The Treasures of Darkness – Souls

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7

Soul – Dfn. the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being, regarded as immortal (living forever, never dying). (New Oxford American Dictionary) The immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life, the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We will look into the reason and purpose why God uses this peculiar, weak, frail and error-prone creation, the Soul, to accomplish His grandest work of Creation.

Specifically, we will look at three aspects of God’s plan being fulfilled through the soul: Revelation, Perfection and RestorationThe Revelation of God’s Person, Perfection of God’s Power and the Restoration of God’s Perfect Dominion.

The Soul – Revelation of God’s Being & Person

God is a God of order and harmony. And He is the ultimate judge of rebellion and lawlessness. Thus, when His chosen archangel Lucifer rebelled (Is. 14:12-16 Ez. 28:15-18), judgment against him and his rogue yoke-fellows was swift and final. Their destination? Planet earth:

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Luke 10:18

Earth, the majestic, greenish-blue watery gem suspended in space would become the battleground for the epic of all wars and the final confrontation between the power of light, truth and righteousness and the powers of darkness, deception, rebellion and unrighteousness. God shifted His focus to a stage unlike Heaven. This earthly stage would be defined by finite space and time. God would now move into this new dimension to deal with and resolve the most gregarious of assaults against the Most High and Perfect God. Perfect? Oh yes, perfect. You see, any Being possessing ALL POWER must be perfect. Otherwise, the most minuscule fault, error or imperfection in that Being would (and ultimately will) destroy both Himself and everything He created.

The glorious and majestic Eternal God of glory would embark on a mission like never before. The Eternal God would slip into the dimension of time, become finite and experience His own self in Creation. Like His prized creation man, God would also become a living soul in the God-man Jesus Christ. Why? Because in God’s eternal and perfect plan orchestrated by His manifold wisdom (Ps 104:24 & Eph 3:10), Heaven’s breach, and the subsequent introduction of death through sin’s power could only be resolved and healed by blood (Mat 26:28, Rom 3:25 & Heb 9:22). For the very thing that destroys life can only be defeated and neutralized by life itself – by blood (Lev 17:11,14 & Deu 12:23). The death sentence hovering over souls created in His image must be conquered by the life giving power within blood itself – and only the precious, sinless, infinitely powerful blood of Heaven and earth’s perfect Lamb of God (Jn 6:54) could accomplish the task and mend the breach. And the plans of a perfect God are always perfect!

So, here we are in a place defined by space, time and life as living souls graced with the power of free choice and free will, things Heaven’s angels lack. As a minister recently articulated, angels are given the freedom, but not the right to choose (remember Lucifer and his fallen angels?). We have both. Why? Because love demands both free will and the freedom to choose. God has gifted the soul both the unique quality and capacity to love and be loved. This is why angels do not know what love is. We do. And God designed it to be that way.

God’s ultimate desire is to love and be loved, not only for what He does, but more importantly for who He is (Is 43:10-11, Neh 9:30-31 & Ps 78:38-39). His desire is to reveal and express the profound and glorious aspects of his Person and Being – Love, Mercy, Grace, Understanding, Wisdom, Judgment, Justice, Forgiveness, Compassion, Glory, Power and as Healer, Deliverer, Provider and Savior.

To accomplish this God created a medium where He and the creation He loves can fulfill His will or plan for their lives through his Word. The Word is the source code that runs His creative processes and formulates His will (Jn 1:1-5). It is the Spirit of God that energizes the Word and gives it life (Job 33:4, Eze 37:5, 8-10, Jn 6:63 & II Cor 3:6). That Word became “flesh and dwelt among us” in the man Jesus Christ (Jn 1:14). The soul was formed to believe and trust in the Word and live with it residing on the inside and empowered by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:11).

The Lord chose the vehicle of a living soul with its life-giving blood to bring “all things” to a perfect and final conclusion. God became a soul so that the soul might know God in the fulness of His revelation:

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Hebrews 1:3

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18

Now that we looked at the revelation of God’s person and character through Jesus Christ, we now move along to His perfected power.

