Let’s don’t fool ourselves, let’s examine ourselves.

Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.
John 15:20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.15.20.NLT

A slave to sin is mastered by evil. It is because this slave is not stronger than His master that he cannot overcome the master and break free. Our world is full of people who are slaves to sin.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.
John 8:34 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.34.NLT

And those who are slaves to sin are not the same as those who are freed. Those who are still slaves to sin are not yet a permanent member of the family.

A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.
John 8:35 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.35.NLT

And if we are still slaves to sin, isn’t it clear that we are not strong enough on our own to overcome that which has enslaved us? We need someone stronger than our current master so we might be delivered from slavery.

For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
Matthew 12:29 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.12.29.NLT

But it was not God’s plan for us to remain slaves. This is why Jesus Christ came in the flesh,  to walk this earth as a man,  subject to the law – so that He could fulfill the law and free us from our bondage.

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.  And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”  Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.4.4-7.NLT

And if we are His and if we truly believe,  then we are set free from sin – not just free from the consequences – but free from being a slave to sin any longer.

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.36.NLT

And the prompting for us to cry out to Him,  the call for us to believe, it is a free gift extended to us from our Heavenly Father who wants to reconcile us back into His household as His children.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.
John 3:16-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.16-18.NLT

The reason that we are free is not our own power – but in the authority that Christ gives us over all the power of the enemy. There is power in the name of Jesus Christ, in the name of Yeshua HaMashiach.

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning!  Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.  But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”
Luke 10:17-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.10.17-20.NLT

But the problem then remains that we are free,  but we remain in a world filled with slaves. And those slaves are still serving their old master. They are still in darkness.

And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.  All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed.  But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:19-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.3.19-21.NLT

The revealing and divisive thing about  Jesus Christ is that since He makes His power and authority available to us, we have no excuse for remaining in our sins. We truly have the ability to choose who we would rather love and serve – our old master of sin and wickedness and worldliness and things of the flesh, or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who welcomes us into our Heavenly Father’s house and eternal life. We choose whether we love the things of this world or the heavenly and eternal treasures of God.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. “Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.  But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is! “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Matthew 6:19-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.6.19-24.NLT

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?
Matthew 16:24-26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.16.24-26.NLT

So if the world loves things of the world, if the world is seeking prosperity, and honor from one another, and titles, and pleasures, but we love the things of God – that is going to create some division. 

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.  Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.
John 15:18-23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.15.18-23.NLT

Yes, it will cause division because there are two different masters involved. One whose works are evident in the flesh of those he still holds captive in slavery:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.19-21.NLT

And the one true God who as our Heavenly Father,  by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit,  produces a new kind of life in those He is reconciling to be like Him:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Galatians 5:22-24 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.22-24.NLT

So we must ask ourselves, are we still slaves to sin, serving the current master of this world’s slaves? Or are we called and chosen, set apart as a peculiar people – because we are light amongst the darkness,  the salt of the earth? And if we are His,  what must we do?

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.  This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:16-17 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.15.16-17.NLT

So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
James 1:21-22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jas.1.21-22.NLT

Love like Christ?

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
John 13:34 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.13.34.NLT

The NEW part of this commandment is not to “Love each other”. Even in the Old Testament, the Jewish people we instructed to love their neighbors as themselves.

Leviticus 19:18
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

God’s voice did not change in the new testament, the message has been the same all along – it’s just that Jesus Christ came to demonstrate it fully revealed, and to open our eyes to what real love looks like, and to teach us what the Spirit of the Word of God looks like in contrast to the Letter of the Law. He came to open our eyes from a perspective of obligation and sacrifice – to a perspective of mercy, faith, and opportunity.

The NEW part of Christ’s commandment is “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” It’s about us being like Christ. — Hold on, hit the brakes, are you really saying that I need to follow in His footsteps? — Yep, I sure am, but let’s hold onto that meat for a moment while we drink some milk and prepare ourselves for a hearty meal. Let’s talk about “our way” for a moment.

