Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Because of Him

Hi Friends and Family,
I know it's been quite a while, but I hope all is well with you.

I just want to give a public shout out to our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer, Jesus Christ! There's just no one else like him, or that can even come close. As I was reading the Word today I just marvelled at how Jesus spoke, at his love for us, his wisdom and all he's done for us.

Because of Him, you and I are now family.
Because of Him, I'm alive and not dead.
Because of Him, I am healed.
Because of Him, I fear not.
Because of him, I smile.
Because of Him I now have the best Father in the world.
Because of Him all my sins are forgiven.
Because of Him I can overcome anything.
Because of Him I can do all things.
Because of Him I have peace.
Because of Him I have eternal life.
Because of what Jesus has done for me, I am now God's child.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What Are My Rights?

In this me centered world – a world of me and mine; what is really mine? What are my rights? Two thoughts come to mind as I attempt to address this very real concern for us as believers. First is Philippians 2:1-11 which instructs us of the mindset we ought to have, and second is the inheritance, the right we have as children of the Most High. I think it’s important for us to differentiate, understand and apply both principles to our lives if we want to live victoriously.

Let’s get it right. In and of ourselves, we don’t have any rights! We were a fallen people, sinners; condemned. Our “righteousness” are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The consequence of our sin is death (Rom. 6:23). We were redeemed while still in sin by the blood of Jesus. Righteousness was imputed to us because of his blood. We have value and “rights” not because of who we are but because of whose we are. So when I think of my rights or our rights I think first of the platform, the foundation laid by Jesus Christ our Lord, and succinctly expressed in Philippians 2:1-11.

“…Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him a name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:3-11)

This, my friends, is the platform for our rights. We must first die to ourselves, die to our life of sin and pick up our cross and follow Jesus. (Rom. 6:1-13; Luke 9:23) What attitude did Jesus have? He who had all the rights as Creator, gave them up and became as nothing to save us. Astounding! Rights, what rights do we have? Only those God gives us as new creatures in Christ Jesus and as incredible as those new rights are they are shrouded in a cloak of humility because we do not deserve them.

It’s important for us to know our rights. We have the right to repent and receive forgiveness. We have the right to eternal life in Christ Jesus. We have the right to be healed. We have the right to serve (Matt. 20:25-28), the right to peace and soundness of mind (Phil 4:6-7; 2 Tim.1:7). As sons and daughters of God we have the right and power to rebuke the devil (James 4:7-8). We have the right, the power and the privilege to loose those held captive by the bonds of the enemy (Matt. 16:19; John 14:12). We have the right to take back what Satan has stolen from us. We have the right to pray, the right to intercede, the right to defend the helpless, the right to proclaim the good news of the Jesus Christ, the right to sing God’s praises and the right to pursue God. We have a multitude of rights. They’re just not self-centered. We gave up the right to self when we accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives. It is no longer “I” but Christ that lives in us – the hope of glory (Col.1:27).

We have awesome rights in Christ Jesus, but let us remember that with these rights come equally awesome responsibilities. We have rights as children and ambassadors of Christ, but with those privileges come accountability. We will all one day have to give account for how we used our rights (Rom. 14:12).

In a world that's focused on the promotion of self, let us remember to keep our focus- our eyes, on Christ, not on me and mine. For it's not about us anymore. Everything we have belongs to God. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Eph. 3:1-4)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WOMEN OF GOD - Who Are We?

We’re bombarded with models of women on TV, from Hollywood, on magazine covers, on billboards, in music, in store windows, everywhere we turn we are inundated with the world’s depiction of what the ideal woman should look and be like. The devil’s campaign has been so successful that many women of God have succumbed to the deception. We’ve swallowed the ruse so completely that too often there’s no distinction between them (women of the world) and us (women of God); we look and act like them.

The pressure is intense. What woman doesn’t want to feel beautiful? To be beautiful, however, we have to know the true meaning. The key is in where we derive our understanding of beauty? As a child and woman of God, I derive my understanding of beauty from the Word of God. In 1 Peter 3:3-5, the Word of God says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.”

Again in1Timothy 2:9-10 we are instructed to “dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”

God created us all beautiful. We may not be attractive to everyone, but we each have our own unique beauty. Explore and strengthen it just as you would any other gift God has given you.

The filth of the world had tarnished us. Sin tarnished us. But in Christ we are new creations, redeemed and cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We are incredibly valuable to God – priceless. Don’t let the world beat you down and fit you into its mold so that you become bland, indistinguishable, a carbon copy of the world’s picture of women. Lift up your head, square your shoulders and smile. You are of infinite value to the Lord and his plan. Adorn yourself with modest apparel and accessories. The scripture does not say, do not make yourself look physically attractive. It says to do so modestly and not to rely upon these physical adornments as your display of beauty. Your beauty should first come from within.

Is your attitude beautiful? Is your spirit peaceful and sweet? Do you mind your business and take care of your house? Are you taking care of your tent- your body and health? Are you tending to your spirit with the Word so that you’re able to care for yourself and family? Are you being a model of a godly woman of character and stature for your children and young believer’s in Christ? None of us are perfect. We will all make mistakes, but like the apostle Paul said:
 “Not that I have already obtained…or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14)

Six years ago I received one of the highest compliments I could ever receive in my life – to God be the glory. I went back home to Trinidad to visit for my birthday. I hadn’t been home in 20 years! (The last time I lived in Trinidad was when I was 15 years old.)

