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Monday, October 31, 2011

Are You Grown Up?

Why do we tend to listen to those who tell us what we want to hear, even when we each know that what we're being told may be contrary to HIS Word? 

We all do it, I know that I have to really watch myself in this area.  I'll give  you a good example.  One of the goals Faith and I have set for ourselves, and we don't believe that this is a goal that is contrary to HIS will for our family, is that we would be able, through HIS Grace, to buy a home.  Now we're the kind of people that landlords love to move into their rentals, because we do a lot to personalize the house we live in, all with the owner's permission of course.  I jokingly told Faith one time that I wouldn't be surprised if landlords started paying us to move into their properties so that in a couple of years time they would get a total makeover.  After I was injured, which led to disability, almost four years ago, and then almost died exactly three years ago today, the desire for a home of our own became more that just a desire, it became a need.  That need is based on one of my biggest fears, that the LORD will call me home, and my wife and kids wouldn't be able to afford the high rents we're only able to pay by HIS Mercies.  I don't need anyone to counsel me about giving it all to GOD and not worrying over it, that's exactly what I've told many people myself.  But, you know what they say about advice, easy to give and hard to follow.  I know that my family is far more precious to our LORD than the birds of the air, and HE knows that I know that.  So, how not to worry is the question we all face.  What advice can I give myself that I'll be able to follow? 

'Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ, as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;  but as HE who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." '  (I Peter 1:13-16    NKJV)

There it is, straight from His Good News, the Scriptures.  So many times when we're in need of a miracle, which in reality is simply GOD keeping HIS promises, we will give everything to HIM but then never finish our work before HIM.  What I'm saying is that when we take something to the LORD in prayer, what we're actually doing is entering into covenant with HIM.  HIS part of the agreement is that HE is available to hear our petition, and then to answer it based on several things, including what HIS Will holds for us in relation to what we've asked for and whether or not we leave in HIS capable hands what we've placed there by our prayer.  The hardest part of giving something to GOD in prayer is to leave it with HIM, and to not take it back. That's exactly what we do when we continue to bring it up to HIM every time we think about it.  Then we have the biggy, thanking HIM.  And yes, we should begin thanking HIM and praising HIM for answered prayer immediately after we ask from HIM whatever it is we've asked for.  If we take the position that we shouldn't thank HIM until after we decide if HE's responded the way we feel HE should, then we're setting conditions for HIM too follow, and that is dangerous ground to tread on. 

The big thing in this scenario, which is all too real so much of the time, is that worry is a sin.  The Scripture we looked at just a moment ago tells us to 'be holy.'  The two different issues here, committing [a] sin that we're fully aware of and following HIS instruction to 'be holy' doesn't go hand in hand with each other by any stretch of the imagination.

I'm humbled by my wife.  I asked her to put together a bio for me for one of my seminary classes, and when I read what she'd put together, I got a clear picture of how she saw me.  It blew my mind, and a lot of it was because I'd never thought much on how she put me and holiness together.  I also had never realized that she looked up to me, and that humbled me even more simply because I'm not always a real nice person.  I can make excuses like, "Well, I was having a really bad day."  That boat would float for most people since the doctors told her three years ago today that I wouldn't live through the night.  Then about two and a half years ago the specialists told us that I'ld never walk again without 'assistive' devices.  The point I'm making here is yes, I do have days that things get really bad, and try as I may, sometimes I know that I'm not easy to be around.  Yet Faith still sees me as holy and spiritual, that's humbling.  That is the answer to just about all of our conflicts with GOD, that we refuse to totally humble ourselves before HIM.  We always try to hold on to some small piece of ourselves, just so we can feel like we're still in control.  It's not that GOD insists on us groveling at HIS feet for stale bread, it's that HE wants us to know that it's okay to need HIM.  It's okay for us to tell HIM, "Lord, I can't do this, or any other thing, without You."  The thing is that HE already knows that, even before we grow up enough to be humble enough to admit it. 

How about it, are you grown up enough?

Be Blessed in all that HE is too you!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Believe or Worship?

What do we do?  Does believing lead to worship? Is believing in itself worship? Or, is worship by itself evidence of [a] belief?  Then we have  what I think of as the 'next layer' of questions.  Is a belief something we only hold to be true, with or without any type of worship occurring?  Does worship of a person, place, or thing have to be preceded by some type of stated belief in something relative to that person, place, or thing?  Or, does believing in something cause that 'something' to evolve into a belief?  And does that whole operation only take us back to our original questions involving believing and worship?

I think we need to get the experts involved here, and who better to go to than the esteemed James Hastings for widely accepted and very much accredited definitions of the two words behind all of this confusion. 

