Jesus, The Greatest Gift Of All

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7 

Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of the Savior. That babe born in a manager over 2,000 years ago, the perfect Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36) is the focus of Christmas. That weak, frail, vulnerable and innocent child came into this world like no other infant before him or after him. He was perfect from birth to death, from the cradle to the cross. Jesus Christ is the center and purpose of all living (Luk 10:22, Joh 1:3, Acts 17:24-25, Rom 11:36, Eph 1:10; 3:9 & Rev 4:11).

God waited for the perfect time, the perfect place to usher onto this earthly stage the perfect infant. God watched and waited. And He still watches (Ps. 33:13, 18, 52:3). The time came for God to manifest Himself in human flesh on the earthly stage (Mat 1:23, Col 1:14-17, I Tim 3:16 & I Pet 1:20). Why? Because God had to become weak. Yes, weak. All flesh is weak (Mat 26:41, Mar 14:38 & Rom 8:3). God Himself needed to become weak to perfect something. What was that something? God needed to perfect his Power. His perfected power would defeat the last remaining enemy of God – The Power of Death (I Cor 15:26 & I Jn 3:8). And according to God’s calculation, His power can only be perfected one way, in “weakness”:

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. 2 Corinthians 12:9 

God in flesh marked Creation’s most profound, singular act of weakness. The infinite God becoming “like” sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). God as the God-man, Jesus Christ, became infinitely weak to become infinitely powerful. And He would use that perfected power to transform those who believe on him and his word to overcome sin, the world and ultimately become like him (Acts 2:1-4, Joh 1:12, Rom 8:14, Php 2:15 & I Jn 3:1). That he might make them whole, new and restored (Joh 7:37-39 & II Cor 5:17).

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 

Jesus – The Gift of God’s Light to the World
Jesus – The Gift of God’s Life to the World
Jesus – The Gift of God’s Love to the World

Jesus – The Gift of God’s Joy to the World

Jesus is the Reason for EVERYTHING!

Merry Christmas 2020 to You & Yours!

His Hands

Hand 1

Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. Psalms 145:16 

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Col 2:13-14

That Nothing Be Lost

And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? John 6:4-5

Jesus performed the miracle of feeding around five thousand men not including women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish. It is one miracle a child who ever attended a church Sunday school for any length of time will hear and never forget. In fact, it has been said by at least one seasoned minister and missionary who has travelled preaching the Gospel to many different continents around the world that this will be one question he will ask Jesus in Heaven: “Jesus, about those loaves and fishes. How did you do that?”

It is a miracle of miracles. One thing we sometimes might miss about this miracles is what Jesus did after it was over. What did Jesus do?

When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. John 6:12 

Jesus asked the disciples to pick up the crumbs left over from the miracle. Why? Why would Jesus bother to have the aftermath of the miracle, the discarded bits and pieces of what either fell out of people’s mouths or the byproduct of the breaking and distribution process be saved? Because Jesus is very concerned about how his miracles are handled and what becomes of them. Even the pieces that seem worthless and of no value.

What are the greatest miracles on earth? Some might mention “one of the great wonders of the world”, a brilliant work of art or an inspiring architectural design. However, the real answer is right before our eyes. The greatest living miracle on this earth is the person who stares back at you in the mirror. You. You are the most spectacular living miracle on earth, a living, breathing creation made in God’s own image.

God is concerned over the miracle’s crumbs because He ever wastes his miracles. What the Lord does is meant forever, for eternity (Ecc 3:14). God is interested in the lives of people who appear worthless and of seemingly little value. You see, God is highly concerned about the miracle when he formed you and every other living soul from the dust of the earth. That nothing, that no one be lost.

If God went to great lengths to collect the crumbling aftermath of a few pieces of bread and fishes, how much more is God concerned about picking up and collecting the wreckage of the soul broken by the sins of self and by the sins of this world?

Someone recently remarked about a mother’s love, nothing is more powerful than the love of a mother. A mother’s love will go to the extreme and fight for their children like no one else will. Well, that may or may not be true depending on who you ask. But, we have to admit women are fantastic creations and God surely knew what He was doing when He made them.

But, I’d like to propose here that there is a love greater than the love of an earthly mother or an earthly father. Whose love is that? It is the love of the Father in Heaven who walked in flesh upon this earth. The love of Jesus surpasses all earthbound love. The Father’s love is a love that is greater than life. It is a love that loves you more than you love yourself. You cannot, nor anyone else, love you greater than the love Jesus has for you. People will fail you and even the best fall short in the love mission. One writer stated the following: “The highest plane of human existence is to live and to walk in the perfect love of God.” There is no better place on earth to be.

His Hands

And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: Matthew 17:22 

The opening scripture reveals that by opening His hands, God postured all of His creation to experience His graciousness. God wants to be recognized as the satisfier of all living. On a more personal level, God enjoys being enjoyed. The soul that is attracted to God is a soul that is attractive to God (I Sam 16:7).

