Tuesday, July 28, 2015

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE

Apples are an amazing fruit. In the summer, it's a favorite of picnics everywhere as baskets get packed for the great outdoors of Creation. In the Fall, the fragrance of apples light up the atmosphere as cold pressed cider from your neighborhood orchard attract us like bees to the honeycomb. By winter, Apple pies coming out of hit ovens and garnished with vanilla ice cream are the essence of life. 

There's an apple for every taste bud- the stock red delicious for everyday, or the Gala for the exquisite. How about the Jonathan, Braeburn or golden delicious itself! Most of the apples on display from late summer through Fall are grafted. They come from rootstock which combined with the PH factor soil and the scion added to the rootstock, gives us variety of apples we see at Apple barns and markets. The rootstock is the main root in the ground and the scion is the chip or portion of another tested variety which is grafted to the rootstock. The same is true to other fruit trees like pears, berries and more.

When a new apple tree is transferred from the nursery to the ground....whether the residential backyard or the commercial orchard, everything then depend on the rootstock and the soil. The apple tree in this photo was planted less than two years ago. However, it will be another 2-3 years before it begins bearing fruit by the bushel, no matter how many tiny little apples are showing here. So it is with our faith. 

At the moment of conversion, when Christ brought us out of the domain of darkness into the kingdom of His Marvellous Light, we were grafted into the very Rootstock of Heaven! Everything depended on and still depends on Him. We are the little scion grafted into the rootstock. The Holy Spirit provides the nutrition for us to go and it does take time for us to grow and bear fruit. 

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude....Colossians 2:6-7

The analogies to the productive and powerful Christian life are so real in relation to apple trees that it's uncanny. These two short verses are proof from the Word of God. The maturing Christian life starts with Christ, remains in Christ and grows in Christ! 

So, how do we grow, mature and live a fruitful life which is pleasing to God?
1. Receive Christ. Jesus is Lord and He died for all. The Holy Spirit convicts, we respond, relent, repent, reach out and surrender to His calling for rejuvenation. We must then receive the gift.
2. Just a closer walk with Him. When Jesus saves you and I, He is immediately our best Friend! He knows the way because He is Way. He saved us to be with Him for eternity so this is absolutely natural. Enoch WALKED with God for 300 years and was no more because God took His best friend at the time Home, to be with Him while he (Enoch) was still alive. The fruit of Enoch's evangelism, faith and family was found in men like Methusalah and Noah! 
3. Be a scion to the Rootstock. Like the bunch of grapes is connected to the vine, we. MUST be firmlygrounded, having taken up personal residence in the Rock and Root called Jesus Christ. 
4. Be built up. The scion is grafted into the rootstock of salvation and we are nourished in the rich soil of the Bible, prayer and praise fueled by the Holy Spirit. 
5. Be established. This kind  establishment is NOT the status quo of mortal worldly lost men. This is the maturing status of the Qualified...the qualified who shows a little fruit in a few years only to bear bushels of bountiful goodness, worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

The maturing Christian is like an apple tree in many respects. The faithfully surrendered believers among us seek to become apples of His Eye. Why not, press on? Amen

Sunday, July 26, 2015

HEALED! - THE PRAYER OF HEZEKIAH

There is an amazing incident in the Bible that happened in the 8th century BC in ancient Judah which still takes your breath away. The reason is, this miracle, where God was about to call a man home - King Hezekiah - occurred when the King prayed one of the shortest prayers ever recorded! For the record, the shortest prayer ever has to be when Peter was sinking after walking on the water briefly towards Jesus (on the Sea of Galilee) and he shouted out in fear and trepidation "Lord, save me!" Those are the most powerful three words in history for any lost sinner, such as you and I were before He rescued us from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His Marvelous Light!

Hezekiah was a very young man, probably in his early 50's when the Word of the Lord came to the Amazing Prophet Isaiah. Chapter 38 verse 1 says "In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’”

But then here comes the one short sentence prayer which caused God to do something unique, in Isaiah 38:2-3 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lordand said, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.” 

What was it in that short prayer that could have caused God to respond this way: (verses 4-6): "And the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.”’ 

