Leading to the Glory of the Son

While both men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, and both can be capable of similar things, and both have strengths and weaknesses, and both are called to be interdependent upon one another, as it is written, “For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God” – 1 Cor 11:12 – – God has still designed and called men and women to particular roles in the earth and in His Kingdom according to His purposes and for His glory. This not based upon the reason and opinions of men or women, but upon the Word of God unchanged to suit modern appeasement.

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”

God the Father has particularly called men to carry the burden of leadership, in the advancement of and suffering for, His Kingdom, by His order, and will hold them more responsible as a result.

This is not chauvinistic but particularly glorifying of God’s Son by design, who was also born of a woman, because men are the glory of God and women are the glory of men – 1 Cor 11:7, but the Church is called His Bride in total, because God has made the greater Christ’s total glorification and the advancement of His Kingdom interdependent upon all of us, His Church, both men and women alike and in unity together.

Let “him” who has ears hear what the Spirit is saying.

Overcoming Fear and the Power of Death

In Hebrews chapter 2, the Word of God tells us that Jesus became human to “break the power of him (Satan) who holds the power of death, and set free those who all their lives were enslaved by their fear of death..”

Again, Jesus himself, in John 14:30, stated that although Satan was coming to kill him, he (Satan) had “no hold”, “no power” “nothing in him”. That is, Jesus would not submit to the fear associated with what was coming, be it real pain and death, because His Father was with Him and in Him and he would never be separated from that perfect love which casts out all fear!

So today, if you are like most of us, struggling with fear, whether that be of death, sickness, poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, abandonment, loneliness, or something else, let us overcome together through faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ!

All fears are a subset of the fear of death! If you can overcome that fear and him (Satan) who holds you in slavery by that threat and desire to kill you, then you can overcome every fear in this life!

Focus on the perfect love of God that is with you and in you and yours to hold on to, and break the power of the enemy who has already been defeated by the Son of Man, who died and rose again on our behalf so that we can live for Him who lives forever. Live in love. Live in the resurrected life. Live by Him, with Him, and in Him! Crush Satan under your feet and do not let him into your minds, hearts, emotions and souls, to have hold over you as a slave to fear anymore. Be free in the Lord and live in the abundant fruit of the Holy Spirit who has been given to you as a son or daughter of the living God.

Satan is a thief, a liar, and a murderer, but Jesus came to give you life, and life to the full!

Let Christ be glorified in you!

Faith in God’s Faithfulness

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself..” – 2 Timothy 2:13

When we find ourselves in times of trouble, as we are in these pandemic days, the faith of those who supposedly have it is challenged.  It is challenged by loss of health, job, security, trust in people and systems thought to be unshakable or unbreakable. Although we might find some temporary help through a rich relative, a health or other professional, the government, or some other means which God can use, God always desires us to look and depend upon Him. “Without faith”, as it is written, “is impossible to please God.”  God wants us to call upon Him in the day of trouble and not to look to men and governments to be saved, as the nation of Israel often did in their history.  God always instructed His people not to trust in anyone or anything but Him.

Jesus was also aware and understanding of faith struggles in times of trial, and even expects them. Jesus instructed Peter, the rock, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

As I struggled myself in recent past days, overwhelmed by current events effecting us all, I decided to take a ride and walk into the countryside in search of renewal, and finding a rushing stream pouring over rocks, I was reminded of God’s eternal nature and His faithfulness, thinking about how the rain and the flow of water, the sunshine and the grass nearby, are completely unaffected by the pandemic.  I stood on a rock in the middle of the stream and repented of my lack of faith, and was then reminded of the Words of Christ, “not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear” and applied that to employment, mortgage payments, groceries, healing from sickness, etc. because God knows we need all these things.  In spite of current events and conditions, I am called to still “seekfirst the kingdom  of God and its righteousness”, trusting in God for provision.  I was also reminded of God’s words through the prophet Habakkuk, to be joyful in God, despite all discouraging circumstances.

