buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Personal Habits

This past week, I lost an important file. For two days I have tried to recover it. I tried the help desk at Microsoft and they couldn’t find it either. So I am stuck with recreating my file. I thought that would be the case, but I kept hoping the file would miraculously come back from where it’s hidden. Now it’s just a matter of sitting down to do it. Sitting down do to something when I don’t want to do it is just hard. I have days when I know I need to post a blog, but sometimes it’s just hard to just sit down and write.

It’s the motivation that’s the key to do the things I may not want to do when I know I need to do it. Why do it in the first place? Why write? Why do I care about my finances to actually create a file to track my expenditures? Because I feel it’s the right thing to do. My motivation for most things in life is because I feel like God is pleased when I do the things I need to do to stay on track. Writing helps me to focus on the things that are important and God has placed a desire in me to share what I know.

But why do I track my expenses? A few years ago, I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course. Having a financial background, I wondered what this course could teach me. I got paid to budget for large companies but I didn’t necessarily do it for myself. I pay my bills on time, what else matters?

Through the course, I realized I had a lot to be accountable for and I wasn’t very wise in my spending habits. You see, when I get stressed or lonely or have any emotional trauma, I shop. It’s my downfall. When I started the course, I realized I spent quite a bit of money on stuff. It was a fleeting feeling of satisfaction to purchase something I wanted. I didn’t recognize my habits until I started tracking my expenses. This year’s tracking file was the file I lost.

Guess what I did when I lost the file? I started shopping trying to fill a problem with some emotional comfort. The funny thing though is that I shop differently now. I no longer buy clothes, shoes or house items. I read Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven that changed my buying habits. I don’t need a lot of “stuff” anymore. You know what I buy mostly now? Supplements or food items. I love finding new products and giving them a try. My problem is more health-related and I feel like it’s a better choice, but it still is a habit that needs to be broken. I still have to rein it back in.

Do you recognize your habits? Sometimes it takes something as simple as a budget to recognize where we get off track. God has given us resources and we will be accountable to Him for how we manage those resources. Maybe spending isn’t your stumbling block like it is mine. Maybe yours is a food issue or a porn issue or sex issue or whatever it may be. Maybe when you’re lonely you do something totally different from what you normally would on a day you feel surrounded by love. What is it for you?

The first thing we have to do is notice our choices and why we’re making them. Is the motivation for a good reason or is it an emotional response? Do you eat because your hunger or just bored? There’s a lot to discern about our habits. We get in those ruts and sometimes it takes a bit of a jolt to get us out of those destructive patterns. Habits are done out of routine. We can do it without even thinking about it. That’s why a budget was the jolt I needed to get on track. It brought a few things into focus for me.

First and foremost, I am a manager of God’s resources and He always gets His portion back first. I recognize where I need to spend the money each month before I spend the first dime. When I receive money, I don’t automatically think it’s mine to spend. God first. It’s always the way to go to bring freedom to my spending habits. Freedom not in how I spend but freedom from the strongholds that make me stumble. I don’t always get it right. I am always accountable to Him in every regard to do what I am called to do – honor and glorify Him in every respect – even putting together another tracking device to control my habits so that I will not fall short (financially and spiritually). God uses the little things to remind us where we need to be. Our job is to pay attention to those little things.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:12-13

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Stand Firm

This morning’s Bible passage was from Daniel 3 concerning the three men and their fiery trial. The King had set up a golden image for everyone to worship, but the three Jewish men refused to do so. They knew that worshipping an idol was forbidden by God.

In Deuteronomy, Moses referred to God as a jealous God. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

So when the men were given the opportunity to worship the idol, they still refused even though it meant they would be thrown into a blazing furnace. They were convinced that God would rescue them, but even if God didn’t they would still stand firm in their conviction. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Conviction. Do you have that type of conviction? Even if? If everything you know to be true, do you still stand firm? Many people throughout the world have that type of conviction. They stand firm even if their lives are threatened. We are at a big disadvantage in this western world. Hard to believe, right? However, we have many things that distract us from worshiping God. Our conviction may not stand up if we are threatened.

