Author Archives: wordfirstministries

CHRISTMAS IS MORE THAN SHOPPING

Recently, I was going through some old files and came across this post from a dear missionary friend in South Africa. I trust you will find within its words truth for today and every day of your life. It reminds us of who we are in Christ Jesus…the REASON that Father God sent His only begotten Son to seek and to safe the lost.

“A Lesson from Nature

“It happened in Kenya at the Masai-Mara Game Reserve. A small lion cub was clinging for his life to the side of a vertical cliff. His petrified cries attracted the attention of his mother and three other lionesses. The four of them looked over the side of the cliff and saw the petrified and fearful cub. Suddenly, the motherly instinct activated the mother to act. Very cautiously, with her powerful claws gripping the cliff-side, she proceeded down the dangerous cliff. In the nick of time, she locked the cub in her jaws and started the dangerous journey to the top. On reaching safety, she licked the cub’s head, assuring him of her love. What a brilliant rescue operation.”

How that relates to us – WHY Jesus came to earth. Imagine, He left His home in Glory – the security and glory of the Heavenly Kingdom to make that treacherous journey to earth, to enter the sin-filled world to rescue you…to rescue me…to rescue mankind!  Even if you had been the ONLY sinner on earth, He still would have come, having heard the pitiful, heart-wrenching cries from your heart for salvation. Even the coldest heart still cries out to God for rescue. There’s not a person on this earth who doesn’t desire one-ness with the Father. There’s not a person on this earth who doesn’t cry out for peace. And true peace can only be found in Him Who is the Prince of Peace, our LORD Jesus Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Untold sums of money will be spent on gifts, entertaining, meals, parties…festive occasions will take place in many parts of the world. We celebrate – we put up decorations – we invite friends and neighbors to our homes to share in the joy of the Season.

But is that the only reason we celebrate this most joyous time of the year? That is NOT the reason Father God sent His Son. He sent Jesus to seek and save the lost by paying the penalty that was owed by all mankind because of sin.

We live in a sin-filled world – a world controlled by greed, avarice, perversion, wars. untold evil. A world that is groaning for redemption. Jesus provided redemption through His sacrifice at Calvary.

We are ALL in need of redemption. We are ALL in need of instruction in the ways of God so we may tell others of our great God of Love, Mercy and Grace – to bring others into the Kingdom.

Many Christians live just for today. Our minds are filled with work, sports, hobbies, family commitments and worldly pleasures. But as Christians, we have the opportunity – and responsibility – to sow seeds of blessing all around us – especially at this time of year, when hearts and minds are focused on celebrating the birth of the Babe in the manger.

Luke 2 recounts the glorious history of His birth. Angelic hosts proclaimed the miraculous birth. They praised God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14).

Many people misunderstand that verse. They blame God for the unrest around the world – for the evil, for the wars… ‘where’s the ‘peace’? ‘they want to know. The “peace” referred to here is PEACE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN! God sent Jesus to establish the eternal relationship He has always desired with mankind. He sent His most precious Gift – His Son – to rescue mankind from the death-grip of Satan…to establish ‘heart-peace’ within us…to reconcile us to Him so we may enter into the loving relationship with the Father He has always desired since the beginning of time.

Yes, this is the Season of gift-giving, but God gave His most precious Gift of all – His Son.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life.” 

God is the greatest LOVER of MANKIND – He loved this world so much!

God is the greatest GIVER of GIFTS – He gavus us His Son!

God is not a respecter of persons – ‘…that WHOSOEVER believes’ – no restrictions. He accepts us right where we are. Just like that cub clinging for life on the precipice of that cliff, the mother climbed down to rescue him. God sent Jesus, His Son, to save us from the cliff of sinful destruction. The mother lion didn’t wait until that little cub found his own way up that cliff – she climbed down. God doesn’t tell us we have to wait until we are ‘worthy’ of His love before He saves us… we could never be worthy enough, but through the Blood of Jesus, HE MAKES US WORTHY! He clothes us with HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS because our own righteousness is as filthy rags in His sight.  (Isaiah 64:6). 

As we hear the jingle of bells,listen to the beautiful Christmas Carols, see the beautiful decorations of Christmas, let us always remember what the significance of this glorious Season is all about – JESUS.

JESUS IS THE REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON!

May you and yours have a glorious, joyous, God-filled Christmas.

Go, tell it on the mountains – JESUS CHRIST IS BORN! Shout it out – share the glory of the Season with family, friends, neighbors. Greet the stranger on the street with a smile and tell them Jesus is the Reason for the Season... tell them that God LOVES them! Rejoice in your heart because YOUR name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!

Have a very MERRY, BLESSED, GOD-FILLED CHRISTMAS!

PSALM 112

Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in His commandments.

His seed shall be mighty upon the earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed.

Wealth and riches shall be in his house; and his righteousness endures forever.

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous.

A good man shows favor, and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion.

Surely he shall not be moved forever; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD.

His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies.

He has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn shall be exalted with honor.

The wicked shall see it and be grieved; he shall gnash with his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

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I like this Psalm because it lists some of the Blessings of Obedience. You know that being obedient to the Word of God brings blessings, and this Psalm outlines some of those.

We are told in verse 1: PRAISE THE LORD. We see right away that we are to PRAISE THE LORD. So, how do we do that?

First of all, we need to know which Hebrew word is used here. There are 7 Hebrew words that we translate “Praise” – one word means to throw up the hands to give thanks; one means to rejoice; another means to kneel and bless or adore; another means to shine forth, to be commended, to be worthy of praise; another means to confess praise or show thanksgiving in songs, etc. SEVEN different words for “PRAISE” and while they all have God as the object of our praise, they tell us different attitudes of praise in which we are to offer that praise…by lifting up our hands – giving thanks to God for His great Love, Mercy and Grace! We are surrendering to God, so to speak – like we are saying,  “God, YOU alone are worthy to be praised and I praise You with all that is within me! I surrender my will to Your Will – let Your Will be done in my life because You only want good for me!”

The Hebrew word for Praise used here in Psalm 112, is to flash, or shine forth – to be commended. We are to commend God. We are to show forth His praise in our lives, because He alone is worthy of that praise. Nothing we can do in and of ourselves is worthy of Praise – only what HE does in our lives….and because of what He does, we give Him praise. Because He only does good things for us, and our praise is a form of thanksgiving to Him for His Goodness and Mercy!

The next phrase we come to is: Blessed is the man (or woman) that fears the LORD. (understand here that when the Bible says, Blessed is the ‘man’…it is the inclusive term for all of humankind. ‘Man,’ as used in the Bible is like CAT – there are male cats and there are female cats, but all cats are cats! Therefore, there is the MALE man (and not the guy who delivers our letters and cards) and there is the FEMALE man – but all are termed “MAN.” So, ladies, don’t feel left out or think that God is some chauvinist. God groups us all together in the classification “man.”

BLESSED IS THE MAN THAT FEARS THE LORD

BLESSED means to pronounce happy. We are declared happy if we fear the Lord. The word FEAR does not mean to be terrified of – it means to revere, reverence, to stand in awe of.

We are pronounced happy because we reverence God – we stand in awe of Him. I used to think it meant to be terrified of – and I used to be afraid of God. Then I learned about his great LOVE wherewith He loved us…I learned that He cared enough about me to send His only Son, Jesus, to this earth, to suffer and die so that I didn’t have to be lost and separated from Him any longer – so that as soon as I believed on Jesus, I was born again and was put into a right relationship with Father God!

Now, THAT’S GOOD NEWS! So many today preach hell hot and sin black, but the sinner already knows that. We need to teach people that God has MERCY! God has enough GRACE for everyone… There’s not a sin so awful…not a sin so black that the Grace of God can’t reach that person and rescue him or her from the jaws of hell. And that’s GOOD NEWS! The good news is not that people are going to hell…but the Good News is that they DON’T HAVE TO! God made provision for them: His Son, Jesus Christ…Jesus, the Messiah! They don’t have to go to hell but can go to heaven to be with our Father God and the Lord Jesus Christ throughout all eternity! GLORY!

