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Friday, December 18, 2015

GOD WITH US


Isaiah was the Messianic prophet of God. People call him the Messianic prophet because a large number of his teachings to Judah and Jerusalem foretold the coming Messiah. A very famous passage from Isaiah foretells the coming Christ child who will take away the gloom and anguish people feel and fear. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light and will rejoice. Let us consider this passage now from Isaiah 9:1a, 2-4, 6-7.
1There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish, (Isaiah said).
2The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them, (Isaiah said).
3You (the Lord) shall multiply the nation; You shall increase their gladness. They will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4For You (Lord) shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian.
6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. [NASB]
Isaiah exhorted the Judeans to repent from their sins and return to God. He spoke God’s judgment on them for their sins urging them to repent. Isaiah foretold the destruction God would allow to overcome them if they did not return to Him. The enemies of Judah would overtake, enslave, oppress, and torment them.
By returning to and following the LORD, Isaiah said the Judeans would no longer experience gloom from famine and enemies. He told them to stand strong and keep faith with God and He would send a great light – one who would multiply their nation, break their yokes of burden and the rods of their oppressors. This Light would be their warrior so the Judean warriors needed no war boots or cloaks. These verses led Isaiah’s listeners to expect a warrior to save them. Isaiah said something new with the next verses.
With verse six, Isaiah explained their Savior, the Messiah, would arrive as a child. The anointed and chosen one – the Messiah - who would deliver people would come as a meek and mild child. Isaiah further stated the government would rest on His shoulders. “How could that be if He was a child?” they might have wondered. “A child and a King? Impossible,” they might have thought. Isaiah broadened the image of the Messiah as being more than a warrior, child, and king.
v  He said this Messiah, this chosen One, would be a “Wonderful Counselor.” He would be extraordinarily and astonishingly more wise and intelligent than their own elders and leaders with the wisdom and knowledge of God.
v  This Messiah would be called Mighty God, Isaiah said. He would not be a mere fallible man, but would come from the LORD and people would know He is God.
v  This Chosen One would be Eternal Father. He would be the One whom the Judeans knew from their past and Who existed from before time, the One they called Abba Father with trust and love.
v  This Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace, the Ruler and Bringer of complete peace, welfare, and contentment in life, in their hearts, and in their minds.
This Chosen One from God who is God would counsel and guide them so they could live in peace. The Messiah would be Warrior, Prince, King, and Counselor for all people and would come as a child. He would bring salvation from their enemies and from their sin and lead people to be in an eternal relationship with the LORD God.
Isaiah continued by saying His government, His Kingdom, and His peace would increase and never end. The Messiah would come from the line of David and would establish and uphold it with justice and righteousness from that time and forever. The LORD would be the one to make it happen. Nothing the Israelites could do would establish God’s kingdom on earth because they were sinful humans and incapable to save themselves. God in His righteousness would provide the Savior, the sacrifice for human sin. God’s passion for people and His zeal would make this happen, Isaiah said.
When the Judeans needed comfort, God sent a prophet – Isaiah – to proclaim salvation and peace and tell them of His Chosen One, the Messiah. They may have been incredulous when considering a child as a Savior, King, and Warrior. God had a plan. He would send His Son, the Messiah, into the world as the lowest –a baby - so even the people whom society casts out would hear and recognize Him. He raised the Messiah up to be teacher, deliverer, and Savior for all humankind. Through Jesus the Messiah’s birth, life, death, and resurrection, every person for all time can know the love of God. Because this Messiah came down from God to earth, Isaiah called Him “God with us” in Isaiah 8:10 and “Immanuel” in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew called Him Emmanuel in Matthew 1:23, meaning “God with us.”
This Emmanuel did not come only to return to His kingdom. He came to be God with us and for us until we each join Him in His Kingdom. The Messiah came to save people from their sins, and through His indwelling Holy Spirit, give His wisdom, strength, power, love, and hope to all who believe in Him. This is Emmanuel, God with us. We are not alone and will never be alone as long as we remain faithful to the Lord.
This is God for us-
The Messiah – the Christ - is our
Prince of Peace,
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, and
Everlasting Father.