One of the most productive things any Christian can do is to read and study the dozens and scores of prayers in the Bible! Each one is unique in circumtance but there is a common denominator to each prayer that inspires the reader (you and I) to become prayer warriors like these our predecessors in the Faith, whom we shall meet one day in Heaven and fellowship with forever! That common thread was Faith and Submission to the Will and Work of God. Keep this in mind, through the following: brief look at  King Hezekiah's Prayer: 

- Hezekiah turned his face TOWARDS the wall: the man and woman of God MUST turn away from the bonds of this world and TO the One Who holds the world in His Hands. Not just that but doing this indicates FULL reliance on the power and promises of God to heal, seal and reveal His plans for us.
- Hezekiah "prayed to the LORD": do not be afraid to go to the Lord with even bitter questions of "why Lord, why is this happening" because if you are listening and not trying to answer the question yourself, He will show you why something is amiss, why He allowed it and where this is supposed to lead you in your relationship with Him.
- Hezekiah asked the Lord to remember: Now the Lord did NOT forget a thing. But there is nothing wrong in bringing up your faith and full trust in Yahweh as an introduction to your prayer, and mine, not to remind God but to come to the Throne in full understanding of your right standing before Him.
- Hezekiah walked with God in Truth and with a loyal heart:  and Hezekiah did do that. He removed the pagan form of idolatry and worship and stood on the Word of God his entire life. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says "the Eyes of the Lord runneth to and fro across the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him". While God may not perform a life saving miracle every time, for His own reasons, He does stand up for those who stand WITH Him! Just reflect back on our own lives, and think of the many times He rescued us from this calamity, and that financial hole or this accident or that health scare or worse. This comes from an intentional and purposeful daily WALK with The LORD. Scripture encourages us constantly to WALK with Him and the kind of Walk we should have as sinners saved by Grace. We walk with those whom we love, so why should we not walk with the One Who loved us?!
- Hezekiah did what was good in God's sight: as much as it depends on us, let us do as much good as we can. We should do this, not just to our families where it is expected but to and for those who can give us nothing in return. I am not just talking about helping the poor and homeless but also for living like King Hezekiah, whose deeds made it possible for the Truth of God to reign and be a testimony to others. THAT is our calling.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

DON'T BE STRESSED OUT - TURN TO GOD!


Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:5-7)
We live in the most critical time in history. I am sure that everyone in the past 1000's of years felt the same way. The difference this time is that most of the prophesies of the great "Old Testament" prophets and world events are lining up to give the accurate picture of the falling away and corruption which will precede the taking up of the saints (the Rapture), the Tribulation and then the Second and Final Return of the Creator and King - Jesus Christ (Yahweh).

We are strung out, stressed out, squeezed, singled out (if you're a real Christian these days) and stung by Satan's minions who are not as cute as the cartoon ones from the movie "Despicable Me". The most popular drug in America or the west sold for decades have been tranquilizers and anti-depressants because folks simply cannot handle and cope these days. But God did not plan for us to live this way. He gave us His Word as THE Guidepost to righteous and powerful living. In this video teaching from several years ago, we examine the application of Scripture - the Word of God - to daily living, and in this case, we look at Stress.  May the Lord grant understanding in this important feature of life in the 21st century.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

FAITH, FAMILY, LEGACY....( A BOOK REVIEW)

The Heart of a Praying Grandma
'Meetings with Beppe' is proof the Gospel of Salvation is so free, simple and available that the ordinary among us become extraordinary, when we truly belong to Christ. Angela Schans did a masterful job honoring her husband's hardworking, hard-praying grandma, whose story itself is quintessential Horatio Alger-like.

What a loving portrayal of Beppe. The latter had migrated from the Netherlands in 1955 with nothing, and yet she left a legacy of everything eternal. This short book's biggest accomplishment is not only found in amazing 90 year old ravaged by dementia spiritual brilliance, but in her poetry. Beppe's grasp of the Truths of the Bible, the narrow road to heaven and her ability to get to the heart of the gospel (in the poems) would make any seminary president blush with envy. 'Meetings with Beppe' is recommended for both children, adults and the young at heart.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY STARTS WITH THE CROSS

The modern world's greatest evangelist is of course, William Franklin (Billy) Graham. He once said that "This Gospel of Christ and Him crucified is still foolishness to millions who are perishing all over the world today. How few people recognize that the answer to all the world’s problems can be found at the foot of the Cross?" That is a great question.