So I pray for others I know, even as I pray for myself and my own strength of heart, mind, and soul during these trying times. The truth is, God is faithful, even when we lose our faith.  Like a never ending flowing stream of water, faithfulness is part of God’s very nature. He is faithful. He cannot deny Himself.  We need to be reminded of this and remind and encourage others to put our trust in God our Rock.

 

Growing in Faith

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

I have faith, but not enough sometimes or for some things easier than others, and so I have found that it is usually in my weak areas of struggle where my faith is tested most. Why? Because our God is very interested in our maturity and perfection. Hebrews 12:1-3 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” and to “consider Him” who was tried for God’s purposes.

For this reasons, and because “without faith it is impossible to please God”, I also believe that God tests our faith to prove its genuineness and increase its measure in proportion to the good works He has called us to, and so for our growth and His good purposes that He wants to accomplish! For example, Jesus’s greatest tests were at the beginning and the end of His public ministry: first in the desert for 40 days just before the big launch into ministry, and then secondly and most severely, starting in the Garden of Gethsemane before the finished work on the cross. Jesus was made perfect through what He suffered!

Having been reminded of what is written in James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”, I have had to fight to exercise my mind and heart to do so through the Spirit.

As I have prayed to overcome, I have pondered, “Will my Lord respond to my request, “I believe Lord, but help my unbelief!”, with a quick shot in the arm, or is it is more likely that I will have to wait upon Him patiently, even with a call to do so joyfully, which is counter to the desires of my flesh, until He shows me His faithfulness in the challenging time I am in. I know that my faith must rest in Him, even if painfully, and if so, it will be made stronger in the end.

Again, the Scriptures remind me of how many and in what times did Jesus have to instruct His disciples, “Do not be afraid” or express “Oh you of little faith”? These were challenging times in which God’s faithfulness, demonstrated in and through a man, would be proven and preached. Jesus made it real as well as possible for all of us.

And so, even now, I am learning that it is a faithful and loving God who allows and orchestrates such circumstances when we are given the opportunity to trust in Him, for our own growth as well as for His glory. He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

I know in my spirit that it is only after I have passed through this trying time that my faith will be strengthened in those areas of weakness and I will come to truly know that God is faithful and trustworthy of all the praise I have and will give to Him even more as a result.

Growing Up from Christmas

Jesus is not a baby anymore! This word is not to downplay Christmas and the eternal salvific importance of the incarnation, God becoming flesh and dwelling among us, but to highlight the fact that Jesus is not just a historical figure of the past who remained in a perpetual state of infancy to be statically celebrated over and over again, but instead grew up as also human into a mature adult man and who became the source of eternal life through His death and resurrection, who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father forever and ever, Amen.

Jesus is alive today, not as a baby in a manger, although we need to recognize Him in the least and most vulnerable such as the pre-born babies in the womb, but as a reigning King who commands His people in the Church to proclaim salvation through His Holy Name so that men and women everywhere might respond to Him in real time today because He is alive and waiting, and watching, and calling all people to Himself and obedience to the Gospel, and not the mere observance of Christmas, not matter who wonderful it is, and I do as well.

The secular participation in the Feast of the Nativity of course hopefully draws people to the truth of Christ and the historical event of His miraculous birth on earth through the Virgin Mary, but it is the Risen Lord that they will have an encounter with if they have one, whether today or tomorrow.

The historic liturgy of the seasonal Church calendar of events serves as an important reminder and declaration of His Holy Incarnation, but it is not the Christ child that the Apostolic Church is called to proclaim to the world today, but the Christ man who endured the crucifixion and was raised to life on the third day, and Who commanded that forgiveness of sins be preached and disciples be made and initiated into the new life of Christ in His Body through baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit.

It is very easy for the Church to become complacent and nostalgic through its liturgies and services, deceived into thinking that by celebrating them annually, year after year, that they are fulfilling the Great Commission through them alone, instead of and like Jesus, growing up and living out His public ministry every day and getting out from behind the table of remembrance to fulfill what He was called to accomplish when He was lifted up in glory for all to witness.

