Sunday, July 27, 2014

Thoughts after an awesome Sunday

   These past several days have been nothing short of amazing to my soul.  Obtaining a solid and true understanding of our Lord was a work that He had to complete; it was not of my own volition or accord that He was able to bring me to where I reside spiritually today.  Through ministry, through the testimony of others - through His body of believers that continues to share my storms and dance in my rain, God has confirmed not only how much he truly loves and desires me individually, but He continues to love me and confirm for me His desire for His will and purpose in my life.  It is such a blessing to be used by God to help others, when many times we may think that we are the ones that need the help.  I know that I will never fully understand the ways and workings of God, but I do understand His love more today than ever before, and it is such a blessing to know - no weapon formed against me will prosper - God is my rock. The life of Jesus Christ has meant the death of me - and the death of Jesus Christ, now means life to me.

  There is something special going on in the brotherhood of believers here in Southern Ohio, and many of us here are speaking of this today.  The Holy Spirit is moving the hearts and minds of us to be emboldened to carry his light that is His love to others, in ways that make us speak of it and act upon it.  Our church was simply amazing today - it was the first time that I have been invited to speak before my Church - it was the first time that prayer upon prayer was offered as we gathered together as a group in His Holy name - no time left for a sermon - just pure praise and worship.  I would say that what we have together is as close to the Church that God intended for His followers to follow as I have witnessed - He is transforming us for His will and purpose, and it is amazing to witness the Spirit of our Holy and worthy Father guiding us together. It is a blessing that I do not take for granted. It is awesome to witness the work of God.  It is not to be denied.  It is undeniable.

  As I move forward today into yet another chapter in my walk with my Lord,  All I am left with is sincere humility and reverence for the way He has manifested His spirit and love upon me individually, and us all as a collective.  It compels me to rely more, pray more - to be with Him more and to give all that I have of myself, knowing that He knows no other way to love than completely.  I have had my ups and downs, my trials and errors, my victories and losses and defeats - He knows me completely this way.  Yet, it is God's continued outpouring of favor and blessing and Spirit upon me that draws me ever closer to Him - this makes me want to worship Him in spirit and truth to my fullest.  He knows me enough to bring me to the peace and comfort that I feel at this moment.  My life - my time and effort and resources belong to Him.  I wonder sometimes where the road I travel will take me with my Lord. But I have stopped worrying about where I am going.  I am just glad that He is there with me all the while.  I am nothing, nothing at all without My God - My Savior - My Rock - My strength. I cannot imagine that there is a better life, or a better way of life, than to give your life, for the one, who gave His life.

  Praise be to He who is worthy of all of our praise, all of our days.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Mirror.

Revelation 7:14
"...they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

For sale. White wedding dress, only worn one time and less than a year old. Hand-made by designer Vera Wang, this gown has a red stain in the front from a wine spill that cannot be removed, but other than that - it is perfect! Paid almost $8,500 - will sacrifice for $50 obo. 

Perhaps, this is how we view ourselves at times, seeing only the stain of our own sins and inherent imperfection, allowing these to devalue us entirely. Designed for such a beautiful purpose by the author of creation, but feeling devoid of our real value;  we sacrifice the value God sees within us, for the imperfect perception of others, and more destructive - how we perceive ourselves. Forgetting the 95 percent of us that is beautiful, we walk around believing that everyone is staring at the 5 percent of us that is not.  How often we forget friends: We have been washed clean from our stains, and are 100 percent complete and beautiful in Christ. You.  Are.  Forgiven.

The bible is full of perfectly stained examples of God's purpose made complete in the worst of us,  creating a beautiful reflection of once tattered and scattered souls.  King David was guilty of plotting murder and committing adultery - getting a married woman pregnant and then having her husband positioned to die in a war, but not before befriending her husband in the process.  Imagine this going down in your church. David confessed and saw his sin through and was blessed to be the seed of Jesus.  Paul was the very man that oversaw and approved the stoning of the Lord's servant Stephen in the public square - several days later, he was preaching the Gospel of Jesus, and went on to write 13 books of the Bible. Would you have seen this transformation coming? Peter would not even allow Jesus to wash his feet, and later denied that he even knew Jesus three times, right before Jesus was crucified. Peter went on to be commissioned to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, and wrote two books of the bible. What would you say if Jesus asked you to your face - Do you know me? Thomas saw the resurrected Christ before his eyes and did not believe. Would you have done this?  The fisherman that Jesus brought into His 12 were back in the day, the uneducated and poor simpletons of their times. Today - we call these men Apostles.  (I cannot knock men that fish - I fish with my brother almost every weekend). All of these misfits and sinners and lousy examples of secular men were soon found without spot before the eyes of our Lord - not by their own hand, but by the shed blood of Jesus and the power that can only come from above - plain and simple. The truth will set you free.  Makes a lot of sense does it not.  These men walked boldly, and spoke not of who they were, but who they had become.  I think it is important to realize, that Jesus in many ways, not only saved us, but saved us too from how we see ourselves. How soon it is, that in Christ we find it so easy to forgive others, all the while, forgetting that this forgiveness applies to ourselves.   Perhaps today, stop and ask yourself, Do I feel forgiven. Really, truly...forgiven.  Our purpose and desires in Christ will never be made fully realized, until we realize, that forgiveness starts within.

Psalms 51:9 are the words of King David, after he committed what is likely the best example of someone who was stained by his own sin:  "Don't keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt."  There it is.  GUILT.  Feeling guilty.  This feeling, and I can say this from personal experience, over-rides every other emotion when it is in full swing and will decimate the goodness within our hearts, consume our thoughts and amplify 100 times the worst things that we do, will do, or have done.  And it is okay to feel guilty - for a minute.  However, do not deny the power of what Jesus did for the world collectively and for you individually when He sacrificed His perfect life on the cross for the very sin and guilt that many of us feel.  Do not deny the power of the blood of Jesus in your life.  Knowing this truth within will not make you sinless, but it will certainly make you; sin less. This is what His love does.  When we can meditate on this kind of love and redeeming power that overlooks the stains of our actions and sees only the beauty of our true nature in Christ Jesus - we are not just forgiven, we feel forgiven, and we act forgiven knowing that regardless of ourselves,  we are loved.  We are able to walk in boldness in our faith because of the power of the love that the life and death of Christ Jesus set for our every step.  We have been washed clean.  We are set apart. We are a chosen people. You, are forgiven.  Those stains are already gone.