You see, we can make asking us to love our neighbor easy on ourselves, because we look at the word love, examining the letter of the law, and we start to tear it down into a measuring stick where we say to ourselves, “Well, I don’t really know my neighbor or care about them, but I don’t steal from them or cause them any problems, so that’s loving in a way.”

Mankind is very good at arguing whether or not we’ve met the “requirements of the law” – we even have a lucrative profession whose whole purpose is to tear apart the wording of the law and speak for us in a court of law. But when it comes to the things that matter, it doesn’t matter if our tongues are silver enough to argue how well we measure up to the requirements. In fact, Christ expects us to be truthful and for our words to flow from our heart and from the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches us.

Luke 6:45
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.  For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Matthew 10:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/mat.10.19-20.NLT

So Christ expects us to love like He loves. He reveals something revolutionary. He wants us to be like Him. In fact, He sets the bar amazingly high, telling us to give open handedly to others without expecting payment in return, He tells us to turn the other cheek to those who hurt us, He tells us to love and forgive those who consider themselves our enemies, He tells us to not be angry with others, to not even look at someone in lust. And He does this so that if we decide to measure ourselves by the law, it should become immediately clear to us that we will fall short of perfection.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.23.NLT

And it isn’t that the law itself is bad, but that man’s perspective about the law was perverted, was twisted:

Psalm 19:7
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Romans 3:19-20 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.19-20.NLT

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.
Romans 8:3-4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.8.3-4.NLT

He makes us right through faith.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
Romans 3:22 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.22.NLT

And this is because He is changing us, reconciling us back to God, so that we are living for God and loving others like He demonstrated love for us.

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:15-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/2co.5.15-21.NLT

Yes, He is making us like Him. He is revealing to us this great mystery. He is restoring the relationship that is the very essence of our being alive and freed from death.

God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.
Colossians 1:25-28 NLT
http://bible.com/116/col.1.25-28.NLT

So we should ask ourselves – am I following His commandment to love others like He demonstrated? Am I still a slave to sin? Am I a son being reconciled to be like Him? And I don’t have the excuse of “I can’t” to fall back on, because “He can”. The question them becomes “Do I believe? Have I fully accepted His Lordship over my life? Do I have this relationship with a living Christ who is in me?”

It’s a pretty important question, friend – one with eternal consequences. Yes, now we are past the milk and getting into the meat. Are you still a slave, or are you a son?

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34-36 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.8.34-36.NLT

And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”  So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
Galatians 4:28-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.4.28-31.NLT

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Galatians 5:1, 5-5, 7-8, 13-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.1-14.NLT

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
Galatians 5:16-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.16-18.NLT

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gal.5.19-25.NLT

October 30, 2015 – Dinner on Fridays

How do I know if I am being encouraging and helping someone with accountability or if I am being judgemental,  Grumbling, or gossiping?

Encouragement – building each other up
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3870&t=KJV

1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing

.

Accountability – Equipping one another for spiritual warfare
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2008&t=KJV
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2675&t=KJV

Luke 17:3 ESV
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,

James 5:16 ESV
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Galatians 6:1-3 ESV
http://bible.com/59/gal.6.1-3.ESV

Judgmental – Spiritual pride of measuring another’s imperfections
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2919&t=KJV

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:12-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jas.2.12-13.ESV

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned;  forgive, and you will be forgiven;  give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
Luke 6:37-38, 41-42 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.6.37-42.ESV

Grumbling – Complaining about the circumstance that God has you in
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4727&t=KJV
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1112&t=KJV

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
James 5:7-9 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jas.5.7-9.ESV

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
Philippians 2:14-16 ESV
http://bible.com/59/php.2.14-16.ESV

Gossip – Corrupting talk about others
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G988&t=KJV
REF: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4550&t=KJV

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV
http://bible.com/59/eph.4.29-32.ESV

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,  a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,  a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/pro.6.16-19.ESV

Here is the pearl – it matters which way we are looking. We are to be looking forward, not looking back. Focused on hope and commitment for now and the future, nor dwelling on the past.

