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They Hated Me First

This world, oh this world. In this world we are mocked. We are called narrow minded. We are called ignorant. We are despised. We have chosen to follow Christ and His teachings and for that we are exposed to the hatred of those who do not understand. We have chosen to model our lives by His written word, the Bible. (Which, if they did any research on would find, is historically accurate in its writings. And the prophesies that have already been fulfilled, not only in the life of Christ but also in the rise and fall of nations are far beyond coincidental. But that’s another topic for another time.)

Honestly, the vitriol and hatred spewed toward the church is hard to fathom but it shouldn’t be surprising at all. Jesus said in John 15:18-19 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If he were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth the you.” You will notice though, that Jesus wasn’t crucified by the world, per se. He was given up by the religious. The Pharisees were offended at Jesus at every turn. He walked this world in the power of the Holy Spirit and never strayed from the will of His Father. This threatened to pull their well ordered world of religious tradition down around their ears.

When we are on the receiving end of that kind of hatred, our first instinct is to back off or quiet down. But we must not. The world does not dictate what the word of God says. It says what it is meant to say.  It is the infallible, immutable Word of God. We don’t get to leave out the parts we don’t like or don’t agree with. And for heaven’s sake don’t let someone who has never read it or has read it through a veil of humanism and philosophy tell you what God “meant” to say. They do not know him and therefore do not get to speak for Him.

“Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12 3-4) Few of us have been falsely accused and even fewer have resisted unto blood. The religious leaders hated him. Hated him. Jesus goes on to say, in John 15:20 ““Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” We are not above our master. He was tried and when they couldn’t find anything to convict him of they brutally murdered him anyway. So what do we do? We stand firm. We hold fast. We endure, unwavering in our faith.

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬

Truth

Go

Abram’s story is one of my favorites. On one side, he amazes me with how he was usually so quick to obey whenever God spoke. On the other side he makes me feel a lot better about myself, trying to bring about God plan in his own way.

One of the earliest mentions of Abram in the Bible is in Genesis 12:1-4. “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.” Hebrews 11:8-10 also mentions Abraham’s story, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” How many of us would do that? How many of us would pick up and leave our family, everything we know, and go?And not just go, but go and not know where in the world we were going. We don’t hear of Abram crying or arguing with God. He just went.

In the middle of His obedience God prospered Him. So much so that Abram and his nephew Lot could not continue to dwell together! Genesis 13:6 tells us, “And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.” After He and Lot separated God gave Abram a promise. We hear about this promise in Genesis 13:14-17, “And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” God affirmed his promise again to Abram in Genesis 15:1-6. In verse 6 it says, “And he believed in the Lord and he counted it to him for righteousness.” This promise was fulfilled when Sarah conceived and bore Isaac.

Abraham was quick to obey again in Genesis 22:1-18. In this passage God tells Abraham, in verse 2 to “take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou loves, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I tell thee of.” Abraham set off to do what God commanded. In fact, Abraham was so set on his mission that it took and angel to stop him. Oh that we would be so intent on the purpose and plan of God that it would take an angel to restrain us!

God is looking for a people who will trust Him enough to be quick to obey. Not only that, but to obey without question. 1 Kings 2:3 tells us to “observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”

 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Psalm 110:9-11

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God is Good but He’s Not In Control

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. Our country is currently fighting battles with nature on many fronts, be it forest fires in the west, or hurricanes in the east. I’ve heard too many people say that God brought it to pass or even “allowed” it to teach us something. This is a comment on a Facebook thread I read this morning, “Sometimes I wonder if God is sending these disasters to show us that we really aren’t as divided as we think.” First off, if that’s your thinking — and you may find this harsh — you do not know Him. God is Good. James 1:17 tells us that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

I have 3 beautiful and exasperating children ranging from 11 to 3. I love them more than life. Never on their most whiny and defiant days would I ever think. Hmmm… I’m going to teach them a lesson in humility by decimating their home with forest fires or throwing a catastrophic hurricane their way. Nope, I’ve got it. I’ll give them cancer or some other disease. That’ll teach them to be nice and respect their fellow man. Of course I wouldn’t, no self respecting parent would! Like I said, I love my kids. Love, to me is a verb. 1 John 4:8 (KJV) says, “He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” Think about that. God doesn’t just love. He IS love. Just look at 1 Corinthians 13 to see what love is and what love does. Walloping someone over the head with something terrible isn’t included in that chapter. Trust me, I checked just to be sure. Matthew 7:9-11 (KJV) asks, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will He give Him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” God is a better Parent than you or I could ever hope to be. If we wouldn’t do it, He certainly never would!