When I lived in Trinidad many years ago, I spent a lot of time over my best friend’s house hanging out or as we would say, “liming.” She had four sisters and five brothers. When I went home to visit, I once again spent much of my time visiting with my best friend’s family. Unbeknown to me, one of her younger brothers had admired me when I was a teenager. (He was a handsome boy that grew up into a handsome young man.)The first day I went to visit with them, they called the brother that had admired me to let him know I was visiting. He quickly made his way to the house to see me. He shared with me that he had looked up to me when I lived in T’dad and had said he wanted to marry a woman like me. He had recently married in the last three years and said he found a woman like me. He pursued her for 13 years and did not defile her during their courtship. I was so touched and honored by this revelation. I don’t remember him sharing what it was about me that had left such an impression on him. It was enough to know that even at such a young age I had made a difference – to God be the glory. We are not only being examples to young women in Christ, but young men also.

Women of God, it’s not about us. That’s the world’s focus, not Gods’. I have a long way to go to reach the mark, but I continue to press forward. My attitude isn’t always good. Sometimes I give into my flesh and I’m not proud of it at all. But I get up and keep pressing towards the mark for which Christ took hold of me.

Let me encourage you, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a) You are a peculiar being, a beautiful being, separate, holy- the temple of the living God. You are unique. Do not be molded into the pattern of a woman of the world. You’re a woman of God. Let your godly light shine!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Discipline of Love

What do you think about when you think of love?
Do you think of a man and a woman in love, or the love of a parent for a child, or love of football or pizza? Or do you think of the love of God for us or your love for him? What a profound word, love is, but so often misused, so often misunderstood.

"God is love" (1 John 4:16). I hesitate to write anything else. Pause for a few moments and just soak that in - "God is love." So what in the world does that mean? I certainly can't ever address the magnitude of that in a blog, a book or life, but I've got a glimmer of it through Christ. God gave, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." (NIV) Love gives. Love is not about taking, love is about sacrificing, putting everything on the line for the one(s) you love or care about.

Love is not just about the soft, mushy, tender feelings one may have for a new born baby or for your lover, your husband or wife, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your dog or cat. Not if you think of God being love; the epitome of love, the founder, the creator of love.

When I think of love, I first think of Jesus-God incarnate, God in the flesh. I think of the universe and its vastness. I think of the beauty and infinite care with which it was made. I think of being, breathing in, existing in the expanse of God, his creation, his love. Yes, I also think of the love of a parent for a child and of a man for a woman or a woman for a man. But I tend to think more of the "Discipline of love" immediately after I think of God being love and demonstrating his love to us by sending Jesus. Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously. Let me repeat that with an addendum: "Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously, over and over and over and over again." 1 Cor. 13:8 says it, "Love NEVER fails." (i.e., Love NEVER gives up!)

The previous verse (1 Cor. 13:7) says, love "...ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, ALWAYS perseveres." Is your heart and mind bursting yet? After we come down off the mountain top of our emotional experiences of love, then comes true demonstration of love in the nitty-gritty, sometimes mundane, sometimes drudgery responsibilities of love and life. Because our understanding of love is often so carnal, emotional and shallow, we have to turn to the constant example of God through his Son, Jesus and follow his commands, if we are to truly experience the fullness of love.

"...Love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)

"...How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins agains me? Up to seven times? 
 Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven." (Matt. 18:21-22)

"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands." (1 John 5:2-3)

Prayer: (Ephesians 3:16-19)
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he (God) may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

ALWAYS and NEVER? - The Discipline of Love II

Love "...ALWAYS protects, ALWAYS trusts, ALWAYS hopes, ALWAYS perseveres." (1 Cor. 13:7)

ALWAYS is such an expansive and absolute expression, just as NEVER is absolute and conclusive.

So love always trusts, even when my loved one has cheated on me?
Always hopes, though I've seen no change in 25 years?!
Always protects, even though he/she has stabbed me in my back?
Always perseveres, though they've stolen from me, violated my body, killed my children?
Love always forgives even though he/she repeatedly violates my trust and takes advantage of my generousity?
Love NEVER fails?

Does the Word of God really mean ALWAYS and NEVER as we know it? I suppose that's why Jesus used a different expression in case we needed clarity, "Forgive seventy times seven." I guess that's why when dying on the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." I suppose that is why we are reminded in Ephesians 6 we are reminded that we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers and spiritual forces of darkness.

Love baffles my mind. So in this wishy-washy world we live in, with the pervasive pallor of a Hollywood depiction of love primarily based on emotion, I say:

"Love is making difficult choices regardless of how you feel, to honor God and act righteously, over and over and over and over again." God is love and if he lives in us we can do ALL things. We can do ALL things through Christ who gives us strength. We can love our enemies and those who despitefully use us. We can forgive those who've wronged us seventy times seven times.

Help us, Father, to love.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Fear of The Lord is The Beginning of Wisdom

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding."
~ Psalms 111:10

It is because we do not fear the Lord that we willfully sin.

It is because we do not fear the Lord that we think we can hide our sin from the Lord.

It is because we do not fear the Lord that we think we can continue to sin and yet go to church and preach and teach in the house of the Lord.

It is because we do not fear the Lord that we make so many poor choices but blame God when things do not go our way.

It is because we do not fear the Lord that we lack the power to live righteously.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

What does it mean to fear the Lord?
- To have a reverent awe of God
- To have a profound reverence towards God.

What does the word to revere or reverence mean?
- To show honor and devotion to
- To show honor and respect mixed with love and awe
- Syn. with worship

What does the word “mock” mean?
- To treat with contempt or ridicule.
- To delude or defy
- To mimic in sport or derision
(The definitions above are taken from The New Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

So let me reiterate my beginning statements but substituting the word “fear” with reverence or awe.
  • It is because we do not revere God that we sin willfully.
  • It is because we do not stand in awe of God that we think we can hide our sin from him.
  • It is because we do not revere God that we think we can continue in our sin and yet “worship” him and serve him in his house.
  • It is because we do not honor God (we do not put him first) that we make so many poor choices and then blame God when things do not go our way.
  • It is because we do not reverence God that we lack the power to live righteously.

