The Love Warrior

And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. Revelation 5:5  

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Matthew 11:12

All good things in life are based on the foundation of love. The love of Jesus Christ touches everything good. God’s love is life’s “secret sauce” for spiritual growth and fruitfulness, true happiness, joy, peace, fulfillment, and harmony with others (a short list). The reverse is also true. Evil, base things, the beggarly elements, works done in darkness and the like share a commonality – a lack of true love.

When Jesus stepped upon the stage of this earthly drama he knew the odds were stacked against him. God understood it would take something very special, unique, radical, “out-of-the-box”,  disruptive, paradoxical and above human calculation to break through sin-hardened hearts, walls of prejudice, evil spirits and hopelessness. Jesus was up to the challenge. Jesus conquered the works of darkness and the sin of mankind with a full frontal assault with an amazing strategy; approach it with the weakness of a Lamb as The Love Warrior.

The Call For War

There was a serious problem in heaven. Imperfection surfaced within the perfect eternal realm we know as heaven (Ezekiel 28:15). God, being the perfect, eternal Being (Deu 32:4, II Sam 22:31, Ps 18:30), engaged the plan to restore order in heaven. The Word is not clear how long that took, but no doubt long enough for the rebellion to complete its course. The Lord works that way (Gen 15:16, Dan 8:23).

So, Lucifer, Heaven’s premiere worship leader, and one-third of his worship team were expelled from heaven and exiled to a realm encircling earth’s lower atmosphere:

In the sphere of which trespasses and sins at one time you ordered your behavior as dominated by the spirit of the age in this world system, as dominated by the leader of the authority of the lower atmosphere, the source also of the spirit that is now operating in the sons of the disobedience, Ephesians 2:2 (Wuest)

Church splits (and sometimes individual exodus’ for that matter) are always centered around worship. Always. How is that? Because people decide to worship the “god of self” instead of the God of Glory. Okay, let’s move on.

Now that heaven was rid of its rebellious blotch, the Lord encountered the dilemma of now dealing with the fallen archangel and his cohorts. And God, who is never confounded, confused, dismayed or dumbfounded had a plan for that too. In fact, His plan was ordained before the foundation of the world (John 17:24, I Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8). Enter front-center stage the One for whom all things were created (Is 40:21-28, John 1:3, Eph 3:9, Col 1:16, Rev 4:11) – the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ.

God rolled up His sleeves and went to war. Why? For love.

God who “is love” never knew what it was like to “be loved”, until now. God as the man Christ Jesus came to earth to fulfill and perfect what the law could not do – set the captives and prisoners of the earth free with the love of God (Is 43:10-13, Is 61:1, Lk 4:18, Ps 68:18, Eph 4:8).

Jesus Christ is The Love Warrior.

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

And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. Luke 23:33–34

Jesus’ Love Warrior Boot Camp

Jesus has a knack for turning disciples into love warriors. One of Jesus’ prime examples was a man named John. John was a potential warrior, but his weapon of choice, his passion for revenge, needed some tweaking:

And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? Luke 9:54

Fire? From Heaven? To scorch the poor guys? Not Jesus’ MO, at least not yet. But, as usual when Jesus begins a work of grace, mercy and love on a subject they might as well surrender because love never fails (I Cor 13:8). And John did not let Jesus down.

John held one of Jesus’ three inner-circle gold cards. John had passion. John wanted to be close to the Master’s heart, so close as to hear what emanated from Jesus’ heart before it exited his mouth:

Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? John 21:20

You are going to hear some pretty amazing things when you are that close to God’s heart. What did John hear while living a life close to Jesus’ heart? It must have had a lot to do with love because John went on to write and reference more about love than any other writer in the Holy Bible:

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

Jesus saw John was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

There was another subject that showed some promise for becoming a Love Warrior. His name was Peter. Like John, Peter had passion and also packed some maligned, artful grit:

Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. John 18:10

Peter was aiming for Malchus’ head, not his ear. Peter was a changed man after the Day of Pentecost and went on to join the esteemed ranks of one of Jesus’ Love Warriors:

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: I Peter 1:8

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: I Peter 1:22

Jesus saw Peter was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

We cannot forget another one of Jesus’ love warriors. This one was a women named Mary Magdalene. The Bible refers to Mary as the women “out of whom went seven devils”.  I guess if one were to be demon possessed, seven devils might be the perfect number of choice. It is also noteworthy that Mary is referenced exactly twelve times in twelve verses in the KJV of the Holy Bible. Seven and twelve. Interesting.

Whatever Mary did in her past was now forgotten and superseded with a present and future centered around the Lord. Mary was a member of Jesus’ entourage of women who followed and ministered to Jesus (Luke 8:2). Who was there at Calvary? Mary (Jn 19:25).  Who was one the first ones to visit the tomb after Jesus’ crucifixion? Mary (Jn 20:1). Who was the first person Jesus appeared to after he rose from the dead? Mary (Mk 16:9). Who informed the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead? Mary (Lk 24:10).

