WHAT ABOUT THE COMMAND TO LOVE OTHERS?

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THE ANSWER TO JESUS’ PRAYER

In John 17 Jesus prays for His disciples and those who would believe because of their word. He prayed that they would be one even as He and the Father are one. He said, “as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us…”

Later, after the cross and the death, burial, resurrection and ascension, the Apostle Paul teaches us nothing less than this same thing has actually occurred. He said in Colossians 1 that he was made a minister of the church in order to declare a mystery that had been hidden for ages and generations, but has now been manifested. He said this great mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In preaching this message his goal was to present every man complete in Christ. You see until we have Christ in us we are incomplete; for God created us to be one with Him and that only takes place through the cross.

In Romans 6 we discover those of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and joined with Him in His burial and resurrection. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself; so for those of us who place our faith in Him we have Him in us and we are complete. This word complete is actually not the word used in the trusty King James Bible rather it’s the word “perfect.” Hebrews 10:14 tells us “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

Not only did Jesus become sin on the cross, He has joined us to himself spirit to Spirit in the process thereby making us the righteousness of God in Him. Just as Jesus prayed we have become one with Him, a new creature. In fact according to Ephesians 2 not only have we been raised, as in resurrected, we have also been “seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3 instructs us “If you have been raised up with Christ, 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 earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” This is why Paul says things like “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” So you see Christ not only lives in us, He is our life. The Bible clearly states Christ is the head and the believers are His body. You can’t separate a head from a body so when you see the body your’e seeing the head. The two truly are one.

Louie

THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD

A story is told of a man named Naaman, a valiant warrior, found in 2 Kings Chapter five. It seems he was highly respected by the king of Aram because by him the Lord brought him victory. Even though Naaman was a great man he had one thing that wasn’t so great about him; he was a leper.

One day Naaman told his king there was a prophet in Israel that could cure him of his leprosy so the King made arrangements and sent him to see Elisha. He took with him silver, gold and several garments so he would have something to give the prophet. When Naaman arrived at Elisha the Prophet’s house he came with quite the display of goods. It was quite the fanfare as he came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house.

Of course Naaman was expecting Elisha to come out and do some extravagant demonstration in order to cure him but that isn’t exactly what happened. Instead Elisha sent out one of his servants to tell Naaman “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” Naaman became furious about this because, not only did Elisha not want his goods, he didn’t even come outside to see him, and on top of that he thought “There are better rivers in Damascus then this dirty Jordan river. Why couldn’t I go and wash in them?” Naaman thought he should be involved a little more in his healing. He wanted to give Elisha some gold and silver and he also wanted to be the one to choose how and where he would dip in a river. Isn’t this like most of us? We want to participate in our salvation; it is just too simple to do what God is telling us to do.

Naaman left in a rage but his servant was apparently filled with wisdom because he told him, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So Naaman went ahead and did what he had been told; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.

Now I took the time to tell this tale because today it was brought to my attention how this is a picture of another dipping, if you will. In Romans 6 we are told “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death.” You see the Bible tells us “The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

We might think we wouldn’t get angry like Naaman did but we would still think dipping in the Jordan couldn’t be the way to wholeness. If you had leprosy and you looked at it and then looked at the Jordan River you would probably think this is foolish. There is no way this is going to work. There must be something else I can do. It is the same with salvation through Christ and his work on the cross. Let’s face it on the surface it seems pretty foolish doesn’t it?

How can a man dying on a cross save me? I think it all boils down to our ego having to be dealt with. We are so prideful we think we can come up with some better way, but God is saying, No! You have to receive my son for there is no other way. He is the only way. You must humble yourself and place your faith in his finished work. Accept the fact that I have joined you to him in his death, burial and resurrection.

Just like Naaman finally relented and dipped himself in the Jordan, we must by faith, be baptized into Christ. Even as Naaman came up out of the water with his flesh restored like a little child we have been raised with Christ as a brand new creature. Although this may sound a little foolish to the natural ear it is nothing but glorious music to the spiritual ear.

Sometimes our pride gets the best of us. Of course the only way into the Kingdom of God is by humility. Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” What do you say we simply receive the gift of salvation and recognize there is no other way but Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Written by Louie

SHARING ETERNAL LIFE IN PRISON

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We went to the women’s Prison last night to share some good news. We had 35 women that came to the service and probably half of them are involved in what is called S.A.P. (substance abuse program.) This is a program that involves the 12 step recovery program in an attempt to help them deal with drug addiction and other life controlling issues, and it also can reduce their sentence upon completion. I love it when I get a chance to talk with people that are struggling with the same things I use to struggle with.

