Archive for the ‘Biblical insight’ Category

“The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Defeat and despair is what those at the cross saw the day Jesus was crucified. Some even shouted “Save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” To those who don’t have faith, or eyes to see, a naked, dying man on a cross doesn’t seem to be much of a victory does it?

While the world clamors for wealth, strength, intelligence and power over their enemies, God calls us to see our weakness. You see the fall of man centers around the lie of independence. The root of humanity’s problem is we think we’re in charge of something. If there’s something we don’t like or want to hear we’ll simply shut it down whether it’s by ignoring it or putting it to death. In this case we, meaning all of us represented at the cross that day, thought we would kill God off. Maybe if we get rid of this Jesus we’ll be able to go about our way and live life the way we want to live it. Sometimes the truth is difficult to take isn’t it? If we could only hide our heads in the sand maybe the truth will go away, maybe we won’t be responsible.

You see God is Spirit, therefore He is invisible to the natural eye. So, when one looks upon a man dying on a cross what’s really happening may not be as it appears. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18). We too must learn to look at the unseen rather than being fooled by the seen. The Apostle Paul told us to “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 4:18).

The Apostle Paul revealed the truth about real power and weakness in 2 Corinthians 12 after he implored God three times to remove something he saw as negative in his life. God’s response to him was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is perfected in weakness.” In other words, what appears to be strength in the seen really isn’t. This is why Jesus told us we must come as a little child and how He, himself, was meek and lowly. What appears to be weak to the watching world is really where God’s strength lies.

Although I have never really attended twelve-step meetings I have to agree with the first step wholeheartedly. The first step tells us we have to admit we have the problem and we are powerless over it. So whether it’s drugs, gambling, shopping, sex or eating too much chocolate cake the first step is admitting powerlessness. Weakness carried out to it’s fullest extent is death wouldn’t you agree? Now we’re starting to get somewhere. 2 Corinthians 13:4 says, “For indeed He was crucified because, or through, weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God…”

Let me give you an example in the natural to help explain the idea of weakness or powerlessness. Scientists have deemed 459 degrees below zero to be what is called “Absolute Zero.” At that temperature absolutely nothing moves. While nothing actually moves there is something in the unseen that will move even better at this temperature and that’s electricity. They say absolute zero is the best temperature to conduct electricity because there is no resistance. Similar to electricity, God’s Spirit moves better through people who have stopped resisting. When I say resisting I mean living under the delusion that we, in and of ourselves, can care for ourselves without God. In other words those still believing the lie of independence inherited from the fall.

You see if the truth is told mere weakness isn’t enough because we might still have a bit of movement left. This is why the cross is necessary. According to God’s perspective we don’t need a little bit of help we actually need Him to do all. The great revelation God showed us through the Apostle Paul was how the solution is for us to be co-crucified with Christ. When someone is dead there is absolutely no movement, or resistance. Weakness is one thing, but dead is something else! So we are told to “reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Once we start to see ourselves as having died and raised back in Him, we will discover the secret of the Christian life which is “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” The life of Christ will then find no resistance and He will finally be able to move freely through us to others.

Louie

 

 

We started studying 1 Corinthians in Sunday school this morning and talked about how there’s no division in Christ but always seems to be in His church. How can this be?

The Corinthian church was not unlike the church of our day in that it was filled with immature Christians who were self-centered and confused about who they were in Christ. Paul starts out the letter like many of his letters telling them they are sanctified saints by calling, they were enriched in everything, in speech and knowledge and weren’t lacking in any gift. He told them Jesus Christ would confirm, or keep, them blameless till the day of His return because God is faithful. Now that’s something to get excited about isn’t it? Today is no different in that those that are in Christ are blameless and kept by Him but most don’t seem to walk in it because they don’t yet believe.

After he reminded them of who they are in Christ he went on to let them know he had heard about division in the camp. He said, “some say they’re of Paul, some are of Apollos, some of Peter and others say Christ.” The Apostle Paul asked them, “Has Christ been divided?” Of course the answer to that question is No! You see as long as they were dividing into groups following after men, even if they were great men, they were still acting worldly. We were meant to be attached to another but sometimes we get attached to a visible person rather than the invisible Christ within them.

Think back with me for a minute. In the beginning God said, “Let Us make man in our own image.” God is a Trinity made up of Father, Son and Spirit; so in other words we humans were meant to be a visible, earthly, creaturely illustration of who God is. The invisible God being displayed in the visible by means of His image in and through us. What a plan! With this in mind the fall sort of takes on new light don’t you think? When man fell the image of the Trinity-Father/Son/Spirit- in him was divided. Don’t get me wrong there has never, nor ever could be, division within the Godhead but in man which is in His image. Man is at odds with himself.