Jesus saw Mary was a good candidate for becoming a Love Warrior.

Am I A Love Warrior For Jesus?

In conclusion, I need to ask myself: “Am I a love warrior for Jesus?” Are my thoughts and the meditations of my heart focused on the Kingdom of God, on the saving of souls, compassion towards the broken and weak, or does my life evolve around my needs, my wants and the pleasures of my flesh? Have I determined to seek “God’s own heart” like King David or the Apostle John?

Love Warriors always have a price to pay.

“Well, the Lord has not called me to be an apostle.” Maybe not. However, Jesus has called his church to an even higher calling – Kings and Priests unto God:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6

One thing is certain, Jesus came to this earth as a lamb, but he is not returning as one. Jesus will visit the second time as a lion, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. And he is coming as a warrior to judge the earth of its sin.

Until then, the Lord searches the earth looking for human hearts that will respond to his call to join him with his army of Love Warriors in The Name of Jesus. Be Blessed.

 

Answers From Strange Places: A Vignette of Gideon

Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. Judges 7:13 

What significance can of a lump of barley bread have? Not much by itself. But, for Gideon and the armies of Israel, it won the victory. Sometimes answers to life’s dilemmas are found in the most unusual places. Let’s see.

Just Give Me A Sign Lord!

Gideon was a humble, unsuspecting fellow. Just the kind of person God looks to perform great exploits through.  But, Gideon had some problems. Gideon had an optics problem which translated into a warped faith life. Gideon doubted God’s power and ability to work in his life. How do we know this? Because he asked God to give him signs, (not once, but three times) to prove to him that the Lord was indeed going to use him to destroy the enemies of Israel.

And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,

Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall ……

And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece….. Judges 6:17, 36-37, 39

Gideon was a sign-seeker. Why? Consider the man’s past for a moment. Gideon was carrying baggage, in fact a lot of baggage. And people who carry a lot of baggage have problems seeing things afar because to avoid stumbling they need to continually focus on what is beneath their feet.

Gideon’s Heavy Baggage

What baggage was Gideon carrying? Let’s start with his present state of oppression, and no doubt some depression in the mix. The Midianites had so weighted Israel down that Gideon was threshing wheat in fear that they would discover his protein stash and take away his family’s only food supply.

And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. Judges 6:6, 11

Strike one.

Secondly, the man had low self-esteem and was living in poverty.

And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. Judges 6:15

Strike two.

Lastly, Gideon was not from “good Israeli stock”. Gideon suffered generational curses inherited from his father. His father was a heathen, an idol worshipper:

And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it: Judges 6:25

It’s not looking good Gideon. Strike three.

Eye Candy Syndrome

Gideon suffered from a malady known as ECS – Eye Candy Syndrome. He was attempting to serve with the “eye” a God who asks to be served with the “heart”. Thus the reason behind Gideon’s sign-seeking, a malady affecting hearts not valiant in faith.

“Show me God and I will believe”. How many of us have prayed that prayer? Or, “Lord, if you do thus-and-thus, I will live for you”. Or, “Lord, just let me off the hook this one time and I will get my act together and give my life to you”. This is basically asking God for a sign, something we can tangibly grasp onto to bring God into our life situation. God wants more. The Lord wants to bring us into His situation. And that is the only way Gideon could accomplish the calling God spoke into his life. It takes a God-walk to birth a God-work.

God knows and understands the uniqueness within each and every one of us. And only God knows all about the life lived in the pair of shoes named “Mine Own”.

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

And if we’ll be honest, we all bring baggage to the table (some more than others) and it really comes to the light when the Light of the World calls you out on the carpet. You cannot hide it then. So, you have two options. Allow God to help you unload it, or keep it and suffer, and suffer a lot.

Let’s face the facts folks, we will accomplish little in the Kingdom of God while carrying a load on our backs, the load of guilt from past mistakes and failures, or beating ourselves up because of the burden of carrying generational sins of our forefathers (oh yes, they do affect us) or the ravages experienced from childhood abuses.

Thankfully for Gideon, and reflecting back on his life, thankfully for us, the proverbial light bulb lit up his brain. How? From a dream about a barley roll.

Pillow Power

Dreams and their interpretations from God are mind altering and heart transforming. Dreams can change one’s life:

And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. Genesis 40:8

But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets ….. KJV
But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries … The Message Bible Daniel 2:27

How many people in the Bible were given dreams from God that changed their lives, and even the course of history? Let’s name a few: Abraham, Jacob, Laban, Job, a butler and a baker in an Egyptian prison house, Pharaoh himself, Solomon, Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk, Jesus’ step-father Joseph, and Pilate’s wife. And Gideon:

And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the LORD hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. Judges 7:15

Gideon got a lot of mileage from his fleece test, yet he still doubted in the mission God called him to. Signs did not help Gideon’s faith, he was still unconvinced. How do we know that? There was one more turning point he needed to move him into God’s will. Then there would be no turning back. What was the turning point? Of all things, a dream about a piece of barley bread.

