Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Key to Focusing on the Things of the Lord

The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
Psalm  138:8

The truth that the Lord will accomplish what
concerns me frees me to focus on what
concerns Him.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Blessed are the Gentle/Meek

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart....
Matthew 11:29a

...In the world you have tribulation, but 
take courage; I have overcome the world.
John 16:33b

Gentle…praus…meek, mild, fair, a blend of spiritual poise and strength, a quiet and friendly composure that does not become embittered or angry at what is unpleasant.  First, it is a disposition toward God in which we accept all His dealings with us as good and therefore accept them without disputing and resisting.  Secondly, it is a disposition toward man that is without self-assertiveness or self-interest.  It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. 

It is not meekness as we typically think of meekness.  It is not timidness, or cowardice, or a sissiness, or an avoidance of conflict.  In the ancient times it was used to describe an animal that had been tamed, a stallion that was now able to be led by a small child with only a bridle.  It is the picture of power under control.  It is not a passive gentleness, it is not a timid gentleness, but a deliberate and determined gentleness.  Therefore in it we see the strength of gentleness, a gentle strength, a tamed strength.

Spiritually, it is a tamed spirit.  It is a spirit under control, a spirit controlled and subservient to the Holy Spirit, a spirit that does not quench the Holy Spirit, but yields to the Holy Spirit. It is a spirit that yields itself to God and restrains itself with men.

It is sometimes used as a synonym for humility, but it is really not.  Humility is a lowliness of mind that considers others more important than itself.  Gentleness is a condition of the soul that because it has yielded or submitted itself to God, it then reins itself in and restrains itself in its dealings with others.  It doesn’t assert itself even though it has the power and ability to do so.  However, humility and gentleness are close companions and go hand in hand or arm in arm with each other.

The reality is that Jesus has overcome the the world, the One who was gentle and humble in heart.  The One who would not hurt a bruised reed.  The One who entered Jerusalem, not on the conqueror's white steed, but on a donkey, and, actually,  the foal (young and not full grown) of a donkey.  

This is not the picture of a world conqueror that would be drawn up in one's imagination, or portrayed in books or movies.  He did not come in power and might, with a mighty army or legions of cavalry, or with shock and awe, but He came gently; and in meekness, humility, and submission to the Father's will, He overcame the world and all of its evil.  In overcoming the world He has set free from the dominion of the world and its ruler all who would come to Him in repentance and faith.  

It is those who exercise this same spirit of gentleness who overcome sin, Satan, and the world.  It is those who exercise this same gentleness of spirit that will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), and not just the earth of the millennial reign, but the new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns forever and ever.

Is this you my friend? Have you been tamed by the Spirit?  Do you live under the Spirit's control?  Are you submissive to God and restrained towards men?  If not, repent of your rebellion and untamed spirit, and by faith submit yourself to Christ as your Lord.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Satisfying Life

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst
for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6

The Christian life rightly lived is a life that
is well lived; and a Christian life that is 
well lived is a life that satisfies.  This is a
life that leaves a good taste in your mouth. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

God's Faithfulness

O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You,
 I will give thanks to Your name; For You
have worked wonders, plans formed long
ago, with perfect faithfulness.
Isaiah 25:1

Remember, God's faithfulness is perfect, and in His 
being faithful to you, He is also being faithful
 to carry out His eternal plan.   

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Understanding Hebrews 6:4-8

When considering a verse or a passage, always remember that context is King, so the verse or passage must always be first looked at within its immediate context, and then the context of the chapter, then book, and, finally, within the scope of all of the Bible.  So to properly understand  Hebrews 6:4-8, we must give consideration to its place in the book of Hebrews.

When we consider the book of Hebrews, we see that it is written to a group of Jews who were being swayed and pressured to leave Christianity and return to Judaism.  So the author of Hebrews states the case for the supremacy of Christ and the New Covenant against Judaism and the Old Covenant.  Along with his laying out the supremacy of Christ we see that he lays out a series of warnings throughout the book that build one upon another as they are given (2:1-3, 3:7-19, 4:1-11, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, 12:15-17, and 12:25-29). These warnings are for those who would reject His word and therefore, reject His Son. 

The book starts out in 1:1-2 by saying that God has spoken, first to the fathers through the prophets, and in these last days in Christ.  So, the first warning, 2:1-3, is to pay attention to the Word that has been spoken, both Old and New Testament, and therefore not neglect (let slide by) the great salvation that has been offered in Christ. The next warning, 3:7-19, is when you hear His voice (through the Scriptures, the Word that has been spoken) don't let your heart be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, don't have an evil and unbelieving heart, listen to the word and don't be disobedient and therefore unbelieving. The third warning, 4:1-11, is don't fall short of His rest by rejecting His word because your heart is hardened, but receive the Word by faith and don't follow the example of the Jews in the wilderness. The fourth warning, 6:4-8, is more bluntly stated, and it is this:  If you have experienced the work of His Spirit both in person and corporately and have been enlightened (you see the light spiritually and know that it is the truth),    

{This enlightenment comes from:

1. Tasting of the heavenly gift (personal encounter/experience with the convicting work of the Spirit of Truth ie John 16:8). 
2. Having been made partakers of the Holy Spirit (Shared corporate experience of the presence of the Spirit ie I Corinthians 14:24-25).
3. Having tasted (experienced) the word of God, they know it is true as it has spoken to them ie Romans 10:8, Hebrews 4:12.
4. Having tasted the powers of the age to come (know the reality of the resurrection and understand its place as the forerunner and guarantee of our resurrection, our victory over death and Hades in Christ) ie I Corinthians 15:35-57, Hebrews 2:14-15.}

then having this much enlightenment and personal experience with spiritual reality so that you know it is true, don't willingly reject it/turn your back on it (which is what it means to fall away), because if you do, you cannot be renewed to repentance.  This is not deception or ignorance, but a willful rejection, . The fifth warning, 10:26-31,  is once you know the truth, but reject it by willfully continuing in your sin, then nothing but a terrifying judgment awaits in the hands of God (this also ties in and gives commentary on 6:4-8). The sixth warning given, 12:15-17, concerns Esau.  Esau knew the truth, knew his birthright was the Messiah who would come through him as the firstborn to bless the world (See how the gospel was given to Abraham Galatians 3:6-8 and Genesis 12:3. Reiterated in Genesis 22:18.  Given to Isaac in Genesis 26:45, and Jacob in Genesis 28:14), but he rejected it/despised it; and as a result God rejected him and would not grant him repentance even though Esau sought it with tears (ties in with the warnings of 6:4-8 and 10:26-31). The seventh warning, 12:25-29, ties right back with the opening of the book in 1:1-2; and it is don't refuse Him who speaks to you, either through men (prophets and their writings, words of Christ from the apostles) or from God; for you need to consider whom you are dealing with for your eternal destiny, for He is a consuming fire from whom you cannot escape.

It also helps to understand that believing the gospel is a command given by Christ (Mark 1:15).  So not to believe, especially in light of the type of revelation this group had been the recipient of, is very much a willful act of disobedience, a willful hardening of the heart;  and we see the correlation of belief/obedience and unbelief/disobedience in Hebrews 3:18-19, 4:2, 4:6, 4:11, 5:9, 10:36, 13:21, and also in John 3:36.

So in light of all of this we see that Hebrews 6:4-8 fits in with the author’s purpose of warning the Jews not to be disobedient and turn away from Christ, but to continue on in Christ, and to accept Him as the greater, better, and complete way to God. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

Sometimes God Calls You to a Hard Place

Now the Lord said to Abram, go forth from
your country, and from your relatives and from
your father's house, to the land which I shall show you...
So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him...
and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came 
to the land of Canaan...The Lord appeared to Abram 
and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." 
So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared
to him.  Then he proceeded from there to the mountain 
on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel 
on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar
to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.  Abram
journeyed on, continuing toward the Negev.  Now there
was a famine in the land...
Genesis 12:1-10a

I love this story, a story of the calling of God on the life of a man.  The story of a man who was faithful to follow the Lord, and faithful to give thanks and worship.  And what did the Lord call Abram into?  He called him straight into a famine, in the very land that He had promised him and his descendants.  Abram was faithfully following and worshiping the Lord, and the Lord called him into a hard place.

This is an encouraging story, because sometimes He calls us into a hard place.  Sometimes when we are faithfully following His call on our life and His leading in our life, we look up and we are surrounded by famine, or hardness, or barrenness, or leanness, and all the difficulties that are associated with them; and just as famine does not go away over night, neither does this time of hardness.  Yes, and it is from the Lord, it is where He has led us, it is where our faithfulness has taken us.  Just like in Abram's case.

So, lesson number one from this story is that we can be faithfully following and worshiping the Lord, and come right into a place of famine, a hard lean place that we didn't expect, a time that lasts longer that we expected.  Also, there is a second lesson here for us as well.  It is seen in Genesis 12:10b-13:1.  It is a lesson from the failure of Abram.  Instead of staying where the Lord had led him, he took off on his own to Egypt, and it got him in a mess of trouble.  Abram was faithful to follow the Lord until it became hard, then he sought his own way out, his own path of escape.  How much like all of us is this.  Instead of consulting with the Lord, instead of waiting on the Lord, instead of depending on the Lord, instead of trusting in the Lord, he panicked and took off...just as we are tempted to do.   

What we must also glean from this story, is the fact that the Lord knew exactly what He was calling Abram into, and called him there anyway.  Yes, the promised land was a land of famine, at that moment, but it was still the land of promise, God's intended place for him, a place of blessing. The Lord knew when Abram would arrive, and what would be waiting.  Abram was there, in the famine, because that is where the Lord wanted him.  The Lord had raised the ante on the testing of Abram's faith, and the hole in his faith then became visible when put to the test.  

Friends, I write this an encouragement to those who are in that hard place, or who soon will be, and are there because they are faithfully following the Lord.  Be like Abram, who faithfully followed the call of the Lord on his life, but don't be like Abram, who sought his own way of escape and fled when he arrived at the hard place.  There are a few verses I would like to leave with you that show us how to handle these times, and handle them in a way that is faithful and spiritually profitable.

First is Proverbs 20:24 Man's steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way.
Second is Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
Third is Psalm 37:23 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Take heart, my friends, that you have a faithful God who is completely aware of where He has led you, even if you can't understand why.  Be understanding that you may not understand the whats and whys of where God has led you.  Be trusting in the Lord and His faithfulness, and lean on all that you know to be true about Him.  Be patient in staying put where He has put you.  Be godly in the midst your circumstances.  Be faithful in your stay in the hard place, just as you were faithful in following Him there. 

May you be blessed in your faithfulness, and may you see the blessing the Lord has for you in this hard place.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

A Word of Encouragement for Sunday

As we look forward to Sunday,
let us be prepared with joyful
anticipation as we get to preach
great truths about 
Jesus Christ, Himself!

As I heard a man once say,
"There may be those who preach
the gospel better, but there are
none who preach a better gospel."

Preach on, brothers, preach on.