The Soul – Perfection of God’s Power

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Psalm 69:20-21

Heaven’s breach of trust and unity accompanying Lucifer’s fall produced a temporary shadow over God’s perfect dominion. A foreign element entered the stage known as death and tainted creation. Death was never God’s intention, but the result of judgment against disobedience and sin. And sin seperates God from everything and everyone:

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. Isaiah 59:2

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: Romans 5:12

And death’s defeat demanded something Heaven could not provide – weakness. Why weakness? Because according to God’s word, His perfected strength is only possible through brokenness and suffering:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

The Greek word “strength” used in this verse is: δύναμις (dunamis) meaning ‘force’ or ‘miraculous power’. Death demanded a perfected strength that only perfected weakness could produce. And God perfected His power through the weakness of the perfect, sinless flesh in the God-man, Jesus Christ. No greater weakness was ever or ever will be demonstrated in heaven or on earth. Ever. God himself enrobed in the veil of human flesh freely sacrificed on the savage and unmerciful altar of earthly sin at the hands of sinful humanity.

As God became “a living soul” himself, he could now become perfectly weak so that He might become perfectly strong and conquer the power of death:

Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Rom 6:9-10

Jesus came in the “likeness” of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3) and unlike the first man Adam who failed, Jesus was the perfect second man (I Cor 15:45-47) who fulfilled all of God’s will and “finished” His work (Joh 4:34; Mat 26:39 & Joh 5:30).

God’s power now perfected through the sinless blood of the Lamb of God broke the power of sin and death to give the gift of eternal life to those who will trust him and obey His word:

Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John 6:68  

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23  

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 1 John 2:25  

The Soul – Restoration of God’s Perfect Dominion

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12  

It is well understood that some restored things can be very expensive. Time and its tendency to reduce both the quality and quantity of objects, items and things leaves what remains rare and valuable. On a superficial level, consider the following restored ‘earthly treasures’:

Salvator Mundi (circa 1490–1500) painting by Leonardo da Vinci – Sale price: $450M
Les Femmes d’Alger (1955) painting by Pablo Picasso – Sale price: $179.4M
Claude Monet’s Meules (1891) Auctioned price: $110.7M
Paul Cézanne’s Bouilloire et fruits (1888) Auctioned price: $59.3M 
Restored 1935 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante – Sale price: $3.8M
Restored Ferrari 275 GTB – Sale price: $2.3M
Restored 1950 Ferrari 166MM Barchetta – Sale price: $1M

The Extraordinary Value of The Restored Soul

There is one last restored earthen object worth our consideration – earthen vessels. The earthen vessel known as the human soul, your soul:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

Every soul is made in the image God. When God created you, he put his fingerprint upon you and made you unlike any other creation before you or after you. As a Pastor is famously quoted as saying: “After God made you, He threw away the mold!”
That makes you exceptionally rare and valuable, much more valuable than a one hundred year-old restored painting.

But, we have a problem here. Our original condition is marred through the ravages of time and the ensuing effects of sin thus diminishing our value compared to the value of its ‘originally intended condition’. We need restoration. From the fall of Adam and Eve to our present age the human condition lies in a grave state. We need to be restored to pre-Fall, mint condition. And now that Jesus has come we can be! Praise God we can. We now have hope!

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13

Now, not only can the vessel be restored to “mint” condition, it is redeemed by the blood of Jesus and ownership transferred from satan’s dominion into the eternal kingdom of God:

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: I Peter 1:18-19

The restored soul’s value has gone from the price of earthly dust to a value determined only by eternity for a vessel possessing eternal life and destined for eternal glory:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23 
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
1 Peter 5:10  
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. 1 John 2:25  

Death’s Defeat & God’s Perfected Dominion Restored

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:8

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

The devil knows God’s word. Satan is earth’s supreme Bible student. He knew the Savior would come on the scene sometime and somewhere in the spectrum of earthly time (Gen 3:15). But, he was taken totally by surprise. You see the devil cannot and will never know the mind of God. It is hidden from him. In simplistic earthly terms, satan perceives God’s mind as encrypted information and intelligence. There is scripture to back the claim:

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. Mat 2:7-8

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. I Cor 2:7-8

The same goes for the true believer. The enemy cannot decrypt or eavesdrop in on what God communicates to His people through His Spirit (the very next three verses!):

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. I Cor 2:9-11

But, someone might say: “The devil is not flesh (man), but a spiritual being!” True, but the defrocked and dethroned spiritual being has no authority. He lost his “Heaven connection”, covering of anointing, spiritual influence and Holy intimacy when cast out of heaven. What is the purpose of all this? It says that a true born-again believer (of Water & Spirit) now has more authority and power than the devil. Here are just a few verses among many:

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Luke 10:17  

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; Mark 16:17  

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 1 John 4:4  

Jesus has empowered his church, the bride of Christ, everything it needs to live victoriously over sin, the world and the powers of darkness as restored and perfected souls through faith, hope and love in Him.

