Sunday, March 29, 2015

"THE I AM STATEMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST" - PART 2

The book of John has Seven of the Great "I AM" statements of King Jesus, the Lord of the Universe - your Lord and my Lord and Savior. In Part 2 of this PLUMBLINE program, we look at the rest of the story. The great author/commentator Warren Wiersbe had a great exposition of the I AM statements of Christ and I exhort you to read them here, along with watching this program:

SEVEN "I AM" STATEMENTS FROM THE BOOK OF JOHN
1. The Bread Of Life
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35)
2. The Light Of The World
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

3. The Gate
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

4. The Good Shepherd
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

5. The Resurrection And The Life
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

6. The Way, The Truth, And The Life
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

7. The Vine
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"THE I AM STATEMENTS OF JESUS CHRIST" - PART 1

The Lord Jesus, in His Ministry on earth, said many things while alive as a man. While His Biblical Name - YHWH ( Yahweh) - literally means "I AM WHO I AM", His "I AM" statements are both stunning, educational, instructive and inspiring. Here is the first of two parts of "THE I AM STATEMENTS" of Jesus Christ, from the PLUMBLINE Television show, now seen worldwide on ROKU, on the BARAK TV network. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

MIDWESTERN 21st CENTURY MARK TWAIN? (A BOOK REVIEW)

REVIEW OF "BEST FOOT FORWARD" BY LARRY CROSSETT
HUMORIST LARRY CROSSETT's
 BOOK #1
I think we have found our own Midwestern 21st century “Mark Twain” – right here in Mason City, Illinois, in the form of newspaper reporter/author/graphic designer Larry Crossett!  I usually do not write reviews on every Kindle book I purchase and/or read, but this one brings a ready smile which stays all the way through this very fast read.  The name of the work is “BEST FOOT FORWARD: God Honoring Humor (Midwest Journey).

Derived from a collection of essays, which Larry mentioned were published in several area weekly newspapers, the short chapters are bite sized enough with descriptive expertise for which Midwestern humorists like Twain, Will Rogers and Garrison Keillor have come to be recognized. The humor is both personal, from Crossett’s family life foibles as well as from observation of Midwestern small town and rural life.  

For instance, having seen the environmentally destructive flying Asian carp fish operate in our Midwestern rivers, one gets the same feel of being in the boat on “Redneck Fishing Tournament” days as Huck Finn had on the Mississippi on a raft (chapter on Jumping Fish). Also, the winter of 2015 brought infestation of ants in almost every Midwestern homes and kitchens, due to high water tables. So the chapter on “Ant Infestation” brings a little humor to that real life annoyance. The essay on “ENFIDOL” is an extremely funny satire on medication infomercials (or maybe it wasn’t a satire…hmmm)!


Chapters include titles like ICM not IBM; Amy vs Cat; When Golf Ball Collide and more. This is definitely a fun read to lighten the seriousness of the time, even for an hour or two. Also, fear not – Book 2 – “The Wisdom of Answer Man….More God Honoring Humor” will follow this Spring. All us who love the writings of Mark Twain and now,  his modern day successor, eagerly look forward to that  and more Midwest Journey humor, along the way!

Monday, March 23, 2015

SPEAK LIFE - LESSON 4: "READY, SET...FALL ON YOUR FACE!"

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed. Matthew 26:39a

In prayer and pleading, the only practical position is prostrate before the Pillar
(Image courtesy Pinterest)
of Righteousness, the Protector of Humanity and Provider of everything- Abba Father in Heaven. The perfect example of the supreme illustration of submission and obedience to God was God Himself - in the form of the Son, Jesus! Before we got to the point of Matthew 26:39a where the pre-crucified Savior fell on His Magnificent Face, He was already in deep agony. The discourse in the Garden of Gethsemane was full of the pain and burden of what was about to transpire.