And it goes deeper than just the dream. The one thing Gideon feared (loosing his family’s food supply), God now turned around and used it against the Midianites. When God takes away your fear and uses it to defeat your enemy, you must know you cannot fail.

It can be said that signs whether from earth or from heaven do not always change our thinking, especially when faced with major transitions or juncture points in life (like the one Gideon faced). Jesus gave warning about this:

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. Matthew 16:4

In Conclusion

What about some other unlikely places that ushered in the miraculous of God: a mother’s packed lunch of merger fare for her little boy, empty water pots, a lady of questionable reputation standing alone at the town’s waterhole, lastly a talked about illegitimate son of a carpenter and his gruesome hanging in shame on a cruel wooden cross? Unusual places.

God will take what man’s disregards, turn it around, and use it for His glory:

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25

There comes a time when the miracle you desperately need can only be hand-delivered by a man walking on the water. A most unusual place and in a most unusual way.

A.W. Tozer penned the words, “God is looking for those through who He can do the impossible. What a pity that we settle for only those things we can do ourselves.”

Gideon could not do by himself the feat he was called to accomplish for God. But, the Lord is merciful and longsuffering. And the Lord knew exactly how to posture him for the promotion awaiting him. Have you had or heard of any strange dreams lately?  Maybe God is about to do something miraculous in your life.

 

Castles In The Sand

Castle 1Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Matthew 4:8-9

Building sandcastles is child’s play. Who has not built them either at the beach or in a sandbox in the backyard. A dream world of make-believe in your fingertips, a personal kingdom fashioned just to your liking and desires. Sandcastles – big, small, elaborate or just a row of simple pillars made from upside-down buckets of wet sand. Some things never change. The dreams just get deeper and more intense.

Cities of the world are built of the same stuff. Sand is the principle ingredient of concrete and glass. Skyscrapers are basically pillars of sand reaching the heavens, lifting and supporting its building occupants high above the earth. And the older we get it seems we prefer them bigger, higher and with fancier street names and fashionable zip codes.

The Bigger The Sandcastles The Better

It appears mankind has an innate, almost morbid proclivity to challenge God. The tendency surfaced long ago in the first created man, Adam. His legacy proceeded him for generations to include a man the Bible identifies as Nimrod:

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and … Genesis 10:8-10

Nimrod was in the sandcastle business big time. The Bible refers to him as a “mighty hunter”. A mighty hunter not of the earth, but “before the LORD”. We never read anywhere where he ever hunted and killed an animal. But, he surely hunted after good real estate. There are nine cities listed in Genesis 10 attributed to him. And the man picked some prime real estate to build the greatest sandcastle of his day, what is commonly referred to as  the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9).

In essence Nimrod said: “I will build a tower to reach the heavens. Just let God send another flood this way. I’ll teach Him. We’ll build a tower higher than God’s floodwaters can ever reach. Who needs the Lord and His protection?”

Jesus knows all things. He knew about this innate tendency within us to build sandcastles. You see, building them is easy for us. The material is plentiful, easily obtained, cheap and the results appear before our eyes almost instantaneously.

Unfortunately, the building of God’s kingdom does not work this way. God’s kingdom is not propagated with sand, but with three principle ingredients – faith, hope and love:

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

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. I Corinthians 13:13

And all three are invisible with only their aftereffects to show evidence of their presence. It is said that the Apostle Paul gauged a church’s maturity and spirituality using these three criteria. How strong is their faith, how deep is their hope and how pure is their love? These things are priceless. Jesus desires his people to move beyond the sandcastle business and into the business of things eternal:

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:27-28

Some Sandbox Rules

Building sandcastles and playing in a sandbox is a regulated industry. Within the sandbox are rules and regulations to follow.

Here is a list of the important ones:

1.  Play nice. Consider who you are playing with and who invited you here.
2. Stay on your side of the line and don’t play in my sand. Play in your own sand.
3. Don’t ever wreck or touch my work and sand creations. And I won’t touch yours either.
4. Never, never, never offend me by throwing sand, especially in my eyes!