Conclusion: Revelation, Perfection & Restoration – In Jesus Christ

We have walked along a path to establish the role the Soul has in God’s plan. In God’s infinite understanding (Ps 147:5), manifold wisdom (Psa 104:24 & Eph 3:10) and creative power (Gen 1:1; Isa 42:5, 45:12 & 18) the Lord is his foreknowledge formed Earth in the finite dimensions of time and space to include living souls, souls impressed with God’s own fingerprint.

He did this for one purpose – that “all things” both in Heaven and on earth be gathered together in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10). All things were created by him (Jn 1:3 & Col 1:16-17). All things (the law, prophets and psalms) are fulfilled in him (Lk 24:44 & Jn 19:28). And all things were given to him and under his authority (Mat 11:27, 28:18; Lk 10:22; Jn 3:35 & Jn 13:3).

The soul is the Lord’s chosen medium to fulfill three purposes: the expression of His Person and Being by slipping into time from the realm of eternity through the channel of a living soul as the man Jesus Christ, the perfection of God’s power through the frail and vulnerable life of the Saviour and the restoration of Heaven’s breach and its sin stain over humanity through the defeat of satan and death by the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (I Cor 15:3-4) and the New Birth experience by being born again of water and the Spirit (Jn 3:3-8, Lk 24:46-49, Acts 1:4-5 & Acts Ch 2).

Revelation, Perfection & Restoration of “All Things” through Jesus! Amen

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:28

The Treasures of Darkness – Self

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. (Isaiah 45:3)

Have you ever wondered about what good can be gleaned in the “dark” or  perplexing phases of life? Has the thought ever occurred to you that some of life’s most valuable and eternally enduring things can only be birthed in difficult circumstances? If not, let’s travel this road together because God’s Word has something to tell us about this.

A Painting That Was Not Quite Right

First there is a story to tell. Years ago there was an oil painting hanging on a conference room wall of a lake cove and shoreline. The artist’s intent was to capture a driving wind that invaded the tranquility of a normally calm lake cove with vibrant blue, green and white brush strokes. The scene was colorful and detailed. But, there was just something missing. Something didn’t “register” or captivate the viewer. Instead of drawing one’s attention in towards the painting, the opposite effect occurred.  Upon looking at the picture you seemed to take a glance and then abruptly turn to look somewhere else in the room. What was it?  What was missing in the scene that the artist failed to capture?

Then one day after visiting this room many times the thought occurred: “I see it. This painting has no shadows”. The scene was shallow and uninteresting. Why? The painting lacked dimension and depth because the light source upon the lake was not clearly defined.  The artist failed to master one of the hardest skills essential in painting – the proper handling of light and darkness. The painting was simply devoid of the contrasts between light and dark, differentiation between the shadows, dark areas and bright reflections of light on the objects being painted.

The objective here is not to disparage the artist’s honest effort, but to make a point. Life without shadows and darkness is shallow and one might say …. “lifeless”.

I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see   …………….. Amazing Grace

I think you “get the picture”.

As the opening scripture states there is a reason and purpose for dark seasons and difficult places in life. For it is here where God will give you some of life’s real treasures and riches.

Treasures of Self, Souls & The Savior

In our investigation into these treasures of darkness, we will look into three areas: Treasures of Self, Treasures of Souls and Treasures of the Savior. For it is in these three areas of our life that the Lord specifically commanded our attention and fulfill His greatest commandment:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 
And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.  Mark 12:30-31

Treasures of Self – Repentance, Redemption & Revelation

One cannot possibly “save” someone from sin unless they are first saved themselves. The first treasure from God has to start with ourselves – The Treasure of Self. What are  these treasures the Lord has for us? Whether we like to admit it or not, as indicated in the opening scripture, they originate in our own darkness, the darkness of our own personal sin.