This week, I read the book Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He was an investigative reporter who decided to investigate the evidence for Jesus. He was an atheist whose wife became a Christian. He wanted to disprove this Christian cult (as he considered Christianity). So for two years or so, he followed the evidence. In the end, the evidence led him to the truth. The evidence was overwhelming that this Jesus did live; He did die; and He did rise again. The evidence was enough to convince Lee that it took “more faith to maintain atheism than to trust in Jesus of Nazareth.”

Many lives have been changed throughout the centuries through this Gospel message. As an investigative journalist, Lee knew how to trace the evidence – he had seen too many trials with evidence stacked up against the defendant that conviction was just a matter of when not if. Evidence can change the whole trial. Testimony too is an important key to conviction. But evidence in the case seals the deal.

After reading Lee’s book, it just gave me a deeper feeling of gratitude for what Jesus had done for me. Jesus did suffer and die for me – and you. It was a gruesome death. It was all the wickedness poured out on Him by every lash He received – tearing skin and muscle and every fiber from his head to his knees. He took that pain and suffering on for every human heart that beats even if those hearts don’t beat for Him. His pain and suffering was enough to cover every sin committed – past, present and future. His sacrifice was enough to cleanse every heart and make every heart whole.

There was a period in my life where I doubted this Christianity thing. I saw the hypocrites in church and wondered how this Christianity was supposed to be true. A man once said to me that he didn’t want to go to heaven if the “Christians” were going to be there. I understood what he said because I had thought those same thoughts somewhere down the line of my faith journey. However, we don’t follow Christians, we follow Jesus. Christians are just a work in progress.

My faith journey didn’t stop with the doubts; it just made me want to know more. My parents and my grandparents were convinced that Jesus was who He said He was. But I couldn’t rely on their faith to help me when times got rough. I had to have my own conviction that this Jesus was the real deal.

We can’t stop at the questions and doubts. God doesn’t want us to quit searching and seeking. Actually, we are told when we search and seek, we will find when we search with our whole heart. God is after our whole heart because He is a jealous God who doesn’t want to share our hearts with any competition. Does that seem too harsh? God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us. He earned every heart by the strips on His back. It was a pretty harsh way to die. But He did it for our sakes because there is no other way to God but by the blood of Jesus.

Are you convinced about this Jesus? Do you still have doubts? Seek out the evidence. It’s never too late to find Him. And you’re never too broken to be fixed. Jesus is the real deal. I am convinced of it. I hope you are too. When the fiery trials come, let us stand firm on the foundation of Jesus.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud
and mire;
he set my feet
on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song
in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the
Lord
and put their trust
in him. Psalm 40:1-3

Headline News

Do you watch the evening news or still read newspapers? The last time I picked up a newspaper, I noticed it was very thin. Yesterday’s news just seems irrelevant for this fast-paced society now. We like instant news feeds. When an event happens, we want to know about it immediately. And we can. We have instant access. News alerts and weather alerts come directly to our phones. But what do we do with all the alerts? Do we shrug it off or get anxious about it? What do we discern from the events that are taking place today?

This next week is significant in many ways. First, Israel turns 70. Many nations have fumed about it and threatened disaster upon that tiny nation, but Israel is still here and celebrating a significant milestone. The second thing that is significant about next week is that the US is moving its embassy to Jerusalem. Life in Israel and Jerusalem may be difficult in the next few weeks or months. Time will tell how these events will shape the Middle East.

Then we have our own issues going on. Hawaii’s volcano is changing the landscape of the Big Island once again. There may be a significant explosion this week that could send boulders flying through the skies. Or ash clouds that disrupt air travel, not to mention covering the landscape and cause breathing problems for those who live nearby. It’s like a physical expression of an angry world that is just about to erupt and cause chaos in the world. I think we may have reached a boiling point – the spiritual battle has blown up in the heavenly realms and it’s going to get real very soon.

Our instant news feed may not mention these events in the coming days unless it’s a significant event – something spectacular happens. But I know with all that goes on, God is still in control no matter what. God has been setting the stage for many years and it all comes together just as He plans. We don’t know the time of all events, but God does. Do we get anxious about these things? I hope not.