The Cross is an enigma, in fact it is the greatest mystery of all time! It is the best piece of jewelry out there, even used by those who do not believe in what the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified, truly signifies. In this teaching video below, I explore this Truth in more depth. However, this should never be the end of our search understand the meaning of the Cross. The great Ray Stedman explained it very well when he said: "
The Cross is significant in Christianity because it exposes the fundamental conflict of life. That is what these verses declare to us. The Cross gets down below all our surface attempts at compromise and cuts down to the basic difference behind all human disagreement. Once you confront the Cross and its meaning, you find yourself unable to escape that final, basic judgment of life as to whether you are committed to error or committed to truth."


The message of the following video is based on the following passage out of 1 Corinthians Chapter 18:18-19: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." 

PLEASE NOTE: THE EMAIL ADDRESS MENTIONED IN THIS VIDEO FROM 2008, NO LONGER EXISTS.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

DEEP SEA PRAYING - FINAL SESSION

JONAH'S GETS 2ND CHANCE
“Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to You; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:8-9)
This great prophet/evangelist knows first- hand that of which he speaks.  He now has an intimate knowledge of Holy God, never mind the fact that he was prophesying in the pagan Northern Kingdom of Israel about this same God, to Jeroboam II. Jonah was in a place where the majority of mankind goes and never returns and saw the Temple of the LORD, Who restores Jonah due to his own kind grace, mercy, compassion and long-suffering! He has seen the Holiness of God and knows that those who practice idolatry…those who bow down to the 300 million pagan idols of Eastern religion… those who idolize culture or celebrity or self – they have ALL traded in Faith in the one true God for the vile and perishing things of this temporary world.  They have abandoned not just the font of all true knowledge but the Only One Whose love is strong and never changes.

This is a major condemnation from someone who was in the abode of the lost with this spiritual eyes wide open! All the lost of this world (which is the majority) and even those who profess to be Christians are stunningly unaware of the true nature of Holy God and His Righteousness. The Lord is disrespected all over western celebrity culture and then paid lip service as if He is somebody’s crazy uncle or kind grandfather to be acknowledged occasionally on Sunday morning or at the end of a political speech. Only those who have had a major life-changing and transformative encounter with the Father or more likely – the Son Jesus Christ – can grasp the power and presence of the Almighty to the point we cannot help but stand in awe, bow down and just live a life of repentance and ingrained worship.

This is the kind of sacrifice that Jonah speaks of here where his attitude of gratitude is in the metaphorical stratosphere. He is so much in debt at the mercy and goodness of God that he is offering to do whatever it takes. This is the true meaning of discipleship, following on Jesus’ command that you and I cannot be His disciple unless we are willing to “take up our own crosses daily” and follow Him…(or we must decrease that He might increase).  Jonah vowed to pay or repay the Lord for saving and rescuing Him but like us, we can never BEGIN to repay God for what He hath done for us.  We can make as many vows as we wish and not fulfill a third of them. Therefore we should not swear any oath before God unless we intend to follow up with it one hundred percent of the time.  Now Jonah did do what he set out to do – he evangelized Nineveh and spent his life teaching them. But it took a lot for him to love those people. Just read Jonah Chapter 4.

Finally, the hero of this prayer, one of the most revelatory and power in the entire Bible, declares “Salvation belongs to the Lord”! He knew this first hand. We can do nothing – He can do everything. Jonah also knows he has been given a second chance. He proclaims Salvation while showing the proper gratitude because of the Radical Grace God has shown and given to him. This same Grace is available today for anyone and everyone. All we have to do is ask. We ask with humility and faith and with a repentant heart. This way, we too will be able to proclaim "SALVATION BELONGS TO THE LORD"!

DEEP SEA PRAYING: SESSION 3

JONAH DELIVERED FROM THE DEAD
Jonah's Tomb in Mosul, Iraq 2014, before its destruction.
“The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into Your Holy Temple” (Jonah 2:5-7)

In almost graphic detail, Jonah proceeds to explain how he died! Note that he said here that the waters closed in over me to take my life! This makes Jonah the second mortal man, along with Lazarus, whom God raised from the dead! Of course, Jesus Christ rose from the dead as well and the Resurrection is the hope of every believer in Almighty God- from Adam to Abraham until the trumpet sounds for the Call to rise and meet the Lord in the air. There will be tribulation saints, after what is commonly called “The Rapture” occurs, because it is only at that time will the Gospel be literally be preached to the ends of the earth. This will not occur in the current church age for many reasons, which is a matter for another discussion.