Not for sale:  White wedding dress, worn and tattered with stains that has now been made into a perfect, spotless white robe. Paid:  by the blood of Jesus. Value: Priceless.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Be Sheep?

I spent many months in the wilderness of Northern Colorado one summer and discovered the silent nature of wild animals.  I was surprised to learn that they are more attached to curiosity than fear, especially when they are truly, wild animals.  I once had a bull moose come right up next to me within just a few feet. This is when I felt fear, and not curiosity.  If I could be any animal, it would be a moose I reckon.  They are big, fast, and fearless. They have very few predators that are crazy enough to consider them a food source, and they eat about 50 lbs of vegetation a day, necessary to maintain a 6 foot tall, 1,200 pound frame.  They are called the great wanderer, traveling all of their lives in the wild - never calling one particular grove, home. Of all the 138 animals mentioned in the bible (Moose is not one of them), I wondered the other day why our Creator would liken us to ordinary, defenseless little sheep, instead of something powerful with a more commanding presence. That seems to be our nature at times. In doing some research, I came to the conclusion of why we are compared to being like sheep.  It has everything to do...with the shepherd.


 As I unfold these facts about sheep, keep in mind how accurate and deliberate the Word of God is - every comparison and every symbolism, perfect in its meaning. When you put all of the pieces together, we see how God's use of sheep in the bible is absolutely there for good reason; for His perfect reasons. With over 500 mentions of sheep in the bible, it outnumbers any other animal by a long-shot, as well as the words praise, pray, believe and heaven. In an odd coincidence, what is the word that is used more than the term sheep in the bible?   The next one on the list coming it at 530?  Christ.

Sheep will not pasture or graze unless other sheep are visibly present. They are the most naturally herding animal known to exist, and they are the easiest to herd. They are a completely defenseless animal; individually.  The single defense they have is flocking together in a large group for protection. The only real protection they have from their most dominant and feared predator the wolf, is the shepherd himself.  Without a shepherd, sheep will follow the first sheep that moves away from the flock, whether it is a good idea or not. This instinct to follow and flock is so strong that in 2006, 400 sheep died after falling over a ravine in Turkey, as they were following a stray. No shepherd was present. Sheep do not like to walk in water, or move through any narrow openings - they must be compelled and motivated to do so. Any sheep that is isolated from the flock will begin to show signs of illness and agitation; naturally. A shepherd can easily identify the individual sheep within the herd that are the most vulnerable and ill in health by this trait:  It will be the last one to enter into the pen, or the first one to stray. Weird? Not really. Like I said - Our God is calculated, and deliberate.

Here are a few more facts that biologists have discovered about sheep that will really drive this message home:  Sheep avoid the darkness and shadows, and are naturally drawn to light. They will be still when it is dark, and will only move when it is dark outside, by hearing the voice of their shepherd. Shepherds must use a quiet and calm tone when guiding the flock, as loud and sudden noises cause a stress releasing hormone that makes them difficult to manage. When sheep become sick, they are easy to spot - the sick sheep are the ones that stray and stop eating...always. The healthiest sheep?  These are the ones that eat the most. Seriously, you just cannot make this up. When sheep are on their back, just like a turtle, they cannot get up, and will need the shepherd to pick them up. Why even have shepherds for sheep, and not cattle or pigs or chickens?  This is where it gets heavy:  No sheep in the pasture will be healthy and graze properly without a shepherd present...they require this guardianship  in order to stay together, and they must stay together in order to eat properly.  Sheep are the ONLY animal in existence that naturally need a leader that is not of their own kind in order to survive in the wild. Sheep were created, to have a shepherd. No sheep. Wow.

I find this all kind of oddly comforting, knowing how accurate and relevant it is now, that our Lord sees us as sheep.  His sheep. This is exactly what we are to Him.  We cannot live, eat or flock together, without our Lord - the Good Shepherd (John 10:14)  He existed before we were created, and we were created, for Him.  Without our shepherd, we do not live. With The Shepherd in our life guiding us, we come together hearing His calm and reassuring voice that guides us in the dark. We follow our Shepherd because we know His voice. (John 10:3-5)  When a lost sheep is returned to the flock, the sheep comes back to good health once again (Matthew 18:12) Above all, let us dwell upon where our Shepherd is leading us. John 10:7 and 9 tells us: "...Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep...whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture." 

Our lives before Christ may have found us with the spirit of a lion and the tongue of a serpent.  I am thankful by the grace and power of my Lord Jesus Christ - that I have been blessed with the life of a sheep, by the heart of The Lamb.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

God's Love

1 John 4:16
"...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."

  We come together, as the body of Christ, not by our own accord or will.  There is no work that we have done that has made God reach his mighty hand down into our lives and touch us with His grace and love; this is a relationship that for each and everyone of us was incited and initiated by Him alone. He loved us first, long before we loved Him, and we cannot do anything to make Him do something that He has been doing since our first breath (1John 4:19) Before our birth and very existence, our Father in heaven has loved us with a passion and desire and purpose that is completely life-changing when realized. It is selfless, not selfish.  When I came to realize the truth of what Jesus Christ means for us individually, I came to, and into, our Lord and real life - real living.   I was dead before that day. His love has brought me to life.

  This love is like a river; unceasingly pouring into the deepest parts of our soul and spirit.   When we were of this world and in the flesh, doing whatever we wanted; His love was there.   Those years that we spent separated from God and attached to the sin and death that we were living in; His love was there.  Even in our most reckless of decisions, the puzzle pieces of our lives seem to fit together in retrospect to the grand climax that is God bringing us into His fold, and sheltering us with grace and mercy; we are nothing without this.

  We will never be able to do better or do more to make our Lord love us more.  His love is unchanging.  It is constant.  It is a flowing river that does not alter its course due to ours. It will always be there, never running dry.  His love is the bonding agent that attaches us to the truth and power of His love in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.  When we realize and understand what the life and death of Jesus means for us personally, our life is eternally changed.  It is a supernatural transformation, because it is not of our own doing that we are transformed.  We are changed in Spirit, and thus become the light that reflects His love to others, because God now lives in us, and loves through us. This is the will of God - that we receive His love so that we can be His light to others.  When that happens,  nothing can or will be accomplished in our lives that is not of Him, by Him or for Him.

  On the days when you are down, He is loving you.  On the days that we feel adrift in this world, His river awaits. The moments in time where all we want to do is cry, His hand is there catching our tears. The love of God and His comfort and mercy is desperately waiting for us every single moment in our lives. When we come to really know that He is not going to stop being or doing what He is, the life that we are meant to live for Him  can begin. "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them...."


Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Call to Ministry

   Romans 10:14
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

   Lately, I feel like I am robbing those around me of light - of truth - of a message that can save them.  I am not exposing the power of the truth of Christ by hiding my light under a basket - taking my candle into a room, and basking it its glow all to myself.  There is a reason why this has been on my mind so heavy as of late; chasing one sleepless night after another, peering into His word for the words He has already placed deep within my heart.  It is a calling upon my life, coming to fruition.  It brings me to a moment of complete abandon, and begs me to make this beautiful transition from living as I will, to living for His will.  It takes me deep into prayer to my Lord,  and in the quiet,  I wait upon His voice. He reaches into my heart through His words, and there He tells me: Now is the time, to tell others.

I look ahead into a future that will be built upon reliance and trust in the truth of the Gospel, and considering the way it has completely changed my life, I have no other choice.  I want no other choice.  I beg the Lord now, to take this life that is no longer mine, and reach his hand of love and grace through me so others can be drawn to the same transforming truth that I have come to. This is my purpose now.  I have never had purpose before. I never had reasons to.

  I did have dreams when I was younger. I was going to be a songwriter.  I wanted that life so bad, one day I just packed up the Chevy and headed south to Nashville with a guitar in one hand, and the other on the wheel, but still, I had no direction.  Life would find me living all over the place: Cincinnati, Ohio - Nashville, Tennessee - Northern Kentucky and all over Colorado - two different colleges - two areas of study,  but in them all I found no real ambition.  I hated being a rolling stone, but I could never be a rock.  Life would bore me with one job I hated after another; countless meaningless relationships that were built upon a sea of lies that I would one day find myself swimming in, all alone.  The waves and the wind became my friend, and I became good at navigating these waters - but I would only drift along, never expecting anything from myself but a good time. One day, the good times come to an end, and real life begins.  I was never really ready for that, and what I did and did not have was a reflection of how ill-prepared I was for building a life of my own. I found myself, lost among the years and the seasons that I had sewn.  I had no one to blame for the rain in my life, and I thought that would never end.  This is when, I found the Son.

   I have tried every way possible to be happy on my own terms, and perhaps His love and patience allowed me to go through the hell I did, so I could better understand and appreciate His heaven.  The one who is forgiven much will love much in return. (Luke 7:47)  Understanding and reflecting on God's love and grace in my life has led me to a peace and calm that I would never have found on my own accord.  Truth can never be taken away from me, and now, it is the most valuable possession that I have. This truth brings me, to the purpose that my Lord and Savior has had for me all along.  I am here, to share His light to this world.  People are hurting, everywhere around me. This world is so dark and void of light that many believe the pain is the pleasure,  just so they can feel something.  So many broken lives are in this world - they scatter our streets and hide in the corners and never find a place that they can call home.  Countless children never know what a family is, countless parents never know their children, and countless children never know their parents. Morals have declined to a rock bottom that is now called normal. The bible has become just another book, and Christianity has become, just another religion.  Our nation is heading towards a Godless paradigm just to make sense of the injustices and maladies that plague us so unsparingly. Time marches on.

 There is one solution to all of these problems.  It is the Gospel. It is not cliche - Jesus does save. He is the light, and His light is truth.  This truth must be shared. As for me, my light will be upon a mountain.  This is my calling. How can I be silent about something like this?


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

On my Birthday

    I am 41 today.  Not much harder to remember - no big deal. So be it. Age is refining to me. It does not define me - and it is purely, math and sweet time.  I am still, young at heart. But an old soul.  I will tell you, there was a time that I never thought I would get all of the crazy out of me - I always had to be doing something.  I realized in time,  that the average woman was about ten times crazier than I, and life would be okay in the long run. Nowadays, peace tends to find me in the quieter places, being still in the silence sometimes.  You know wisdom and better sense are upon you, when you are seasoned enough to drink beer for the taste, and not so much, the effect. Life is much about moderation, across the board. Balance.   But at the end of the day, if you want to take life seriously, live it seriously. I have never been more comfortable with myself, and for me, that is enough. In my own skin, and bare to the world.

   I think birthdays are good for us, in that you can, for one fine day,  get free stuff.  I'll take the cake and Skyline Chili all day long. Other than that, it is a cyclical reminder of all the yesterdays behind me, and time gone into the wind.   It is funny how the times of our life see us living the roller coaster of wanting to be older, then wanting to never get older, then wishing you were younger. But after that, are the seasons of the good life - the years where you are happy and satisfied with who you have become, and how old you are. You never have to look at life as getting older when you become wise enough to understand, there is little you can do about it.  Embrace the reality of time. We fly,  while it stands still. A measure of our moments that I find to be foolish, when I am firm in the faith that I will live eternally because of what Jesus Christ means for our lives. My real birthday is on the day and in the moment that I came to believe and know this truth.

  I have plans this year - expectations so to speak. I would rather have resolve, than resolutions. My overall goals have little to do with me, and much to do with helping others.  A purpose and vision in ministry that will begin to form and define the rest of my years. Our purpose finds us, and away we go. I carry another heart into my future today, a true compliment to me.  These have made all the difference. I believe that it is not how many birthdays we have behind us, but how many we believe are ahead. 


Sunday, June 1, 2014

"The truth shall set you free"

   It is 5:30 on an early Sunday evening.  I have tears in my eyes. Each one, almost as unexplainable as the next. One cannot always give a rational explanation regarding the power of the way God moves within us and what he can do to a life on a moment by moment basis.  The power of change, to release the chains within - that is His will for us all.  And I look around with my minds eye at this world around me; I know that there are so many more that were just as I - afraid to step out into the light that removes the darkness, exposing the truth about everything within themselves. There is a trouble with the truth that I believe keeps most people from even contemplating all that is our God...knowing what is true brings what is and was not right to light - and with this knowledge, one must walk away from what he thought he once knew, and into the great mystery that is our Lord and Savior. Faith, begins here.