Worship, both as subst. and verb, was formerly used of reverence or honour done to men as well as to God, and so occurs in Lk 14:10.....  (A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4 )

Hastings goes on to make the point that New Testament worship of GOD grew out of the Jewish Synagogue Worship concept, and that the worship of the members of the Early Church closely resembled what took place in Jewish Synagogues. 

When we go on to our other key word, belief, we're left to determine an adequate definition from Scripture(s) referred to by Hastings.

Belief occurs in AV (Authorized Version) only 2 Thessalonians 2:13 'b. of the truth'; to which RV (Revised Version) adds Romans 10:17 'b. cometh of hearing'....   (A Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 1) 

The meaning of the word belief coming from the Scriptures referrenced by Hastings coincides in large part with what we find in Nelson's Dictionary of Christianity.

Belief  Trust and assurance in a  person, thing, or idea which is held to be true; emotional and intellectual assent to a set of values and ideas; conviction about the reality of the object of a religious faith.  (Nelson's Dictionary of Christianity, Pg. 80)

To go just a bit farther, we'll also develop a Biblical definition for one who holds certain belief's to be true.

Believer Synonym for Chrisian, especially one who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  (Nelson's Dictionary of Christianity, Pg. 80)

To fully appreciate the significant differences in our key words, belief and worship, we really have to take a close look at the Scripture referred to by Hastings in his definition of the word worship.

'But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.'  (Luke 14:10    AV [Authorized Version, which is how the King James Version was originally referred to])

Remember that the word 'worship' connotates not only reverence and honor for GOD, but also reverence and honor given to, and recieved by, other men as well.  In this Scripture from the book of Luke, JESUS was giving instruction on how not to seek out worship, or reverence and honor, from man.  The point HE was making here was to remain humble, regardless of who had invited you to wherever you were.  The lesson we should take from this seemingly innocent lesson on seating arrangements is that although we've been invited to the most majestic mansion to partake of the grandest wedding feast man cannot even begin to imagine by our most Holy HOST, we shouldn't let the fact that each of us were singled out by HIM to receive a personal invitation to the wedding banquet ever come between us and being humble not only before the LORD, but also before man as well.

Our look at a Biblical definition of the word 'worship' leaves us with the understanding that the reverence and honor given and received by man isn't necessarily restricted to matters related to the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT.  But, what we find in the meaning of the word 'belief' combined with what a 'believer' is commonly construed to be is that even among non-Believers it's understood that a Believer  is someone who holds the truths about the FATHER, the SON, and the HOLY SPIRIT to be the basis for a firmly focused belief in GOD.

So with the meanings of our keywords established, I'm going to do something a bit different than is my norm.  I'm going to leave it up to you to go back to our original questions, and answer them based on your understanding and guidance, not of anything I've presented today, but by HIS Holy Spirit. 

Be Blessed!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

One Extreme To The Other

The way we see ourselves has a lot to do with even beginning to understand what Salvation is, much less being able to fully receive the gift of Grace.  I'm not just talking  about before we approach the Throne of Grace, or only about looking back from a Redeemed position before GOD.  Before we claim the SAVIOR's blood as atonement for our sin, and are declared Righteous in the FATHER's eyes, we have to realize just how bad our position was.  This has to go way beyond simply mouthing the words of what some call 'The Sinner's Prayer' in which a person acknowledges that they are lost in sin and under the condemnation of that same sin, of which the sentence, or punishment, is [Spiritual] death.  I'm not saying that the facts in this prayer aren't correct, but I am saying that they're only effectual if they are spoken from the 'innermost' parts of a person.  How many of us realized just how filthy and disgusting we were in GOD's eyes while we were clothed in the garments of sin?  In one of my earlier posts, I made reference to the fact that JESUS HIMSELF made the decision to accept the FATHER's Will, and by making that choice, HE effectively separated HIMSELF from the FATHER for just a moment.  That was the moment HE, for the first time in HIS life, felt the absence of HIS FATHER's eyes on HIM, and HE cried out.

'And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”'  (Mark 15:34    NKJV)

The point I'm after here is that GOD, who had and still has, a deep abiding love for HIS SON, turned HIS eyes from HIM for the moment in time that CHRIST was covered with the stench and slime of mankind's sin.  That is what we have to understand about our status before the blood of CHRIST washes us clean, just how dirty we were.  If we don't have an appreciation for just how repulsive our sin was to GOD, then we can't appreciate just how much HE loves us.  These two issues have got to be viewed as so important to one another that one cannot exist without the other.  GOD's love and man's sin are both necessary for the shed blood of CHRIST to have any meaning or value at all.  They are polar opposites of each other, and only when Grace has been given and received do they reflect the extremes man has started from and then ended up at. 