We may not understand all the events taking place and their significance. However, we can know God is at work through these events. God has an agenda. Maybe we don’t like to think like that, but it’s true. God’s agenda is for the lost to be saved and for His glory to be revealed. We can be a part of this agenda. Actually, we are a major part of His agenda. We didn’t get saved just for ourselves. We get saved so that others will be saved through us when we go tell them our stories.

It seems really difficult to tell them our stories in this day and age. Many think we’re foolish. They are not ready to hear it. However, there will come a day when they are ready. When their world is in chaos and they have nowhere else to turn, they will look to us and the peace that we have. Then they will be ready.

In our age of instant access, we have about three minutes to share our story. When I was in my health coaching school, the instructor told us we needed an “elevator speech” to tell others what we do in three minutes or less. It’s the only way we can communicate these days. Sound bite news – sound bite stories. Just hit the highlights and if they are interested in our stories, they will ask us for more. If we just give them a sip of living water, they may want the whole fountain. The woman at the well did.

The story is found in John 4 tells of a woman who needed to hear the Good News. Jesus just happened to stop for a drink of water at a well while the disciples went into town for food. Jesus asked the woman who came to the well to give Him a drink of water. The woman was surprised that a man – a Jewish man – would ask her for a drink. But Jesus persisted with this woman to show her that she needed more than this physical water that doesn’t satisfy the soul. He gave her just enough information to want more. He engaged her in a way that no one ever had before and she was intrigued.

The trouble with our day and time is that we don’t stop long enough to engage others in conversation. The people around us are so thirsty and they don’t even realize it until we engage with them. The headline news may keep us from having those engaging conversations if we are anxious about our own lives. It’s when we find ourselves in a peaceful place that we notice our access to others who need our own “sound bite” good news that is worth sharing. Let’s not be anxious about anything that takes place on the world’s stage because the world is looking for peace that we have to offer through our Good News of Jesus. Let’s share it soon before the world implodes before our very eyes. The news is too good not to share!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:34-35

Family Secrets

Have you ever had a family secret you wanted to share? There is a verse in scripture that begins with “and we know.” It’s like that family secret – we know it, but others outside the family don’t know it. We know that we know somehow some way everything will come out all right because we know the family secret. All things will work together for good. But it is conditional. It’s not for everybody. The scripture (Romans 8:28) says for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. That’s us – the family of God.

Sounds a bit like and “us and them” kind of distinction, right? There is a dividing line between us and them. Right now that’s the way it is. However, it isn’t meant to stay that way. God isn’t exclusive. He is a “whosoever” kind of God. Anyone who is breathing has an opportunity to know Him and love Him. It’s the ones who are no longer breathing that have a problem that can’t be resolved if they didn’t know Him before they died. That dividing line is forever etched and can never be erased.

I know it seems rather harsh that God would allow that dividing line for eternity. God did not design eternity apart from Him. He wanted all His creation to be perfect, but sin interrupted the plan. God had a counter move that He put in place to resolve the sin issue. God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not die apart from Him (John 3:16 my paraphrase). God’s character is centered on love. But He also has a character based on justice and righteousness. These characteristics cannot be separated. It is who He is. Scripture tells the story and gives us insight to God’s character through the story.

Jesus told everyone that He is the representative of God – if you have seen me, then you have seen the Father (John 14:9-10) – I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Jews wanted to stone Jesus because of His words, not His actions. They saw the miracles, but they didn’t believe His words even though He backed His words with miracles.

You want to know another family secret? We are to become like Jesus. We are Jesus’ representatives while He is away. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to us – the family – so that we could become more like Him. The secret is this – we are more like Jesus when we love others – the ones like us and the ones outside the family. This love changes us and changes the world. The more love we express, the more love we feel from God. God’s love for us never changes. However, we can feel more loved when we love others. It’s the way we grow more like Jesus and fulfill our purpose – to love God and to love others – the two greatest commandments.

You see, it’s what we are designed to do. There is a hole in our soul that only God can fill. When that hole is filled with His love, we express it to others. Love overflows from that place that God fills. It’s like love bursts forth from us. We can’t stop loving others when that hole is properly filled. It has to be constantly filled though. Our salvation is a one shot deal – once saved always saved (if truly saved by confessing sin and believing in God’s one and only Son who saved us from that sin) – but the hole in our soul has to be looked after. If the hole is ever filled with something that is inferior to God’s love, it shows in our actions (or lack thereof).

