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God’s Equality

The other day, a man was arrested for sharing the Good News. Of course, he doesn’t live here in this country. He lives in a predominately Muslim country so he is in a very bad situation. His family may be targeted next. He and his family need a miracle. It seems so foreign to me because of where I live; I can’t imagine that people all over the world have the same kind of risk when sharing the Gospel message.

There are women all over this world who are looked down upon because of their gender – not their skin color, but gender. They can’t walk on the streets without their husbands or brother or father with them. Even then, the men walk ahead of them. They can’t vote or even drive a car. They have no rights when it comes to civil affairs. Again, this is just so foreign to me that I can’t imagine a time when I couldn’t go where I wanted and do anything (within reason) I wanted to do.

We see in ancient times the same thing happened – women were second class citizens. It wasn’t until Jesus came along when He elevated them to equal standing before His Father. When the woman who was caught in adultery was brought before Jesus (the man wasn’t accused of the same act), everybody expected Jesus to accuse her and stone her – it was the law in that day. However, Jesus said that the man who had not sinned could throw the first stone. One after another left that day, because the only one who could actually condemn her would not do so – Jesus was the only one who had never sinned, yet He did not pick up a stone. He said in John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” It was His right to do so, but He chose another way.

Women were counted among those who were in Jesus’ circle of influence. Many women were acknowledged for helping support the disciples in their work. After Jesus was resurrected, Jesus appeared to the women first. They came to anoint His body with oil as they do for all dead people. But Jesus wasn’t in the grave. He appeared to them outside the grave, alive and glorified. The stone was rolled away; there was nothing left to hinder their approach to Him. The door had been opened to a greater role for women to play in God’s plan along with every man of every color and nationality.

However, I have come to the conclusion that life on earth isn’t fair in any shape or form. Skin color, economic status, background, sexual or verbal abuse in the home, or sexual orientation; there are many different shapes to an unfair disadvantage. However, I am told through the Gospel message that everyone is equal in the eyes of God – Jesus came for us all.

The cross of Jesus is on level ground. We have either received the grace of God by Jesus’ death and resurrection or not. Doesn’t matter of nationality or gender, we are all one in Him if we have received the grace. We are brothers and sisters of the same family – there are no grandchildren, just children of God. We all have a role to play in the family – with no hierarchy to it; every role is important. That’s pretty special!

This “take a knee” for the anthem doesn’t upset me like some. Of course, I haven’t served our country and risked my life for the freedoms I enjoy. I recognize the importance of the good that this country has done through the years. The sacrifice of all who have served throughout the years to give me a right to freedom of speech and the fearlessness of being a believer in this country; to keep us all safe from those who would destroy us if given the opportunity. This country as great as it is, is not my first citizenship – my first citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. My knees hit the ground for Him alone. I am His disciple.

I will stand for an anthem because it’s a respect for those who came before me and for all the rights and privileges I enjoy today because of where I live out this earthly presence. But one day, we will all come to a place of understanding – this is not our home. This is just a journey through until we one day will stand in the Promised Land – a land so rich and beautiful that we can’t even imagine; where streets are paved with gold and waters flow from a throne. And we will all stand before that throne. One day, everything will be equal at that throne. In the meantime, let’s pray for one another and encourage one another. Life is tough for many right now. We have a great God who listens to the prayers of His children. He will meet every need as we lift them up together. Let’s stand together – united as one in Him!

I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing:

Salvation to our God on his Throne!
Salvation to the Lamb!

All who were standing around the Throne—Angels, Elders, Animals—fell on their faces before the Throne and worshiped God, singing:

Oh, Yes!
The blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving,
The honor and power and strength,
To our God forever and ever and ever!
Oh, Yes! Revelation 7:9-12 (MSG)

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Preparing the Way

As we contemplate Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, I want to draw your attention to the waiting time. Have you ever noticed when God gives a promise, it usually doesn’t happen right away? Abraham and Sarah waited twenty-five years before the promised child arrived. Noah had to wait 120 years before the first raindrop fell. The Israelites lived in the land of Egypt for over 400 years before they got sick and tired of being oppressed by their slave masters and cried out to God for deliverance. God waited forty years for Moses to be ready to lead the people out of Egypt. Once they were led out, it took forty years before they took possession of the Promised Land.

