Archive for the ‘Biblical insight’ Category

There is an interesting verse found at the very end of the book of Judges which says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words there was no one to govern or decide the direction of the nation so “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Although this is a verse taken from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, it remains true even today.

As I watch society unravel at its core my mind follows the trail backwards to attempt to understand where things went off the rails. According to the Bible, the root of our problem hasn’t changed a bit. It all started in a Garden as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. God says one thing and the enemy says, “did God really say?” Amazing!

If we want to discover meaning we must look back to the one and only who gives everything meaning. If we want to attempt to redefine reality, well that’s another thing. Let’s look for a minute at the meaning of one particular word, the word marriage.

The world is clamoring for what it calls “Marriage equality”, or “the right to marry.” Where do rights come from? Who says? The first thing we have to do is define the word “marriage.” Merriam’s dictionary says,

a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage <same-sex marriage>

b: the mutual relation of married persons: wedlock

c: the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage

2: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially: the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
3: an intimate or close union <the marriage of painting and poetry 

Now the question arises, “who defines marriage for us?” Everything I see throughout the scripture tells me marriage is between one man and one woman but as you can see above there is the added “the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.” If we, as a society, continue to redefine reality in this manner destruction has to be the result. What’s interesting to me is the enemy, that old serpent, hasn’t got any new tricks. From the beginning his strategy has been based on one question; “Did God really say?”

If we refuse to take God at His Word we will continue to reap the horror of a confused society. We will inevitably continue to see “men” and “women” who don’t know who they are. When I say, “Don’t know who they are” I mean they won’t even know if they are a man or woman. After all, what makes you a man or woman? I heard recently someone in the news say, “Male and female aren’t determined by our physical makeup; there’s more to me than my body parts.” This is what’s leading many to push for “unisex” bathrooms, even at an elementary school level. If this isn’t madness I don’t know what is.

As you may have already realized, it’s quite difficult to write something about how one defines words and meaning. I mean, how can you understand me if you define these words differently than I do? How does anything have any meaning at all?

If we look back, even beyond the fall in the Garden in Genesis, to Isaiah 14 we will see the real cause of the confusion. Isaiah 14 describes what, for many, is the mind of Lucifer (satan). His plan all along was to be in charge. He said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” But we can reduce this a bit and just say, “I will make myself…” This I think strikes at the root of what is going on in our society today. We (the ruling authorities, or man as a whole) are doing “what is right in their own eyes”, because fallen man is so deceived they have gone astray “like sheep” and think they can “make themselves” whatever they want, even to the point of men transforming into women. With this type of reasoning our society will unravel. Will you pray with me for God to restore sanity to our world? In the words of Jesus himself let us pray, “Thy kingdom come thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.”

Louie

Jesus said, “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!”

Sometimes I think we might need to change the name of this country to “The United States of the Offended.” No matter what you do , what you wear, how you speak, the color of your skin, etc. there always seems to be someone to get offended by it. Of course the rational person simply says to himself, “Life isn’t fair, and it doesn’t ask my permission on most things, so I guess I’ll take it on the chin and move on.” On the other hand, for those who think the universe circles them and everything is supposed to go their way it’s another story. They’re the ones who walk around with a chip on their shoulder expecting everyone to live only to please them. That reminds me of a quote I once heard from Mark Twain. He said, “The world doesn’t owe me anything it was here first.”

Jesus, being the practical guy He was, never sugar-coated anything. He always said, “The world’s going to hate you because it hated me first.” Then He would say something like “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

As I thought about being offended of course I had to go a bit deeper and look into the definition. According to the Strong’s Concordance the word “offence” in Greek is the word “skandalizo” and this of course is where we get our English word “scandalize.” It means “to entrap, i.e. trip up (fig. to stumble or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure). If you look a bit further into the root of the word the picture of a trap using a bent over sapling is given, like to catch a rabbit or other small game. In other words being offended is Satan’s way to entrap us. If he can get us offended you can be sure bondage is coming.

After Jesus warned about offences which were sure to come, He went on to tell His disciples “If your brother sins against you seven (seventy) times a day, and returns to you seven (seventy) times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Let’s think about this for a minute. The disciples had seen some pretty amazing things being with Jesus. They watched Him cast out demons and heal people but it wasn’t until He told them to forgive that they responded by saying, “Increase our faith!” So it seems forgiving others takes more faith than casting out a demon or healing people. What is it about forgiveness that is so difficult?

