Worship On This Mountain (a re-post)

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. Genesis 22:5

In prayer the words were not rehearsed, preconceived or contrived. They just came out with intention as if speaking right into the Savior’s face, physically present in the room. The pressures of life became almost unbearable which brought me to my knees and utter the phrase:

“What will I do? I will tell you what I will do. I will worship on this mountain”. 

Some Background

This blog began 10 years ago this coming December after being impressed by God’s Spirit to start it, and later confirmed from the pulpit of my church on a particular Sunday morning in 2011. Ten years ago I did not even know blogs existed. My introduction to blogging began early on a Sunday morning while studying and preparing a ‘sermon’ at our church. I was browsing the Internet to find material about the frailty of life and examples to illustrate the tragedy involved when people find themselves devalued and discarded either through their sins or by the sins of others.

Well, the perfect illustration was found. A blogger from California posted on her blog a story of an oil color painting, painted by a 19th century European impressionist painter, that was ‘dropped off’ at a Goodwill store (along with old pots, pans and other discarded items) in of all places, my home state of Maryland. Here is a blogger from California writing about a story occurring across the entire Unites States in my state of residence. (Note: the painting caught the eye of a Goodwill employee and was later auctioned off at Sotheby’s in New York City for over $80,000!)

And with that the blogging world became a new frontier. If there are any innate skills of value I may have, writing may be the one. An English literature professor during my undergraduate studies commented on one of my papers that she would personally write a letter of recommendation for my admission to graduate school if I decided to go down that path. So, there was at least one confirmation that writing was something I might craft and refine to share with others. So blogging became a natural outlet in that respect.

Since that December morning in 2011 there have been times when the writing flowed, thoughts meshed well and posts just sprang from the keyboard that were rich and (IMHO) worth reading. However, there were times when things did not flow easily and it was a struggle to get a hold of God and focus enough to produce meaningful content. As they say in attempting to plan your future, two things always have a vote – life and the devil.

Yes, life and the devil. Well, some readers believe the first one to be true, but have pushback when the ‘D’ subject is mentioned. Yes, there is a devil and he has attempted to wreck my life and no doubt some of you reading this can relate. Some pervious posts have eluded to this. But, let’s not focus on him. Because God is on the throne and He is the One who is calling the shots in this thing called life.

With that, let’s shift the narrative and talk about something else. What else? Mountains. Why mountains? Because on this spiritual journey in seeking after God we will inevitably face some massive obstacles and hindrances meant to derail us and cause us to fail. Yes, fail. But take heart, God is the God of the mountain.

You might be asking the question: “What kind of mountain are you talking about here?” The mountain that everyone who takes the initiative and willful decision to search after God will face. And God takes everyone at some point to the mountain, oftentimes more than once. Why? Because how we react, how we respond and the person we become after our mountain experience will say a lot about the faith we profess we possess. As one person so wisely stated: “A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted“.

Jesus already told us that life’s mountains serve as litmus tests to certify the purity of our faith:

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Matthew 17:20 

And nothing moves God into action better than pure faith, faith in His character and faith in His word (Rom 10:17; Heb 11:6). Your faith does two things. First, It makes you ‘attractive’ to God. Secondly, being attractive to God now makes God ‘attracted’ to you!

Why Mountains?

There are many things one can do when God calls you to a mountain that will define who “YOU REALLY ARE ABOUT”. A mountain where God will test your faith, your convictions and your mettle. God knows who you are, but you do not know who you are and He will show you and He will show your enemy.

Like Abraham, every man and woman used of God will face their mountain.

The mountain of sorrow. The mountain of rejection. The mountain of pain. The mountain of heartbreak. The mountain of frustration. The mountain of fear. The mountain of confusion. The mountain of feeling unwanted and useless. The mountain of doubt. The mountain of being misunderstood. And the mountain of …………

So, what is one to do when faced with apparent insurmountable obstacles?

Worship. Everyone and everything can praise God. Nature praises God and even people who live like they want to live from Monday to Saturday can walk into a church on any given Sunday and without the slightest tinge of conscience “Praise the Lord”.