From religious scholars we are told that it was 400 years of silence from the last Old Testament Prophet until the voice of the Lord spoke to Zechariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist. A baby would be born to Zechariah and Elizabeth to prepare the way for the Lord fulfilling prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus. The Old Testament prophets prophesied the birth of Jesus and the anticipation grew year after year. But when He arrived on the scene, only a few recognized Him as God’s promised One. It was foretold about His death and His resurrection, but again, no one understood what this would represent to all of humanity. The promise was fulfilled and the sting of death would be removed for all who believe. Promise after promise – and it all came true.

God is faithful in His promises. The silence though is unnerving to us. It erodes our confidence. It causes doubt to arise in us. Did we really hear from God? Noah built a boat on dry land! Abraham and Sarah decided God meant something else; after all she was in her sixties when the promise of a son was given to them. So they took matters into their own hands to fulfill God’s promise to them. But that was not the promised child. God said what He meant. Elizabeth too had a promise of a birth in her old age. Really? This makes no sense to us; yet, God is faithful to fulfill His promises in His time for His reason and in His way.

Then there’s the birth, life, ministry of Jesus written for all of us to read and believe. Prophecies are meant to be fulfilled in God’s will, in God’s way and in God’s time. And we still wait on the fulfillment of more prophecies to come. The Bible is full of promise. It’s full of hope. We are told that Jesus will return one day and receive the church – His bride. And we wait. Like the people of old who didn’t recognize their Messiah, will we lose sight of the promise? After such a long wait, generation after generation; complacency and doubt sets in. God has taken forever to send the promise, maybe He’s forgotten. But we know that’s not true. To God, a thousand years is like a day. His timetable is not ours.

Every time we are waiting for fulfillment, God is still at work. God continues to move things in place in order for everything to be right for the promise to be fulfilled. During the 400 years of silence, the language had to be common throughout the known world; roads had to be built for easier travel; military peace was given throughout the land to make the way for the Word to travel when the time came. God was busy preparing the way. I believe He is still preparing the way for the next event in His eternal plan.

It may seem God is slow in fulfilling His promises. We may have to build a large boat. Or we may have to live in the desert to grow to our potential for God’s purpose. Or there maybe roads that need to be built or nations that need to be lined up to God’s plan. God is always working, even when we hear nothing but silence. Maybe the silence is for us too. Maybe He is preparing our hearts for the promise to be received. Maybe there’s a reason that we cannot fathom right now, but we can be confident in our God – He always comes through – no matter what. His will, His ways and in His time. Just look to the cross of Jesus as proof. He is faithful and He loves you beyond any reason. Count on it and trust Him to fulfill His Word to you. No matter what you’re waiting on; if you have a promise from God, He will fulfill it. And we can count on Jesus coming back. Are you prepared to meet Him?

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 2 Peter 3:14-15a (NLT)

Proper Understanding

Question: “What is the chief end of man?” Answer: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I read that in a book by John Piper (Let the Nations Be Glad) yesterday morning. I have heard this saying some time ago but it hit me fresh again as I began to read in chapter one. In the first chapter, John Piper gives the case of God’s glory as the foundation for our worship. Scripture after scripture, he reminds the reader that throughout the Bible it’s about God’s glory. He said that God’s goal is “to uphold and display the glory of his name.” I think we’ve forgotten how to truly be in awe of God.

In generations past, they had a different view of God. I think it’s been just a century of prosperity that we have displaced God’s glory with our own. We worship the wrong things and the wrong people. We truly don’t worship God in the manner we should. I witness the subdued attitude when we gather together to worship and notice the difference at a basketball or football game. I’m no better at worship either. There may be a time or two of hand-raising and a few tears, but are our hearts truly worshipping God in the right manner?