Those same hands that created life were allowed to be placed into the hands of the created. That is true love. That is a love only the Father of creation can and will do. How does this relate to us? It is said that our Eternity rests on many things such as what we say and by what we do. But, one thing that will surely determine our destiny will be how we have treated Jesus and his truth that was placed into our hands.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 1 John 1:1 

How do you treat him? How do I treat him?

In Conclusion

Jesus is interested in your brokenness. Jesus is concerned over your mistakes, your failures and your shortcomings. Jesus is very interested in what happens to his miracles, the miracle produced when he made you (Ps 139:14-16), that your pieces be gathered up, healed and restored. That nothing be lost. 2 Pet 3:9

In Jesus’ Name. Amen!

This Mountain

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

Mountains – An Introduction

Mountains always give you uniquely rich perspectives, visions and aspirations unavailable from other places. Being one of the earth’s most majestic landforms, it is said that Mt. Everest can be seen 124 miles away and one reaching its summit can see 211 miles in any one direction. Imagine driving your car 60 miles per hour non-stop for three and one-half hours on a perfectly straight highway to arrive at a destination. That total distance traveled is viewable from the top of Mt. Everest.

Which brings us to the point of all this, God is the God of the mountain. Surely God is involved in the small business of things. And God is equally involved in big things. Big things like mountains that allow you to see things unlike any you’ve ever seen before. Let’s go a little deeper into this.

The God of The Mountain

And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. Luke 9:28-29

Why mountains? What is it that only mountains can supply? The answer is one word – perspective. Perspective is everything with the Lord. And when it comes down to it perspective is everything in life. How we think, how we act, how we feel and the words we speak are all affected by our perspective. This is where mountains come into the picture. Mountains give unique perspectives that nothing else can. It can be said that perspective is directly related to attitude. The more refined and aligned perspective is to God’s word and will, the better the attitude becomes. Someone wrote that ‘attitude determines altitude‘. And mountains occupy the highest altitudes.

Yes, we do learn from the valley experiences and are humbled and refined in the fiery trials that come our way. But, there comes a place and there comes a time in your life when you must take the trip to your God-ordained mountain. The mountain where commitment is challenged, faith is energized, hope is rekindled and your love for God is made new again. And it can only happen on the mountain.

There are three specific perspectives we will investigate here. We can call them the three B’s: Beneath, Before and Beyond. Or more specifically, what lies beneath you, what exists before you and what awaits beyond you while positioned upon your mountain.

The ‘Beneath’ Perspective – The Mountain of Protection

For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. Psalms 18:39

Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. Psalm 144:1-2

What is beneath us that we need to conquer? God planed from the beginning that if we allow Him to have dominion over our will, He will give us the authority to have dominion over that which is beneath us. More specifically, the world and the god of it. And one more thing. That we daily conquer the desires and whims of our flesh that includes our past. Jesus emphatically made the assertion that there is a personal cross to bear on this journey to Heaven. And the only way to make it over the finish line is by taking daily trips to the mountain of prayer, encounter the Lord, get sin under the blood and refresh new perspectives of who He is, what we have and who we are. One must be born again to conquer this mountain. It cannot be done “in the flesh”. It is a spiritual journey that must involve other climbing partners, Jesus Christ, the lover of your soul and his church (Jam 5:16).

If you are a child of God, born of his Spirit and washed in his blood, you are positioned for greatness. Daily casting all cares on Him will keep us there (I Pet 5:7). A Mighty fortress is our God. The Lord protects his own (Psalm 18). As the Psalmist penned the words, he knew his God would not leave him nor forsake him:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Psalm 91:1-2

The number one challenge to conquer this mountain is not oxygen. It is fear. We must totally trust God here and not succumb to fear. The late British writer G. K. Chesterton stated the following:

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

Difficult is the key word. This mountain is no “tick-a-belly hill”. It is the real deal of a hill, as in Mt. Kilimanjaro. The beginning of David’s ascent to kingship began here on this mountain:

Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.
This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands. I Samuel 17:45-47

David knew who his God was and what his God was capable of doing. Conquer fear and you will summit the mountain of protection and everything which lies beneath you moving to higher ground and on to the next challenge.

The ‘Before’ Perspective – The Mountain of Purpose

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. Luke 6:12  

It has been stated that had the Lord not given the Apostle Paul divine revelations and visions he would not have endured the many hardships and trials he faced in life. There comes a time in one’s walk with God that you must ‘see’ the miraculous, the opening up of the spiritual world to your own spirit and perceive beyond your present circumstances. It is here that your purpose becomes apparent and obtainable.

Case in point, Paul was on a ship with Rome as its destination. It was God’s perfect will for the Apostle to appear before Caesar. But, there was a problem. The owner of the ship was not operating on the same spiritual wavelength as Paul. Soon after leaving the port in Phenice the ship encountered a terrific storm. It seemed that the entire purpose for the journey became hopeless. This is where climbing the mountain of purpose becomes not only life-giving, but also life-defining:

And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away. 
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. Acts 27:20-21

For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, 
Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Acts 27:23-24

Paul refused to be defeated by the mountains of frustration, fear and impossibility meant to destroy his purpose in life. It has been said that the devil does not care if you go to hell or not, he only cares that you do not fulfill God’s will for your life. Upon the mountain of purpose, Paul saw and heard what was before him. Heaven’s purposes will always be opposed and clouded by earthly problems. The key is to keep climbing until the purpose becomes a reality in your life.