But, worship and praise are not one and the same thing. Everyone can praise God because it is a gift He gives to His creation:

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD. Psalms 150:6 

But only those who faithfully endure the fiery trials of life can truly worship. The word of God gives us excellent examples of true worshippers:

For Abraham there was Mt. Moriah
For Esther there was Mt. Haman
For Hannah there was a harassing Mt. Adversary
For Naomi there was a haunting Mt. of Past Poor Decisions lurking in the fog of Moab
For David there was Mt. Goliath
For Joseph there were hateful and jealous siblings named Mt. Brothers
For John the Baptist there was Mt. King Herod
For Apostle Paul there was Mt. Rome, the epicenter of the world system (Kosmos) of his day, and
For Jesus Christ there was Mt. Calvary and Mt. Satan

What did all of these champions of heaven have in common? Their life of faith propelled them on to worship  and glorify God after being extremely tested before their mountain.

The question is: what will you do on the mountain God sends you to? There are many options. The best one is to simply worship.

Worshiping is speaking, vocalizing and articulating heartfelt words of complete surrender to God. True worship to God moves us to the backstage and puts Him front-center stage. What hinders us from really worshiping God in our calamities? One word. Pride. Pride mainly serves one purpose – it allows us to remain in control. Jesus is life’s supreme pride crusher. Jesus knows how to knock the stuffing out of our life and get us to a place where he alone holds the reins and is in control:

For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 1Co 1:26-27 

Storms & Whirlwinds

Purification of one’s faith is not comprised of trivial personal endeavors. As the Apostle Peter penned it, it involves some very serious life encounters:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 1 Peter 4:12 

There are some things God can only purify in us through trials and tests. Which bring us to the storms and whirlwinds (hurricanes) of life.

A storm and a whirlwind (or hurricane) are different manifestations or concentrations of the same two elements – wind and water. They differ only in intensity.

Storms bring measured amounts of water to the earth and the needed rainfall to sustain life and growth. Storms add to life.

On the other hand, hurricanes are much different. Hurricanes bring destruction to the earth. Hurricanes take away or radically alter life.

We can apply these same two weather patterns into the spiritual realm. Spiritually speaking a storm, or as we might say, a trial or test also adds life and promotes growth:

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

Psalms 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

However, hurricanes transform whatever they touch. You will not be the same individual after experiencing or going through a spiritual whirlwind.

For Elijah,  his whirlwind was his promotion to Heaven in a chariot of fire:

2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

For Job’s whirlwind it meant his promotion to receive God’s storehouse of blessings for being faithful through his trial of fire:

Job 40:6 Then answered the LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

Job 42:10 And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

When Job prayed for his friends within his mountain of despair, God turned his whirlwind of distress into a windfall of God’s best.

The Apostle Paul’s hurricane experience prepared the promotion awaiting him in Heaven as he headed to Rome to become another of God’s prized martyrs:

And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.
But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon (typhoon/hurricane). Acts 27:13-14

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

Are you in the midst of or facing a spiritual hurricane/ whirlwind? Then know God is preparing you for your promotion:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. I Peter 4:12-13

Life’s storms are purposed for production. Life’s hurricanes are purposed for promotion.

You who are reading, go and worship on your mountain.

Be Blessed!

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 Cross of Jesus Christ

The subject we will discuss is one, if not the most important one we must confront in life. This subject is inexhaustible, its weight immense and its power unlimited. One writer has this to say about it:

“There is not a person born or unborn, there is not a decision that anyone has made or will make that (this) does not stand a witness to and a judge of.”

What are we talking about? We are talking about the cross of Jesus Christ. As the great Apostle wrote:

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14)

The Cross Is At The Center

“The cross stands at the center of everything”.

Earth would not be the same after 33 A.D. on the day Jesus Christ was crucified. The earth from that day forward would no longer spin on an axis spanning the North and South poles. The earth now spins on the axis of Calvary’s cross spanning the Heaven and the earth.

The natural human mind balks when confronted with what Jesus accomplished at Calvary. Our minds stop and resist the notion that Jesus defeated death, sin, hell and the grave. Why? Because of accountability. It is said that we are only accountable for what we know:

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: (Acts 17:30)

We no longer have an excuse since Calvary. It is said that at the end of his life and facing death W. C. Fields was seen reading the Bible. Being  very out-of-character behavior for those who knew who him asked him why he was reading God’s word. His response was: “I’m looking for a loophole”.

There are no loopholes. But, there is a door available. The true light has arrived. We have hope. Calvary’s cross is as relevant today as it was over 2,000 years ago. The poignancy of Calvary’s love has not diminished through the wearing and grating effects of time and space. The voice of Calvary still speaks. Like the blood of Abel that cried from the earth (Gen 4:10), Jesus’ blood yet cries from earth’s dust:

“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”.