A couple of years ago, I heard a message from Andy Stanley that speaks to this thing called love. His message was about this statement “what does love require of me?” What’s the loving thing to do? When we are faced with a situation where we don’t know what to do, Andy said this would be a defining question to bring resolution. We should always opt for the loving thing to do.

Living this out is a lifetime project. We will never get it right all the time. But if we do it consistently, we will continue to grow in our love for God and for others. And we know that God will work it out for our good and His glory. It’s part of the plan. I have shared family secrets so that we will all share this gift we’ve been given – not because of who we are, but whose we are. We know that we know. Let’s let them in on the secret.

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6

Express It Well

Many times as I listen to God’s Word through different channels, the same message will be repeated. This week’s message was about love. It seems I am in a new season of learning and I need to understand this important teaching. This same scripture came up over and over throughout the week – the lawyer questioned Jesus on the greatest commandment.

The text is found in Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34. The greatest commandment taken from Deuteronomy 6:5 says we are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” A similar text is found in Luke 10:25-37 called the Parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus simplifies the message about being a good neighbor and showing mercy to the one who has fallen. In the Gospel of John 13:34-35, Jesus said this about his disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

In Bob Goff’s new book Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People, he wrote that Jesus saw these two commands of loving God and loving others as “one inseparable mandate.” Bob mentions that we can’t really love God if we don’t love others that are put on our paths. God puts people in our lives to love. Difficult ones too. Bob mentions also that there is no school to learn these things expect for the next door neighbor. It’s a daily process of growing our love and expressing it well.

James MacDonald is in a sermon series called Vertical Living. His focused passage was on Matthew 22:37-40. He brought out the point that human beings are made in the image of God. The central characteristic of God is love. If we are made in His image, shouldn’t our central character be love as well? This is where sin came in and broke us. We don’t love well. However, when Jesus saves us from our sins, we are given His Spirit to help us love well. We are to grow in that capacity to love through His Spirit. We are to grow in loving God more and loving others more.

Pastor James brought out a point that I had never considered before. God made us all uniquely and we love uniquely. God doesn’t love us equally but uniquely. We are not clones in Christlikeness. We are different so why shouldn’t we love differently as well? We are to love God individually as He made us. I express my love differently than you do. I’m not a touchy, feely kind of person and you may be. But we are all supposed to grow in our capacity to love as we are made in His image. We are to express it well. It’s the only thing that will change our world.

When the Gospel message was just getting started, it was the love that the followers of Jesus showed to others that changed the world. When plagues broke out, the followers of Jesus stayed behind and cared for the sick. When babies were left on the side of the road, it was the Christ followers that picked them up and took them home as their own. They were different and people noticed. Shouldn’t it be the same today? Shouldn’t we be more like the Samaritan and show mercy?

Many have said that the Samaritan in the story is the image of Jesus and we are the ones who were beaten and left for dead. When Jesus found us in that condition, He stopped and helped us up so that we could help others in that same condition. We can love because Jesus loved us first. He came to us first. Because of His love, we too can love. We have all been given the capacity to love. We just need to demonstrate it more effectively.

Everyday we’re given an opportunity to love. This week, I didn’t do it very well. I had opportunities that I missed. I am learning to recognize these opportunities more and more but sometimes I mess up like this week. I am growing in my awareness so maybe next time I will do it better. Love is an expression. I need to express it more often in ways that it can be received more effectively. Forgive me when I don’t and show me mercy as I will do for you. Let’s get better at this, shall we? This is my season to love well. How about you?

I will leave with you the apostle Paul’s teaching on love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

One Day

God’s Word is an amazing mixture of stories. It is fascinating to me. Some of it I don’t understand – why God allowed certain things and in others, He judged harshly. There are reasons that we may never understand why God allows suffering and pain. There are reasons too that God will judge at the appropriate time. Some things have a season that has to be endured so that the time is right for God to intervene.