Does something sound familiar here? We grow older in this life, but the rules of engagement do not seem to change. Maybe it is only this blogger, but we sometimes find ourselves playing by rules forged early in life. Sandbox rules. May the Lord help us grow up and to look up:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. I Corinthians 13:11

Built Upon A Rock

Most are familiar of the parable Jesus spoke concerning the foundation material upon which one builds their house:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matthew 7:24-25

Jesus came to this earth not to deal with its sand, Jesus came to this earth with the distinct intention of dealing with souls. Jesus came with the anticipation of life waiting to happen – abundant life. How we fall so short sometimes in realizing God’s expectations of us and how we fall short in realizing our expectations of God. There was one man in particular mentioned in the Bible who “got it”. His name was Abraham.

Abraham was a man of faith. He simply believed God was who He said he was. And Abraham trusted Him. In fact his trust was so sure that he offered his only son Isaac upon an altar with the expectation that God would raise him from the dead if needed (Genesis 22:2). That is pure faith. Abraham’s faith did not end there. Abraham was not looking for a castle made of and  in sand. He was looking for a castle that would stand the test of time. He was looking for a castle where God was not only the architect, but God was also the ditch digger:

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:8, 10

A city built on rock and not sand.

My Own Sandcastle

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves what am I building my hope and trust in this life on and where am I building it? A simple thought, but with profound repercussions. What foundation am I building my house upon? Sand or rock? We can claim many things as our own, but there is only one reference in the Holy Bible that mentions the true owner of God’s church on earth. Who is it? It’s found right here:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18

The Apostle Paul referred to many things as “My”: Gospel, Service, Helpers, Life, Kinsmen, Fellowprisoners, God, Brethren, Ways, Spirit, Work, Will, Liberty, Understanding, Soul, Joy, Children, Conversation, Body, Prayers, Record, Bonds, and Doctrine. Paul never penned the words “My Church”.

Jesus is the only one to refer to the church as “Mine”.  God’s church is His mighty fortress on the earth. The opening scripture shows the enemy’s strategy to point attention to kingdoms made of and built upon “sand” – sandcastles. What castle am I building today, the one on earth or the one forged upon ‘The Rock’ Christ Jesus spanning both earth and heaven?

 

Unclaimed Riches

Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Revelation 3:11

It is estimated that unclaimed wealth in the United States is valued at over $58 billion dollars. This includes unclaimed federal and state income tax refunds, life and medical insurance refunds, dormant savings or checking accounts, payroll checks, valuables left in safe deposit boxes, and the list goes on. In 2016 alone $1B in gift cards went unused and perhaps never to be cashed.

In short, there is a wealth of earthly property and assets left lingering that will never be claimed by its rightful owner or just simply neglected. Could this also be the case with heaven’s storehouse of treasures? Just maybe.

The Godly Inheritance

There is a familiar parable recorded in the New Testament where Jesus relates the story about two sons and their father. It is commonly referred to the parable of the prodigal son. One of the sons requested that he and his brother’s share of their wealth be divided so he can take his lot and move away from home:

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. Luke 15:11-12

As the story progresses the son wastes all of his money, falls on hard times, and upon coming to “his senses”, looks to go back home and be reunited with his father. There is one interesting facet of this parable that is worth looking into a little deeper.

In reality, the son had not just one, but two inheritances – one earthly and the other heavenly. His “portion of goods” was the inheritance he wasted. However, there was another inheritance he left intact, the more important and valuable one:

And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: Luke 15:21-22

The use of the word “best” when describing the robe given the son is an interesting choice. The word ‘best’ in the Greek is πρῶτος (prōtos) means former, foremost, chief, or beginning. In essence, the prodigal son retained his royal inheritance. He may have left home and trashed his earthly wealth, but his former, chief, foremost robe, his royal covering, was held dear and protected by his father.

When the prodigal son left home he left his “royal inheritance” behind, the one not for sale on the world’s open market. And it was waiting for him when he returned. The son left his most valuable possessions behind in storage – his formerly unclaimed riches. God does not allow those belonging to Him to slip by so easily. And God is not one to waste what belongs to Him.

Heaven’s Unclaimed Riches?

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:20-21

Jesus states in Matthew chapter six that his people serving him on earth are simultaneously storing up riches and treasures in heaven. Could it be that there are mansions in heaven containing piles of treasures that keep expanding and growing? Is it possible that those on the “other side” watch as these mounds of wealth grow, waiting expectantly for their owner to arrive and take ownership?

“Wow, look at what Sharon is doing down there on earth? The Lord must really using her for the Kingdom of God. Her fabulous heap of riches here just keeps growing and growing! I can’t wait for her to arrive to claim these riches and see what the Lord has here waiting for her”.

And, what about the opposite situation?

“I wonder what has happened to Steve? Jesus was really using him when I last saw him. He was instrumental in me being saved. Steve witnessed to me about the love of Jesus, how that Jesus died for all of my sins and offered me the gift of being born again.

Man, his storehouse of treasures have remained stagnant for quite some time.  Something must be wrong. Steve must not be doing well spiritually. I sure hope he turns his life around and puts his focus back on the eternal things of God. It would be such a waste for these beautiful riches and treasures to go to someone else.”