Of all the things in life we have to confront forgiveness has to be one of the biggest. The Apostle Paul told us in Ephesians “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity (foothold).” So, Paul understood having anger and unforgiveness is an open door for the enemy to move in. It’s his favorite lure and once we take it we’re in trouble. Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.”

So what do we do then? According to Hebrews 12:15 we “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.” In other words we always live towards others with grace because of the grace God has shown us. When someone is doing something that is offensive we see them as God sees us. Or maybe you don’t think you might be a bit offensive to Him at times. Thank God He deals with us with mercy and grace. What do you say we take Paul’s advice and “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

Louie

Throughout the scriptures God seeks an intercessor, someone to be His body, one who manifests Him to His world. An intercessor is one who stands between God and man. Many times the one for which you are interceding doesn’t even know what’s going on. Maybe this is the reason God has the one interceding to do it for them because they may be blind to their very own need at the moment.

The Apostle Paul was one such intercessor and he spoke often about it throughout his letters. In 1 Corinthians 6:17 he said, “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” In 2 Corinthians 4:12 “Death works in us, but life in you.” To the Galatians he groaned “My children, with whom I again in labor until Christ is formed in you” he also instructed us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

In each of the Apostle Paul’s letters he tells us he prays that God would grant us wisdom and that we would come to know the fullness of our inheritance in Christ. He wants others to understand the depths of what Christ has done for us through the cross and truly receive all He offers us. He went through beatings, imprisonment, hunger, misunderstanding’s, death threats, shipwrecks etc. So he could tell others of the love of God found in Christ. There seemed to be no limit to what he would endure on behalf of others for the sake of Christ. This is what it means to intercede. In his letter to the Colossians he said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.”

Recently, my wife Tracey came to me in tears saying, “I just want to hear God’s voice!” She said, “lately it seems all I hear is the enemy! Why won’t God speak to me?” This set us up for quite the conversation about the work of interceding for others. We went through many verses and discussed what it meant to hear from God and the enemy. We all must learn what it means to be still and quiet to hear the still small voice of the Shepard.

Jesus told us, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” He also said, “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Now I as thought about this it dawned on me. I don’t think Jesus is saying we can’t hear the voice of a stranger rather He’s saying we won’t follow it. In other words, we may have many thoughts and feelings dancing around in our hearts and minds but there’s only one voice we obey, and that’s God’s.

Jesus dying on the cross was the greatest act of intercessory work ever. Jesus, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, hung on a cross in order to fill in the gap that was between God and man. In fact He was the only one who could accomplish such a work. But I want you to notice something with me if you will. Reading through Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, in chapter 27, you will discover the only voice Jesus heard was that of the enemy. The voice of the enemy  came through loud and clear through the two thieves hanging on either side of him and those passing by. The Bible says, “those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads and saying, “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.” The chief priests, scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, “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. He trusts in God; let God rescue Him now, if He delights in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

Jesus was right in the midst of His Father’s will while hanging on the cross listening to the taunts of the enemy. In fact it was then that Jesus felt more separated from the Father than ever. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

I suppose the lesson in all of this for me was realizing once again “Your (my) life is not your (my) own. We have been bought with a price. Sometimes God is doing things in and through us which may “look” or “feel” really bad or too heavy to bear. Once again this is why we are admonished to walk by faith and not by sight, or “feelings.” We have to believe it when Jesus told us He wouldn’t leave us as orphans, but would provide the comforter. While we tend to want to remain comfortable all the time, maybe the comforter was given because we were going to have many, many uncomfortable experiences interceding for others. Could it be those are the times when we feel the most isolated or forsaken? Do you remember how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness? Notice how it was after the 40 days of temptation when the angels came to minister to Him (Matthew 4:11).

We are told in Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you.” While there is a peace that passes all understanding deep down in our inner man, frustration and stress may be all you see on the surface. When you find yourself interceding for others keep your eyes on Jesus…the author and finisher (perfecter) of our faith!

Louie

A young man, who obviously didn’t catch what I was saying, walked up to me after hearing me teach at the jail and said, “I think I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying, God meets us at the point of our best effort?” My immediate response was “I have always found that God meets me at the point of my greatest weakness.”

Later on, while pondering this young man’s question, I thought to myself, this is like saying “Do your best and God will do the rest.” While this may sound like wisdom at first, what I’ve discovered is it is really a false belief that we are independent and God is here to help. I knew a man who used to say things like, “God gave His very best for you; so you should give your very best for Him.” While we’re talking about this we might as well throw out the ever-present “God helps those who help themselves” too.