Coming off the High Priest of Heaven's Amazingly Unique prayer in John 17, where the Messiah prayed for both His current disciples and those to follow until the end of time, we see a different type of agonizing prayer. The weight of all sin for all time on the shoulders of the God-man had started to take a toll - one which He could bear, yet one which caused Him no end of suffering. The magnitude of that same sin was incredible and as accomplished and trained as His disciples were, we see here in Matthew 26:39 that He went "a little beyond them". This little phrase means a lot. In the original text it reads "proerchomai" or "gone before, advanced, gone ahead of, preceded" and not just in the physical sense that He physically went ahead of the disciples after the Passover dinner (Seder) in the Upper Room, but now as the Ultimate Sacrifice - the Messiah was going ahead of us to take the punishment for us which we deserved.

In a metaphorical sense, the weight of this threw Him to His Face before Holy God - to pray! We can learn from this, as WE go ahead of our families, loved ones and others and intercede. Intercessors and "prayer warriors" are not just few and far between but are only encouraged by church leadership when something has gone wrong, when "so-and-so" is having surgery or "this, that or the other is about to happen for Missy's daughter and she needs prayer" or "Frank's son is about to be deployed for the 6th time by the Army with hardly any time to spend with his now-estranged wife" etc....etc....

FALL ON YOUR FACE
Regardless, we press on. We take the initiative like Jesus. We take the burden of their prayer requests and "pray without ceasing". Who cares if our churches refuse to have prayer services - even once a quarter...once a year - you and go ahead of them and fall flat physically or in essence before the Holiness and Majesty of God. Truthfully, we have no business being in His Presence. The word in this verse "fell" (pipto in Greek) literally means fall under condemnation. When we pray submitted, assuming the proverbial positional prayer as Jesus did here, we acknowledge our sin before Him and accept His Grace before moving on to intercede in prayer. 

Then, the next word "face" has another literal meaning of its own. Again we go to the original textus receptus and see that the Holy Spirit used the original (and pregnant with meaning) "prosópon". Sure, Jesus fell on His literal Face and we should to when we pray, but it also means you and I "fall in the Presence of God" when used in Revelation 22:4  - that SAME word! When approaching God in the manner described above, we are immediately ushered into His Presence so our prayers and supplications can be heard and ministered to!

Basically, it comes down to this - if we wish to have our prayers answered and in real short order, we come to the same realization which George Muller did about the Will and Purposes of God. Muller knew and said that 90% of knowing God's Will, in any circumstance, is to have NO will of our own. This is the essence of falling prostrate and flat on our faces before Him. The great men of the Faith knew this.


D.L. Moody said "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly dedicated to Him. By the grace of God, I will be that man." (James McConkey, The Surrendered Life, (Pittsburgh, PA: Silver Publishing, 1923)
Andrew Murray said "Trust in Jesus....He will guide you; He will teach you; He will work in you; He will keep you; He will be everything to you. What a blessed rest and freedom from responsibility and from care, because it is all in the hands of Jesus! (Andrew Murray, The Master’s Indwelling (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming Revell, 1896).
F.B. Meyer said "As soon as we come to the point of giving ourselves to God, we are almost certain to become aware of the presence of one thing, if not of more, out of harmony with His will; and while we feel able to surrender ourselves in all other points, here we exercise reserve. Every room and cupboard in the house, with the exception of this, is thrown open to the new occupant". (F B Meyer, Secret of Guidance, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1896).


There it is, All of the above quotes are amazing and true, but F.B. Meyer hit on what happens when we are fully surrendered to God in prayer. Falling flat on our face is more than just this, but it is being in His Presence knowing and/or being aware of the full potential of ALL the resources of Heaven being open and available to us. The thing is - our Heavenly Father DOES want to make all of this available to us, all it takes is a surrendered heart. 