Before we begin, can we be candid here for a moment? God is not easily impressed. In fact, God is not impressed at all about us. And how can he be? After all He does know everything does he not? So, how can a God who has all power, presence and understanding be taken off-guard by anything we might say, do or think? If this statement holds water, then what can we possibly give to Him? What do we possess that God might take and do something with? One thing. Our brokenness, brokenness from the effects of sin. God can take and use the darkness of our brokenness and give us something better:

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. (Psalms 147:3)

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalms 34:18)

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalms 51:17)

And what is the treasure to be mined from our brokenness? It is called repentance. Repentance must always precede our receiving deeper treasures available to us from Jesus. Of course, people have talents, gifts, personalities and endearing traits which the Lord will use for his kingdom. But, the bedrock of salvation must be founded upon this first treasure – Repentance.

Treasures of Repentance

John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. John’s sermon notes were not complicated and did not change from Sunday thru Saturday. John had one message to preach. Repentance.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.(Mark 1:4)

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:1-2)

The message of repentance did not stop with John. Jesus took John’s message and carried it onward:

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.(Matthew 4:17)

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.(Luke 13:3)

And the early church continued with its importance as a requirement in God’s  salvation plan for mankind:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent ….  (Acts 2:38)

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Repentance of sin is the first step in positioning ourselves for the great things of God – to receive deeper treasures He has for his church. And one never graduates from it because classes at the University of Self and Mt. Saint Flesh College are always in session. Furthermore, repentance cleanses our heart and mind in preparation to be a vessel where God can place his name. How does that happen? Through baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

Treasures of Redemption

Now moving out of the darkness of our sin through repentance we can receive another treasure in our lives – the name of Jesus Christ. A bride takes on the name of her husband. The church being the bride of Christ can now receive the treasure of the name of Jesus:

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)

The Lord always places His name and blesses the centers of worship of His choosing. In the Old Testament, the Lord chose the Tabernacle as a center for worship. He placed his name there and blessed it:

And Moses took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp. (Exodus 33:7)

And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. (Leviticus 9:23)

The Lord also chose the Temple as a center for worship. He placed his name there and blessed it:

And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually.(1 Kings 9:3)

The Lord did the same for the city of Jerusalem. And he blessed it and put His name there (I Kings 11:36, II Chron 6:6). In the New Testament, the Lord no longer put his name over cities or buildings of worship, but over people – His spiritual body, His church:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins ……  (Acts 2:38)

The name of the Lord is placed over one’s life when they are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. As one writer penned it, “Jesus did not say in Matthew 28:19 to baptism believers in his words (Father, Son and Holy Ghost), but in his name.”

And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)

For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. (Ephesians 5:23)

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Through baptism, one’s life is now a place of worship where God places his name upon and blesses:

And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:38-39)

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:5-6)

Another Treasure of Self available for the believer is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Having come through the cleansing waters of repentance (tears & remorse) and baptism (water immersion), the infilling of God’s spiritual waters is now available to you (John 7:37-39) to complete the cycle:

And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:47-49)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

The treasure of God’s Holy Spirit is the sealing of your soul over the power of sin and a down payment of the future promises awaiting you in Heaven:

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Treasures of Revelation

For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The God who spoke light into the darkness as recorded in the Book of Genesis is the same God who gives the knowledge of His glory through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

What revelation? The revelation of who Jesus is. The Book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John around 96 A.D. Notice the book is entitled “Revelation” and not “Revelations”. There is only one revelation, the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ (Rev. 1:1; 4:2, 10-11;5:1; 14:14; 20:11 & 21:5).

Why is revelation important? It is one thing to know someone’s name. It is another thing to know the person behind their name. Now having a heart purged of darkness (repentance), the washing of sin and the name of Jesus (baptism), the power of the Spirit (infilling of the Holy Ghost) and the revelation of Jesus in your life, you can pray, witness and live with authority and power:

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12  

God has some profound treasures to give us only available from the depths of our brokenness and darkness. And there are more to come. Be Blessed!

Coming Up: Treasures of Souls & Treasures of the Savior

And Samson

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Samson.