 I dwell upon the words of John 8:31-32 today. "Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free..."  But, what is this truth?  What reckoning have I come to personally that has set me free? What truth has set my fellow believers free?  The truth of the truth is this: Knowing and applying the words of Christ Jesus as the way to life.  Just go back one verse and we read in context what Jesus was saying and why: "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you continue (to walk in) in my word (logos), you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  I tell you, what I find so reassuring to my faith is what he was talking about specifically and its impact as found in the surrounding verses of these powerful scriptures. In verse 30, it states, "Even as he spoke, many believed in him". Dwell upon that for a moment, and wonder within yourself the absolute power of the Word of Truth. It changed these learned Jewish leaders instantly.  They were able to walk away from 2,000 years of law and repetition and animal sacrifice and temple worship and the religion of their forefathers,  and consider a different way of life altogether,  with just hearing the words flow from the mouth of Jesus. Instantly. So, what do you have to walk away from that may keep you from fully believing in the words of Christ Jesus?  Is it a family member?  Is it friends that believe it is just not cool to be a Christian? Is it the liberal indoctrination that has plagued our institutions of learning, making the belief in God seem foolish? Our adversary is amazing at presenting what seems to be viable and more reliable options than having faith today. He seeks to consume and devour with lies - while Christ seeks to shelter you with truth and deliverance. Let's go back to the book of John now, and see what freedom the truth of His word would give to the doer and hearer - to those who would 'walk in his word'. To anyone who can open their hearts upon this, it will change your life forever.

  In the following verses of John 8 verses 33-36, we read,  "They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

  To those listening to Jesus who did not believe or understand at that moment, they asked what was really a valid question with historical support in their eyes. In short, they replied to Jesus;  'We are not slaves to anyone, we have not been since what freedom is it that we need?  We are already free.' Jesus said in return ' You are a slave to sin, because you are all sinners -  and that is what you are a slave to... and I have come to set you free from the bondage of sin and all of its effects upon you, and only I can set you free. I want you to be my family. And know this; if I set you free, you will truly be free'.  You see, the Jews at that time believed that by their own way of life and righteousness,  based upon works of the law as given to Moses, they were able to manage their own destiny. Jesus was telling them otherwise. Jesus could only be a fulfillment of the law of Moses, to the believer. To the non-believer, they were still held captive by works, and not freed by having faith in His Word, and therefore, were still condemned by the sins that they committed.  This alone removed them from the protection and gift of grace and mercy as only made possible and available by Jesus Christ himself. From all of this I gather in my heart, the absolute importance of walking in, hearing, reading and applying the Words of God that came to humankind directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself.

  The reality of the meaning found in the words spoken by Jesus are by far the most important words that have ever been spoken to man since this worlds creation. The words of Christ Jesus, are literally, life-giving and life-saving. Sin is bondage - and Christ is the key that unlocks these chains within us, and provides freedom to the hearer. Christ Jesus changed the world, by the truth found in His words.  We can do the same by speaking these to those who will believe in His words today. We are His spokesmen.  How important it is, knowing this, that we share the light of truth today.  I think of how Peter understood the power in the words of Jesus Christ when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Jesus echoed these words in verse 63 of the same chapter; "The words I have spoken to you-they are full of the spirit and life."

  I have a new life now.  I am a new creation.  I have been born again.  And this change, this release from the chains and bondage that was sin and death is now freedom and life, and it was coming to a realization and understanding of the words spoken by Christ over 2,000 years ago that has initiated this transfer of my fate and destiny in His name. In this knowledge, I find meaning and purpose, and it is a purpose that is much larger than the life I can live here and now, today.  It extends beyond the temporal, and into the eternal.  I look at things much different now, because of the truth and freedom that is alive in grace, because of His love. I dare one, to step out into the oceans of faith, and renounce all that is this life of sin and death, and accept the words of the Bible as fact, and not fiction. Therein, you will surely find peace, hope, faith and love, and release from the chains that bind you, where his eternal words, will find you.




Friday, May 30, 2014

Modern Church. Pink Elephant. America. Repent.

   I will admit, I have at times avoided the difficult parts of scripture; the ones that the secular world would consider counter to the culture our America is cultivating.  Well, I have not avoided reading them or understanding them, but I have distanced myself from spilling the truth that will burn the ears of the non-believers. Sure, Jesus loves you, He will save you and John 3:16 is an amazing reality for those who embrace and taste the faithfulness and love and grace that is our Lord. But there remains an accountability to the truth that I feel is often disregarded in the silence that emanates from the pews and views of the modern Christian congregation in America.  The liberal indoctrination that has invaded our country has crossed over from our political system, into our belief system.  It is in the church now - this idea that Jesus was a liberal, that he was supportive of the idea of social justice, and that all men are not just created equal, but that they remain that way in the eyes of God.  The promise of a life of purpose is now the promise of a life of prosperity. These are all lies. If these ideas are being promoted from your pulpit and pastor, change them both. This is not the truth that is spoken of in the Bible. This rewriting of the Gospel that has organically changed to include all manners of morality is a lie, and a lie cannot save you.  Only the truth can do that.  Gone from many spiritual leaders among us is the voice preaching repentance. Now it is acceptance. Quiet is the sound of accountability and change that the life of a Christian should reflect.  It is fast becoming an all-inclusive club of do what you want because faith is enough, disregarding that faith motivates change and that this will be a marker and indicator of true belief.  It is not enough to believe in Christ, if this belief does not change you morally and spiritually - if it is not a rebirth and new life, it is not a saving faith. It is just empty rhetoric. It is church, but it is not The Church.  What ever happened to preaching repentance?  This is the pink elephant I speak of.

  I did some research on Christian denominations disputing on an organizational level the idea of gay marriage. I tried hard to understand what this dispute is about.  If one can imagine Jesus presiding over a gay marriage ceremony, you have found a different Jesus than I.  It is the love and grace of Christ that would draw men to God, and we are to reflect that love to all, at all times. That is what we are down here for...vessels for His purpose.   However, read and understand 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. If one would like to pick and choose scripture in order to fulfill their inclusion into the body of Christ, start right here.  If you are not willing to allow the power of the Holy Spirit through Christ Jesus, and the cold hard Bible truth to motivate and fulfill the changes in your life and lifestyle, you are seeking a custom-made Christ to suit your immoral desires, and out the door goes purity, sanctification and holiness. To include all manners of immorality as being okay, you either need to rewrite the bible, or start your own religion; it is not Christianity.  A brief look at Acts 3:19 provides a stable blueprint for the foundation of a life driven towards truth:  "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the Lord".  Just read this verse backwards; If you want seasons of refreshing from the Lord, and you want your sins wiped out, turn to God, and repent. Any dispute of what is required for a saving faith needs to be taken up personally with your Father above, and not with the faithful here below.  This extends well beyond homosexuality. Idolatry, adultery, greed, lying...there are a list of things in the flesh that will be purged in due time within the true believer, because that is what real faith does. It is cleansing and refreshing.  It is not, never, in no way believing the idea that God will accept you as you are, to keep doing what you are doing because God's love and understanding trumps his righteous requirements and perfect judgement.  The continued promotion that change is not necessary and that the Church needs to include filth and wanton sinners is a lie of our adversary.  Those who teach this watered-down approach to Christ are complicit in promoting falsehood, and this promotion is only self-promotion, and void of any real truth. Light cannot mix with darkness. They do not share the same space - and they do not reside, in the same places. This includes, the confines of your house of worship.