Happy… HAPPY is the man that reverences the Lord, that delights in His commandments.

You know, God told us that if we do His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, then we would be blessed… we would be pronounced HAPPY! In the 28th Chapter of Deuteronomy, we have the Blessings and the curses listed. READ the Blessings – verses 1-14.

Now that’s pretty inclusive! And all we have to do, God tells us in verse 1: “IF you shall hearken diligently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command you this day, then the LORD your God will set you on  high above all nations of the earth; and all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, IF you hearken to the voice of the LORD your God.” (emphasis added) This is what is known as the Blessings of Abraham! Those Blessings are listed in the first 14 verses of Deuteronomy, Chapter 28>

Then the next 53 verses tell us of the curses – FIFTY-THREE verses of curses that this world system has in store for humanity! …and we find that sickness, poverty, lack, oppression, disease, depression – anything and everything that can go wrong in your life or in your body – is ALL under the curse!

 

But, there’s MORE good news! Galatians 3:13 tells us that “CHRIST HAS REDEEMED US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW, being made  curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone that hands on a tree” [and Jesus hung on a cross]; “that the Blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles [or the unbelieving people that were not of the House of Israel], …that the Blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

That’s VERY GOOD NEWS!

So, if you Praise the LORD…if you are pronounced happy because you reverence the LORD and you delight greatly in His commandments, here’s what you can expect:

  1. Your children shall be mighty upon earth! I expect my children to do great things! My children are born again and they are going to heaven, but I expect them to do great things! They shall be MIGHTY upon the earth! Their generation shall be blessed. Don’t you want your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to be mighty on the earth and do wonderful things for God and for humanity? Of course you do! …and you can expect that to happen as one of the Blessings of Obedience to God and His Word.
  2. Wealth and riches shall be in his house; and his righteousness endures forever. Here we have God’s sanction of wealth and riches for the righteous man and woman. I expect wealth and riches to be in my house because I serve God with all my heart and soul and strength. I expect to have an abundance so I can give into God’s work to get more people saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. I expect to have an abundance so I can give to people in need!
  3. The 3rd thing: Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion and righteous.  This says there will be times of trials in our lives. When things seem dark, the Blessings of Obedience bring LIGHT into our life. We don’t stay in the darkness of oppression or depression or sickness. We have the LIGHT of LIFE…the LORD Jesus Christ! And the upright man will walk in the light of truth and his path will always be light. A good man will always be helpful to his neighbors and not jealous of them or jealous of their prosperity.
  4. A good man shows favor and lends.  Well, if you don’t have wealth and riches, you certainly can’t lend to others. If you only have enough to get by, there isn’t any left over to lend.
  5. He guides his affairs with discretion. Some people don’t know how to handle a dollar. As soon as they get it, they’ll throw it away on something silly or useless. The first 10% belongs to the Lord. It is the Tithe! and God calls it HOLY! My pastor said one time: the first 10% belongs to God and the 2nd 10% should go into a savings account, and THEN you should live off the rest. Do you realize that if we did that, we’d have an abundance to live on when we retired…and we could do things we never thought possible. There are some people who have had their own businesses and who have gone bankrupt and gone under because they did’t know how to handle money. The man or woman who puts their confidence and trust in God guides his affairs with discretion…he or she is a good steward of what God has given to them.
  6. Surely he shall not be moved forever. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He KNOWS his faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He KNOWS that the Blood of Jesus covers him, the everlasting arms of God are under him, that the angels of the Lord encamp around about him and Goodness and Mercy follow him all the days of his life. He KNOWS that he abides under the shadow of the Almighty!

In Psalm 91:1, it says: “He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall ABIDE under the shadow of the Almighty…” The word for DWELL means to settle down and stay…like take up a homestead! That says: ABIDE, not take a vacation and come visit for awhile…not just on Easter and Christmas at church…or just Sunday, one-day and done! It means to LIVE in the presence of…. And if we LIVE under the shadow of the Almighty, we are confident in His protection and provision for us in our lives. The little boy who says, “my daddy can beat up your daddy’ is living in the shadow of his daddy. He KNOWS that nothing can hurt him so long as his daddy is standing right by him.

That’s how we’re supposed to look at God. I KNOW that nothing can hurt me as long as I’m standing right by my Father God. I make every effort to continually be LIVING in His shadow. I make every effort to rely on Him for everything in my life!

7. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. Sometimes the enemy of our soul, the devil, will try to put fear on us. He will tell us our children are in trouble.he will tell us we can’t pay our bills…he will tell us that we have some terrible, awful disease. But like Isaiah 53:1 says: Whose shall believe our report? God’s report is GOOD! We are to live by Faith in God! In Hebrews 11:2 it says that by FAITH, the elders obtained a good report! If it isn’t a good report, then it’s not of faith! God also tells us that the Just shall live by faith. And if you have made Jesus the Lord of your life, then you are the JUST! In Jeremiah 29:11, it says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a HOPE and an expectation!” (emphasis added)

His heart is established, he shall not be afraid. When evil tidings come, the man who is living in the Blessings of Obedience says, “I won’t accept that report. I’ll believe God’s report. Remember Jeremiah 29:11: ‘…for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a HOPE and an expectation!”

His thoughts toward me are GOOD! They are thoughts for peace and not evil…they give me a HOPE and an expectation of GOOD! My heart is fixed, trusting the Lord!

 

The results of the Blessings of Obedience: This man or woman who reverences the Lord…this man or woman who delights in His commandments: That one has dispersed, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn shall be exalted with honor! You will be exalted and honored: by your family, by your friends, by your business associates, by everyone who knows you – because you have been obedient to the Lord God!

The Blessings of Obedience are GOOD – they are ours to claim as Promises of God for us. Each one of you reading this who has praised the Lord because you reverence God and you delight to do His commandments , repeat this prayer:

Thank You, Father, that you have caused me to inherit the Blessings of Obedience. Thank You that my children are mighty upon the earth; that wealth and riches are in my house; that I am full of compassion; that I lend and guide my affairs with discretion. My heart is established in You, Father, and I thank You for loving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

If you have not received Jesus into your heart; if you are not born again and a child of the Most High God, pray this prayer from your heart:

“Oh God, I know that without Jesus I am lost. I don’t want to be lost, I want to be saved. You sent Your Son, Jesus, to die for me so that I could have eternal life. I believe in my heart that You raised Jesus from the dead. I now ask Jesus to come into my heart and save me. Jesus, I believe You died for me, you bore my sins on the Cross, and that God raised you from the dead on the third day. I turn away from sin and I make You the Lord of my life, Jesus. Thank You for saving me and helping me to live a life pleasing to You. Amen.”

 

 

Away in a Manger

AWAY IN A MANGER: 0ne of the first Christmas songs we learn –  from early childhood and still being sung at Christmas gatherings around the world today….

Away in a Manger, no crib for His bed.

WHY was our LORD born in a manger? You’ll hear many say it was because Mary and Joseph were poor. But that is NOT what the Bible says. In Luke 2:1-7, we read the account of WHY Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place – to answer the decree from Caesar Augustus ‘to be taxed.’ (yes, even then, there were taxes by the government!)

Verse 7: “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ROOM FOR THEM IN THE INN.” (emphasis added)

Joseph had all intentions of staying in a hotel room. But, alas, they were filled – all out of rooms, so the innkeeper allowed them to stay in the stable. Thus, our LORD and SAVIOR, the KING of Heaven, was born in a stable.

Why might this be important to us today?

If He had come as the KING of earth… if He had made His grand entrance into our world as the ‘conquering hero’… if He had arrived on scene accompanied by myriads of worshipping angelic beings… if, if, if.

How many would have felt intimidated? What about those shepherds who were in the fields keeping watch over their flock by night? (Verse 8)

Would they have felt comfortable visiting the Infant? How many of us would feel comfortable going to Buckingham Palace to see the new Prince or Princess? … maybe just a tad awed, uncomfortable to be ushered into the Grand Hall of the mighty Palace, filled with all the grandeur and treasures of the United Kingdom  – gold, untold myriads of jewels and precious stones, statuary larger than life, oil paintings likened to a major art museum, majestic furnishings, servants everywhere. That thought alone would be beyond comprehension for a ‘mere Commoner.’