Every child who has ever attended Sunday School knows all about Samson. What child’s imagination does not get sparked by his mighty exploits? From the setting afire the tails of a skittish skulk of 300 foxes (Judges 15:4-6), the killing of 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15:15-17), ripping out single-handedly the gates of the enemy’s fortified city (Judges 16:3), and the breaking of ropes as if sewing thread (Judges 15:12-13, 16:11-12). Purely fantastic fodder for the imaginative mind.

And God had a divine and outstanding mission planned for Samson before his birth:

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Judges 13:3-5

Samson had it all. From the beginning he had both Heaven’s anointing and destiny imprinted upon his soul. Samson was called to deliver Israel from her enemies the Philistines. And to a degree he did.

Moreover, Samson was both one of the most enigmatic figures ever recorded in the Old Testament and Samson was also one of the most tragic figures recorded in the Old Testament.

And Samson.

The Pillars

If we could go back in time ourselves and embrace the imagination of a child we just might see what God possibly saw in the last scene of Samson’s life:

But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. Judges 16:21

There he is swarming within all of the theatrics and drama of life. A pitiful figure Samson is. Where his laser sharp and dark piercing eyes once were are now scarred and disfigured eye sockets. Where freedom once allowed the man to tromp over his enemy’s heads in vengeance, he is now bound like an animal in a parade of mockery.

Let us also imagine and wonder how the Lord perceived this. How did God feel while looking at this pitiful scene? It had to have broken His heart. The God of Glory had to have wept and mourned for Samson. The promises. The anointing. All the hope vanished in a moment. Only a heart-less king and ruler would respond otherwise.

But, God is God and not man.

And Samson.

And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. Judges 16:26

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Romans 11:29

Perhaps in Samson’s mind thoughts of his troubled past interlaced with divine thoughts of future hope and glory. And maybe he uttered these words:

“Lad, let me feel the pillars. I cannot see them, but just let me feel them because I know a God who still performs miracles. I’ve seen Him do them in my past, and by God’s grace and mercy, He can do it again. Because I know a God who is still in the miracle-working business.”

He was physically blinded, but somehow Samson miraculously sensed pillars in the room, and one more important pillar, a spiritual one. The pillar of his God was also present, for his one true Pillar of truth had not forsaken him and gave him renewed hope exactly when he needed it most.

And Samson

Maybe you were wondering by now why the repeated, maybe even disruptive repetition of the phrase “And of Samson”? (the word “of” is not in the original Greek) Here is why:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Hebrews 11:32

Nestled on the wall of Heaven’s Champions of Faith as recorded in Hebrews Chapter 11 is a most unlikely person. He was perhaps God’s most colossal failure. He stumbled. He fell. He embarrassed himself, he embarrassed Israel and He embarrassed Jehovah God. So why would God care? Why would the Lord waste more time and divine resources on a fallen hero? There is one reason:

I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city. Hosea 11:9

A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. Matthew 12:20

When man would say: “Let’s move on. Done deal. The damage is done. No damage control in the world can rectify this situation.” Heaven says: “Not so fast“.

Hopeless? In “the world”, yes. In Heaven, absolutely NOT.

For God is God and not man.

Man may, but God never extinguishes even the faintest glimmer of hope or faith in anyone. A raging forest fire can be started by one small spark. One spark of faith and hope in a heart can be the beginning of new life in impossible situations and when facing insurmountable odds.

It was one last spark that changed Samson’s world. And one last spark was all Samson needed:

Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. Judges 16:27-30

Samson’s final act was his very best. Up to this point in his life is it not mentioned where he ever prayed. But, here we see Samson prayed to his God. And his God heard it.

Because of his prayer and faith in God, the Lord honored it, gave him the victory and saw fit to place his name on His wall of faith. Samson got a piece of the wall and became one of God’s pillars of faith. His name is nestled right smack in the middle of the godly and victorious company of Gedeon,  Barak, Jephthae and Samuel.

Why? Because the faith Samson exercised at the end of his life simply pleased God. For without faith it is impossible to please Him.

The Lord took the crumbling wreckage of the pillars of Samson’s life and transformed them into a pillar of faith for all of time and eternity.

It is not over until God says it is over. And God is still in the miracle-working business. Our God is the Master of turning Messes into Masterpieces!