Jesus was born to die and be risen again, so that people everywhere might be born again and raised to new and eternal life. This cannot be accomplished unless the Church once again is renewed in its baptismal and Pentecostal call to follow Jesus and proclaim His death until He comes again, not as an infant child, but as a fully grown Jesus Christ who reigns over all the whole universal creation, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is the Jesus that calls all peoples to Himself today, no matter what the holiday is!

There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. – 1 Tim 2:5.

Still Fulfilling God’s Word

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel. – Mt.1:23

What’s “all this”? That is, all the specific details that occurred to fulfill the Word of God spoken and written thousands of years prior. That past Word was fulfilled even as new Words were spoken and recorded in the New Testament time through the angel, Mary, Joseph, the servant of God who did the writing, and more, who were participants in God’s work. The new Words of God were given birth in real time through people like me and you.

And still there are Words that were said in both Old and New Testaments that are still yet to be fulfilled concerning Christ’s second appearance and return for judgement and the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, which we can be assured that they will because God, who cannot lie, has spoken them. It is only a matter of time. As we await, as the season of Advent and the Word teaches us, “You (we) ought to conduct yourselves (ourselves) in holiness and godliness as you (we) anticipate and hasten the coming of the day.

We also, even now in the present time, still participate and are used by God to have His Word spoken and fulfilled in the earth. In Christ, the Word of God becomes incarnate through us, in our lives, by things said and done, when we are in His will, because the Eternal Word and Life lives in us now.

Do we realize the incredible nature of this calling? Do we anticipate participating each day, remaining attentive to and united with God’s workings within us?

Behold what it is that God has planned for you and through you this and each day, because God the Father Son, and Holy Spirit, is with you and is in you! He is still Emmanuel!

Acting Upon Christ

In Matthew chapter 2, during the time of King Herod, a declaration is made by the Magi from the east, that a child who is to be king of the Jews has been born. Although the child born was not an immediate threat to Herod himself, he immediately schemed and acted upon the threat to his dynasty.

Are we Christians, born of God and expectant of Christ’s return, which will come like lightning from the east (ref. Mt.24:27), not wise enough to zealously plan now and act upon the Kingdom to come, heeding the warning of Christ Himself, even from the parables of the five wise virgins, the good and faithful servant, and the sheep vs. the goats, in order to preserve our future rich Kingdom blessings and rewards when He comes again.

Jesus tells us that the children of this world are shrewder than the children of light, but this should not be, and He commends those who wake up to and act upon the reality of His judgement in the present time. The term “coming soon” is meant to awaken our anticipation and serves as an exhortation to action over laziness and vigilance over complacency! Watch, for we do not know the Day!

This is what Advent is about! It’s not preparation for Christmas, but for Christ!

The Weapon of Confidence

When David came down to visit his brothers on the front lines facing the Philistine army, he found the army of Israel cowering because of the Philistine giant, but he himself defied and mocked the giant’s threat, saying “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he defies the armies of the living God?” 

When David was brought to Saul and the king expressed no faith in David’s stature or ability to defeat the giant, David retorted with testimonies of previous victories over bear and lion. When it came time for David to face Goliath, he rejected the weaponry that King Saul placed upon him, relying upon how he had been trained and weaponized by God.  When the giant calling upon his gods, and mockingly labelled David a “boy with a stick”, David follied the giant’s words with his own label of “minced meat”, calling upon the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel.

David knew his victory would not come by sword or javelin, not even by his familiar sling and stone, but in the Name of the Lord.  This was his confidence, that God himself was with him to give him victory over death and the enemies of God.

There are the weapons of our spiritual warfare that we as Christians are armed with, but it is not even prayer or the sword of the Spirit through which we gain our victories, but by the Lord Himself. Our greatest weapon is our confidence in Him.

 

 

Which Way to Go

Sometimes it takes time to resolve what exactly and where exactly God wants you to go and do His will. In can be like trying to find a water leak in your house, but in this case the opposite direction.  The question isn’t where the water is coming from, but where is it running to.