The LORD of Heaven… the KING of all the earth… He Who came to die for you and me… born in a stable. Everyone… EVERYONE can relate to that. Even the richest of the rich can visualize that scenario. The poorest of the poor can stand in awe of the Christ Child born in a lowly stable.

JESUS’ arrival to this earth, which had been ordained in Heaven before the world (Ephesian 2:7-8: “…But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory….”) was for one purpose and that is: to reconcile all men unto Himself.

Read the first chapter of the Gospel of John. In Verse 14 we read: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Then, Chapter 3, verses 16-17: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” (emphasis added)

Willing to leave His Home in Glory – to set aside all the Heavenly splendor and come to earth as the most vulnerable of the vulnerable – an innocent, newborn baby – to be born in a stable – to live a life of LOVE, COMPASSION, DEVOTION, to be crucified on the cruel cross of Calvary – for US! for YOU… for ME!  That’s a HALLELUJAH SHOUT!

We cannot sing Away In A Manger… We cannot sing Silent Night, Holy Night… We cannot sing Oh Holy Night… We cannot sing O, Come All Ye Faithful… We cannot sing O, Little Town of Bethlehem or any of the other  wondrous Christmas Carols and think that’s all there is to this Day of Celebrating the Birth of our LORD and Savior.

In singing and celebrating His birth, we must also look ahead to His death and celebrate His RESURRECTION! …for we cannot have one without the other! Christmas is not ‘all there is.’ It is only the BEGINNING!

So as we go about our Holiday preparations – to be with family and friends – to reach out with compassion to others – let us always remember that WE ARE HERE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS – and it is up to US – each of US – to reach out in LOVE – HIS LOVE – to reach the unreached and tell the untold of God’s GREAT LOVE, MERCY AND GRACE.

SING: AWAY IN A MANGER…. and see the Christ Child’s arrival into our midst as our opportunity to escape the judgment of rebellion and to embrace LIFE EVERLASTING – In His presence forevermore!

Share His Story – tell your world that GOD IS LOVE and HE HAS PLANS FOR YOU – PLANS FOR GOOD… (Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts  that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. New King James)

The New Testament says it even more emphatically, in Ephesians 2:1-10. Verse 10 says: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” New King James

In the Spirit Filled Life Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Jack W. Hayford, Litt.D., General Editor, the Word Wealth listing, (giving us a better understanding of God’s Word), defines the word: “workmanship: poiema From the verb poiema, “to make.”(compare ‘poem’ and ‘poetry.’ The word signifies that which is manufactured, a product, a design produced by an artisan. Poiema emphasizes God as the Master Designer, the universe as His creation (Rom. 1:20), and the redeemed believer as His new creation (Eph. 2:10). Before conversion our lives had no rhyme or reason. Conversion brought us balance, symmetry, and order. We are God’s poem, His work of art.”*

YOU are God’s MASTERPIECE! You were redeemed for EXCELLENCE! Let your LIGHT shine to reflect the LIGHT OF THE WORLD this CHRISTMAS SEASON and throughout the New Year.

HAVE A BLESSED, GLORIOUS CHRISTMAS AND SHARE THE GOOD NEWS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR’S BIRTH EVERYWHERE!

Merry Christmas!

 

*Taken from the Spirit Filled Life Bible, edited by Jack W. Hayford, Litt.D., Copyright ©1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. http://www.thomasnelson.com

WORDS

Our attitude toward the Word of God – the Bible – determines the place that God holds in our daily life.

The WORD should always be the Father talking to us. The WORD was designed to replace Jesus in His absence!

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God and the WORD was God.” God and His WORD are ONE!

John 14:23: “If a man love Me, he will keep my WORDS; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him.” THEY will come and LVE with you!

Hebrews 4:12: “For the WORD of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thought and intents of the heart.”

God’s only means of reaching man is through His WORD. The WORD, therefore, becomes a vital thing.

Matthew 4:2-3 “When Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these sones be made bread….”

Jesus was hungry! You are hungry the first few days of a fast, then that ‘hunger’ goes away, but at 40 days, your stomach begins to ‘eat’ itself. The Tempter KNEW when Jesus was at His weakest. and he tempted Him with FOOD!

Jesus answered (Verse 4) “It is written, Man shall not lie by bread along, but by every WORD that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

The Tempter tried again… and again… and in verse 11, we read: “Then the devil left Him, and behold angels came and ministered unto Him.”

The devil LEAVES! He cannot stand against the WORD of God! That is why it is so important for us to use the WORD, stand on it… stand with it…!

Romans 10:8 “…but what saith it? The WORD is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart: that is, the WORD of God, which we preach….”

It is the WORD that gives birth to faith in the Believer. It is God’s faith expressed. You see, God is a FAITH God and ALWAYS uses WORDS to do things!

Examples: Geneses 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26… Each of those verses begins with “AND GOD SAID….”

Jesus said, “It is written….” … what is written? WHAT GOD SAYS!

Look at John 14:23-24 “If a man love Me, he will keep My WORDS; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him. He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings; and the WORD which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me.”

Everything Jesus said was from God. God’s WORDS are ALIVE! Jesus was a part of all God said; He and His WORD were one! Jesus is just as real now as He was the last day He walked this earth! His WORD is just as real now as it was then.

Look at Hebrews 13:8 :Jesus Christ the same, yesterday and today and forever.”

He doesn’t change … and neither do the words He spoke.

As Christians, we have a right to stand on the Word of God in our everyday life.

Let’s look at some examples of what God says about us:

We say: I can’t….  GOD SAYS: Philippians 4:13 says: “I can do ALL things through Christ Jesus Who strengthens me.”

We say: I’m afraid….  GOD SAYS: 2 Timothy 1:7: “God has not given me the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We say: I’m not strong enough… I’m weak…. GOD SAYS: Psalm 22:1 “The LORD is the strength of my life.” Daniel 11:32: “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.”

We say: I’m worried…. GOD SAYS: 1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all my cares upon Him who cares for me.”

We say: Oh, I remember how I was before I accepted Jesus… GOD SAYS: “Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” 1 John 5:4 “For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world.”

This world operates on a ‘word’ system. If your word is of no value, you will reason that the Word of God is likewise of no value. But when it comes to the Word of God, we MUST feel that “God said it and that settles it!”

We MUST have faith in what God says!

Mark 11:23 “For verily I say unto you that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed and be cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass; HE SHALL HAVE WHATSOEVER HE SAYS!” (emphasis added)

The ‘mountain’ can be any obstacle in your path from finances to health.

You say: Well, Pastor, I’m certainly not going to speak or talk to a mountain….

You already do… practically every day! Example: your car won’t start… you say: Oh come on, START! Maybe you trip on a curb… you say: dumb curb! Or maybe you are stopped at a traffic light… you say: Oh, c’mon now… are you going to stay red all day?!

We must get in the habit of SPEAKING THE WORDS OF GOD!

Remember the parable about sowing on good ground?

The very moment you use the Word, the Tempter comes to test the ‘ground.’

Jesus said in John 10:10: ‘The thief comes not but for to steal and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might it have more abundantly.”

In order to have that abundance, we must learn to act on the Word. The same way we act on the word of a doctor… or lawyer in some crisis in our life, etc. We have faith in what they say and we act on it… TODAY YOU HAVE TO HAVE FAITH IN WHAT GOD SAYS AND ACT ON IT!

How do we act on God’s Word? We believe what it says and DO what it says. We CONFESS the Word.

Hebrews 4:14 “Seeing that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, LET US HOLD FAST OUR PROFESSION (CONFESSION)….” (emphasis added)

The choice is mine… I can act on what God says… or I can ignore it. My choice.

As a Believer, you belong to Jesus. He paid the price for you… Speak God’s Words with FAITH in what you are saying. Speak the Word of God and put the Law of God into motion in your life… and POWER is released.

Learn to release the POWER OF GOD in your life by confessing – in FAITH – the Word of God!

