Archive for the ‘Biblical insight’ Category

God’s plan foresaw man’s sin and separation from Him. In fact I’m starting to see more and more that the fall of man is exactly what had to happen in order to fix us in God. We have to experience a brief separation in order to be prepared for an eternal union.

Immediately after Adam sinned God went searching for him. He went searching for him, not to punish or destroy him, rather to restore him. You see God already knew he/we would fail to live up to His perfect standards; so His plan of redemption was already in place even before the fall. Jesus is “The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, right?”

In the Apostle Paul’s brief letter to Philemon he tells him his runaway slave Onesimus has been born again and how much of an asset he has been to him. In fact even though he is still considered Philemon’s slave; Paul asks him to receive him back as a brother in the Lord. As I read this short letter verses 15 & 16 seemed to light up to me. Paul said, “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

Did you notice how he said he had been separated for a while so he might have him back forever? There it is! This statement suddenly took on a broader meaning. You see Adam, and we in him, became God’s run away slaves. But thanks to Jesus Christ, and what He has done on the cross, we, like Onesimus can be born-again and return to our rightful owner. Then our brief separation will actually lead to God keeping us forever.

This idea of being separated for a while in order to fix us in our union with God is a principle throughout the scriptures. You see it in the story Jesus told of the prodigal son. The son took off with what the Father had given him and spent it foolishly, ended up in poverty and desperation, only to return home and find his father waiting with open arms. Not only did the father have open arms he gave this once foolish son the keys to everything he owned. You see once he had attempted to live separated from the Father, and had finally come to his senses, he could be fully trusted. This is what is being said by the Father giving him the shoes, robe and ring. This is the father fully trusting the son with all he owns.

In chapter eight of the letter to the Romans Paul makes this statement, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” So you see the fall of man is part of the plan. God knows the only way to make us “safe sons” is for us to give life a go on our own first. It’s risky but God thinks it’s worth it.

This also shines a bit of light on the purpose of the enemy. You see without Lucifer’s fall, and his enticing the human race to join him, we wouldn’t be lead astray. If we wouldn’t have been lead astray we wouldn’t have discovered the “vanity” or “meaninglessness” of existence without God. So, ultimately I guess what I’m saying is the devil is still God’s devil and he actually fits into God’s overall plan pretty well but many can’t quite see it yet.

Louie

There are many, many people who say, “Family is number one!” For the most part they’re probably correct but is there ever a time when this isn’t true?

When you’re talking about Jesus you’re talking about priorities and if your family isn’t on the same page as you and Jesus there is going to be trouble. Did you know Jesus’ own family thought He was crazy? The scribes thought He was possessed by a demon. They did. In Mark 3 there was such a large crowd gathered around Jesus; He and His disciples couldn’t even eat. When His own family heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.” It seems His family thought He needed to be rescued because He had lost His mind. Has your family treated you like you have your priorities out of order or thought you were a bit touched in the head because of Jesus?

I think we would all agree that Jesus said some very startling things during His brief three year ministry. Perhaps some of His most alarming statements were about the family. In Matthew 10:34-39 He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against His father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” Wow! If you aren’t seeing this in the Spirit you too might think Jesus was losing His mind wouldn’t you?

When it comes to Jesus we are forced to make a decision. He doesn’t give us the option to say, “Oh Jesus, He’s okay.” No! We have to see Him as number one even when it comes to our families. Of course there are times when the family sees what we’re doing and doesn’t think it is what Jesus is calling us to do so that’s when we have to be clear. There will be occasions when we are being called to decide between Jesus and our earthly family and it doesn’t always go well.

Another instance, as recorded in Matthew 12, when Jesus was teaching to crowds of people His mother and siblings wanted to speak with Him. Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You. But Jesus said, “Who is My mother and who are my brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” According to Jesus our new Spirit bloodline trumps our natural, earthly bloodline.

If you think about it throughout the Old Testament things were no different. Even from the beginning, Cain and Abel had conflict over worship and what God required of them. Ishmael and Isaac’s whole life seemed to be marked by division over which was the promised son. Esau and Jacob had quite the rift over who would get the Father’s blessing. Joseph and his brothers had a contentious relationship, to say the least, all based on God’s call on Joseph’s life. So we see when it comes to living the life God has called us to live we are bound to have opposition even among our very own earthly family. When it comes right down to it those are the moments when we see who truly is Lord in our lives. Who are we going to bow down to? Are we going to do what we know God is calling us to do or are we going to take what seems like the less bumpy road of trying to please our families? As for me and my house we are going to serve the Lord!