Having experienced the mountains of protection and purpose one can move to the last and final pursuit.

The ‘Beyond’ Perspective – The Mountain of Possession

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan …. Deuteronomy 34:1

This mountains gives you the unique perspective of seeing what is beyond you. From this vantage point distant things come into focus. Upon this mountain the impossible  becomes possible and even obtainable. And what is it that each of us desire that is beyond ourselves? Hopefully, one thing is to escape this earthen abode of sin and death and obtain eternal life. To live again after death, go to Heaven, live eternally with Jesus and be reunited with loved ones.

The mountain of possession is defined by two critical characteristics each of us need to master on the road to eternal life – patience and perseverance. Jesus himself spoke of its importance:

In your patience possess ye your souls. Luke 21:19

A biblical example of this can be seen in the life of Caleb. Moses instructed the leaders of each of Israel’s twelve tribes to “spy out the land of Canaan” and bring back a report of what they saw. Joshua was not the only spy who brought back a positive and encouraging report. Caleb did also and he lived with that perspective forty-five years before it became a reality in his life. Joshua went on the replace Moses’ leadership ‘position’ over the nation.

But, what about Caleb? Caleb’s perspective was equal to that of Joshua’s. Yet, Caleb remained Joshua’s under-study and lived in his shadow over half of his life. But, he kept his perspective in focus and was unwavering in perseverance. And it paid off:

And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old.

Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. Joshua 14:10, 12

And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance. Joshua 14:13

Because of his faithfulness, perseverance and whole heartedness in following the Lord, he gave Caleb a reward for his perspective, Mt. Hebron. Through his faith in God he knew the giants of life were conquerable. That included not only physical giants. It also included the mental giants he would face such as doubt, bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, fatigue, hard-heartedness, fear and frustration. All because of maintaining the right perspective. Caleb’s perspective allowed him to envision a mountain before him and the determination necessary to possess it. Like Caleb, you must never stop short of the mountain of possession God has ordained for your life-  eternal life (I Tim 6:12).

In Conclusion

God implanted within every human soul the desire for something beyond itself, beyond our earthen limitations, weaknesses, barriers and mortality. It is a inner magnetism for something eternally greater than our “inner self”. It is an implantation from the Holy to seek the Holy. We can seek many inventions to either circumvent it with more convenient things or find ways to dampen its drawing power (Ecc 7:29).

And it is a continual challenge to truly make the connection, discover and obtain the true intended essence of life. Which can be summed up in Jesus’ model for prayer:

Our Father which art in heaven (humbly maintain a God-focused life), Hallowed be thy name (living a life approved by God). Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (doing God’s ordained will for your life). Matthew 6:9-10

We can read about God, think about God, meditate on God, dream about God and wish things from God, but we cannot really ‘know’ God until we experience Him. And you can experience Him from His heavenly mountain of glory by being washed in His blood and filled with His Spirit. It is the mountain top experience available to everyone.

There is a place for you in Heaven. You will never attain perfection in this life. However, that does not mean Jesus wants you to stop pursuing it (Mat 5:48, Joh 17:23 & Heb 6:1). As one preacher is noted as saying: “We may not be perfect. But, our standard is not imperfection“. Keep climbing your mountain. Heaven’s prize awaits you!

…. but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain; Isaiah 57:13

In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Almost


Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Acts 26:28

Almost (ôlˌmōst) adverb Dfn.: not quite, very nearly. OE – ‘for the most part’. Source: New Oxford American Dictionary

Almost. Almost home. Almost finished. Almost made it. Almost Heaven. The word almost may be the one word of all words to avoid in life. It doesn’t mean we didn’t try or failed to start. It just means we didn’t quite ‘for the most part’ finish the job. Almost.

The word is not a part of Heaven’s vocabulary. There are no ‘almost’s’ in Heaven. But, there very well may be a lot of ‘almost’s’ in Hell. Yes, Hell. Jesus talked more about it than we’d like to admit.

God’s people (as recorded in the Old Testament) understood the word quite well. In fact, they patterned their ‘religious’ life around ‘almost’. They built worship centers around Israel in homage to its false promises:

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. I Kings 12:28-30

No need to travel all the way to Jerusalem, waste time, endure discomfort, exhaust funds and resources. Just reaching the city named ‘Almost’ is just as good as making it to Jerusalem.

Almost will be just fine. God “knows our heart”. Just going through the ritual is enough. Check the box, stamp the paper, punch the ticket or scan the barcode and we are good. Almost. No need to attend church, pray, make financial commitments, sacrifice needlessly, deal with unrepented sins, selflessly serve others, stand for sound doctrine or be embarrassed and stigmatized as being called one of those ‘Jesus’ people.

