Thursday, December 4, 2008

We Are Called...No...Expected....To Live Beyond Our Circumstances!

Jesus walked among His disciples and He taught them. I would think that one of the toughest things for His disciples to grasp was that they must live outside and beyond their circumstances. His disciples were men who had been taught from childhood that the Messiah would come and set up a Kingdom. Among themselves they had visions of overcoming all their enemies and even discussed, at times, how they would rank in the new Kingdom.
Then.....Jesus explained about that Kingdom thing.... It was to be a Spiritual Kingdom and the new King (Jesus) would be given up, tortured and crucified. Also, in this Kingdom, those who would be first will be last and those who would be last shall be first. Jesus explained that the world was not their home, that His Father's mansion has many rooms and that when He left them, He was going to prepare a place.
He called them to look beyond the hard times and persecution and beyond their circumstances to the reality of a new and eternal Kingdom of God. Jesus told them they were called to be in the world, but not of the world. What a concept for us now and, wow, what a concept for those steeped in the Law of Moses. Judaism and the Law had become a weight that held them in a world of ceremony and physical, fleshly atonement for their sin. Now they were shown a spiritual Kingdom they would be welcomed into through the great and final atonement of One.
About 50 years after Christ's death and resurrection,  Paul continued to admonish followers of Christ to avoid the perceptions of the world. In the 12th Chapter of Romans, he writes: "And, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
We cannot live in and be shaped by our circumstances and hope to fall within the will of God.

When's The Last Time We Fed 5000?

I was reading in Matthew the other day and came to the account of Jesus' feeding of the 5000. My first thought was, "What a miracle." Those "what a miracle" observations are, at times, I think a way of getting around seeing any responsibility for ourselves or acknowledging that a particular account is in anyway commissioning us for a task.
The closer I read the account, the more I saw that Jesus was telling me to do the same!
"......He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained." Matthew 14:19,20
If we are to look to the Word of God for instruction, for guidance and as an example of how we are to be, then we must study this verse as carefully as all and avoid the "what a miracle" approach.
First, let us consider what Jesus has said about Himself. He has called Himself the "Bread of Life". He has said that He only did what He saw the Father do and has commanded us to follow His example, to allow His Holy Spirit to live in and work through us. He has told us that "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God"  We see from the accounts of His life, the importance of breaking bread and sharing with others.
Remembering all these things and then recalling Jesus' discussion with Peter in John 21:15-18, God began to reveal His instructions to me.
"So, when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' He said to him again a second time, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?' He said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.' He said to him, 'Tend My Sheep.' He said to him the third, 'Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?' Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, 'Do you love Me?' And he said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed My sheep.'
Jesus also told us in His  Word that if we had Faith in Him and acted in His abiding power we would do the things that He had done and even greater things.
Let's look at the original text we began with. Jesus took the bread and fishes, blessed them, gave them to the disciples and they, in turn gave them to the people who were filled to overflowing.
Every time that we sit down with the Word of God in prayer and meditation, we are breaking bread with Jesus. These are inspired words (blessed of God) which He gives to us. Not only are we to eat and be filled to overflowing, but I propose that this scripture calls us to then pass what has been given to us on to all that from each of us, thousands will be filled.
We are commissioned, at the end of Matthew, to go and make disciples and here we find the source of our power to do so. If we are given a blessed word from God, as is confirmed in many texts, the word then given to others will accomplish its purpose far beyond our capabilities.
"Feeding His Sheep" was a great priority of our Saviour and throughout scripture, we find that it should be the same with us. We cannot accomplish such an undertaking unless we are spending our time in prayer and meditation "breaking bread" with our Creator, our Saviour and our Sustainor, Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Speaking The Truth In Love

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to take criticism from someone that you know loves you. The same comment is looked upon as agressive and agitating if it comes from someone that you consider an enemy or not on your side.

Spiritual service for the Kingdom of God is the same. How we are perceived by those with whom we come in contact with will be directly related to the love that is in our heart.