By living our lives in such a way, we mock God. The epistle to the Galatians is written to Christians! (Galatians 1:2) We attempt to “mock” God when we think we can willfully sin or live in sin and hide from God. We attempt to “mock” God when we think we can live in sin and yet “serve” God. But we are only deceiving ourselves.

“Be not deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature (the one who sows to please his flesh), from that nature will reap destruction…”

Is it any wonder why Jesus said in Matt. 7:21-23 that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

I declare, there is no way we can revere God, there is no way we can love God and continue to live in sin. We all fall short at times, but out of fear of God, we repent; we are grieved by our sin, turn to God in repentance and turn away from our sin. We don’t go running back to the muck and mire like pigs in total disregard for the sacrifice of love God made for us by crucifying his only Son. Herein lies the difference between he who reveres God, he who loves God and he who is religious.

To fear God is the BEGINNING of wisdom. It is only the beginning of wisdom or knowledge. It is not fullness of wisdom, but only the beginning thereof. When we fear God, when we honor God for who he is, when we recognize his awesome majesty and power, we will walk and live our lives in the shadow of his presence.

To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Jesus gave us the parable of a wise and a foolish man in Matthew 7:24-27, he said:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Making wise decisions, God-fearing decisions, may cost your more, may be painful and may take more work, but the outcome is long lasting.

To honor God is the first and wisest decision one can make and yet it is only the beginning. The second part of Psalms 111:10 says, “all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” We must learn to walk in his ways.

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.
They do nothing wrong; the walk in his ways.
You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!
~Psalms 119:1-5

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

We grow up taking tests through out school, and it doesn’t stop when we leave the formal education arena. On many jobs a new employee is put on probation for 3-6 months. That’s a testing period to see if we can handle the job assignment. We implement “test runs” on certain projects and machinery. We test would be suitors or potential mates. Life is full of tests. So why is it any surprise to us that our faith is tested? Why is it that when it comes to God and spiritual things we expect a smooth, unquestionable ride? Due to the eternal life and death consequences of spiritual choices, influences and roles, it only makes sense that our spiritual maturity which is directly related to the strength of our faith, will be tested.

     Physical and natural abilities and experiences are more easily proven and discerned. You may have certificates and degrees, letters of recommendations, resume`s and the like that give credibility to your ability to perform a job or task. But in the spirit realm, Bible School degrees, Bible Institute certificates, titles and even resume`s with mountains of experience is not what proves ones faith with God, but rather how we face and endure the trials we go through. It is the testing of our faith that develops perseverance and “Perseverance must finish its work so that (we) may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (Verse 4)

     I’m still not at the point where I can say that I enjoy spiritual tests and I’ve been saved for a long time. I’m not sure that’s what the scripture means when it says, “Count it all joy when you go through diverse trials…” (KJV) But rather, be thankful, be glad because you’re anticipating the outcome once you pass the test. It’s kind of like when you start working out or exercising. The initial pain of the workout is not “enjoyable,” but you’re looking forward to the results. For the veteran athlete it gets easier the more experience and the accomplished they become. They start looking forward to testing their skills through increased levels of difficulty or competition, but it’s still painful, just on a different level. So it is also in the spirit realm. You can appreciate, be glad about where the test is taking you, doing in you or preparing you for. You have to make the choice to “count it all joy;” mentally coach or encourage yourself. In Hebrews 12:2-3, the writer says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the JOY set BEFORE him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

     Be alert. Differentiate, are you being tempted by your own lustful desires or is your faith being tested so that you may grow and become more mature? You may not like the pain of the test, but allow it to prepare you for what God has in store for you. It's God's measuring stick of maturity.

     The Lord be with you. You can do all things, through Christ who gives you strength!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Message is Love

1 Corinthians 6:19-20
"...don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." (NLT)
 - We do not belong to ourselves. We are bought with an incredibly high price. Our bodies are to be an offering of love and gratitude back unto God.

1 Corinthians 7:19
"Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts."
- And what are his commands, considering circumcision was one of his commands?

Galatians 6:2
"Carry each other's burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
- By carrying each other's burdens we fulfill the law of Christ? And what is the law of Christ?

Matthew 20:25-28
"...whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant...just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."
- If the Son of Man, Jesus, did not come to be served, but to serve others; if the Son of Man gave his life as a ransom for many, what message is he sending to us, his disciples?

Matthew 22:37-40
"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
- Ah, the message, the law of love.

Romans 13:8
"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."

1 Corinthians 13:13
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity." (KJV)

John 3:16
 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotton Son, that whosoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life."
- The message is love.

John 17:23
"May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me."
- There can be no unity without love.

1 Peter 4:8
"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of  wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..."
God's message to us through Christ is love.
 I want the message of Christ, the gospel, to be hammered (stamped) into my head, into my heart, into my life, so that the world around me will know Him.

(**Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are NIV)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Living Sacrifice - The Conclusion

This post is the conclusion of what has turned into a four part series or study on "A Living Sacrifice". It's been very revelational to me and I recommend that if you haven't already read the previous three postings on the subject, please do so before reading this one or you will miss the context of how we got to this point and possibly miss the message. Thank you for your indulgence.

     Fifth, is the building stage and the most dynamic. Not unlike an athlete or anyone who becomes serious about developing any area of their lives. The early stages were putting the foundation in place, learning and implementing the fundamentals. (Oh my Lord, help me to say what I’m about to say correctly.) The Old Testament was laying the foundation, preparing the way, even as John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Messiah. The Old Covenant set the stage with the laws and the examples to reveal the character of God. Jesus came, God in the flesh, poured the concrete in the foundation and put up the frame work by instituting the church, “upon this rock I will build my church” Matt. 16:18; Isaiah 28:16, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation…;” Ephesians 19:22, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of Gods household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

     Jesus is the head cornerstone and we are the building; this is the static example (solid, unmoving, secure). Jesus is the head and we are his body, this is the dynamic example (moving, a living organism, ever growing). The Old Testament, the Torah, the law was static, that is, unmoving. A foundation has to be dug deeply and is set in concrete to make the building thereon, secure. Hence, Jesus came not to abolish the foundation, the law, but to complete it (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 4:16-21). In Romans chapters 9-10 we can gain further insight into what Jesus meant by “fulfillment”. In fact, Romans 10:4 states, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Jesus sealed it.