Therefore, "ready, set...fall on your face" (and mine) because we must be about our Father's business, to the Glory of His Name, and the blessings/benefit of others. Amen.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

SPEAK LIFE - LESSON 3: PRAISE, THE KEY TO "SOULCARE"

He said: "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence. “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies...(2 Samuel 22: 2-4)
One great study every maturing Christian should attempt, in this life, involves the prayers and worship songs of the Bible.  An effective intensive look at these inspired words, from the heart of their human writers, reflected the accurate promptings of the Holy Spirit, Who was the conduit from the very Throne of God to the authors of Scripture.  The prayers are of the Bible are more than encouragement for whatever ails the soul of mankind. These words from the Spirit of God served human kind until recently and were known under the rubric of “soulcare”, in that whatever ails the soul of a human – God has the answer. 

if you "google" the hybrid word "Soulcare", a few definitions come up. The most generic one says it is "a combination of terms for spiritual direction, coaching, pastoral counseling and companionship". The best definition I found was from a Texas church (Christ Bible Chapel) and it says "
Soul Care is ....counseling that is based on Christian principles in a comfortable, confidential atmosphere with biblical counselors who use a solid biblical foundation". A final full discussion of what true and Godly soulcare is can be found in Dr. John McArthur's blog on the matter here (CLICK). I recommend we read the great works of the Puritans like John Owen, Richard Baxter, Bunyan and others who did not have the corruption of the culture which saturates the airwaves today and were all able to write, teach and preach on the Power of the Word of God to minister to every thing that ails man!

It has long been posited that best way to come out of any personal crisis, whether spiritual or on the natural is to give PRAISE to our Great God in Heaven and then wait in the Spirit because He will bless - big time! The same man who said "Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence" (Psalm 42:5), wrote the most powerful and worshipful of His songs not too long before he died and went to be with this fathers. In the two verses from one of those songs, above, from 2 Samuel 22:2-4, King David answers his own question from Psalm 42:5. 

THERE IT IS! There is the key to soulcare and coming out of a season of despair! The key is not one which would make sense in the natural! The worldly may say "WHAT? What do you mean I should thank God for my troubles and trials?" They are ever- hearing but not understanding because to have the Heart and Ear of God, we must yet "praise Him for the Help of His Presence"! Here is how the Psalmist went about it, from 2 Samuel 22:2-4, and we should too:
- The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress: that is, He is immovable, cannot be shaken and will always be there for anyone, regardless of condition or circumstance. But not just that, as our "Fortress". The true believer is constantly in a state of perpetual war, on this side of heaven, or he/she is preparing for one. As our Fortress, He is our Defender. When Jehovah Sabaoth - the Lord of Heaven's Armies is on our side, no earthly super-power or demon of the air, can defeat Him and we can rest in that assurance of our ultimate victory over any issue. This victory may not make sense at first, but to God it does. Trust Him.
= And my Deliverer: God is the ultimate First Responder. In times of crisis, before you call 911, call on The One - the Holy One, the One and Only, the Great I am. HE is your rescue. HE is your protection. HE is your comforter. He will lift you up with His Mighty Hands lest you dash your foot up against a stone. He will take you out of the pit, clean you and I up, set our feet upon a rock and put a NEW song in our mouth, a hymn of Praise to our God! He will do that so much so, that many may ask WHO IS THIS GOD OF YOURS? In times of crisis, then when the earthly first responders finally arrive, and thou hast called upon His Name first, sometimes they will find you healed and without dent or scratch, and then they shall marvel at His Power. THAT is our deliverer!
- My God, my Rock in whom I take refuge, my shield: therefore, considering that you and I have called Him first before emergency search and rescue people, we can rest fully in the fact that we can take up safe house behind the impenetrable walls of the Kingdom of our Great God. The SHIELD that He is deflects all the barbs and arrows of the enemy, who has manifested himself into many on this earth in these last days. We see them all around us, hurting and destroying the people of God everywhere, but mostly in the middle east and Asia. Seek out this safe place, in the "shadow of His wings" because they are easier to find than anything on this earth. He is a breath away!
= The Horn of My Salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, my Savior: therefore, being the "HORN of MY SALVATION" or the unbreakable strong powerful Truthful guarantee of our Deliverance from death and destruction, we are again in a safe hiding place, no matter how high profile and available to the world we are. This guarantee, has been underwritten by the Savior, Who died for us on Calvary and Whose supernatural Blood was shed to wash us clean and deliver us and all mankind, who put our faith, trust and hope in Him as Lord AND Savior!
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies: therefore, in light of all that this passage has taught us, we call upon His Name. He is the Only One Who can save, deliver, defend, protect, conquer, reassign, restore and then turn around and send us back into the battle rejuvenated, refreshed and reloaded to execute His wonderful plan of salvation and deliverance, to a lost and dying and hurting and in need of love, sort of world. All of was made possible because we first sought to praise and love and cry out to Him, in our despair! What an amazingly wonderful, loving and powerful God we serve and love - because He first loved us and called us into the Kingdom of His marvelous Light!
Amen

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SPEAK LIFE, LESSON 2 - WITHOUT WAX!