In the case of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20, there is a process of testing and discerning what the truth is concerning Saul’s intent to kill David, already known by David, which Jonathan doesn’t want to believe yet; but Jonathan instructs David to wait for his confirmation, and that the communication of what is discerned will tell David whether to stay or go.  In this case, Jonathan shot the arrow beyond the rock in order to tell David that David was correct in his discernment. David didn’t want to go, but he, and now Jonathan knew, that he must.  David’s appointed time would come later, when he would be crowned after much trial and endurance.  For Jonathan, it was a hard reality to face because he was losing his best friend, at least for a while supposedly until David’s return, although Jonathan ended up dying before.   This is not unlike and points Jesus’ necessary departure beyond, after suffering death and resurrection, before He returns as the anointed and appointed King.  Some if not most of us will die before His return.

But if you are “a David”, what is God telling you?  What does He have planned for you?   When, where, how, do you discern His will to be for you?   Take the time to test and approve His good and perfect will.  If you really want to know, He will tell you one way or another.

Departing from the Crowd

It is one thing to be a disciple of Christ in the crowd and another thing to be one who follows Jesus when and where He commands us to go.

In Matthew chapter 18, on seeing the large crowd gather around Him, the Lord decided to depart to the other side of the lake, commanding His disciples to do so.  This action drew out statements from some “disciples” in the crowd.  First a “teacher” proclaimed he would “follow Jesus wherever he would go” to which Jesus responded with a teaching of his own, simultaneously speaking of earthy and spiritual truths related to the cost involved.  Even if he started to follow Jesus, would he remain when he encountered the hardships?  Was Jesus truly the Master of this teacher?  Secondly, another disciple pleaded to “first go and bury his father” before following the one he called Lord, to which Jesus responded with a correction to put His love and command first.  If he went and buried his father, would he have ever returned when he encountered other family demands?   Was Jesus truly the Lord of this disciple?

The truth is, it would be wiser not to make vows to the Lord that we do not know if we will be able or willing to keep them, but instead quietly and prayerfully count the costs, so that any “yes” we do speak might also become a “yes” in action.  But better that we say nothing at all, so our “yes” won’t be a “no” because we don’t really know if we will go until we actually do so.   And then, if we do so, we can speak of the reliable promises of God!

So, don’t just be another one in the crowd!  Yearn and learn to become a true follower of Christ Jesus!  All God’s promises in Christ are “Yes” and “Amen”!

Divisions of Christ’s Army

Divisions occur not just between disciples and non-disciples but among disciples themselves; over pride, power, loyalties, theology, doctrine, practice, possessions, commitment, unforgiveness, and more.  The apostle Paul said these divisions should not be, but he also said that he was not surprised by them. He said, “No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.”

And of course, there will be differences of opinion over that statement and who it is that has God’s approval, but one thing all disciples should agree on is this; even while we “love one another” and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bonds of peace”, ultimately, it is God’s approval that we seek, even the Lord Jesus, who is the Head of the Church and the Master of every disciple. It is to Him that we will have to give an account.

Pivoting on the Emmaus Easter Break

Emmaus was a turning point. The disciples on that road were heading away from Jerusalem and away from believing that Jesus was the One they were waiting for, because he died on Friday.

They had seen his signs and wonders, and had heard his amazing teachings, but they did not understand. Though their hearts now burned again within them at His spoken words, they were still kept from fully knowing Him until He revealed Himself in the breaking of the bread, the act which still proclaims His death until He comes again.

It was then that their eyes were opened, and they pivoted in their faith. They returned to Jerusalem, believing in Him as the One they were hoping for, because He died and rose again. And this Jesus purposely revealed to them in this breaking of the bread in which He was truly present.

The truth is, without the resurrection, the Lord could not be fully known in this way, because if still dead, he could not be known in any way, and the meal would be a mere memorial with no life and power, which Jesus did not institute it to be.

Sadly, many Christian’s break fellowship on this point. So we pray, “Lord Jesus, be known to all your disciples in the breaking of the bread.”  Let us recognize you whenever and however you choose to be known.