As a believer in Jesus Christ I am declaring Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I am not saying, I’m going to try harder, do better, change my life, start going to church, etc. No, what I’m saying is I could not save myself, I don’t know how to live life the way God intends, and apart from Christ I’m hopeless.

According to Colossians 3 “Christ is my life.” He isn’t a part of my life, He doesn’t simply give me life. He is my life! The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ…” and “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” When Paul said, “I’m crucified with Christ” he meant he in fact died when Christ died, was buried when Christ was buried and rose when He rose.

Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” When Jesus says, “you can do nothing” I take that literally. When that young man said, “God meets us at the point of our greatest effort” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “he still thinks he has something to do with this.” He’s going to “help” God out.

It is true the Apostle Paul told us we are God’s co-laborers but from what I can understand our greatest labor seems to be entering into His rest. We are so used to “being all you can be”, and “going for the gusto” we have totally missed the fact that the work of salvation is God’s alone. We are called to bear fruit but we aren’t the ones who produce it. Only the vine produces fruit and as the branches we are called to simply bear it.

Louie

I recently talked with someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He just came from shooting pool in a bar, and I just came out of Bible study. Oh what a difference Christ makes.

As Tracey and I spoke with him he asked, “What are you guys doing?” I thought to myself, well I sure am glad you asked. Tracey said, “We just finished Bible study!” then she invited him to come next week. He immediately seemed to glaze over and said, “I don’t have any use for the church thing.” I spoke up and said, “We’re not talking about “church” we’re talking about Jesus Christ.” We then proceeded to share a brief version of our testimony with him. As I shared with him about how I had become extremely addicted to pills and was basically killing myself, he said, “Now, that’s because of choices you made!” I quickly agreed with him and said, “You are exactly right! It was choices I had made but thankfully God rescued me and saved me from myself”, and Christ is now my life. As we ended our conversation, we shook his hand and let him go on his way. We may never know what kind of affect we had on him, but I’m believing our words will ring in his ears for a long time. My prayer is God will never stop pursuing him until he relents. He didn’t seem to have any hope but because of God I could see what God wanted for him.

The Bible clearly tells us “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” While most seem to focus on the fact we’ve all sinned, I think God’s attention is probably more on the missed glory. It seems God’s plan was for us to be joined with Him in His glory. That begs the question, just what exactly is His Glory? The Strong’s concordance tells us, the Greek word for glory is (doxa) meaning–“dignity, glory, honour, praise, worship.” If you look into the root word for doxa (dokeo) it is defined “to think, to seem truthfully, be accounted, please, be of reputation, seem good, suppose).

What can we learn from the idea that we have fallen short of God’s glory given this definition? I suppose one could say we have all fallen short of God’s dignity, honour, praise and good reputation. So, in other words, we have all failed to live up to what God designed us for. The good news is, while we failed it didn’t have to be for good. God didn’t give up on His purpose and plan for humanity. His plan was to get us back into His glory and to get His glory back into us. This is where two of the Apostle Paul’s favorite phrases come in to play:”In Christ and Christ in you.” Christ is our only hope of glory.

You see God’s plan all along was for us to be His representative on the earth. God said, “Let Us make man in our own image and let them have dominion.” So we were designed to be the visible expression of the invisible God. Of course after the fall we found ourselves quite a bit less than God’s intention. We became earthly minded creatures who became distracted with basic animalistic needs and desires. Rather than being God-conscious we became self-conscious. Rather than being heavenly-minded we became earthly-minded and death was the only way out of the fix we were in.

So, God became a man, an earth creature, in order to rescue us from the fall and lift us back into His glory. Through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, God joined us to Him in order to convey us back in to His glorious kingdom. Ephesians tells us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Since we have been raised with Christ, we are told in Colossians “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

The salvation offered through Jesus Christ is so much more than a ticket to heaven. God’s idea of salvation is for us to be fully restored to His former glory. We are told “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross…” (Colossians 1:19-20). It doesn’t stop there either. If you read a bit further you’ll discover “in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:10). Christ in you, is the hope of glory! When God’s Spirit moved back into you through your regeneration, the Glory returned and His image was restored!

Louie

Sometimes I like to do something I call skipping a rock through the Bible. Today I would like to trace how God moved through history to find His permanent dwelling place. Of course God is everywhere all the time, but His manifested presence can be traced through the Bible.

In Genesis we read where God lived with man in the Garden of Eden. In fact it appears they may have taken walks together from time to time. Just after man’s fall though, Adam and Eve hid themselves and they “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). Man found himself separated from God and His glory, but the good news is God didn’t give up. He set out to reunite with man.