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:12-14 NLT
http://bible.com/116/php.3.12-14.NLT

He said to another person, “Come, follow me.” The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:59-62 NLT
http://bible.com/116/luk.9.59-62.NLT

But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.
Genesis 19:26 NLT
http://bible.com/116/gen.19.26.NLT

We have to stop looking back. Forgive for the past – and encourage and hold accountable going forward. If we slip up, we confess to our accountability partner(s) and pray together for forgiveness and that we will repent and build each other up in that area of weakness – that we will see His strength come to bear and overcome those chains.

If we are harping on something a person has done in the past – we need to forgive and make it right between ourselves and that brother or sister – looking for a fully restored relationship encouraging one another starting now. We are to be peacemakers.

If we are complaining about something,  we are allowing the Spirit of offense to build up bitterness in our hearts over the past,  instead of focusing on what can’t be changed,  we should focus on what we can do now and for the future to improve the situation.  We are to be overcomes – challenge minded,  not problem minded.

If we are talking about what someone did in the past, instead of about the hope we have for their future – we are both participating in gossip and we are not holding out hope and faith that the Lord will answer our prayers for them to be alive and growing in Christ.

Words have power,  and they are important.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad,  for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:33-37 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.12.33-37.ESV

In need of an Emergency Response

I spent last night in the Emergency Room. It started out with me writhing in pain, indescribable pain in my back and groin, my whole body shaking uncontrollably, fits of nausea – the pain was so intense that I couldn’t talk,  only groan and cry out. I couldn’t even open my eyes and see what was happening around me as the ocean of pain remained at my neck and the waves carried well above my threshold of control.

I cried out to God in my mind,  because my words, my very tongue failed me in the midst of the stripes of pain that ripped through my torso as if my very insides were being torn apart. I clung to my Bible, my faithful sword that remains by my side day in and day out,  and I cried out for mercy,  for the pain to be less, for us to be in the hands of the doctors miraculously faster as mom drove the Interstate to Pelham ER.

Now I must point out, even though Spartanburg Regional ER is just down the street from our house, my mom suggested we make the drive to Pelham instead. I am continually learning the value of listening to wise council, so I took her lead on this and we were off.

As I fought the pain, I opened the sunroof so that I could “lift my eyes to heaven” (my study this week). The pain was so bad that I was beginning to lose feeling in my extremities,  and I was wretching and convulsing. I had given up any hope of masking my pain from my heartbroken mother as she hurriedly rushed me to the place she knew was best to help me with my physical pain. She was downy in getting me the help that I needed so desperately. Praise God for the work He does through the hands of my loving mother.

But as she was traveling with me along the interstate,  the Lord was traveling with me along a path as well – and He was most concerned with bringing me closer to Him spiritually through this experience. His eyes were set upon the glorious spiritual healing and gifts eternal that He had in store for me in the midst of this fiery trial.

His ways are very different from mine,  and on that Interstate, He took us past the cross.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
Isaiah 53:5 NLT
http://bible.com/116/isa.53.5.NLT

I do not even feel right quoting 1 Peter 4:13 or 2 Corinthians 1:5 here,  even though it applies so well, because even my writhing pain was NOTHING IN COMPARISON to what He endured for me on the cross. As I cried out to Him,  I was humbled as each stripe of pain wracked my body and reminded me of His torture,  of what was meant for His shame because of the hardened hearts and short sighted plans of men – but the cross was the road to victory eternal at the right hand of God the Father. This was the road that we traveled together this night.

Yes,  He used the kidney stones,  the pain,  to bring me to the heartbreak and victory of the cross fresh and new on that Interstate as we rushed towards the physical healing that my body cried out for. But the call of my heart,  the cries of my soul was greater, and He brought me first the closeness of His spiritual touch upon my heart, giving me peace even as I cried out in the pain. He reminded me over and over again of the cross, and He proved himself Faithful and True yet again.