These points are not mere conjecture. As the opening scripture states, Jesus alludes to the possibility of someone loosing their rightful, Godly inheritance. A crown is a kingly possession. A crown symbolizes authority, rulership, victory and blessing. Jesus has a crown for everyone who overcomes sin and fulfills the will he has chosen for their lives (Revelation 2:7,11,17, 26, 3:5, 12,21 & 21:7). But, what happens to someone who stumbles and falls in their walk with God like what happened to the faithful servant of the Apostle Paul, Demas?:

For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. II Timothy 4:10

What happens is addressed by Jesus in Revelation 3:11. Their crown is given to someone else. We read a similar pattern with Esau and King Saul:

And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom. And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.

And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. Genesis 25:30-31, 33-34

And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.
And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. I Samuel 15:26, 28

Saul’s kingly crown was given to David. And Esau forfeited his inheritance to his twin brother Jacob. The Lord will not waste any of His kingships and Godly inheritances, but He will change ownership if forced to.

An Unclaimed Masterpiece

image

The picture above is a painting called “Marche aux fleurs” or “Flower Market” by French Impressionist artist Edouard Leon Cortes. The painting was sold for $40,600 in 2008 at the famous New York City auction house, Sotheby’s. But, what makes this artwork so interesting is the story behind its discovery.

This painting was dropped off (along with an old coffee pot and other household items) at a Goodwill thrift store in Easton, MD in March 2008. The owner did not know what was in their hands. It was not until the watchful eye of an employee at the store was struck by something about the painting. This was not the typical “paint by number” artwork that typically graced the doors of the thrift store. This painting was different. And indeed it was. This was yet another case of ‘unclaimed riches’.

Jesus Holds The Future In His Hands

In conclusion, we see that we have in our hands life given to us by God. And with that life the potential to access storehouses of heavenly riches. The riches of God’s love, His grace, His mercy and the greatest gift of all – eternal life. It is said that satan, the enemy of our soul, is not interested in our past or our present. The enemy is interested in our future.

Why? For one the god of this world is crafty, keenly shrewd and highly intelligent (remember he once was the highest ranking archangel?) and knows a lot of things. But, there is one area where he is ignorant, weak and vulnerable. What are we talking about here? We are talking about the future. The enemy does not know the future God holds for your tomorrows. It is beyond his capacity to discern God’s sovereign will for your life (I Cor 2:7-8). And with that he orchestrates every scheme imaginable to thwart one from the path leading to a bright future in Godly, kingdom business .

Secondly, the enemy has no future. We do. And he wants the one thing he does not have direct control over on this earth – your future. We have in our fingertips an inheritance, a Godly kingship freely available to anyone who will believe on the lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus has secured what Hebrews 5:9 calls an “eternal salvation”. Jesus’ work on the cross has wrought  a victory all of the world can partake of that includes untold riches. Don’t you want to claim yours?

Take a look in the mirror, you may be looking at a masterpiece waiting to be discovered on your hands. Turn it over to Jesus and see what His work of love, grace and mercy will do!

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 22:32

As Thyself

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39

The phrase “as thyself” occurs exactly seven times in the KJV New Testament Bible. Interesting. The context is the same in all seven instances; embedded in the commandment to love God and our neighbor.

The phrase’s positioning at the end of the commandment appears almost as a footnote or afterthought. It is as if Jesus assumed we would have no difficulty in loving ourselves. Love God? Most assuredly. Love our neighbor? Well, we try. Most of the time at least we take a stab at it. Love self? A given.

But, do we? Do we “love thyself” as the commandment demands? Jesus sets the stage once again for a master production. How can one genuinely love themselves when the child of God is called to: deny themselves (Mat. 16:24), esteem other better than themselves (Phil 2:3), die daily (I Cor 15:31), walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), crucify their flesh (Gal 5:24), present their bodies a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1), and to be non-retalitory when faced with reproach and offense? (Mat 5:39) It is paradoxical.

There has to be something else going on here. This business of loving self must be something different from what we are accustomed to. We can only reason that we must love ourselves in a manner pleasing to God and in a way that transcends human understanding:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9 

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

We can only love ourselves to the extent and degree that the presence of Jesus Christ actively lives within us (Rom 8:11). It cannot work any other way. Why? Because flesh is at best weak (Mk 14:38), and at worst not good (Gal 5:19-21).

In You or Through You?

It has been said that Jesus is more interested in what he can do “in you” than what he can do “through you“. With that thought in mind, one of the hardest things the Lord faces in dealing with people is getting them on location, positioning them at the place where He wants to do a work.