God is God and not Man.

And Samson.

Be Blessed!

More Than A Feeling

If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15

God’s word is a window into the very mind and heart of God. In fact, God magnifies His Word above His name (Ps 138:2). It is easy to allow the Word to take a backstage role in our lives. Why? It takes work and effort to search the scriptures and make them the centerpiece of our being. The Apostle John gives some insight into this thought:

And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. Revelation 10:9

On first inspection the word is sweet, enlightening and glorious. But upon digestion,  assimilation and prolonged residence in one’s life, it will be discomforting and contrary to the whims and the wild nature of the flesh. In short, the living Word of God does not always “feel good” in our lives.

Where are we going here? It is important to put feelings into their proper perspective.

Feelings are at best a catalyst for good, and at worst, ignorant and deceptive for the beginnings of error.

We live in a culture defined by the “touchy-feely”. Our society operates on-demand. Give it to me now. Not in 5 minutes, not in 5 seconds, put it in my hand or within my line of sight RIGHT NOW! Why? Because it feels good. And we like to “feel” good.

Unfortunately, this mindset has meandered and crept its way into our perceptions of love, specifically, God’s love. And this is our launching pad. God’s love has little to do with feelings. Let’s take a look into this.

God’s Love & God’s Word

According to the word of the Lord, God’s love IS ALWAYS in concert with obedience to God’s word. Sometimes love is convoluted with two feeling-based fruit of the Spirit; joy and peace. How does one know if they embrace joy or peace? You feel” it. How else can you define the presence of them? You feel and sense peace and you feel and sense joy.

But, God’s love, the Greek word ‘agape’, is not about feelings.

Agape love is more about actions and reactions to life than it’s about feelings in life. The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth devoted exclusively to love (agape) pinpoints this assertion:

Longsuffering, kindness, envy-less, selflessness, modest (vs. 4), gracious, humble, even tempered, innocent thinking (vs. 5), non-judgmental & God-seeking (vs. 6), trustworthy, faith-driven, confident, determined (vs. 7). I Corinthians Chapter 13

Where do you find feelings in this list of love characteristics? These spiritual graces are not produced by feelings. They come through persistent obedience and leading by God’s truth (Word) and Spirit. Jesus has much to say on this:

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings … John 14:23-24

The New Testament scriptures (KJV) translates the Greek word agapē (ἀγάπη)- sacrificial love, a love feast, as either the English words love or charity, 144x. Of those 144 scriptures, 53 verses include the word “faith” along with the word agapē. Faith cannot be separated from God’s love.

The world has perverted into a feeling what God originally intended to originate from faith. Belief in God’s Word:

Romans 10:17  So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

And faith is energized or made effective by love; through the Word of God:

Galatians 5:6  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Worketh: Greek ἐνεργέω (energeō) to be active, efficient: effectual, be mighty in. (Strongs)

“… but faith coming to effective expression through love”. (Wuest)

The analogy being: God-focused faith is the bullet, God’s love is the gunpowder.

The world’s formula for love is based on supply-demand marketing strategy. Love is projected as a fragile and fleeting consumable sustained with products and services.

This is not God’s design. Rather the truth is, God designed love to have its roots solely in Him, not as a consumable, but based on a condition. The condition being a heart in total and complete surrender in obedience to His word. What is the result? Knowing God for who He is. And who is He?

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. I John 4:7-8

God is love.

More Love, Less Control

The broadcast on the evening radio last week could not have been more timely. With these thoughts about love lingering and swirling around during the home commute, the preacher said:

The more in love you are with someone, the less control you have over your life“.

The minister went on to say he was just fine living the life of a bachelor. But, when this particular lady entered his life (now his wife), things began to change. He began to loose control over his life. To the point of total loss that he might gain faithful love.

More love, less control:

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Luke 22:42-44

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:12-13

The more love, the less control.

God is love. It’s more than a feeling.

Be Blessed!

The Cobblestone Effect

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. Romans 7:21

Have you ever  rode a bicycle on a cobblestone path or road? Or driven an automobile on a street paved with cobblestones? It is an unforgiving, frustrating and bone-jarring experience to say the least. The harder and faster you want to move over cobblestones , the slower and harder it is to move at all. It is an exercise in futility to attempt to defeat and counteract its resistive forces . When traveling on cobblestones, you simply must take your time and endure the ride.