Almost speaks of compromise, lack of zeal, lukewarmness, dispassion and indifference. When total commitment is not our first choice, almost is an acceptable option.

Oh, Jesus, help us to not settle for anything less than your very best:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:1-2

There are many notable ‘almost’s’ in this life. Here are a few:

Two brothers sold their business for $2.7M in the 1950’s. Today the business generates over $5.9B in sales annually. Who were they? Richard & Maurice McDonald the original owners of the first McDonalds fast food restaurant.

Today he would be worth $95B. Instead he sold 10% of his share of the company for $800.00 after just 12 days as the number three man. What was the company? Apple

In 2010 Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had pitched a perfect game with one final batter to face with two outs in the 9th inning. The last batter was called safe at first on a clearly misjudged ground ball call by the first base umpire. It has been named the ‘Almost Perfect’ baseball game.

Professional golfer Scott Hoch in the 1989 Masters Tournament was 2 putts away from wining the championship. His first putt brought him closer to the prize. How far away was the ball from the cup? Two feet. He missed his on second putt attempt.

Just One More Step

She was seriously ill and had been for over twelve years. Neither the doctors or the money spent on medicinal herbal remedies could solve her dilemma, a non-curable blood disease. But, then she heard about a peculiar man named Jesus who was reported to be healing people like her of even worst ailments, even raising the dead!

And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, Mark 5:25-26

If he could do that surely he could handle her problem. She heard he was nearby. She had nothing to loose and determined not to live any longer in an almost situation. All she needed was to take one more step closer to her needed miracle:

When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. Mark 5:27-28

And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague. Mark 5:34  

There was an Internet video posted today about a woman on the state of Alabama’s Ten-Most wanted list. She was a drug addict and chained to a lifestyle of criminal activity to support her habit. After being incarcerated many, many times she hit rock-bottom and prayed to God that He would deliver her from the drugs. That simple prayer of repentance forever changed her life. God answered her in that prison cell and took the desire away. She lost the desire from that moment on and never looked back.

If that is not amazing, this is not the end of the story. Many years later she recognized someone on Facebook who was in need of a kidney transplant. The man was a now retired former police officer who arrested her many times during her life of crime and drugs. The Lord spoke to her and said she had the kidney he needed. After contacting the man and having compatibility tests run, her kidney was a perfect match and became his organ donor source.

Just One Prayer Away

You could be one prayer away from your needed miracle. One prayer away from receiving Heaven’s long awaited answer. One small step of faith short of seeing God walk through the door and forever change everything.

You are one prayer away of turning an ‘almost’ situation into an ‘absolute’ situation.

By God’s grace I will keep praying that prayer. Will you?

The Treasures of Darkness – The Savior

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. Matthew 27:45  

In the final installment in this ‘Treasures’ series, we will look at three specific treasures of darkness given to mankind by the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

These treasures first appear in Genesis chapter one and weave and spin their threads throughout the entire Word of God all the way to the Book of Revelation. And all three are essential for our understanding and good to get a hold of. Let’s take a look at this.

Treasures of the Savior – Light, Life & Love

The treasures we are speaking of are Light, Life and Love and all first appear in Genesis chapter one. The first act of creation is the appearance of the first treasure, Light:

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:3  

The phrase “Let there be” is the Hebrew word ‘hâyâh‘ which means “to exist, be or become, come to pass“. In other places during His work of Creation the Bible uses the phrase “And God created” which is the Hebrew word ‘bârâ‘ which means “to create, choose, or make appear”  (Strongs Concordance).

Note that God did not ‘create’ light, He let light exist. God did not create light because He IS Light (I Joh 1:5). God did more in Gen 1:3 than just release photons or electromagnetic radiation into the cosmos. Rather He released or purposed into existence the plan (Word/Logos – Joh 1:1) where He would ultimately express His true Being and Person. This is something we will look at shortly in detail and key to understand exactly what God is doing here.

The next several works of God are the creation of Life forms on the earth:

Genesis 1:11  And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. (Day 3)

Genesis 1:20  And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Day 5)

Genesis 1:21  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. (Day 5)

Genesis 1:24  And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. (Day 6)

God saved His best work for last by handcrafting prized beings in His own image whom he could love and they would all together love each other:

Genesis 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Day 6) 

And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.  Genesis 2:22-24

Now let’s take a deeper look at this first treasure called light.

The Savior’s Treasure of True Light

Before launching into this it might be good to establish three preliminary understandings about God: 1) God is omnipresent (occupies all space), 2) God is omniscient (all knowing), and 3) God is omnipotent (all powerful). Therefore, God knew before speaking His first word of Creation that this Heaven and earth He was about to create would soon (against His will) become engrossed in darkness and sin. And He would judge it and replace it with a new Heaven and a new earth (II Pet 3:10, Rev 21:1). He knew that Adam and Eve would sin and the people occupying earth would as a whole turn their backs on HIm and resist HIs plan for their lives. Why being this up?