Jonah said two very interesting things in this statement. He said “the bars closed upon me forever….yet you brought my life from the pit”  Jonah was not just dead, he was in the abode of the lost. Only those who rebel against God end up in the pit! How many times we have read the psalmist David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit say – “let me not be like them that goeth down into the pit”. Hell is described as a bottom less pit. Peter records that even though Jesus Christ the Lord was dead and buried in physical form, in a tomb, He nevertheless went down to the place of the dead and knocked down those same gates of hell (where the bars close around the lost) and preached the Victory He had just won on the Cross.

So what does this all mean? It would appear that just before Jonah was allowed to be conscious enough of his surroundings, that by ONLY the Grace of God, he was able to repent.  In all his dying and going to the depths of Sheol, the place of the dead,  he admits he only thought of the Lord when the very gates of hell were shut behind him! Isn’t this like the majority of mankind – from the time of Noah and before to now? Rebellious humans would rather face the uncertainty of eternal separation from God than cry out, even on their death beds, to the Only One Who has the power over life, liberty and love – God Himself. 

What happened with Jonah is the only recorded example of such a thing in history and definitely, the Bible. We know from the Word of God that it is appointed once for a man (or woman) to die and then the Judgment. The only reason Jonah was rescued from where he landed in the next life was that God was not through with him!  Jonah never said what his prayer was which reached to the very Throne of God, Who did what He had planned to do – let Jonah live to work for Him. All we can tell is – Jonah repented even in death and became the biggest evangelist ever recorded in the Bible – even bigger than Peter was at Pentecost where 5000 souls them 3000 were brought into the Kingdom by Peter’s preaching. Jonah preached and an entire city repented, believed and were saved. There is nowhere else in history, even with the great Billy Graham, where this was accomplished. 

The story of Jonah appears incomplete, because we see the disagreeable prophet complaining to God that He saved the Ninevites as Chapter 4 ends abruptly. History and tradition tells us that Jonah actually stayed in the same region of Assyria, where he literally once had hated the people, and taught them about the Lord! Later on, this region of Assyria/Nineveh and now Mosul, Iraq, became one of the largest Christian communities for almost 2000 years until the Islamic state terrorists persecuted them by the thousand and ended up driving them out. The Christians who lived there for two millennia were the product of Jonah’s evangelism and discipleship. After the churches and homes of these Christians were destroyed, the modern day Philistines then proceeded to destroy Jonah’s tomb, which even their own religion held up as a prophet! That sacrilege was too late as Jonah already completed the work which God had sent him to do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

DEEP SEA PRAYING: SESSION 2

JONAH'S EYES ARE OPENED
“For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the floods surrounded me; all Your billows and your waves passed over me. Then I said, “I have been cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward Your Holy Temple” (Jonah 2:2-4)
After a stunning statement from Jonah that he was in the “abode of the dead” (Sheol), he goes on to give the graphic description of his drowning! Notice Jonah did not say “the sailors on the Tarshish-bound ship who I asked to throw me overboard (Chapter 1, verse 15). Jonah spoke truth – it was GOD Who cast him into the very middle of a roaring turbulent sea! 

There are an entire flood of truths which stand out here. The word “CAST” is very fearful, scary and prophetic.  This is the same “casting” that God Himself does at the Final Judgment with Jesus sitting on the Great White Throne looking at the “Books” of all who have lived.  Revelation 20:14-15 says “…and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” This is God, in the form of Jesus, dispatching the lost and disobedient away from Him for eternity....casting them away, if you will, as it is twice written here.  So how did Jonah survive this?!

The only answer could be that Jonah was a chosen instrument of God to take the Repentance and Salvation message to Nineveh. The thriving Christian community which was destroyed in 2014, by hordes from the religion of peace in the Mosul/Nineveh/Assyrian region has its biblical roots in Jonah’s evangelism and discipleship training there. The fact that they destroyed his tomb to remove any vestige of Judeo-Christian timeless history is all the necessary proof we need. 