The gist of the cobblestone effect is this:

“Increasing efforts to move forward and faster invoke increasingly opposing forces to resist you”.

Or in essence, “the force of resistance is directly proportional to the effort to push; increasing the force to push, results in generating inherently  greater forces that resist”.

This  is a phenomenon known as the cobblestone effect and has real-life application. This is going somewhere. Let’s take a look.

The Cobblestone Effect

The City of Baltimore is a wonderful town rich in American history. I live there and travel its streets to work five days a week. And if the truth be told its roads still leave one with an authentic, nostalgic 18th century experience. Cobblestone-like streets are very much in vogue here.

And you can normally pinpoint a driver acquainted with the nuances of Baltimore’s byways and roads – they can be spotted as those driving up the road like slalom skiers, weaving and crisscrossing in their lane to avoid potholes, mogul fields of warped, elephant-like skinned sections of asphalt  or the misaligned, lopsided manhole covers that rudely mimic the feel of cobblestone.

How does this relate in a spiritual application? What relevance does this all have for an individual wanting to get closer to the true and living God? Immensely relevant.

The cobblestone effect is an effective tool in satan’s arsenal against the human soul and often a weapon of choice. Why? The enemy’s goal is to invoke frustration and futility while one attempts to seek the goodness and blessings available in God. We don’t have to be reminded that satan hates everything and anything where God is involved.

God is life. God is for growth. To satan, the only thing secondary to destroying life is to thwart or impede its growth – to throw continuous roads and paths of cobblestone in your life for the purpose of frustration, fatigue or even eventually just plain giving up in pursing the face and will of God. Can you relate?

Why not quit? Why not “throw in the towel”? Why not keep pushing and enduring long nights of loneliness and frustration?  One word:

Progress.

You are making progress over life’s cobblestones and onward to things with eternal significance as long as you don’t give up and stop moving forward!

Rise Above It

Outside of completely stopping or renting a hovercraft, the only way to minimize the cobblestone effect in life is to lighten your load and rise above it. How do you do that?

First, slow down:

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,(Ephesians 5:15)

Next, let someone help you pray, carry your load and burden:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1-2

Lastly, give it to Jesus:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.(Matthew 11:28)

But, there will be times when we need something more. We just cannot do it ourselves or with the help of those around us. What then? Jesus shows up walking above the cobblestones and just lifts us and carries us above it all:

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalms 73:26)

For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. (1 John 3:20)

In Conclusion

We find in our journey through life that it is often a path lined with cobblestones; events, situations, encounters,  thoughts and experiences that “do not line up”, are disjointed, not level (‘not fair’ – anyone?) or seem bewildering to our natural minds. Could it be God has ordained it that way? Has God intentionally framed and ordained our fragile life on earth so that we walk humbly, carefully and attentively? Jesus never told anyone whom he healed to rise up and run. But, he did tell them to “walk” and keep moving forward (Mat 9:5, Mk 2;9,  Lk 5:23).

And it is interesting to note what will be found at the end of this life as we stand before God. Is the Lord so cold-hearted and cruel that He would line the street of Heaven with one of earth’s most dreaded surfaces – cobblestone? Not hardly:

And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. (Revelation 21:21)

Jesus once turned water into wine. He is also able one day to turn our streets of cobblestone into a street of pure gold – if we keep pushing forward! Be Blessed.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. (Isaiah 59:19)

Creation & Christmas – God’s Good & God’s Gift

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.  Genesis 1:31

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

God’s Good & God’s Hands

Many scriptures in the Bible equate the work of God’s hand or hands with good. Hands can produce good things. Here are a few passages:

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.”  Nehemiah 2:18

“For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.”  Ezra 8:22

“That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.”  Psalms 104:28

And lest we forget and bring it back home to us:

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  Genesis 2:7

(Note: the word “formed” is the Hebrew word יָצַר (yâtsar) – through the squeezing into shape; to mould into a form; especially as a potter)

“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”  Genesis 1:31

Something Better Than Good

All the Lord wants from His creation is true worship. But, apparently God’s good is insufficient for His creation bruised by sin. Something was missing from his prized design, those made in His image:

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”  Romans 1:21

“But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”  Romans 10:21

Because of the corrosive effects of sin mankind falls short of “the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Even those who God separated for His glory became vain and fell short of God’s expectations. Somehow His good was not enough for them nor for the rest of humanity.