 

 

 

LIVING IN THE BLESSINGS OF GOD

PSALM 112

PRAISE THE LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who delights greatly in His commandments. 2. His descendants will be mighty on the earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3. Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. 4. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous. 5. A good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion. 6. Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. 7. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. 8. His heart is established; he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. 9. He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; his horn (strength) will be exalted with honor. 10. The wicked will see it and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish. (New King James translation)

This is one of my favorite Psalms because it lists some of the Blessings of Obedience. Being obedient to the Word of God brings blessings… and this Psalm outlines just some of those blessings.

Verse 1: PRAISE THE LORD! We see right away that we are to PRAISE the LORD! Just how do we do that?

First of all, we need to know which Hebrew word is used here for PRAISE. There are 7 Hebrew words that we translate as ‘praise.’ One means to throw the hands up; to give thanks; one means to rejoice; another to kneel and bless or adore; another means to shine forth, to be commended, to be worthy of praise; another means to confess praise or show thanksgiving in songs, etc. SEVEN different words for PRAISE, and while they all have God as the object of praise, they tell us different attitudes of praise in which we are to offer that praise… by lifting up the hands, or kneeling in adoration, etc.

The Hebrew word used in Psalm 112:1, is FLASH, SHINE FORTH, TO BE COMMENDED. We are to commend God. We are to show forth His praise in our lives because He alone is worthy of that praise. Nothing we can do in and of ourselves is worthy of Praise… only what HE does in our lives… and because of what He does, we give Him praise. He only does GOOD things for us and our praise is a form of thanksgiving to Him for His Goodness and Mercy!

The next phrase we come to is: Blessed is the man (or woman – please understand here that when the Bible says Blessed is the man, it is the inclusive term for all of mankind) .

Blessed is the man that fears the LORD. 

Blessed means to pronounce happy! We are declared happy if we fear the LORD. “Fear” does not mean to be terrified of.. it means to revere, to reverence, to stand in awe of….

We reverence God, we stand in awe of Him. I used to think it meant to be terrified of… and I used to be afraid of God. Then I learned about His great LOVE wherewith He loved us… I learned that He cared enough about ME to send His only begotten Son, Jesus, to this earth, to suffer and die and be raised again so that I didn’t have to be lost and separated from Him any longer…so that as soon as I believed in my heart and confessed with my mouth that He died for me, was crucified, dead and buried, that God raised Him from the dead I was born again… born from eternal death and eternal separation from Father God and put into a right relationship with Him. (see Romans 10:9-10)

THAT’S GOOD NEWS! So many today preach hell hot and sin black, but the sinner knows that. We need to teach people that God has mercy… that God has enough grace for everyone, for where sin did abound, GRACE did MUCH MORE ABOUND! (Romans 5:20b)

Happy/Blessed is the man that reverences the LORD, that delights in His commandments!

God told us that if we do His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, then we would be blessed… happy. Read the 28th Chapter of Deuteronomy. Verses 1-14 list the Blessings. Then from verse 15-through to the end of that chapter, verse 68, (53 verses!) we see the results of NOT being obedient. Pretty inclusive! And all we have to do, God tells us in verse 1: IF you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will ….. and then he goes on to list the Blessings! The Blessings listed here are known as “the Blessings of Abraham.”

In the ‘curses’ of verses 15-68, we find sickness, poverty, lack, oppression, dicers, depression – any- and everything that can go wrong in your life or in your body – is under the curse.

But the GOOD NEWS: Galatians 3:13 says, “CHRIST HAS REDEEMED US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW, being made a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree …”(Jesus hung on the cross!), “…that the Blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentiles (the unbelieving people that were not of the House of Israel) through Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise off the Spirit through faith.”

If you Praise the LORD… if you are declared happy/blessed because you reverence the LORD, and you delight greatly in His commandments, here’s what you can expect:

1. Your children shall be mighty on the earth. I expect my children to do great things. My children and grandchildren are born again and they are going to heaven, but I expect them to do great things! They shall be mighty upon the earth. Their generation shall be blessed! Don’t you want your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to be mighty on the earth and do wonderful things for God ad for humanity? Of course you do… and you can expect that to happen as one othe Blessings of Obedience to God and His Word.

2. Wealth and riches shall be in his house and his righteousness endures forever. Here we have God’s sanction of wealth and riches for the righteous man and woman. I expect wealth and riches to be in my house because I serve God with all my heart, soul and strength. Now, wealth and riches does not necessarily mean you’ll have millions of dollars to squander as you will. When you are born again and walk in the Blessings of God, you can expect good health, thereby eliminating all the money you would spend going to the doctor… or having to buy medicine. When you live in the Blessings of Obedience, you can expect your car to run smoothly, eliminating costly repairs; you can expect your washing machine, dryer, stove, refrigerator, etc., to operate efficiently without breakdowns and expensive costs to repair or replace. That’s living in the Blessings of Obedience!

I, therefore, expect to have an abundance so I can give into God’s work to get more people saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. I expect to have an abundance for every good work (see 2Corinthians 9:7-8).

3. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous. This says there will be times of trials in our lives. When things seem dark, the Blessings of Obedience bring LIGHT into our life! We don’t stay in the darkness of oppression or depression or sickness. We have the LIGHT of LIFE – the Lord Jesus Christ! And the upright man will walk in the light of truth and his path will always be light. A good man will always be helpful to his neighbors and not be jealous of them or jealous of their prosperity!

4. A good man deals graciously and lends…. Well, if you don’t have wealth and riches, you certainly cannot lend to others. If you only have enough to just barely get by, there isn’t any left over to lend!

5.  ...he will guide his affairs with discretion. Some people don’t know how to handle a dollar. As soon as they get it, they’ll throw it away on something silly or useless. The 1st 10% belongs to the LORD… it is the TITHE – and God calls it HOLY! My pastor said once: the 1st 10% belongs to God, the 2nd 10% should go into a savings account and then you should live off the rest. Do you realize that if we did that, we’d have an abundance to live on when we retired – and we could do things we never thought possible! There are some people who have had their own businesses and who have gone bankrupt and gone under because they didn’t know how to handle money. The man or woman who puts their confidence and trust in God guides his affairs with discretion – he or she is a good steward of what God has given to them!

6. Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He KNOWS that his faith is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. He KNOWS that the Blood of Jesus covers him, the everlasting Arms of God are under Him, that the angels of the Lord encamp around him, and Goodness and Mercy follow him all the days of his life. He KNOWS that he abides under the shadow of the Almighty!

In Psalm 91:1 it says: “He that dwells in the secret pace of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” ! The word for DWELL means to settle down and stay, like take up a homestead. That says ABIDE, not take a vacation and come visit. ABIDE! It means to LIVE in the presence of….!

And if we LIVE under the shadow of the Almighty, we are confident in His protection and provision for us in our lives. The little boy who says, “…my daddy can beat up your daddy” is living in the shadow of his daddy. He knows that nothing can hurt him so long as his daddy is standing right by him.

That’s how we’re supposed to look at God. I KNOW that nothing can hurt me as long as I’m standing right by my Abba Father! I make every effort to continually be LIVING in His shadow… in His presence. I make every effort to rely on Him for everything in my life!

7. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. When evil tidings come, the man who is living in the Blessings of Obedience says: I won’t accept that report… I’ll believe God’s report! Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

His thoughts toward me are good! They are thought of peace and NOT evil – they give me a HOPE and an expectation of GOOD! My heart is steadfast…FIXED… trusting in the LORD!

The results of the Blessings of Obedience:

This man or woman who reverences the LORD… this man or woman who delights in His commandments… THAT one shall disperse, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn (or strength) shall be exalted with honor! You will be exalted and honored… by your family… by your friend… by your business associates… by your classmates… by everyone who knows you… because you have been obedient to the LORD GOD!

The BLESSINGS OF OBEDIENCE  are ours if we claim them. Each one of you who is reading this message… if you have praised the LORD because you reverence Him and you delight to do His commandments, say this now:

“Thank you, Abba Father, that You have caused me to inherit the Blessings of Obedience. Thank You that my children (and grandchildren) are mighty upon the earth; that wealth and riches are in my house; that I am full of compassion; that I lend and guide my affairs with discretion. My heart is established in You, Father, and I thank You for loving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!”