In other words, the fall not only affected our relationship to God and each other it actually caused us to be at odds with ourselves. You see when God created us we were in harmony, whole in spirit, soul and body but in the fall a death, or separation, took place. Our spirit was deadened to God’s Spirit therefore our entire being was affected. We became enslaved to the outer realm of light and dark, cold and hot, good and evil and so on. For the first time we found ourselves dealing with trouble on a body/soul level in a way we never had. Immediately Adam and Eve ran for cover and sowed fig leaves together for clothing. They felt fear and shame for the first time; and they had fallen into an earthly creature and became dependent upon earthly provision. Let me just say, “they saw that they were naked” doesn’t mean they weren’t always naked in a sense, but what it does mean is God’s glory had departed leaving them needy of a covering.

What Paul was dealing with in Corinth was believers who didn’t really have a clue how far they had fallen. It is only natural to look to others that seem to have it together, in hope that they will help you get it together, but that only works for a while. These folks apparently had broken down into groups of people following after men but never really coming to know Christ for themselves. They had become dependent upon the teacher/preacher and not learned how to depend on Christ within them. I see it like a relay race of sorts where the one runner hands over the baton to the next one in line. There is a brief moment where they are connected by both having their hands on the baton at the same time but only until the new guy gets hold of it for himself then the first one lets go. You see God’s plan is for all of His people to have their own baton, or His Spirit, for themselves. Others help us on but we are never ultimately needy of them in the same sense we need Christ.

Louie

The Christian life is a life of living from another. God’s plan for us humans was never meant to be a life of continuous striving to get somewhere or become something rather it is a life of rest produced in us which comes from Christ’s very life within . Think about this with me for a minute. God created everything and then on the sixth day He created man. His plan was to prepare everything beforehand so the only thing man was left to do was to rest with Him. Adam’s first day of existence was, by God’s design, a day of rest on the seventh day.

Of course we know the story. Adam, along with the prodding of the deceiver, made the conscious choice to set himself up as independent from God. He came to the conclusion that he could run things in his own life and he could be “like God.” Notice what this really means is he could become a separate god, right? This is the same lie the enemy operated from when he said, “I will make myself “like” the Most High. You see, just like we humans, angels were created to be containers for God’s Spirit to dwell in but rather than retain there rightful place many fell, along with Lucifer, because they began to think they could live a life of independence, separated from God, as if that’s even possible.

Jesus himself invited us to regain this promised rest and told us how we could receive it. In Matthew 11 He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” A yoke is an apparatus placed upon two oxen so they would work as one, the two would essentially become one. Jesus is inviting us to be joined to Him and let Him do the pulling. This is an invitation to union with God through Christ. This is God’s solution to our fall. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”

With this as the foundation, look now at what Jesus taught us throughout the gospel of John. He said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself…”, “I can do nothing on My own initiative”, “I live because of the Father”, “I have not come on my own initiative, but He sent Me”, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” In other words, there was never a time in Jesus’ whole life that He operated apart from His Father. You see this is the key to our humanity. Whereas Adam joined up with the self-deceived, so called, Mr. Independence himself; Jesus lived a life of total dependence upon His Father. We too must learn to depend upon another for our life.

In chapter 15 of the gospel of John you’ll read where Jesus tells us outright, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” There it is! There is no mystery in that kind of talk. If the truth be told there is no such thing as an independent being other than God himself. He is the real Mr. Independence and all others are counterfeit. All others are attempting to operate in a manner they were never created to operate and this is the root of sin.

Everywhere you look in the Apostle Paul’s letters he too elaborates on this theme of dependence. His Roman letter tells us we are either a slave to sin or slave to righteousness, in other words, we are always dependent upon another. In his 1st Corinthian letter he tells us at least twice “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? In Galatians he says, “It is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me”, and he longed for “Christ to be formed in them.” In Ephesians, rather than use the vine/branch picture, he says, “Christ is the head and the church is the body.” Philippians tells us “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” In Colossians we read, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” and “Christ is our life.”

There are so many well-intentioned Christians living their lives as if it all depends upon them. They are trying to repay God, manage sins, improve themselves and just all around trying harder to be “like” Jesus. Sounds sort of like someone else doesn’t it? My prayer is that they would finally come to the revelation the Christian life isn’t difficult to live, it’s impossible!  This is why Jesus taught and did what He did. He came here in order to set us free from the deception that we can make ourselves like the Most High and to show us how to live a life of total dependence upon another, namely God the Father.

Not only did Jesus and Paul teach us we are to live from the life of another Peter did too. In his second letter right from the start he shares how, through Christ, God has promised us we can become partakers of His divine nature. We are never the origin of the life but we are a recipient. We truly are meant to live from the life of another.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

Louie

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