Tracey led us in a few hymns and shared about Doug Fox’s near death experience. Doug was riding a moped when he had a head on collision with a semi truck. He wasn’t wearing a helmet and it appeared he died on the scene but God had other plans. This all happened about 13yrs ago and even though they said he would probably have to be institutionalized he isn’t thanks to the power of God. He had to go through some really tough procedures along the way but he is still with us and doing great. He can’t talk very well because they had to put a trach in his throat which caused a little damage to his vocal chords. That’s why Tracey did most of the talking for him. The ladies always love to see and hear Doug’s story. He is a living, walking testimony to the power of God.

Carl Snyder also came with us, and he shared some scripture in 2nd Timothy about preaching the word whether it’s popular or not. The Bible tells us there is coming a time when people won’t want to hear the truth of the Gospel. They will search out teachers that tell them what their itching ears want to hear. Sometimes the truth is difficult to listen to but it will not go away. The truth is the truth whether you run from it or accept it but it’s only the truth accepted that will set us free.

When Tracey’s turn came she told the ladies about how God has done it all. He has invited us to a party and all we have to do is show up. In Romans 8 we read The Spirit helps our weakness, intercedes for us, searches the hearts and knows the mind of God. The Spirit of God does all the work in us all we have to do is show up and agree with him. It is like when being invited to a party. You show up and the table is set, the party favors are there, the guests are all arriving. Everything is prepared by the host all you have to do is accept the invitation.

Bringing up the rear was, you guessed it, me. I read to them in Romans 6 and talked about how Jesus Christ came here, not just to forgive sinners, but to give us life. What is more important needing forgiveness or needing life? When Adam ate of the forbidden tree he didn’t just become bad he died spiritually. Subsequently all of Adam’s descendants have been born spiritually dead. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus “you must be born again!”

While being forgiven is necessary and a great part of what the gospel is all about it isn’t the whole story. From God’s perspective he sent Jesus here to give his life for us and to us. When we are born we are joined to the first Adam. Being born again we are joined to Jesus whom Paul calls the last Adam. This operation of severing us from Adam and attaching us to Christ takes place through the cross. Those of us that have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death. God has joined us to Christ on the cross therefore we were in him in his death, burial and resurrection. This makes total sense now. We were born dead in our human spirit, because of our union with Adam, now we are alive because of being joined to the Holy Spirit. We are now walking in newness of life.

Written by Louie

FILLING THE GAP

Kurt and Joyce Zander our Jail Chaplains
Photo by Tracey Lewis

I received a rare personal phone call at work from the Chaplain of our local jail. He told me both ministers he had lined up to come in backed out on him, and he wanted to know if I would come in and fill the gap. I told him “sure.” I love it when someone asks me to do what I love to do the most.

After talking with the Chaplain of course I started thinking about what I could share with the guys in jail; then it came to me like a flash! I know I’ll tell them about Jesus Christ and what the cross is all about. Now that’s a wonderful idea isn’t it? So that’s what I did.

Around six o’clock there were about 20 guys sitting in rows in what is known as the vending room of the jail. The first thing I noticed was every one of the guys in the front row had their Bibles in their lap. This is a good sign because there are some nights when very few of them even have a Bible with them at all. So right away I told them to turn to Romans five.

As they were locating Romans five I started sharing with them about how God created Adam and placed him in the Garden. He told him not to eat of one of the trees and of course he did and immediately died. Well, that’s what God told him wasn’t it? “The day you eat of this Tree you will surely die.” Of course we know he lived on for years and years afterwards so what did God mean? He meant Adam would die spiritually. He would be cut off from God and dead in his spirit. This is what Ephesians 2 tells us isn’t it? “You were dead in trespasses and sins…” All of us were born of Adam and that means spiritually dead.

As we looked at Romans five I read to them “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—“ All of us then are born of “the one man” and are born sinners, dead in our spirits and separated from God. I went on to read “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” So we are either joined to Adam in his disobedience or Christ and his obedience. The big question is how do we get out of Adam and into Christ? How can someone that is joined to Adam, dead in sin and separated from God be joined to Christ?