Reflect a moment on Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jonah, Ester, Naomi, and John Mark. All of these examples are people God wanted to use, but their GPS systems were not in synch with God’s. Abraham lingered in Haran. Jacob was stuck in a holding pattern outside of Egypt. Joseph spent years in and out of prison. And consider Moses. It took the Lord 40 years to get Moses out of Egypt and another 40 years for Egypt to get out of Moses.  Jonah took a cruise away from God’s call to Nineveh.

Ester balked in standing up for her heritage and the Jewish people. Naomi reluctantly heeded the call to return to Bethlehem. And lastly, John Mark got cold feet during a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas. What was the problem with all of them? Their problem was internal in nature. God could not work “through them” because of the internal conflict “in them”. Each of them had an imperfect love, the love “as thyself”.

In Conclusion

When we live for God God’s way we enter a zone unbeknownst to ourselves where we can fulfill the commandment to “love thyself” and be on a trajectory to fulfill all three conditions of the greatest commandment of all. Sometimes the bigger mountains are the Mt. Everest’s lying within in contrast to the one located in the Himalayan’s.

We simply cannot love God and our neighbor if we are out of sorts with our own self and our own life.

The Lord desires to do a work “in” His people:

At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. John 14:20

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:4, 7

May our prayer be that we will yield to Jesus’ work upon our earthen vessels until we have the peace within that removes all internal conflict and be able to say the words: “I love you Lord with my all and I love my neighbor as I love myself”.

Be Blessed

Psalm 23 – A Lifecycle for Abundant Living

Psalm 23

Vs. 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Vs. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Vs. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Vs. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Vs. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Vs. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

There is something special about this well-known Psalm. Most people can quote it or are at least familiar with its verses. Why is it when compared to the other 149 Psalms this one in particular stands out?

Is it the brevity of its six verses? That cannot be the case as there are nine other Psalms that are shorter (Psalms 131, 133 & 134 with only three verses and Psalms 43, 70, 93, 100, 125 & 127 with 5 verses each).

Or could it be that this Psalm “resonates” with something hidden within the human spirit? Could it be that the words of Psalm 23 come alive when read and draw its reader into its message?

One thing is for certain the 23rd Psalm touches on six themes or six threads instrumental to living life. They are: Purpose, Posture, Purification, Protection, Providence and Pursuit.

Purpose: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Vs. 1)

At the onset, the psalmist makes a statement of faith and an expression of confidence in God. The Psalmist is sure of who he is and the God in whom he serves. He has purpose. Life is difficult without embracing a purpose for living it. And the proclamation of purpose in verse one sets the stage for the rest of the Psalm. He settles the issue of who is in control – the Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is all he needs.

Posture: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Vs. 2)

Submission to being shepherded by the Lord leads the psalmist to good places – green pastures and still waters. The opening six words are the translation of a single Hebrew word that means to crouch or to lie resplendent as an animal would in a relaxed position. The word “leadeth” refers to being guided, lead or carried.

The full meaning of this verse in essence is the Lord’s posturing of His people in places of contentment and peace. And only the Lord brings peace:

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

There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked. Isaiah 48:22

Purification: He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Vs. 3)

The Lord always has our best interests at heart. A restoration that includes the total person – our soul.

The word “righteousness” is the Hebrew root word צָדַק [tsâdaq] to be (make) right, cleanse, clear one’s self, be righteous, turn to righteousness. The paths of righteousness are the places where character, integrity and temperance are forged. To be righteous is to be like Him – upright, uncondemned and above reproach.

Living on a path that leads to the good things of God. What are they? Let’s start with having a “good conscience”. Who does not want a clear conscience? A mind unclouded by guilt, shame, remorse or regret. Don’t we all want that? The great Apostle Paul thought so:

And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. Acts 24:16

The path of righteousness purifies and emboldens one for the challenges awaiting in the next verse – the upcoming valley of death. The Lord never releases one into battle unprepared. Walking the paths of righteousness is needed for preparation for the valleys encountered in life. And they will come. And the worst one of all – the valley of death.

Protection: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Vs. 4)

The full canvas of life is not complete without including the greatest fear and mystery of all – death. But, there is hope in God even when confronting this last conquered enemy. The soul’s cleansing along the paths of righteousness in the previous verse brings a peace that even death’s shadow in verse four cannot rattle.

The rod symbolizes God’s Word. The Word corrects, rebuffs and oftentimes hurts. One purpose of pain is that it gets one’s attention like nothing else will. Dark valleys demand careful footing and focus to avoid the dangers of snakes scorpions, jagged rocks, steep crevices, robbers, fear, uncertainty and the like.

This writer of this Psalm referenced in another one of his writings the corrective mechanism that is the Word of God:

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word. Psalm 119:67

The staff symbolizes God’s comforting Spirit. The staff’s hook is used to bring the sheep back into fellowship with the remaining flock. It is the father’s staff that brought his lost son, the prodigal, back home.