Louie

When an important event takes place one thing you want to have is an eyewitness account. Someone telling you what someone else saw is good, but a first hand account is even better. This is exactly what we have in the Bible.

In Matthew 17 we have an event recorded in which only three people were witnesses. Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to the top of a high mountain and was transfigured before them. We are told “His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.” The term transfigured comes from the Greek word “metamorphoo” which is defined as “to transform, changed, transfigure, transform.” In other words Jesus was unveiled before them and what He truly is was revealed to them. He lifted the covering off of His humanity and gave them a glimpse of Himself in His true glorious state. I guess you could say His inner man out-shined the outer covering.

Not only did Jesus shine like the sun Moses and Elijah appeared to them, and talked with Him. So Peter, James and John saw this with their own eyes and Peter suggested that they camp there. He said, “It is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While staying there may sound good let’s look at what’s really going on here. Peter seems to be implying that Moses and Elijah are on equal ground with Jesus, as if they all three deserve the same honor. In a sense this seems logical because to Peter, a Jew, Moses and Elijah were like superhero’s. To the Jew they loomed large in their heritage and were, in fact, mighty men of faith deserving recognition but not on the same level with Jesus.

Just when Peter started drafting the plans for his temple building project, God himself intervened. A voice out of a bright cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Of course this terrified the men but Jesus comforted them saying, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” When they opened their eyes they saw no one except Jesus! This of course is God’s whole point. We must fix our eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.

As I thought about these things the importance of eye-witness testimony came to me. Jesus told them “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” The good news is they did tell it when the time was right. In the New Testament we have the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John but we also have the letters of 1,2 and 3 John and 1 and 2nd Peter and James. Isn’t it interesting that these are the three men who accompanied Jesus on the mountain that day? While there has been endless debate over what books should be included in the Bible I for one would prefer first-hand eyewitness accounts wouldn’t you?

John made sure to tell us he was an eye-witness. He looked at, touched and heard first-hand who Jesus is and what He said and did; so you can trust Him. In 1st John he wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life–and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write so that our joy may be made complete.”

In Peter’s second letter he wrote, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased”–and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

Someone might say, “What about the Apostle Paul?” Well, I’m glad you asked let’s look for a minute at Acts chapter nine. The Apostle Paul’s conversion story makes it clear that he saw and heard from a resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ too. We read, “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice…” Sounds very similar to Peter, James and John’s experience on the mountain doesn’t it?

So you might say, “What does that have to do with me?” It has everything to do with you because God doesn’t give us the option to remain undecided when it comes to Jesus. Based on the eye-witness testimony, I for one have made my decision and am trusting that Jesus Christ is who these men say He is. I ask that you too look at the evidence and come to your own conclusion on the matter. I believe you will also come to see Jesus Christ is the One and Only Begotten Son of God who gave His life as a ransom for many. Put your faith in Him today; you will never regret it.

Louie

Throughout the Old Testament God says, “Stand still and know that I am God!” At the Red Sea Moses said, “Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today” (Exodus 14:13). On another occasion a couple men came to Moses and inquired whether or not they could observe Passover or not because they had become defiled because of a dead man. Moses’ response was “Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you” (Numbers 9:6-8). Yet another time, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20, we read of King Jehoshaphat facing a great multitude and inquiring of God as to what he should do. Jehoshaphat said, “O our God, will you not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that comes against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). God’s responded saying, “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God'” (v.15). Then He told them “You shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand you still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you…” (v. 17).

It seems one thing most of us have in common is we think when we’re faced with something we must act! There are plenty of people who have the attitude, well, we have to do something, even if it’s wrong. According to these scriptures our temptation to “do something” just may be from the enemy. We have to learn how to wait for God’s direction.

The Bible tells us immediately after Jesus was baptized He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. There are many, many different teachings on these three temptations but they have one thing in common. Everyone of them was a temptation for Jesus to act for His own sake. Turn stones into bread…you are hungry, right? Jump off the pinnacle of the temple…God won’t allow anything to happen if you’re the Son of God. In other words take matters into your own hands here. Then finally worship me and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world. Satan essentially was trying to get Jesus to act as if He was independent from the Father or take matters into His own hands.

One of the enemy’s tricks is to get us to act on “our own.” If he can get us to move without consulting God chances are he’s got us. Even right up to Jesus’ death on the cross the enemy was attempting to get Him to act independently. The crowd yelled “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him”  (Matthew 27:40 & 42).

After Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection He appeared to His disciples and told them to stay in Jerusalem and “wait for the promise of the Father…(Acts 1:4). This of course was the promise of the Holy Spirit who Jesus would lead them into all truth, comfort them and remind them of things He had told them. So we can trust God to direct us but it just may be at times He doesn’t appear to be in as big a hurry as we are. Do you remember how Martha and Mary responded when their brother Lazarus died? Martha said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Then Mary said the same thing. To them in that moment it seemed as if Jesus really didn’t care about Lazarus. I mean if He did wouldn’t He have done something?

While the watching world may look at Christians sometimes and think we should do something. Could it be that standing still is doing something? Could it be that God is wanting us to wait and trust Him? Maybe He’s going to show us the answer with less energy spent rather than more. Think of it like this; did you ever see Jesus in a panic? While there were times when others misunderstood and it may have even appeared as if He was uninterested in the end He always came through. I am believing this Jesus who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) won’t let us down either.

Louie

 

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

There are those who always seem to be busy. They are always in a rush to get where they are going and never seem to have any time to enjoy their life. Some of this may be caused simply by overextending themselves such as agreeing to do too many things at once. Another reason may be that they are attempting to accomplish more than they are called to do, but whatever the cause busyness is one way in which we feel important. I mean if we’re busy it means we are in demand; and if we are in demand it must mean we are important, and if we aren’t then we must not be important, and we simply can’t have that.

Whenever talk of busyness comes up I remember Jesus’ time as a guest in the house of Mary and Martha. Most of us know the story so let me just say, “Martha was busy about many things while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet.” This seeming laziness on Mary’s part sent the busy Martha into a tailspin; so she told Jesus ,”Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” Jesus’ answer probably surprised Martha when He said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:40-42).

You see being a servant is what we are called to be but when our time serving turns into busyness for busyness’ sake it becomes wasteful. Jesus didn’t tell Martha serving was unimportant; He simply pointed out what Mary was doing, by sitting at His feet, was the most important. Oddly enough God has a way of taking what we give Him and multiplying it. So for me the lesson here is clear. If we see our time with Christ as the most important time spent the rest will fall into place.

Throughout the Bible we are called to rest. From the very beginning God gave us the Sabbath for us to rest. Jesus himself invites us to come to Him for rest, and again in the letter to the Hebrews we are told to “labor to enter into His rest” (Hebrews 4:11). Of course this doesn’t mean we spend our lives swinging in a hammock at the beach, even though that sounds pretty good to me, but it means we cease from “Our own works” and enter into God’s rest. When we enter into God’s rest He has a way of making our “work” if you will, more prosperous. He can show us how to do things in a much shorter time and even with fewer resources. Do you remember the story about the little boy and his loaves and fish feeding the thousands? Do you remember when Jesus told Peter to go fishing for their tax money? How about Him speaking the word and the Roman Centurion’s son being healed and Jesus didn’t even have to be present. You see When we make the most of our time God will accomplish more than we could ever imagine and it won’t be based on how busy we are either.

Speaking of making the most of the time reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a telemarketer. Lately we have been getting phone calls everyday from someone wanting to sell us something. Up until recently I would simply hang up on them, but now I have a new strategy. The phone rang and rather than listening for their questions I jumped in and started telling them about Jesus. I said, “Did you know that God loves us so much He sent His only begotten Son here to die for our sins? Can you imagine that the God who created the heavens and earth would go as far as to come here in order to save us? Have you ever received Jesus Christ into your life?” The man on the other end seemed to be actually listening at first but somewhere along the line he became distracted, maybe even frustrated and he ended the conversation. Usually I’m the one hanging up on them but this time I refused to let them control the outcome and shared Christ with them. I mean I already had them on the line I thought I would make the most of it.

Another time Tracey answered the phone, and she doesn’t like hanging up on them, so she’s nice to them. She said, “I don’t want to hang up on you, but I am hanging up now, “We love you!” As if it isn’t funny enough, that she would tell the telemarketer she loved them, the lady on the other end said, “AT&T loves you too!” Of course we got quite the laugh from that but my point is the same. Whether we are simply being still, working in the kitchen or sharing the gospel with telemarketers it is of utmost importance to make the most of our time.

Louie

When the time came for Samuel, the prophet of God, to seek out King Saul’s successor he was told to go to the house of Jesse the Bethlehemite. Without going through the whole story here let me just say, Samuel looked through seven of Jesse’s sons before finally meeting David. As each one passed by Samuel he thought to himself, “surely this is the one” but it wasn’t to be. God taught Samuel, and the whole world, something very important that day. God said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”-(1 Samuel 16:7). It seems, even in the process of showing Samuel the identity of the new King, God was deepening the prophet’s understanding of his ways.