Jonah knows he has been weighed in the scales and found wanting, but look at the rest of verse 4 "...yet I will look again toward Your Holy Temple". A couple more noteworthy things here are first, in death, he was aware of his separation from Holy God but secondly, there is a hope within him, which cannot be ignored. This again harkens back to Jesus quoting Jonah about Himself. Jesus Himself suffered a brief separation from the Father on the Cross, when the Almighty turns His Righteous Face from the ugliness of our sin which Christ bore on that Cross. Remember this prompted the Lord to say "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" However, even on in that famous dark moment on Good Friday, Sunday was coming and the same Holy Spirit Who lives in us believers, raised Jesus from the dead to assume His Role in the Holy Temple, as High Priest of heaven!

Here the great, once disobedient (but anointed) prophet knows that though he be in the land of the dead, it is a temporary state as Sunday is coming for him too - he too shall live again to see the abode of the Living - in God's Temple! This is the hope of the Christian, who is passing from this life to the next. Whether it be through persecution in most of the countries of this planet, or through human diseases (cancer, heart failure etc.), death for the follower of Jesus Christ is but a conscious transition to glory. We too have that hope such as Jonah has in these two stunning verses of his prayer.

This fact, of the coming hope of abiding in our future home of God's Temple, in the Presence of the Holy One, is the underlying truth of my life verse for over a decade now from Psalm 27:4 "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. (Emphasis mine).Jonah, in his prayer, and us, through the Word of God in our bibles, now possess this eternal truth, as well.
NEXT: JONAH DELIVERED

Sunday, July 12, 2015

DEEP SEA PRAYING, SESSION 1

JONAH COMES ALIVE
Anyone who has grown up in the "Christian" western hemisphere will recognize the Story of Jonah and the big fish (not a whale). We all know about Jonah's disobedience as he ran in the opposite direction which God told him to go. We have a tendency to do that at times. Jonah is not the only rebel without a cause, who was ever created. However the most anyone can tell you about Jonah is he ran from God, ended up in the big Fish for three days and then was spit on the beach to go preach Repentance to the hated Ninevites, which he did.

However if this all we know, our spiritual growth is stunted. The actual bio of Jonah along with the amazing prayer of Jonah Chapter 2 are very important in understanding this important man of God. Yes, regardless of his ways, Jonah was a man of God who not only preached as he was supposed to, but spent the rest of his years in discipleship and training of the people in the Nineveh area. He died in that area of what is now Iraq and specifically, Mosul. His tomb became known over a year ago, when amazingly the rampaging hordes of the religion of the sons of Ismael, destroyed it for entire world to see. What they did not realize is that this act confirmed the life and ministry of the prophet whose existence was questioned by non-believers.

Here, we begin an examination of the prayer which this prophet of God, who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel and was a prophet to the pagan king Jereboam II (786-746 BC). This is an amazing prayer which should shows up in Jonah 2, should be very important to Christians. Christ Himself mentioned Jonah in Matthew 12:40 "for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 


We begin a closer look at the Prayer of Jonah, thus:
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, “I called out of my distress to the Lord,  and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice....(Jonah 2:1-2)

This prayer is the first time we see the prophet actually operating in accordance with his calling as a man of God. Unfortunately it took the act of being thrown into the drink and being disciplined by God into the depths of the stomach of a large specially prepared sea creature to bring this element of worship out of the man. Sometimes we never know how much we need the Lord until we have gone under and stuck inside something closing in on us.

Jonah said "I called out of my distress to the Lord". As we go further into this incredible prayer, we see why the prophet was in distress in the first place....and it was as a result of his own actions. The good thing about the realization that 1. we are in super trouble and 2. we have the Supreme Ruler of the Universe on whom we can call AND this same Almighty God actually ANSWERS when we, His children, call out, cry out, petition in panic to Him and Him alone!


Now comes the stunner in verse 2 "I cried out for help from the depth of Sheol". No one goes to Sheol unless one has passed from this life unto death. Sheol is the abode of the dead and departed, which we now see, Jonah was. He drowned after being thrown off the ship that was bound for Tarshish (Chapter 1). This is more than interesting news. We have a man who has died crying out for help from the place of the dead, where, well nothing is alive! Yet the Lord heard Jonah's appeal!
NEXT: Jonah's Eyes Open
Graphic Credit: Christian Clip Art