In our prosperity, we’ve lost something fundamental in our view of God. Most of us can get by without God. We don’t need Him as society once did. Our needs are met without much thought to how we get what we have – we’ve earned it ourselves. We’ve done it all ourselves or at least that’s the perception. That was the way I thought for many of my early career years. Everything though comes from God. We get nothing on our own. It’s all by the grace of God.

There is an identity crisis in this land. We don’t know who we are, and we have no idea who God truly is. First, if Jesus is our Lord and Savior; then we have a new identity. We have been adopted into God’s family. We are heirs with Christ. We have His righteousness. Jesus traded our filthy rags for His cloak of righteousness. We have been set free from the bondage of sin. We are secure in our knowledge of our eternal home. Jesus provided our new identity by His death and resurrection. Not because of our goodness, but because of His.

There isn’t anything that we could have done to make our place secure; it’s a gift. We have a position in God’s family based on Jesus and not our performance. There is nothing we can do to earn His favor. And in this gift of salvation, we are complete; we lack nothing. Complete but unfinished. There is work that still needs to be done in us. Every now and then, I get a thought of what I could have been if not for the fact that Jesus pursued me and changed my life. Those are the times when I truly worship God.

Every now and then, I also get a glimpse of the greatness and glory of God. Louie Giglio has a message on YouTube called Indescribable. I found it last week and watched the different pictures of the universe – the vastness, the beautiful images of the known universe – flash on the screen. He said that we should remember that God holds all of it in His hands. We are this one little speck on this one little planet in the vastness of what God has made. Pastor Louie said that he wasn’t trying to make us feel small, but to remind us that we are small. And yet, God watches over us with the love of a Father. His eye is on us.

Paul wrote out a prayer for the saints in Ephesus to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ; to know this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled with the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18,19). I think we miss this understanding. Maybe its head knowledge, but I don’t think we have grasped the heart knowledge of how true this really is. When we finally have a proper understanding of who God is and what He has done, then I think we will truly worship Him in the proper manner. God is Creator – the known universe testifies to His glory. God has created us for a personal relationship with Him that we may glorify Him and worship Him – the one true God. We are made in His likeness so that we can glorify Him through our lives.

Do you understand who you are and your purpose? I think I am finally coming to my own revelation. I hope you do as well. Let it be said of us – we know how to worship God because of our love for Him.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

Examine the Evidence

In Matthew 16, Jesus posed the question to His disciples. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” These were dead men who the people believed had come back to life as Jesus. But Jesus turned the question to His disciples. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Was Jesus having an identity crisis or was He just trying to determine their foundation of belief? Were they getting to the truth yet? Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” After living with Jesus for a few years, they finally understood!

So the question is now posed to us, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Some would say Jesus was a good man. Some would say He was a prophet. Some would say He’s a myth; someone designed a religion around this mythical character. But we all have to wrestle with this question because it is foundational to how we live our lives. Let’s examine the evidence for the case of Jesus. Pastor Louie Giglio said in a message recently, “Investigation brings revelation, and we will come to know the reality of Jesus.”

Jesus said He is God – the great I AM. In John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus did not die because of the things He did, but what He said about Himself. The Jewish leaders accused Him of blasphemy because of His claim to be God. Jesus claimed it and as proof did miraculous things. Whatever He claimed He backed up with His works. The biblical accounts of Jesus found in the Gospels attest to these works. These were eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life. The disciples point to Jesus by the way they lived after His death. Something happened that changed their fortitude. At the death of Jesus, they were afraid – hiding from the Jewish leaders fearing that they would be next. However, when Jesus – who claimed that He would die and rise again – did what He said He would do, everything changed.

Jesus was seen after His death. The disciples became empowered by the Truth. The foundation of their beliefs was realized in that moment when they could touch Him and see the nail scars in His hands and feet. It has been noted by historians that each disciple died because of what they believed. They could have recanted and lived; but they died because they knew the truth. John was the only disciple who lived to be an old man. But it wasn’t for the lack of trying to kill him. Many attempts were made, but God allowed him to live so that he could give the revelation of things to come.

