“It’s not I but He,

not just me but we.

It takes new eyes to see,

but Christ in us is the key.

So He becomes we,

but we never become He.”

 

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

IMG_1552

At the finish line!

I was asked by a co-worker if I wanted to participate in a 5k race that the work place would pay for? She would run with me and hang out. I agreed and was looking forward to the event several weeks away. Before the 5k “Trot for Troops” race, my co-worker found other employment and was no longer in the event. I was let down but texted her the night before to inquire if she would be there. She answered yes so we looked forward to seeing each other.

The morning of the race I began to feel anxiety, not sure what to expect, what to do with my thin hair, you know; the little details that daunt you before something you have never done before. So needless to say, I was not looking forward to the task. I left early, got my number and starting seeing my other co-workers who were also running. I noticed I was getting excited and looking forward to the race. I had decided to run to compete not as to run with someone. Although I run on a regular basis, I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out.

My co-workers and I started out all together, the Fort Campbell Army band was there playing live music. We all got a little teary when the Star Spangled Banner was sung so beautifully. This was it, we pledged the allegiance to the flag, the announcements were made, the sirens were blaring and the race was on. It started with the mile fun run followed by the 5K and finally the 10k which would keep running further.

It was cold, cloudy and windy but there was no rain. We started out in a huddle and as we ran on the bypass, the crowd thinned out. Next we turned down Gary Lane which is a country road. People stood on the side as we passed by cheering us on as we went. I could see the runners’ way up ahead and thought, “I have a ways to go, yet.” I was starting to warm up and kept saying to myself not to stop. Once I reached the turn around sight, there was a table with little cups of water. I took one and tried to breathe while drinking, but it only made things worse as I started back the way I came. I was passing my co-workers and slapping them the high five as we encouraged one another. I noticed at this point there were less and less people around me and could hear myself breathing heavily.

After I passed the 2.5 mile mark, I knew I was almost there, but I was hot and my legs and stomach were getting wearisome, I really felt like walking, but I didn’t want the “guy” behind me to pass me. My mind went to Paul in the Bible and how he said to run the race to the finish. I was thinking that this race is like when we stand before God and will answer to Him for our time on earth. Nobody can answer for you; it will just be you and Him on that day. I never want to give up; I never want to give up on me or on anyone who is looking through me for Jesus. I felt like this was not just a physical race but a spiritual race as well.

Now I was on the bypass again and could see the YMCA where we started. I felt like I was alone and wanted to quit, but then I saw a co-worker named Chase, he was smiling so big, clapping and telling me I was doing a good job. I could feel my stomach wanting to throw up anything that was in it, but about that time, I was passing a line of American flags and the band was playing, “You’re amazing just the way you are.” As I noticed some other people I knew, I started to cry because I was so happy that I did it. I looked at the time clock and it read 32:00. I couldn’t believe it, a little over thirty minutes. I had never done anything like this in my whole life. It felt amazing. It was so hard, but I pushed through, and I did it. I am so thankful to Heritage bank for making this happen and for my co-workers who rooted for me. This whole experience has strengthened my faith tremendously.

Tracey

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