  When I take a step back, I understand why this side of Bible truth is less vocal than the promise of eternal life, the grace of our Lord,  and the truth that sets us free. Preaching pure repentance would not lead many to Christ.  But preaching only, that Jesus loves you and if you believe in Him, you will be saved, is akin to building a fire without bringing a match. Truth is refining.  Jesus was clear in Luke 13:3 "I tell you, no. But, unless you repent, you too will all perish." And again in Luke 24:46-47 "He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." 

   Jesus preached repentance, and some are afraid to do so.  Our American culture is now on a Sodom-like level, basically anything goes now, and liberal Christianity is surpassing bible truth at an alarming rate.  And again, I understand why this is so. Change is work, and a works based salvation too, is not biblical.  But how is not doing something work?  Repentance is a changing of our minds, and the turning away from a former path. It is a 180, not a 360. The air of our nation is one that is now going beyond just disagreeing with the Christian message. It is conforming the Church itself to be just as accepting, and turning a blind eye to continued wickedness, and  then portraying this as "the truth will set you free'.  I for my part will not be silently complicit it supporting a false gospel just because it happens to tickle the ears of the hearers and it popular to broadcast. There is a steady growing trend today in the walls of our churches,  in teaching that Jesus loves you regardless of what you do. Jesus loves everyone, this is true, but He will not save everyone, because not everyone will be taught the truth, nor will all walk in the truth.  These are the facts. It is not popular, and that is why the truth of the reality of the Christian walk is a dying message in our land today. It is hard to hear, because we are being, and have been indoctrinated by the Godless media and the popular pastors to accept everyone, every time, no matter what they choose to continue to do, because this is what will lead them to Christ and eternal life. That is not how it works.  Sugar-coating what the reality of the Christian walk means for our lives will only be able to fill stadiums full of folks who have accumulated for themselves teachers who say only what the hearers can do, never allowing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to guide one to the real fountains of waters of life.

  Repentance will not lead one to Christ.  Christ, will lead one to repentance.  What we can do is be the light of the world.  The darker this world becomes, the brighter our light will appear.  We need not dim ourselves in Christ just to conform ourselves and our message to those around us.  Truth does not change. Truth changes us.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lessons in Forgiveness

Mark 14:53

"They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together..."

   So began the journey of condemnation that Jesus endured until his death; being accused and abused by the very High Priest that he was to become for all of man. Let's take a closer look at the events that unfolded just prior to the barbaric death of our Lord as written in the gospels.  What stands out to me the most,  is not just that Jesus was handed over and beat and later crucified, but how he responded ultimately to the atrocities that were being unjustly delivered to His physical body.  In this we see, the amazing and endless, grace of our Lord.

  "...They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.  Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.  They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. “Crucify him!” they shouted. Why? What crime has he committed” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”  Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days. In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him..."

"...And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

  Note that Jesus did not say, 'Father forgive them, for they know not who they are doing this to...' In His agony and pain, after being beat and mocked and spit upon and led to a walk of certain death; while hanging there before his final moments, what was the response of our Savior?  He wanted them to be forgiven, despite their ignorance. This is the love and loving concern of our Lord.  Suffering as a criminal, dying like an animal - His offering of grace was extended to the very hands who saw to His unnatural death. This is the will of our God, that all can come to a knowledge that leads to repentance, and eternal life. Christ did not just die for you...He died for your enemies too.

   Is there someone in your life, in your past or in your present that you are finding it hard,  if not impossible to forgive?  Pray for them. Pray for their forgiveness.  Love them all the more. Even to the greatest of sinners; even to the hands that shed the innocent blood of the greatest example of love that has ever touched this Earth,  He wanted not,  for His life and death to be in vain.  Not for one single solitary soul. The intercession of Jesus is offered to the most despised person in your life. Even to those who may have taken a life, His life is offered as a sacrifice. His grace and undeserved mercy is equally offered to those who believe. (John 3:16)  It is available to all. This is, the love of our God.  "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."  (2 Peter 3:9)  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44)

  Sometimes, we need more than our sinful, human resources to forgive and love others this way.  The demand for love and grace in our lives has no limits - but we do.  If we are to allow God to love others through us, we must also forgive others with the power and spirit and will that God will provide for us to do so.  Understand this:  An unforgiving spirit against those who do us wrong is to live our life as a victim, and not as a victor.  We are to forgive others, not just for our own good, or to fulfill a righteous requirement, but for the promised realization of eternal life for ourselves, and our enemies. Forgiving the otherwise unforgivable has led the forgiven to the feet of Christ Jesus. Though we may never forget the pain caused by those who have sinned egregiously against us, they will never forget...our forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Orange Barrels

Philippians 1:6
"...And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."

   If road repair and construction projects are one of your pet peeves, I would strongly advise you to avoid the Cincinnati area at all costs. Especially the East side.  It is just plain ridiculous.  I catch myself at times in heartfelt and desperate prayer along orange barrels and cones, begging for the patience of Job that so eludes me when I am driving along with every other commuter in this area, seemingly to the very same parking spot and parking lot, at a round a top speed of maybe 20 mph.  The worst part for me is knowing that these projects take what seems like years to complete.  There is a stretch of road here, US 32, that has been under some kind of ongoing improvement or construction since the late 1990's.  I wish I was making that up. I also wish that I did not live about 2 miles from its most congested and bottle-necked area. I know that these projects will eventually lead to a smoother and quicker drive, but in the meantime, orange barrels are all I see.