As the night’s events progressed,  His miraculous nature continued to reveal itself,  not in a magic show put on to dazzle a crowd – and not in signs and wonders as He bent the fabric of time and space itself in a visible and recognizable exercise of His power for the one He calls his own. But nevertheless,  His amazing hand revealed itself in the answer to my prayers. We arrived at the ER and I could barely function because of the pain. Within 3 minutes,  they had me headed to a room. Within 5-10 minutes,  they had the IV in and were starting the physical healing.

And as the clouds of pain rolled back, and as I could see clearly again,  as I could once again think clearly and loosen my death grip upon my Bible – I found myself afraid to move. I didn’t know whether it was the medicine, or if I had passed the kidney stone, or if I was just getting a respite from the pain so that I could once again take whole breaths. But I knew to remain still in this wonderful taste of relief that had curbed the pain so quickly.

I was amazed. We had driven to Pelham instead of to the hospital right near our house,  and with as many times as I visit the hospitals to pray in their chapels and to sit and pray in the emergency rooms for the families being impacted by the pain and sufferings in this life – I know the time that it takes to get processed and into an emergency room.

Yes,  the scoffers will say,  but they expedite people in pain,  you’re making something out of nothing. But I’ve been in real pain at the ER before, and they don’t just hand out pain meds willy nilly to everyone claiming pain – ask any addict that has tried to score pain meds from an ER.

Yes,  He answered my prayers. And He did it in His time and His way,  and it was amazing and glorious. I got to praise Him all night with my mom by my side and with grateful praise to everyone in that facility. And not preaching to them about God – and not by making them uncomfortable trying to win a “convert” over to the “Christian religion”. But they saw my gratefulness for their service. They heard us listening to praise songs and thankful even when the CT scan was delayed. They saw us focusing on the positive and glorious and wonderfully blessed life that God has handed us – these peculiar Christians who praised God and honored them,  and who loved them and appreciated everything they had done for us – even as I clung to that Bible like it was a valuable treasure that I had just found buried in a field.

I don’t know if any of last night’s events will testify to the glory of God in the eyes of those in that ER, and that was so far from my mind at that moment. In fact, if it had been in my mind,  it might not have rang genuine and true and may have smelled like just another religious hypocrite. But the sweet aroma of the presence of the Lord was with us last night on that Interstate and in that ER – even if no one else caught a glimpse or a whiff of His touch upon our lives – even if He didn’t make a huge show of parting the red seas in a miraculous and undeniable way to the eyes of men – He really did do it in a way that His children could see and recognize.

Praise God for His amazing ways.
Praise God for His mercy and His faithfulness.

He is – truly,  truly,  truly,  I tell you – worthy of all praise.

What are we battling against

If we are going to war in our prayer closets, what are we setting our sights on?  The things that we hate and fear,  or the things that are the enemies of God?

I see a lot of prayer requests about sickness or death – healing in the flesh – but much fewer requests about healing eternal in the spiritual areas of life that matter most. I see requests and seeking of physical prosperity – security by earthly means – but much fewer requests about strengthening faith in God to provide what He has already promised.

If we are going to war in our prayer closets,  shouldn’t we know the enemy whom we should be targeting? And do we believe the true enemy to be who our deceitful hearts tell us to wage war against, or do we look to God for His guidance regarding who our true enemies should be? If we serve the Lord, aren’t His enemies clearly our true enemies that are the real threat to us and our brothers and sisters?

Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

So clearly, these are big on the Lord’s hit list:

1) Pride
2) Deceit
3) Treachery
4) Wickedness
5) Gossip/False Testimony
6) Dissention/Division/Envy/Jealousy

1 John 2:15-17 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever

He again tells us not to love the world:

1) desires of the flesh
2) desires of the eyes
3) pride in possessions

Those things are passing away.

According to this, what many pray for as “blessings” are “not from the Father” but are “from the world”. So we might begin asking ourselves, who are they praying to if they are asking for those things to be given that are “from the world”? The Father has a name for this worldly, fleshly provider and it is mammon. These are not the “good gifts”, the “eternal gifts”, the “true riches” that God has stored up for His children.