Whatever God creates is forever (Ecc 3:14). God never wastes what He creates. He will either use it for His glory or He will reject it in righteous judgment. The Lord grafted a plan within a plan in Genesis chapter one. On the surface, it appears this Creation which He knew in His foreknowledge would fail to live up to its expectations would ultimately be destroyed, hopelessly terminated and forgotten. However, within His creative work God provisioned an escape hatch, a way of redemption to save anyone who would faithfully stay true to Him and obey His Word regardless of the conditions of the world around them. And His sovereign provision of salvation (through the Gospel of Jesus Christ) brings us back to the first act of Creation – Light.

What light is being referred to in Genesis 1:3? The sun? The stars? The moon? No, they were all created in Genesis 1:14.

The light called out in Genesis 1:3, the first spoken word (Logos) of God from the void of darkness, ushered in God’s grand plan to separate light from darkness with the future work of separating righteousness from sin and eternal life from eternal death. God set the earthly stage perfectly in Genesis when He would one day physically visit Himself as the man Jesus Christ, the expression of God’s ‘true light’ and truth (Joh 14:6 & I Joh 2:8).

When God uttered the words “Let there be light” He at that moment ushered into existence the inception of the spiritual dimension and future physical manifestation of Jesus Christ.

How do we know this? The Apostle John begins his Gospel as an almost exact mirror of Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God.

In Genesis 1:3 God ushered into the physical dimension (not created) HIs divine will, a will destined to bring together “all things in Christ” and establish in the realms of time and space the revelation of His true Being and essence:

And the Word (Logos) was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.John 1:1,14

The following scripture shows that God literally spoke light, the true light, the forthcoming light of Jesus who one day in the future would spring from this primitive darkness and void of chaos:

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

Even though the life of Jesus Christ would not be physically manifested until thousands of years later as an infant born in Bethlehem, God prophetically spoke the words in Genesis Chapter 1 with the same Spirit that would reside in Jesus thousands of years into the future. The scriptures emphatically state that all things (in Heaven and on earth) evolve around just one person. Everything is of him, through him and to him:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Col 1:16-17 (also Joh 1:3; Rom 11:36; I Cor 15:27-28; Eph 1:10).

The Savior’s Treasure of True Life

You cannot separate a person from their words. Your words individually define who you are. And you cannot separate one’s spirit from themselves. We all have one, unique, individual spirit that defines our life. It is our spirit that provides life.

God is also a Spirit (Joh 4:24). And Jesus had a spirit (Luk 23:46, Mar 15:37; Heb 9:14). The question arises: Where did Jesus get his Spirit? Was Jesus’ spirit different and separate from God’s eternal Spirit? We know Jesus was conceived of the Holy Ghost (Mat 1:20 & Luk 1:35).

The Bible describes God’s Spirit in several manifestations and/or terms; as a wind (Gen 1:2; Joh 3:8; Acts 2:2), life-giving breath (Eze 37:4-5; Joh 20:22), life-giving power (Joh 2:19; Mar 16:6; Rom 6:9, 8:11; Acts 4:10 & I Cor 15:52) as fire (Exo 3:2, 19:18; I Ki 18:38; Acts 2:3) and as a Spirit, Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost (Gen 1:2; Jdg 6:34; Job 26:13; Ps 51:11, 139:7  – Luk 11:13; Eph 1:13Luk 1:15, 67, 3:22 & Joh 14:26). In the later terms, the Greek word “pneuma’ is employed which is defined as breath, life or just Spirit. There is only one Spirit of God.

Going back to the question: where did Jesus get his spirit? His mother Mary being conceived of the Holy Spirit, Jesus must have the same Spirit as the Father. And Jesus many times spoke that he and his Father were one and if one looked upon him what they would see is the Father (Joh 10:30, 17:21-23 & 14:9). Jesus’ spirit and the Father’s spirit are one and the same.

What we are trying to get at here is that life (specifically human life) created in Genesis Chapter One is only a superficial life compared to the true life available in Jesus. As the first Adam was earthly, the last Adam (Jesus) is the Lord of glory (I Cor 15:45-47) who gives eternal life to those who believe on and surrender their life to him.

In essence, God’s Spirit is the life-giving force that keeps us alive in the natural on earth (our first birth) and supernaturally now and carried onward to Heaven (in the New Birth – Joh 3:5-8 & 4:13-14). It is this latter life that John writes about in his Gospel and in his book The First Letter of John (I John) which is the whole focus of the Gospel, being redeemed from the power of sin and receiving eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ definition of life was radical and would forever flip the tables of the world whose mantra of living is “Eat, drink and be merry”. Jesus’ definition of true life, true reward and true contentment is in the ‘giving‘ and not in the ‘getting‘ (Luk 17:33 & Acts 20:35), And this true life calls one out of the darkness and into His true light (II Cor 4:6 & I Pet 2:9).