   On the path to sanctification and purity in Christ, we are going to find our own areas of congestion and construction. We will always be to some extent, a work in progress.  However, the battle for control of our lives in this flesh is a struggle that we will not need to face alone. The very God who saw within us the life that would be His own, will see us through our struggles and trials in change, regardless of what they are. I dwell upon the reality of what Philippians 2:13 means for us all: "...for it is God who works in you the will to act in order to fulfill His good purpose."   When we stop and meditate on what this means for our walk, it is inspiring and encouraging to know that God is not just on my side, He is working on me from the inside, continually.  Our faith in the promise that God, through Christ Jesus,  will see us through the process of holiness and purity should empower us to forge ahead in confidence, knowing that the work he saw and began within us all, will be completed.  It is by His very will that He will finish perfectly, what He began. This does not mean that we do not need to be obedient to His voice, or that He will do all the work for us. Change is work. Very hard work sometimes. But we are never to assume that this is to be accomplished under our own power and strength. Trusting that God will resolve the things that are counter to what He desires within us is the beginning of wisdom, and a marker of our faith.  Our strong desire to do what is pleasing to God is parallel to our being willing to accept His divine intervention in our lives.  He may choose to change us, rather than to change our circumstances.  God may allow us to undergo some pretty uncomfortable situations for our own good.  We may take detours and roads that are so foreign to what we are familiar with, that we may seem lost. Please remember:  Our implicit trust in relying on the power of God rather than our own is the only clear path to victory. Philippians 4:13 gives us this promised assurance:  "I can do all things through him who strengthens me".  Paul did not here say, I can do this - he was saying, I can do this, with help.

  Enter now, our Helper, the Holy Spirit. The bible tells us this in John 16:13,14 "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you."  The power of what the Holy Spirit reveals in our lives is from Christ Jesus.  This is what the bible says. It is for the glory of Christ Jesus. All things come back to Christ. Always. The changes in our walk bring glory to God through Him.  It is what our God wants in our lives.  He wants our reliance and trust, because it allows Him to love others through us.  What does this all mean?  Like I said, it always comes back to Christ Jesus...let us take a look at the last verse in this Chapter of John.  It is the summary of the Gospel in three short sentences:  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  

  Friends, the heavy lifting has been done already.  The hard part of redemption has been accomplished.  Our struggles, really now, are opportunities to exercise our faith and rely on the power that is necessary for us to make it through the constantly improving areas that we call our weaknesses. Praise be to our God and Father who has found a way to call us to His own, despite ourselves. While it is true that we may always be, under construction, it remains the most beautiful work in progress that is for our peace and eternal life, and His glorious name. Amen.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What His love does...

Funny how a man like me, could spend his life in misery
So glad the way things are ain't like they was
Cause looking back now,  All I see; How I became a better me
I'm living proof of what,  His love does. 

I've met so many, just like me,  They have become my family
we come together, always;   just because.
We bow are heads and praise His name, no longer living in our shame
we're living proof of what, His love does.

I found it hard to keep inside,  that kind of truth is hard to hide
so many out there, Don't know how much theyre loved
His light shines, His Spirit speaks, and tells the lost,  but now through me
He's living proof of what, His love does.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The waters.

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And his children will have refuge. - See more at:
Psalm 78:16-16
 "He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers."

The other day, I drove down by the river in my old hometown,  New Richmond, Ohio.  There has always been something about rivers that have felt like a Linus blanket to my soul. Like my mothers arms.  I am drawn to rivers.  I have always been.  Many years and seasons would find me along them; The Poudre River in Northern Colorado, The Red River Gorge in Kentucky, or along the banks of The Ohio.  The quiet and subdued times in the valleys of my life have been spent on these waters, letting them speak to me. I think most of us have a place like that. I think there is something in us all, about waters like this;  ones that quench our souls. We are all drawn to places where we can be honest with ourselves. It took me a while to realize that truth, is the best therapy.

In retrospect,  I know God knew I would see Him in the quiet places of my yesterdays. Perhaps then, it was the closest I could get to Him and His love.  He has become my rivers now.  He was always there; guiding me through the years I remained adrift on the waters I now seek to walk upon.  He has always been there.  I have embraced this thought.  It leads me to believe,  I was never really lost. 

The Poudre River flowing through Bellevue, Colorado
I still find solitude on the water.  I was there yesterday, accidentally fishing again. In the stillness of the night, as the fog danced on the water, I thought all of the times I sought refuge and retreat on the rivers in my life.  I still do, but nowadays, for different reasons.  I went to these places then, hoping I would find Him. I go to these places now, to listen.  Truth, is the best therapy.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Thoughts on a Sunday morning

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

 I went fishing last night.  While waiting on a big ole catfish, and telling exaggerated stories of the ones that got away - I noticed the stars above me, and just started thinking.  I seemed so small in that moment, wondering about life and why and how - but mostly, who did all of this. I thought of this picture here to the right.  I  felt much smaller. 

 Let me put this in perspective,  if possible.  This photo is of galaxies (not stars) taken by the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Project. Scientist estimate the number to be around 10,000 in this field alone. To take a 360 view, that would equate to 120,913,983,000 galaxies. Now think on this. It is theorized that one could travel to the edge of what is the farthest galaxy in this photo and repeat this process a million million times. Google this sometime - it is staggering how much creation is around us in this universe.  It is infinite. Our God is infinite. And in all of this space and time that I will never be able to wrap my head around, I have come to know that He wants me to know Him. Personally. That is something I want to wrap my life around. This is what Christ, and being a Christian, mean for me. He is equally concerned about us, and knows us individually. All of those galaxies with endless order and all I can see from my folding chair on the lake while fishing is a small snapshot of just the stars around me within the Milky Way galaxy, making me so infinitesimally small that I just have to stop dwelling upon it, and just praise Him and His awesomeness. I will never be able to understand that kind of love and will and purpose and power, but I will choose to live within it. He wants me to know him, and that sometimes just blows me away.

   My experience and relationship with our Father and creator will always trump the opinion of someone else who believes He does not exist. My reality proves otherwise to me. I have concrete evidence within my heart that will not allow me an option, but to believe, and lead a life that aligns with my faith in Him.  Why are all not compelled to believe that we are not a chance in time and space is something I cannot really understand. It is not for me to think upon the hearts of men, but to let others see his love through my life.  It is the strength of my faith and belief in his will and purpose for me individually that wants me to share this kind of love and hope with others. In my failures and victories in life, my darkest and my brightest day, He is there, every step. Every moment, Infinitely. 


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Faith without works is dead...