The sounds of Jesus’ sacrifice resound through time – the voice of love, the voice of mercy, the voice of grace and the voice of forgiveness:

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

The cross is the only true escape from this fleshly cage of dust and bones.

The Tension

Several years ago in Bible school, a guest speaker who is a Pastor of a church in the state spoke in our class. His comments were noteworthy:

“Our world operates in tension. There is a constant tension going on in our lives that pull us between Heaven and earth”.

This continuous tension is the result of the pressure cooker of the struggles and strain between life and death, light and darkness, the Spirit of God and the flesh, righteousness and sin and between Heaven and earth.

In the midst of his trial Job could not see beyond his despair:

My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little,
Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death;
A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness. (Job 10:1, 20-22)

The cross of Jesus Christ is the only legitimate and certain bridge of truth to get us through the darkness. The Lord will test our mettle to see of what material it is. Since everyone is given “a measure of faith” (Rom 12:3), the Lord will test it to make it pure:

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7)

If we fail to grasp the salvation God makes available to us and the hope of the Gospel, we will succumb to what is termed “The Malady of America” which is defined by discontentment and ungratefulness. The Lord has the abundant life for us (John 10:10) to escape the dregs of this age.

The Cross’ Shadow

There is something special about someone who is a true cross bearer. Surely there are people you know or have known in your life who have left or leave lasting impressions in your spirit because of their commitment to godly and eternal matters. It is because of the cross they bear. Jesus instructs us to bear our “own cross” (Lk 14:27). For these individuals, Calvary casts a shadow wide and deep over their lives. It is unmistakable and cannot be faked or insincerely fabricated.

These people are the “real deal”. Why is this important? Because cross bearing is a true indicator of the depth and breadth of someone’s spiritual walk. How is this validated? Because the closer you are to Jesus the heavier your cross becomes. There is scripture to substantiate this claim.

All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke) record the account of Simon the Cyrenian being “compelled” to carry Jesus’ cross. However, Luke’s account of Simon is different from the other two Gospels. Luke, being the detailed-oriented of the three, with his keen, scientific skills of observation coloring his writing  (he is the one who wrote in details more than Matthew or Mark) gives us one additional noteworthy tidbit of information:

And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. Luke 23:26

Luke lets us know that Simon was following right behind Jesus bearing his cross. Simon’s “cross” was literally Jesus’ cross. And Simon was closer to Jesus on his ascent to Golgotha than anyone else. You are never more close to Jesus than when you bear the weight of the salvation of souls upon your shoulders as Jesus leads them towards Calvary’s hill. This is true cross-bearing. This is true Christianity. This is what eternity demands.

Eternity In View

Eternity. Such a remote and distant concept that we cannot even begin to discern or comprehend it. But, a voice is speaking of its nearness. And the older one gets the louder the voice becomes. A Pastor recently spoke on the topic. His reasoning is that our walk of faith and the challenges looming on the horizon meant to extinguish it cannot survive without eternity in view. We must live life with eternity in the forefront of our minds.

Jesus spoke of an “outer darkness” three times (Mat 8:12, 22:13 & 25;30). Outer darkness is the second death, a place of eternal separation from God. I don’t want to go there. Either do you. This subject and the mention of Hell are not popular topics in today’s modern church age. Nonetheless, it is the Word of God.

Faith in the redemption found in the Cross of Jesus Christ and God’s expression of love at Calvary are able to preserve you and keep you from the judgment of God against the sin of this world to come (I Peter 4:17-18).

The cross of Jesus proves to us God’s great investment in and compassion for souls. The cross calls for the total surrender and commitment of our lives to him.

“Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow”. Jesus Paid It All by Elvina Hall

Jesus has paid it all friend. Be Blessed!

Who Am I?

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. Psalm 139:14

(Note: the following  is an excerpt of a thought/message presented in a service at a Nursing Facility/Convalescent Care Center in Baltimore County, MD on Sunday March 24th by this blogger)

Who am I? The question related to identity we all ask. What is my purpose in life? What is life? Does anyone care? If so, who really cares?

We must come to a complete understanding of our worth and value in life to move beyond our present circumstances (however good or bad they may be) and reach the full potential God has for our lives.

Who cares? God cares. He cares about you. Let’s look into this.

You Are Destined To Give Glory To God

We must, it is imperative that we comprehend and come to a complete understanding of God’s value for life in general, and in particular the value God places upon our own life.