But if you don’t believe the Bible, is there other proof of Jesus’ existence? What do we have to point to Jesus’ life – that He was real? Pastor Louie pointed to the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. It was discovered in Egypt and was dated from 186 B.C. If nothing else, there is a break in history: Before Christ and After Christ. There were many historians from that time period noted the significance of the events that changed people’s lives. Josephus is one of the main historians of that era that notes the Christian religion. There were others too. There was something different about these Christian people.

Pastor Louie noted from Josh McDowell and C.S. Lewis that there were three ways to consider Jesus – he was a liar; he was a lunatic or He is Lord. One of these is the truth, and we have to determine by the evidence given by Jesus’ claims; His actions about His claims; by historical evidence of these accounts; and by changed lives of those who believe. This is foundation truth that will change how we live.

If Jesus is Lord, then that changes everything. Our circumstances can be seen through that lens. If Jesus brings something into our lives, then it is for a purpose. We are told to endure it because it will strengthen our faith. It will give us greater understanding of Jesus’ character during those trials. We can believe what Jesus said about Himself because He proved it on the cross. He loved us enough to die for us and give us eternal life if we just believe He is who He says He is. Examine the evidence and settle the issue in your heart. There is no greater time than in the present. Investigation brings revelation. Settle the matter and live as you believe it is true.

The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”

He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Luke 4:17-20 (NLT)

The Message of Hope

On Sunday, we had a guest speaker deliver a message about hope. He is a person on a life-long mission to deliver hope to the world. He has visited many countries around the world and has many stories to tell of the adventure of delivering hope to the hopeless. He wrote a book which was sold on Sunday. But the book wasn’t to provide for his financial gain. Matter of fact, he was going to give the book away, but my pastor said the money would be donated to provide Bibles to a people in a closed nation. The opportunity has arisen to send one million Bibles to this closed nation, so we were tasked with filling one freight container filled with boxes of Bibles.

I am reminded every now and then how privilege we are in this country. I have grown up with a Bible in my hand. I was given my first copy as a baby at dedication Sunday. Throughout the years, I have owned many different translations. For much of my life, my Bible sat on my shelf unread. At first, it wasn’t very easy to understand. There were too many “thees” and “thous” and such. Secondly, it made no sense to me.

There were many things that just seemed wrong – all the people who were wiped out so that Israel could have their Promised Land. The teachings too seemed wrong for this day and time. A woman’s role is taught to be submissive – I grew up with “woman power” and burning bras – being empowered to do anything we set our mind to. It just seemed wrong. However, what was wrong was my reasoning. I viewed the Word through my “worldly” perspective and not through God’s eyes. God actually elevated women from a man’s property to being man’s helper. God used women throughout history just as He did with men. And we’re all equal in God’s eyes.

The things that I questioned in the past were by my own standards – what I thought was right by my own reasoning. But that’s not the right interpretation. God’s Word is God’s word. It is right in all circumstances; for the past, the present and the future. It never changes, and it stands forever. Sure, it was writing in a time when things were vastly different from today. But its life-giving message stands forever.

Written over a period of 1600 years by many different writers but it is the same message throughout. It is the story of God’s pursuit of man and His extent to redeem mankind from the eternal destiny apart from Him. We all stand condemn until a Savior has risen to redeem us to eternal glory with God in heaven. In God’s eyes, we are the same – lost until we find redemption through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is the message of hope. God wants no one to die apart from Him. But many do – either because they have never heard this word of hope or they have rejected it because of their wrong reasoning.

Since my time in the Word has grown deeper, there are many passages that stand out to me. One of those is the passage where Philip takes a trip down a desert road to find a eunuch from Ethiopia studying God’s Word (found in Acts 8). The Holy Spirit led Philip to a man who needed help to understand what he read. As Philip explained to the eunuch a message of hope through Jesus Christ, Philip essentially opened up God’s Word to a nation. Because all it takes is one person to change their perspective, and they will share the message with others. That’s the power of hope. It’s meant to be shared.