     At the appointed time, at the fulfillment of time, after the foundation was dug out, flattened and well prepared, Jesus came to solidify it and institute the direction or outline of the building. Any building that does not have a sure foundation will crumble; like the parable Jesus gave of the house that was built on the sand versus the one that was build on the rock. Paul also used this analogy of building in 1 Corinthians chapter 3. In verses 9-15 Paul writes: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ…”

     This principle of laying the foundation and building on it is ancient and applicable to all areas of our lives. It’s not until the foundation is in place can we build properly. I realize I’ve seemingly diverted a bit from the original topic of us being living sacrifices and how to be acceptable and pleasing sacrifices. But bear with me, I believe it will all come together. As the law was static, unmovable and ritualistic, in a similar fashion, we as habit forming beings, once we’ve developed some of the spiritual habits or disciplines must now build on them dynamic buildings – thoughtful, unique, creative buildings. God wants to interact with each of his unique sons and daughters on a daily basis to impact the world around us. The foundation is Christ, the Word which we build into our lives daily through the study (not just the reading) of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15). Then he, God, through his Holy Spirit wants to direct us throughout the day according to his will.

     So we lay the foundation through obedience and love. As every stone is unique, so will be the way we approach or set in place the foundation of daily prayer and study of his word. Some will rise early, some a little late. Some will do so before breakfast, some after breakfast. Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” I wasn’t able to find if it was his custom to do so in the early mornings or throughout the day. The bottom line is that if Jesus often withdrew to pray, so ought we. We are encouraged to “pray without ceasing” with all kinds of prayers. That’s the dynamic part of being in the body of Christ. Our foundation is Christ. We awake and lay ourselves as a sacrifice on the altar before the day begins and continue to do so as the day unravels by following his commands and direction through out the day.

     How is your sacrifice? Is your sacrifice holy and pleasing? Is it thoughtful and reverent? As we go throughout the day are we walking in love and forgiveness towards those we work with and interact? Are we serving out of love for God or out of ambition for self? (Phil. 2:3; Col. 3:17-24)

A True Fast - A True Sacrifice:
“…Day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?’”

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.” (Isaiah 58:2-11) This Old Testament passage shows you the heart of God and the type of sacrifices that please him.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world” dear friends, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” through the Word of God. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Food for thought and living.

The Lord be with you. Happy Resurrection Day!

A Living Sacrifice - Part 3

Is Your Sacrifice Holy and Pleasing?
(Please consider reading the previous posts on the subject before continuing with this one. Thank you for your indulgence.)

“…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (Ps. 24:3, 4)

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” (Ps. 119:9)

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” 1 John 3:2, 3)

     In Part 1 on this topic I touched on the fact that God was very specific in laying out the laws of Israel in reference to sacrifices that would be acceptable and pleasing unto him. Under the new covenant, he is equally specific but in a different way. We are under grace and he doesn’t expel us from the family of God or judge and kill us outright if we violate this principle of a holy sacrifice (The immediate death of Ananias and Sapphire were extreme examples to the early church to set the tone of the seriousness of holy sacrifices before God). If it wasn’t for God’s grace we’d all be dead. The law was our teacher (See Part 1 and Part 2 for relative passages as well as 1 John chapter 3).

     Thank God for his grace and mercy. Thank God for Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb of God. This week we are celebrating Easter or Resurrection Day. We are celebrating what Jesus did for us on the cross and yes, every Sunday we celebrate Resurrection Sunday. However, as I’ve been reviewing this topic of God wanting us to be “living sacrifices,” God’s expectation is that EVERY day, in view of His mercy, that we pick up our cross and give our lives as living sacrifices. We are no longer our own, we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19, 20), not just on Sunday or Saturday, whichever day you set aside as holy unto God. EVERY day is his and to be set aside for him. We are now sacrificing our lives daily. Every day, as the temple of God, for now he dwells in temples not made of hands but our bodies, therefore, every day is his. What was being foretold by the rituals and sacrifices of old, are now fulfilled in Christ and to be lived out every single day in our lives. God wants us to be holy and acceptable sacrifices not just on Sunday or Saturday, but every day. (Please do not take this to mean that I am advocating in any way that we need not still keep a day of rest. The new heaven and new earth has not yet come when the lion and the lamb will lie down together and we will realize the day of complete rest. Everything is still pointing to a time that is still yet to come 1 Thessalonians 4:4:13-5:11; Isaiah 11:6-11.)

     Now how can we offer ourselves as sacrifices that are holy and pleasing, for God will not accept just any sacrifice. We are encouraged to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). Some believe that they are guaranteed entrance into the kingdom of God as long as they have at one point confessed with their mouths and believed in their hearts that God raised (Christ) from the dead, (they) are saved (Romans 10:9, 10). The word of God is true. However, I recommend that you juxtapose that passage with all the other passages such as Matt. 7:21 wherein Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven“ or Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” God is not mocked. (Gal. 5:13-6:9) There are numerous scriptures that warn and instruct us on holy living which flows out of love and obedience to the Word of God – several of which I’ve already referenced in this study.