God with us

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Endure and Be Blessed - James 5:7-12

Introduction

Throughout James’ teaching in his epistle, he spoke to the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem and later Christians around the world (the diaspora) about four primary things – 1. The difference between believers and unbelievers; 2. The purpose of and difference between trials and temptations; 3. True faith shows itself in righteous works; and 4. Christians are rich no matter their physical circumstance because of having an inheritance in the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ. As James began his conclusion of this epistle, he returned to these themes. In the six verses of today’s Bible study, he exhorted the Christians to be patient, strengthen their hearts, endure suffering and trials without complaining, not complain about their brothers and sisters in Christ, and be faithful to their promises and vows. When they did these things, James said God would bless them. Notice the Christians’ actions, as James taught, affected their temporal and eternal beings – their relationships with people and with God.


Be Patient 

In verses seven and eight, James reminded the believers to remain patient. Throughout this letter, he exhorted the Christians to endure suffering and persecution patiently. James reminded them to focus on the hope of their eternal inheritance in God’s kingdom. He taught them endurance came from God and His wisdom for which they could ask. James said the wisdom God would give them would produce perfection and completion in them so they would be Christlike.

In these two verses, James likened patience to a farmer who waited for the precious produce. The adjective “precious” comes from the Greek word timios, which means esteemed, especially dear, and precious[i]. Just as the farmer awaited his precious produce, which came from the nourishment of God’s rains, so God waits for His precious produce – mature Christians - and waters it with His rains – His blessings such as patience, wisdom, and endurance. Maturity in faith comes from patience and growth under trials.

James gave a reason the Christians could be patient and endure their suffering and persecution in verse eight. He said, “Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” The early Christians believed Jesus Christ would return to earth soon after his ascension. They waited with hope and, since the time of His return did not occur immediately, they began to lose heart. James told the Christians to be patient and endure, to strengthen their hearts and have faith because Jesus would return soon. He bolstered their faith by reminding them Christ was coming; continue being strong of heart – wait, endure, and live faithfully. James reminded the Jewish Christians they did not have to rely upon their own strength. God would give to them strength and perseverance through His wisdom as he said in James 1:5. Their power to endure would come from the Lord if they asked Him with unwavering faith.


Complain Not

No matter the circumstances, patience, endurance, and a strong heart that believes completely in Jesus Christ is necessary for life. James carried this lesson into the Christians’ daily lives. When people are overwhelmed with trouble and persecution, it would be natural to complain and quit. James taught them not to despair and quit. In verse nine, he taught them not to complain, too.

James specifically taught the believers not to complain against another believer. If you remember, he taught about this in James 4:11-17. When a person complained about another person, in his heart he judged the other person. When that believer did this, he placed himself above the other person and above God’s laws. God is the only judge of people. Jesus said he did not come to judge, but to save the world. Who are we Christians to judge other people? So, when a person complains about another person, he judges that person, puts himself above God’s laws, and through that puts himself above God.

James said in verse nine, “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” [NASB] He reminded the believers God would be the only Judge of people. James used imagery from a common practice in their lives so the believers would understand exactly. In those days, when the Israelites had a disagreement among themselves for which they could not find a solution, they went to the elders at the gates of the town, village, or city. The elders and judges stayed in the city’s gates for this purpose. Any disputes that could not be resolved at the gates went to the Levitical judges at the temple, and then to the king if resolution still could not be reached. Here in verse nine, James told the Christians God is the Judge. He sits at the door and is not far away. This metaphor provided another meaning for the believers. It meant God was not far away so do not fear. He is as close as the door, so do not stop standing in faith. Besides these two meanings, James meant, “Do not deign to judge for yourselves thinking God is far away.” As a last insight, the word “door” comes from the Greek word thura and is a metaphor for the door through which sheep go in and out[ii]. This door reminded the believers of the kingdom of heaven and their future hope so they could be patient, endure, not complain, and remain faithful children of God.

Jesus Christ was due to return imminently. God is always near and is the Judge. Complaining is not suffering with God’s wisdom and endurance knowing you will grow from the trial. James reminded the Christians of the prophets who spoke in God’s name (verse 10). He reminded them the prophets suffered trials, distress, persecution, and affliction with patience. If the believers felt they could not endure anymore, James told them to remember those who went before them. He told them to gain strength and endurance from the testimony of the prophets’ lives.


Be Blessed

In verse 11, James said, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” The endurance James spoke about is abiding in Christ and not falling in one’s faith in the face of trials and persecution. Holding fast to faith in Christ allows a person to endure trials, troubles, afflictions, and persecution bravely.