In the beginning, He formed a perfect place. He set the stars in their places and gave light to the darkness; separated the waters to form the sky. He set earth in a perfect place for life. He created boundaries for the water on the earth and the land to be fruitful. He made earth possibly to be a place for mankind to exist. Then on the last day, God made man. He made man with a free will so that humankind would have the choice to worship and honor God. It was a perfect place. Then sin entered the world. And what was perfect became corrupt.

Throughout the Old Testament, the stories seem dark and desperate. God allowed wickedness for a time then would intervene to stop the atrocities. He did it dramatically in Noah’s time with a flood that cleared the earth of such wickedness that it would not have been sustainable for the future of humankind. However, the flood didn’t kill wickedness.

Humankind was spared by one family unit. The family of Noah still had the seed of wickedness in their hearts. Noah’s son Ham dishonored his father and his father cursed Ham’s family line. The land of Canaan is from Ham’s family line – the land that would eventually be captured by the family line from Noah’s other son Shem.

Noah blessed his son Shem because he honored his father: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem” (Genesis 9:26). And God blessed Shem’s family line through Abraham – separated from the rest to be set aside for greater purpose. Abraham was the father of Isaac who fathered Jacob who was also known as Israel. Israel would become the nation hated throughout history. Why? What did they do wrong?

Well, they did everything wrong from the beginning, but so did everyone else around them. Wickedness still ruled in the hearts of humankind. One of the saddest lines in the Bible is found throughout the Book of Judges – “they did evil in the sight of the Lord.”

God had a plan from the very beginning – yes, sin entered the world – but God would intervene at the right time in history to bring about a way out of the sin problem through the son of Israel. The family line of Israel would one day produce an heir to the throne. Not just any throne, but the throne of God. Israel was set aside for this special purpose. The heir would be the greatest enemy of wickedness and wickedness could not let Israel succeed in bringing this heir to life. So from the day that God set Israel apart, wickedness has been trying to take this family line out of the picture. And many times, it looked like the enemy would win unless God intervened.

The Old Testament sets the stage for the New Testament. When Jesus came on the scene, wickedness was still reigning throughout the earth. However, Jesus changes the outcome of wickedness. Wickedness has a time frame. One day it will be put to death forever because of what Jesus did on the cross. He defeated it forever. Yes, it’s still here reigning strong. But one day, it will end. God will intervene once again and stop wickedness forever. Praise the Lord!

Yet, wickedness still reigns today. We still have to deal with all that is wicked in the world. Shootings will still happen – girls will still be enslaved for sex – young boys will still be radicalized for wickedness’ purpose to destroy God’s perfect plan. But one day, God will intervene.

There is a timetable. God’s still setting the stage for what’s to come. I just trust Him to intervene at the right time. I also trust God’s character. He is good and righteous and loving. What He does is right and good. It may not look to loving to let wickedness reign, suffering is still felt by all – we can’t escape it. God has a plan and it’s still in motion. The Books of the Bible tells us so. We are still living it out. But one day, God’s clock will tick the last second off and things will be different from then on. One day. The darkness will be gone forever and wickedness will be put to death forever. I trust God’s Word. And I love how the story ends. One day.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

“Look, I am coming soon!” Revelation 22:3-7a

Time is Coming

There have been certain Scriptures that have been on my mind recently. Because of the turmoil in the Middle East these days, these verses are on my mind. The first Scripture that comes to mind is from Isaiah 17:1:

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city
but will become a heap of ruins.”

I don’t want to wish people harm nor do I want to see destruction come; however, God’s Word said it will happen. The city of Damascus has been continuous; never seen destruction – ever. If you watch the news of late, things seem to be coming together where this prophecy could come true at any time. One of the prophecy guys that I listen to fairly frequently said his father said years ago to watch Syria for end time prophecies to begin to unfold. When things start to unravel in Syria, look up for the end is very near. Seems like that time is at hand.

Another Scripture on my mind comes from Psalm 83:

“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre. (verses 4-7)

Prophecy experts tell us this war from Psalm 83 has not taken place in history either. This could be a war that is referenced in Ezekiel 38 with Gog and Magog. I don’t know which war – if it’s the same war- when all these things take place; however, again, everything seems to be lining up for these things to happen. From what I understand, meetings are beginning to taking place with several Arab nations coming together to discuss the future of the Middle East.