     How does your sacrifice measure up? Do you think God is pleased? Do you think based on scripture that your daily sacrifice (for the most part) honors or reverences God? After all, as Paul said, “it is our reasonable” or “spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) Are we consecrating ourselves, our sacrifice, every day through prayer and the Word of God? Are we walking in obedience to his Word and his will? Because it’s continuous, it’s a little more challenging. Because it’s living, it’s dynamic and not static. It’s easier to be religious and ritualistic in our obedience, that is, to go through the motions thereof than to engage with every part of our being via a dynamic, responsive relationship with God. What do I mean by that? As human beings we naturally develop habits- some good and some bad, but nonetheless, we are habitual creatures. Some of us do the same thing every day of our lives without thinking and hate change.

     We sit in the same pew every Sabbath or Sunday. We drive the same route to work everyday. We’re habitually early or habitually late. We have to have our coffee or tea before work… We wake up and say a couple prayers, maybe read the Bible, maybe not, depending on our habit. We pretty much say the same prayers or type of prayers daily – we have our various daily routines for during the week and different routines on the weekend. Some are good, some are not so good. We should examine ourselves in light of God’s Word and prayerfully discern which are good and godly habits that lead to spiritual and personal growth and which are not and put them before the Lord.

     It took me years to change some of my habits. For example I wanted to be able to get up at 5:00 am every morning for a time of prayer and study before I left for my office. It took me about 4-5 years before I was able to consistently do that. (I’m a late owl.) The Holy Spirit is still dealing with me years later on getting to bed by 11pm. It’s the hardest thing for me to do, even harder than it was to train myself to wake up at 5am in the morning. I had to train myself to drink more water and eat more fruit until it became a habit. I believe we go through the following conscious stages in our spiritual and personal development: 1) Awareness, 2) Decision-making, 3) Habit-forming, 4) Ritualistic or routine and 5) Building Stages.

     First, you have to become aware of what you’re doing and what needs to be done.

     Second, you have to make some prayerful decisions. Do you need to change, do you want to change and if so, what will you change and how.

     Third, is the habit forming stage – applying the “how to”. In the case of my drinking more water, I would eat something very sweet that made me want to drink water to dilute it. I hated apples, but I found I could eat them with peanut butter. After a while I didn’t need the sweets to drink the water or the peanut butter to eat the apples. Those are just a couple simple examples. It took me much longer to train my body to get up at 5am after going to bed at 12 or 1:00 am and it’s taking me what seems like a life time to work on going to bed by 11pm. (I’m a work in progress.)

     Fourth, is the ritualistic stage. After awhile some of the habits we consciously or unconsciously develop become routine. We do them automatically without much thought or emotion. Sadly, that’s how some of us treat things of the spirit, that’s how we become religious. We go through routines and rituals without engaging our minds and emotions. We jump up in the morning, and like we would pour a cup of coffee and grab a bagel as we run out the door to work, we thank God for the day or pray for a couple minutes, read a Psalm or a Proverb, a devotional book reading or anything to suffice our conscience that we read something Bible related and we’re on our way. Is this truly an acceptable sacrifice? It’s a start however.

(To be concluded in Part IV on Living Sacrifice)

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Living Sacrifice Part 2

    Jesus, The Perfect Sacrifice
    & The Standard

A brief and simple overview of the sacrifices under the old covenant reveals that they were to teach us how God desired and deserved to be worshipped. We know from John 4:24 that God is seeking “true worshipers, ” for he says, “The time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks." God has been seeking true worshipers down through the ages and has spent immeasurable time trying to teach us how to worship him through the Israelite nation. He set them apart as his people. (Does this sound familiar? 1 Peter 2:4-10) He created a nation and stamped his name on them, became their God. He created them, giving them the various laws and rituals to separate them from the rest of the world as a light unto the world of the true and living God.

     Consider the many different types of sacrifices and the precise instruction given in preparing and offering the sacrifices. God is a holy God and the ordinances he set in place for the Israelites in reference to approaching him were to demonstrate his holiness (See Exodus chapters 29-31, Leviticus chapters 1-7): the ceremonial washings, the separation of the priests from the remainder of the Israelites; who could approach God, when, how and where, the altars and then the sacrifices themselves; which of them were clean and which were not, which could be offered with blood and which not. Burnt offerings, grain offerings, sin offerings, fellowship offerings versus spontaneous thanksgiving offerings, these all depict a picture of the holiness of God, teaching us about his character and his expectation of us. They were not instituted just for the sake of the rituals in themselves. The laws, the rituals were teachers and were laying a foundation, ingraining, preparing for what was to come, that is the fulfillment of the law and perfect sacrifice – Jesus Christ.

     Jesus is truly the answer! That simple statement speaks volumes. I think of the atom bomb and Hiroshima. The effects of one small nuclear bomb can affect millions. (That’s a bit of a negative example, however, the physical picture in my mind of when it is dropped, how it reverberates out and has the power to impact such a massive scope reminds me of the statement above.) Jesus’ physical entrance on the scene, in the flesh, God incarnate, changed not only the world at the time of his entrance, but shed light on history past, rocked the present and blew open the way of the future. Everything changed with his life, death and resurrection- everything. It is because of him that we now have BC and AD calendars. It is because of him that we have an Old Covenant and a New Covenant or an Old Testament and a New Testament. It is because of his blood. Therefore, (there is that conjunction again) he is our standard for everything – for life. That is why Paul says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore… offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”

     Jesus came in the fulfillment of prophecy. He fulfilled how the ancients prophesied he would come and die and rise again (there is, of course, a few other prophecies still remaining in reference to his return and the end times). Therefore, when he died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The shedding of his innocent blood, the blood of The Lamb of God, God’s ultimate provision for our sins, sealed the old covenant and introduced the new covenant. The blood of Jesus (for there is no covenant without the shedding of blood as there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood) encompassed, fulfilled, or completed the law of the old testament. That is what I believe Jesus is getting at in Matthew 5:17-20 and the apostle Paul built on in Romans chapters 2-6.