The Apostle John ties Jesus’ true life and true light together in his Gospel and in The Book of I John. Concerning the treasures of light and life, he writes the following:

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us) I John 1:2

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:4

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

The treasures of light and life in Jesus is the fulfilment of the light the Lord spoke in existence in the Book of Genesis. And it does not stop there. It continues on to the last book of the Bible:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Revelation 21:4

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Revelation 21:23

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. Revelation 22:5

And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17

The Savior’s Treasure of True Love

John writes two times in the Book of I John that God is Love (I Jn 4:8, 16). God’s purpose and desire in creating man and woman was for His glory. The Lord wanted a creation who would worship and praise him for who he is. Since the moment Adam and Eve fell into sin he forever desired to mend that relationship and forge a loving bond with his people. He attempted to do that with His called out people, the nation of Israel. As we know that turned out not much better then the experience in the Garden of Eden. So, then the Lord came himself (Mat 21:33-46), made an earthly, personal house call to tell them once again his love for them (Mat 23:37).

All problematic situations, discord and disharmony in life can be attributed to one thing – a lack of true love. Jesus knows this and came to fix it. The Apostle John writes  more about love than any other writer in the 66 books of the Bible. And he was known as the disciple that Jesus loved (Joh 20:2) and John knew his material. He ties together these treasures of light and life with one more ingredient – God’s love:

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. I Joh 2:9-11

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 1 John 3:14

Of the three essentials needed for following Jesus (faith, hope & love) and any hope of obtaining eternal life, love is the greatest of them all (I Cor 13:13) because it never fails (I Cor 13:8). When life’s version of love fails you, there is a King in Heaven whose heart is more pure than earth’s finest gold.

A female Christian radio broadcaster commented that “God’s love is the most compelling force in the universe”. That is so true. God is love. And God wants is to be loved for who He is. Jesus said that he was “meek and lowly in heart”. The Lord will never force himself on anyone. He is looking for those who are looking for him. Life is the ultimate love test.

At the end of this life we will be judged on many levels. But, the one area the Lord will focus on in our lives is how we have loved. After giving his life on a cross and enduring humiliating shame, he will look at us and ask: “How much have you loved me, obeyed my commandments and loved your neighbor?”

In Conclusion

We have traveled along a road to understand three treasures of God – Light, Life and Love. These treasures cannot be purchased with money nor acquired with human intellect or through social connections. One is led into these only by the prompting of and obedience to God’s Spirit (Mat 11:27; Joh 6:44).

These treasures are eternal in nature and all work together to perfect you and to heal you. There is a saying that “God’s mercy keeps us until His grace teaches us”. It can also be said that His mercy “heals us”. It may be true that we have only scratched the surface of understanding the depths and riches of God’s mercy. Why? First, God’ mercy is not bound by time, it is forever (Eza 3:11; Ps 106:1, 107:1, 118:1). We do not have the capacity to comprehend the concept of ‘forever’.

And this is central to the next reason for us not totally understanding the depth of God’s mercy. No matter where you have been, no matter how you have lived and no matter what sin or sins you may have committed or have been committed against you, they are not able to exhaust, extinguish or surpass the mercy of God. You just have to believe, obey his Word, be led by His Spirit and become a member of His body – His church. We are just not sufficient within ourselves to do this on our own.

The eternal treasures of True Light (Truth), True Life (New Birth/Eternal life) and True Love (God’s enduring love & mercy) work together so that YOU may have a hope, an escape and a future destined for eternal significance through Jesus Christ. Jesus stepped into and then out of the darkness to bring you these things. In Jesus’ Name. Amen!

The Contender – A Celebration of Our Freedom

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

Crown – dfn. a reward of victory or mark of honor especially : the title representing the championship in a sport; a royal or imperial headdress or cap of sovereignty : diadem; imperial or regal power : sovereignty. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Today is the Fourth of July. Known as “Independence Day’, today we as a nation set aside time to remember and celebrate freedom and liberty. On July 4, 1776 the 13 American colonies officially declared freedom from England’s rule and separation from Britain’s Crown, a freedom which eventually led to the formation of the United States of America.

Crowns signify honor, power, sovereignty, dominion and victory. On this Independence Day we are not only remembering the fight to cast off a political crown leading to freedom, but also the spiritual fight over the conquering of another crown – Death’s Crown and freedom to receive a Crown of Life. Let’s take a look.

The Ring & The Fight

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:21

The fight originated long ago. It was a fight destined before time began between the two contenders (Gen 3:15). In one corner was the champion. He held the title and wore the victor’s crown – The Crown of Death. His earthly name is satan (Job 1:6-9 & Rev 12:9) and his heavenly name was Lucifer (Is 14:12). It was not planned to happen this way. But, because of deceptive and unscrupulous tactics (Gen 3:1-5), he stole the title away from the intended victors of life (Gen 2:7-8, 2:15 & 2:22-25). This fighter carried with him the baggage of a bad reputation (Is 14:13-14) and was known as a ‘dirty player’.