Romans six tells us how God took us and placed us in Christ on the cross. He baptized us into Christ. I shared with the guys that baptism means to be joined or identified to something or someone. The term baptism comes from the ancient practice of dying cloth by dipping it in a dye. For instance if you took a white handkerchief and dipped it in purple dye it would come out a brand new cloth no longer white but forever purple. God placed, or baptized, us in Christ in his death, buried us and raised us a brand new creature in him. This is the method that God used to sever our relationship with Adam and join us to Christ the last Adam. “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…” The cross is the way out of darkness and into God’s glorious light.

When Adam sinned we all sinned. All of us are related to Adam and we were all born dead in our spirits so we needed to be resurrected. This is exactly what happened in our being baptized in Christ. When Christ was raised we were raised. God joined his Holy Spirit to our dead human spirit and we sprang back to life. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus “You must be born again.” We have to have the very life of God in us. “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” It really is as simple as that.

There is no way I could write all of what was said tonight but you get the gist of it. I ended by telling them God doesn’t want to fix up our old self. He doesn’t see that it’s worth fixing so instead he takes us out by crucifixion instead. The old man really is dead and gone; we are a new creature in Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I love it when I get a chance to share the Word of God with someone, so that’s what I did tonight. I know I probably talked too fast for most of them but we know the Holy Spirit is the only real teacher anyway, so I gave them something to get them going and now the Spirit will do what only he can do. I’m just thankful I get to be a part of God’s work and plan for those men’s lives.

Written by Louie

WE LIVE BY FAITH

Photo by Randy Waller

Early on in the week I decided I would read Romans 6, 7 and 8 every day. Louie and I talk about it all the time and we hear different believers talk about it, but I can’t say it has been quickened into my spirit. I wanted God to reveal His own revelation to me about these few chapters. I can say that I understand it more than I ever have and I wanted to share what I learned with the ladies in jail. So we opened up to chapter 6 verse 1 and read to verse eleven. I asked them if the baptism talked about here has anything to do with water; one girl, who sounded confident, led with a firm, “no.” Next I wanted to find out if they knew what the definition of baptism was, but nobody had the answer. “It means, I continued, “to be one with or identified with.” It was clear they were interested in finding out more.

I used the example of the Children of Israel being identified with Moses. As they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, baptized, no water, and how Pharaoh and his army was destroyed. The Children of Israel could never go back to Pharaoh. This is a picture of Jesus on the cross and how we are identified in Him and crucified, buried and then raised in the newness of life through Jesus Christ. “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” We died, by faith and were raised by faith in Him. It is already a done deal, we either believe it or not. “Sin has no more mastery over us;” sin is no longer our boss. We are a new creature, not an improved creature. Once we are a new creature, we are no longer a slave or what we used to be, a sinner. When a person gets saved or born again, when does he get to live without being conscience of sin all the time? I got saved when I was 8 years old, so I don’t remember a lot about the experience; but when I got older and started having a relationship with Jesus, my life changed. I realize that the maker of the universe loves ME. He went to great lengths to make sure I could depend on Him for everything…..even my sin. I know that I am forgiven of my sin because He took care of that on the cross; I was there in Him at the time. I was also there in Him when God raised Him from the dead. When I think about it, I realize that I am really sitting at the right hand of my Father right now in the Spirit. Doesn’t the Bible say to walk in the Spirit and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh?

As I was teaching this to the listening room of ladies, I sensed someone asking, “I’m not where I need to be with the Lord, Miss Tracey. You don’t know the things I have done, things I haven’t told anyone.” I kept talking and I said, “It’s about saying yes to the Lord, bowing your self to Him and just say yes.” It’s more than surrendering; it’s about dying and living unto God. I explained that you can not do this on your own as if you were making a decision. The Lord will draw you, and He will do the doing. We trust Him by faith.

After the service was over, Miss Zander and I were putting the cart away, I saw a young lady outside the jail by the door, waving at me. I told Miss Zander “There’s someone out there waving at us.” She said, “that‘s the work release girls, go out there and talk to them if you want to.” That is exactly what I did. They told me there was a storm on the way so we chit chatted a little more and they came inside. It wasn’t long after that we felt the crunch of the weather bearing down on us and we also called it a night and made it home safe and sound.

Written by Tracey