     That is why Jesus is our example. When Paul says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship,” we have the example of Christ, the picture of how Jesus lived, he said in Matthew 20:25-28 that just as he came to serve and not to be served, so we are to also live. In Philippians 2 we are instructed to imitate Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…humbled himself and became obedient to death…” So we are to offer our bodies as sacrificial offerings, serving God by serving one another; laying our lives, our desires on the altar of sacrifice every day (Luke 9:23). As Jesus died on the cross, so we are to take up our cross daily and die to our flesh and live according to the spirit. The new testament shows and instructs us how to give our lives as living sacrifices just as the old testament instructed those under the old covenant what God expected from them and how he expected them to worship him.

(To be continued: Part 3)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Living Sacrifice - Part 1

        “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.
        Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
        Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

      My former pastor used to say, “What’s the therefore, there for?” In chapter 11, the apostle Paul is exhorting the Roman Gentile Christians on how they, by God’s kindness and mercy, grafted them into his holy nation so that we can all be, together with Israel, be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” to “declare the praises of him who called (us) out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once (we) were not a people, but now (we) are the people of God; once (we) had not received mercy, but now (we) have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9, 10). That is why Paul says in Romans 12: 1-2, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy…”

      What is Paul urging or pleading with us to do? Offer up our bodies as living sacrifices. Now most of you reading this are very familiar with this passage of scripture. You can recite it; it easily rolls of your tongues. But practically, how many of you can say you continually, day in and day out, offer up your bodies as living sacrifices? This is also what Paul is addressing in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

      I have been hearing a lot of conversations and exhortations lately about “The Culture of Christ,” living holy, and being obedient to God’s commands. In fact, on December 31st, 2010 as I prepared to bring in the New Year, the Holy Spirit said to me, “Be a living sacrifice.” That was his word to me for 2011. Here I thought I was already being a living sacrifice, but apparently he wanted more of me. There was another level or awareness of sacrificial living. I thought the last eight months of 2010 was extreme, to the level of stepping out of the boat in faith as Peter had done when he asked Jesus to call him to come to him on the water. What more was God going to ask of me? I already appeared strange in the decisions I was making and the way I was living in following his call. (Come on God.) So I created a plaque and keep it in front of my bed so that when I awake and just before I close my eyes at night I am reminded that I am “A Living Sacrifice.”

      Just about every time I am to make a decision, especially one that would be naturally in my favor, I see those words, “A Living Sacrifice” and I become more prayerful about the decision I am about to make; I run through a quick spiritual test before jumping or answering yea or nay as I go throughout my day. I start the day out with my morning spiritual consultation (prayer and study of the Word) and then throughout the day try to keep my spiritual ear in tune with the direction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes I’m right on it all day long and sometimes I still miss Him, but I’m getting better at listening.

      So back to the plea of being living sacrifices. The obvious picture is that of Christ, and that is the example that Paul was referring to. However, I’d like to work my way back up to that picture. I want to go a little further back to Abraham and Isaac first, then hopefully take a look at the sacrificial laws and rituals of the Torah to the ultimate sacrifice of The Lamb of God – Jesus Christ and end with our sacrifice. I will be using “offering” and “sacrifice” interchangeably.

      Presenting offerings go back to the beginning when Adam and Eve’s sons (Cain and Abel) brought first fruit offerings unto the Lord in Genesis chapter 4. So pretty much from the dawn of time, sacrifices have been offered to God in thanksgiving and worship. Let’s fast forward to the command God gave Abraham to sacrifice his son of promise on an altar to God. God did not normally accept “human” sacrifices, in fact as will see throughout the Old Covenant, human sacrifices were denounced by God. Yet, he uncharacteristically commanded Abraham to offer up the son God promised him, Isaac, as sacrificial offering; “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:2). This was highly uncharacteristic of God, but I think it noteworthy to reflect on the preceding verse which reads, “Some time later God tested Abraham…” It was a test to see who came first in Abraham’s life, the gift or the giver of the gift. (The message of the how God tests to see which comes first in our lives, the Giver of the gift or the gift itself will be further explored later on in this study.)

      The command to offer up Isaac was a special command and a typology of Christ. In obedience and without hesitation, Abraham obeyed God. He gave God his heart through his son, no questions asked. Paul, in Romans chapter 4:22-25 says, “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words, ‘it was credited to him (Abraham)’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”

      Abraham was not only being tested to see what was in his heart; was he pure in his heart towards God, but he was also a picture of God, the Father, who would later offer up his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, in love for the whole world.

      The word sacrifice is burning in my heart as I think back to the text for this subject today. However, it cannot stand alone. What do I mean by that? Well, Abraham was commanded to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. He did not come up with that offering on his own. He was given specific instructions on how to offer the sacrifice and if he deviated from it, it most likely would not have been acceptable. Therefore, obedience preceded and sanctified the sacrifice. In 1 Samuel 15 we see an example of where king Saul offered an unholy or unsanctified sacrifice to God and not only was the sacrifice rejected, but so was Saul as king. “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams… Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).

      There are offerings and sacrifices prescribed by God and there are others given spontaneously out of thanksgiving and gladness of heart. All, however, are to be sanctified. What does that mean? Remember when Araunah the Jebusite in 2 Samuel 24:22 said to king David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up” and proceeded to give David all the supplies needed to present an offering to God. David said, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing” (1 Samuel 24:24). If it is your offering unto the Lord, it should cost you something. Then also, it should be a holy or pure sacrifice. In Deuteronomy 15:19-21 the picture of purity and holiness is depicted in God’s instruction to the Israelites in reference to their offerings:

      “Set apart for the Lord your God every firstborn male from your herds and flocks. Do not shear the firstborn of your sheep. Each year you and your family are to eat them in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose. If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.”

