Thursday, April 29, 2010

Where is you linen belt?

Read Jeremiah 13: 1-11

It is a powerful illustration that God gives to Jeremiah. How many of us take a look back and realize that we have left our linen belt to the elements? Will we continue on as we have and let it fall to ruin? God has made a covenant with all of us. That covenant was signed and sealed by Jesus Christ. He has purchased our freedom with His blood. The father is our provider. His son Jesus is our advocate, our savior. We have been given many gifts, and the Holy Spirit has come to us as the foreman to ensure that we know how to use them and use them well. He is there to ensure that we finish strong. He guides us, instructs us, and is our comforter when the task seems to be too much.
We have all heard the phrase, “Use it or lose it.” Trainers like to use that phrase. Unused muscles fall to atrophy. Unused talents lose there edge without practice. Are our spiritual gifts any different? We have been given everything by God. Nothing can happen unless He allows it.
God gave everything to the people of Israel. They lived in a blessed land, rich in every form of wealth. On the thrown, was a line of kings promised by God to continue for all eternity. They could not fail. He would not let them. Nobody had it better than the people of Israel. If someone gave you all of the riches you desired, would you be grateful? What if you were given the promise that your continued faithfulness would be rewarded in this way for all eternity? The people of Israel had exactly that, and yet the faltered. They fell away. They squandered their wealth and ignored the gift of God’s promise.
That promise became useless to them. God did not remove His blessing or His promise. At the same time, the people of Israel had lost faith and wasted their gifts. God did not take them away. He made them useless to those who would not use them. They were ruined, like the linen belt left to the elements for many days.
In Christ, God’s promise to Israel is fulfilled. David’s line will reign forever. Christ, the King of Kings’ reign will never end. He is the redeemer and he has made a new covenant with us.

Matthew 26:27-28

Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Christ has made with us a new covenant. We have His promise. We have also been given new gifts. We have been promised all the riches of the kingdom of heaven. We are to be it’s citizens. We have been given the gifts we need to further that kingdom now. They are the gifts that we need to make it grow. They are the gifts we need to glorify God and to spread his message to our fellow man, lifting up one another in love and kindness.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we read about the many spiritual gifts given to us, the people who make up the body of Christ. Every part has it’s purpose and all are needed to function as we should. What is your gift? Do you know? You have one. Every one of us does. Get into the scriptures. Pray to the Lord. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you. He is there, waiting. We are His. Our father and provider wants to see us succeed. Our advocate is ready, at the banquet, to stand beside us before the father and call us friend. He has already paid the price of our admittance. The Holy Spirit is there for us. Our foreman is working to ensure that we get the job done between now and the day of the feast.
We have been given the tools to succeed. These gifts have been given to us by God. Will we use them to the fullest or will our linen belts fall to ruin?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Standing Opposed

2 Timothy 2:14

Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

2 Timothy 2:22-26

Flee the desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servants must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Some instructions are harder to swallow than others. We are called to act in faith and love. We are to spread the word of God and pray for the coming of His kingdom. Sometimes we meet up with some fierce opposition. Often, people will not want to listen. Nothing has changed in this area since the days when Christ walked the earth. Other times the opposition may be more direct.
We may find ourselves ostracized from a group that would otherwise offer open arms. People with impressive credentials, or in powerful positions will stand in the way of our calling to spread the good news. Sometimes they will attempt to call you out, so to speak, and make you look the fool by contradicting you in public.
Do not let this draw you into the confrontation that the enemy desires. It won’t take long to lose your temper. At that point it all goes south. Words spoken in anger often discredit us even in tasks of the most mundane nature. How much more credibility will you lose when you are supposed to be representing the Kingdom of Heaven? We are ambassadors of the Lord and are expected to act accordingly. The word of God stands on it’s own. God is not in need of our attempts to justify His words. Christ is our advocate. It need not be the other way around.
We have to remind ourselves that those who seem to oppose us are not always the enemy himself, but his misguided tools. We are up against a far greater threat than that heckler in the crowd, or that public figure who has taken the opposition to a very personal level.