If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?  And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?  No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Luke 16:11-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.16.11-13.ESV

The “unrighteous wealth”, it is “that which is another’s” and we are tested in whether or not we are faithful with it –  being good stewards, using it for God’s glory,  bringing Him Honor and glory – or whether we are enticed by the desires of the flesh,  the desires of our eyes,  and the pride of possessions.

These enemies of God, are they our enemies as well? Are we doing battle against these enemies in our prayer closets?

And isn’t it clear that our enemies are not our brothers and sisters?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/eph.6.12.ESV

And what enemies are keeping our brothers and sisters from entering into the Kingdom of God?  Aren’t these clearly the enemies of God’s wish that none should perish? Shouldn’t these enemies be targeted in our prayer closets? How do we recognize when these enemies are at work in our lives and the lives of our brothers and sisters?

Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:7 ESV
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

Evidence of the work of the enemy, evidence of sin,  of sickness leading to eternal spiritual death:
1) sexual immorality
2) impurity
3) sensuality
4) idolatry
5) sorcery
6) enmity
7) strife
8) jealousy
9) fits of anger
10) rivalries
11) dissensions
12) divisions
13) envy
14) drunkenness
15) orgies

Be on lookout for this evidence of the enemy, as if standing guard on a watch tower. And let your battle cries to heaven be heard for spiritual reinforcements, and let your gentle encouragement be a warning to those ensnared and in need of healing.

We and our brothers and sisters need to be delivered from these enemies of God,  and that is why we do battle against these giants with the stone of our prayers.

1 John 2:4-6 ESV
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

We want to see the captives set free so they will live and will “walk in the way He walked”.

Romans 8:13 ESV
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Yes, we seek lives freed from the bondage of these captors, so that we all are growing and becoming more like our teacher, with our minds set upon the higher things,  not things of the world or of the flesh. 

2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So put on your armor,  Child of God,  it is time to do battle, now that the light has been sinned upon our true enemies.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.
Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.6.10-18.NLT

In battle, do we lift up our eyes, or just charge blindly?

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord . Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my Lord say to his servant?”
Joshua 5:13-14 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jos.5.13-14.ESV

How often do we see the world as men and women of flesh and blood who are either for us or against us?  But the Bible tells us about our real enemies –

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12 ESV
http://bible.com/59/eph.6.12.ESV

Joshua “lifted up his eyes and looked” and gained something very valuable for His battle. He didn’t charge blindly into battle because the enemy was nearby – he “lifted up his eyes and looked”.

This commander of heaven’s armies demonstrates to Joshua clearly that his loyalty is to God, not to a nation of people  – when Joshua asks a question expecting an A or B answer and instead gets a whole new answer outside his original frame of reference.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the Lord ,
who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2 ESV
http://bible.com/59/psa.121.1-2.ESV

You see,  sometimes our frame of reference reverts to this physical world and the ways that it operates and we don’t have the spiritual vision or awareness to understand what it means from that higher perspective. If this battle was just about one people against another, then men receive glory from each other for the victory. But Joshua was not called to receive glory for himself or even for Israel. He wasn’t called to be loyal to men but to God. The glory of the battle was meant to be for God.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2 ESV
http://bible.com/59/col.3.1-2.ESV

When we lift our thoughts out of the distractions of this world and remember that we are not at battle against men of flesh and blood, but that we do battle against principalities and evil forces that work through those around us who are still in chains of bondage – we begin to realize that it’s about the Lord being glorified in our choices, our decisions,  our reactions.

Each moment of opposition felt from another person is actually an opportunity to show them love, mercy,  forgiveness, gentleness,  kindness, and self control in return. It is an opportunity to demonstrate that Christ has won yet another battle in our lives and that we are not simply walking in the flesh,  reacting the way that the world expects.

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:12-13 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.9.12-13.ESV

When struck in the face by another, when accused unjustly, when shamed and spit upon by the world, the world reacts in kind – but Christ calls us out to be set apart as a peculiar people. He tells us to turn the other cheek. He tells us to give and love even to those who would steal from us. He tells us that lost souls in need of love are more valuable to win over as friends of Christ than to let die as enemies.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:4-7 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.15.4-7.ESV

Yes, He tells us to pick up our cross and bear it for one another. Not to bear it for those we think are deserving of His love and forgiveness,  because none of us, are deserving. Not me. Not you.