James reminded the believers about Job. Job was an exceedingly faithful man of God. Satan asked God permission to afflict Job. He stated he was faithful only because God blessed him with great wealth and many children. God permitted Satan to afflict Job. Satan destroyed Job’s wealth and family. Even though his friends told him he must have sinned and God was judging him, Job would not recant his faith in God. Though his friends told him God turned His back on him, he remained faithful to Him. Because of Job’s faithfulness to God through everything Satan did, God blessed him with more than he had before Satan destroyed his wealth and family. With this testimony of a faithful man of God, James reminded the Christians to take to heart. He told them to recall this it, hold it as a testimony of God’s faithfulness to them, and gain strength, patience, and endurance from Job’s faithfulness.

God always blesses His children who are strong, patient, and endure. James said God blesses His children because He is full of compassion and mercy. The Greek dictionary explains compassion as being full of pity and kindness[iii]. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to ease it[iv].” God is full of compassion. He knows of and cares about His children in distress and wants to relieve it. God is merciful, too, James said. Being merciful is giving relief from suffering[v]
God feels compassion and wants to relieve the distress of people and He can give relief from the person’s suffering. The Lord cares deeply about people and has the power to relieve peoples’ suffering from troubles, trials, afflictions, and persecution. He does not just stand idly by and watch as if He cannot change things. God can and does show His compassion by fixing the problem. He gives blessings to endure through trials and persecutions and gives blessings for being faithful after trials. God grows and sustains His children. He is omnipotent and faithful. God works to grow us toward perfection and maturity in Christ.



Be Honorable

James said in verse 12, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath, but your yes is to be yes and you no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” [NASB] How does this relate to the earlier verses? As do verses seven through eleven, this verse ultimately speaks about faithfulness to God. You will notice it reminded the Jewish Christians of the third commandment from Exodus 20:7, which says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” The word “vain” means to consider something worthless or false[vi].

Considering this what did James mean in verse twelve? He taught believers to make promises or contracts without the necessity of swearing its validity of being fulfilled. Live a life that is honorable so that an oath by the name of God or His creation to confirm your promise is unnecessary. The Jews of the time were famous for swearing to confirm their promise or vow. They knew God commanded them not to swear by His name so they placed one of His creations in place of His name to infer God’s name. They swore by the creation attesting they would honor their promise as if they swore by God’s name. James reminded the believers God commanded them not to do this when he taught verse twelve. He exhorted them to be honorable and live so their lives proved they were children of God and mirrored His attributes of honor and faithfulness. When a Christian reneges on his promise, vow, or contract, he mars his and God’s names in the world. That believer should be faithful to God and care about keeping God’s name honorable in the world. He should live a life full of integrity so he would have no need to swear and confirm his pledge.

James reminded the believers if they showed unfaithfulness to their promises, God would judge them as He will judge every person. He taught them, too, that if they swore, God would judge them. James exhorted God’s children - the followers of Christ - to be faithful to God and other people. Be honorable and full of integrity and by doing so show God is faithful and honorable. To the Christians of first century Jerusalem, James exhorted them to put their faith in action and walk in their daily lives the new life given them by Jesus Christ. For James, faith without action is dead. Any action that did not support the new life Christ died to give believers shows lack of faith in action. Because of this, James repeatedly taught the Christians to be patient and strong, and endure.

Recap

As James began the final section of his epistle, he reminded the Jerusalem believers and every believer of the diaspora several things. He encouraged them to be patient, strengthen their hearts, and endure in their faith while living their daily life, and while going through trials, afflictions, and persecution. James reminded the believers God waited for them to ask for wisdom from Him. He promised to give it to those who asked without wavering. This reminded Christians what James taught about God’s wisdom. God’s wisdom brings purity, peaceable-ness, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, faithfulness, and good fruits (James 3:17).

James taught the believers complaining about other Christians was judging that person and God, things one should not do so as not to incur God’s judgment. He gave examples of people who underwent persecution, afflictions, and trials – Job and the prophets of God – to encourage them to keep the faith and keep walking a life that reflects Jesus Christ. James concluded this section by reminding the believers of God’s third commandment not to swear because doing so would bring dishonor on God and themselves and would break God’s commandment, both things for which God would judge them. He encouraged them to live honorable and upright lives so that when they made a promise or vow, the other person would believe them without an oath to confirm their promise. James told them to live with integrity like an ambassador for God in their world.

Relevance and Conclusion

What do James’ teachings have to do with us today nearly two thousand years later? James’ sole purpose for this exposition was to exhort the Christians of the first century to live out their faith in daily life, not just to believe it in their heads and hearts. He said, “Faith without works is dead” in James 2:17. To be a true Christian maturing toward Christlikeness means to live a life as Jesus did – with His attitudes and actions. If a believer’s faith does not show itself by what he does, then the Holy Spirit God gives to dwell in each believer is not visible in the person. This might occur because the person chooses not to live a life according to the conviction of the Holy Spirit or because the person did not truly make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Having compassion and mercy – feeling pity and acting upon it to relieve someone’s distress - is living in the image of God. This is what James said in James 5:11.