SHOUT HALLELUJAH!

 

BROKEN YET CONNECTED

As I was sitting on my patio the other morning, basking in the goodness and beauty of God as Spring was bursting forth, I noticed a large broken branch in a huge Maple tree behind the house. The ravages of recent storms had partially broken that branch, but it was still connected to the main limb, hanging down at a 90 degree angle … yet it was starting to put out leaves in anticipation of the Spring growth.

The LORD reminded me that branch represents our lives… broken but connected.

Broken by sin… yet when we accept His redeeming Love… when we accept His work on the Cross on our behalf, we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son. Yet we may continue to hold on to our old ways… we may not know how to allow the renewal of the Holy Spirit free us from those things of our past, allowing healing to transform us from brokenness to wholeness.

Not just our past, but even our present. Life intervenes and we can be broken by others… by harsh words from a loved one…a dear friend. We can be broken by loss – the loss of a loved one… the loss of friendship… the loss of a job.

There is no end to what the enemy will bring into our lives that can lead to brokenness.

BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS:

HE IS THE VINE AND WE ARE THE BRANCHES (John 15:5). Jesus said that IF we abide (LIVE) in Him and He is IN us, then we will bring forth much fruit. Without HIM we can do nothing.

Just as that tree limb is still bearing leaves because it is attached to the source of life, so we too can bear fruit for the Kingdom of God as we live in HIM. As the Apostle Paul said: In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), echoing Jesus’ words of John 15!

Without Him we can do nothing.

Is there brokenness in your life today?

Have you been injured by someone close to you… harsh words spoken in anger? Have you spoken harsh words in anger to someone? Apologize! Jesus said that if you have ANYTHING against anyone, YOU forgive! (Mark 11:25). He didn’t say that if they really hurt you then you don’t have to forgive. He didn’t say if what they said was really bad then you don’t have to forgive. He said: IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING (the King James says ‘ought’… and ‘ought’ can be just a little smidgen!) AGAINST ANYONE, FORGIVE! There are reasons we must forgive: so our prayers will be answered… so God will forgive US of our sins. (Mark 11:25-26:” …and when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Those 2 verses alone should bring every one of us to our knees forgiving and being forgiven!)

Another Scripture that admonishes us to FORGIVE is found in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has ought against you, leave your gift before the altar and go your way; FIRST be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift….” Jesus is saying that it is up to YOU to apologize. Couple that with Mark 11:25-26 and you can see why. Jesus does not want us to be broken by anger… He does not want us to be broken from our fellowship with Him. He is the Bless-er and He wants to bless us, but as long as we are broken by hurt and anger, those blessings are in abeyance.

Perhaps you have been broken by sin – repent!  Don’t let some plot and ploy of the enemy separate you from fruit-bearing for the Kingdom.

Or broken by grief. Grief can break us in ways no one can ever understand. Our world seems to collapse. Nothing seems ‘right’ any longer. But God understands grief in ways WE could NEVER understand – think of Calvary… think of what God experienced when His sinless, spotless Son was nailed to that tree, taking on the sin of the entire world… that because He is the One
True, PERFECT Creator God, He had to turn His back on His only begotten Son… the depths of grief He experienced we can never know. Because He knows what grief is, He does NOT want us to stay in grief… He does NOT want us to mourn forever. Psalm 30:11 “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness…”

In Isaiah 61:1-3, in prophesying about Jesus, the Prophet writes: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meet; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, the He might be glorified.”  (And Jesus preached to the synagogue in Nazareth the first part of that Scripture from Isaiah (see Luke 4:18-19)

In Ecclesiastes God tells us that there IS a time to mourn… but that is followed by “…a time to dance….” (Ecclesiastes 3:4: “A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”) God understands our grief/mourning… but He does not intend for us to stay there, as that will  pull us down, turning inward in our grief, and away from God’s blessings and His using us for His Kingdom purposes!

You might want to argue that Jesus preached that those who mourn are blessed and comforted. (Matthew 5:4). He will comfort us when we mourn… but He will also bless us and bring us out of the darkness so that grief and mourning can’t envelope us. He understands our grief… He understands our mourning. But He has something better for us: Joy, Gladness, Dancing before Him!

There are many other Scriptures concerning brokenness, but one we must always remember: we are not to be like broken cisterns. Jeremiah 2:13: “”For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the Fountain of Living Waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” The LORD calls us to remain connected! Do not allow our brokenness to separate us from the Source of Living Water, for then we are like broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Just as that tree limb remains connected to its source of life, we too must always remain connected to our Source of Life! There have been several severe storms that have blown through this area, but that limb remains connected! BUT if it is ever severed from the main branch, it will die. Every tie there is a bad wind storm, I always check that limb… it’s still there – leafing out in all its glory to welcome LIFE!

Right now, allow the LORD to begin healing the brokenness in your life. Roll the care of whatever it is that is holding you back from serving Him with all your being over on Jesus, because He cares for you! Forgive, Dance before the LORD; remember that Jesus left us with His Joy, and the Joy of the LORD is our strength! He is MORE than able to bring wholeness from our brokenness, as we remain connected to the Vine!

I thank the LORD that He continues to lead, guide, direct and teach us everyday, even with broken tree limbs in my backyard!

 

 

 

 

RESURRECTION SUNDAY

RESURRECTION SUNDAY – EASTER SUNDAY – A DAY OF HOPE, JOY AND CELEBRATION AROUND THE WORLD… BECAUSE: HE LIVES!

JOHN 14:19: “…Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.”

RESURRECTION SUNDAY will be observed by more than a billion Believers who celebrate their conviction that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, has broken the power of death by His own Resurrection!

The basic reason for this annual celebration is: BECAUSE HE LIVES!

Because He lives, Resurrection Sunday is an occasion of celebration based on a CERTAINTY which in turn begets a CONFIDENCE!

The certainty is that this day proclaims a FACT: A foundational conviction apart from which everything else in the Christian faith is meaningless. In fact, the Apostle Paul said that if Christ has not risen, then our faith is in vain, futile…and we have no hope (I Corinthians 15:17).

But on the 3rd day following His crucifixion, death and burial, Jesus rose again according to His own prophecies that death could not hold Him. The New Testament records no less than a dozen instances of the Resurrected Christ being witnessed by people with whom He was present over a 40-day period following that first Easter morning.

Over the centuries, skeptics and doubters have made earnest searches for the verifiability of this historic phenomenon, since all vital faith rests upon it In other words, if the resurrection can be disproved, then Christianity sinks into oblivion.

But this TRUTH has stood the test of time, and not only have hosts of honest inquirers come to the acknowledgement of this reality, but millions have had such genuine, life-changing encounters with the Person of Jesus that they will simply affirm, in the words of that beloved hymn penned by Alfred Ackley: “…you ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.”

It is the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ that continues to stir human hearts and shape human destiny.

Increasing evidence in today’s scientific community continues to testify to the likelihood of life after death. What has long been a doctrine of the church seems to be gaining support in the scientific and medical communities as well. Christian HOPE does not end with ‘life after death.’ It continues with the CERTAINTY of WHERE we are going AFTER death, which is a much more important assurance than merely that a person will exist beyond this life.

Regardless that the concepts of heaven and hell have been distorted and muddied by myth, fable, legend and popular notion (witness so many of today’s TV and Hollywood-produced ‘imaginative’ misrepresentations and perversions of of Biblical Truth),  that unless one has a foundational teaching and grasp of that Biblical truth, what we are being presented with today is a complete fabrication and far cry from what is revealed in Scripture…and what we know and understand as truth about each.

Heaven is not a place…. ‘somewhere … out there… in the great blue expanse….’ filled with big white fluffy clouds where we will just float around playing little harps throughout eternity. Nor is hell just a really hot place ruled by some imp with horns and a pitchfork, dressed in a red suit.