But we love because He first loved us.

Our battle is not against one another.

And our loyalty is not to self.

He is Lord, He is Savior, He is Redeemer, and He has won the victory!

To God be the Glory in our lives today.

Through the eyes of a child

God recently allowed me to see Jesus through the eyes of someone seeing Him for the first time. Having the advantage of knowing how the story ends, we can easily forget the cost of our redemption and the Love of our Saviour.

Every year we attend a local Church pageant which tells the Story of Jesus from His birth through His resurrection. It is a spectacular event, with live animals and hundreds of cast members in realistic costumes.

The Magi enter the huge auditorium on Llamas from the rear, descending the steps in pomp and majesty. Roman Soldiers look huge and menacing in their costumes and makeup.

Of all the years we have attended, one stands out indelibly in my heart. It was the year we took our then three-year-old Granddaughter, Bailey, who Loves Jesus. She was totally mesmerized throughout the entire play, not just watching, but involved as if she were a player. She watches as Joseph and Mary travel to the Inn and is thrilled when she sees the baby Jesus in His Mother’s arms.

Later when Jesus, on a young Donkey, descends the steps from the back of the auditorium, depicting His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Bailey was ecstatic. As he neared our aisle, Bailey began jumping up and down, screaming, “Jesus, Jesus! There’s Jesus!” Not just saying the words but exclaiming them with every fiber of her being. She alternated between screaming his name and hugging us. “It’s Jesus. Look!” I thought she might actually pass out.

Tears filled my eyes as I looked at Jesus through the eyes of a Child in Love with Him, seeing Him for the first time. How like the blind beggar screaming out in reckless abandon, “Jesus, Jesus!”, afraid he might miss Him, not caring what others thought.

This was so much fun but… then came the arrest scene.

On stage, the Soldiers shoved and slapped Jesus as they moved Him from the Garden of Gethsemane to Pilate. Bailey responded as if she were in the crowd of Women, with terror and anger. “Stop it!” she screamed. “Bad Soldiers, stop it!” As I watched her reaction, I wished we had talked to her before the play.

“Bailey it’s OK. They are just pretending,” but she shouted “They are hurting Jesus! Stop it!”She stood in her seat reacting to each and every move. People around us at first smiled at her reaction, thinking “How cute!”. Then they quit smiling and began watching her watch Him. In a most powerful scene, the Soldiers lead Jesus carrying the cross down the steps of the auditorium from the back. They were yelling, whipping, and cursing at Jesus, who was bloodied and beaten.

Bailey was now hysterical. “Stop it! Soldiers! Stop it,” she screamed. She must have been wondering why all these people did nothing. She then began to cry instead of scream.

“Jesus, Oh, Jesus!” People all around us began to weep as we all watch this devoted little Disciple see her Jesus beaten and killed as those first Century Disciples had. Now going back and forth between her Mother’s lap and mine for comfort, she was distraught. I kept saying, “Bailey, it’s OK. Jesus is going to be OK. These are just people pretending to be Soldiers. She looked at me like I was crazy. In my lap, we talked through the cross and burial. “Watch, Bailey, watch for Jesus!”

The Tomb began to tremble and lightening flashed as the stone rolled away. A Super Bowl Touchdown cheer couldn’t come close to matching this little one’s reaction to the resurrection. “Jesus! He’s OK Mommy, it’s Jesus!” ” It’s Jesus!”

I prayed that she wasn’t going to be traumatized by this event, but that she would remember it. I shall never forget it. I shall never forget seeing Jesus’ suffering, Crucifixion, and Resurrection through the eyes of an innocent Child.

Following the pageant the Actors all assembled in the foyer to be greeted by the Audience. As we passed by some of the Soldiers Bailey screamed out, “Bad Soldier, don’t you hurt Jesus.”