In the other corner was a fighter of a totally different caliber, demeanor and composure. In fact, he looked like no contender for any crown at all (Is 52:14 & 53:2-3). His name was Jesus the son of a carpenter (Mat 13:55 & Mk 6:3). The reigning champion in fact thought it most humorous that such a contender would even dare him and bring him to this level of humiliation. He jeered, he laughed, he mocked and he cajoled at the prospect of being challenged, much less defeated, by such an embarrassment. But, he did not realize who he was dealing with (Is 7:14 & Lk 1:30-33). And he would soon find out.

Round One

And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
Matthew 27:29

The opening bell rang, its shrill reverberating throughout both time and Eternity. The fight began. Out of one corner of the ring one contender emerged with vengeance. His blood burned, his countenance fumed like a dragon (Rev 12:3, 4 & 7) and the corner of his lip dripped with saliva fueled by lust, greed and flesh-like ambition (Mat 4:1-9). In his mind he relished the thoughts:

“This is one fight the world will never forget. This fight will go down in history as MY fight – The Fight of the Ages. The day I finally put to rest the notion that I can be reasonably challenged or it even considered that I can loose my crown, my crown of dominion of life on earth. My victor’s crown of Sin & Death”.

However, something else happened at the opposite corner. Viewed from a distance, the scene was so extreme and macabre it appeared almost in slow motion. “What is going on?” the paying crowd thought. This other contender appeared to not want to fight at all as he walked towards the center of the ring with his fighting gloves down and fearlessly face the impending onslaught. It was as if he wanted to loose and hand his opportunity over without resistance (Joh 10:15, 17-18 & 15:13).

His opponent wasted no time. Pound. Jab. Pound. Pound. Jab. Jab. He did quick work. And it was almost over sooner than he expected, leaving behind a scene almost too horrendous to describe (Mar 15:19-20.

The Stretcher

The defeated opponent seemed barely able to stand upright in the ring. His body now weakened and frail. Seeing victory inevitable, the reigning champion decided to end this match with his most lethal tactic. It was the most painful and shameful weapon in his arsenal. It was what he called ‘The Stretcher’. The stretcher was brought out to carry away his challenger and end the contest (Mar 15:21-38), a contest seemingly not fair from the beginning (or at least the observers thought it was!). In fact, this final act caused the judge to observe something he had never before experienced in all his years working the ring – a fatal knockout. And after seeing what he just observed, he was not sure he wanted to see another one.

A Miraculous Comeback

News of the contest was abuzz and quickly made its way throughout the country (Luk 24:13-19). But, news of something else had captured the people’s attention. Sometime between carrying the contender to his grave and his body being ‘officially’ corrupted after being dead four days, it was reported he was walking around ……… Alive ! (Luk 24:36-41) It could not be. But. it was. He was alive (Rom 6:9).

When the reigning champion received news of his being raised back to life, it struck fear and terror in his spirit (Mat 8:29). His best effort, his most pointed assault failed to finish the work. He did not finish it, his opponent did (Joh 19:30).

Disqualification Leads To Exultation

In every war, in every battle and in every earthly conflict there are rules of engagement to be followed. There are governing bodies in our world that monitor war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why? Because even when humanity is faced with the possibility of annihilation, it intrinsically seeks preservation. It is a nature designed by God. A nature that seeks life, seeks hope and seeks truth. The Lord is running the ship in Heaven and in earth and not the enemy. Truth prevails and truth never fails (Deu 32:4, Ps 57:10, Ps 89:14, Ps 96:13, Ps 146:6, Jn 8:32, Jn 14:6 & Jn 17:17).

Because satan did not follow the rules of engagement (truth) he disqualified himself from the contest (Jn 8:44 & I Jn 2:21). The earthly judge’s decision was ultimately nullified and the crown stripped from the former champion.

The Crown of Death was removed from the Head of the Serpent, and in its place, the Crown of Victory was placed on the Head of the Savior (I Cor 15:54-57). Jesus now gives us freedom over death, wields the Crown of Eternal Life and graciously gives it to those love him (Jam 1:12 & Rev 2:10).

Crown Him. Crown Him. Crown Him King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. Revelation 6:2I

And I saw, and consider this, a white horse. And he who is seated upon it has a bow. And there was given to him a victor’s crown. And he came forth conquering and in order to conquer. (Wuest)

Happy Fourth of July!

Departures & Arrivals

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Philemon 1:15

God can take things or places departed for a season and turn them into reasons for the arrival of greater things or places.

Like the coin, lost sheep and lost son as recorded in Jesus’ parables in Luke chapter 15, reunion and discovery of something lost adds special value to that thing. Its value is now magnified. The coin, sheep and son never looked the same again to their owners. They were now deeply treasured because the heart, reflecting on the past trauma of separation, now joyously celebrates in the emotion of reunion:

It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Luke 15:32

Let’s take a further look into this.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6

Arriving Gate 238 – Jerusalem Airlines

There is someone mentioned in the Word of God whose departure experience is worth calling to mind. He was the ‘big mouth’ of the bunch. Often rash, impulsive and borderline arrogant, he was fast to act and slow at thinking things through (Mat 16:22, Mk 8:32). He was the first to volunteer (Mat 14:28) and was always looking over his shoulder at the competition (Jn 21:20-21).