So why is all of this happening? Answering that question opens a whole can of worms… Would it shock you if I said that God is not in control? Well then, I’ll say it. God is not in control and I can prove it. First off, a rhetorical question. If God were in control, would He not just force people to follow Him so no one would go to Hell? That would certainly make things a whole lot easier. But he can’t. Way back in the garden, Genesis 1:27-28 tells us, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” So who did God give His authority to to have dominion over and subdue the earth? Adam. If we skip over to Genesis 3, we find that the serpent deceived Eve and she disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And Adam completed the act of disobedient by going along with her. It was at this moment that sin (and it’s results: sickness, disease, disaster, and chaos) entered the world. I was at this moment when Adam and Eve bowed their knee and relinquished their God-given authority over to the devil.

Fortunately, God had a plan to redeem His creation. Jesus was born a man of flesh, walked this world in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, doing only that which the Father wanted. He was crucified and became sin for us. He descend into hell and took the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:18), and rose triumphant on that third day. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told His disciples, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in  the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Colossians 2:13-15 says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwritting of ordinances that was against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly,triumphing over them in it.” Wow. we are quickened together with Him! Isn’t that amazing? To recap: God gave His authority over the earth to Adam. Adam lost it to the devil when he sinned. Jesus won it back when he died and rose again. Before he ascended in to heaven, he gave it back to us. We have the authority.

Jesus says in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Again, in John 14:12, Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believe on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” Greater works. I seem to recall a story in Mark 4:37-41 where Jesus calmed a storm. Verse 39 says “And he arose,  and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” The disciples could have calmed that storm. But they took their eyes off of Jesus and onto the the storm. You know what, if Jesus could calm the storm, we can too! He said these and greater works! Another place in the scripture, in Mark 11:22-24, Jesus says, “Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not count in His heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, where pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” How many things do we miss out on or have to endure because we just flat-out don’t bother to ask?

I encourage you to read Ephesians 1:17-2:7. I can’t include it all here because it’s long. In a nutshell it says by the working of God’s mighty power He raised Christ from the dead and set him at his right hand, far above all principality, and power, and might, etc… Verse 22 and 23 are especially delicious. “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” Did you get that? We, the church are the FULLNESS OF CHRIST! In chapter 2, pay special attention to verses 4 through 6. If they don’t get you shouting, I don’t know what will! In bible school my teacher is constantly drilling us. “Where is Jesus?” Answer: Seated at the right hand of the Father, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is names, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come! (Eph 1:20-21) “And where are we?” Answer: God quickened us together with Christ and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. (Eph 2:5-6) Wow. Wow. Wow. That is the place of authority, my friends.

So may I be so bold to suggest that we stop blaming God for the tragedies and chaos we witness and look inward and ask ourselves: How much of this are we allowing? How much of this are we letting happen by not realizing who we are in Christ Jesus? And just in case you aren’t convinced that God doesn’t send or allow disasters. Here’s a doozy that should set you straight. John 10:10, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Boom.

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Knowledge ≠ Faith

I heard something today that resonated with me… “Having knowledge does not equal having faith.” 2 Timothy 3:7 tells us that there are those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” You can know about salvation, healing, provision, and the myriad of other promises that God has given us through His Son, but unless you have faith in those promises it will do you no good. Don’t get me wrong knowledge is important but it must go much farther than that. The Bible says in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble.” So the demons and the devil himself have knowledge of God but they certainly aren’t going to heaven or inheriting any promises! And just obtaining knowledge won’t get us there either.

The Bible tells us, in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” We must know what to contend for in the faith but once we have that knowledge, faith must take over. I know how to drive a car but unless I turn the key, put the thing in drive, and press the gas, I’m not going anywhere. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence if things unseen.” We can know what God has promised to those who love him, but faith is what brings the promise from the world of the unseen to the seen. Knowledge does have it’s place, but once we have it we must act on what we know. Knowledge is the seed. Faith is the water that causes that promise to spring forth. Once we know what God intends for us we must contend, unwavering for that which we know is ours.

Thoughts, Truth

Made to Soar

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, My Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood His mercy rains. Unending love, amazing grace.” © 2006 worshiptogether.com songs, sixsteps Music, Vamos Publishing / Artist: Chris Tomlin

I am not a person given to visions or vivid dreams but as I was leading worship the other day at church I had a flash, a little mini movie, if you will. I was singing Chris Tomlin’s song Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). As I got to the chorus I saw a majestic eagle in the middle of a field. He was perched in the back of a wire cage with the door standing wide open. Just sitting there.