 James 2:17
"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

If you grew up a Jehovah's Witness, you had this scripture memorized at an early age.  It was the supreme go to scripture that validated your existence at five meetings a week and countless hours going door to door -Works are what God requires, and without them, your faith is dead, and you are dead.  I will quote them on this from a recent article in the Watchtower (March 1st, 2014) based up James 2:17:  "Everlasting life in peaceful, pleasant conditions, without the threat of illness, war, famine, or death, would surely open the door to endless happiness and blessings. Whether you will receive those blessings depends entirely on you. The question that remains really is, What are you doing for God?"  The more appropriate question should be, 'What is God doing through you?'  When we analyze where the works of God come from, and how they are manifested in our Christian walk, we can easily identify how destructive this view is.  The fact is, if you are trying to work your way into the Kingdom, you will not be there.  The Bible answers this for us in what is the most comprehensive plan of action for our lives in Christ Jesus.  The Gospel is so simple when it's cornerstone is faith in Christ Jesus, and not our own effort in the flesh. It all, and always, comes back to Jesus.

John 6:28-29 is the very scripture that lead me to believe as I do now. It was the key - it is the nemesis of those who go to scriptures like James 2:17 in an effort to elevate their religion of works as the Pharisees did. It reads "Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.”.  Note that he answered them singularly when asked a question in plurality.  All of the works God requires can be accomplished by one work alone. Faith. Now, let's jump to this very issue that was in progress during Paul's ministry. This account is a pivotal moment in Christianity, and its lesson effected the growth and spread of the true Gospel right down to our day. In Galatians 2:4-5, we read "...because some false brothers had infiltrated or ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give into them for a moment so that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you"  What was at issue here?  Works.  Peter and Barnabas themselves had been led to believe that Jesus ransom was not enough, and that obedience to the Law was still necessary for salvation to the Gentiles, converting them to Christ through Judaism and its law code. Paul states in verse 11 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong". Paul told then that they "were not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel".  What is the truth of the Gospel?  This brings us to a scripture that nails down the entire bible to me. If I had to share just one scripture with someone who was curious about the power of true faith, it would be Paul's retort to those who were trying to manifest faith by works. We read in verse 20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me".

If we believe in Jesus Christ, we have died with Him, so that He may live in us -this is being 'Born Again'.  Spiritually, this is to be taken literally.  It is not of our own doing.  When we are doing the work of our Lord and making his light of truth shine onto the path of others, it is Christ in us. It is the work of The Spirit and not our own will.  It is the will of God that we work,  because it is him working his will through us by means of our faith. Just read Philippians 2:13 "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.The power of the Gospel and the will of God is manifested through us, and not by us, by the Holy Spirit.  We can never work hard enough to be considered right in the eyes of the one with whom we render an account. We can only have the kind of faith that is willing die in the flesh, acknowledge that we are useless without Jesus Christ, and then allow him to develop us into vessels for his purpose.  Nobody is good enough to make themselves better in the eyes of our Lord.  He does that for us and through us so that his will is accomplished.  When we have true faith, we abandon the notion that our works reflect the strength of our faith - our works reflect the will of our God. We exist so that others may believe. When we awake each day, our purpose is His purpose - we no longer have the will to do our will, because his will is to live within us and through us so that others may believe with the kind of faith that is reciprocal, and this will always come back to having faith in Jesus Christ. 

  Faith without works is dead. So too, is the belief that we can work enough to be considered faithful. The true Gospel will always lead us closer to faith, and further from fiction. It will rest on the idea that we must die in order to live, and believe that there was one who died so that we may have life.  It all, and will always, come back to Jesus Christ.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Progidal Years

Romans 8:28-30

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;  and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified..."

I am on the far left - Photobombing in 1982

I have to admit something.  I have found out that becoming and being and walking as a Christian has left me with one huge regret:  I wish I would have done this much sooner.  When I look at this picture where I was just a little kid,  I still see the dreams and the hope within me that was life back then - I had the whole world ahead of me. All I had to care about was the next fine day.  This world though, would pull me in later in life and bring me to my knees with the pain and all of tears and worry I would cause myself and others all in the name of having fun and a good time. I had no idea in this picture, that one day I  would become, a prodigal son.

   What sense is there to make of the years many of us have spent so far away from right, running to what was wrong, and laughing along the way?  I have found solace and comfort in coming to the knowledge that, at least for me, these things had to take place to get me to this very moment where I am writing this blog entry today.  I could have had babies and a wife, a million dollars - but nothing, not one of these would bring me the peace and calm I feel knowing that right now in this season of my life,  I have never been happier.  It has everything to do with God.  Not God the creator, but God the Father. The long walk back to His love has led me to realize that all along the way, these lessons and failures, and sometimes tragedies,  were taking place because He loved me. He wanted me to return to Him - to know Him, and in His infinite wisdom and understanding, he knew exactly what that would take. I believe that here are no coincidences with our Lord.  I was never meant to be or do anything but to return to Him so I could walk with Him.  It is and always has been my purpose in this life. This is the will of God for all of mankind.

   The last few lines in the story of the prodigal son are deeply impacting to those who have been the recipient of God's undeserved favor and kindness after living a life so seemingly undeserving.  They read in part, "...we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. " (Luke 11:32)  If we were to take these scriptures at face value, we see that the prodigals among us were once dead and lost,  now alive and found.  We tend to be very merciful and gracious, since so much grace and mercy has been cast upon us. (Luke 7:41-43)  When we are forgiven much, we love much in return.  We have learned the hard lessons, and now realize that they have been responsible for our molding and shaping us into vessels of honor and fine use in The Lord.  The Shepherd in the bible abandons the ninety nine sheep just to find the one that is lost. And what is the response to those of us that are found?  Luke 17:7 tells us,  "I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."  Instead of dwelling upon the failures of our past - all these things that we cannot change, find peace in knowing that by the very hand of God, you have changed. It is by the will of God that we are now his own, and he has known this all along.  Make peace of the pieces in our lives when we were lost. Find and embrace the grace of being found.  I can honestly say now that I would not change my yesterdays - they have changed all of my tomorrows, and everything I am today.   I am a prodigal son.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Will the circle, be unbroken...

Psalms 136
 "...Give thanks to the God of Heaven, for his love is eternal"

  There is a truth about living a life truly in Christ:  It is an eternally reciprocal relationship.  The more you lean, the stronger His shoulder - He wants you to love Him so bad, He was willing to die, be spat upon, killed like a criminal and then carry your weight and walk with you for eternity. Before you ever knew Him, He knew you.   His love cannot lie.  He cannot lie. I believe that relying on His unending love to always be there is the first step into faith. It rests and resides on the Rock that is Jesus.  He loves individually, completely and without limits. Always.