Heaven is a place distinctly prepared for an eternally purposeful existence and experience in  the Presence of God!

But note this: Hell is NOT a place ever intended for mankind but it is the appointed place of every being who willfully rejects God’s Will and Way!… forever separated from God’s Presence. There’s no ‘praying you out of hell.’ None of your good works will lessen the judgment of your rejection of God’s greatest Gift to Humankind: the LORD JESUS CHRIST! Nothing will make your ‘stay’ in that place of judgment any easier nor lessen the torment. THE ONLY ESCAPE FROM HELL IS THE PERSONAL DECISION TO ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR OWN PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOR!  It doesn’t matter what your momma and daddy believe or don’t believe. It doesn’t matter what your friends in school or work believe or don’t believe. It doesn’t matter what your husband, wife, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousins or best friends believe. IT ONLY MATTERS WHAT YOU BELIEVE!

HEAVEN IS A PLACE TO GAIN… AND HELL IS A PLACE TO SHUN!

In light of His glorious Resurrection, Jesus has made the ultimate announcement of assurance to ALL who believe: BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU SHALL LIVE ALSO!

His eternal life is promised to anyone … to every ‘whosoever will’ … who follows Him, for Jesus is not only the example to live by in THIS lifetime, but He is the pathway into the future… for eternal life! And this confidence leads us to overcoming faith in this present life!

If Easter’s witness is true, then we are given a hope concerning not just the tomorrows of this week … but for Eternity itself!

HOPE: the Bible definition of HOPE is not some wishy-washy, timid declaration: “I sure hope so….” THE BIBLE DEFINITION OF HOPE IS “THE JOYFUL, CONFIDENT EXPECTATION OF THINGS TO COME!”

That HOPE engenders the FAITH that works in today’s life yet hold the PROMISE of FOREVER with the LORD Who rose from the dead on that first Easter morning.

BECAUSE HE LIVES, I SHALL LIVE ALSO! Hope for today… faith for eternity!

Have a BLESSED, JOYFUL RESURRECTION SUNDAY… AND live His LIFE in your life today and every day!

If you have not opened to His glorious promise of Eternal Life, you can do that right now! Pray this simple prayer out loud – you want to hear it with your own ears as a declaration of passing from death to LIFE:

Oh God, without Jesus I am lost. I don’t want to be lost. I want to be saved. I have been guilty of rejecting Jesus as my LORD and Savior. I ask that You forgive me.  I believe in my heart that Jesus was crucified for my sins and that You raised Him from the dead. I ask Jesus to come into my heart and save me now. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me. and with this prayer from my heart, I have passed from death to eternal Life! I am no longer a child of satan but a child of God. I have this assurance in accordance with Your Word (Romans 10:9-10). Jesus is now my Savior and You are my Father. From this day forward, I shall live for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

If you prayed that prayer, sincerely from your heart, you are now in the Kingdom of God… you have passed from death into eternal Life! and because He lives, you shall live also! WELCOME TO THE FAMILY OF GOD, the best Family in the World!

HAVE A BLESSED, GLORIOUS, JOYFUL RESURRECTION SUNDAY!

‘TIS THE SEASON

‘TIS THE SEASON

The Calendar continues its steady march towards the New Year. But first, we pause to celebrate the birth of our LORD and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah…born in a manger – unpretentious…. born of a virgin – a miracle and fulfillment of prophecy given hundreds of years earlier… born to die – salvation through the shed blood of the innocent Lamb of God.

We have just endured the major shopping holiday of the year: Black Friday… so named because it heralds balance sheets of business being ‘in the black’ – profits. News reports showed people around the country acting like animals: fighting, screaming, attacking others…to get to those incredible deals that are customer draws. Not sure how much money is actually saved on those deals because I don’t go near the stores from the week before Thanksgiving till mid-December, and then only because I have to restock the pantry or prepare for Christmas company….I basically ‘hibernate’ until either the week between Christmas and New Year’s, or the week after New Year’s. Much saner, much calmer… way less stress! And I’m ‘for’ way less stress!

So prior to the frenzy that (especially) last-minute shopping brings, we should certainly pause and think about what this Christmas means to us. We celebrate…but are we too caught up in the secular celebration… or are we showing our love, as God did, as we carefully choose each gift for each recipient on our list. God so loved the world that He GAVE…. He gave His only begotten Son. What are we giving? Are we giving to get? Are we giving because ‘we have to’? Or are we giving because we want to bless someone near and dear to us? Hopefully, it’s the latter. Too many give beyond their means… too many give for the wrong reasons. And while I know many of us would love to be able to spend multi-dollars on very special gifts, the gift that means the most – to both the Giver and the Recipient – is the gift from the heart?

God gave from His Heart – He gave because of HIS LOVE. It was not beyond His means…He had a willing Sacrifice – the Bible tells us: Jesus was crucified before the foundation of the world! (Rev. 13:8).

Let’s pause now and be renewed in the magnitude of the awesome Grace of God! His Grace leaves us without words – renders us speechless – the GRACE that leaves us without an answer – without an argument.

God’s magnificent GRACE in the sending of His Son. In John 1:17, we are told that ‘…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ….’ Until Jesus, people lived ‘under the law’… not the free Gift that came through Jesus.

GRACE: from the Greek charis. (from the same root word as chara, meaning ‘joy’; and chairo, meaning ‘rejoice.’ It is the word for God’s Grace as extended to sinful man. It signifies unmerited favor,, undeserved blessing. a free gift! And our response should be untold JOY that we can partake of His GRACE. God even has a Throne so-named: Hebrews 4:16: “Let us come boldly to the Throne of Grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  This is one of the most wonderful, most amazing verses in the Bible – that WE have direct access to God’s Throne Room! … that WE can be the recipients of His amazing Grace and Mercy. We obtain His Mercy because He is such a loving God; and we find Grace there. We don’t have to beat ourselves over the head because of some transgression and guilt. When we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. (I John 1:9). (emphasis added)

We didn’t ‘deserve’ Jesus, but God’s GRACE sent Him to die for our sin, that we might be forever reconciled to God.

The Gift of the Lord Jesus, that Baby in the manger we see now on the Christmas cards, the nativity scenes springing up in church yards, on town Greens, in town parks, in front yards all over this country, is indicative of the very REASON for this SEASON.

Political correctness will try to eliminate every semblance of Christmas from our lives, but without the birth of Jesus, there would be no Christmas. The very word: Christmas is from 2 words: Christ and mass: Christ is the Greek word for Messiah.  Mass means Holy Day, or Feast. celebration …CHRISTMAS, then is the celebration of the birth of Messiah Jesus, the Christ of God.  While no one knows the exact date of His birth, we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ on the same day each year: December 25th.

So without the birth of Jesus, there would be no Christmas… it simply would NOT exist – just another day on the calendar… no gifts, no big dinners with all the family and friends gathered, no special Church services, no beautifully decorated tree, no squeals of delight as presents are opened, no non-stop shopping in the days leading up to December 25th, no mulling over lists, requests, hopes and dreams of a better year to come, etc., etc., etc. 

I for one am determined to wish everyone with whom I come in contact in these weeks and days leading up to Christmas a Blessed, Merry Christmas, regardless of political correctness. They can receive it (and everyone I have said that to in the past has always smiled, said ‘Thank you,’ and usually responds with either ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘same to you.’ People WANT hope in this dark world – so I challenge YOU to be the GIVER OF HOPE! Wish everyone a Merry Christmas… and perhaps you will be blessed with a query from someone to ask about your faith…and then rejoice that you have crossed the path of someone seeking Truth in this dark world!

Without the Birth of Jesus Christ, we would all still be dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3), but verse 4 of that same Chapter begins with two of the most thrilling of words to the person trapped in sin: BUT GOD…. BUT GOD! Rejoice with me… BUT GOD, WHO IS RICH IN MERCY, BECAUSE OF HIS GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, (5) EVEN WHEN WE WERE DEAD IN TRESPASSES, MADE US ALIVE TOGETHER WITH CHIRST (BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED)…. Hallelujah! Praise Him for His great Love and for His amazing Grace!

