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Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

The Ruler asked, “What should I do to inherit eternal life.”

After some back-and-forth, Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

I’ve been studying the life of Lot. You know the story — Lot’s an oppressed, non-influential believer, living in sin-filled Sodom, a city that God is about to reduce to ashes. Two angels stand beside Lot pleading that he leave the city, but Lot hesitates.

Why?
He believes in God and he believes these messengers are angels. I submit to you he was experiencing the same despair as the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ in the Gospel of Luke story. Lot was a ruler of sorts, holding some type of government position in Sodom, and likely had a measurable degree of wealth. Lot was respected in Sodom, that is, as long as he turned a blind eye to sin and corruption, and kept his religion to himself. While Jesus told the Ruler to sell all that he had, in similar fashion two angels told Lot to abandon all that he had. We know what happen to Lot; the angels took him by the hand and plopped him outside the city walls, directing him to walk the rest of the way. We don’t know what the Ruler decided. I’d like to think that he made the proper choice. 
 
We’re a lot like Lot and the Ruler.
 
What if you were told right now to leave it all behind? Don’t consider what you would eventually do, consider what your very first reaction would be. Would there be any hesitation? Would you pause to ask why? Or would you simply turn and start walking, leaving even vehicles behind, carrying only what was on your back? If you’re honest (if I’m honest), we’d probably react just like Lot and the Ruler did: we’d hesitate, seek explanations, and proffer justifications. 
 

Where does that leave all of us?

It’s okay to ask the question; the disciples were wondering the same exact thing. They too were struggling with the notion of being able to walk away from all they had. Could they leave their homes? Their cars? Their cable TV? Well that’s certainly what their question implies. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they ask.

Jesus responds with the most gracious, merciful, and loving answer, and frankly, it’s the bedrock of the entire Gospel message: “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:22-27)

Absolute repentance and complete submission is a little frightening at first. It speaks to perfection, so we naturally shy away from that which we cannot achieve. Jesus knows this too. It’s why He bluntly said, “It’s impossible!” And that’s the whole point. Are we not made strong in our weaknesses? We cannot save ourselves. We are helpless by design! It is when we recognize our imperfect condition that the Perfect One can do the impossible.
 
The angels brought a vacillating Lot out of bondage and he ultimately walked by faith. Jesus brings us out in the same condition and simply asks we do the same.

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I became a police officer in 1981. I came to faith in 1984. Young, stupid, and un-discipled, I eventually fell back into my old, sinful ways. I did not yet understand the spiritual principle regarding holiness — the notion of being set apart for God and endeavoring to make it known, perpetually.
 
I attempted to share my faith, but rapidly succumb to the ridicule of both criminal and coworker. I blame neither for my downward spiral – – the fault was my own. I was like the seed that sprang up quickly and the one that fell among the thorns: shallow roots growing amongst weeds. In other words: I was not growing in my faith and I was not practicing holiness (set-apartness).
 
It reminds me of Lot.
 
Consider one of the most disturbing portions of Scripture:
 
“Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing.” (Genesis 19:8)
 
For centuries scholars have debated why a man would make such a despicable offer. Some have even attempted to defend Lot’s action. The truth be told, the deed is indefensible. We can however surmise that Lot got to this horrendous condition through a lack of spiritual growth and a lack of holiness.
 
Sodom was a vile place, replete with depravity, perversion, and sexual sin. Why Lot chose to live in such a place we may never know, but we can speculate that on day one, week one, or even year one of living in Sodom, Lot would not have offered his daughters up to be raped. However, after 25 years of living there, he was worn down by the continual vice, brutality, and materialism. Two and a half decades of compromise, turning a blind-eye, cowering in fear, and concealing his faith brought Lot to this place. It did not happen overnight. Shallow roots among thorns have little chance.
 
On the other hand, consider Abraham. While not a perfect man, he was a faith-filled man, a man who grew in his knowledge of the Lord and exercised holiness, opting to remain untethered to the world as a nomadic tent dweller. Sodom essentially lay at his doorstep, but he was not of Sodom. He was free to engage with the world on his terms and not on theirs. As a result, he was used mightily by God.
 
As with Lot, God did not abandon me, He rescued me. Like Lot, my salvation was secure because by faith I believed. But in those days, I was not of much use to God. Thankfully our Lord is both gracious and merciful, and remains faithful when we are not. He restores what the locust devours, that is if we allow Him to.
 
Study the word, be in prayer, and be ye holy.