  The 'greatest of these is Love' - The greatest of these is in this context in Agape, and this is not a love that we can truly obtain to on our own - it is allowing God to love through us to the world for his glory - we have to submit to it, believe in it, receive it, and share it.  It is the power of the Gospel - that God's love is not our love - he loves though us.  We can work to death trying to understand His love and wisdom - his patience and grand plan for the Universe. There is a simple truth:   The ultimate love that we can feel is the love that we allow into our hearts from God.  It is supernatural,  and we will never be able to love him as much as he loves us. He wants us to love others with that same passion and purpose. He believes in us and Loves us - infinitely, and he already has, all of our life. God never fails. God is love. It is what He is, and not just something He does.

  The true circle cannot be broken when we truly come into Christ, because it is the beginning of an eternal relationship.  When we really believe unto his Holy Name and understand what his ransom has done for us - all we have to do is have the faith in Him to receive it.  Ask and you shall receive.   Our access to His love just needs to be believed to receive - and that will always be enough for him.  His love is unending, it is a steady flowing river.  It will never go away and it will always be there.  He wants to be the waters of the ocean that we can walk upon.  He wants our heart.  He wants to make it an open vessel for his love and grace.  When we come to a solid faith in what the Gospel means for our lives, individually,  and collectively as a church - we are transformed, and our lives will never be the same because they become an eternal life when we Love him. Believe Him.   The circle will not be broken.  That is the will of his love, and his love, is Agape.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The lesson of the Eunuch

Acts 8:26-40

   To what extent is our Lord willing to go to save just one soul?  How important is it to listen to the Holy Spirit in guiding our ministry to others? And, just how amazing is God's perfect timing in finding fulfillment of his grand purpose for the lives of mankind: That he wants all to be saved?  Let us take a quick look at the account of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch - the insight into how our Lord and Creator works his hand in guiding our ministry and his will is highlighted here for our benefit.

  Phillip is heading from the region of Samaria to Jerusalem, a beeline distance of around 35 miles. For an average walking pace - it would take around a day and a half.  He just left the area and was heading towards Jerusalem with Peter and John in tow.  They had just done some amazing things in the Lord, baptizing many who had heard and accepted the gospel.  In fact, the conversion of Simon in this area was remarkable - he had "amazed all the people of Samaria...both high and low" with his powerful acts of magic and sorcery, and had a large following. (Acts 8:9,10)  The signs and miracles and ministry they performed must have been something to see.  The many followers of Simon the magician were baptized after they heard the good news of the kingdom and Christ Jesus. In fact, Simon began to follow Phillip everywhere he went - going from being followed to a follower,  just like that. As the three of them neared Jerusalem, an angel spoke to Phillip, commanding him to take the road south from Jerusalem towards Gaza, another 47 miles.  He was to catch up with a eunuch traveling the same direction on a chariot.  This man worked for the queen as a treasurer, and had just left from Jerusalem where he was worshiping.  He just happened to be stopped in his chariot reading from Isaiah, when the Holy Spirit manifested God's awesome plan for this man.  "The Spirit told Phillip, go to that chariot and stay near it."  The angel did not say why, he just said go. This is where the "real magic" happens - God's awesome power in directing his ministers to save lives and ultimately, bring glory to God.

  The eunuch was reading from Isaiah the words  ‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer,  so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.'  Phillip, no doubt under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, began to explain to the eunuch who the verse was about, for the eunuch did not know it was the good news about Christ Jesus.  After understanding the truth about Christ and the full meaning of the scriptures he was reading, he was baptized without hesitation. Then, the same spirit that led Phillip to this soul suddenly took Phillip away to another area about 22 miles north, and then he preached his way another 58 miles to Caeserea, stopping at every town along the way.

  Now, lets take a minute and break this down:  Phillip had just been scattered from the church in Jerusalem with many other believers where Saul (soon to be Apostle Paul) had just that very day oversaw the death of Stephen.  From there he traveled down to a city in Samaria and preached to people who all followed a sorcerer;  everyone there soon converted.  The bible does not say how many were baptized in that city in Samaria - but it did say "all the people".  Now from there,  Phillip had to travel around 3 days, give or take a half day, to reach this eunuch.  Would you think after being scattered, then converting a village,  that God was finished with his ministry through Phillip that week? Hardly.  He was guided to separate himself from John and Peter and catch up with a chariot where a royal member of Ethiopia was reading, (just at the right time) the very words about the Christ as mentioned in Isaiah, and Phillip just happened to be led to that very spot, explain the Gospel to this man, baptize him in a body of water that just happened to be there by the road, and then keep on going about his ministry. Is Our God a God of coincidences? How important is our salvation to our Lord? Who can possibly love someone so much that He is willing to navigate time and distance and space and unfortunate circumstances and persecution and then utilize his loyal followers and the Holy Spirit all for the sake of single solitary soul?  Our God is an awesome God.

  Ministry is a difficult manifestation of our faith sometimes.  We know it may be unpopular, but it is not like we just witnessed our brother being stoned to death and then had our entire church scattered over an area of some 500 square miles.  God's Holy Spirit I know compels us at times to approach someone who is needing to hear the Gospel, and I know that you know what I am talking about. Perhaps it is a co-worker, a class mate, or a complete stranger on the street. What if it was a famous sorcerer or modern day royalty? TRUST THAT VOICE!  Our witness to the word of truth is essential dear friends, because lives are at stake. Not just lives, but eternal lives and the salvation of what could be entire families and groups of people that could bear further fruit that we may never get to see ourselves come to fruition all for his praise and glory.  In our silence, we have just our example to be our witness, and for many that is some kind of powerful seed to plant - I am living proof of that.  But too, lets think of Luke 19:40 here: "...Teacher (Jesus), rebuke your disciples.  But Jesus answered, I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out..."  Our ministry does not just confirm our faith - it shares it.  It is a ray of the light of love that Christ Jesus wanted us to share so that others would know the truth, so they too, could be set free.  Are you free?  If you are, then you are also free to share.  Free to live this life fulfilling our great commission.  Our service to God in his ministry may be just helping others, it may be just lending a hand to a neighbor, and for some it may be moving 4,000 miles away in a jungle learning a new language and culture in order to share the truth found in our hope and purpose with others. Whatever our commission is, it should be our mission as well.  We are the light of the world in Christ Jesus.  Whenever, wherever, and however - let that light shine. It can and will make, an eternal difference.