The work of His hands, God’s Good” (His best) was simply not enough.

So, the Lord had another plan. If his hands could not do it, if his best could not do it something “better” surely would. God had a more spectacular and glorious work of creation yet in store. One day in the future He would manifest a work that would outshine His good. He would accomplish this with something “better” than his hands.

Jesus Christ: God’s Better, God’s Gift, God’s Heart & God’s All

The first Christmas ushered in a new plan for God to reveal himself. Instead of using the miraculous works of nature to woo humanity, he enrobed himself in flesh and walked amongst the very people he created. Surely, this would get their attention:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Luke 2:10-12

The Lord at the threshold of Creation gave His best to show his glory through the work of His own Hands. And what a magnificent display of grandeur it was.

But, a better work was to come. This better work would be a work from the very depths of God’s own Heart. The Lord revealed his Heart in the New Testament.

“For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.”
“By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.”  Hebrews 7:19, 22

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. John 15:9

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

In Conclusion

God revealed “His Hand” in the Book of Genesis and subsequent books of the Old Testament. But, it was not until the New Testament as recorded in the writings of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) and subsequent books to usher in His work of salvation that revealed “His Heart“.

God saved His best for last. God’s gift of Himself as Jesus Christ to humanity was the giving of His very best. Instead of His good, His best, God gave His better, His heart  – His All!

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luke 1:30-33

Merry Christmas 2018. Be Blessed!

One Thing We Must Know About God

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. Exodus 3:14  

Reflecting, meditating on this great God of creation one has to reach some very basic, foundational conclusions. One of those conclusions is this: God has free will. It is important to grasp this understanding because it lays the foundation of who God really is. Let’s take a look.

I AM THAT I AM

How do we know God possesses free will? First, because He said He did: “I AM THAT I AM”. He does not have to quantify or qualify himself. God is the uniquely sovereign One, the occupier of eternity (Is 57:15), the beginning of all things (John 1:1) and the center of all creation (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17). God simply IS.

Secondly, because we do. Humanity is created in God’s image. God created Adam and Eve, and every offspring thereafter for one purpose, for fellowship with Him. As one great man of God penned it: “We are earth forms that God uses to express Himself”. God created us for himself. Adam and Eve were given free will and freedom to make choices independently. Love is established on this premise  – free choice.

Because God possesses free will the power of choice is inherently part of His nature. Therefore, God embraces the prerogative to be any kind of God He desires to be. Think about that for a minute and ask yourself this question:

If I possessed infinite power, what would I do with it?

God could have chosen to be a god who reveled and relished in the utmost extreme dimensions of debauchery and lust while His subjects toiled in slavery and loveless servitude. But, He did not as some of earth’s mighty rulers and kings have done.

God could have strong-armed His inferior subjects into submission and mercilessly forced his power upon them. Not tolerating the slightest challenge or resistance to His authority. But, He did not as some of earth’s mighty rulers and kings have done.

God could have created a universe orchestrated with mindless robots who in mechanical and passionless expression bowed before Him in forced worship. But, He didn’t.

Instead this God, this great God of glory and mercy chose to be known as the God of selfless, sacrificial love.

And this great God knew before “the foundation of the world” the price He would eventually pay to manifest and display that love.

He did it anyway.

God chose to be love. A love that knows is no greater love:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13  

Some Things Never Change

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain  ~ The Old Rugged Cross

The cross. Someone once said that if I ever get lost just point me towards Calvary and I will find my way back home. Oxygen is good to breathe. It was good to breathe yesterday and by God’s grace it will be good to breathe oxygen again tomorrow. The cross is as powerful today as it was 2,000 years ago. It is good some things never change.

Calvary expresses the dimensions and depths of God’s love. And to think that God knew what it would take to be a God of love and to become that God anyway should take our breath away. That truly is true love.

May our prayer be: “Jesus, even if I had somewhere else to go, or someone else to love, I will still always come back to you”.

May You Be Blessed.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2