Ephesians 6:12

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

There are spiritual forces that throw themselves at us daily. When they can’t touch us directly, they come at us through others. Yes, those people have allowed it to happen. Often, they have even invited those forces in and are working willingly along side them. This does not change one simple fact. They are lost.
God has directed us to pray for them too. Christ would not have healed the possessed if they, as individuals were truly the enemy. No, it is those doing the manipulating that we must come against in prayer. It is hard to resist fighting what you see in front of you. Everything inside you knows the truth and is ready to defend it to the very end. We want to win the day and further the kingdom against the enemy. Remember that God is far more equipped than we will ever be. We are to spread His gospel and to offer our prayers. Rebuke the spirit behind the sin and opposition. Pray for those who seem to cause the trouble. Remain steadfast and do not give in. We are to set the example and pray for those who resist and even move against us. Let God move in the situation and in the lives of those involved. Remember to do as God directs us and trust Him to do the rest. It is not our place to improvise on His instructions.

Ultimately, it is His will. It is His kingdom. It is His glory.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spiritual Debt: Are you free and clear?

Many have been heard in saying that they would go to church but it is just too much. They don’t really call themselves Christians because they don’t get into all that “stuff.” They just try to live a good life and do what is right. They figure that this should be enough and that God will cut them some slack. They don't see why they need to have Jesus in their lives. Statements like this grieve me to the core. There are some debts that will have to be paid.

Read Ezekiel 18.

God sends a clear message to Ezekiel. If a man turns from his sins and truly repents, then he will be forgiven. From that day forward he is to live the life of a righteous man. If he can do this, his previous sins will be forgotten and he will be judged based on his life beginning from that day. He also makes it clear that a righteous man who sins is in great peril. It is a sign that he has turned from the Lord and he will be judged as a wicked man. He will face the penalty for his sins. That penalty is death.
God has always offered his people the opportunity to turn from their wicked ways and repent. He does not desire to see us suffer in death. He is a God of second chances. The difference for us today is that we have Christ to be our advocate before the Father.
When we turn and repent, we are forgiven. That is a fact. It is also a fact that the standard does not change. God’s laws do not cease to exist. Before Christ, men would provide a sin offering. A burnt offering would be given up to the Lord to cover the sins that were confessed. Their past sins were forgiven, but every thought, word, and deed from that moment forward were still subject to His judgment. People would bring these sin offerings to the temple on a regular basis to purify themselves and have their sins forgiven. What would happen if they died in some way before making the next offering? None of us are truly righteous.

Romans 3:23

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This sacrifice is no longer required. God has not changed the standard. Not one letter of the law has been changed. What is the difference then? The difference is that Christ became that sacrifice for us. He that knew no sin, bore our sins to the cross. Christ Jesus paid our debt and is an eternal offering. His blood has covered all of our sins past, present, and future. That is the difference.
We are still called to repent. We are still called to turn from sinful ways and follow God’s decrees. What has changed is that we have it better than those who lived before Christ. We are covered in his blood. We, have also been left with the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that a believer, covered in His blood and filled with His spirit cannot accomplish.
Remember this amazing reality. The world is still filled with obstacles and temptations just waiting to trip you up and weigh you down, yet we have nothing to fear. Our debt has been paid. We are living free and clear. Christ, the redeemer has conquered death and saved the day. Did you hear that in your heart? Death has been conquered. It is destroyed. Those who have faith in Christ cannot be touched by it. True, our bodies will wither and die. What is awesome is knowing that our souls will live on forever in the presence of the Lord.

2 Timothy 1:10

but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

2 Corinthians 5:8

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Cover yourself in His blood. Live a life filled with the Holy Spirit. God does not delight in our death, but in our redemption. He wants to see us live and live abundantly for Him. Be encouraged. Stay the course. Keep the faith and you will not fail. Our heavenly home awaits.

That sounds like some “stuff” that everyone would want to get into.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How is your fruit?