When wild animals are injured they are sometimes kept among humans for rehabilitation. I have watched many wildlife shows where they release these animals back in to the wild.  There is nothing more thrilling than to see a beautiful creature do what it was created to do and be who it was created to be. You would think it would just take off once given the opportunity, and some do. But others have forgotten what it is to be free.  Once an animal is among humans for a while it can forget what it was made for. It can get used to the status quo. As I saw that mighty eagle in the cage I heard these words. “He doesn’t know he’s free.”

That can be true of so many Christians, myself included. We might know in our heads that we are free. We might have even memorized the verses that tell us so, but in our heart of hearts we are bound. We stand at the door of life, staring longingly at the beauty beyond our cage. Not knowing that all we have to do is walk through it into the freedom Christ won for us with His death and resurrection. John 8:36 says, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Did Christ make us free? Yes! Then we are certainly free indeed! Galatians 2:20 tells us “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”  There is no sickness, no poverty, no disease, No drug or alcohol addiction, no depression, no eating disorder, no fear of man, nor any other form of bondage that can hold us down. We just have to believe what God’s word says on the matter. And not only believe but act on it.

Colossians 2:13-15 gives us this amazing news, “and you being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” In other words: the enemy has been defeated and humiliated, our chains have been broken, our sins have been forgiven and blotted out. He has flung our prison door wide. The only thing between us and realizing the freedom Christ intends for us is the person we stare at in the mirror every morning. Its time for the Word of God to become real to us. Oh my friends, its time to soar.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Truth

Use Your Words

My fever. My high blood pressure. My cancer. My poverty. My lack. My, my, my. If you want to claim that stuff, go ahead. But I’m certainly not going to! If we could just understand how important our words are.

Jesus said in Mark 11:23-24 “For assuredly I say unto you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say unto you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Whoever says. Our words are powerful. Our words are creative. Proverbs 18:20-21 say, “A man’s stomach shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; from the produce of his lips he shall be filled. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat it’s fruit.” What comes out of our mouth directly affects how we will live. If we speak death, doubt, and unbelief; we will eat that fruit. If we dwell on the promises of God. If we speak life, healing, belief; we will eat that fruit. God has so much goodness in store for His children. If we could only comprehend the good things He has laid up for us!

Joshua 1:8 says “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” There is a reason we are instructed to meditate on God’s word. If we meditate on it, what do you think will come out of our mouths when the cares of this life start to squeeze? Yep. The Word. And the Word brings life.

Here are some gems to keep on the tip of your tongue:

Isaiah 40:31 “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Romans 8:37 “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Proverbs 1:33 “But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Thoughts, Truth

Choices

Choices. We often think that our choices have no bearing or affect on other people. That our choices only affect ourselves. That is so far from the truth. I was talking with my daughter the other day about how important our choices are. We talked about the story in 1 Samuel 15 in which Saul was instructed to go up against the Amalekites and destroy them. In verse 3 Samuel instructs Saul to, “Attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” But Saul did not obey. He kept the king of the Amalekites alive and he took the best of the flock to sacrifice to the Lord. Was it wrong that Saul should desire to honor the Lord with a sacrifice? No. But his instructions were to leave nothing of the Amalekites alive.

The key to this whole passage lies in 1 Samuel 15:22 when Samuel tells Saul, “Has the Lord a great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” Samuel then prophesies to Saul that God will remove him as king, that the kingdom would be ripped from him and given to another. 20 years later, Saul is killed in battle along with his sons and the prophecy is fulfilled. The irony? Saul’s death blow was delivered by an Amalekite. Saul’s disobedience not only affected him and his family, but the ripple affect was felt generations later. Hundreds of years passed before the affects were felt by a woman named Esther. Her people, exiled in Babylon, were threatened by a descendant of the Amalekite king, a murderous man named Haman. Haman took it upon himself to attempt to annihilate the entire the Jewish nation. But for the bravery of Queen Esther, he would have succeeded where Saul failed. Our choices, good and bad, can be felt for generations upon generations.

Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus had a choice when He went to the cross. He said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” Jesus spent all night in the garden of Gethsemane surrendering His will to the Father’s. Praying for another way to accomplish what God required of Him. If it were not His choice to make, I doubt He would have sweat great drops of blood in making it. If it were just a mindless act for Him it would not have been difficult. He had to choose to go the cross, knowing what would happen to Him. Knowing that his body would be broken for us. Knowing that He would be reviled and ridiculed. And most excruciatingly, that His Father would be required to turn his back on Him as our sin weighed heavy on His shoulders. But still Jesus chose obedience. And in His obedience the ripple effect can be felt 2,000 years later. Jesus’ decision to obey brought millions upon millions into relationship with the Father.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants my live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Like Saul and Jesus, our decisions will continue to speak long after we are gone. Choose life!