"So that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10)
We cannot approve that which we do not know but one thing is certain: to
function in the Kingdom of God, we must KNOW the Heartbeat and Mind of Him Who sits on the Throne. Subsequently, there is no other way than to know His Word by daily reading of the Bible as well as praying without ceasing.

We must know the Mind of Christ and to know that, the first qualification is to belong to Him...to be saved. But beyond being justified and made right by the Savior, we have to be listening to Him and not trying to skate into heaven under the wire like most Christians alive to do. We have been given the authority and power (John 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name). That is what the word RIGHT means in John 1:12. Therefore, because we do that the "dunamis" (original work in Greek), we may approve and make a judgment on what we support, link arms with and ultimately pray for.

There are many things in Christianity today, which are not just outright sins but hidden foxes which can damage the entire person and thus the Body of Christ. One of them is doing nothing in the face of evil, which itself IS evil! There is a reason our walk, talk and prayers have to be full of wisdom, discernment and powerful Word of God. The reason is - the Day of Christ is coming, where the majority of mankind will NOT stand. They have heard the Word preached many times during their lives and not only rejected but rebelled against God and His/our Savior Jesus Christ.


Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8)

So, in brief, this is how we pray for that we may, and those for whom we pray, WILL remain sincere and blameless as we anticipate the rapidly approaching Judgment Day:

Pray from Philippians 4:8
-  Whatever is honorable. Honor is in short supply these days...from the top of leadership to the schools and even churches. The word here is "semna" - weighty, serious, dignified, of great importance. Pray for honor in families and thus communities and then pray and demand honor from leaders of all strata.
-  Whatever is right. This literally means what is right FIRST and foremost in the Eyes of God. Pray for all God's people to walk before Him with transparent lives which will not bring dishonor to His Name. Too many are living ungodly lives steeped in the corrupt culture and then calling themselves Christians, thereby leaving the unsaved to think "if so and so is a Christian, I want nothing to do with Christianity". Of all the items in Philippians 4:8 this may be the most significant as it speaks to the attribute the Apostle of God speaks of in Philippians 1:10. This is the attribute of being sincere and blameless. If our conduct causes another person to turn from God and Jesus Christ, who later dies in their sins, there will be an accounting for that on the Day of Christ! 
-  Therefore, pray for authenticity in our walk before God and our fellow citizens, friends and families. The key word from God in Verse 10 above is SINCERE because if we are sincere, we will be blameless and not actively sinning and rebelling in the Face of a Holy God! The word sincere may soon soapy and sweet but it is not. The word sincere is derived from two Latin words (sine- without; cera - wax). What Roman furniture makers kept doing was filling in flaws, cracks and mistakes with wax to make it look good rather than fix the problems. This fueled a backlash and the few genuinely honest furniture makers would advertise their furniture as "Sine Cera" - without wax...and therefore, without a manufacturer's flaw! This led to the English word - sincere....without character flaw....and without blame!

This is the only way to stand before God on Judgment Day. The amazing thing is this - we cannot do it on our own! We just cannot do it - only Christ is blameless...but we can be found "without wax" and thus, sincere! As we pray today as we walk before God and man today, let us search and pray away the dross and the phoniness and the facades and let us pray for each other and ourselves to live transparent lives.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

SPEAK LIFE: LESSON 1 - PRAY WITH LOVE

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment. (Philippians 1:9).
So many lessons on prayer, pleading and pressing in are laid out for us to grasp, learn and apply throughout Scripture and especially the New Testament, that one would have to be blowing past them at warp speed to miss these bold colors. Our great teacher and sent one from the Lord - Paul - was the master at illustrating Jesus' love for people in the way he described his modus operandi for enhancing their spiritual lives.