After Sunday, I realized what a difference we can make by giving God’s Word to someone who needs hope. It is a treasure. And it should be seen as such. I hope I will never take it for granted anymore. There are many pastors throughout the world who do not even have a full copy of the Word. There are stories of people passing around bits and pieces to share and memorize before passing it along to others. It amazes me the lengths to which many will go to obtain a copy. I have read story after story about people who were desperate for a copy of a Bible to receive it in unusual ways – all by the hand of God. God’s Word is a treasure we need to remember and appreciate, but most of all, we need to read it and share it. It is the message of hope for a hopeless world.

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) Romans 8:23-25 (NLT)

The Mini Meltdown

For the last month or so, I have been praying for a miracle. I had in mind that it should happen around Friday (due to my immediate needs). It didn’t happen. The enemy had a field day with me. I gave him every opportunity to attack me when I was vulnerable. My physical appearance didn’t change, but my emotionally charged inner child ranted and raved at God. I am so glad we serve a patient God. God let me have my say without striking down with an angered response (which He had every right to). My feelings were hurt. I was greatly disappointed. Why hasn’t He directed me out of my circumstances? Why am I still waiting for something to happen? What am I waiting on? I thought God was in this with me. But for the life of me, I don’t understand why I am in the mess I’m in. I thought I was doing what I was called to do. I thought I had been obedient. On and on; tears rolling; red eyes swollen. I just couldn’t get past it. I was stuck in that place.

Friday night, I sat down to eat my supper and tuned into one of my favorite websites for a short word on whatever the topic of the day was. I listened to Monday’s broadcast because that was the only one that really interested me. The topic was about a woman’s story of how she moved to Haiti because of God’s direction. Her story was pretty amazing… again God you did it for her, why not me? Blah, blah, blah. Pity party of one, this way please! After finishing my meal, out of the blue, one of my friends called me. She normally doesn’t call often, but on this night she felt led to do so. With her call, I got out of myself and focused on someone else’s life. We caught up on the details with one another and called it a night. When I laid down that night I was still upset about my circumstances.

I woke up once during the night, and still had the events on my mind. I got up from my bed to write a letter to get out the anger, the hurt and all the things that had welled up within. In the morning, I was feeling a bit better. I began my quiet time with an apology to God for my mini-meltdown. I opened the Word and began to listen as I read. Now that I was ready to hear, three things were brought to my attention.

First off – when I was watching the video on Friday night, the woman kept repeating this phrase “God was telling her she was not alone in her circumstances.” God reminded me that this was true for me as well. I noticed her using the phrase a couple of times, but didn’t internalize it until Saturday morning. He also reminded me of my friend’s call. Sometimes I feel so alone. My Mom used to say she didn’t have any friends, but she had so many friends who truly believed she was their best friend. It’s hard to resist the lies of the enemy when we are in that pit of despair.

Second. I began to read about contentment from Beth Moore’s commentary in the “Voices of the Faithful” for August. She wrote “Contentment has little to do with what we have or lack. It is a state of mind.” She went on to write about Paul’s explanation of contentment found in Philippians. “Paul explained that Christ had used circumstances to disciple Paul in the art of contentment. Discovering the power and the presence of Christ in every circumstance was the secret.” I am okay with my circumstances most of the time. Friday was the exception not the rule. I was disappointed. I was frustrated. And I was acting out in my flesh. God is working in my current circumstances for a greater work in me. God is working to grow me up.

The last thing that was brought to my attention was from Charles Stanley’s monthly devotion for Saturday’s reading. Again, he pointed to Paul and Philippians. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. The letter is full of rejoicing and praising God. Each sentence in this devotional was like God speaking into my heart every word on that page. The direction was to “focus on Christ instead of the circumstances – God will comfort your heart and bring you safely through the trial.” Dr. Stanley mentioned that focusing on Christ is neither a natural reaction nor an easy one. He said to dwell on His provision (even when we don’t see it) and care instead (even when we feel alone). Believe in God’s character – which never changes. All it takes is a glimmer of hope to get out of the pit of despair.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

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