Today, each person who is a Christian, whether a full-time or part-time minister, or a Christian who works in a secular job, must ask him or herself if he or she is living a life that reflects God. Is your life one of honor, integrity, compassion, mercy, love, gentleness, patience, conviction, teachable-ness, joy, endurance, strength, peace, kindness, and self-control? Have you given your whole being - heart, soul, mind, and strength - to God so you serve Him because you love Him completely?

For those people who have never heard about the Gospel and want to know how to become a Christian, know that following Jesus and becoming a child of God requires nothing you can do. Nothing you can do earns you salvation, which makes Christianity unlike every other religion of the world. No action or work will give you salvation from your sins and eternal life with God. God knows that. He sheds His grace on us for that reason. God gives us what we do not deserve (forgiveness of our sins and eternal life with Him) and He does not give us what we deserve (separation from Him forever because of our sins). That defines grace. What does each person have to do to get salvation from his or her sins?

Ø  Accept Jesus Christ is God’s Son.
Ø  Believe Jesus Christ died to pay the death penalty for your sins.
Ø  Confess your sins to God.

God promises He is faithful and just to forgive all sins (1 John 1:9).
Are you willing to do this and love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?
Today is the day for all of us to:
Take the step and give your life to God, accepting His forgiveness and grace, and loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
or
Take the step and renew your commitment to God to live a life of love and faith in this world.
It is up to you.

Friday, December 4, 2015

F.I.R.E.: It's a Relationship (redux)