Providence: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (Vs. 5)

Other than sleeping, you are never more vulnerable than when sitting down during a meal. This verse is an assurance only God can supply; to fearlessly sit down to a meal in the middle of a battlefield symbolizes extreme safety and courage.

The Lord’s rod of correction of the previous verse is followed with application of the salve of healing and rest. It is said that shepherd’s during this time would rub a sheep’s face with oil to ward off insects, bugs and parasites. The oily sheen could also prevent lice from burrowing into the sheep’s ears, which could be fatal.

God’s anointing gives His people protection over demonic activity, over the oppressive and tormenting spirits of this age whose purpose is to sidetrack one off the path of righteousness to one defined by fear (the opposite of peace). The anointing privileges God’s people with authority over their enemies. The Lord is a superabundant supplier of our needs. His providence is sure even in the most extreme conditions.

Pursuit: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Vs. 6)

Imagine this scene, a leopard crouching on a tree limb high off the ground, his tail and whiskers twitching at the ready to spontaneously pounce on an approaching prey.

This is what is meant by the word in Hebrew translated as ‘Shall follow’: Heb. רָדַף (râdaph) – to run after, chase, follow after, pursue. This is the Lord’s desire towards those who follow through on the commitments they make in verse one – to hunt them down with His goodness and mercy, awaiting an opportunity to shower His love upon those who call upon His name.

And that is not the end of the story. This pursuit is not a one way street, it is two-fold. This overwhelming sense of well-being has built-in staying power. The recipient of God’s goodness and mercy experiences an appetite and desire to come back for more. Thus, the heart declares the words “I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever”. Yes, upon tasting and seeing the goodness of the Lord one becomes “hooked” and wants to come back for more – for ever.

To be pursued also means being valued and having value. And living is easier when it is valued and brings value. Such is the Kingdom of God. For the kingdom to have value is to know of its value, both here and in eternity.

Jesus compared the Kingdom of God as a field of hidden treasure and as a merchant seeking valuable jewels. Things of great value. Exciting things. Things that make grist for big dreams. Pursuit involves risk and adventure. And who does not like a little spark of adventure in their life? The Lord knows what He is doing.

The Cycle Is Unbroken

It is God’s nature to approach creation in cyclic patterns (e.g., the sun’s rising and setting, ebbing of the tides, flowing of the rivers, circuitous wind patterns, etc.). He often finishes up at the same place where He started out.

The tree of life in Genesis appears again in the last book of the Bible, The Book of Revelation (Rev. 22:14). Rivers flowing out of Eden appear again in Heaven (Rev. 22:1). The first Adam is superseded by the last Adam, Jesus Christ, the one sitting on the throne in Heaven (Rev. 4:2).

The Lord is at the center of the Psalmist’s view in verse one and appropriately completes the cycle with the Lord back at the center in its concluding verse. The Psalm speaks of a continuum of life ebbing and flowing from verse one through verse six and back again to verse one. Is this why Psalm 23 is so memorable and life changing?

A similar pattern is seen in the “Lord’s Prayer” of Matthew 6:9-13:

Vs. 9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Vs. 13 For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The prayer is bookended with the Father, Heaven and eternity in view. At the onset, the majestic kingdom of God and the holiness of His name is to be at the forefront of our prayers. The prayer concludes and cycles back to Jesus’ opening words: God’s kingdom, His power and glory. The cycle is completed.

In conclusion, these six short verses contain all the ingredients needed for a balanced, fulfilling, meaningful, prosperous and contented life.

The most famous Psalm establishes a pattern God designed for one to follow – that the Lord be in the midst and center of our life. Psalm 23 pulsates with heart rhythm, God’s nearness in each verse energizes its cadence and is cyclic in nature as are life’s most dynamic and majestic forces.

Psalm 23 – Purpose, Posture, Purification, Protection, Providence & Pursuit. Be Blessed in Jesus.

 

 

Running On Empty

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. I Corinthians 9:24

This one hurts. One of the favorite lines of a preacher is: “As I speak and point my finger to you, three fingers are simultaneously pointing back towards me!”. So, there you have it. As this blogger types this post, two thumbs are pointing back at him.

Let’s be real a minute. Satan is not backing down in his tactical execution of schemes and ploys to destroy the soul of man (i.e., humanity). We read the news headlines on any given day of the week and easily see that satan is not running a “mediocre” operation. He is very diligent and highly skilled in warfare. This adversary detests everything pertaining to God or the things of God.

His machinery of inflicting the most heinous and merciless campaigns against humankind are well-oiled and time-proven to the highest levels of perfection. Observing his forte of destruction, it appears Satan runs a tight shop. Mediocrity? Not a chance.