His name is Peter and he was in departure mode and had yet to arrive where the Lord destined him to be.

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. Mat 26:74-75

Peter needed to experience a diversion to arrive and take his place in the will God had for his life:

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

While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. Act 10:44-45

Peter’s season of departure broke his will and caused him to arrive at his appointed destination as an influential leader of the early Apostolic church in the first century.

Departing Gate 123 – JetPerga

There is another individual mentioned in the Bible we also need to look at. This man’s life was yet another account of someone who experienced a season of departure, of falling short and failing in his calling. You can perceive this man as a spiritual lightweight or a wannabe missionary, but in the end he fumbled, stumbled, and departed while on the job.

Now when Paul and his company loosed from Paphos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John (surnamed Mark – Acts 12:25) departing from them returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:13

His name is John Mark or Mark for short. Mark of all people. Why, he had a godly heritage (Acts 12:12), conversant with the inner circle of Jesus’ core group of disciples and had the golden opportunity to travel with God’s best. It was not enough. Could it have been Mark’s lack of perfected love (II Tim 1:7 – timidity) that caused the laser-focused Apostle Paul to not want him involved in any future missionary endeavors?:

And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. Acts 15:37-38

Mark experienced his own dilemma of departure. And what better arrival was Mark destined for? Right here;

The Gospel According to Mark.

Yes, you read that correctly. Mark. Mark penned a gospel account that would bear his name. After all his failures, his faults and his shortcomings, the Lord saw an unearthed gem buried somewhere is his spirit. What was it? It was a resolve to not quit and persevere after falling. Just the kind of people God is looking for today. Mark’s gospel account was written for the Roman world of his day, a world attracted to and highly influenced by one thing – power. Mark wrote extensively about the power of God and the miracles of Jesus.

There was another subject Mark wrote about that would have never occurred had he not experienced his season of departure. The areas he, Paul and Barnabas were evangelizing on Paul’s first missionary journey was a hotbed of demonic activity, spiritual oppression and taxing, rugged terrain. In fact, right after the encounter with Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8), Mark looks for passage back to Jerusalem. Could that encounter have been the tipping point?

There is much speculation about why Mark does this. But, there could be evidence behind his actions by reading Mark’s gospel account. Mark mentions the dark spiritual underworld more that any other gospel writer. He mentions unclean spirits (4x), unclean spirit (6x), devils (12x), dumb spirit (1x), foul spirit (1x), anti-Christ (Ch. 13)  and includes an extensive account of the demoniac of the Gadarenes (Ch. 5). Whatever the cause,  Mark learned his spiritual warfare lesson well to go on, regroup and write about it for all the world to know.

Departing Gate 7 – Air Rome

The last departure we want to discuss is written in The Book of Philemon, an account of the saving grace of God for the runaway slave (Onesimus) of Philemon. Onesimus defrauded Philemon, departed his household and journeyed to Rome where he met the Apostle Paul. Paul works with him, and eventually, Onesimus becomes a born-again believer. The letter is Paul’s appeal for Onesimus’ restoration to his former position in Philemon’s household and the mending of the spiritual bond between the two men.

Because of Onesimus’ season of departure, the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus would never be the same after their reunion. The relationship would now be more valuable and profitable. Not only were they united in earthly terms, they could now be joined together with the heavenly. Because of Onesimus’ departure, he arrived at a much grander place. Their stormy departure for a season birthed a timeless bond for all eternity. As Paul writes:

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Philemon 1:15 KJV

Perhaps it was for this reason that he was separated from you for a while, so that you would have him back forever, (AMP)

For perhaps on this account he was parted for a brief time in order that you might be possessing him fully and forever, (Wuest)

Interestingly, the name Onesimus means ‘useful’ or ‘profitable’ in Greek and it took a detour for him to live true to his name.

In Conclusion

We have looked into the lives of three individuals whose spiritual trajectory was not always on target. In fact, they each completely missed the mark. We know that God is always true to His character. Among His many characteristics; his graciousness, longsuffering, patience, love, kindness, and mercy, He knows we are oftentimes frail, subject to error and resistant to being broken (Ps 103:14, Is 63:9 & Rev 21:4) and looks to use these to work His will through our lives. In each of the above cases, the Lord used a painful departure as their means to arrive at a better end.

And whatever God touches is never the same afterwards. Never. And since Jesus has firsthand experience in turning tables ‘upside down‘ (Mat 21:12, Mk 11:15 & Jn 2:15), he has no problem ‘turning around‘ 180 degrees the table the devil has placed in your life and bring what was ‘meant for evil’ for your good and for His glory.

What has departed in your life today? A lost loved one? Health? Finances? Shelter? Food? Peace? Faith? Hope? Love?

Be assured you are in the right place for God to come on the scene and cause the miracle you desperately need to arrive. It shall be done if you persistently believe and doubtlessly ask the right person:

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 15:7

Life’s hard departures are so designed to bring to light the arrival of God’s best.

Be Blessed In Jesus’ Name. Amen.