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Twenty-plus years ago, I was doing AA and I remember being told that if I hungout in a bar (not to drink), but to minister alcoholics, they would most likely get me drunk before I got them sober. Here was my take away: these battles are best fought on our turf, not theirs.

So it is with saving the spiritually lost -going into the lions den is dangerous. Having said that, if we’re thrown into a pit, we can trust Jesus to bring us through the trial, but to enter them voluntarily, without the prompting or annoiting of the Holy Spirit is to risk getting eaten alive.

Lot the Righteous.

The Bible tells us Lot was a righteous man, but as a full-time resident of Sodom, his soul was vexed day-to-day by their unlawful deeds. What affect did that have on Lot? The Genesis account implies that Lot was not very influential in his ministry to the Sodomites – God sent two angels into the city, and after 25 years of Lot’s ministry, or lack thereof, they could not even find ten righteous people.

Why is that?

It would seem that Lot, although a Godly man, conformed to, or was broken by, a filthy world and thus lost his light and saltiness. Perhaps God’s will, and Lot’s ministry, would have been better served if he stayed in a tent on the outskirts of town, making occasional visits or better yet, inviting the lost to his dwelling as they ventured beyond the city walls. Just a thought on my part, but clearly establishing his roots in Sodom wasn’t working out too well

It bears repeating…

Many are called to such a ministry, but let’s be very clear on the issue: they are affective because they were compelled by God to do so. Lot did not have such a calling on his life, at least the Bible does not record one, nor does it record any fruit from such a calling.

As it pertains to life in general, I’ve always taught my children that if they ‘hangout’ in a barbershop, eventually they will get a haircut. The axiom holds true for those who have been set-apart for Kingdom purposes. We’re called to be in the world, maintaining holiness in unholy places, living as aliens, not denizens, among natural men.

This takeaway is clear:

“…[B]y the mercies of God…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
(Romans 12:1-2)

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As much as we might want to identify with people (friends or family) in the unbelieving world, they will never fully accept us unless we abandon or compromise our faith. If and when we do exercise our spiritual values, it brings conviction, and they often distance themselves or disown us entirely. In thinking we can find common ground through compromise, we are the ones who are fooled.

Lot is our example.

In Genesis 19, he begs for the lives of two angels quartered inside his home, “Please, my brothers,” he begged, “don’t do such a wicked thing.”

“Stand back!” they shouted. “This fellow (Lot) came to town as an outsider (an alien), and now he’s acting like our judge! We’ll treat you far worse than those other men!”
(Genesis 19:7 + 9)

Lot calls them brothers, thinking them his friends, but they call him an alien.

So it is when we are friends with the world in a compromising manner. When that moment of clarity comes and we attempt to regain our spiritual footing, we will be summarily rejected. Truth be told, we ARE aliens and we should never pretend we are something other than that.

“Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy…I warn you as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ (aliens) to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:10-12)

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“(Jesus) personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed.”
(1 Peter 2:24)
This promise of healing is like our promise of salvation, in that we receive both this side of Heaven by faith, knowing that the transaction will be actuated in Heaven upon our arrival. All the while we grasp that we are not healed or saved yet, but the promise of both is so sure, we can claim both with certainty. We’ve been dragged and secured into God’s lifeboat, but we’ve yet to come ashore. Our inheritance has been written into His will, we’ve seen it with our own eyes, and it was probated, i.e., it has been tested and found to be true, by Christ’s resurrection from the grave. This healing is promised and it is permanent.
Another Healing
God also heals our bodies this side of heaven, but these healings are not promised, nor are they permanent. They are not promised and for reasons not fully understood by the church, they aren’t for everybody. God chooses to heal or not heal this side of Heaven to bring Himself honor, glory, and praise, and as a sign that may draw non-believers to Christ for the purpose salvation, keeping in mind that God will also use the strong, faithful testimony of the unhealed saint to get His glory! Regardless, all of these miraculous healings are not permanent. Those who receive them will eventually lose them to declining health and/or death.
So while we’re encouraged to pray for healing for our earth-bound bodies, and often receive them, we must emphasize the importance of the permanent and promised healing that’s to come in Heaven, especially to the unchurched and unsaved souls we encounter. Let us be compelled to share this critical information lest we sow seeds of discouragement to a lost soul who was not healed as he or she had expected. These same folks need the Gospel more than they need short-term wellness.
“But (Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

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God’s primary method of communication to His children is through His word, the Bible. Nevertheless, God does speak to us personally. For me God’s voice is not audible, nor does He speak to my heart; God (by means of His Holy Spirit) invades my thoughts, and mostly when I am in prayer or in His Word.