      We can’t give to God any old thing. That’s what Cain did in Gen.4 and why God rejected his sacrifice. It’s the root of the problem addressed in Isaiah 58 about the true fast (fasting is a sacrificial offering, as is praise- Jeremiah 17:26). It was also why the offering of Ananias and Sapphira was grievously unacceptable in Acts chapter 5. God has a standard of holiness for all that is offered up unto him. Chew on this for a while. (To be continued.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sabbath Day: 7th Day, 1st Day, Every Day or a Future Day of Rest? (Part II)

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV)

Inspiration – “Inhalation”
Inspire – “Inhale; to influence, move or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking…” (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV)

The reason I begin with this Scripture is to clarify that ALL Scripture, not some Scripture as some would have us ascribe to, is inspired or God-breathed whether we understand it all or not. Either we accept that or not. Whether God wrote some with his own finger or chose someone to use and write what he wanted to say through them. He, God, wrote it. That is the premise, the only foundation upon which we as Christians (Jews or Gentiles) ought to build.

     Jesus validated the Scriptures as well by referring back to them in many instances with “It is written…” THE Word of God, used the Word of God to reply to questions from the religious leaders and others of his day. It is all we have to stand on. There are many sects and cults that have been spawned that use Scripture out of its context by manipulating it to say what they think or want it to say and have added to and twisted the Word of God. I, for one, do not claim to understand all of Scripture, but I am instructed by the Word and the Holy Spirit to live up to the light or enlightenment that I have received.

     Therefore, in respect to the Sabbath day, as a non-Jew who lives under the dispensation of the New Covenant of grace, I am fully convinced that I am in alignment with Scripture to keep the Sabbath-or Day of Rest on Sunday, the 1st day of the week, provided that I actually make it a true day of rest and refrain from work. I will refrain from speaking from the Jewish standpoint, though Jesus and the Apostle Paul were both Jews and the scriptures I will reference either Jesus himself spoke or Paul was used to write. For it is written:

       “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One man esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it….But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:4-12)

     The reason I worship and hold Sunday, the 1st day of the week as a Sabbath day of rest is not based on tradition. Yes, it is how I grew up, but I’ve always been one to question practices if I do not see them supported in Scripture. If I believed God, through his Word was really telling us to keep the Sabbath as the 7th day instead of the 1st day of the week, I’d have no problem in doing so. However, that is not my conviction based on Scripture or upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

     When Jesus, the Word made flesh, spoke to the scribe of his day, the Jewish teacher of the law and said that the most important commandment is this, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength’… And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment greater than these.” That was a wrap for me and apparently, it was a “wrap” for the scribe as well.

     When God used Paul, who had been a zealot, “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless,” (Phil. 3:5-6, NIV) to say:

     “Owe no man anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
     This is in keeping with Jesus’ answer to the scribe. Note, by the way, that in both responses by Jesus and Paul, they were referring to the Ten Commandments. They both quoted the Ten Commandments in their responses and encompassed them all by saying, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Jesus said in Matt. 22:40.) And Paul’s answer that, “…if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying…”

     I cannot do this study justice in this blog and there are enough books written on the subject. However, it is sufficient for me to cross-reference all the New Testament Scriptures, since I am a born again Gentile under the New Covenant and sealed with the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, I do not find any Scriptural support to “preach” that the Sabbath day be maintained as the 7th day of the week.

     Finally, Jesus said to the Pharisees who questioned him as to why his disciples were doing what was “not lawful on the Sabbath,” he replied, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28) I believe the previous statements quoted above and this statement here, gives indication as to why God created the Sabbath. Yes, God rested on the 7th day after creating the world. Yes, God gave the Sabbath command to the Jews as well as the other nine commandments and many others as well. It’s necessary because being human we would not take the time to rest and reflect or give a full day of worship unto God. However, glory be to God, for the Believer, every day is a type of Sabbath. Through the blood of Jesus we have entered into a new dispensation of resting in Christ though the ultimate day of rest will not be until Christ’s return. Every day we are to worship God and give ourselves as a living sacrifice – every day (Rom. 12:1). Some will not get this concept or understand it (can’t say that I understand completely myself), but I believe the Word of God and do my best to live according to the Word of God and not according the traditions of men. I do not have the time or space to go into being under the law vs. being under grace as Paul talks about in Romans chapters 4-6 except to leave you with the few verses below.

It is written:
“Before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account where there is no law. (Rom. 5:13, NIV)

“The law was added so that the trespass might increase…” (Rom. 5:20, NIV)

“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Rom. 6:14, NIV)

“…in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Col 2:9)

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us…nailing it to the cross.” (Col. 2:12-14, NIV)

“Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17, NIV)

     The commission of the Messiah, Christ, was simple: “…Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matt. 28:19-20)

     Therefore, I submit to you, let that be our focus, not disputing or debating as to which day is the Sabbath day. Jesus kept the Sabbath as a Jew, but then he died and rose again on the 1st day of the week. He fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17-18), that is, he fulfilled the requirements of the law, he embodied the law and when we repent of our sins – the breaking of the law, and accept Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, the embodiment of the law now lives within us, namely Christ.

     So we preach Christ. Everything is fulfilled in him according to the Scriptures. Preaching and practice are now made simple. Preach Christ and him crucified and resurrected. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Let that be our message. If anyone has anything else to say or preach, let that be between him and God (Rom. 14:22). ”Each of us will have to give an account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12)

My Prayer:
Father, make us one. Teach us how to love you with all our heart, mind, soul and body. Help us to love one another as ourselves. Let there not be division among us. Instead help us to walk together in unity so that our lives may glorify you and so that the world may believe in your sent one – Jesus Christ.

Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Audacity of Satan

Matthew 4:8-11, "Again, the devil took him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this will I give you,' he said, 'if you wil bow down and worship me.'"

"Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."

The audacity of Satan! The first two temptations were on one level; "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread," and "If you are the Son of God...throw yourself down. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" It reminds me of how Satan also dealt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say...?"