Years later, as you read through the story of the Exodus, God still wanting a relationship with man, moved into a tent. In Exodus, after reading of the very specific details God gave Moses concerning how to build the tabernacle, God’s presence filled the tent. We’re told, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35).

Moving on into the Promised Land we see where the Tabernacle was traded for a more permanent structure called the Temple. King David wanted to build the Temple but God wouldn’t let him. Instead God gave that privilege to David’s son Solomon. After Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).

Up to this point we can see God must really love man and want to be with Him. He already went from living in a Garden to a tent and then a building, but there’s something even greater than this! As you look into the New Testament you’ll discover He wanted to be yet closer even still.

In the gospel of John we read, “And the Word (God) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Wow! So God became a man and dwelt among us. I can’t resist saying this: the Greek word translated here as dwelt is actually the word “tabernacled”. Isn’t that amazing? God was now located in a man and moving about with them eye to eye. Later on in the Gospel of John it’s recorded that one of Jesus’ followers, Philip said to Him, “Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9). The Spirit of God was dwelling within the human Jesus.

Once the time came for Jesus to go to the cross, his disciples were understandably fearful; but Jesus comforted them saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you…In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:16 &20). So here we have a promise that God would actually make one more move. This next move was going to be a doozy.

After the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, he ascended into heaven right before the disciples very eyes. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they received power from on high so that’s just what they did. In the second chapter of Acts we can read where the Holy Spirit came rushing into the room the disciples were waiting in and they were filled with the very Spirit of God Himself. This of course was the plan God had all along. His plan was always to dwell in man. He wasn’t going to be satisfied just living in a Garden, tent or building. No, He wanted to take up residence within the man He created in His own image.

The Apostle Paul was God’s chosen vessel to spread the word about this amazing deeper understanding of the Gospel. Paul said it was a “mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). He asked the Corinthians “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…(1 Corinthians 6:19). So it seems God’s plan all along was to inhabit mankind and live His life through them. What an amazing plan from an amazing God!

Louie

“Educated people within the church have given us what they call the marks of the true church. However, whether a person is educated or uneducated, the only proof that he can have as to his own membership in Christ’s church is his being dead to all sin and alive to all righteousness. This cannot be more plainly stated than in these words of our Lord: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). Surely the servant of sin cannot at the same time be a living member of Christ’s body, a new creature who dwells in Christ and has Christ dwelling in him! It is absurd to suppose that a man born again from above is still under a necessity of continuing to sin. Christ has said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (v36). Truly, if Christ has come to live in you, then a true freedom from all sin has been given to you.

Now, if this freedom from sin is hindered and cannot come to pass in the fathful follower of Christ, can it be because both the willing and working of Christ in man is too weak to overcome that which the Devil wills and works in him? Certainly not! Yet, this absurdity–and even blasphemy–is implied in the very common doctrine that teaches that the Christian can never be done with sinning as long as he lives. If Christians continue to believe this absurdity, they will also continue to live sinfully, without caring whether or not they are doing God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. They will have no concern about being pure, as Jesus who called them is pure, nor will they care to walk as He walked.

The only Christian known to Scripture is the person whose every action is that of a saint. If the saint of Scripture were not a man who shunned all evil and was holy in all his behavior, there would be no real difference between the saint and the carnal man. Preachers and writers comfort halfhearted Christians by telling them that God does not require a perfect, sinless obedience, but that He accepts the sincerity of our weak endeavors instead. Here, if ever, the blind lead the blind.

Paul, comparing the way of salvation to a race, said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” (1 Cor. 9:24). Now if Paul could see into the truth of the matter, then they must be blind who teach that God accepts everyone who runs in the religious race and that He does not require that anyone obtain the prize. Paul saw that the sincerity of our weak endeavors is, indeed, quite different from the required perfection of our lives. God accepts our weak attempts at perfection; that is, He bears with them. But He does not do so because He seeks or requires no more. Rather, He bears with them because through them we are moving toward the perfection that He absolutely requires. This perfection is the fullness of the stature of Christ in us, and it is what Paul said is the new creature who obtains the prize.

Paul was saying something that Christ had said in different words: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). In this verse, our best endeavors are called for and are therefore accepted by God. Yet, Christ added, “For many…will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (v. 24). Why is this? It is because Christ Himself is the one Door into life. Christ said that people strive, and Paul called them runners in a race. Christ called Himself the one Door of entrance, and Paul said that only one receives the prize. That one, who alone obtains the prize or who alone enters through the right door, is that new creature in whom Christ is truly born. Only Christ in us can be our hope of glory.”

 

Taken from “You Will Receive Power” by William Law