Since the beginning of Israel’s history – when Abraham bore his first two sons, Ishmael (from Hagar) and Isaac (from Sarah), there has been a war brewing between these people. There has never been a peace between these two sons. God promised to bless both of these men with great numbers. Isaac is the son of promise though. It’s through Isaac that God made the covenant with Abraham. Genesis 17:19 “I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

However, God blessed Abraham’s son, Ishmael as well. Hagar was told “Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” The blessing this son received was nothing like the covenant that Isaac received. There is one sentence that summarizes the history of Ishmael’s family line found in Genesis 25:18 “And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them.” Do you see how history has played out and is still playing out?

There will never be peace between Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants. It just will not happen. After Sarah died, Abraham married Keturah and had six other sons (Genesis 25:1-3). I wonder if these nations that are prophesied in Psalm 83 that come against Israel descendants of Abraham’s other sons? Maybe. It looks like the time is coming when it will happen sooner rather than later.

When Isaac fathered twins, there was another prophecy set in motion. Genesis 25:23
The Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”

Again, these two sons were at odds with each other from the beginning – Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, and Esau. Jacob was given God’s covenant with Abraham. He was the son of the covenant. Israel’s people are still protected under God’s covenant today. They are still God’s people and they still bless all nations – whether the other nations realize it or not. God’s Word does not change. It’s still relevant for this day. It’s still being fulfilled in this day.

I guess what I am trying to point out here is that events are still unfolding in this story. God has a plan and it’s still moving forward toward the end. Peace will not happen no matter if there is a peace treaty signed. The sons of Abraham will never get along. When Jesus Christ returns, then peace will come upon this earth. But not until then. There will be wars and rumor of wars. Keep your eyes on Damascus. When it happens, do not be surprised by it.

There is so much more that I could write about what’s occurring in this day and time. Events are unfolding fast – Scripture says like a woman in labor – the birth pains are frequent and getting closer together and cannot be stopped once the labor has started. Remember who we are in Christ Jesus. We are people of the light and in Him we have nothing to fear. But also in Him we need to pray for others around us who do not know Him so they will not meet the future darkness that will descend. Let Paul’s word encourage you and wake up to what’s happening in this day and time. Times coming fast!

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, 8-9

Our Lifeline

Faith is the hinge to God’s promises. Without it, we cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).Without faith we will not see the miraculous happen. Without faith, we won’t see God’s hand at work; we won’t experience all God has for us. There will be no hope because faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith is one of my highest spiritual gifts on the gifts assessments tool. I don’t know if that means I have more faith than most or that I just take God at His word with greater frequency than most. I do believe God is who He says He is. I do believe God will do what He says He will do. At times, I need to be reminded. My faith starts to diminish and it needs a boost. I got that this week. I didn’t see anything happen that I have been praying for, but I read a book on Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala that put some air under my wings.

In the last chapter of the book, Jim mentioned that the battle of the Christian life is not only to believe but to keep on believing. It’s a struggle in this day and age to keep believing when society tells us otherwise. Society is a fickle thing. It changes constantly. What was fashionable yesterday may not be fashionable today. But God’s Word is a constant thing. You can stand on it with assurance that what God said is the Truth because God does not lie. Lies do not come from God but from the enemy of God – Satan – it’s Satan’s native tongue.

According to Jim, Satan’s target is to break down our faith – we are the righteous who live by faith. If Satan can cut that life line, then he has us right where he wants us. When we believe the Satan’s lies over the promises of God, we have committed the original sin. It’s what drove Adam and Eve out of fellowship with God. They believe Satan’s lie that they would not die when they ate of the forbidden fruit. Satan didn’t know everything, but he knew enough to drive a wedge between God and man. The wedge was doubt.

Faith is about the future. It’s the things we hope for and the things we do not yet see. The future is about God’s promises to us. It’s something we cannot prove, but we know it will come to pass just because God says so. Jim mentioned that the greatest tragedy of our lives is not the things that have happened to us, but “it’s the missed opportunities to see God help them, due to their unbelief.”