Paul's teachings have become stock and the standard wherein we must pattern our lives to become more Christ-like, and therefore live the life which God has called us to live. What gave Paul such authority? Well, it was more like WHO! After Jesus knocked him off his horse on the road to Damascus as he was about to do another round of killing and jailing Christians, Jesus Himself taught Paul in the Arabian desert for three years on how to impart the message and use his vast knowledge of the Law and the Prophets to explain He, of Whom, the Law and the Prophets spake - Jesus the Messiah! That gave the Apostle the authority, so when he says "be imitators of Christ" like I am - listen!


The best example of a brother in Christ, who loves people and loves fellow believers is found in these three short verses. The love shown here spoke not just volumes but absolute life to the brethren, who were stuck in the same weather military complex of Philippi alongside pagans...sort of like how we are. But Paul, building on the theme of Love, which he started in 1 Corinthians 13, continues on here. Also, please remember that Peter confirmed all Paul's letters to the churches at this time as carrying the very weight of SCRIPTURE! So there was no difference between the authority and inspiration of Paul's Words as there was with Moses in Deuteronomy! Let us now then, follow these simple steps to love someone else to Jesus, and thus, speak life to them!


PRAY:


-  THAT YOUR LOVE MAY ABOUND MORE AND MORE: This resembled the Father’s love in John 3:16 “for God SO loved the world”. This agape selfless and sacrificial love is actually really easy to come by, once the love and Life of Christ abides in you and I! In these trying days, our love for fellow Christians and especially those under heavy duress, persecution and worse in the pagan parts of the world should pour out of us like ice cold milk on a hot summer day. We cannot do anything to help our persecuted brethren in the Islamic or communist countries, but we sure can pray for them. 

If western churches spend even 10% of the time loving on and praying for our brothers and sisters being beheaded and worse,  the western church would become more aligned with the Will and Purposes of God. Many people are drawn to us when we show this kind of love! Our love can also abound in material ways. Prayer, in love, leads to action which leads to real ministry to the hungry, hurting and humble. We know by the joy in our very spirit, that our prayer for particular person(s) that our intercession has feet that walk out our faith.


-  IN REAL KNOWLEDGE AND DISCERNMENT: To really pray effectively for the benefit of anyone, including ourselves, we have to basically know what we are talking about. This requires a true knowledge of the Holy One - Yahweh and the Father as well as the correct literal interpretation of the Scriptures. So first, we pray because Scripture commands it. We pray because we love God and want to know Him as much as we can, on this side of Heaven. Still even if we pray 24/7/365, we will never know even half of what we will know about God one day in Heaven! We can only know Him through the Scriptures and even then, even through intentional expository study according to the Full Counsel, whereby Scripture explains Scripture. Unlike other religions, Christianity is thinking person's religious system whereby the One True God of Heaven reasons with us because His Ways are higher than ours, yet simple enough to comprehend. 


Therefore, we are a people whose faith is built on transparent knowledge and awareness of not just our created surroundings, but the Creator Who giveth all things unto us....and things which include WISDOM! Knowledge of the Holiness and Heavenly Abode of the Almighty as we love others to Jesus leads then to discernment and Godly wisdom. We MUST use discernment while praying for another. There are several reasons for this: we do not/should not mislead those for whom we are praying with false claims of things which God has not said or revealed. Name it and claim it word faith frauds are the worse offenders of this false prayer paradigm and do more harm than good, while not exhibiting Godly love at all. Godly discernment in praying in love for the needs of another is the outflow of an intentional lifestyle full of obedience and humility. The person who lives Micah 6:8 is one whose discernment is the living definition of Biblical thinking in ALL areas of our own lives. 