The first two temptations were audacious enough that he should try to coerce the Son of God to display his authority and power. However the third temptation blows my mind and should really make us think of the boldness of the enemy. He actually dared, DARED to suggest that the Son of God - God incarnate, the one who CREATED the world, would envy Satan's "kingdom" and "splendor" and suggest that God bow down and worship him!!!

Take heed of the crafty, cunning enemy we fight. If he tried to tempt the Son of God, who are we? The great news is that, he's already defeated. Praise the Lord! Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. We know how the war ends. Hallelujah! But it doesn't exempt us from the skirmishes of the battles inbetween. Sharpen your sword - study the Word. Be alert, be prayerful, the time is at hand. Don't be caught sleeping. Our enemy is not asleep. He's slick and slippery like a serpent though. Always looking to strike. Think it not strange the tests and trials that you may go through. Rejoice to be counted worthy, to be counted a threat to the kingdom of darkness and to partake in the sufferings of Christ.

We have an audacious enemy. But take comfort in knowing, he's already defeated. Take comfort in knowing that our King, our High Priest, our Lord has already triumphed over the devil and given us authority in his name to destroy the works of darkness. The devil knows his time is short and is elevating his game. We must elevate ours as well.

Be bold. Remember who you are and whose you are. Know the Word and brandish it. Remain prayerful and walk in righteousness so that you may walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember...we win!

Peace and Blessings!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Sabbath: 7th Day, 1st Day, Every Day or a Future Time of Rest?

In the last month and a half I've encountered the discussion about the Sabbath and the laws of the Torah four times. I hadn't really thought about it until this morning and realized that either God was trying to say something to me about it or perhaps he wanted to communicate something through me or both.

February 5th, 2011 I received a text message from an old friend asking,
-"Y don't Christians believe in the law of Moses or the Torah which are the same?"
- My answer was that we do.
- His response was then, "Y do Christians violate the dietary, circumcision and burial laws?"
- Still texting, I said, "1) That's specifically for the Jew under the Old Covenant or Testament. 2) Jesus is the fulfillment of the law or Old Testament. When he shed his blood and became the atonement for our sins."
- He asked, "What does fulfillment mean?"
- My response: "Atonement for our sins, there was no other sacrifices needed. His death n resurrection instituted the New Testament. Everything in the Old Testament was prophesying and leading up to the Messiah and the new covenant."
-His response: "Who said? Did Jesus teach that? Didn't Jesus say the law  shall not pass away or change?" Did Jesus establish the kingdom of god (God) on earth the way he was supposed to?"
- Yes, I replied. "Jesus himself taught this. I recommend you spend some time studying the teachings of Christ more than the OT. You'll get a full understanding faster."

The questioning continued and conversation continued but because it was all by text I recommended either we discuss it by phone or by email where we could address it better in more length. I recommended he start with Matthew chapter 5 and specifically 5:17. He read the scripture text I recommended and persisted via text to question and prod.
-"It doesn't mean stop following the law. That means all 610 laws such as dietary laws and the sabbath starting on Friday. So y don't Christians follow the law?" he said.

Due to time and location, I wasn't able to respond right away. So I emailed him the following day. I realize that it was going to take some time in discussion and study, however he wanted instant responses which I was not prepared to do without proper review of the Scriptures with references for him to look up.

A couple weeks later I entered a comment on some one's blog in reference to the importance of honoring the day Christians do hold as a Sabbath - Sunday. I shared that though we honor Sunday as the day of rest, many of us are failing to do just that, honor it as a day of rest. I fight to refrain from work and doing my own thing on Sunday and make it a day of rest and reflection on the Lord. Such was the tone of the comment.

Again, last week I met with an old acquaintance I hadn't seen in about 20 years. His conversation centered around keeping the 10 commandments with an emphasis on keeping the 7th day, the Sabbath Day Holy instead of the 1st day, being Sunday. I listened and inquired about how that conflicted with Colossians 2:16-17 and Romans 14. I don't really remember his answer except to give me his testimony of what God had said to him about keeping the Sabbath and that as my other friend said, "Jesus didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it." That Jesus himself kept the Sabbath and that the law was not abolished and should be followed even as a Christian. He also pointed out that out of the 10 commandments given that the law of the Sabbath was the longest and therefore the most important, or so I gathered by his emphasis. I didn't argue but I wanted to remain open. I was rusty, it had been a long time since I'd done a study on the Sabbath, law versus grace and what Jesus meant in Matt. 5:17. So I made a mental note to pray and study on it so that I would have an answer the next time the subject was broached. I had not gotten back with my friend that I'd had the text conversation with about it yet either.

Then last evening we had a former Jewish Rabbi, who was now a Messianic Christian Rabbi, well versed in both the Torah, Talmud and the New Testament come to our church to teach for the next three Bible studies and guess where he started? He started with the "Shabbat" or the Sabbath. It was fascinating and I look forward to the next few weeks. He prefaced the teaching by saying, before you can fully understand who you are, you need to know your history and where you came from. It is important for you to understand that God is a God of rituals and order and that the rituals prepare us for the reality or the realization of the leading of the rituals. This is the key.

In the next post I hope to explore further how that revelation of the Old Testament or Covenant laws and rituals were a preface or pointed to the Messiah and the New Testament and how it translates to some of our doctrine and rituals today. I welcome your comments and Scripture references supporting your stand even moreso than only your opinion if you don't mind. If you are fairly new to the study of the subject, below are some passages of scripture you can study/review for a good base on the subject:

Old Covenant: Exodus 20;  Exodus 31: 12-13;   Leviticus 23:3
New Covenant: Matt. 5:17-20;   Mark 2:27-28;   Colossians 2:16-17;   Matt. 22:34-40;   Mark 12:28-31,   Romans 2:12-3:31 (Chp. 4 is good to read too);   Romans 5:13-21.

Peace and Blessings.