I was reading in Ephesians the other day, the fourth chapter, verses 11 - 15, they read, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ."

It caught my attention, but I was a little puzzled at what I thought it was trying to say to me. So, I cheated a little and looked to see what John MacArthur had to say.

"Evangelism is most effective when the truth is spoken in love. This is possible only with a spiritually mature believer who is thoroughly equipped in sound doctrine. Without maturity, the truth can be cold and love little more than sentimentality." John MacArthur

I remember when I was a new Christian. I was enthusiastic, I wanted to share with everyone and I couldn't understand why everyone I talked to didn't respond as I had. Now I see that most of what I shared was not out of love for the person I was talking to or even pure love of God. I think I had an attitude of accomplishment, a pride of knowledge attained and salvation gained. So, my revelations of man's sinful nature and total dependence on God came off as cold and my love fairly unbelieveable.

As I grew in the knowledge of God, I learned that the things that needed to be shared were best shared in the light of a relationship. I matured into the revelations of Ephesians and I'm continually learning and striving to give reign to the love inside me which is Christ, the love that will speak truth through my life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Many Plagues?

How many plagues must we endure before, like Pharaoh, our sinful nature agrees to let God’s people go?

I was reading the account of God’s deliverance of Israel from the Land of Egypt in Exodus 4-12 and it struck me that we keep ourselves captive in sin and suffer the plagues that call for the release of God’s children. We experience illness, depression, poverty, neglect – all those things that sin has brought into our lives because we refuse to put aside those things and let the new creature inside of us go free!

Like Moses preaching to the Pharaoh, the prophet Isaiah speaks of our deliverer in the 61st chapter and we find Jesus, In Luke 4:18,19, leaving no doubt that He, The Christ, has come to bring us out of our bondage.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…” Isaiah 61:1,2
When we accept our deliverer, as with the people of Israel in Egypt, there is always a testing of the faith (no straw for our bricks), but we are called to keep the faith as God strengthens His people and equips us to throw off our captor and live free from the “sin that so easily ensnares us.” (Hebrews 12:1).

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside very weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”

There are sins that most all of us find easy to avoid, no problem to refuse, but within each of us is imperfection, a chink in our armor. We all have places in our life where Pharaoh says, “I will not let your people go.” In each of us, our sinful nature will try to harden our hearts and hold us in sin although our desire and our profession has been a death to sin.

In these recesses of our soul, there will be consequences, plagues to soften those hard hearts and, many times, as our hearts respond and look to God, the plagues may be removed. Hebrews 12 tells us to look to Jesus, the giver, the sustainer and the finisher of our faith, for our endurance. Paul also tells us in Hebrews that we have a responsibility to one another.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…” Hebrews 3:12,13

Pharaoh, after several plagues, began to try and deal with Moses. He wanted to let part of the people go, then all the people, but no livestock, always trying to withhold something from God. God said no to Pharaoh and was unwilling to deal. It was to be God’s way or no way. God does not desire to “deal” with us either. We are not allowed to hold on to the things that we desire, but that sin against God. God says the gift of Jesus is free, but we must give up the sin that He died for; we must repent of those things that bring sorrow to God and turn away from them. Refusing to do so separates us from Him and sets us in a position to reap what we sow.

It is a choice that we must make.

“This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you that I have set before you life and death; blessings and curses. Now, chose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life.” Deut. 30:17-20

God is our life. All else brings the worst plague of all, death. The good news comes from and in the gift of Jesus. We read in John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly.”

Jesus came as the fulfillment of God’s promise to save us from our sinful nature, the nature that plagues our flesh during our days here in the wilderness and we see in Jeremiah 29:11-13 that our salvation and our abundant life here on earth was not an afterthought, but always held in trust for the children of God.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seed me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…..”and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Will you soften your hard heart or will you live in your plagues and wonder at those who live in the “land of Goshen”? (Exodus 8:22) “And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the land. I will make a difference between My people and your people.”