Remember our own brother - the Apostle Peter said the following about Biblical discernment that God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Peter 1:3). So let us lay hold of this knowledge and wisdom so that when we pray and love on another and/or speak life through our Godly conduct, that we do so ENTIRELY in line with Scripture. These are the only prayers which the Father honors. To do otherwise, is to not love God with our Heart, Mind, Soul and strength (body) and therefore - not to love "our neighbor as ourselves".

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A REAL BUCKET LIST

LIST OF BIBLE PRAYER METHODS
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)
A significant number of people in the west (and presumably anywhere) have something called a “bucket list”. The term even made the Webster’s dictionary and literally means “a list of things one wishes to do before dying (or “kick the bucket”). There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that unless it consumes your thinking, planning, family and walk with Jesus. To tell you the truth, the ultimate bucket list top item is – Eternity with Jesus Christ. That is one thrill that never expires, unlike the passing pleasures of parachuting or parasailing or purple Porches.  Most of our brethren in other lands are unable to seek (and find) that kind of excitement as almost every waking moment is consumed with attempting to breathe and get one step ahead of their persecutors, or even a morsel to eat.While there is nothing wrong with wishing you could drive a fast red Corvette or a scale half the front-range of the Rockies, most people may never get around to that sort of thing. 

What Christ is actually calling His followers/disciples and those who are on life’s journey with Him,  is something more rewarding, permanent, helpful and fruitful that these things. This mission of excellence, peace, joy and contentment can only be found through communication – with our Heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul knew how to live as Christ taught us in the greatest sermon ever given – the Sermon On The Mount.  While we must certainly plan, save and prepare for the future, may we never lose sight of today. Today – now – is where we currently live. As the old saying goes “wherever you go – there you are”.

Philippi was a Roman city founded by Philip – father of Alexander the Great and like most of the ancient world, was full of idolatry and worldly conduct – not unlike the wealthy nations today’s world.  Like everywhere else, the brand new Christian church was under some form of persecution and for the most part, met in private homes. In most of the current persecuted church, meetings to glorify King Jesus and fellowship in His Mighty Name, are still done in homes and basements. The Apostle loved these Philippians and one can feel this love and heart for his (and our) brethren in the opening verses of Philippians 1. The opening greetings are always ignored by most preachers and/or bible readers. However, they tell us a lot about the kind of relationship the God-inspired author has with those, to whom, he writes.

Look at what Paul says here in essence, in love and with a kind heart – even as he writes this Scripture to the brethren in Philippi:
-    I think of you and give thanks to God (verse 3). When we think of others in our families, fellowships and far away countries, our immediate task is to pray for them as the Lord brings them to mind. We pray for them by thanking the Father for their faithfulness to the Gospel and the Truth. We pray for them by thanking the Lord as well for their perseverance and standing strong in the face of fire. We pray for the Father for a special dispensation of Grace, Mercy and Compassion to get through their next few hours, days and weeks ahead.
-     You are always in my prayers (verse 4a). As we pray for all the things mentioned above, we never cease praying …or as Paul says in Thessalonians 5 “pray without ceasing”.
-     I intercede enthusiastically and with great joy (verse 4b). It takes a special man to pray with passion and joy for others while in a Roman prison. Therefore, it should be a special privilege for us, with the freedom to worship and practice Christianity, to press in and lift up someone else with a smile in our eyes and a praise in our hearts.
-   For your fellowship in the Gospel from Day One (verse 5). There is a reason the Lord said in His Word that His people should not neglect the “fellowship of the saints”. In a world, where podcasts, live streaming and just plain laziness have removed the urgency AND necessity of getting dressed to walk into a church building to praise God with fellow believers. Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not forsake “our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”.

Hebrews 10:25 mentioned “the Day drawing near”. Philippians 1:6 brings the encouragement in anticipation of that “Day”!  Verse 6 gives us the best evidence of fruits of a real “bucket list” – He says “Being confident of this very thing that He Who has begun a good work in you, will complete it until the Day of Jesus Christ”. That Day is coming closer with each breath, Within 50 years, each of us will be standing with or before Jesus, either through the natural process of passing from this life to the next, or via the Rapture and Return of Jesus Christ.  