Relationships and the state of the world’s salvation should be the concern of every person, especially of every Christian.
Over the last twenty to thirty years, Americans and maybe people of other countries, too, have become so involved in succeeding that relationships and a Christian witness have taken a backseat in each person’s life. As you walk in public, if you look, you can see people closed down and in pain. They have no one with whom to share their burdens because relationships in society are minimal in our day and age. Many of these people have  no one, including God, with whom to share their burdens because no one took the time to share the Gospel with them.
Relationships have broken down.
Evangelism took a back seat in Christian lives.
This should disturb every one.
Life should be about relationship. God created every person for relationship – with Himself and with other people. Jesus called Christians to be in relationship. Consider Matthew 22:36-39,
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied, ‘Love the LORD your God will 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.’ [NIV]
When did we Christians close our hearts and eyes to seeing other people?
I think this occurred because: 1) People have adopted a policy of tolerance for all beliefs and, therefore, do not want to "force" their beliefs on someone else; 2) People have become so involved in their lives and efforts at “succeeding” that they literally do not see people enough to have a real conversation with them; 3) People are afraid to tell of their Christian faith to others because they are afraid they will make a mistake or are afraid of being rejected by the person to whom they are talking.  Can I make a suggestion? You are not the one who may be rejected. Jesus Christ is the One who they would reject, if they rejected what you said. You would have been doing what Christ told His followers to do - go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
Another thought, if you do not tell others because you are promoting tolerance, remember Jesus has been tolerant for thousands of years. He loves all his creation, men and women of every race and tongue. You may be the one He chose to tell this person near you about Him. Remember, God has a plan for everyone to hear about Jesus Christ and when that occurs, the end will come.
Would you like to be the reason someone did not hear about Jesus and the Father’s love? We Christians have a secure hope of living with God forever in heaven, but we must stand before God and receive His judgment for our actions, too. You need to take the opportunity God gives you to tell others about Him. You must see other people. Act upon the time God gives you to speak His love to them.
What I find is that the number one reason Christians give for not sharing about Jesus is they are afraid. I addressed the fear of rejection earlier. The people to whom you talk will not be rejecting you, but Jesus. The best way to get over this fear is to take a course on how to witness. Take two courses. Then, put it into action. The more times you make the time to share with others, the easier it will become. Most important of all is this: you must truly care about the person. When God saves a person through Jesus, His Son, He puts His love in you. This love is God's Spirit. He has put His love - His Spirit - inside you and you must call upon this love, His Spirit to love other people. You must put aside your human limitations and prejudices and allow God to love this person through you. Once you do that, he or she will realize you care. That person will want to listen to and trust you.
This is relational evangelism - God's love for others shining through you.
God wants a relationship with that person very much.
He already loves him or her.
How do you do relationship evangelism? First, it is easier to love someone, and listen to and speak with a person if you have known him or her for a while. If you do not know the person, you can use the F.I.R.E. method of evangelism to gain an interest in and learn about a person. Your listening to a person tell you about him or herself will make you see he or she is a person who needs love and friendship, too. That person will learn to trust you because of it. During the time you listen to a person, you will recognize he or she has needs, too. This will unlock your heart for others.
What is F.I.R.E.? The short answer is Family, Interests, Religious experience, and Evangelism. The application is easy. It requires you to be human and truly take an interest in another person. Besides this, it requires you not talk as much as you listen. Get to know the person. 
v  Ask about his or her Family. 
o   Does he or she have kids or grandkids? 
o   Who lives at home with him or her? 
o   Where is he or she from? 
o   Find out about him or her. 
v  Ask about the person's Interests. 
o   Does he or she like to read, play an instrument, play computer games, camp? 
Are you now finding out you have a common interest with them? 
v  Ask about his or her Religious background. 
o   Does he or she go to a church? 
o   Which faith system does he or she follow? 
o   What are his or her thoughts on what happens after this life is over? 
Once you have taken time to get to know the person, which may take fifteen minutes, a few days, or months, you will have a heart for the person. He or she will realize you can be trusted and that you care about him or her. By this time, you recognize at least one area of need the person expressed about his or her life.
At this point, you can tell the person about yourself - your Family, Interests, and Religious experiences.
The E of FIRE -
v  As you tell the person about your Religious experience, tell him or her how God met/meets your needs  and can meet his or her needs.
v  Share how Jesus came to give abundant life because He loves him or her.
v  Share how God and Jesus showed that love and how it changed your life.
v  Eventually you will come to a place where you can ask the person if he or she would like to know Jesus in this way -  experience a life in which Jesus:
·         gives meaning to the person’s life.
·         forgives the person of all his or her wrongdoings.
·         is the Savior of his or her life. 
·         is there to take lead of his or her life to be his or her Savior, Provider, Protector, and King. Jesus wants the person to follow Him the rest of his or her life. 
v  Tell the person how your life has changed since you gave your life to Jesus. 
v  Ask if he or she wants to make that commitment to Jesus, to follow Him as his or her Lord and King. 
v  Lead the person in a prayer of confession and acceptance of Jesus Christ as his or her Savior.
Make a commitment to the person to help him or her grow in knowing what this commitment to Christ means and how they can grow to be more Christ-like.
Try this. It is a relational way to speak to someone about God and Jesus Christ - their love and sacrifice.
Try it more than once. Seek to speak to a person each week with an intention of talking with him or her about Christ. 
Intentionally go to a public place with no need to shop or return for a schedule, then you will be more open to seeing people in need or to whom God is leading you to speak. 
Be intentional. Go out once a week with the sole agenda being to seek a person who needs to hear a word from God, a person who needs to know God and you care about and love him or her. 

It is a relationship thing. What is stopping you?


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Are You Listening? (redux)