The Actor who portrayed Jesus was some distance away surrounded by well-wishers and friends. Bailey broke away from us and ran toward Him, wrapping herself around his legs, holding on for dear life. He hugged her and said, “Jesus Loves you.” He patted her to go away. She wouldn’t let go. She kept clinging to Him, laughing and calling His name. She wasn’t about to let go of her Jesus.

I think God in Heaven stopped what ever was going on that day and made all the Angels watch Bailey and said… ..”Now, look there! You see what I meant when I said;”  … “Let the little Children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” ( Matthew 19:14 )

Then Jesus called a little Child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little Children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little Child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one little Child like this in My name receives Me. Matthew 18:2-5 (N.K.J.V)

– Author Unknown

Does the story end in death?

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”
John 11:4 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.11.4.NLT

How often do we pray for something,  expecting both immediate results and for it to be done “our way”?

I’m sure there were those who remembered Christ saying this and when someone came to tell them Lazarus was dead,  their lack of belief,  their lack of faith was proven, because they couldn’t yet see how Christ was going to use this circumstance to demonstrate the miraculous where people were used to the ordinary.

How many times do we put God into the box of operating within the confines of c what we understand about the world?  How often do we learn about the sciences which measure how we expect the world to operate under normal conditions – and we expect God to only work within the normal bounds of His creation?

But sometimes the Lord has something miraculous and unexpected in mind. And sometimes the answers to our prayers will extend beyond what we even understand as possible. Sometimes the healing takes place after the death. Sometimes the blessing comes after the breathing stops. Sometimes the fruit is being grown and the change is happening during an excruciating trial.

His ways are very different than our own. But He is always faithful and true. For Lazarus,  his death was not the end of the story,  for He was raised to life, after death – just as I hope each and every one of you will experience one day. Know the path and walk the path. Start at John 3:16 & Acts 4:12 and never stop digging,  never stop running this race to the finish. So that the Son of God will receive glory in your story as well.

Our choices matter, and have eternal consequences

SIN
Isaiah 59:2 ESV
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that He does not hear.

MERCY EXTENDED
Ezekiel 33:11 ESV
Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

FORGIVENESS AVAILABLE
1 John 1:9 ESV
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

NARROW PATH VS LEGALISM OR CONTINUING IN SIN
Proverbs 14:12 ESV
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

GIFT OF GRACE
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,  for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.
John 10:28-29 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.10.28-29.NLT

RELIGION VS RELATIONSHIP
2 Peter 2:20-22 ESV
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

FALSE CONVERT VS BORN AGAIN, SPIRIT FILLED
Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

EXAMINING & IDENTIFYING OURSELVES
Hebrews 10:26 ESV
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

THE PAYMENT HAS BEEN MADE
Isaiah 53:6 ESV
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

UNDERSTAND HIS LOVE
Romans 5:8 ESV
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

CONFESS AND BELIEVE
Romans 10:9-10 ESV
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

THE CALL OF GOD – THE CHOICE OF MAN
Revelation 3:20 ESV
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

THE DECISION – TURNING AWAY
John 6:64-69 ESV
But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,

THE DECISION – LIVE IN CHRIST & CHRIST IN YOU
John 15:5 ESV
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

THE RESULT
And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:6-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rev.21.6-8.NLT

Why, Lord?

“Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.
John 9:2-3 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jhn.9.2-3.NLT

So often,  we cry out,  “Why,  Lord?”

Christians aren’t guaranteed a life of ease and prosperity and comfort while on this earth, and our circumstances compared to the rest of the world are not an indicator of our sinfulness or faithfulness. If Jesus gave us everything that we asked for every time and on our time-frame, we would only choose to use Him,  not to love and serve Him.

Sometimes we won’t know this side of eternity why we are facing a certain circumstance in our lives,  but He always gives us the promise that He is with us and will not forsake us. And in fact,  His way is so much better than the way that we might choose for ourselves if we were in control of our lives with no guidance, correction, discipline, love and encouragement from our Heavenly Father who lives us.

Heavenly Father,  we trust you – even in those times where we might not understand. You know best. Your will be done,  not ours.