One thing that becomes obvious to the sincere seeker of truth, and the things of the Spirit of God, is they won’t be found by looking only on the surface. One great example of this is recorded for us in Mathew 16 where Jesus quizzed his disciples asking them “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They say, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus turned it on the disciples themselves and asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Things started to get a bit more personal but Peter, as usual, jumped right up saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” You can almost sense the excitement in Jesus when he said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”-(Matthew 16:13-17).

It takes revelation from the Spirit in order to know who Jesus Christ really is. Of course there are many, many people claiming to “know” Jesus but many of those simply know a historical Jesus. They know or believe a historical figure such as Jesus may have lived in the distant passed but seeing him as the “Son of the Living God”, probably not. Distinguishing between the merely”historical Jesus”and “crucified, buried and raised to live forevermore Jesus”is extremely important.

The day after I was born again I read 1 Corinthians all the way through before going to work. My previous experience of reading the Bible had been frustrating at best. I didn’t really understand what I was looking at but the morning after being born-again, filled with the Spirit of God, things had changed. I discover my problem in the second chapter where Paul tells us, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” While many seem to use this verse to point towards our eternal home I think what Paul is telling us here is more than that. If you look at the next several verses you will see God wants us to see and hear things from and of Him in the here and now too. “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom (mere appearance), but in those taught by the Spirit (revelation from God), combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words”-(1 Corinthians 2:9-13).

Throughout the Bible we are told in many ways to “walk by faith rather than sight.” We are told not to fight “flesh and blood”- (Ephesians 6:12). and “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable”-(1 Corinthians 15:50). So one operation of the Spirit of God in us is to direct us to see and understand things in the Spirit, which is eternal, rather than merely the flesh, which is temporal. Another important point in the second letter to the Corinthians tells us all that takes place in the temporal realm is meant to serve the eternal. He tells them even though times may be difficult and painful “we don’t lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” -(2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

With all of this in mind it is easier to understand why Jesus’ greatest critics, the religious and political leaders, only saw him as an illegitimate, uneducated, run-of-the-mill, carpenter’s son from the nothing good can come from place like Nazareth isn’t it? After all, without the revelation and illumination of the Spirit of God none of us would know otherwise. That’s why I hope you can say with me, like Peter, by way of the Spirit, Jesus is the Son of the Living God! Better yet that He now lives within you.

Louie

I love how simple things are when it comes to Jesus Christ. For instance in Matthew 12:30 Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Now, that’s pretty simple isn’t it? There is no in-between with Jesus Christ you are in or out, up or down, with or without.

We are all either this or that. In a sense one might say, “we are becoming” but only in the sense that we are becoming more fixed in what we already are. This of course doesn’t mean we can’t be changed or transformed into a new creature; of course that is true and is in fact God’s plan all along. You see it isn’t His will that we stay lost or hardened to Him, but it is His will that we decide. He created us in His image therefore we have the ability to receive or reject Him. Do you remember the story of Pharaoh and how he opposed Moses? The scriptures tell us God hardened his heart, but they also tell us Pharaoh hardened his heart. Could it be that since Pharaoh hardened his heart God simply let him go the direction he was going? Maybe God didn’t want him to be hardened, but for the sake of his freedom to choose, He simply let him continue down the path he was going.

The New Testament equivalent to this would be Judas. In John 17 Jesus spoke of “the son of perdition” who seemed to be without hope, or a chance to be anything but doomed. This “son of perdition” is widely thought to be speaking of Judas but could it be that Judas, like Pharaoh, had already chosen to betray Jesus but it wasn’t until the Last Supper that he became fixed. The scriptures tell us after Judas received that fateful morsel of bread “Satan then entered into him.”

The Bible clearly teaches us to choose which side we’re on. In Deuteronomy 30:19 we are told to “choose life.” In Joshua 24:15 we are instructed to “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…” Elijah challenged the people saying, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

Wisdom speaks to us in Proverbs 8:35-36 saying, “For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.” So you see, just as Jesus said, we are either with him or against him and thankfully we do get to decide our eternal destiny. While we all know not everyone will side with Christ “It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all would come to repentance.”

Let me end by saying this “simply choosing the right path isn’t what I’m talking about here.” In fact it isn’t really a path it’s a person, the person of Jesus Christ himself. The Bible teaches us our problem is actually greater than just a choice in that sense because the result of the fall of Man was death. Therefore we now have to be enlivened in order to be on God’s side. Jesus himself said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” Without Him we remain in death! But with Him we are alive! 1 John 5:11-12 puts it like this, “The testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.”

Louie