           
             John, in his gospel, wrote many things. He wrote the whole book with the sole purpose being “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31 [NASB]) John showed throughout this book ways we, as hearers and readers, can know Jesus is the Son of God. He gave us his personal testimony. He told the testimony of the Gospel through Jesus’ signs and miracles, through the Spirit, and through the Word (God’s inspired Word). Yet, there is something we – Christians and ministers - must do. Paul stated in Romans 10:14-15a, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent” [NASB]? Unless we who know God personally tell others about Jesus, the salvation of the world, people will not come to know Jesus the Christ.
            In John 13:15, Jesus used the word “example.” He used this word only once when He taught His disciples. Before the Feast of the Passover, after being with the disciples for almost three years teaching them by word and action, He washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus took His tunic off and wrapped a towel around Himself as a servant would. He gave this example to His disciples; they were to be servants to each other. Jesus reinforced this "example" He showed and spoke to them. Later in chapter 13, He told the disciples in verses thirty-four and thirty-five, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, [NASB]) Earlier Jesus said He was the fulfillment of the Law, but stated they must follow the Shema. The Shema is a Jewish Law combining Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love the LORD your God withyou’re your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 [NASB]). The first Jesus called the greatest commandment. The latter is the second greatest commandment. At the end of His time on earth with His disciples, Jesus added another. In John 13:34-35, He taught them to love each other so that all people would know they were His disciples. These commands cover love of God, love of others (outside the faith), and love among disciples (Christians).
            How are people to know Jesus? They come to know Jesus by Christians coming to know them. John, in his Gospel, stated many times Jesus knew what people thought, what their past was, if they grumbled or complained, and if certain people needed a miracle or sign so they could believe. Jesus knew and knows all people. He spoke into their lives at the point of their need. Consider Mary and Martha. Jesus could have gone to their home in Bethany before Lazarus died, but He knew them and He wanted God to receive glory. Mary and Martha believed Jesus is God’s Son and believed there would be a resurrection on the last day. They did not know that Jesus had power over life and death. By waiting until Lazarus was truly dead (four days after his death), people believed Jesus had power over life and death, God received the glory, and the faith of Mary and Martha grew. You can look at other miracles in the book of John and see this occur often– Jesus’ power over that part of life would be revealed, God would receive glory, and the faith of people would increase or occur for the first time. Jesus knows people and what they need. He meets people at the point of their need - when they are at the end of their understanding and knowledge - so that God’s power is the explanation for any good/miracle that occurred. The question remains: how are people to know Jesus?
            More often than not, people come to know Jesus through His disciples speaking truth into their lives. Let me say it again, “People come to meet and know Jesus through Christians getting to know them.” By getting to know people,
·         We hear them tell us about themselves, their families, their interests, and their religious experiences.
  •  We Christians – paid and unpaid - listen intently and hear where people express hurt.
  • We hear and realize they are human, too.
  • We believers hear with our ears and with the heart that Jesus regenerated in us through His love.
  • We hear their physical and spiritual needs.
In the process of listening to them,
  •  We Christians earn that person’s trust.
  • We remember where Jesus met our need, physically and spiritually.
  • We remember where Jesus came to us, met us, healed us, and forgave us, and where we gave our lives to Him.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 6:26. The birds of the air wear beautiful plumage, have their food needs met, and are sheltered in God’s beautiful trees and bushes. The birds did nothing; God provided for their needs. God will provide more so for the needs of His created people. Jesus stated that in Matthew 6. God provides for spiritual needs as well as temporal needs. Jesus built relationships or strengthened them at the point of a person’s need. He wants to be the provider of everything each person needs. We must build relationships, too, and through building these new relationships and listening, the people give us the opportunity to speak about Jesus - show how He changed our lives, met our needs - physical and spiritual, and how He can be the fulfillment of their own needs now and for eternity.
            Consider the “I AM” statements in John’s gospel. Jesus said seven things that John recorded. Jesus said,
  •   “I AM the Bread of Life.”
  •  “I AM the Light of the world.”
  •   “I AM the gate for the sheep.”
  •   “I AM the good Shepherd.”
  •   “I AM the resurrection and the Life.””
  •  I AM the True Vine.”

Each of these has a temporal and spiritual element to it. Jesus came to be everything a person ever needs –bread, light, shelter, guidance, life and hope, and eternal sustenance/salvation. Jesus is the fulfillment of all our needs before we ever know we have the need for them.
  • God provided manna in the wilderness for the Israelites to feed them for a day. Jesus became the Bread that would feed our spiritual need forever.
  • God gave a pillar of fire before the troops of Israelites as they found their way to the Promised Land. Jesus is the Light to lead us to eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
  • God provided a gate by which to keep out the wolves. Jesus is the gate that keeps the devil and his demons out when we have given our lives to Him.
  • God provides shepherds for the sheep who protect them, such as David was for the actual sheep of his father and for God’s people Israel. Jesus is the Shepherd who will not run away, but will fight the wolves to keep us protected in His hands. He protects those who are His own.

·         No one before Jesus had ever beaten death and come back to life. Jesus died to be victorious over death so His children would receive resurrection from the grave at the end of the time. Death does not have any hold on those who call themselves His disciples. Jesus gives eternal life to His disciples.
            God provides sustenance and guidance now to His children. He also provides eternal life forever. God, through His indwelling Holy Spirit, provides the eternal guidance and remembrance of all He taught us through our lives and the ones who went before us. He gives us hope and guidance as the True Vine. We are His, adopted by Him, and grafted into His vine so nothing can separate us from Him. Jesus gives us what He stated in the seven I AM statements now and for eternity.
            We must get to know people as Jesus knows people. We must hear them express themselves, their life, and their beliefs. Only by listening will we gain their trust to speak into their lives. Only by listening will we be able to contextualize the message of Jesus’ salvation for that particular person at that specific moment in their lives. This is relationship. Our telling the Gospel to them after listening is contextualizing the Gospel for them. That is how FIRE helps us. FIRE is Family, Interests, Religious experiences, and Evangelism. FIRE makes us intentional in getting to know Jesus better each day, to have a growing relationship with Him. We must have a daily relationship with Jesus so we are learning more through His Word and through prayer with Him. Without this daily relationship, we may not know a passage of Scripture a person needs to hear as he or she speaks to us. FIRE lets us know a person’s thoughts on their needs so we can share with him or her how Jesus can fill his or her needs here and eternally. FIRE is how Jesus met us through others and it is how He will meet other people more often than not. (See “How to Tell the World: F.I.R.E.)
            The questions now to consider include the following.
  •  How is your relationship with God? Are you close to Him or has it been a while since you read His Word or prayed to Him?
  • How are your listening skills? Are you a keen listener and often hear a word from God? Are you a devoted listener of other people or do you hear some of what they say and then begin thinking about what you will say?