A transformation takes place when we get to the place of total surrender to God – at that point our life is no longer dear to us, but now of infinite value to God. The closer we get to God, the less we value our own life and the more our life is valued by God.

Why is this? Two words – God’s Glory

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.  II Corinthians 6:19-20

“A life totally surrendered to God totally glorifies God.”

That no flesh should glory in his presence. I Corinthians 1:29

One writer penned the following words: “God’s glory is important to Him”. Your life was destined from Creation to give glory to God. Period. Then what is the problem? What divides or separates us from bringing this glory to our Creator? The answer is simple, but oh so devastating – Sin.

Sin is the one element of our nature God will not brush off or overlook. Sin separates, it divides, it brings death:

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

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:15

Sin entered Creation’s story in the Garden of Eden and continues on to this day. Ask Adam and Eve about being separated from God. Ask Cain their first son. Ask Achan who along with his family was stoned to death (Gen 7:24-26). Ask King Saul. Ask King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. Ask Judas. Sin always leaves behind a bitter trail of remorse and pain.

But, there is hope. Where? Hope is found in His hands.

Read His Palms – They Tell Your Story

But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isaiah 49:14-16

What is graven on the palms of the Lord’s hands? Nail prints. For who? They are for you. That is how much you are valued. This is who you are. Your life is very, very important to God:

Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Luke 24:39

The God of Glory went through the pain and agony to be permanently engraved with the value of your life imprinted on His hands. In eternity, there will be only one with a scarred body. The Bible tells us that God’s people resurrected from this life of dust, bone and death will one day be given a glorified body:

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: I Corinthians 15:42-43

But, there will be one in Heaven whose hands will tell the story of a distant time and of a distant place. The palms of God will remind Him of the price He paid at a place called Calvary where He showed the value he placed on those created in his own image – You.

Read His palms for they tell your story – they are proof of your worth and your value to Him.

Be Kind To Your Heart

It could be that there are times when God is just plain “fed up” with our mistakes, our failures, our shortcomings, our sin and decides to annihilate the whole mess. What holds God back from pouring His wrath out on a world gone mad, intoxicated by sin?

One thing. His palms.

O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

In wrath remember mercy. The great God of mercy and love looks at His hands and perhaps says to himself – “I can’t destroy them. I’m reminded of Calvary. I’m reminded of going to a cross and shedding my blood for them. My palms remind me of how much they are loved and valued. In my wrath, I am reminded of my Mercy”.

God knew before the foundation of the world that the only lasting thing that will change us is love. There is a God and Savior who loves you with an everlasting love. Be kind to your heart. His palms tell the story of who you are. You are of great value to Him.

This is who you are destined to be – in His hands, redeemed by His blood and near to His heart.

The Quest

My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Psalm 84:2

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1-2

Many years ago there was an “animated adventure series” on TV entitled: “Jonny Quest”. The central theme of the series was to show the lives of a boy, his scientist father and friends on their many exciting, tingling adventures and “quests” around the world. Just the thing to project wonders of the unknown and exotic in lands faraway to engage the imagination of its young viewers.

Life is a quest. Life is a journey. And life can be summarized in one simple phrase:

“Life is an intertwining of events in a quest to find true love”.

And God created the soul with that intention squarely in the crosshairs because God is love (I John 4:8, 16). And on the journey to find this true love will bring one face-to-face with the true and living God. This is the heartbeat of God; for Him to love and for Him to be loved.

The phrase “living God” occurs exactly 30x in the KJV of the Holy Bible – spilt in half evenly between the Old and New Testaments. The God of the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament. There is only One. God is not dead and very much alive.

Jeremiah 10:10  But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

John 6:69  And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

To Live Again

There is an inherent nature in God’s creative work that can be defined by its refusal to quit; a determination not to die, a desire to live despite circumstances that speak otherwise.

For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. Job 14:7-9

Hope of a tree. Through the scent of water. Springs of fresh, cool life-giving water. If God engrained into a tree a nature to hope after being cut down to the ground, what has He gifted into a soul that will live for eternity? Much.

It is said there is a suicide epidemic raging within our nation.

This blogger is familiar with the subject of suicide. He was told at a tender age that his grandfather attempted suicide on his mother’s 30th birthday. Though stuff. Enough to make one cringe, even to this very day. And it has raised its face in some manifestation or another throughout life.