We rejoice  as we close in on December 25 because of God’s incredible Gift of LOVE to a lost and dying world – that WHOSOEVER believes in [Jesus, the Christ] shall have everlasting life! (John 3:16)

Let us remember and proclaim the Joy of the Season – JESUS IS THE VERY REASON FOR THE SEASON.

MERRY, BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

BEHOLD, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW....

BEHOLD, ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW….

CHANGES

As I sat by the window this morning with a steaming cup of good, strong coffee, watching the drizzle, the leaves continuing their spiral to the ground as the Fall season revs up and temperatures begin to nudge down, signaling the coming Winter months, I was impressed with how we are changed by God.

Romans 12:2 tells us… “…and be not 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.”

Conform in the Greek means: to fashion alike; conform to the same pattern; fashion [your]self according to. (Strong’s Concordance, #4964)

Transform in the Greek means: metamorphose; to change, transfigure; transform (from 2 Greek words: (Strong’s #3326 – meta, meaning modified; accompaniment; and #3445 – morphe).

We are most familiar with the butterfly – beginning its life cycle as a caterpillar, spinning a cocoon, and while wrapped in the cocoon, the ‘change’ takes place; exiting as a butterfly. Totally ‘metamorphosed’/transformed from one likeness to another.

When we are Born Again, we are metamorphosed from one likeness to another – from spiritually dead to now Alive in Jesus Christ. That is what takes place within our spirit-man. But what happens on the ‘outside’ of us? Not our appearance, as the transition from caterpillar to butterfly, but our ACTIONS?

Let’s go back to the Word for that answer:

In the previous chapters, the Apostle Paul, the writer of The Book of Romans, has been expounding on the great theme of Redemption, the guilt of all of mankind, our own inability to earn ‘favor’ with God, explaining how God sent Jesus to die for us and that the FREE GIFT of SALVATION through Jesus is by faith alone – not of works. Then, in Romans 12:1, he writes: “I beseech you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, (then to verse 2:) and be not conformed (shaped according to the same pattern) to this world but be transformed (metamorphosed – changed) by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

So the question then becomes: how is my mind renewed so that I can ‘prove’ (Strong’s 1331 ‘to test, by implication: to approve: examine; try’) to everyone I come in contact with how God has changed my life? ANSWER: OUR MINDS ARE RENEWED THROUGH GOD’S WORD! WE READ THE BIBLE AND ALLOW IT TO DETERMINE OUR LIFESTYLE; OUR BEHAVIOR; OUR ATTITUDE; OUR ACTIONS.

This personal example from my own life is a prime example: When we first got saved/born again, we had always lived in sickness and lack. If there was any germ around, we were sure to invite it right on in and we were sick with whatever was the seasonal ‘sickness.’  – flu, hay fever, colds, etc. But one day, we heard that Jesus is the LORD, our Healer – and we had to make a decision: were we going to continue to be sick? or were we going to believe God and be healed and live FREE from sickness and disease as an example of God’s goodness in our lives. We had lived with sickness for years… We decided that being well was better, so whenever those germs came calling, we would stand on the Promises of God. Soon, we were living sickness-free! And today we live in Divine Health and Healing!

The same situation was evident in our finances… living from paycheck to paycheck, payday to payday. We heard the Good News that God was Jehovah Jireh, the LORD our Provider, and we decided to find out what HIS principles of prosperity were. Now, let me say here that ‘prosperity’ is not necessarily being a millionaire. One of the ways God prospered us was we no longer had to pay for a doctor visit, or medicine… and believe me, that added up!

God’s definition of Prosperity is found in the Laws of Sowing and Reaping: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 “But this I say, he which sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to all good work….;”

That is just ONE of MANY Scriptures where God speaks of a bountiful return on your ‘giving’. In Malachi 3:10, He admonishes the Nation of Israel for ‘robbing Him!’ Robbing God? Seriously? YES! In verse 9 He says that they have robbed Him! But in Verse 10, He tells them what to do – how to stop robbing Him: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in My house; and prove Me now herewith, says the LORD of Hosts, if I will not open to you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing  on you that there shall not be room enough to receive it….verse 11: And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, says the LORD of Hosts….”

Giving cheerfully; being faithful to tithe. God’s BLESSINGS will fall all around you. But, you may say, I don’t have anything to give… Remember the widow who gave the ‘two mites’ …(Mark 12:41-44). You say, but the Bible says she was a ‘poor widow’… but she and she alone got Jesus’ attention. He lumped all the others together in that He said of them: “…For all they did cast in of their abundance” (in other words, it didn’t ‘cost’ them anything to throw in a few dollars of their wealth. Jesus continued: verse 44: “… but she of her want did cast in al that she had, even all her living….'” Insofar as the Gospel writer is concerned, that is all we needed to know about the widow. BUT I GUARANTEE YOU THAT JESUS WASN’T FINISHED! HE NOTICED HER! HE KNEW HER HEART! Her needs were met according to all His riches in glory! We are not privy to what He did for her, but it was important enough for both Mark and Luke to include her in their Gospels.

Our obedience to God does NOT mean that we will have a life of ease, free of pressures, or stress, or even lack. When our attitude reflects HIS attitude, then He supplies our need (not our wants) according to HIS riches in Glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). There are a lot of preachers who will tell you that God will give you wealth beyond your wildest imagination; that if you want a Rolex watch, or a new car, or a new house, etc., just ask God… Unfortunately, they are perverting the Message of Redemption. The Apostle Paul was anything but living in luxury. He was beaten often, thrown into jail, thrown into the sea, once stoned so that everyone thought he was dead. The Apostle John was boiled in oil and eventually exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Some of the Disciples were beheaded, stoned, crucified, etc. No, we are not called to a life of ease but we ARE called to a Life in Him!

We are seeing an increase in persecution of Christians worldwide. Those of us in the United States NEVER thought we would see the rise of persecution of the Church like we are seeing today. We are called to STAND for Him in our lives. If we stand for Him, He will stand with us!

Read the Word and determine to make it a part of your life, so that your very actions display the Love of God. The sweeping move a number of years ago: What Would Jesus Do.. should be the  determining model of your life situations today and every day. Not some squishy ‘feel-good’ sign but what determines your actions and reactions. Will it happen automatically? No… you will have to make that motivational decision numerous time throughout each day… and each day it will be easier… less difficult each time, until like a mirror, the world sees Jesus in you! WOW! What a goal! LET’S DO IT! And then, like James we will count it all joy when we fall into diverse temptations (James 1:2). That does NOT say we have to succumb to the temptations (because, believe me, YOU WILL BE TEMPTED), but instead you will recognize the plots, ploys and schemes of the enemy of your soul and THEN, because you have been obeying God’s Word, you will KNOW what Jesus would do in that same situation, and you react as He would. You will be an OVERCOMER! You will be MORE than a conqueror! SHOUT HALLELUJAH!

HOLINESS

HOLINESS

I Thessalonians 4:4: FOR GOD HAS NOT CALLED US TO UNCLEANNESS BUT UNTO HOLINESS.

Leviticue 11:44a For I am the LORD your God; you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy….

In Chapters 21 and 22 of Exodus, God was giving His instructions to the people on how to live, how to conduct themselves, how they were to relate to their family, their friends, their community, their entire nation… how they were to conduct themselves in the presence of other nations and peoples, and then in Exodus 22:31, He tells them: YOU SHALL BE HOLY…!

Were they little goody-two-shoes? Hardly!

Were they Teacher’s pet (God was ready to wipe them out on several occasions).

Were they the ones who always did the right thing at all times? Not exactly!

BUT GOD CALLED THEM HOLY!

We have concocted some cockamamie definition of HOLY so that it doesn’t mean anything near to what God had in mind when He gave the instructions to the children of Israel that they were a people set apart from all other peoples on the earth!

I Peter 2:9-10: “… But you are  chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show for the the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”

I Peter 2:9-10 (Amplified Bible): But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood; a dedicated nation [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people [at all], but now you  are God’s people; once you were unpitied, but now you are pitied and have received mercy.”