            We must be in an active vertical relationship with God. We must also know how to have a horizontal relationship with other people. Jesus did this well. He was very relational and showed by example how to be in a relationship with God and with one another. Jesus died on the cross because of these relationships - with the Father and with humanity.
Look at it this way. (See picture below.)
Each of us has to make a decision:

Are we willing to get to know people like Jesus knows each of us so we can tell them the great news of Jesus Christ?
cross-245x253.png (245×253)

 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Post-Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday is over. 
         Turkey and its tryptophan are ingested, making you sleepy. 
                    Belts are loosed. 
                              Appetites are sated. 
Your physical bodies are happy.


Is your spiritual body as well taken care of? 

Thanksgiving day is over, but thanks to God should never be over. Just as we must feed our physical bodies and give them rest, we must feed our spiritual selves and rest in the LORD.

How do you feed your spiritual body?


  • Read God's Word, the Bible.
  • Pray to God in adoration, thanks, confession, and supplication.
  • Sing and shout joyfully about who God is and what He has done.
  • Proclaim the LORD so others hear about Him, see Him in your life, and desire to know Him as you know Him.
  • Minister to other people during their times of need. By this they will receive blessings from God and know of God's love.
  • Join together with other people in worship of the LORD.

By this you will feed your spiritual body.
By this you will draw close to God.
By this you will become more Christlike and closer to completion/perfection (teleios).

Blessings and God's grace be on you today.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving – Drawing Attention to God


1Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
2Serve the LORD with gladness;
 Come before Him with joyful singing.
3Know that the LORD Himself is God;
            It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
            We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
4Enter His gates with thanksgiving
            And His courts with praise.
 Give thanks to Him,
bless His name.
      5For the LORD is good;
            His lovingkindness is everlasting
            And His faithfulness
to all generations. (Psalm 100 [NASB])




In these five verses, David expressed thanks to God. David exhorted the people of God - Israel and all who followed God by faith - to thank the LORD, too. Who God is and what He has done overwhelm David and cause him to pour out thanks to God. Who God is and what He has done has not changed over the millennia and so God’s people today have cause to thank God, too.



In these verses, David gave six exhortations. He told God’s people to shout, serve, come before, enter, give thanks, and bless. By themselves, these actions are meaningless. When seen in relation to or for whom they are done, great meaning occurs.

In each of these exhortations, David said the actions were to be done for the LORD. David mentioned the LORD by name in verse one and referred to Him throughout the text. He reflects on the LORD – who He is and what He has done - in verses three and five. Let us consider the six exhortations and reflections closer.