All of this brings us full circle, back to the point of us having to be fully aware the revulsion man's sin holds for GOD.  Note that I've made clear that it's man's sin that is unbearable for GOD.  It was man's sin that caused the FATHER to turn HIS eyes from HIS beloved SON.  It was, and is, man's sin that separates man from GOD.  It's man's sin that is the opposite of GOD's love.

'But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.' (Isaiah 59:2 NKJV)

To emphasise just how extreme GOD's position is towards sin, let's look again at the first Scripture we referenced, then at the documented words of one of the handpicked followers of GOD's SON.  Here we have the words of  GOD, who couldn't bear to look at HIS SON while HE was covered in [mankinds] sin, voicing the fact that JESUS was HIS beloved SON, and that HE was well pleased with HIS SON.  We have to reconcile that one of the reasons that GOD was well pleased had to have been because CHRIST had accepted, and was fulfilling, the FATHER's Will.  The other part of GOD being pleased that HIS SON was following HIS Will involved the FATHER knowing that a very important part of HIS Will would include being covered with mankinds slimy and disgusting sin, if only for a moment. 

'And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is MY Beloved SON, in whom I am well pleased." '   (Matthew 3:17    NKJV)


'While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is MY beloved SON, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear HIM!"'  (Matthew 17:5   NKJV)

The first of these two instances in which GOD declared JESUS to be HIS SON, 'in whom I [HE] am [is] well pleased'  was at the baptism of CHRIST by John the Baptist.  Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler among the Jews, came to HIM, and acknowledged that only a person sent from GOD could do the things HE'd already done.

'2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”   3Jesus answered and said to him, “Most ssuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."'  (John 3:2-6    NKJV)

In order for this discourse to Nicodemus to have the meaning it should have, we have to keep in mind that this conversation took place after CHRIST had been baptized by John the Baptist.  Also, remember that it was after JESUS came up from the baptismal waters that the Spirit descended like a dove and alighted on HIM.  Where we're at here is that JESUS taught by example, first HE did something, then told us that we're to do the same thing.  HE proved to us that it could be done before requiring us to do it, and have no doubt, we are required to follow HIS examples.

The second instance we've already looked at was when JESUS was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James, and John [the brother of James] up on a high mountain.  Some key things here is the location up on a high mountain.  In my mind, this is setting the stage for things to come, which is what a lot of the teachings and parables of CHRIST did.  A key point here, to tie this setting in with Old Testament history is that more often than not, when GOD spoke to Moses and other prophets, HE did so in a similar setting, that being up on a mountain someplace.  This gives the connotation that HE is to be reverred in a position much higher than we can attain for now, and that while HE has done the heavy lifting, so to speak, we do have to come to HIM.  To take this just a little bit farther, to illustrate this scenario, we need to take a quick look at the admonishments of the apostle Paul to those members of the church there in Rome.

'1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.'  (Romans 12:2    NKJV)

A key word here, renewed, ties this instruction of Pauls to the whole concept of how man separated himself from GOD by the sin of disobedience.  Before man, in specific Adam and Eve, sinned by an act of disobedience, man was not separated from GOD.  Man had a daily walk and conversation with HIM.  Paul is very clear here that we shouldn't be conformed to the ways and wiles of this world, and that everything about our everyday lives should be in service to the FATHER, and that in itself is not an unreasonable thing. 

We've established that GOD's love and man's sin are extremes on what called be called, quite correctly, the scale of life. We've also made it clear that GOD, whose love cannot be questioned, loves us so much more than HE hates sin that HE wasn't only willing to, but in fact did call upon HIS SON to separate HIMSELF from HIS FATHER as a part of keeping HIS FATHER's Will.  I don't know about you, but in my eyes, the love my heavenly FATHER has for me is a love far beyond anything I've ever even imagined.  It all comes down to whether or not we can see ourselves through the FATHER's eyes.  If you've ever been a parent, and had a child do something that upset you so much that you didn't even want to be in that child's presence right then, then you've taken a tiny tiny step in HIS shoes.  Very tiny though, and very far from seeing your child as HE sees HIS.  But in spite of how upset you were with your child, to the point of having to walk away from them for just a moment, you still loved them with all your heart.  Now you've taken another tiny tiny step in HIS shoes.  Then, when the realization came that even though you will always love your children, regardless of how bad they may act at times, there are times that you don't like them very much, you've taken a third tiny tiny step in your FATHER's shoes.   I sometimes wonder how GOD can love me at all, considering all that I've done that only HE knows about, and that right there is why I believe that we'll never be able to see ourselves through HIS eyes as completely as HE does.  We couldn't handle it, we can't even begin to conceive of both HIS complete enmity of sin and HIS unconditional love of us, but we need to be constant in our strivings to develop an understanding of both.  I promise you that with each new bit of understanding will come greater peace in HIM and a deeper humility before HIM. 

HE went from one extreme to the other for each one of us, have you?