIS BLOG:

Open your Bibles to Romans 11:17-32.

The Cultivation Process:

Most of us are unfamiliar with the CULTIVATION of an OLIVE TREE.  Simply, most of us have never even seen OLIVES growing on a tree; because of our geographical location.

When I first met my wife, my future father-in-law owned a small citrus grove in Vista, California.  It was mostly limes at that time, although it had previously been lemons.  Dad had grafted in the new lime branches to the old stock of lemon trees.  His reasoning, and a good one, LIMES were for more profitable than LEMONS.

The Benefits of Grafting In…

After Dianne and I were married, I always looked forward to the AVOCADOS my in-laws would always have on the dinner table.  My father-in-law only had a few avocado trees at the ranch, but they were old and over 30 feet high while their branches spread over 20 feet in width.  One was so old, that the fruit became small, so he not only grafted in ONE TYPE , but several varieties of avocados:  Nabal, King, Duke…all avocados, but different sizes, different tastes; fruit that couldn’t be found in local produce sections of grocery stores.  The “Old Avocado Tree” wasn’t what it used to be– it became successful by THE CULTIVATION PROCESS.

88013377_XSA ROOT–

The ROOT is the most important part of any plant.  It provides the foundation, the strength, and the stability of the tree.  “Before anything can grow up, it better grow down–the deeper the root…the sweeter the fruit.”   (See footnote [i] for source of quote)

For JEWISH PEOPLE, they considered Abraham their  “ROOT”.

Abraham was the one whom they saw as making them RIGHTEOUS.  He believed GOD and was saved by his own FAITH.  It was by the faith of Abraham which gave his descendants, the Jews, the assurance of GOD’S acceptance.

While Abraham is a ROOT for the Jews, JESUS is the ROOT for all!

A TREE–

All through the Bible, the OLIVE TREE is symbolic of Israel.  But notice the TWO TYPES of OLIVE TREES mentioned by the apostle Paul:

-  A WILD TREE.

-  A CULTIVATED TREE.

Before moving on with this study, we need to understand the TWO TERMS:

The Wild Tree–

A “wild tree” is not under human care.  It just grows and produces as nature would have it.

The Cultivated Tree–

This tree has been tended to, trimmed back, and taken from.

In my investigation of plant grafting for this study, I found that a WILD OLIVE BRANCH is not grafted in a CULTIVATED OLIVE TREE–unless, the tree becomes unproductive in fruit, or is barren.  For this is the very reason, the wild olive branch imparts the rest of the tree, to be fruitful and useful once more.

Grafted in ...

Grafted in …

DURING THE 1st CENTURY:

A cultivated branch was typically grafted into a wild or natural growing olive tree; the only time when wild branches are grafted to a cultivated tree is when that particular tree…STOPS PRODUCING FRUIT!

With this very illustration, Paul is saying,  GOD is blessing GENTILES because the JEWS had CEASED to bear fruit…the issue is not individuals who were SAVED then lost their salvation (the “natural branches” were never saved), rather the people groups became GOD’S FOCUS.

The KEY VERSES:  17-18

[17]  But if some of the branches were broken off, while you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share the richness [of the ROOT and sap] of the olive tree,

[18]  Do not boast over the branches and pride yourself at their expense.  If you do boast and feel superior, remember it is not you that support the ROOT, but the ROOT [that supports] you.

BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY is a form of JUDAISM–

We DRAW our source of life from the “rootstock”  ISRAEL (like grafted in “limes”/”lemons”).

*  The ROOT supports us; our spiritual life comes from ISRAEL.

*  Who said this?  “…for [after all], SALVATION comes from [among] the Jews.” (John 4:22); JESUS did to the woman at the well.

*  In the 1st Century JUDAISM,

Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel but didn’t want to be full converts to Judaism, were thought of as SAVED– but at the same time, not in as great of place in THE BLESSING as those who became JEWS…

*  In the Church Age,

Jews and Gentile BELIEVERS alike have equal status, but both are BLESSED because…they are plugged into the life-giving root ISRAEL and…more specifically, ISRAEL’S MESSIAH.

ONE DAY, THE NATURAL BRANCHES WILL BE GRAFTED BACK IN:  (24)

“…how much easier will it be to graft these natural [branches] back on [the original parent stock of] their own olive tree…”  (Amplified Bible).

The CHURCH does not replace Israel, but it does dwell in the place of God’s blessing until…Israel is re-grafted in.