We are a chosen generation… we are a royal priesthood… we are a HOLY nation, a peculiar people.

Now, we are not ‘peculiar’ in the sense of weird… well, maybe to some we are  a little weird… to the world’s standards, we are REALLY weird. But according to the Greek word rendered “peculiar” it means a purchased possession. And that we are! We were purchased, we were redeemed… we were bought back, not with corruptible things as silver or gold, but with the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, as of a Lamb, without blemish and without spot! Hallelujah!

We re a HOLY NATION.

We hear a lot being preached today about holiness. We are admonished to ‘be holy….’ We re told that God is looking for a Holy People! In Hebrews 12:14, we are told to ‘follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’

We seem to labor under the delusion that Holiness is somehow unobtainable in our present state and condition as human beings… that holiness is something reserved for Heaven. Preachers yell and entreat us: O People… BE HOLY! Some people crawl on their hands and knees for miles…trying to be ‘holy.’ Some people say ritualistic prayers over and over and over and over and over… all day, thinking that somehow makes them ‘holy.’ Some people adopt some sort of pious expression… hands folded prayerfully, head bowed… oyezahman… But no one ever tells us HOW we are supposed to assume that pious condition. We expect waves of God’s radiance to emanate from our very being… we expect to walk into a room and an audible hush falls over the audience because we are sooooo holy! We want to walk down the street and have everyone bow in our presence because of the holiness that oozes from our very being.

Sounds pretty stupid, doesn’t it?!?!

In 1 Peter 1:13-17, God tells us to BE HOLY because HE IS HOLY!

You see, He wants us to be like Him. He is our Father… so we as His children will naturally have his attribute of Holiness. He cannot be a Father to unholiness. He cannot be a Father to rebellion.

God is NOT some old fuddy-duddy, sitting in some palatial Throne Room in the heavenlies trying to think up ways to ‘get us.’ He said: Be holy because I am holy. He didn’t say: Try to be as holy as you can and if you get good enough, I’ll love you. God did not give us some unattainable goal and then judge us for not attaining it. That would make Him an unjust Judge…a respecter of persons.

I have known people that I would have described as ‘holy’… that is before I studied out HOLY. One of the pastors at my church in another city was a man I would say was a ‘holy man of God. He LOVED the Lord with all his heart…and he just seemed always to be so spiritual… until one day, I was with my Dad who stopped by the church for something (the pastor lived right across the street from the church) and my Dad had forgotten his keys, so we went across the street to have the pastor let us in. Well… all I’ll say is the pastor and his wife were have a really doozy of a domestic dual… the hollering that was going on… so much for ‘holiness.’

But, you see, that was NOT God’s definition of HOLINESS. Looking ‘spiritual’ and talking in spiritual platitudes all the time do not holiness make!

God’s definition of HOLINESS is really quite simple: it is BEING SEPARATED.

If you go back in Exodus and read Chapters 21 & 22, in their entirety you will see that God is giving the Israelites statutes, judgments and commands that are to govern their living. He is dealing with legal matters; He is dealing with relationships within the family and the nation. He is giving them moral laws that are to govern their day-to-day living. The laws against stealing; the laws of servanthood; the laws governing their work ethic; the laws of restitution; the laws of sexual purity; morality; laws protecting women, children, widows, workers; laws to ensure fair judgment in all cases, etc. Everything that should govern their day-to-day relationships that would ensure their success in every area of their lives. God gave us these relational laws so as to eliminate greed, injustice, poverty, sickness, barrenness, to eliminate every type of failure!

Then, in Exodus 23:20, He says: “Behold, I send an angel before you to keep you in the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him (that word: beware … means to take heed; pay attention)… [Pay attention to him] and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him. But (I love it when God says BUT because that usually separates the rewards of obedience from the judgment of rebellion)…BUT if you shall indeed obey his voice and do all that I speak, THEN I will be an enemy unto your enemies, and an adversary unto your adversaries. For My angel shall go before you and bring you in unto the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off….(these were the inhabitants of the Promised Land… the Land which God told the Israelites that He would give to them.

In other words, God is saying: I will bring you into your promised land, and whatever problems you may encounter on the way, I will cut them off! GLORY! No matter what problems you are going through today, God has already defeated them and overcome them. NO weapon formed against you shall prosper, He tells us in Isaiah 54:17! It cannot prosper because the LORD goes before you! SHOUT HALLELUJAH!

Why did He do this? His purpose was to have a Nation of people so supernaturally blessed that every heathen they encountered would want to be a part of their nation. He wanted all those nations to be jealous of His People – the Israelites were called out by God for greatness! Rehab, the little woman in Jericho, had heard about the Jews and she wanted to be a part of their mighty army… and she was (read Joshua 2).

In Exodus 23, God tells the Israelites that He will an enemy to their enemies; an adversary to their adversaries. And He goes on to declare more blessings that will come on them as they possess their Land in obedience to Him.

What He is saying, in effect, is this: You conduct yourselves as separated unto Me and you will not only be walking in the blessings of obedience, but He will be with you… He will lead you into ‘abundance’ (not necessarily of ‘things’ but of His wisdom, understanding, able to make the right decisions, bringing you before people to minister His great love, mercy and grace!  He will see to it. You have ministering spirits that go before you to prepare the way. Everything you set your hand to will prosper; you will be like a tree planted by the waters: you will bring forth fruit!

We are not, as born again, Spirit-filled sons and daughters of the Most High God to serve Him on Sunday, maybe Wednesday night prayer meetings and any other day you might attend church services… we are to serve Him 24 hours a day/7 days a week. We don’t put our ‘holy’ life aside while we are at work, at school, at play. We are not to chase after the gods of this world: greed, an abundance of ‘things’; practice ‘situational ethics’ in our dealings with others; lust after riches and the limelight of celebrity. The Bible says that a man’s gift will make room for him and bring him before great men. GOD is the One who promotes you.

When I looked up the word for ‘holy’ and ‘holiness’ in the Greek and Hebrew I found it is the same word for sanctify, sanctified, and saint. They are all from the same root word meaning dedicated to God; set apart!

The moment we are born again, we are set apart unto God for His purposes…for his use. According to Vines Expositorty, “Sanctification is used of separation to God; the course of life befitting those so separated. Sanctification is that relationship with God into which men enter by faith in Christ and to which their sole title is the death of Christ. Sanctification is also used in the New Testament of the separation of the believer from evil things and ways. This sanctification is God’s will for the believer and His purpose in calling him by the Gospel; it must be learned from God as He teaches it by His Word; and it must be pursued by the believer, earnestly and undeviatingly. The Holy character is not vicarious; in other words, it cannot be transferred or imputed, but it is an individual possession, built up, little by little, as the result of obedience to the Word of God and of following the example of Christ.”

It is the Word of God that is going to set you apart. In John 17, as Jesus was praying His great prayer to the Father for His followers, He said: “…sanctify (set them apart) through Your Truth; Your Word is Truth.”

In other words, you are set apart unto God at the New Birth; but in order for you to walk in that holiness your mind has to be renewed by the washing of the water of the Word!

So I encourage you today: take time to read the Bible every day. Purpose in your heart that you will follow the leading, guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. Attend to His Word! and rightly divide the Word of Truth!

In Proverbs 4:20-23, it says: “My son, attend to my words, incline your ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life unto those that find them n health to all their flesh. keep your heart with all diligence; for out of are the issues of life. “

God desires a Holy people – a people set apart for HIS purposes and plans. He will not require that you do something that you cannot do. He will not lead you where His Grace will not keep you. He calls us to be set apart… and He provides for those He calls. His Provision will sustain us no matter where we might find ourselves. And I, for one, can tell you: HE is my provision and He has NEVER failed me! But I had to do something – I had to leave my comfort zone… follow His leading and direction and I found that my old ‘comfort’ zone was a place where I was ‘deteriorating’ spiritually. I was not growing in the Word and in the knowledge of the Lord, but as soon as I stepped out in faith, I found new strength, joy, purpose and LIFE!

I encourage you – let HIM be your provision. Let HIM be your guide. Let HIM show you the path of the Just!