How do I know they’re God-thoughts?

Well for the most part, these thoughts are not something that I would have come up with on my own. My thoughts are typically egocentric, self-serving, and oft-times sinful, while God-thoughts are polar opposites. They are good, perfect, loving, and true.

More importantly, these Divine impressions do not contradict the Word of God, nor do they add or subtract from Scripture.

Thirdly, they must pass the smell test from my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I share a thought (which I often do), the saints will be quick to point out a Biblical error or proffer an appropriate ‘tweak’ so that the message is properly conveyed. If we’re not willing to submit to peer-review, our thoughts may not be of God.

Finally, it has to pass the T.H.I.N.K. test:

T: is it biblically TRUE

H: is it HELPFUL
I: is it INSPIRING
N: is it NECESSARY
K: is it KIND

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Job 14:1-6 and Psalm 139:16 teach us that God has determined and numbered our days before we were born. In other words, God knows exactly when we’re going to die, which begs the question, “Is there anything we can do to change or prolong that date?”
 
I believe there is and I’m slightly dogmatic about it because God has said that if we walk in obedience and keep His decrees and commands, He will give us a long life (1 Kings 3:14) and if we honor our parents, we may live long in the land (Ex 20:12). When we consider that God is omniscient, knowing the beginning from the end, we can trust that He has factored in our obedience, or lack thereof, before He chiseled our obit day in stone.
 
Taking it a step further I believe we can prolong our lives if we stop smoking, doing drugs, and abusing alcohol, and start exercising, eating right, and taking care of our bodies, because God, again knowing all future events, has factored in both our harmful and beneficial behaviors, before we were born. That is to say, our favorable activities and obedience to God are not merely things that may improve the quality of life in the time we have been allotted, but rather things that God has considered in determining the length of our lives.

Of course we must also remember that God considers things we know nothing about that may result in a long or short life, and Godly obedience and healthy living are not the sole factors that decide how long we live.

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“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7:14)
 
If you move in Judeo/Christian circles you have heard this verse quoted by pastors, politicians, and proselytes more than a few times, especially in times of regional tragedy or national sorrow. Although an encouraging portion of Scripture that strikes a harmonious chord with all true believers, let us be mindful that it is primarily a directive and an admonition from God.
 
A Promise to Israel
 
Cite the verse or post it on social media, and it won’t be very long before some imperious theologian, qualified or amateur, chimes in that the verse is contextually a promise for Israel and not for the United States or any other nation. Well, we can’t argue the point; it is a conditional promise that God made to Israel.

Here’s the entire account in the New Living Translation:

 
“So Solomon finished the Temple of the LORD, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do in the construction of the Temple and the palace. Then one night the LORD appeared to Solomon and said, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.”
 
God continues:
 
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart. As for you, if you faithfully follow me as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, then I will establish the throne of your dynasty. For I made this covenant with your father.”
 
God’s final warning:
 
“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the decrees and commands I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot the people from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make it an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled. They will ask, ‘Why did the LORD do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why he has brought all these disasters on them.’” (2 Chronicles 7:12-22)
 
For the Church or Not?

Clearly, both contextually and historically, these words of God were for Israel. So the question then becomes, is God’s wise counsel and warning applicable to us today, and more specifically, are they applicable to the Church? The answer is, of course they are.

 
First Things First
 
When God said to King David, “One of your descendants will always rule over Israel,” it was a ‘now-fulfilled,’ prophetic reference to our Messiah, Jesus Christ. Because Jesus is the integral part of this equation, and because Christians are grafted into the vine that is Israel, the verse applies to the church. There is no question about it: if Christians, as in the warning to Israel, abandon their namesake Christ Jesus, and disobey His decrees and commands, we will be uprooted and rejected. 
 
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”
(Romans 11:17, NLT)
 
Healing for Israel Only?
 
No one in the body argues that if believers anywhere or at anytime, humble themselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways, that God will hear those prayers, and forgive their sin. The issue with some folks is the implication found in the final portion, ‘that God will heal their land.’ 
 
Let’s back up. What does God mean when He says that He will heal their land, and what’s wrong with the land that it needs healing to begin with?
 
For starters, God cursed the land back in Genesis because of Adam’s dirty deed, but arguably that is not what’s being referred to here. However, and as it pertains to our scriptural reference, God said, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people,” (2 Chronicles 7:13).