Lives have been irretrievably broken by a parent, a close loved one or a friend who have taken their own life. This is obviously not God’s will for the souls that He loves. This should not be. Why? Because there is hope. There is love. God’s love.

Life is a quest to find this true love. Unfortunately, it will not be found in a bedroom. That is too easy. God oftentimes appears elusive. True love must be diligently sought in Heaven’s throne. And He is looking for those who are looking for Him:

Psalms 14:2  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

God’s love is still being radiated from His throne room through all of the muck, trash, darkness, filth, stench and garbage the enemy (yup, the devil) will hurl at you. The love of Jesus Christ refuses to quit, and it will never fail you if you hold onto hope:

Charity never faileth …….. I Corinthians 13:8

Speaking of that tree and its hope for water, Jesus is that living water and offers the hope of eternal life:

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. John 7:37-38

For there is hope of a tree. There is hope in his cross. There is hope in Jesus.

Be Blessed.

A Memorial of Love

 

6. Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
7. There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
8. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
9. For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
10. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
11. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
12. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
13. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

Matthew 26:6-13

Memorial (definition) – something, especially a structure, established to remind people of a person or event, intended to commemorate (or honor) someone or something. Source: New Oxford American Dictionary

God burned an appreciation for memorials into the spiritual genetic code of His people, the nation of Israel. We see interspersed throughout the Old Testament instances where the LORD instructed His people to observe memorials for one reason – a call to remember  specific events where God wanted to be acknowledged and appreciated. In other instances the Hebrew people out of sheer inner conviction built memorials to demarcate places that wielded special significance in their lives.

Some Background On Memorials in the O.T. 

One of the earliest appearances of a memorial in the O.T. is when Jacob builds a memorial to commemorate his first personal encounter with Almighty God:

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. Genesis 28:18-19

The LORD himself commanded that His name be remembered and kept at the forefront of the people’s hearts and minds as recorded in Exodus 3:14-15:

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations

Another important memorial commanded by the Lord was the day He delivered His people from Egyptian bondage:

And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.

And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever. Exodus 12:1-2, 14

Why did the Lord choose this vehicle as a call to remembrance? Because it is within our human nature to forget. The ebbing and monotonous flowing of life events through time have a tendency to erase or blur the sharp definitions of thoughts and feelings that at one time were at the forefront of our minds. Particularly, things of a supernatural or extraordinary nature.

A New Memorial Paradigm

What Jesus spoke as recorded in Matthew chapter 26 concerning the memorializing of a woman’s sacrifice  was earth shattering and shocking. Why?

First, this woman’s act of worship and love was not to the casual observer outwardly demonstrative nor particularly miraculous – no parting of the Red Sea or Jordan River, no supernatural intervention by God to annihilate invading armies or the like transpired. What was spectacular about this unnamed woman’s sacrifice was her role in fulfilling O.T. prophecy that Jesus was to be anointed with precious ointment prior to his death. And that was not the end of the matter.

Secondly, Jesus told the disciples that a verbal memorial commemorate the action of a woman (of all people!). This thinking was unprecedented in Palestine 2,000 years ago. Women in this region of the world held no social status. Women also had no say in neither the political or religious power circles of their  day.

To elevate a woman to such an exalted plane was the “last straw” for Judas Iscariot. Her act of worship and adoration for Jesus was the catalyst, the lighting of the fuse that sent Jesus to the cross and the ushering in of the gospel:

13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

15 And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:13-15

Lastly, the selfless giving away of her alabaster box of spikenard meant she forfeited her future possibilities of becoming a bride as the perfume was reserved by a bride for her prospective groom on their wedding day. The woman chose to instead become part of the heavenly bride of Christ – the future culmination of the Gospel.

This woman’s act of sacrifice (as perceived by Jesus – the Lamb of God in her midst) established the future pattern of giving and worship for the church – not through the blood of animals, but through the sacrifice of a living human heart infused with love and humility. This is the way of the Gospel. These are the reasons why Jesus honored her sacrifice and asked that her actions never be forgotten.

Any Memorials In My Life?

There was a man named Cornelius recorded in The Book of Acts whose prayers and alms impressed Heaven:

And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. Acts 10:4

I wonder if we not only remember and honor the fallen warriors whose lives have brought us freedom, that we build our own memorials to remember those that have gone before us whose prayers, unselfish love, unending sacrifice and unquestionable faithfulness and integrity of character has granted us the spiritual liberty and protection we also embrace today.

Memorial Day 2018

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.