Can we name a few? Okay, here is a short-list (you can add your own); war, terrorism, political unrest, child pornography, sexual exploitation (sex trafficking), child sexual abuse by family members (and lest we forget, their school teachers), teen murder, addiction (drug, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, more, and more, and more, …..), immorality, marital infidelity, gang violence, gun violence, prostitution, racism, hatred, robbery, theft, and Internet crime. The list goes on.

Dead, But Still Running

Is it possible for a living creature to be dead yet appear to be alive? Yes, it is. Hunters will tell you it is a known fact that deer can continue to run long after being shot dead. The adrenaline running through their body can propel them for a distance even though they are dead from a physiological standpoint. This no doubt applies to other animals (think chickens).

How about humans, speaking from a spiritual dimension? Oh, yes most definitely. And the phenomenon goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden to our ancestors Adam and Eve. They essentially died spiritually when sin separated them from God. Upon leaving the Garden, Adam and Eve were dead, but still running.

And the phenomenon continues with us today. And if we really face it in all honesty, without being regenerated by God’s power through the New Birth experience, and the continual refreshing thereafter, we miserably fall short in God’s original design – for our spirit to be controlled by His Spirit and Word, which in turn rule our soul. Otherwise, our soul (mind, will and emotions) sits at the master mixing board that controls our body, all the while being married to a spirit that is dead as far as the Lord is concerned.

So, Lord You Mean To Tell Me There Are Some Rules To Follow?

Is it possible to be disqualified in our walk with God? What does God’s word have to say about following His rules? A lot in fact. Let’s start with Jesus himself:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:22-23

Jesus is not speaking to lost people here. He is talking to the church, people supposedly part of the Bride of Christ. These followers somehow and somewhere became disqualified from the race. How does an athlete become disqualified? By not following the rules of the sport.

It is almost inconceivable there are those in “the church” who disparage anyone who espouses the notion that there are “rules” (Rules? Really?) to follow in living for God. These rule “purists” are seen as legalistic, old school, out-of-touch or pharisaical.

Yet, those very dear anti-rule thinking folk will watch countless hours of football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, etc. and argue when a referee or umpire uses bad judgment or in sports parlance “makes a bad call” against a player on their team.

Please don’t tune out just yet. We are just about to have fun.

Let’s look at some rule stats on just three mainstream U.S. sports – baseball, football and basketball.

The Major League Baseball 2017 Rulebook contains 284 pages. The National Football League 2017 Rulebook contains 93 pages. And the Official 2017 Rules of the NBA contains 68 pages (including an official 114 page Case Book accompaniment to help explain the rules).

But, page numbers are deceptive. Just looking at the NFL Rulebook there are actually 107 individual sections further refined by a total of 315 articles buried within those sections. The bottom line is there are a lot of rules an athlete follows in professional sports.

A typical Bible contains about 825 pages devoted to the Old Testament writings and around 250 pages allocated to the New Testament. In essence, the MLB 2017 Rulebook contains a little more text than the New Testament. And some wonder that it is not fair God would require His people to follow guidelines on their journey toward eternal life?

Am I Running On Empty?

In his writings to the church at Ephesus, Paul instructed the church on some matters concerning the spiritual fuel tank:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Ephesians 5:18

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Psalm 23:5

What is the problem in not being completely filled with the spirit? If not, then something else is taking its place. And that something else is not from God. And since only God is good (Luke 18:19), then what remains is either weak at best (Mat 26:41, I Peter 1:24), or not good at worst (Gal 5:19-21).

The enemy of our soul will see to it that we fall short in this endeavor of staying filled with the spirit. Years ago the sincere man of God spoke words of wisdom:

“You have to live a balanced life before God. Keep the Word of God and the Spirit of God in equilibrium”.

Being filled with the Spirit maintains equilibrium. Granted it is not all about the Spirit. We have to have both.

Things get rocky when moved off-center. My washing machine can say an “Amen” to that. Have you ever heard the washing machine sound like someone with a jack hammer just decided to bore a hole through the laundry room floor? The sound is from the pounding and beating caused by a load of wet laundry thrashing around in an unbalanced washer drum.

Come To The Water And Drink

There was a time when King David, weary from battle fatigue, pondered some deep thoughts. His mind retraced events to an earlier time when life’s dramas were dialed down several notches and reflections of God’s presence and goodness became more vivid:

And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate! II Samuel 23:15

There is nothing like drinking fresh, cool, pure spring water, especially in the heat of battle. The waters of Bethlehem are still available. We don’t have to run on empty.

Jesus is alive! His spirit moves like in the beginning of Creation. Not upon the “face of the waters”, rather upon the face of human hearts. Love has come. Hope has come. Salvation has come. HEALING has come. Come to the waters and drink for yourself:

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.
He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:37-39

Jesus sends the invitation to all who will seek his well of living water and freely drink. And we will never run on empty again.

Be Blessed.