In other words, on occasion and for varied reasons known and unknown, God allows turmoil, and God-allowed turmoil is not unique to Israel. Therefore, when God says He will heal the land, and when Christians apply His promise to the land they happen to be most closely associated with, it is a proper application. No one is saying anything more than that and certainly no Christian I associate with is suggesting that the United States is somehow replacing Israel as the apple of God’s eye. That notion, along with replacement theology in general, is a sick interpretation of the Bible (a discussion for another time, perhaps).  

 
Simply put, and as it pertains to the Vine of American, if folks who are called by His name, get off their high horses and humble themselves, if they would pray and seek God’s face, His guidance, His equipping, and His power, and if they repent from their wicked ways, then God will hear us; He will forgive us, and the turmoil of the land will be healed. Take note: the agnostics, the atheists, and the followers of false gods and idols don’t have to do anything! The admonition is to the church alone. If we would just start acting like the church, that is to say, in a God-prescribed manner, the promise will come to pass.
 
And the Naysayers Say…
 
“It’ll never happen!”
 
And of course they cite Biblical prophecy that God’s wrath is ultimately going to be poured out on America and the rest of the world. I get that and cannot dispute the prophetic and specific inevitability of those words. However there is another element that cannot be disputed: we do not know God’s timetable; we do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return, and nowhere in the Bible is it suggested that we should abandon every good work and wait for His return. The mere thought of that is absurd and dare I say, blasphemous. God would never have us reject our Christian duty! Never!
 
So with that, let us humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, and see what God will do! To ignore God’s warning is to reject God Himself.

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In Bill Hybels opening talk at this year’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS), he listed 10 Rules of Respect, adding that they are great words for leaders to live by. Really?

The first thing that jumped off the page is that Hybels makes no mention of God or Bible Scripture. Does Bill Hybels actually believe that he can say it better than God?   I’m absolutely sure that he cannot.

PROOF

 

Here are Hybels ’10 rules’ followed by Bible Scripture. You decide who said it better.
1) Hybels: “Set the example of how to differ with others without demonizing them.”
GOD: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
2) Hybels: “Model how to have spirited conversations without drawing blood”
GOD: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)
3) Hybels: “Never interrupt others who are talking and do not dominate the conversation.”
GOD: “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” (Proverbs 19:20
4) Hybels: “Limit your volume level and refuse to use incendiary or belittling words that are guaranteed to derail a discussion.”
GOD: “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)
5) Hybels: “Set the example of being courteous in word and deed
GOD: “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)
6) Hybels:”Never stereotype.”
GOD: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
7) Hybels: “Apologize immediately when wrong instead of denying or doubling down.”
GOD: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
8) Hybels: “Form opinions carefully and stay open minded if better information comes along.”
GOD: “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
9) Hybels: “Show up when you say you’re going to show up and do what you say you’ll do.”
GOD: “If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2)
10) Hybels: “Set rules of respect for everyone in the organization and enforce them relentlessly.”

GOD: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

To make matters worse, every year Hybels adds a bevy of popular speakers who are typically outside the realm of the church. You won’t hear God or Bible Scripture from them either.

Here’s this years list:

1) Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, woman’s rights activist, believes abortion is ‘comprehensive family planning.’
2) Laszlo Bock, Sr. VP Google,“All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good.”
3) Fredrik Härén, business creativity expert, “I am rooted in the world!”
4) Bryan Stevenson, black activist, lawyer, BLM supporter “If you tell a lie, you’re not just a liar. If you take something that doesn’t belong to you, you’re not just a thief. And even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer.”
5) Marcus Anthony Lemonis, CEO Camping World, “We are all entitled to our own opinion. Here is mine. I am my own man, with my own belief system.”
6) Juliet Funt, daughter of Allen Funt (Candid Camera), “Our teachings have impacted some of the top brands in the world including Nike, P&G, Wells Fargo, Hershey’s and Hyatt. We’ve enabled them to feel fueled, focused, and ready to create the spectacular.”
7) Marcus Buckingham, author, “Talent is the multiplier. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. The time you spend with your best is, quite simply, your most productive time…Spend the most time with your best people.”
8) Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology, author of “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.” Says grit is the key to success in work and life.

In Conclusion

Simply put, the Church does not need the likes of Bill Hybels or the Global Leadership Summit, but you know what?

GOD SAID IT BEST

“[T]he whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19)
“[D]o not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God…. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:2, 9)
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
“Friendship with the world is enmity to God.” (James 4:4)

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