Therefore, draw near to these facts in this REAL "Bucket List":
1. Be full of Faith and fellowship with, because of and having Faith (con- with, fide – faith: confident).
2. This very thing – the certainty of your salvation and maturity into a joyful saint is underwritten by the Precious Blood of Jesus. This is your ironclad guarantee.
3. He (Jesus) started, authored, perfected and executed this amazing divine plan and He never goes back on His Word and His promises. What He says, He does.  We can never lose our salvation unless we never had it to begin with. So rest in this Truth regardless of circumstances and rely on this with supreme confidence.
4. The Author of Life will complete His Master Plan….until He comes. This includes our sanctification built on obedience and submission, buttressed by the discipline of prayer and supplication.
5. Be prepared, because even though certain events have to occur before the Return of Jesus Christ (as noted in Revelation 19:11-16), our Day of Jesus Christ could occur at any time, since no one knows the day or hour when He shall call us home. So then, let us be fully assured of the solid payment forward we have made by investing Biblical truth in the life (or lives) of another and may we always be fully confident of our future home with our Lord and Savior, Who once told us, that He will never leave or forsake us.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

THE ADVANTAGE LEADS TO ACTION - WHEN JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU!

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)
We know from Scripture that the Lord Jesus, Creator of the world, our Master, Redeemer and friend HAS prayed for His disciples and all future believers (John 17). This is from His High Priestly Prayer where He is recorded, for all time, praying for those of us who follow Him to be protected by the Father IN this world (while we are alive) while not being OF this corrupt and evil world system. The Word of God also tells us, wonder of wonders, that He prays for us even now! (See Hebrews 7:25 "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them"). In other words, we have an Advocate with the Father - at all times.

In case there is any question about the methodology of this, we read in Romans 8:26 that "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words". This is the Spirit of Christ Who lives in us and is our conduit to the Father, and is the prime example why we MUST pray in Jesus' Name. 

These two verses above from Luke 22:31-32 are powerfully relevant to the Christian in that many are like Simon (Peter), to whom Jesus is declaring this stunning statement! How many of us, if told by the Lord, that the devil was after us, would brush it off? If Satan is after a Christian/follower of Jesus Christ, we can guarantee it is to destroy us, destroy our relationship with God and destroy our families. But there is something else going on in this short passage, which we need to take a hard look at, in terms of our own lives and journey with Jesus.

After studying the original language of this text and its context, these two verses are stunning for us everyday believers in the 21st century. Looking at it under the following headings, we see:

JESUS ADVISES:
"....Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat" (verse 31)
THE ADVERSARY: What Satan, the accuser of the brethren, the father of lies and destroyer of souls knows very well is very own character flaws. Simon Peter, Jesus' boldest and closest disciple, was a fearless man of the gospel who was also not afraid to shoot of his mouth first, and think later. When this happened, Jesus had already walked on the water, and Peter had tried - and succeeded - because of his brash spontaneity. Some would describe what Peter used to be (pre-Resurrection) as extreme self-confidence, even pride. The devil knows how to use our pride against us, causing us to fall. Satan should know. It was pride that caused his - Lucifer's- fall from heaven (Isaiah 12-17). 
THE ATTEMPT: Secondly, the "sifting" which Satan is demanding about Peter from Satan's creator - Jesus - is the same kind he used against Job. Satan basically told God that Job was only faithful to Him because God blessed Job. Satan was going to take the chaff from Peter here and use it to attempt to destroy Him, while when God uses His 'Refining Fire" on us, He uses it to purify us and bring us closer to Him. So Jesus is warning His disciple here, that he is in real danger. Likewise, when we step out of fellowship with Him, due to our sins of omission, commission, disobedience and pride, we basically put the same bullseye on our backs.