Mark 11:12-14
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

Mark 11:20-25
In the morning, as they went along, the saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea, ‘ and does not doubt it in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

In Matthew 7, Christ tells us that we can judge a tree by it’s fruit. He directs us that we can recognize those who are truly in Christ the same way. What kind of fruit are you bearing? Is it good fruit or bad fruit? Are you bearing any at all?
We are to walk in faith. We are to pray and believe. If we are truly walking in the light of the Lord it will show in our lives. People will know you by your fruit. The Lord does as well. He sees your actions and He sees your heart. There is no fooling the Lord. He knows when you are acting in faith and when you are going through the motions. We are called to have no doubt in our hearts, but to believe fully and we will be blessed. God loves His children and wants the best for them.
There is another piece to the puzzle. God calls for our obedience. Christ directs us to forgive others when we pray. How often are we wronged? It can be anything from someone cutting you off in traffic to outright hurt or theft. Our part is the same. We are called to forgive. Sometimes it is easier than others. Remember what Jesus tells us in the Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6: 12 “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors”

Luke 11:4 “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

We are given direction, a promise, and a standard. God will hold us to the standard and He will keep his promise. We simply have to follow His directions, as difficult as that can sometimes be. It all comes back to faith. We, as Christians have to believe. We have to seek God with our whole hearts. Do not fret, for He is listening and He will respond.

Think on it and pray about it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Mustard Seed

In Matthew 17:14 - 20 we see the account of Jesus healing a demon possessed boy.

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but the could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you. Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

How often have we read this and been encouraged? How often have we set out to act on this encouraging scripture and fallen flat on our faces? There is a difference between running out after a good pep talk and stepping out in faith. It is easy to get excited about an idea and run with it. It doesn’t take long for the energy gained from a pep talk to fizzle out. Acting on a feeling takes you just far enough to find yourself alone. The results are rarely what we expect them to be. We usually end up disappointed.
On the other hand, stepping out in faith yields unexpected results of a completely different nature. God has a tendency to go above and beyond for the faithful. Read in 1 Kings 18. Elijah challenges the priests of Baal to one of the greatest showdowns ever. One man stood at one alter and four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal at the other. The prophets of Baal set about their ritual with a zeal that must have been intimidating. They would cut themselves and cry out in great numbers. Elijah is not intimidated. He demands a harder challenge. His offering is doused in water, not once, but three times. He prays a simple prayer of offering, and God responds instantly. The entire offering is consumed in fire from heaven. The priests of Baal are left terrified.

Elijah definitely had the faith required. It is as simple as knowing that God is with you. It is also that hard. It is called faith for a reason. We are called to step out into an unbelieving world and face real situations with serious consequences. It isn’t a time to experiment. Read your bible. The word of God is the foundation for everything. Pray. Prayer is our daily interaction with the Lord. Make Him a real part of your life. How are you going to act on the words of someone you have never met? Faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. You just have to take hold of it.
God is constantly providing us with opportunities to act in faith. He gives us those little nudges that make it clear that some things should not go unattended. Acting in faith does not get easier. It doesn’t diminish in how scary it can be. Acting in faith takes courage. Moses had a speech problem and God sent him to speak to Pharaoh , the greatest king in the land. Gideon was a weakling from the smallest clan, threshing wheat in a wine press in order to keep the Midianites from finding it. God sent that weakling to defeat great armies. These people were terrified of what they were called to do. At the same time, they knew that God was with them and that He would not allow them to fail.

Don’t run out looking for a fight. We don’t need to create our own battles. God has enough tasking for us already. He knows what you are capable of and what He is going to do. Stepping out in faith can be as simple as honoring that nudge from the Lord and speaking to the person next to you on the bus. It can mean praying with that coworker who seems to be having a rough time. A tongue tied teenager may find himself speaking to a crowd. It doesn’t get easier, but you will be encouraged by the results. Remember that it is God acting through you. We can do all things through Christ. We can do nothing unless the Father wills it.

Pray for God to move you and guide you. Pray that you remain steadfast and stay the course. Ask the Lord for the strength to persevere. Pray for God to use you and be ready to act upon His will.

I’m no expert, but it is something to ponder.