Modern Men and Total Docility

The over-sensitivity of “modern” politically-correct and softened men has led parts of the Church and society, to prefer submitted men who have “quiet and gentle spirits”- 1 Peter 3:4. The problem with this, is that this Scripture refers to women, who God prefers this way mostly, except for those He raises up like Deborah the Prophetess and Judge, in order to put timid men to shame. – Judges 4:8-9 .

If anyone challenges the “modern” Church and society with this problem, they are often met with an angry response that is neither “quiet or gentle”.  Interesting, how that works.

The Church and society needs servant men who can not only set up tables, but who can overturn them if and whenever needed, as well.  Because of and for this, God Himself has given the Church, men in particular, “not a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” -2: Tim 1:7,  which includes the transitive ability to moderate and admonish.

Is is important to understand that the “total docility” of men can be a dangerous dimension that also needs to be disciplined, as it has been before in God’s House, by men sent by God, and if necessary, a woman.

Let us Die with Him

In John chapter 11, the disciple Thomas’ fatalistic perception of dying with Jesus Christ in Jerusalem was based on his misunderstanding of what Jesus said “must” occur. From Thomas’ perception, it falsely meant the permanent end of life and the loss of everything promised including the new Messianic King and the establishment of the Kingdom of God, from which he concluded there would be no reason to live, so they might as well all die with Him.  He didn’t understand that first the Christ had to suffer death in order for new life and the Kingdom to arise, and that His death would not be the end of life and the loss of the promises, but instead was meant to bring about the end of death and loss of all things that could never fulfill the promises.

As Christians we must understand that dying with Christ, to ourselves and our old life of sin which leads to death, being buried with Christ in His death, is what clears the way for new life in Christ and the Kingdom within us, to arise! The Christian Faith is not fatalistic, but fulfilling of God’s promises through Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.  So let us “die with Him” that we may live again, and again!

Following to Serve Not Ourselves

In Matthew 20:17 Jesus told his disciples, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for others”, as they argued about who was going to have the greatest position and power in the coming Kingdom. The fight broke out because Momma Zebedee and her two Thunder Boys created a storm when they asked Jesus about sitting on His right and left side, and the other ten became indignant probably because they had not asked first. Good thing the other mothers weren’t around! In response, Jesus instructed them all on the humble attitude they should preserve and the lowly position they should pursue, when following Him. The call to follow Jesus was not a race to see who would be first (that position was taken already), second or third, but who would become the last and the least among them. When we follow Jesus in order to secure for ourselves a high position in His Kingdom, we show that we have miss-learned what it means to be his disciple and we distance ourselves from the heart of the man, the Son of Man, who is the true Servant of the Lord. When we serve for selfish reasons, we lose out, because we are really following the world.

Jesus the Leper

After Jesus healed the leper in Luke chapter 5, He circumstantially exchanged positions with the leper who was previously forced to dwell in lonely solitary places due to his leprous condition, which classified that person as unclean and not permitted to be near other people, not just because of the possible contagion, but also because of his likely facial appearance, having been covered with leprosy. At first the leper had to hide his face from everyone, but now Jesus did, after the healed leper disobeyed Jesus and told everyone about the healing. The healed man’s disobedience caused Jesus to suffer in lonely place outside of town, like one afflicted and stricken by God, in this case, with leprosy.

For Jesus, this was a preview of the cross he would have to bear. He exchanged places with us on more than one occasion.

Becoming Peter

In Luke 5, Peter is referred to by Luke as “Simon” but uses “Simon-Peter” to mark the beginning of the change, the extraordinary moment when Simon is overwhelmed by Jesus’ “catch of fish” miracle and Simon becomes open to the call upon to become the man Jesus said He would make him to be in John 1:42, that is Peter.  This happens when Simon is struck with the reality that Jesus is more than he thought He was, and he moves from respectfully calling Jesus, “Master-Teacher” to “Lord”, which is a prerequisite to follow Him.

When were you first struck with who Jesus really was and  how did it open you to His call to you?