Shout joyfully to the LORD,” David urged. This was not just making a loud racket with no purpose. Shouting is not an inward action. It draws people’s attentions to someone or something. The tone of voice and words said while shouting leads listeners to consider something or someone and possibly act in response to the shouting. David told them to shout joyfully. Here the people were to shout out with joy as applause toward the LORD – Yehovah, the “existing One.” David led people with his words to worship and praise the LORD because of the joy He caused in and gave them.
Next, David told the people to serve the LORD with gladness. Serving requires recognition that someone is greater than one’s self or is worthy to be considered greater than one’s self. It is personal submission before another and working for that other person. In this verse, David told the LORD’s people to serve the LORD. Their service was not with reluctance, but with gladness. With joy and pleasure, the LORD’s people are enhorted to serve the LORD as a result of being filled with joy.
As the LORD’s people shout joyfully to the LORD and serve Him with gladness, they are to come before Him with joyful singing. The LORD’s people can be in His presence. He accepts them as His own and wants them with Him singing and shouting joyfully. The LORD is not distant and unapproachable neither does He want reluctant service. He wants his people to be joyful and full of gladness. To be joyful and glad, people need a reason and the LORD gives them the reason – Himself.
David noted the reason the LORD”s people are joyful and glad in verse three. He said, “The LORD Himself is God.” Know this, David said. The LORD is God. The existent One from before time began is big “G” God, the God of gods. No other being is God. Know that. Perceive, recognize, admit, acknowledge, and confess the LORD - the One you know from your history - is God. “He made us,” David said. “We did not make ourselves.” God was here before us, and powerful and wise enough to make humankind. He chose us as His own and cared for us just as a shepherd chooses and cares for his sheep. God protected us. Just as God is from before time, He continues into the future. We are His and He protects and cares for us. For who God is - the
“existent One before time” and Creator - and for what He has done - created, chose, protected, and provided, David said we can shout with joy, serve the LORD with a glad and joyful heart, and come before Him singing joyfully.
Because we are the LORD’s people - His children - we can enter His gates and courts. We are not just servants or “the created,” we are His and He enjoys our presence. God wants a relationship with each of us and provided the way for us to be in an eternal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who are His children through Jesus Christ are in an eternal relationship with Him and can enter His gates and courts with thanks and praise. God made the way for us to be with Him because of His love. Our thanks cannot be contained, but must pour forth from our mouths in shouts and songs. Praises to God for who He is and what He did pour forth proclaiming Him with joy and gladness.
Give thanks to Him and bless His name. Humble yourself and admit God gave you what you have – life, provision, relationship with Him, eternal life with Him, and Himself. These come to you because of His love, goodness, and mercy, not from anything you did or could have done. Give thanks to Him! He deserves it because of who He is and what He has done. What more to do then? Bless the LORD’s name. Bless – kneel adore, and praise Him. Bless His name that leaves such a reputation of greatness and love. Bless Him that His reputation is justifiable and true. On the LORD’s fame and reputation humankind can count and hold onto knowing God is faithful, steadfast, loving, and true.
With a final thought, David said we shout with joy and cry out with song to draw others to the LORD and worship Him in His gates and courts because of His goodness. The LORD is good. His lovingkindness and faithfulness to all generations is everlasting. God is the embodiment of all things good, excellent, and right. God does only good and right things. His being is only good and righteous. From His goodness comes His lovingkindness and faithfulness forever. God’s lovingkindness is shown through His mercy, kindness, faithfulness, loyal actions, and unchanging love. His faithfulness is unending and He is fully trustworthy. God is steadfastly loyal to His people. Because of God’s goodness, excellence, faithfulness, mercy, and trustworthiness, we shout for joy and sing joyfully to the LORD. Come now and know the LORD; He is good. His love endures forever.
David’s psalm of thanksgiving led him to shout and sing out about the LORD. It continues to lead people to recognize the LORD as God and as the giver of all good and excellent things. They then will shout out and sing with joy and praise to the LORD until all creation is caught up in the offering of thanks to the LORD God, the holy and eternal God of gods and King of kings. What begins with one man shouting out and singing with joy and praise leads to harmonious voices rising together in joy and praise of God. One begets many. If one does not begin to sing of God’s praises, how will others know Him?
Thanksgiving is one day set aside to remember and call attention to God. We draw attention to God by shouting out with joy and crying out with song in praise of who God is and what He has done. Hopefully Thanksgiving is not the only day we shout and sing with joy and gladness to the LORD for Who He is and what He has done. The attention of people around us should be drawn to God when we serve others. His joy should be evident in our hearts by our love, kindness, and mercy during those times. When we enter His house – His place of worship - each week, the attention of people should be drawn to God by our worship of Him and by our relationships with other believers there. Joy and gladness should be seen in our love, mercy, and forgiveness toward other believers. Whether we are among other believers or out in the world, God’s love and faithfulness should be seen and experienced by people in our encounters with them. They should be able to experience God through us. When that happens, these other people can experience and recognize God. They can then join us shouting out and singing with joy and thanksgiving to the LORD. Our shouts and songs of joy and praise testify about the LORD. Others will hear and know the LORD and join us in the procession of shouting joyfully to the LORD and singing with gladness and joy about Him. One voice leads to other voices. Your voice leads to other voices declaring the praise to and about the LORD. There is responsibility in this.  Praise the LORD and give thanks for God is good and His love endures forever.
Shout joyfully to the LORD.
Serve the LORD with gladness.
Come before Him with joyful song.
Draw attention to God.

Declare and proclaim His name today – Thanksgiving – and throughout each week so others come to know and confess Him as their God and join us in joyfully blessing and praising His name.