Joshua is a powerful example of a man with incredible faith. He was one of twelve who scouted out the Promised Land. He believed the Israelites could take the land because God said it was there’s already. God promised it. However, ten of the spies led the majority to believe the land was too hard to capture because the occupants of the land were too big and too strong. Everything the ten said about the land was true. However, they didn’t take into fact that God said it was a done deal already. They didn’t believe God. These same people went through the Dead Sea on dry land. They witnessed the miracles to get them to the edge of the Promised Land. And yet, they still didn’t believe God.

How many times do we also come to the edge of a promise when Satan whispers in our ears – it can’t be done? How many times do we believe the lies instead of the promise and the Promise Giver? I am reminded of the story of the man with the demon-possessed son who came to Jesus to ask if Jesus could drive this spirit out of his son. Jesus took exception to the phrase “if you can” and said everything is possible for one who believes. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

What seems impossible to us is nothing in comparison to all that God can do. It says in the very first line of the Bible – In the beginning God created… if we do not believe these first five words then we do not believe in a big God. We have brought Him down to our size and He can do nothing for us. It’s impossible for a small god to take care of our big problems. But if you believe those first words, then everything changes. We don’t have to rely upon society to dictate what we believe. We can stand on the promises of God. We can have a greater faith because before time began, God is the Creator God. Everything we see today is because of that first line… In the beginning God created. Then He breathed and the story began.

We are a part of the story. We are God’s workmanship and He completes all that He starts. Count on it. Stop the unbelief and believe God’s Word over Satan’s lies. Have discernment over what you hear – test it against God’s Word, does it hold up or fall apart? Faith is our lifeline especially in these trying times. Keep it fresh… keep it strong. And remember that God’s love is central to His character. Look to the cross for the evidence of that love for you. It’s there that all things come together and promises are fulfilled. Jesus said, “It is finished.” Victory has been won in every regard. Believe it.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:35-36

The Sabbath Rest

According to God’s Word, the Sabbath was to be observed by the Jewish community wherever they lived. No matter the circumstances, there were rules they were commanded to keep on the Sabbath. It was a day of rest. They couldn’t work; they couldn’t walk but a short distance. They were to keep the day holy. God set the time of the Sabbath on the seventh day – evening to evening – not when the sun rises but when it sets to the time of the next setting is a day. God created nothing on the seventh day. He rested and commanded His people to rest as well – to set it aside as a holy day.

God created humanity and everything we would need for food on the sixth day. I think it is quite fitting that Jesus would die on the sixth day; the day humanity was created. It just seems symbolic, doesn’t it? Jesus died for humanity on humanity’s day of creation. It all goes back to the very beginning when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. They believed the lie from God’s enemy over God’s word. The first sin. And Jesus died for that first sin and every sin thereafter.

But the Sabbath rest came at sundown. They wanted Jesus’ body down from the cross before the Sabbath came. They rushed to put Him in the grave before sundown. Then they rested. I bet it really wasn’t much of a rest. The disciples gathered in an upper room mourning the loss of their leader – the one who was supposed to save them from the Romans, or at least that was their expectation. They were disillusioned, disappointed, and grieving such a devastating loss. Yet, it was the Sabbath, a day set aside for holiness – contemplation and rest. I am sure they discussed what took place. I am sure they wondered what’s next – who’s next? They weren’t just up in a room contemplating; they were in that room hiding from the ones who would come after them.

Their sorrow was great; but Peter’s sorrow was greater. He denied Jesus. He let Jesus down or at least, he let himself down. Jesus knew what was going to happen. Jesus wasn’t disappointed in Peter; he expected Peter to act that way. I would think that Jesus was sad that Peter denied Him, but not disappointed. Jesus also knew who all these things would be resolved. Jesus would return. Jesus would reinstate Peter as the leader of the movement in a few days time. But in the meantime, Peter and the others didn’t know all this would be resolved.

On this Sabbath rest, they saw nothing of the future even though Jesus told them the future. Jesus taught them all that would occur. Jesus said He would rise again. Jesus said that Peter was the rock that would build His church. They had a future, but they couldn’t see it on that Sabbath. They thought it was the end when it was truly the beginning. Something far greater was going to occur in just a few hours time when everything would change again. Victory would rise up. Sin was defeated by the blood of the Lamb.