Both the Church and end time Israel SHARE in the same New Covenant and both are part of the Kingdom of God.  BUT…”ISRAEL” refers to a nation, and the church is not a “new Israel,” but people who are called out…every tribe, kindred, and nation.  EACH will GLORIFY God but each in her own way.  How can we know this is true?

“…for God’s gifts and His calling is irrevocable”

The REGENERATION PROCESS:  (25-27)

[25]  Lest you be self-opinionated (wise in your own conceits), I do not want you to miss this hidden truth and mystery, brethren:  a hardening  (insensibility)  has [temporarily] befallen a part of Israel [to last] until the *[ii]*full number of the ingathering of the Gentiles has come in,

[26]  And so all Israel will be saved.  As it is written,  The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob.

[27]  And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins.

This partial hardening of hearts will one day END (25).  There is a “quota“, a “full number” of Gentiles that will be met and only God knows that number.

This re-direction will happen during the Tribulation Period when GOD SAVES 12,000 Jews, each of Israel’s tribes and then…the surviving nation of Israel is converted during Armageddon (verses 26-27).

This doesn’t mean ALL JEWS are automatically SAVED or SAVED apart from Christ Jesus…this is talking about a point in time where ALL ISRAEL present on earth will be SAVED  (Zech. 12:9-10; Isaiah 45:17; Zech. 13:8-9).

THERE’S NO ROOM For anti-Semitism in Christianity (28-32):

[28]  From the point of view of the Gospel  (good news),  they [the Jews, at present] are enemies [of God], which is for your advantage and benefit.  But from the point of view of God’s choice (of election, of divine selection),  they are still the beloved (dear to Him) for the sake of their forefathers.

[29]  For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.  [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]

[30]  Just as you were once disobedient and rebellious toward God but now have obtained {His] mercy,  through their disobedience,

[31]  So they also now are being disobedient [when you are receiving mercy], that they in turn may one day, through mercy you are enjoying, also receive mercy [that they may share the mercy which has been shown to you--through you as messengers of the Gospel to them].

[32]  For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience, only that He may have mercy on them all [alike].

From one angle, it would have certainly become EASY to despise the JEWS (28 a).  As much as Paul was burdened for his people, he was also aggravated with them.

If you have children, how many times have you laid awake at night in bed, concerned for…even “burdened” by the activity or lack there of…but at the same time, “aggravated” at the same time?

Once Christianity SEPARATED from their Jewish ROOTS…once people no longer realized the Crucifixion of Christ was planned by God, anti-Semitism set into the Church (by the 4th Century).

Despite Paul’s strong declaration, that Christians respect Israel for the love of their roots,  “REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY” became a dominant theme of church doctrine:  “God was done with Israel forever”; there could be no anti-Semitism if it were not for “replacement theology.”

Israel is STILL God’s Chosen Nation  (“they are beloved” – 28 b):

Jeremiah 31:35-36:

[35]  Thus says the Lord,  Who gives the sun for a light by day and the fixed order of the moon and of the stars for a light by night,  Who stirs up the sea’s roaring billows or stills the waves when they roar–the Lord of hosts is His name:

[36]  If these ordinances [of fixed order]  depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the posterity of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me throughout the ages.

Verse 29 is… THE CENTER OF GOD’S CALLING IS IRREVOCABLE:

If God made a PROMISE to us, or to His nation Israel, then later redefined His words to define Israel as people collected from all nations…God might make a great politician in today’s world, but He would not be the HOLY, IMPECCABLE, IMMUTABLE, FAITHFUL God of the Bible.

God’s Delay in Blessing Israel:

GOD always has a PURPOSE, and delaying His BLESSING to Israel? (verse 30-32):

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained MERCY through THEIR UNBELIEF;   Even so have these also not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.   For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have MERCY upon all.  (King James Bible)

Realizing how masterfully God has planned all these things…you want to jump up, burst forth in praise, for His omnipotent sovereignty…which is what Paul does.

Seeking Opportunities—

So in reading and meditating on the verses above, we should SEEK God-given opportunities to SHARE JESUS to unbelieving Jews; have an undeniable respect for Jewish people in doing so because of their ROOTS….becomes our strength!

Zechariah 8:23 Amplified Bible:

Thus says the Lord of hosts:  In those days ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the robe of him who is a Jew, saying,  Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.

 

*Footnotes & Photo Credits:

[i] – Jerry Watts “Grafted into God’s Family”

[ii] – Joseph Thayer’s A Greek-English Lexicon

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images.