JESUS ADVOCATES:
"but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail" (verse 32a)
When the Lord intercedes for us, we cannot fail. First, we have to BE in a position where He would even want to pray for us! That is, we must and have to be one of His - i.e. born again, saved and a follower. This is also shows us that once we are born-again and saved, once the Lord Himself pray, for us, we stayed prayed up.
However, look at this again - Satan is going after Peter (and us) for destruction...knowing our weakness and failures as human beings. Then Jesus says "BUT" I have prayed. This "BUT"means A LOT! It means that no matter how dark and dangerous our situation or circumstances are, the High Priest of Heaven overrules! No matter how deep in despair and down we are, the Holy One of Heaven overrides. No matter how devoid of hope and even faith we feel, the Almighty I AM - Yahweh - is on our side. Just like Job, who said "though He slays me, I will trust in Him....I know my Redeemer lives", we can look over all our dark despair and apparent emptiness and realize - we do not have a problem with Faith, our current situation is a temporary valley AND we are just walking through a shadowy valley, where it is darkest before the dawn! With Jesus as our Advocate, Intercessor and Friend, we lack nothing, NOTHING!

JESUS ADVANCES
"and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (verse 32b)
THE ADVANTAGE: Now this may seem confusing on the surface. That is, what does it mean "you have turned again"? A closer study of the original language causes one to search the soul....as it accomplishes a primary purpose of Scripture! Remember now, Peter had boasted that he would lay down his life for Jesus, even though "others" may abandon Him. So at the first chance to test it in public, Peter not only denied Jesus THREE times, but did so with loud cursing and foul language! Once Peter had come to his senses and repented, relented and become forever changed and humbled, he was restored. When Jesus rose from the grave on Resurrection morning, He told Mary to go tell the Disciples AND PETER, that He had risen! God does not waste anything in His Word. He said AND Peter for a reason, just as the Paul mentioned that Jesus appeared to over 500 AND JAMES after the Resurrection! James went on to lead the Home Church in Jerusalem while Peter dictated the First Gospel to the great Mark and literally wrote the books of Righteous Living for God in 1 & 2 Peter!
Therefore the Advantage you and I have as Christians is that even when we mess up as, even to the point of blasphemy (not recommended by the way), He restores us because we are His and He loves us!  The Advantage is He has given us the gift of repentance and that if we are truly His, the Holy Spirit will reveal even unknown sin and our immediate confession will restore us just as it did for Peter.


THE ACTION: We are thus restored to then help a fellow believer - a sister or brother - come closer to Him. There are so many of us out there, full of guilt, shame and worse because of both imagined and/or real sin or difficulty.  What could be worse than denying Jesus three times with loud curse words....within His earshot?! Still, that man became Peter the Rock, the primary messenger of the Doctrine of Righteousness to the western world before Rome crucified him upside down during the first round of persecutions. When we are restored by the Lord, whether it be spiritually, physically or other wise, it is our divine duty to reach out to another.
I know people with ministries to orphans, or breast cancer victims/survivors, autistic kids or more. The argument against The Action we are called to is: "I can't do that"...or "I don't have the resources, money or anything to do that kind of thing"....or "I don't know anybody else going through this. Some or all of this may or could be true. The divine call still remains. If we know how to speak in love to another person, can afford a spare cup of coffee or can invite just one person to break bread in your home - that's a ministry. If you can just meet consistently with someone who is hurting or is now experiencing the same pains, hurts, fears and cares you just had - that's a ministry. If you can then multiply that to two, three or five people with similar issues and to top it off, show them how to persevere with Prayer and the Scriptures - that's YOUR ministry! You don't need a 501 C 3 tax exemption, a Board of Directors, a website, multi-media etc. What is recommended is staying in touch with a private blog open to only the group or a Facebook private support group - things that cost almost nothing.

The wonderful thing about Christianity is it is liberating. It is devoid of commands from our Leader to hurt and destroy people who do not believe like us...in fact, the opposite is true. We are supposed to pray for those who hate us, because they may see the error of their ways or not. Either way, they will be accountable and not you. The other wonderful thing about following Christ is that it is so peaceful, joyful and full of hope. It is for Freedom that He set us free (Galatians 5:1). 

The Advantage is ours in this game of Life because our Advocate (King Jesus) has defeated our Adversary (the devil) and He has advised us to advance the Kingdom with Action. This is the essence of the Redeemed of God, through all generations. Amen.