We look back in ancient times when the Jewish people had to sacrifice a lamb to take away their sins to find that Jesus was that Lamb. God spoke to the prophets to record these things so that we could see the thread throughout history. Passover was an observance of killing the lamb, placing the blood on the doorposts of the house so that the death angel would pass over that house. It was in the land of Egypt before the deliverance of God’s people. The Passover lamb was slaughtered; the blood was shed to cover the people in that house. They didn’t have to fear death, because the blood covered them. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice – the Lamb that was slain to defeat death so that we would no longer fear death. He would save us from our sins through His sacrifice and His blood offering.

The Bible is full of threads that Jesus will one day fulfill completely. He is the Word of God come to life. In Him all things will be complete. God said it. We are to believe it. And Jesus will bring it to completion because He always fulfills what He started. It is done when He says it’s done. Today is the day we contemplate all that Jesus has done and will do.

This is the day set aside for holiness and the anticipation of things to come. Victory has been won. The blood of the Lamb says so. It is finished; rise up in victory and praise the Lord! We might not see everything right now. Like the disciples, we are still wondering what will happen next; but we haven’t seen the end yet. It’s still only the beginning of greater things to come!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14

Golden Opportunity

Jesus stopped and called them, “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. This question is found in Matthew 20:32 and Mark 10:51. Jesus was walking out of the city of Jericho when he passed by two blind men who were begging by the side of the road. Mark names one of the men as Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46). The blind men called out to Jesus asking for His mercy. Everyone around the two men rebuked them, but they called out even louder. Then Jesus stopped. He wanted to know what these men really wanted from Him. Was it a few coins? Did they have a pressing need greater than the obvious? They had to verbalize their need to Him. They wanted to see.

Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on them. He recognized their faith and touched their eyes. Matthew records the healing as immediately they received their sight. Immediately. Isn’t that one of the best words you could read? Wouldn’t it be great to have an immediate answer? I’m sure the blind men had been begging for years. But the minute that Jesus crossed their path, they saw their opportunity to act on His mercy. And they asked Him for their greatest need to be met. They knew what they wanted from Him. Immediately.

They must have heard stories about Jesus before this day because when He was coming their way, they shouted out “Son of David.” They recognized Jesus for who He was. This wasn’t just any one. This was the Promised One. They may have been physically blind, but they were more able to see than the Pharisees who never recognized Jesus for who He was. Immediately, they were healed because of their faith in the Promised One.

Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem when He came upon these blind beggars. It would be the final time He would travel that way. There would be no more opportunities for these men if they hadn’t acted when they did. Jesus was on the way to the cross. By the end of the week, everything would be different. No more opportunities for Jesus to touch these men or any other. This was it. Did the men know this was their golden opportunity? No. None of the people in the crowd that day knew what waited just a few days away. This was the last week in the life of Jesus – in the flesh.

We just never know when we have that last opportunity or our own golden opportunity; when we should have acted but didn’t. Maybe we don’t know what we really want and failed to see the opportunity when it came along. If Jesus asked us the same question, how would we answer? Do we really understand the implications of not knowing our greatest need? Probably not. It could be the greatest need that could have the greatest impact on this generation for the glory of God.

God often does more than we request – greater than we can imagine – when our hearts are aligned with His. Psalm 37:4 says delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Alignment comes first. If God hasn’t answered our prayers yet, maybe it’s a heart problem that is being corrected before the answer comes. Maybe we have the wrong motivation or the wrong request, or maybe things just haven’t lined up on God’s timetable.

The blind men might have been on that roadside for years, but one day they were at the right place at the right time for a Jesus encounter that changed their lives. They were ready when Jesus came to that place. We need to be ready too. We too will have divine encounters. We need to know what we really want. We need to know it within our souls that this is an encounter we cannot afford to miss. Grab it and let God do something amazing in it. Don’t miss the opportunity. It could be a one shot deal. We may never pass this way again.

Have you heard about this Jesus? Do you know Him for who He really is? The blind men knew Him and received their healing. Once healed, they praised Him; but they also joined Him on the journey. Whatever God is leading you to, don’t waste the opportunity – it could have an immediate effect on you and your world. This is our time to meet Jesus on the road to where He is going. Join Him on the journey. Delight in Him and you will be amazed by what you finally see.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:8-10a

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